While I can objectively say that I think Ian Happ deserves the extended attention he’s getting for the leadoff role this season (both in terms of his fit, individually, and the lack of many other options on the roster), I’m also just generally happy for him.
After a monster rookie season with 24 homers in just 413 plate appearances, Happ saw just eight plate appearances in the 2017 postseason, including only one start (NLDS Game 2).
I know he was not only a rookie, but a young rookie who struck out a whole lot, but I had felt at the time that the Cubs abandoned one of the key offensive contributors, who not only helped push them into the playoffs in the first place, but who, having not participated in the 2016 World Series, having only taken 413 PAs, and being just 22 years old, might not have been as worn down as the rest of the group. Ultimately, I think Happ’s performance will force the Cubs to carve out a larger share of playing time when all is said and done this year.
Anyway, here’s some news from around the league …
- In case you forgot about the ugly and racist incident during the 2017 World Series, Astros first baseman Yulieski Gurriel poked fun at Yu Darvish by squinting his eyes in the dugout … on national tv … during the World Series. After the incident, MLB (mildly) punished Gurriel, by giving him a five-game suspension to be served this season. Well, although MLB didn’t have a hand in this, the result of that punishment may have incidentally become a little more painful:
Yuli Gurriel having surgery to remove he hook of hamate bone in his left hand. Timetable unknown.
— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) February 28, 2018
- Gurriel will have to have hand surgery, but, as Joel Sherman later points out, the five game suspension cannot be served concurrently with DL time. So if Gurriel starts the season on the DL, the suspension has to be served after he’s activated. Similarly …
#Astros can also have Gurriel serve suspension to start season, in which case he may be placed on the DL afterward, but if so cannot backdate the placement to include the suspension time, and he cannot go on a rehab assignment during his suspension.
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) February 28, 2018
- Needless to say, it seems the universe, by way of MLB’s active-roster rules, may have ever-so-subtly evened the score (obviously, I don’t want any player to be injured, this is mostly just a roster joke).
- The Kansas City Royals have moved on from missing out on Eric Hosmer, who signed an eight-year deal with the Padres earlier this month, signing Lucas Duda to a 1-year, $3.5 million deal with some incentives. Duda, 32, slashed .217/.322/.496 with 30 homers and a 12.2% walk rate last season. Of course, with pretty poor defense at first base, a high-strikeout rate, and bad base-running, that 30-homer season was worth just 1.1 fWAR, hence the relatively small deal (times have changed).
- Speaking of recently finalized deals with incentives (segues are hard), Jeff Passan has the breakdown of the Logan Morrison deal with the Twins:
Details on Logan Morrison's deal with Twins:
His 2018 base is $5.5M. With 600+ PA, an option vests at $9.5M. For 550-599 PA, it's a $9M club option with $1.5M buyout. At 500-549 PA, option is $8.5M. Otherwise, $8M with $1M buyout. Also gets $500K for 450, 500, 550 PA this year.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 28, 2018
- Guess who’s gonna be battling through some nagging injuries this season, regardless of how badly it hurts? Logan Morrison.
- In a recent MLBits, we took a look at the surprisingly intimate and immediate interview given by Brent Honeywell soon after learning that he had just injured his arm enough to require Tommy John surgery. Well, after surgery, he seems to be in good spirits:
— Brent Honeywell (@brent_honeywell) February 28, 2018
- Not only did he reference the classic Cubs movie ‘Rookie of the Year,’ but did you notice his shirt? Honeywell is donning a “Big Sexy” shirt to his doctor’s office, and I can’t express how much I love that.
- Speaking of the Rays, they have offered their response to the MLBPA grievance about not spending revenue sharing money. Per the Tampa Bay Times, team owner Stuart Sternberg said, “We’re very judicious in how we spend our money, but it’s spent in a lot of forms, and payroll is one of them. I think the payroll we have out here, and the players we have out here, we’re doing our jobs.”
- In the Marlins’ response, Derek Jeter dropped a Theo-ism (ESPN): “As we have done since the day we took over in October, we will continue to do everything we can to build a foundation for sustained success and improve this organization – which has not made the postseason since 2003 and has gone eight seasons without a winning record.”
- At NBC Sports Philadelphia, Jim Salisbury writes about the bright, yellow toy school bus that sits atop Aaron Nola’s locker. The bus is called “The Sensitive Bus,” and, apparently, you don’t want to find yourself riding it. In short, if, at any point, any of the pitchers on the staff start getting too sensitive (physical or emotional pain seems to count!), the bus gets adorned atop of his locker until he toughens back up. It all seems to be in very good fun, and, fortunately, no one has earned the bus thus far this Spring.
- Call off the shopping spree! Bryce Harper is broken!
Bryce Harper has been scratched from the lineup today. He’s dealing with an ingrown toenail.
— Jamal Collier (@JamalCollier) February 28, 2018
- Two NL Central pitchers were listed among Andrew Simons’ (MLB.com) five young starters poised to break out in 2018, including the Pirates’ Jameson Taillon and the Cardinals Luke Weaver. Given the direction (and projections) of both franchises, I’m not particularly concerned about Taillon in the near-term (though I do agree that he’ll break out), but Weaver could be a huge part of a Cardinals’ starting staff that does have some questions. Hopefully, he has a perfectly healthy, completely terrible season.
- Also at MLB.com, projected Opening Day lineups for every team in Major League baseball. The Cubs group is projected exactly right, in my opinion, with one notable potential quibble, Albert Almora is at the top. While I am perfectly happy with him leading off against left-handers, the only southpaw in the Marlins rotation, Dillon Peters, isn’t likely to start on Opening Day, which means we’ll probably see Ian Happ out there to start. Probably.
- Speaking of which, the Marlins projected Opening Day lineup looks like this:
- Cameron Maybin, RF
- J.T. Realmuto, C
- Starlin Castro, 2B
- Justin Bour, 1B
- Martin Prado, 3B
- Derek Dietrich, LF
- Lewis Brinson, CF
- Miguel Rojas, SS
- With Brinson (the former Brewers prospect), Bour, Castro, Realmuto, and Maybin in the order, it’s not a terrible lineup …. But imagine keeping Bour, Realmuto, and Maybin, while dropping in Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, and Giancarlo Stanton. Much scarier.
- At FanGraphs, Jay Jaffe considers what Clayton Kershaw’s next contract might look like (he’ll be a free agent after this season, if he opts out of his current deal with the Dodgers (which he’s expected to do … before re-signing with the Dodgers immediately)). As it turns out, even if you’re pretty conservative with your projections (while accounting for things like inflation and regressing performance), Kershaw is likely to be worth (and earn) at least $200 million over seven years starting next offseason (he turns 30 next month). More specifically, Jaffe winds up at a seven-year/$232.5 million deal. Would you take the over or the under, given the way this offseason has gone (while remembering that this offseason has gone the way it has, in part, because the Dodgers know they’ll have to pay up for Kershaw next winter)?
- And finally, at Baseball is Fun, new Nationals Manager Dave Martinez took a page out of Joe Maddon’s book and brought some live animals to camp today:
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) February 28, 2018
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.