MLBits: Big Names Returning in the NL, High-Profile Splits, White House, Strickland, Padres, More

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MLBits: Big Names Returning in the NL, High-Profile Splits, White House, Strickland, Padres, More

Chicago Cubs

Everything about this winter sucks. The weather. The Cubs budget. The free agent market. It all sucks. Also, it’s Monday. Monday’s suck, too. And I’m out of coffee.

Here’s some news from around the league.

  • After a breakout season for the Brewers in 2017 (3.49 ERA, 3.05 FIP; 4.8 WAR), Jimmy Nelson failed to throw a big league pitch in 2018 after a shoulder injury late in 2017 (against the Cubs) and subsequent surgery. However, that likely won’t be the case in 2019: “One of my goals is to start Opening Day,” Nelson said at the Brewers fan convention, “I’m not going to beat around the bush.” Apparently, Nelson has had a normal offseason and is on-track to be a full participant when pitchers and catchers report in a couple weeks. We can’t know how good he’ll be after a shoulder injury and a year off of competitive pitching, but it sure seems like he’ll be back. That could be one big boon for the Brewers projections.
  • Relatedly, another Brewers pitcher, Brent Suter, who underwent Tommy John surgery in July, is “confident” he’ll pitch for the Brewers before the end of the season – though that’s far less certain (and certain to be far less impactful).
  • Elsewhere in the NL Central, Marcell Ozuna, who had right-shoulder surgery this winter to address the pain he reportedly felt throughout last season, has assured the Cardinals that he’ll be ready for Spring Training. Not unlike Jimmy Nelson, Ozuna broke out in a big way in 2017 (144 wRC+, 5.1 WAR), but struggled last year – in part – because of the injury (106 wRC+, 2.7 WAR). If he can return to form (if you can call a career year “form”), he could help change the entire NL Central dynamic quite a bit. My guess, though, is that he falls far short of that high-water mark set two seasons ago – regardless of how healthy he is.
  • The Pirates are finally getting Jung-Ho Kang back this season, after a trio of DUIs made his return to the United States justifiably tricky, but who knows what he’ll be when he’s back out there for a full year. Unsurprisingly, the Pirates front office is expecting big things – and all the best shape of his life quotes are already out there – but I wouldn’t count on it. Aside from six plate appearances late last year, Kang, now 31, hasn’t played in the big leagues since 2016. He was very good in his first two years with the Pirates, but what does two years away from the highest level of competition do to a guy?
  • The Dodgers must be excited for a full, healthy season of Corey Seager in 2019, and from the sound of it he’s ready: “The only thing I haven’t done is take ground balls and throw across the infield,” Seager said at the Dodgers FanFest, before adding that he needs to hit live, too. Because if he’s anywhere close to the beast he was a couple years ago – 2016 (7.0 WAR) and 2017 (5.9 WAR) – the absence of a Bryce Harper or Manny Machado type addition might rarely be felt.
  • At, Andrew Simon takes a look at some of the more high-profile platoon splits out there and Kyle Schwarber’s lefty/righty differences stand out among the top ten. With that said, there are a LOT of super valuable players on the list, like Nolan Arenado, Eric Hosmer, Joc Pederson, Max Scherzer, Julio Teheran, Danny Duffy and others. Point being: you can survive and be very useful, even with a severe split. Fortunately, Schwarber’s struggles against left-handers are well-covered on a versatile team like the Cubs. And also, I bet he turns that around this year anyway. Also, even with those lefty/righty splits, Schwarber was good last season. A 115 wRC+ is valuable. Full stop.
  • World Series Champion and American League MVP Mookie Betts will not be joining his fellow Red Sox on their World Series trip to the White House. “I won’t be going there,” Betts said simply. “I decided not to.” Red Sox Manager – and native Puerto Rican – Alex Cora is also undecided about his trip to the White House. They’re not the first champions to ponder the invitation and ultimately decline, and they will probably not be the last. For what it’s worth, the team was supposed to go to the White House on February 15th, but the trip was delayed until May because of the recent shutdown. If you’d like to read more, you can check out details at The Boston Globe.
  • The Mariners have signed reliever Hunter Strickland to a one-year $1.3M deal with some bonuses attached. Strickland, you’ll recall, was non-tendered by the Giants earlier this season despite being brilliant from 2015-2017 (2.75 ERA, 3.25 FIP). The wheels came off a bit last year (3.97 ERA, 4.42 FIP), but at only 30 years old, I’m a little surprised he didn’t have more suitors. Wrong offseason.
  • And finally, something everyone can get behind … the Padres are going back to brown:

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami