MLBits: Hader and the Brewers' Hot Start, Indians Extend Francona, More Player Extensions, Turner, Sale, More

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MLBits: Hader and the Brewers’ Hot Start, Indians Extend Francona, More Player Extensions, Turner, Sale, More

Chicago Cubs

Despite Monday’s error-fest and the relative pitching meltdowns in Texas, I’m mostly feeling fine about the Cubs right now. The offense seems pretty legit and I still believe in the starting rotation. The bullpen has their fair share of issues to overcome, but it should be helped by the eventual returns of guys like Brandon Morrow, Xavier Cedeno, and Tony Barnette.

The one thing keeping me anxious and ticked off, then, is the Brewers. They’ve gotten off to rocket 5-1 start and they’ve had a ton of “fun” wins (ninth inning come backs, walk-off wins, walk-off home run robberies, etc.). It just makes the Cubs start sting a little more than it probably should.

  • Take their win over the Reds yesterday. Before his go-ahead, 3-run homer in the sixth inning, Orlando Arcia was nursing an o-16 start to the season. So not only did they get the win, but one of their struggling players gets to burst out of his shell in the best possible way. And even with Jeremy Jeffress out for now and Corey Knebel out for the season, the Brewers bullpen is managing to get it done … is the soft way of putting it.
  • Josh Hader has thrown 5.0 innings this season and he has four saves to show for it, plus a 0.00 ERA and a -0.49 FIP. HE’S STRUCK OUT 10 BATTERS AND HAS WALKED ONLY ONE. I’m actually now convinced that all of my early-season anxieties are really just Brewers-related. They’re in my head.
  • To the extent you ever thought Terry Francona was a potential future replacement for Joe Maddon, he’s probably not anymore: Manager Terry Francona signed a two-year contract extension with the Indians, keeping him in Cleveland through the 2022 season. But let me say this: Although no one in their right mind can argue Francona’s skills as a manager – he’s good, he’s proven that – he has really never been my favorite guy. I know there needs to be some level of objectivity … but I also want to like the guy we’re going to be spending so much time with, right? As a fan, is that a fair stance?
  • The extensions somehow still haven’t stopped flying:

  • The Rockies have locked up 24-year-old right-hander* German Marquez to a five-year deal, which should give them some cost certainty over a very good, very young pitcher who would have otherwise gone through arbitration and likely earned more. Last season, Marquez made 33 starts, had a 28.2% strikeout rate (that’s like peak Yu Darvish levels), and was worth 4.2 WAR. This was a smart move by Colorado.
  • By contrast … I have no idea what he Blue Jays were thinking:

  • Grichuk, 27, is still young and productive (115 wRC+ last season), but he has never come close to reproducing his magic 2015 season with the Cardinals (138 wRC+) and is usually just about a league average player. Now, league average players (Note: not replacement-level) do have plenty of value, but I just don’t see this contract as something that was necessary for any team, let alone the Blue Jays, who’ve already begun selling. Maybe Grichuk is a good clubhouse presence and they want him around for as long as possible. Maybe they want some cost certainty. I don’t really know, but I just don’t get the urgency on this one. Good for Grichuk though. I wonder if Cardinals fans still think he’s better than Bryant.
  • Ah, bummer: Trea Turner fractured his right index finger after getting hit by a pitch during a bunt attempt yesterday. That really stinks. There’s no timetable for his return. Wilmer Difo will fill in as the starting shortstop for now. Carter Kieboom, their #2 prospect and the #25 prospect overall, is apparently not expected to be promoted. To be fair, he only just reached Double-A at the end of last season. I could see the value in letting him get some starts at the big league level and then go back to Triple-A to work on stuff, but with top prospects like that, you almost rather let them develop at their own pace, rather than letting big league needs derail their development.
  • Chris Sale bounced back from a disastrous first outing in Seattle (3.0 IP, 6H, 7ER, 2BB, 4Ks) with a solid start against the A’s last night: 6.0 IP, 1ER, 2BB, 1K. But that was also the first time in his career he netted just one strikeout in a start that lasted six innings. And apparently, his fastball was clocking in at just 92 MPH despite usually working in the high-90s. It’s true that starting pitchers ramp up their velocity as the season goes on, but that’s a much bigger gap than you’ll usually see. Neither the Red Sox, who just inked Sale to a big extension, nor Sale, himself, are particularly concerned.
  • At the Ringer, Michael Baumann takes a really interesting look at a potentially emerging trend: more stolen bases. Basically, as teams drift away from catchers with big arms and towards catchers with big pitch-framing skills, there may be more room for even more stolen bases than usual. This is the sort of slow-moving, but feasible balance that tends to accompany any shift in philosophy at the big league level. With Willson Contreras behind the plate, of course, the Cubs are not one of the teams who will have to worry about that pendulum swing. And, of course, if Contreras can improve his pitch-framing, he might be a uniquely valuable catcher.
  • Zack Greinke hit TWO HOME RUNS and struck out 10 batters last night. Have yourself a game, eh?

Author: Michael Cerami

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