MLBits: Cubs Opening Day Battery, Sale's Flexor Strain, Yanks Scouting Starters, Why Betts Will Earn So Much More Than Yelich, More

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MLBits: Cubs Opening Day Battery, Sale’s Flexor Strain, Yanks Scouting Starters, Why Betts Will Earn So Much More Than Yelich, More

Chicago Cubs

Assuming everyone is healthy, who’s your Cubs Opening Day starter (as of today)? I’d probably lean Yu Darvish given the way he finished last season and has looked so far this spring (flu notwithstanding), but I can see a case being made for Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks, as well.

But there’s a little quirk when it comes to a game like that (Opening Day, Wild Card Game, Game 1 of the playoffs, etc.) with respect to Darvish: his catcher.

Last season, Darvish seemed to flourish with Victor Caratini behind the plate, and you don’t really want to mess with that. At the same time, you’d obviously want Willson Contreras’ bat in the lineup for any big game, so that factors into the decision, too. None of this is much of a concern, mind you (thankfully, Victor Caratini’s bat has proven plenty useful), but it is something I’ve been thinking about. I certainly hope there isn’t a strict Darvish/Caratini battery this season – in part because you want to deploy the switch-hitting Caratini so much more thoughtfully than that – but I think we should prepare for that possibility. It may be for the best.

  • The Red Sox got not one, not two, but three opinions on Chris Sale’s arm, including an opinion from the (in)famous Dr. James Andrews, but to their relief, Tommy John surgery does not seem to be on the table for now:

  • He’s not out of the woods just yet, and neither are the Red Sox (Sales’ five-year $145M extension begins this season), but it sounds like the worst may have been avoided for now. Likely in light of this news, the Red Sox went out and signed free agent right-hander Collin McHugh to a one-year deal. McHugh won’t actually be ready for Opening Day (he had his own elbow issues that led to surgery in 2019), but he can provide some nice depth once he’s back and healthy.
  • The Yankees were not as fortunate as the Red Sox, as ace Luis Severino’s 2020 season was ended before it began (Tommy John surgery a week ago today). And although they haven’t yet turned to the trade market, Bob Nightengale seems to believe they could look to add someone from outside the organization this spring:

  • And Severino isn’t their only big injury. Giancarlo Stanton is “unrealistic” for opening day, per GM Brian Cashman. And Aaron Judge is undergoing testing to determine the cause of some pain that’s shifted from his right shoulder to his right pectoral muscle. And when I say testing, I mean a lot of testing: “He’s obviously going through a series of tests,” Cashman said. “It’s not like one or two, it’s a number approaching seven to 10 total, so they can make sure they have a full evaluation and determine what ails him.”
  • Cody Bellinger missed his second consecutive Spring Training game yesterday and that caused a panic around the Dodgers …fanbase. Apparently, there were rumors that Bellinger hurt himself playing golf, which he says is not true. In fact, he says he just had a knot in his back and took two days to rest it. He’s penciled into tonight’s lineup against the A’s, batting second and playing CF. Funny how quickly rumors can spread during Spring Training, when they’re ultimately meaningless.
  • Like this sent everyone into a dizzy …

  • … But it’s probably just nothing. Probably.
  • More injuries, more hope:

  • At ESPN, Jeff Passan takes a really interesting look into the different career paths chosen from two very similar players – Mookie Betts and Christian Yelich. Offensively and in terms of age/production/awards/whathaveyou, these two players are close to identical. But Betts fought off every Red Sox attempt at an extension, while Yelich signed one with the Marlins and again with the Brewers (trading free agent upside with more certainty). The result is that Betts is set up to have earned roughly $400M by the time he turns 37, while Yelich should be around “only” $240M. Obviously, there are variables and risk that goes into that, but that’s the long of short of it. It’s a really interesting, informative look into the value and costs to signing extensions for both players and teams.
  • WITH THAT SAID … I think it’s a little unfair to say these two players are identical. Offensively, yeah, sure, they’re neck and neck. But for however imperfect WAR is, there’s a reason Betts earned 37.2 fWAR in five full years (plus a 52-game rookie debut) while Yelich earned 33.6 WAR in *six* full seasons (plus a 62-game rookie debut). They’ve stolen roughly the same number of bases and have the exact same number of home runs, but Betts has won four consecutive Gold Glove awards, while Yelich has just one such award and it came five seasons ago. Is that enough to account for the $150M+ difference in their expected career earnings? No. But closes the gap a little.
  • New York City man Benjamin Tucker Patz turned himself in on Thursday after being accused of sending hundreds of threatening and disturbing messages to professional and college athletes (like, I’m going to “behead you and your family” disturbing).

Author: Michael Cerami

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