Back in the middle of February, Javier Baez described extension efforts with the Chicago Cubs as an “up and down” process, albeit one that both sides wanted to get done: “If it happens, I will be grateful — I want to be here my whole career.”
Baez continued saying things we like to hear throughout the spring, including some March 5th comments about “progress” being made on that front. For a moment, life was good. Unfortunately, it was just a day later when Cubs President Theo Epstein came out to say that, progress or not, it’s about time to start focusing on the 2020 season, putting our optimism of an extension right now to rest.
- And I bring that up, because these are not the only high-profile extension talks to break down recently. According to Francisco Lindor (via The Athletic) he and the Indians have “set aside” negotiations for an extension to focus on the coming season. Lindor, like Baez, is an extremely marketable/popular and talented shortstop set to become a free agent after the 2021 season. With far more offensive consistency (albeit, probably less upside) and a full year of youth on Baez, Lindor is expected to earn a lot more on the free agent market when his time comes, so the lack of an extension now – from the frugal Indians, no less – is not much of a surprise. What was surprising, however, was Lindor’s candidness.
- Lindor explained that he would not have accepted a deal similar to the one Christian Yelich signed with the Brewers last week (9 years, $215M), which is a perfectly fair self-assessment, but did confirm that the Indians offer did not reach $300M in total value, which is arguably at least as much as it would take to get it done. But he got even more specific than that, claiming that if the Indians would only commit to a $120M payroll, they’d be able to pay him what he needs to sign *and* field a competitive team around him. Interestingly, the Indians have finished with a payroll above $120M in each of the last three seasons (the only three times in franchise history), but are projected around $91M this year. I don’t have much of a point here (and none of this really applies to Baez, who should cost half as much and plays for a team with a payroll capacity more than twice as high as Cleveland), but I just found it all really interesting and wanted to share the source.
- And, of course, to note that if the Indians are out of contention come June/July, you should strongly expect Francisco Lindor to hit the trade market once again.
- But even if talks between Baez, Lindor, and their respective teams are dying down, that doesn’t mean they are for everybody:
Sources: #Pirates have approached at least four players – RHP Joe Musgrove, OF Bryan Reynolds, SS Kevin Newman and 3B Ke’Bryan Hayes – about extensions. Hayes, like #WhiteSox CF Luis Robert, has yet to play in majors, but agreeing to deal might ensure place on Opening Day roster.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) March 10, 2020
- The Pirates are trying hard to extend as many as four players (see above), including one guy, Ke’Bryan Hayes, who hasn’t yet played in the majors. That’s a risky move for any franchise, but one that could potentially pay off big, particularly if you’re a small market club like the Pirates. Hayes was ranked as the 41st best prospect in MLB by MLB Pipeline this offseason, exactly ten spots ahead of Nico Hoerner.
- Injuries all over, some more serious than others:
#Brewers Eric Lauer is dealing with a left shoulder impingement, which rules him out for start of season. However, Craig Counsell doesn't see it as a long-term issue.
— Jake Rill (@JakeDRill) March 10, 2020
- Lauer, you’ll recall, came over to the Brewers in the Luis Urias trade this offseason. As a soon-to-be 25-year-old third-year left-handed starter, Lauer could be a big part of the Brewers rotation this season (although probably nearer the back end than the front). The Cubs play the Brewers to open the year, but not again until May.
- Earlier today, Bryce Harper was hit on the foot by a pitch and left the game, but contends that he is “totally fine” and left only as a precaution.
- Meanwhile, Michael Conforto, who tweaked his side making a catch over the weekend and received an MRI, will return to New York for further testing with the team’s medical director. After another solid 2019 campaign (126 wRC+), Conforto ranked as MLB’s 100th best player according to ESPN earlier today.
- The Cubs fared … better:
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) March 10, 2020
- Major League baseball has commissioned a “delegation of innovators” to spring training this month, with the purpose of demonstrating new ways to deliver signs from the catcher to the pitcher without interference. As you can imagine, a lot of players aren’t particularly open to it, but also many – like Tyler Glasnow – are: “I’m down,” Glasnow told The Athletic. “I really don’t care what it is, as long as it’s a pretty foolproof plan to have nobody stealing my signs. Anything is fine with me.” Hop over to The Athletic to learn about the various proposals including lights in the mound, ear pieces, smart watches, modified gloves, wristbands, haptics, and more. I’m not really sure how I feel about any one of these yet, but I agree with the sentiment: just because technology was used to steal signs, doesn’t mean we have to run away from it to prevent cheating.
- Sports Illustrated has a nice, long write-up on Shohei Ohtani, who should be returning to the mound this year, including some interesting anecdotes of Mike Trout fixing his swing, not being recognized enough in America, and a lot more. For all the Ohtani-mania that accompanied his arrival, his injury really put a damper on things. But he should be back to full-on two-way status this year – and the Angels, with Joe Maddon and Anthony Rendon on board, should be better – which means his popularity should soon peak.
- Are you hoping MLB takes a cue from Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Ian Happ, Freddie Freeman and others and mic’s up players during the regular season? Well, learning how it all came together this spring gives insight into whether that dream can be a reality.
- Joey Votto’s response and perspective on the importance of clubhouse access is spot-on:
I asked Joey Votto about clubhouse access in general — not in this specific case — but whether he would welcome this ban on a permanent basis. This is his answer: pic.twitter.com/Pa4oGpKkSC
— C. トレント・ローズクランズ (@ctrent) March 10, 2020
- Somehow, this pitch wound up BEHIND the batter … who swung: