Lester's Big Half-Year, What Black Players Have Silently Faced, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Lester’s Big Half-Year, What Black Players Have Silently Faced, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

I put this out there yesterday, and I do mean it all, to the extent anyone wants an assist finding some resources:

Elsewhere …

•   Should an MLB season happen this year – hey, it’s Wednesday, guys … – we know it will be massively truncated. Realistically, the largest it will be is something like half of a season, which means, even excluding everything that will be weird because of the pandemic, it’s going to be a bizarre season for players and managers and executives. With one way to consider that issue, Buster Olney looked at one guy in each organization that faces unique pressure in a short season:

•   I think there are about 10 guys you could have chosen for the Cubs on this one, but I actually think Olney picked one of the most sensible ones: Jon Lester.

•   From Olney: “The respect for him as a big-game pitcher will stand forever, but as Derek Jeter once said, once you reach your 30s and you have a down year, everyone assumes you’re just old. Lester, 36, had a 6.09 ERA in his last 11 starts in 2019, and he could use a 2020 season to mitigate the implication of those numbers, especially as he nears a crossroads in his time with the Cubs. This is Year 6 in the six-year, $155 million deal he signed with Chicago, and while it’s unlikely the Cubs will pick up the $25 million option for 2021, Lester would set himself up for a decent deal if he performs at least OK. If he struggles in the small sample of a ’20 season, however, it could greatly impact his offers in the winter.”

•   It was already the case that Lester’s last couple years set him up for a pivotal 2020 season, with an opportunity to show teams that he still has a few solid years left in the tank. To that end, a truncated season could actually work to his favor, as he might be able to push a little more than he otherwise would’ve been able, while trying to spread out his arm over six+ months. Throw in Lester’s ability to execute a game plan so well, and to perform so professionally in the toughest situations (check out the dude’s postseason track record), and I think he’s probably a really good bet to perform well this year, if he’s physically feeling good.

•   On the flip side, if he shows even the slightest signs of additional regression, I fear it’s going to be brutal for him this offseason, because I suspect teams are going to be extra cautious with their medium-dollar, multi-year commitments. That is to say, a Lester who looks fantastic this year might find himself in a position to land a three-year deal. But anything shy of that, and Lester might find himself lumped in with so many players who are surprised and frustrated to find only low-dollar, one-year offers available. I hope I’m wrong about what the offseason will look like, mind you, but I just think it’s going to be extremely stratified – some nice higher-end contracts still available, and then a whole lot of nothing in the middle.

•   Again, you could do this short-season dance with a whole lot of players, but let me throw in Jose Quintana for so many of the same reasons as Lester. Quintana is very much on that cusp of being able to either fall way off (in perception) or be set up for a flourish in his 30s as he figures out his lower-velocity self. He needs to be able to show it this year, which means he’s gonna need that changeup working.

(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)

•   An important, compelling, and at times terrifying read:

•   Hearing how much the players held back from speaking about their experience during their playing days, because they felt like they couldn’t say anything is hard to take. There was a time, about fifteen years ago, when black players and managers were willing to say that they had experienced racist taunts and attacks at Wrigley Field and from Cubs fans, and it gnaws at me knowing how little a lot of us did to take those stories to heart. I looked back to find anything in the early days of BN that I’d written about the topic – precious little, unfortunately – and I can tell back in 2009 that I flat out was not willing enough to listen. I’m sure I thought I said all the right things – “oh, this is terrible, if you hear it, say something, etc.” – but you can see in the tone that the whole thing is really about me hoping it wasn’t real. I didn’t want to be confronted by the reality that there were large numbers of Cubs fans like this, and more shamefully, the reality that I was not seeing them. Truly, I hope we’re all listening now. I’m listening.

•   The Cubs’ farm system is still working its way back, but reading FanGraphs’ take on the Brewers’ farm system at least provides some schadenfreude. The system has just one prospect who grades above a 45, and he – Brice Turang – is a 20-year-old glove-first, no-power shortstop who might be able to get on base enough to play every day in the big leagues. That’s the optimistic take on the system’s top prospect. From there, you’re already reaching 40 FV prospects by number five on the list. I get that the Cubs’ system isn’t going to look pretty either, but it won’t look like this. (They are among the last systems to be reviewed by FanGraphs, and it should be coming any day now.)

•   Power in the KBO:

•   Ramos, who kinda gives that Bryan LaHair vibe when you dig into his prospect profile, is currently hitting an LOL-style .373/.447/.795 (211 wRC+) through 24 games. He already has 10 homers, which, for fun, would translate to 68 homers over a 162-game season. (Man, those Steroid Era dinger totals were absurd.)

•   Men’s electric razors are among the Deals of the Day at Amazon today. #ad

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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.