MLBits: Trade Deadline Predictions, Rays Still Trying for Montreal Split, Connecting to Baseball, More

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MLBits: Trade Deadline Predictions, Rays Still Trying for Montreal Split, Connecting to Baseball, More

Chicago Cubs

You know what’s a shame? “The Last Dance” was so good and “Long Gone Summer” was so bad that most of the renewed momentum for a 2020 Sammy Sosa reunion has all but evaporated. Most fans (about 80%) still want to see it happen and I don’t think it’s gotten any worse, which I suppose was a possibility, but the hashtags, the desire … the attention, I don’t really see any of it right now. So I guess I’ll have to bring it back on my own.

Bring Sammy back.

The Importance of Local Baseball

This wasn’t supposed to be the first “bit” in today’s MLBits, but I happened to see that the Chicago White Sox have selected the Schaumburg Boomers stadium for their training site and taxi squad in 2020, and it stood out to me.

The Boomers – formerly the “Flyers” – set up shop in my hometown of Schaumburg back in 1999, when I was 8 years old, and I remember it meaning the world to me. Fresh off cheering on Sammy Sosa in the 1998 home run race, I was baseball crazy at that time, and even did a camp with the players at the ballpark, which was just the coolest thing ever at the time (to me, at that age, those guys might as well have been big leaguers).

I also remember going to SO MANY games over the summers, because they were cheap, close, and, hey, it was baseball! Major League, Minor League, Independent League? Who cares. Just give me baseball close by. And now, twenty years later, I’m a baseball blogger whose life revolves around the game.

But after rolling through all these memories this morning, I hit a brick wall when I remembered MLB’s plan to contract upwards of 40 minor league teams. It may not seem like a big deal, but local, cheap baseball can play a huge role in getting kids attached to the game. And for a sport whose median fan age goes up by one year, every year that should be a priority.

With the existing plans, the pandemic, and the fact that everything’s already in motion, the ship has sailed on saving these minor league teams, but I just want to use this space to remind everyone how important local baseball can be.

For what it’s worth, 101 teams received PPP loans this summer to help retain and pay employees (totaling $36.5M), but according to the president of Minor League Baseball, half of all clubs could become insolvent without some sort of financial assistance moving forward (government or otherwise). In addition to contraction, Minor League Baseball is facing some serious threats to its existence.

Rays Owner Says a Lot

Rays owner Stuart Sternberg had a lot of interesting things to say lately, so let’s heap them all together:

•   Sternberg is “not entertaining” any hope to find a full-time home in the Tampa Bay area “at all” according to the latest at the Tampa Bay Times. Instead, he’s still aggressively pursuing a split-home with Montreal – half the home games in Tampa, half the home games Montreal – which remains just absolutely absurd.

•   The Rays are planning to open their stadium to about 2,000 fans as soon as the first week in August, despite Florida’s horrendous efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19 right now. With their upper deck, the Rays could actually allow even more fans than that, but it apparently wouldn’t be financially prudent, so they’re sticking at 2,000 for now. They’ll consider allowing more in September/during the playoffs.

•   The Rays – and Sternberg – are already one of the leanest-run teams in MLB, but that could get worse, given the effects of this pandemic. Indeed, he’s already laying the expectations: “It’s difficult. It’s really difficult. It would be easier to swallow if I felt it was going to be a one-off, a one-year situation. But we’re preparing that there is a likelihood, even if there is a vaccine that there is going to be some fall-off in the ensuing years for a lot of reasons.” He continued: “People’s pocketbooks have been hurt, businesses’ pocketbooks have been hurt dramatically, people’s abilities and desires to go into large crowds and buy food at large events, even if there is a therapeutic, human nature is going to change for a while. Even the best case, next year will be impacted pretty significantly.”

I don’t disagree with his assessment, but I am hoping that there (1) will be a vaccine by next season (that’s a HUGE hope) and (2) it’ll allow things to proceed more normally throughout the industry and country.

That said, it’s worth noting this perspective from an owner, which is probably shared by a number of other owners. They are expecting the financial state of the game to be hit much more than just this year.

The Trade Deadline

Giants GM Scott Harris (formerly of the Cubs) seems to believe the 2020 Trade Deadline can still be used traditionally, as in if his team gets off to a hot enough start, he can use it to add and take advantage of an atypical season to sneak into the playoffs: “It’s paramount that we get off to a fast start, because if we get off to a fast start the trade deadline is only a few weeks away and we have the opportunity through transactions to turn some of our weaknesses into strengths. Farhan [Zaidi] and I are certainly going to be eager to do that if the opportunity presents itself.”

That’s pretty notable as most people believe the deadline will be largely fruitless this season, given: (1) the human element (shipping guys off in a pandemic), (2) the reduced value of the postseason, (3) the limited time after the deadline, and (4) the chance that things can be shut down at any moment.

I think shut down relievers may retain most of their trade deadline value this year, given that they’re entire purpose is winning in the postseason, not getting you there, but trades like the one for Nick Castellanos last season may not happen, given their reduced ability to help propel a team into October.

Brett: We’re also dubious that significant trades for guys under control beyond this year will happen, because the contract landscape could look so different this offseason. And who is going to give up prospect value for an “extra year of control” when that control comes at a salary price that is now above market?

Odds and Ends

•   While I totally understand that certain baseballs feel better than others, I think we can all agree that keeping everyone safe from COVID-19 by removing overused balls from play is more important than Gerrit Cole’s disappointment about which baseball he has to pitch. Also, this is hilarious (profanity warning):

•   The Dodgers had a “clubbie” playing left field in their scrimmage (the guy who throws BP), which was probably a dream come true:

•   It looks … a LOT harder to hit from this angle. Yeesh.

•   And finally, just a reminder that everything about this season is weird:

Author: Michael Cerami

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