I know yesterday’s Cubs win wasn’t particularly decisive (they squeaked out an 8-7 final tally over the last-place Pirates in extra innings…), but with that victory immediately following the trade deadline acquisitions, the return of Kris Bryant and Steven Souza Jr., and several other overdue roster moves, it felt like a nice launching point for their push to the playoffs.
The Cardinals are still hot on their tail (3.0 games back), and with five head-to-head matchups coming up this weekend everything can change quickly, but the Cubs are well-positioned to play in October, which is not something they did last year. So I’ll take it. Especially when they’re being led by the best outfield in Major League Baseball.
MLB Prospects Will Get a Chance
One of the more frustrating realities of COVID baseball in 2020 was the lack of opportunities for prospects to develop. With no Minor League season and limited opportunities at the alternate sites, this was going to be a lost year for most. Not anymore. Not entirely.
According to Baseball America: “Major League Baseball issued a memo on Tuesday to club executives to inform them that fall instructional programs—including games against other clubs—will be permitted this season, starting no earlier than Sept. 18. The camps may be held at the team’s alternate training site, the team’s spring training facility, or both.”
Prospects will get a chance to work with team development staff, and some real game action! That’s huge. There are still a ton of details to work out, including getting new health and safety protocols approved by the league, but it does seem like this is going to happen. And more than that, scouts will even be allowed to attend these games, which could help lubricate any offseason trades that may have otherwise been squashed without any recent scouting information.
The players involved will have to be compensated at their minor league rate, and none of this is mandatory. So it’ll be interesting to see which clubs do not participate, or participate only in a limited fashion. Here’s hoping the Cubs go all-out.
Fallout from Aroldis Chapman’s Head-Hunting
If you missed it last night, Aroldis Chapman threw a 101 MPH fastball directly at Mike Brosseau’s head and it led to the benches clearing and a lot of angry words. Unfortunately, while Chapman and the Yankees were in the wrong, Kevin Cash’s post-game comments were also not great. Particularly this one: “And the last thing I’ll say on it, is that I have a whole damn stable full of guys that throw 98 mph. Period.”
I get that he’s mad (as he should be), but he’s threatening to return what started this in the first place. How exactly is that supposed to keep your guys safe? It’s not. Period. This isn’t working.
As you can imagine, the Yankees weren’t thrilled with those words. D.J. LeMahieu said, “The comments from their manager made the rounds pretty quick in our clubhouse. It sounds like, obviously that’s a pretty serious threat. But it is what it is. … It sounds like they’re going to try to throw at us tomorrow. We’ll be ready.” And Yankees Manager Aaron Boone called them “pretty scary comments.”
The Rays, meanwhile, are rightly frustrated with the never-ending barrage of retaliation: “It’s a tired act,” Kiermaier said. “A couple of their guys over there, it’s just nonstop. I think this year we have their number and we’ve played well against them and we’ve beaten them time and time again. Maybe that frustrates them. I don’t know.”
There will be warnings tonight. And let’s hope that’s all.
Football Scores in the Baseball Season
Yesterday was an absurd day for final scores around baseball, from the Cubs 8-7 win over the Pirates, to the Braves 10-3 win over the Red Sox, to the Indians 10-1 win over the Royals, to the Tigers 12-1 win over the Brewers, to the Cardinals 16-2 win over the Reds, to the Giants 23-5 win over the Rockies.
Sonny Gray was responsible for the Reds implosion against St. Louis (0.2 IP, 5H, 6ER, 3BB, 1K), though he’s been mostly very good this season: “Every ball that I threw, they didn’t flinch. Every strike that I threw, they seem to put a good swing on. I was constantly behind.” The Reds have now lost three in a row and are six games under .500, 6.5 back of the Cubs in the NL Central with a -29 run differential.
As for the Giants 23-5 trouncing of the Rockies, here’s what the Rockies tweeted earlier in the day:
This month is going to be a good month.
— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) September 1, 2020
Lol … Ooops! To their credit, the Rockies adjusted:
We typically have positive and encouraging words when tweeting the final score after losses. Or some kind of clever approach.
We lost 23-5. It sucked. Good night.
— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) September 2, 2020
MLB.com has 23 amazing facts from that blowout game, if you’re so inclined.
J.T. Realmuto Extension?
A recent report indicated that soon-to-be-free-agent catcher J.T. Realmuto’s reps and the Phillies have not spoken since baseball has returned, despite earlier attempts at a contract extension, but Phillies GM Matt Klentak said plainly, “That’s not true.”
It seems likely at this point, though, that Realmuto will test free agency, even in these uncertain times, seeing as he’s currently riding the best offensive season of his career with predictably strong defense and framing numbers. He’s easily one of the top-3 catchers in MLB, if not the best, and at age 29, there’s really no reason for him not to test free agency. I just can’t imagine the Phillies are willing to offer him the sort of deal that could prevent that. He’s too close and playing too well.
Early Data Points on Contract Values This Offseason
None of that is to say this offseason will be normal. While we have learned the players at the VERY top do usually still get their money even in times of financial austerity, players in the mid-tier can get absolutely squeezed.
And for example, this doesn’t seem like a particularly great sign for a consistently good, not-yet-old ballplayer like Starling Marte:
AL exec said #Diamondbacks are signalling that will not pick up $12.5M option for 2021 on Starling Marte, so best deal by 4pm will get him. As I reported yesterday #Yankees #Marlins #Twins were seen as most probable destinations. #TickTock
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) August 31, 2020
Marte has since been traded to the Marlins, but we’re talking about a 31-year-old center fielder slashing .310/.380/.460 (126 wRC+), whom the Diamondbacks *already knew* they didn’t want to pay $12.5M to in 2021. That is great value – especially on a one-year deal – for the production, and a sign that this offseason may actually be LOADED with free agents you didn’t expect to be available (by way of non-tenders or declined team options). The price tags could be shocking.
It’ll probably happen to the Cubs, too. Though your hope is that they remain flexible enough to take advantage of this once in a lifetime player acquisition opportunity.
Odds and Ends:
• The Cubs minor league organization dropped three spots from their preseason rank (which … lol, what?) according to MLB.com. According to Jim Callis, Jonathan Mayo, and Mike Rosenbaum, they are fifth worst system in MLB. I don’t buy it. I understand that some teams jumped them by virtue of drafting higher and making sell trades, but I still like the Cubs’ improving system.
• So cool, and so unique. I’ve never quite seen something exactly like this before:
What it looks like to catch 111 mph. pic.twitter.com/o2RLHubHel
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) September 1, 2020
• Did you miss this one?
The ump overturned his own call without review because even he wasn’t expecting a FORCE OUT at HOME from RIGHT FIELD. pic.twitter.com/QxD7COlQPY
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) August 26, 2020