For reasons that will emerge later in the Bullets, I’ve got a particular song stuck in my head. On a loop. Can’t get it out. And I did it to myself.
• Sometimes individual quotes, or even collections of quotes, don’t give you the full “vibe” that you pick up from a presser. So let me offer you the vibe I got from Jed Hoyer’s introductory/start-of-offseason presser, which, hey, I’m just one dude. I could have misread things. To me, it felt like there’s gonna be a whole lot of payroll slashing in the near-term. Yes, Hoyer and Ricketts indicated that the budget is fluid right now, depending on circumstances, and yes, Ricketts rebuffed the idea of a total tear-down (though he defers to Hoyer on baseball decisions). But it was just … a sense you picked up in the way things were answered, the things that weren’t said, and the way Hoyer was not particularly delicate when talking about “service time” issues facing the team and the “financial realities” of the pandemic. To be very clear: this front office, going back to the early days of Theo and Jed, is always at their MOST cagey when talking about payroll and budget. They don’t like to give the rest of the market any sense of what they’re able to do, because it can only hurt them in negotiations. So this could be some smoke. But I’m just saying, I’ve watched a lot of these things, and I got the sense that I got. Payroll slashing is coming, and the eye is more about post-2021 than 2021.
• None of that is to say that the Cubs can’t still compete in 2021, what with the weak NL Central and a good bit of existing talent on a team that DID win the division in 2020. But where the needs to cut payroll brush up against competing in 2021, the money issues are going to win out, especially if and where they can be translated into younger, future players. Maybe that doesn’t mean a total teardown (that has always seemed unnecessary to me), but those rumors about a “heavy restart”? Where you are perhaps moving Kris Bryant AND Kyle Schwarber AND another position player AND a pitcher? Yeah, I do think that’s possible. From there, you target some cheap short-term pieces to see if you can get yourself to at least a coinflip shot in 2021, and call that competing. And then you resume spending next offseason. A total teardown would mean trading anyone and everyone with value, and no plausible shot at competing in 2021 OR 2022. I don’t see that.
• Again, a single quote can fail to really give you the sense, but if I *had* to choose a quote that sums up all of the above, it would probably this, from Hoyer:
“I think in this job you always have one eye on the present and one eye on the future. I think the truth is, given the service time realities that I mentioned, I think that eye may be a little more focused to the future than usual.
“But that doesn’t take away from the goal. And the goal is always to make the playoffs and give this organization a chance to go deep in October.
“There are always challenges in trying to do both. I think you do have to have your eye on both things. You have to be opportunistic when decisions come up that allow you to do both. As far as competing on the field, we have great players and this group has been together for a while. I know there’s frustration by how things have ended the last few years, but I think at some point you have to look at the bigger picture. We did win the division this year, we are really talented. I think we can do both. But it does probably mean being a little bit opportunistic at certain times.”
• He’s talking about threading that needle between still being good in 2021 but also making moves to improve for the future. But when so doing, it felt like things kept coming back to a version of, “Yes, we want to compete in 2021, but here’s the thing …. ”
• The Cubs have a new assistant hitting coach, though it’s actually a guy who’s been in the hitting development pipeline for a while. Minor league hitting coordinator Chris Valaika gets the job on the big league staff, serving as the number two behind Anthony Iapoce. Both guys come from a minor league hitting development background, which is not unusual, obviously, but also seems appropriate given what’s happened the last few years with the stagnation of many Cubs hitters (and what’s coming next, with a STRONG need for certain bats to take a big step forward). Valaika last played in the big leagues back in 2014 with the Cubs, and he was not particularly good. But they always say sometimes those ‘meh’ guys make great coaches because they got very familiar with all the ways the game can beat you down.
• I did a dumb tweet but it made me chuckle:
📏 500 miles
📏 500 more
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) November 24, 2020
• … and it may have been because I saw this last night (look in the lower left) and I just wanted to think happy thoughts about Báez:
In 2020, free agent Marcell Ozuna was the best hitter versus fastballs. Nationals star Juan Soto was by far the best against breaking/offspeed pitches pic.twitter.com/VMr6bGeWvo
— Jeremy Frank (@MLBRandomStats) November 24, 2020
• Massagers, boots, knives, drinks, cast iron cookware, and much more are your early Black Friday deals at Amazon today. #ad
• The Korean Baseball Championship concluded earlier this morning, and I can always enjoy a victory celebration:
— Céspedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) November 24, 2020
• Heads up if this is in your area:
[email protected] is pulling up to a city near you, investing $1 million to support Black communities across the country.
— Curtis Granderson (@cgrand3) November 24, 2020