You may have noticed that we took some time away starting yesterday afternoon as events were unfolding at the U.S. Capitol. Like has happened so often over the past few years, and the past year especially, you knew what was happening was historic – in a truly regrettable sense – and it just wasn’t the time to write up the latest trade rumor or quarterback note. There was no political motive behind the decision to quiet down; just an acknowledgement that the world happens around us, and sometimes we just have to observe it in horrified awe.
There’s nothing more I can say on the events that you haven’t already found, or can’t already find, from other more qualified sources. So, instead, we’ll return to what I hope we do well enough at these times: providing something else interesting and entertaining to think about when you want that distraction. Be well, folks.
On to the rest …
• Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy spoke with Jordan Bastian about the state of the Cubs rotation, saying the things you’d expect a pitching coach to say when he’s got like 3.5 starting pitchers and has no certainty that more will be added:
TH: "We're going to have a lot of opportunity for young guys to step up and show that they can handle the Major League level and they're ready."
Behind Alzolay, mentioned Abbott, Marquez, Miller, Steele. Said Rule 5 pick Gray Fenter will be stretched out and given a look, too.
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) January 5, 2021
• In other words, the Cubs know they’re going to need more than the usual 6-8 “traditional” starting pitchers to cover innings this year … and yet the Cubs right now have only two guys who you know for sure can operate like successful starting pitchers. Again, though, not sure what else Hottovy is supposed to say:
Bottom line: Does Hottovy think Cubs can contend with current rotation?
He said what you’d expect:
“I think we can absolutely contend. I definitely think we need more arms. But, we’re talking about volume of arms.”
No big FA splashes coming. Maybe next-tier adds. NRI fits.
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) January 5, 2021
• The nice(?) thing is that the “big free agent splashes” on the starting pitching side right now are … Trevor Bauer? That’s it, isn’t it? The Cubs were never signing him anyway, nor even a guy like Jake Odorizzi, who might be the next best on the market. So really, Hottovy’s comment is just kinda the status quo. Maybe it’s even positive that he’s acknowledging that the Cubs CANNOT simply rely on internal guys at this moment to cover innings.
• As for the types the Cubs go after, that, too, feels pretty unchanged from November. Not only have a whole lot of starting pitchers already signed/accepted qualifying offers, but also this year’s market was just full of “next-tier” types and “NRI fits.” If you were going to have an offseason where you (1) needed a volume of starting pitchers, and (2) had “no money” to spend, well, this one is perfect. We’ve talked about bounce-back types like Corey Kluber, Garrett Richards, Chris Archer, and James Paxton, and you’ve also got the outgoing trio of Jon Lester, Jose Quintana, and Tyler Chatwood. I could go on. There are tons of options that are appropriate for the Cubs at this moment, and they certainly have the innings available to offer guys who are choosing between similar low-dollar deals with a variety of teams.
• Speaking of starters, Buster Olney and ESPN ranked the best here, mentioning 18 names … none of whom were Kyle Hendricks (Yu Darvish was 6th). Hendricks has the 10th best ERA in baseball among starters since he entered the league (and that includes guys who’ve been around only a couple years), and was dominant in 2020. I know it’s passé at this point to note that Hendricks is wildly underrated, but, well, it’s still true.
• Oh, but back to speaking of depth starters, here’s how the financial math works out on the release of Colin Rea this week:
Here’s a good explanation from Arizona Phil how the Cubs come out financially ahead from this “trade.”
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) January 7, 2021
• Basically, the Cubs exchange the loss of depth for (1) about $1.6 million in flexibility to replace Rea or deploy elsewhere, and (2) allowing Rea to go get a better contract in Japan (the article suggests Rea has been wanting pitch in Japan for a while). Would you pay $1.6 million in this market to keep Rea? You would not. So this wound up being a no-brainer, win-win-win all around. (Well, assuming the Cubs actually use that money …. )
• If you missed it yesterday because of the timing, the Cubs are bringing back infielder Patrick Wisdom on a minor league deal.
• Kris Bryant was on The Compound:
— The Compound (@thecompoundpod) January 6, 2021
• Look, I don’t know anything about cricket, but I extrapolate from this video that the guy probably had to get that ball back over the line before any part of his body hit the ground, which, if true, means this was absolutely incredible:
UNBELIEVABLE from Max Bryant!
— KFC Big Bash League (@BBL) January 7, 2021
• I have since been told that’s exactly what the guy had to do. So, I mean, imagine robbing a homer with your bare hand, but also then having to get the ball back into the field of play before you land. That’s wild, man. Sign that guy. Cubs have open outfield spots, so whatever.
I keep telling all my cricket-loving mates how much they’d love baseball. I get vice-versa to you baseball lovers. Check this video for homework https://t.co/w0CPSD4OjM
— Sam (@SamInStockwell) January 7, 2021
• It’s been nine years:
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