I finally watched the fourth season of ‘Fargo,’ which I’d been saving for myself to really enjoy, because the first three seasons were all just so fantastic. I was … disappointed. A lot of the hallmarks felt like they were missing, the castings just didn’t work, the story was pretty meh overall, and I only found myself really enjoying a thread or two. It all just felt off, and I wonder if the pandemic impacted some of the post-production efforts to really sharpen things. I wouldn’t tell people to SKIP the season altogether, but I would definitely brace people who start binging by saying that it’s just nowhere close to as good as 1-3, but that’s mostly because the first three seasons are among my favorite shows of the last decade.
• We got word last night that the Commissioner’s Office had told teams to prepare as though Spring Training will begin on time in about a month, which was obviously notable for a number of reasons. Perhaps even more notable? Teams are indeed actually making those preparations now:
The Commissioner's Office sent a dictum to teams that spring training is to start on time, and clubs are taking it seriously and diving into their plans now. This does not guarantee it will go seamlessly, or will be without pauses, but the camps will open in mid-Feb., apparently
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) January 12, 2021
• If that’s true, you can expect free agency to really pick up steam over the next couple weeks, particularly after arbitration exchange day on Friday.
• I wouldn’t say I’m “advocating” for the Cubs to trade Craig Kimbrel at this point, since I am still of the mind that the 2021 NL Central could be so winnable that even a rebooting Cubs team could still win it. So, then, on a one-year guy like Kimbrel, it’s basically: if someone offers you something great, OK, fine, be “opportunistic” and add some prospects. But if that offer doesn’t come, why not just open the season with him, let him show again that he’s back to being CRAIG KIMBREL, and then reevaluate in July, when elite closer trade value is more or less the same as it is in the offseason? Either trading him for value or helping you try to win the Central?
• I mention that stuff here in the wake of the Liam Hendriks signing, which nets him a guaranteed $54 million over three years from the White Sox – a monster contract that no one was predicting for him back in November in this environment. That’s an AAV of $18 million for a 32-year-old closer. Kimbrel, 32, will make $16 million in 2021, and has a team option for 2022 at the same price. After he fixed his mechanics following the first three appearances last year, he was basically the best reliever in baseball not named Devin Williams. Would a team sign him, today, for $16 million and a club option? Eh, I don’t know. Probably not quite. But if I’m looking at that Hendriks deal in this environment, and if it’s not some kinda crazy overpay, I’m thinking suddenly Kimbrel’s deal DOES look pretty nice. I mean, if he comes out in April and May and June looking like he did in August and September, then you start thinking he’s not only super valuable to a playoff team, he’s also valuable because he comes with that option for next year. Who woulda thought that was possible last offseason after he’d just slumped through an injury-filled, free agency-delayed, rough debut with the Cubs?
• So much more on the Cubs’ new play-by-play man, Boog Sciambi:
For Cubs fans not too familiar with Jon "Boog" Sciambi beyond being a national voice, I talked to him about his career, his longtime friendship with Len Kasper and how he ended up realizing Chicago was where he wanted to be. https://t.co/nom2VqgzI2
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) January 11, 2021
• Boog’s praise for his new booth-mate: “He’s an open and willing consumer,” Sciambi told Sharma of Jim Deshaies. “As a broadcaster the thing that I love that is really hard for analysts, it’s just a challenge, if he doesn’t have anything to say, he doesn’t say it. He doesn’t spit cliches to fill space, he just doesn’t do it. And he’s funny. You’re not going to get narrative-based nonsense from JD and I adore that about him.”
• For as much value as expansion could provide to the 30 MLB owners at a time of revenues being down (those expansion fees could be upwards of $1 billion per team), there are logistical reasons – and also financial reasons – why it isn’t going to be decided this year, per Ken Rosenthal. With so much uncertainty because of the pandemic, apparently a lot of owners just want to stick status quo, rather than risk kicking off two new teams that wind up just eating up revenue-sharing dollars rather than generating more overall value for the league beyond the expansion fees.
• If you’re eager for expansion during the league’s longest expansion drought during the expansion era, you probably aren’t going to see it for several years at least. Consider that Dave Dombrowski was fully locked in with the Nashville group for the next few years, rebuffing requests to join an MLB team … until last month when he clearly heard enough from Rob Manfred that expansion wasn’t coming soon. Thus, he joined the Phillies. Not a great sign. It’s coming eventually – 32 teams, realignment, etc. – but probably not in 2022 or 2023.
• Tough to argue against the idea that the White Sox are the best on-paper team in the American League right now:
The Sox had a stacked lineup. Then they gave themselves one of the best 1-2-3 starting-pitching punches around. Then they went out and got one of the game's best closers.
Now they're the best team in the American League. https://t.co/iT7CYDLHw3
— Vinnie Duber (@VinnieDuber) January 12, 2021
• Of course, the vast majority of free agency is yet to play out, so it’s possible the Yankees or Blue Jays or Angels or Twins or Astros could get right back up there.
• A whole bunch of food, weight benches, water picks, and much more are your Deals of the Day at Amazon today. #ad
• Random enjoyable thing:
Remember when Javy batted lefty and ripped a double to the gap. That was swell. pic.twitter.com/GstwNzstOV
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) January 11, 2021