I expect my head to be spinning a bit today, because you’ve got the arbitration exchange deadline, IFA opening up, and now a possible flurry of free agent moves (D.J. LeMahieu rumored to be close, Brad Hand apparently close with the Mets according to Ken Rosenthal, and more smaller signings last night). I’ll try to keep up!
Until then, Bullets …
• I’m kinda surprised we haven’t heard any Zach Davies trade rumors at this point. Sure, the Cubs need innings and all that, but the reality is, if they’re rebooting in 2021, you’re talking about a very valuable one-year guy. Everyone else in that category is on the table, so why isn’t Davies considered on the table? Don’t get me wrong. I’m not necessarily ADVOCATING for the Cubs to trade one of their only two remaining sure-fire starters ahead of a season where their division looks so very bad. I’m saying only that, when you see certain other guys mentioned in rumors almost daily, why wouldn’t a guy like Davies come up, too, especially in such a pitching-hungry market?
• Sahadev Sharma has a great read on Theo Epstein moving into a consulting role with the Commissioner’s Office, and I had to chuckle at this scoop:
While ownership and public policy may be long-term aspirations, Epstein is keen on staying in Chicago in the short-term while also staying engaged with baseball. His new part-time role will allow him to do that, keeping him local while also having a role in helping mold the game’s future. A source close to the situation said the idea of working in pajamas appealed to him. Another source said this gig gets an unemployed Epstein off the couch.
• Ultimately, over the past decade+, what became best for winning games diverged strongly from what makes for the most entertaining on-field product. Epstein knows this, and he’s the perfect guy to work with MLB on how they can improve without outraging too many fans. Here’s what he said last year, via Sharma: “I personally think the best version of baseball involves more balls in play, quick action, more action, more people involved in the game, more doubles, more triples, more stolen bases, that type of thing. Fans not having to wait around four minutes for a ball in play. We all grew up in the game with more balls in play, more action. I think that’s something league-wide that we can get back to down the line.” Yup. Agreed on all fronts. Now the question is how you better incentivize players to do those things organically, rather than SOLELY trying to change rules to force it. You have to consider a bigger picture than just “do X, probably leads to Y.” And again, Epstein is perfect for that kind of thinking.
• Also, I’ll say that even though he’s merely consulting at this point, and even though he might have other aspirations down the road … this move officially makes Epstein and future Commissioner candidate.
• Lefty Danny Hultzen is hanging them up, capping a really incredible comeback effort after years away from the game. The great thing is that he’s sticking with the Cubs organization:
Local baseball: Danny Hultzen of Bethesda/St. Alban’s/UVa, who was the second pick in the 2011 draft, is retiring from playing. He will take a job in the Cubs front office, working as a pitching development assistant under Craig Breslow.
— Barry Svrluga (@barrysvrluga) January 14, 2021
• Hultzen, a former top prospect who was derailed by injuries (and trying to pitch through them), undoubtedly has a fantastic set of experiences from which to draw when it comes to helping out the Cubs’ pitching infrastructure. And he’ll always have that incredible debut.
• Not to put too much pressure on the man, but the Cubs’ next 5-10 years become a lot more challenging if he’s not a future regular. Fortunately, he’s probably a stud:
• Cubs reliever Robert Stock (waiver claim earlier this offseason) is apparently already throwing 97 mph:
Sound on for what 97mph sounds like to the batter pic.twitter.com/qS6fCvsLTH
— Robert Stock (@RobertStock6) January 14, 2021
• Normally this time of year, guys are just starting to accelerate their throwing program ahead of Spring Training. Heck, many arrive at Spring Training only still working their way up to throwing off the mound (established veterans, anyway). I wonder if Stock can be touching triple digits this year – he sat at about 98.5 mph in 2019, and I’ll give grace to pretty much every pitcher on their velo in the 2020 season. Stock, 31, is among the many guys the Cubs are hoping to reclaim and deploy in the 2021 bullpen.
• Nearly 50/50:
I'm curious about something random. Let's say signing Yadi Molina would net the Cubs five additional wins in 2021, just for the sake of discussion. Maybe he helps Willy get even better, maxes out more pitcher performance, etc. Just a hypo here. Would you want Cubs to sign him?
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) January 14, 2021
• BOOG was on Sarah Spain’s podcast:
• This is indeed extremely nerdy, but I love it. I also am blown away at the volume of compelling relief-only prospects in the Cubs’ system:
In a normal timeline, I'd be preparing to head to #CubsCon tomorrow. It's hokey and silly in a lot of ways, but it's also a truly unique opportunity commune with a full house of other Cubs fans willing to be hokey and silly. I'm going to miss it a lot. Its absence will sting.
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) January 15, 2021
• Heads up from our partners: