Maybin and the Bench Competition, Kimbrel and Tips, Thor Versus Bauer, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Maybin and the Bench Competition, Kimbrel and Tips, Thor Versus Bauer, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

Here’s hoping the temperatures rising in the south will help the awful situations down in Texas. Feel so bad for everyone whose communities are simply not set up to handle these kinds of extreme nature shifts.

•   Word broke last night that the Cubs are bringing back outfielder Cameron Maybin on a minor league deal. Maybin, who’ll play this season at 34, has been an almost exactly league average player in every respect the last six years. He’s hit .266/.339/.388, good for an exactly average 100 wRC+. He’s struck out just a bit less than average. He’s walked just a bit more than average. He’s run the bases just a bit better than average. He’s played outfield defense just a bit worse than average in center field, and just a bit better than average in the corner outfield spots. The guy has just been average. And he’s done that despite swinging in and out of bench and starting roles, pinch-hitting, playing different positions, etc. In the big leagues, being an average player who can be deployed that way over a six year period is pretty darn good and useful!

•   Ultimately, Maybin will be competing with virtually all the other bench candidates, because Kris Bryant’s ability to play the corner outfield spots means the infield bench candidates are – by virtue of that movement – no different from outfield bench candidates, at least at the back of the roster. Jake Marisnick, when his signing is official, is highly likely to make the team as the 4th outfielder, and David Bote is obviously making the team. Ditto Austin Romine as the back-up catcher. So Maybin is mostly going to be competing with guys like Phillip Ervin (outfielder), Michael Hermosillo (outfielder), Nick Martini (outfielder), Ian Miller (outfielder/base-runner), (Rafael Ortega (outfielder), Matt Duffy (infielder), Ildemaro Vargas (infielder), and Patrick Wisdom (infielder). Oh, and really? You could put Nico Hoerner in there, too, since it remains possible he’ll head to AAA Iowa to open the season. It’s a really, really big group for maybe two spots.

•   Bonus fun: remember Maybin’s walk-off hit by pitch winner?

•   Craig Kimbrel, who’ll enter the season as the Cubs closer, was pitching SO well by the end of last season that the focus of his offseason hasn’t been about improving anything – it’s just been about trying to keep his mechanics locked in ( “I definitely had to put in some work physically and mentally,” Kimbrel said, “to get back to where I needed to be, and was able to do that. So, going into this offseason, it wasn’t, ‘Oh, I need to do this better. I need to get stronger. I need to get faster. I need to work on a new pitch.’ It really was, ‘OK, what did I do last year to get back to being successful? And how do I stay there?'”

•   Kimbrel confirmed, by the way, that part of his mechanical issues last year were related to the way he was showing his pitches. Possibly tipping them. Remember how we were tracking the fact that his signature curveball was generating no swings – not few swings, but no swings – for weeks at a time early on? Well, we figured it was because hitters could see out of his hand when he was throwing it, so they just decided flat out not to swing when he was throwing curve (which he also wasn’t throw in the zone for get-me-over strikes). I still remember the first swing he got on a curve after he was semi-shut-down to work on mechanics, and it was like OMG THAT DUDE JUST SWUNG AT A CURVEBALL! … and it was like magic, from there, Kimbrel was Kimbrel again.

•   Much more on Kimbrel and his work over the last couple years here at The Athletic.

•   Also, on Kimbrel as a veteran leader:

•   Ian Happ’s arbitration win over the Cubs yesterday was relatively historic:

•   Cubs Spring Training tickets (limited capacity) are now available.

•   Noah Syndergaard made a joke about Trevor Bauer’s oopsie (his website appeared to announce he was picking the Mets, but he wasn’t), and Bauer isn’t exactly the joking type apparently:

•   Willson Contreras, doing good so that you can do good, too:

•   David Ross, Professional Narrator:

•   Randomly got a kick out of this as I was scrolling IG – double-tapped for the like, and the heart showed up right on the spot:

•   Still time to enter – all you have to do is follow Fergie, BN, and then smack the RT:

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.