MLBits: Attendance Coming to Other NL Central Cities, No More DH and Postseason Talks Planned, More

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MLBits: Attendance Coming to Other NL Central Cities, No More DH and Postseason Talks Planned, More

Chicago Cubs

In case you missed the news this morning, the Milwaukee Brewers have signed free agent outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. to a bargain of a deal (2 years, $24M with an opt-out after 2021).

Now that the Cubs have Joc Pederson for left field, keeping Ian Happ in center, I’m not really feeling the same twinge of jealously I did when the Brewers signed Kolten Wong, whom the Cubs could still use, themselves, but I am a bit competitively frustrated. Or maybe impressed.

The Brewers front office is increasingly good at doing a lot with a little (payroll), and they’re seemingly always ready to take advantage of any opportunity. This has probably been most apparent in the utilization/flexibility of their pitching staff, but it’s true even on the positional side over the last few years (Lorenzo Cain, Christian Yelich, Yasmani Grandal, Luis Urias, Omar Narvaez, Dan Vogelbach, Wong, Bradley).

Fans in Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Across California

Sticking with the Brewers for a moment, they got some additional good news this morning:

At American Family Field (oh yeah, they renamed it (it’s still Wrigley North)), 25% capacity equates to roughly 11,000-12,000 fans. The Brewers had reportedly asked for 35%, but were happy to settle at 25% to start, with an eye towards expanding that figure as the season rolls on. Despite the season starting in less than a month, single-game tickets aren’t yet on sale, because the Brewers first have to redraw their seating map to accommodate for social distancing. Then, they have to coordinate with season ticket holders. And THEN single-game tickets can go on sale to the general public.

I’m following this process closely not only because of the parallels we may draw to the eventual reopening of Wrigley Field, but also because I’m curious what ticket prices will look like when they finally become available. On the one hand, extremely limited capacity should lower the supply enough to keep prices up, but on the other hand … are we absolutely sure enough people are ready to spend significant dollars to be in big(ish) crowds, even if its outside? We’ll see.

And remember, the gate revenue early in the season could directly impact the Cubs flexibility at the trade deadline, should it come to that. So … yes. Big deal.

Along the same lines, the Cardinals have announced that they will welcome fans back to Busch Stadium on Thursday, April 8th. And their initial capacity (32%) is even higher than the Brewers. Socially distanced seating, mandatory masks, cashless transactions, and more are all part of the deal, but, yes, fans are returning in St. Louis for the start of the season.

And that seems to be the trend:

Where Are We with the DH and Expanded Postseason?

As of now, Major League Baseball and the Players Association have no further plans to discuss either an expanded postseason or the universal designated hitter for the 2021 season, according to Evan Drellich of The Athletic. But because of how late the expanded postseason was added last year (it was the day before Opening Day), because of how much money could be on the table for the expanded postseason, and because of pitcher health associated with the DH, I still think we just can’t count out either change just yet.

Consider this: The reportedly league stands to gain a $100 million credit from ESPN for the expanded postseason, alone, because MLB didn’t play enough games last season to fulfill the package of games ESPN paid for. That, right there, is a HUGE incentive for the league to get the union on board.

The players, by contrast, are understandably optimistic about the return of fans by October, and since their typical cut of the postseason revenue is tied to the gate, don’t feel any pressure to accept a guarantee in exchange for what they consider to be less of an incentive to spend in free agency (if there are more playoff spots, their thinking goes, then there’s less of an incentive to add at the margins).

Personally, I think that’s a questionable conclusion (an increased guarantee for the players might better than rolling the dice on attendance), and one that makes even less sense now that free agency/the offseason is largely over – remember, this would be an arrangement for ONLY 2021. So maybe this is just the union’s attempt at upping that guarantee from $80 million (roughly the 2019 figure) to something even higher than they think they’d ultimately receive? And trying to make sure they’re in a good spot on this topic for the upcoming CBA negotiations, even if it means passing on the subject entirely? You have to imagine that the impending CBA battle may simply loom to large over every single concession.

As for the universal DH, that issue has the support of the union – and front offices, according to this report – but the owners are dragging their feet (probably still wanting to “get” something from the union in exchange, even though it’s at least as much about player safety at this point as it is about creating new jobs).

So at the moment, there is no further discussion planned, and everyone is “preparing” to be finished with the topics … but I truly don’t think you can rule either change out until the first pitch of the 2021 regular season is thrown.

Much more at The Athletic.

Framber Valdez’s Bad Break

Astros pitcher Framber Valdez had an excellent 2020 season, pairing a 3.57 ERA with an even better 2.85 FIP over 11 games and 70.2 innings pitched. But the 27-year-old lefty fractured his left ring finger on his fifth pitch of the spring on a one-hopper off the bat of Francisco Lindor.

Here’s the play slowed down – you can see the pain, the realization, and the frustration in his eyes almost immediately:

Valdez was projected to be one of the Astros most productive pitchers in 2021 (they’ll already be without Justin Verlander), but now he may actually miss the *entire* season, which would be just an enormous bummer for this sort of fluke, and seemingly minor, injury:

Odds and Ends

•   Here’s a video of Kyle Schwarber hitting a home run in a Nationals uniform, before high-fiving Starlin Castro as he crosses the plate (their paths crossed for just 69 games with the Cubs back in 2015):

https://twitter.com/MLB/status/1367283221575122946?s=20

•   I still love watching Shohei Ohtani and will forever have regret the Cubs couldn’t close on their position as one of his finalists in 2018. He’ll be a free after three more seasons, hitting the market as a 29-year-old two-way player. That’ll be one really interesting free agent journey to follow:

•   Yu Darvish will make his first start of the spring on Sunday, presumably throwing to Victor Caratini:

•   Both Joel Sherman and Andy Martino confirm that the Mets were still interested in Jackie Bradley Jr. up until he signed with the Brewers earlier this morning. Martino adds some additional reporting to the story, including the fact that Bradley was seeking four years and $50 million (and apparently even more than that early on). But the highlight is that the opt-out in Bradley’s deal could still make him a target for the Mets one year from now:



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.