I’m still primarily geeked about all things Cubs with the season looming, but I gotta confess: all the Russell Wilson rumors are killing me (and there are tons behind the scenes that are thin, so they’re not getting reported or written up by us, but you can’t help but WANT them to be true). The thought of the Bears actually having a true franchise quarterback is like … what do you even compare that to on the Cubs? It is nearly the same level of “seeming impossible” as the Cubs winning the World Series. Obviously the Cubs winning it all was, in fact, a MUUUUCH bigger deal, but I’m talking just in terms of “yeah, this is never gonna happen.” I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.
• Interesting concept presented over at NBC by Gordon Wittenmyer: knowing that the Cubs weren’t going to be able to have an overpowering rotation – thanks to cash limitations and internal development stuff – did they instead seek to get the highest floor possible? Limited upside, yes, but also limited downside? Kyle Hendricks agreed with that characterization, regarding the rotation as full of guys who “really know how to pitch and get off the barrel.” Fair enough. It’s a nice thing to think about, having a high floor rotation in place.
• Whether I agree or not, I kinda go back to the question, itself: what does it mean for a starting rotation to have a high floor? What does it mean to say, well, at least this won’t be a true disaster? What would it look like if the opposite were true? And *is* that concept actually applicable to a rotation of contact managers? When I think of a disaster in the rotation, yeah, you think of atrocious performances, but the most likely way that happens is not because the guys you send out for 30+ starts per year suddenly beset by control problems and hard contact … it’s because that happens to them for 10+ starts, they get bounced, the young replacements are even worse, and then there are also injuries, and the bullpen gets eaten alive because no innings are covered, etc.
• So, then, when I look at this Cubs rotation, it kinda does seem applicable. Consider that among the seven candidates for the opening five, really only Adbert Alzolay and Shelby Miller have had significant past injury issues of the type that would take them off the table for the season. The others have generally been able to take the ball every five days. Sometimes, in so doing, they’ve pitched poorly, but we’re talking about 20 to 30% worse than league average poorly, not 50+% worse where you never even had a chance (and then are replaced by an even worse pitcher). But if all of Jake Arrieta, Alec Mills, and Trevor Williams pitch to their floors, well, it’s not as if the Cubs’ overall rotation’s floor is going to look so great. So I’m not sure how much this actually sets them up for success, even as it was cost effective. Instead, I think we have to really hope for the upside of those three pitching like league-average starters (it’s absolutely possible!), and Kyle Hendricks and Zach Davies being the very good version of themselves. From there, maybe Alzolay breaks out a bit more, maybe Miller takes 10 good starts, and maybe a youngster or two fills in the rest.
• Cubs back-up catcher Austin Romine has been out since last Saturday with a knee sprain, which is not believed to be too serious (Bastian). What mildly concerns me about it is the fact that – whether coincidence or not – Romine’s performance last year fell off a cliff after dealing with a knee issue. Always better in Spring Training than the regular season, and you take advantage of extra rest while you can. But not always better when it pops up before the grind of the season even begins.
• Meanwhile, the Cubs have other back-up catcher options in Jose Lobaton, P.J. Higgins, and Taylor Gushue, though none are on the 40-man roster. So if Romine does wind up having to miss time, the Cubs will have to open up a 40-man spot to accommodate a new back-up.
• Jason Heyward has become a clear leader in the Cubs clubhouse, feeling like it is his “time” to lead (NBC). And he’s right. As David Ross puts it: “When you get leadership like that from a veteran, one of the guys on the team making a significant amount of money, with significant hardware, playing every day with a real reputation and a leader on your team, it’s very easy for the coach to do his job. And that’s what real leadership is, is setting the example.”
• I’m not sure if there was a delay here, or if the Cubs decided he wasn’t going to compete for a bullpen job (and thus there was no rush), but Justin Steele has been sighted:
— Scott Changnon (@ScottyChags) March 12, 2021
• Steele already has some of the best stuff available to the Cubs at the big league level *IF* they wanted him as a lefty in the bullpen. But if they want to give him more time to see if he can stick as a starter, then there wasn’t much reason to move him along quickly this spring. Already on the 40-man, Steele is a likely contributor at some point this year one way or another as an up-down guy.
• Old friend Trevor Cahill has found a job, and it’s, what, the biggest signing of the offseason for the Pirates? Probably a good spot for him to get innings:
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) March 12, 2021
• This is way too easy. It’s 1, 2, 6, with zero hesitation:
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