I took my dog, Henry, to a doggy daycare place to burn off some excess energy, because he’s an absolute nutcase, and it actually has a pool inside for the dogs to swim in (which I thought was awesome). But when I showed my dad the adorable pictures of my dog’s day at the pool (the place sent me an entire album …), he pointed out that I may have lived in the city for too long. I think he’s right.
Fun and Serious Predictions
At ESPN.com, Jeff Passan surveyed more than 30 players, managers, coaches, GMs, scouts, and evaluators to get all sorts of predictions for the 2021 season. And any baseball fan will want to check this one out. I know, I know, you’ve seen a thousand prediction posts before, but the source material for this one separates the actual content from other similar articles. And I also like how Passan separated the topics by “wearing” six different hats: (1) Fantasy, (2) Gambling, (3) Front-office/executive, (4) Scouting, (5) Fan, (6) Bold Predictions.
And the Cubs come in for a chunk of the discussion.
(1) Fantasy – No Cubs mentions here, but a guess that impending free agent Corey Seager might be the most sought-after free agent this winter.
(2) Gambling – Again, no Cubs mentions here, but the Dodgers are still favorites to repeat as World Series champions and Jorge Soler gets a nod as the MLB HR champion, which I totally believe.
(3) Front-office/Executive: There’s a little conversation about Javy Baez being engaged in extension negotiations with the Cubs this spring, which is good news as it tracks with what Baez said, himself, earlier this week. There’s also a discussion about how Kris Bryant could find himself back on the trade block at the deadline, if the Cubs aren’t in it … ditto Anthony Rizzo, Zach Davies, and Joc Pederson. Basically, if you’re talented, on the Cubs, and on an expiring contract, the league expects you to be available this summer. Brewers reliever Josh Hader also receives similar treatment.
(4) Scouting – Cubs reliever Trevor Megill gets some love: “Megill is an absolute giant, 6-foot-8 and 250 pounds, and with a fastball from the left side that sniffs triple digits, he’ll almost certainly pitch at Wrigley Field this season. Unlike those on this list before him, Megill is wizened: 27 years old, a Rule 5 pick in 2020 from the Padres and without much real projection left. He is what he is, and what he is may be good.”
(5) Fan – Not much Cubs stuff here, but I agree that I’m looking forward to Shohei Ohtani putting it all together, Fernando Tatis Jr. flipping his bat, and Vladito succeeding and arriving on the scene in an even more impressive way this season.
(6) Bold Predictions – And finally, Shelby Miller gets some attention as an arm who could steal a spot in the Cubs rotation. This technically qualifies as “bold,” but Brett has been hammering this point home for weeks.
Shelby Miller once again looking mighty usable out there. He's in on a minor league deal, and there might not be a rotation job for him from day one, but the Cubs may need to figure out a way to get him plenty of big league innings.
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) March 15, 2021
One sure-fire path to getting me hooked on a guy is when there's been a lot of past success, and then an offseason "story" about how/why he's in a good place now, and then he shows up in Spring actually looking that part. That gets me all ride-or-die, fair or not.
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) March 15, 2021
Lindor Extension Talk
I know Mets fans are anxiously awaiting an extension for Francisco Lindor, but I really have little doubt it’ll get done. For his part, Lindor is playing it cool: “We’re just talking,” he said. “We’ll see how everything goes. My agent [SportsMeter] is in charge of that. That’s between the front office and agent.” But even that is a tacit acknowledgment that discussions are happening. And considering that the Mets have the need (and money) while Lindor has the star power, I just expect it to get done.
Of course, Lindor has also been pretty clear that it must get done before Opening Day, which is inching ever closer (emphasis mine):
“Like I said earlier, I will not be negotiating during the season,” Lindor said, point blank. “I will go to free agency. If something carries on during the season, it’s not fair for me, it’s not fair for the team. I got to give everything I got into winning baseball games. So if it doesn’t happen in spring training, I will go to free agency. We’ll talk in November, December, whenever free agency starts.”
Some behind the scenes sources say the Mets and Lindor are still “early in the process,” but there’s not much more out there than that. And other comments from Lindor, himself, reveal a guy who is keeping this VERY closer to the vest.
MLB Spending and the Future of Free Agency
Although there was a LOT less money spent this offseason than last, Evan Drellich (The Athletic) seems to believe that hasn’t been much of a concern for the future of free agency for all sorts of idiosyncratic reasons – some unusual (the pandemic), some typical (different types of talent available this year than last).
But one of the bigger, more pressing potential impacts was the average length of deals, which came down pretty dramatically this winter. But even that has at least one weird, one-off reason (the upcoming CBA negotiations). We kinda always expected both players and teams to see the looming CBA battle as a good place to stop deals, before resetting with any new rules or implications in mind.
Where does this offseason’s pandemic free agency leave baseball? Some numbers, per an industry source: about $1.3 billion has been spent on free agents, down from $2.1 a year ago. Average contract length this year is 1.44 years, vs. 1.8 last year. https://t.co/CbHyfVquva
— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) March 17, 2021
There’s also an interesting discussion in here about the crazy run on minor league deals this offseason – which led some to guess that certain GMs don’t need authorization for those deals – but even that once again feels like a one-off.
Basically, what I’m saying here is, yeah, sure, there was a lot of weird things about this offseason, but the CBA battle and the waning effects of COVID-19 are going to do more to impact the future free agent markets than the actual dollar value or lengths of the deals, themselves.
The Pace of MLB’s Pace-of-Play Solutions
Do you have it in you to read about MLB’s pace-of-play problems one more time? Well get this, even with batter minimums, the extra-inning rules, and an even heavier focus on speeding the game along, 2020 teams “set a per-game record for most pitchers (8.9) and length of 9-inning games (3:07).” Which … LOL.
But, and I can’t believe I am still repeating this, the overall length of the game is *NOT* a problem. Or, at least, it’s not the problem. In my opinion, the game can/should be as long as it needs to be *so long as* the pace improves. I feel like we’re still missing this huge caveat and it derails so many of these conversations before they even begin.
Tom Verducci delivers on MLB's pace of play crisis.
• In 2009, only 4% of qualified pitchers took 25 seconds or more between pitches. In 2019, 43% did (!)
• Last season set a per-game record for most pitchers (8.9) and length of 9-inning games (3:07)https://t.co/zFbyNLb9rY
— Connor Grossman (@connorgrossman) March 17, 2021
Odds and Ends
• That’s twice he’s done that this spring:
Shohei Ohtani, over the batter’s eye, against Shane Bieber. pic.twitter.com/6jmipxLknW
— Fabian Ardaya (@FabianArdaya) March 16, 2021
• Jacob deGrom is somehow still underrated, I think:
Statcast tracked 57 pitchers today.
Didn't matter. pic.twitter.com/CyaRZ35gU7
— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) March 17, 2021
• Wanna see an utterly dominant pitching performance? Check out the Wei-Chuan Dragons rookie starter Jo-Hsi Hsu, who recorded 11 strikeouts in 3.2 innings in his big league debut. Do some math, and you’ll realize that he struck out literally every single batter. He wasn’t perfect (3.2 IP, 11Ks, 3H, 1HBP), and the outing was short, because he reached his pre-set 60-pitch limit, but my GOD is that a great start:
#WCDragons SP Hsu Jo-Hsi (徐若熙) threw *check notes*
*check notes again*
*check notes one more time*
11 STRIKEOUTS in 3.2IP!! Hsu's K/9 after the game is a perfect 27!!
— CPBL 中華職棒 (@CPBL) March 17, 2021
• Minor League Baseball is going through all sorts of changes this season, including the logo:
More on the new look: pic.twitter.com/9i9DMam9RI
— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) March 16, 2021
• Here’s Henry falling into the pool, because he’s extremely uncoordinated.