Hernandez Arrives, La Russa's Kimbrel Admission, Two-Way Players, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Hernandez Arrives, La Russa’s Kimbrel Admission, Two-Way Players, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

Cleared out all my tabs in Chrome last night for the first time in about a month, so I’m pretty much feeling like a rockstar this morning when I look up and see that this is the only currently-open tab. And yet I know, in a couple days, it’ll be overflowing once again …

•   Top Cubs international signing Cristian Hernandez is now stateside, participating in instructional ball in Arizona:

•   The 17-year-old shortstop is fresh off a huge debut in the DSL, where he got better and better as the year went on, and is now primed to participate in minor league Spring Training 2022. From there, he’s likely going to play in the Arizona Complex League as an 18-year-old (which will be fun, because we can compare his performance to that of Reggie Preciado, a fellow shortstop who was 18 this past year when he was great in the ACL). Or it’s conceivable that, at some point, Hernandez could play at Low-A Myrtle Beach. There’s precedent for it, with Kevin Made playing there this year when he was just 18 and without any DSL or ACL experience. (Let that sink in, again, in terms of how advanced the Cubs must believe Made is.)

•   And since we’re doing that dance again, let me just be happy again at how loaded the Cubs are with young shortstop prospects right now, all of whom could be in their top 20: Hernandez, Made, Preciado, Ed Howard, James Triantos, Luis Vazquez.

•   I know he’s not still on the Cubs and I should be as bothered as I am, but it just galls me:

•   YA THINK!?!? It’s what so many of us have been blasting out there since the White Sox made that trade. And if they didn’t think Liam Hendriks could pitch successfully in setup, then it was ridiculous of them to acquire a new guy – who has been a closer, and only a closer, since he could walk – to transition teams, leagues, and roles all down the stretch of a pennant race. Yes, again, I understand that it’s Kimbrel’s job to pitch well whenever he gets the ball. But are we really gonna keep ignoring the mental component of the game, and how different the 9th inning makes you? We have heard it over and over from virtually all pitchers, and some guys simply need that moment to be at their best. We have learned that’s the case with Kimbrel, and when he *IS* at his best, he’s one of the best in history. Why would you not want that? I have zero sympathy here for La Russa and the White Sox, and I just remain pissed off on Kimbrel’s behalf.

•   Bonus fun in the admission from La Russa? Now he’s *REALLY* backed his front office into a corner, knowing full well they cannot have both Hendriks and Kimbrel on their team next year. It cannot be done. So they either have to decline the option on Kimbrel (it’s a $15M decision) or they have to pick it up knowing full well that they have to trade him. And like I said yesterday, while they simply aren’t going to trade him back to the Cubs because of the embarrassing optics, I would not oppose it.

•   Rough, rough stuff:

•   It never came out publicly during the season, but it turns out there were 240 fines issued (to 140 players) for masking violations during the MLB season (The Athletic). The league has not granted a single appeal on those fines (which ranged from $1,000 to $5,000), and the mask mandate applied only to unvaccinated players after June.

•   Fun stuff from Alex Verdugo with the Red Sox – the 25-year-old outfielder wants to become a two-way player by 2023. A two-way player in high school with an exceptionally strong arm, Verdugo wants to start building up as a possible reliever over the next year so that he can contribute in relief in 2023. I love the realistic timeline and role there – he explicitly said he is not expecting that he can become a starting pitcher like Shohei Ohtani – and it would be fun if we saw more of this in the years ahead. To be very clear, what Ohtani is doing is not something that just any player can replicate. I’m pretty sure he is a generational freak. But what he *is* showing is that it is possible, maybe more possible than we thought, for a player to contribute on both sides of the ball in the modern game. Even contributing as a part-time reliever would be extremely valuable to a team, essentially turning the 26-man roster into, like, 26.5.

•   Oh, and while we’re at it: if Shohei Ohtani is not a unanimous MVP this year, then some voter either wants your attention, or truly doesn’t understand baseball.

•   Crazy outing for Logan Webb last night against the Dodgers:

•   Funny shirt on old friend Tommy La Stella, referencing both the MLB marketing slogan about the young guys, and his own team’s success with older players:

•   La Stella, who had a couple hits last night for the Giants (together with a huge game from Kris Bryant), also did this so that we could all be reminded that he, too, was a former Cub having success in the postseason:



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.