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Getting Buy-in From Your Pitchers, A’s Miss Schwindel, Prospect Throwback, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

The Wife’s fam did an early Thanksgiving brunch situation yesterday (in lieu of actual Thanksgiving, which we’re doing with my family on Thursday), and it was fantastic. Breakfast foods and football? Stuffing myself silly and then sitting on the coach? That’s a win.

•   The Cubs are going to add some starting pitchers from here, without question, but even as they do, it already seems likely that they’ll have some mixing and matching going on with “starters” and “relievers” each taking big chunks of games at a time, switching roles mid-week, etc. (think Brewers, circa 2017-2019, if it all goes right). It’s easy enough to say, but you have to remember that these are humans, not widgets. “You, give me three innings, and then you, give me the next three innings” often works better on paper than when the ball starts meeting the bat.

•   When talking about the buy-in required from pitchers to fold into a group where you might have to switch roles frequently, where your “starts” might be very short, and where you might not be the guy you were for the entire rest of your career, I think Cubs GM Carter Hawkins put this well (Sun-Times): “I think sometimes we discount how much these guys want to win. When you’ve been a starter your entire career and coming through the minors, is it different when you’re asked to be in a new role or a role you’ve never experienced before? Absolutely. But when you have guys that put the winning and the team first, that’s an awesome thing. And then you continue to show guys how they can maximize their strengths in those roles.” It’ll help if the Cubs can show early on that it works. To that end, David Ross, the coaching staff, and the defense(!) will have to be on point.

•   I would add that, particularly with younger guys, they also just want to be in the big leagues. I mean can you imagine a guy like Adbert Alzolay pissing and moaning that he was being used in an unorthodox way after he worked so hard to get his shot(s) in the big leagues? Dude just wants to compete at the highest level, whatever shape that takes. And, as a team, if you can trade on that desire – to be in the big leagues, to contribute to a winner – then you can maximize the value of shifting those pitching roles around. The Cubs are definitely going to have the right mix of pitchers to do that, given the flexibility of guys like Alzolay, Justin Steele, Keegan Thompson, Alec Mills, and many others.

•   Don’t get me wrong! It’s not like I’m saying it would be bad if the Cubs had five starting pitchers who routinely went six or seven innings, followed by a traditional bullpen mix. Every team wants that. But the likelihood of the Cubs getting there this offseason is slim, to say the least (plus I don’t think Wade Miley is a three-times-through guy at his best, and increasingly I wonder at what point Kyle Hendricks going through a transition in his 30s). You have to be open to guys emerging as locked-in, trust-them-three-times-through starting pitchers, but in the current environment, you also have to be nimble enough to know your limitations. And if you’ve got some guys who are stellar for two to four innings per outing (but struggle otherwise), then you just work to maximize – and you make sure they fully buy in so that your maximization efforts aren’t for nothing.

•   Given that he seems like such a perfect Oakland A’s surprise player, I’d wondered how the A’s felt about losing Frank Schwindel on waivers to the Cubs, and then seeing him break out with the Cubs. From A’s GM David Forst: “At this point, my only regret is that we didn’t hold on to him,” Forst, with a smile, told the Tribune last week at the GM meetings. “I don’t think anybody in our group that was involved in signing him and watching in the first few months had any doubt he was capable of doing what he did. I actually told my guys, I said great signing by you, terrible decision by me to designate him …. I mean, you’re so happy for him, you know how much work went in over the course of a number of years to get there, and it also sort of reminds us that guys come from everywhere. There’s no one path to the big leagues or to success. And he’s such a likable guy, just super happy for him.”

•   The deals will be picking up this week in advance of Black Friday, and the early deals at Amazon include gift cards, binoculars, and more, plus a whole savings section on Alexa devices. #ad

•   Bryan noted this list a couple weeks ago, but now that Nelson Velazquez has officially won the MVP, it’s fun to share again:

•   As Todd Johnson notes, we’ll get our first new post-AFL Cubs top prospects list next week from Baseball America, and it’ll be interesting to see how the AFL has impacted the perception of not only Velazquez’s standing in the org, but also Caleb Kilian’s. It’s not hard to see either reaching top ten status, and it might actually be even easier now to project big league impact for Kilian than for Velazquez given the premium velocity and emergence of a dominant spike curve. Gut says I’d have Kilian somewhere near the back of the top 10, and Velazquez somewhere in the 11 to 15 range. We’ll see. What’s nice about the BA rankings is that they will be informed a great deal by what other scouts are saying they are seeing, as well as internal evaluations. Maybe concerns we have about Velazquez’s contact frequency will be allayed because of X, Y, and Z, or whatever. This is basically the start of offseason prospects rankings season, and we start to get new behind-the-scenes info. I’m stoked.

•   Man, there’s a throwback:

•   Although he never made it with the Cubs, Pawalek did make the Crazy Baseball Injury Hall of Fame, as described at Player Profiles:

June 23, 2007: Pawelek fractured a bone in his non-throwing right elbow when he tripped over his PlayStation in his Arizona apartment. Pawelek first hit his arm on the corner of a wall and then landed on the arm. Because it’s his right arm, Pawelek was figured to only miss a couple of months of action.

“I got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom,” Mark said. “I’m not exactly the cleanest person, and my PlayStation was in the way with the cord hung over the chairs and stuff, and I tripped over it hit my arm on the wall and landed on it wrong.”

He suffered a fractured radial head in his right elbow, and was on the disabled list for 69 days. He knows the exact time because the medical staff kept count.

•   Nice?

•   Summing things up for the Bears:

•   Meanwhile, continued improvement for the Blackhawks and heat from the Bulls, each of whom won last night:



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.