A confession up top: for as much as I’ve known a lockout was coming, and for as long as I’ve been thinking about what this period would be like, I still find myself unprepared to transition immediately into “what the coverage looks like now” mode. I think that is primarily because it’s all so fresh – there’s still a lot to unpack in THIS moment before I can transition – and also because the dang Cubs did so much stuff this week! I still have a whole lot I want to say about, and dig into, with the transactions. So that’ll be a lot of what comes in the near-term, and then we will get into a mode of coverage that makes sense during a lockout.
I honestly don’t think you’ll notice too much of a lapse around here – I always have plenty to say – but I just don’t know what it’ll look like, day to day, until I get there.
I mention all that at the top, because I’m still swimming a bit this morning with respect to these Bullets, finding my footing …
• All the immediate lockout talk is right here and here, from late last night and then early this morning. Apropos of my “coverage” meta up there, you will notice during the lockout that MLB.com is pretty different. Because they cannot formally connect to the players during the lockout, you won’t see them on the team sites (literally, the player pictures are all gone). Here’s how MLB.com explains it:
You may notice that the content on this site looks a little different than usual. The reason for this is because the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the players and the league expired just before midnight on Dec. 1 and a new CBA is currently being negotiated between the owners and the MLBPA.
Until a new agreement is reached, there will be limitations on the type of content we display. As a result, you will see a lot more content that focuses on the game’s rich history. Once a new agreement is reached, the up-to-the minute news and analysis you have come to expect will continue as usual.
• There’s a whole lot of evergreen type content up right now, with looks back at history and things like that. It’s actually some interesting stuff, but it’s kinda wild how they had it all ready to deploy at midnight. Again, we all knew the lockout was coming, but MLB.com REALLY knew it was coming.
• The Cubs sent fans a team-ish-specific-ish message this morning about the lockout:
Message from the Chicago Cubs this morning about the lockout: pic.twitter.com/vIdNM5dK0E
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) December 2, 2021
• I wonder if we’ll get some mini scandals about this:
As part of MLB's lockout, contact between teams and their players is theoretically shut down. But there is already rampant speculation among club execs about which teams are most likely to try to shape and directly monitor their players' offseason work.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 2, 2021
• I get all the rules, by the way, but I do hate that teams can’t even help keep their players on track with training and rehab. It sucks for the players, some of whom need that support MOST right now.
• At the zero hour, the Cubs re-signed Michael Hermosillo to a big league deal, which is effectively like tendering him … after non-tendering him a day earlier. You’re wondering, naturally, why it went that way. I have at least a few theories, any one of which could explain the weird contract movement, or it could be a mix of all of them: (1) as noted in his non-tender post, his situation was such that tendering him would’ve come with some (very mild) roster restrictions in how the Cubs could theoretically later try to outright him to Iowa, so I suspect this signing removed that; and/or (2) maybe there are other contract terms that the Cubs wanted to change and this was the only way to do it; and/or (3) the Cubs may have wanted an extra 40-man spot open yesterday just in case some additional deal(s) came together and the Cubs had to sprint to get them finished. It happened only with Stroman, so the Cubs had a spot to add Hermosillo back.
• As Michael correctly guessed, yes, I am happy about it! I still don’t quite know how the Cubs actually coordinate things with Hermosillo and now Clint Frazier and also Harold Ramirez, especially given that Hermosillo has no minor league options left, but I didn’t really want to see Hermosillo go somewhere else for nothing. Him becoming a regular contributor is still probably a low-probability outcome, but he has always hit at Triple-A – and especially RAKED there in 2021 – and his trajectory has long looked like that of a guy who could be a big league contributor if he just got a real chance. As we saw last year with Frank Schwindel, Patrick Wisdom, and Rafael Ortega, sometimes guys in those situations really are quite good! And with Hermosillo a couple/few years younger than those guys, there is a little more “prime” age time to work with if he does break out.
• Oh, also: the Cubs have three outfielders who really struggle against lefties (Ian Happ, Jason Heyward, Rafael Ortega), and they’ve added three right-handed hitting outfielders in Hermosillo, Frazier, and Ramirez. They were definitely going to need some righty bats for that mix, so in part, this is just “get a lot of these guys in the door, and figure it out in Spring Training.” Unfortunately, some times a crowding sorts itself out.
• (Not that I think the Cubs should treat their outfield situation as definitely settled, by the way. If Michael Conforto or Nick Castellanos start looking at reasonable deals, the Cubs should explore it.)
• The Brewers essentially sold a couple prospects to the Red Sox so that they could be rid of the second year of Jackie Bradley Jr.’s contract and the huge buyout on a third year option next year, while picking up Hunter Renfroe in the process. It’s a clear upgrade for their offense in the outfield, but it cost them two of their top 20 prospects to make it happen. They’ll focus on the Renfroe addition whenever they are able to actually discuss the deal, but the caliber of prospects given up and the huge money moved out the door tell you what this deal mostly was. A little long-term pain for a short-term bump, which, frankly, is what the Brewers should be doing while they have pitchers at their peak and before Christian Yelich gets deep into his 30s. In other words: I kinda hate it.
• A very random thing I saw that jumped off the page:
Apparently Freddy Galvis is headed to Japan, which got me to his FanGraphs page (https://t.co/7acRmml5TQ), which got me to notice that for 7 straight years his wOBA has topped xwOBA by roughly same amount. Could be greatest fluke ever, or evidence of a specific xwOBA blind spot. pic.twitter.com/nVB0wvK2g0
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) December 1, 2021
• I haven’t had a chance to really dig in, but I would think that if you’ve got a player whose xwOBA is every single year almost exactly the same amount lower than his actual wOBA, you’d be able to figure out where xwOBA might have a blind spot. Because you could look at what is peculiar about that particular player – the type of contact he makes most often, or whatever – and figure out where the expected wOBA calculations are missing something. I’ll admit, part of the reason this jumped out at me is because the small sample early returns on Nick Madrigal have his xwOBAs way lower than his wOBA (both years), and I’m just wondering if there’s something about smaller, slappier, line-drive hitter or something.
• There was football at Wrigley Field, and then there was football at Wrigley Field:
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