The Extreme Needs for Pitching Depth This Year, Why Freeman Left, Glamor Shots, and Other Cubs Bullets

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The Extreme Needs for Pitching Depth This Year, Why Freeman Left, Glamor Shots, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

The one good thing about getting a colonoscopy – well, other than the obvious benefits of preventative care – is that after it’s all done and the wooziness wears off, I EXTREMELY get to eat whatever I want today (part of the prep process is that you’re basically not eating anything for 24 hours). I have like 10 things in my mind that I want. So hard to choose. So I choose them all.

•   Early-season pitching is really going to be a mess, isn’t it? It was this comment on Wade Miley that really crystalized the situation for me: “[Cubs pitching coach Tommy] Hottovy said the goal would be to get him over 40 pitches by the end of spring.” Sure, Miley has been described as a “little behind” because he’s a veteran who is ramping up more slowly, but if the GOAL is to have a pitcher like Miley over 40 pitches – which MIGHT be three innings – before Opening Day, my word. Miley is definitely not going to be alone among pitchers who are not even close to fully stretched out when the season begins. Heck, the same piece describes the expectation for Kyle Hendricks and Marcus Stroman that they might be able to do FIVE innings by Opening Day. We knew it would be challenging with the abbreviated Spring Training, but I didn’t realize the scope of it, likely across all teams.

•   The Cubs’ efforts to bring in an overload of pitching – specifically swing types – makes all the more sense in this context. You’ve got Hendricks, Stroman, and Miley as clearly starting pitchers. From there, consider the volume of swing types who can go multiple innings: Alec Mills, Justin Steele, Keegan Thompson, Drew Smyly, Daniel Norris, Robert Gsellman, Jesse Chavez, Adrian Sampson, and Cory Abbott (plus Steven Brault if that deal gets finalized). They can’t all make the Opening Day roster, of course, but you’re almost certainly going to want to have several of them in the mix after the rotation is filled out. In other words, the Cubs weren’t just bringing in tons of pitching in case of injuries; they’ve been bringing in tons of pitching simply to cover the necessary innings.

•   Another thing that this all raises? MLB has gotta sanction a little roster expansion to open the season. It just isn’t going to be safe to ask 13 pitchers to cover all these early season innings if the starters, on average, are not physically in a place to go at least five innings. We saw it in the pandemic season with a similarly-shortened preparation period, so you would hope to see it again. Maybe 28 to 30 players initially instead of 26.

•   There are a lot of games to be won or lost in April on the strength of your 12th/13th (and hopefully 14th/15th) best pitchers. I can conceive of ways where the Cubs will be better in THAT group than other teams in the NL Central, but I’m not sure it will be enough to make up for the differences elsewhere on the roster. Still, better to attack an area where you can, and I’m all the more pleased with the big run on free agent pitching signings the last week and a half (Smyly, Norris, Gsellman, Chavez, Mychal Givens, David Robertson, Chris Martin).

•   How it came to be that Freddie Freeman and the Braves couldn’t come to a deal. It’s a long read, and interesting to see how the process worked. According to Buster Olney’s reporting, Freeman’s camp was insistent on a six-year deal throughout the last year, and the Braves held firm at five years. It just stayed like that. Then when the lockout ended, Freeman’s camp gave the Braves two options (a six-year version and a five-year version at a beefed up price tag) and an hour to accept or reject. The Braves rejected, and then moved immediately to trade for Matt Olson (and in the phone call telling him of the deal, Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos said he was about to call Olson’s agent to hammer out an extension).

•   In the end, the Braves’s final offer was five years and $140 million. Freeman ultimately accepted six years and $162 million from the Dodgers. A slightly larger guarantee when you factor in the massive tax difference between the states, but a much lower AAV when you consider that tax difference, as well as the large deferrals in the deal (which take that $162 million down to just $148 million in present value). Basically, Freeman wound up with a pretty clearly worse deal than his final offer from the Braves, which is crazy when you think about how both sides wanted to remain together.

•   The Cubs are building out their hype reel for the season, and they shared some behind-the-scenes pics:


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•   David Ross talking to Big Papi about winning it all with the Cubs:

•   This play is really quite impressive by the first baseman:

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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.