Newcomb and Sampson, Morel’s Arm, Suzuki, Trading for Bieber, and Other Cubs Bullets

I won’t be hardcore about it – I just don’t have the sports fandom space for it – but I’m gonna be an Ohio State Buckeyes fan this year. I’ve turned the page. I grew up a Michigan fan for family reasons, but without a real connection there, and having actually gone to Ohio State – plus living in the Columbus area now for 18 years – my only link to college football at this point is OSU. So if I’m gonna follow it at all, it’s pretty much gotta be the Buckeyes. Go Bucks. Sorry if this offends.

  • After another disastrous outing (2.0 IP, 5 ER, 3 H, 4 BB, 2 HR), I’m not sure how much longer the Sean Newcomb thing is going to go. Having big-league-caliber pitches gets you only so far if you cannot remotely locate them. It’s not just that Newcomb is wild, and gets himself into trouble that way, it’s that he winds up middle-middle far too often (like both homers last night). He won’t be tendered a contract after the season at this point, so I suspect he’ll be the first in line to go when the Cubs are ready to bring up another arm, or activate someone like Keegan Thompson, Adbert Alzolay, or Wade Miley.
  • It started to look like Adrian Sampson was finally moving more strongly in one direction or the other – in terms of the looming 40-man decision – after a disappointing start in Milwaukee followed by a terrible beginning to last night’s game. And then the guy got on a heater and wound up going 5.0 innings, allowing just 2 earned runs in St. Louis. Pretty hard to say that wasn’t a solid result. So, yup, still in the same place we’ve been for a couple months now: I really still just need to see how his season wraps. So far, he’s looked like a really good depth starter and a guy you’d want to keep around. Sampson’s ERA and FIP are both just about 3 to 5% better than league average this year by ERA- and FIP-, which feels about right, and would be plenty good enough to want to keep around if you could project it for next year.
  • P.J. Higgins pulled off a *fantastic* scoop at first base last night early in the game, saving a run in the process. The flip side of noting something like that, of course, is that it means a bad throw had to come from somewhere. It was Christopher Morel at third, who continues to show great athleticism and a strong arm, but whose throwing accuracy needs significant work. It has shown in both the infield and the outfield, and it’s going to limit his utility value if it doesn’t improve. That said, he only just turned 23, he basically skipped Triple-A, and he’s trying to play a ton of different positions at the big league level. He’ll get plenty of space and grace from me, and I think he can improve. Plus, you know, it’s not like arm strength doesn’t matter! That part is a nice plus.
  • I think this is spot on from Matt, as we’ve discussed before on Seiya Suzuki continuing to show – at a minimum – the ability to adjust:
  • Absurd series of events to close the Twins-White Sox game, which winds up taking me on a winding road to talking about the Cubs’ rotation:
  • That ridiculous win brought the disappointing White Sox back to .500 on the year, just two games behind the Twins, and three games behind the Central-leading Guardians.
  • Speaking of which, the Guardians are going to be without pitcher Zach Plesac for a while because of a broken hand that he suffered when punching the mound. The Guardians lost Aaron Civale (forearm) at the same time, so their rotation just got blasted as they are trying to hold off the Twins and White Sox in the Central.
  • I mention it here not just because it’s baseball and it’s interesting, but because it was not hard to imagine the Cubs looking at the Guardians’ arb-level pitchers this offseason in a possible trade: (1) there’s the Carter Hawkins connection there, which can make trades smoother but also targets more clear; and (2) the Cubs have so much prospect depth that they really need to think about consolidating in trades. The problem now is that Plesac is injured (and has been kinda bad the last two years), Civale is injured (and has been kinda bad this year), and the Guardians may be less inclined to deal someone like Shane Bieber – even for a haul – if they have less confidence that they can weather the loss with their pitching development machine (Cal Quantrill has been good, not great; Triston McKenzie has been pretty great, but is still young). They might deal a guy like Plesac or Civale, but how attractive are they to the Cubs at this point (unless they think there’s something untapped there).
  • I guess that’s my way of saying … I really hope the Cubs have the OPTION of targeting Bieber, specifically (two years of control remaining) this offseason as one of their ways to add a front-of-the-rotation-caliber pitchers to a rotation that needs one. And I hope the Guardians are open to moving him. Bieber’s peripherals have taken a big step back this year, but it’s not like they’re bad (25.8% K, 5.2% BB, 0.79 HR/9), he gets a lot of groundballs, he doesn’t give up barrels, etc. Still plenty to like, especially if the Guardians aren’t eager to pay his last two years of arbitration and would rather stock up on prospects. The one big concern? The 27-year-old righty’s average fastball velocity has dropped to just 91-ish MPH this year after being closer to 93 MPH last year, and 94 MPH the year before that. Of course, that drop eventually comes for most guys, so maybe he’s learning to pitch well at that level? Or maybe he can get some of it back?
  • College Football Saturday promo for those of you who bet:
  • YU! Pretty incredible combined career:
  • Apropos of that final Bieber point, Darvish at 36 is throwing about 2 MPH harder than he did when he was 27!
  • Anthony Rizzo continues to deal with his back issues, and I suspect this one is poorly-timed with him having such a good year and a chance to hit free agency again if he wants:
  • Best wishes to Austin Meadows as he works through this period of time, and good on him for being so forthcoming about his mental health needs:
  • Take Meadows at his word: if you find yourself struggling, try to take that step to talk to someone. There are mental health providers where you can just call, tell them you feel really off, and they will direct you to the right kind of evaluation/support/treatment. You don’t have to decide any of that for yourself (which is pretty dang hard to do when you’re out of sorts in the first place). I know, because I’ve done it, and it was one of the most important things I ever did.
  • Major Chicago Bears news:
  • And major bummer of Chicago Bulls news:
  • written by

    Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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