Pitcher Development and Offseason Moves, Baserunning Woes and Needs, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Pitcher Development and Offseason Moves, Baserunning Woes and Needs, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

I’m pretty much focused on baseball and transactions and rumors right now, what with the Winter Meetings starting today, but it’s not like I won’t have the Bears-Packers game on.

I have mixed feelings about all of it, though. On the one hand, I will ALWAYS want Justin Fields to be healthy enough to play, so that I can watch him, and so that he gets in that development time. On the other hand, I can’t shake the feeling that there’s an unnecessary risk being taken today just a week before the bye. And on the one hand, I never want to see the Bears lose to the Packers. But on the other hand there, if the Bears lose out, they will be set up EXTREMELY well in the 2023 draft. Things are so tight in the reverse standings that beating the Packers could really cause a problem …

  • That’s one nice thing about MLB adopting a draft lottery: my feelings about Cubs wins and losses in a year like 2022 were a lot less conflicted than they might’ve been if I knew *FOR SURE* that all those second half wins were costing the Cubs *PRECISELY* X spots in the draft order.
  • Speaking of the MLB Draft Lottery, it comes Tuesday night. The Cubs’ odds of getting a top 6 pick aren’t great (only about 10%), so it’s pretty likely they wind up at pick 12 (which is their own slot) or 13 (falling by one). Also, remember that this impacts only the first round selection. For every round thereafter, the Cubs will pick 12th in the round.
  • In relation to rumors so far this offseason, and how the Cubs are approaching whatever they do for the 2023 team (and beyond), I think it’s worth pointing out that the Cubs’ pitching development infrastructure is about 8000% better than it was five years ago. They believe, very much, in their ability to not only do what they did this past season (really max out big league performance for guys), but also to keep churning out quality arms from here.
  • That means, unlike five years ago (and before), when the Cubs were having to constantly spend a huge chunk of payroll to pay for pitching (and a large swath of prospects to acquire it at the deadline), there’s probably going to be more free agent money available on the positional side than we are used to seeing. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to see the Cubs still sign a quality starting pitcher or two – they really, really need to – but it means THEY might be less concerned about committing a big contract to a positional guy you might see as “too expensive” for what he brings to the table. That’s where the disproportionate dollars need to be spent right now, and there are only so many options available.
  • Speaking of which. The Cubs were exceedingly aggressive on the basepaths last year (going first to third more than all but one other team in baseball … and making more outs on the bases than all but one other team), and Nico Hoerner helped sum up why (Marquee):

“We’ve had some games this year where we’ve made a lot of outs on the bases and it feels like, ‘what are we doing?’” Hoerner said. “But then there’s games that we’ve changed by being aggressive.

“As a team that hasn’t had a lot of slug this year, you do have to force it at times. As our lineup starts to fill out more, we’re gonna be able to maintain some of the qualities that have made us effective in this time and then combine that with a team that does have some slug and things like that, then you’ve got a pretty dynamic offense all around. I do think it’s a pretty significant skillset to build.”

  • The subtle argument there: if the Cubs had more slugging in the lineup, they might not be so needlessly aggressive on the bases.

It is well known that Adrián Beltré broke into the big leagues at a young age. The future Hall of Famer celebrated his 19th birthday two-plus months before debuting with the Los Angeles Dodgers in June of 1988. Not as well known is that he arguably never should have been allowed to sign with the team that employed him for his first nine professional seasons. As Daniel R. Levitt and Mark Armour chronicled in their entertaining-and-informative book Intentional Balk: Baseball’s Long and Sordid History of Innovation and Cheating, Beltré was signed illegally.

The Dodgers, as they would later admit doing, doctored the native of Santo Domingo’s birth certificate, as he was too young, per MLB rules, to ink a contract. Then-Commissioner Bug Selig would go on to fine the Dodgers $100,000 and bar them from scouting and signing players in the Dominican Republic for a year. What Selig didn’t do was even more notable. As the authors explained, “Beltré notwithstanding, players discovered to have signed before they were of age were typically declared free agents.”

  • Beltre would go on to have one monster season with the Dodgers, surrounded by good-not-great seasons with them and the Mariners. It wasn’t until he signed a one-year deal with Boston at age 31 that he absolutely exploded offensively, thereafter going to the Rangers and posting the best eight-year run of his career, offensively speaking. I think about that – and some other guys – from time to time when I talk about the aging curve. There are occasionally exceptions. Not all are sure-fire Hall of Famers like Adrian Beltre, though.

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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.