The Next Shoe, Thompson’s Slider and Role, Starting Depth, Age and Performance, and Other Cubs Bullets

You know the cliche thing where some of your Christmas lights go out because of – probably? – one bad bulb, and you check a bunch of them and you can’t figure it out so you just kind of deal with it as it slowly drives you crazy? It’s not a HUGE section of the lights that are out, but man, it bothers me so much …

  • Honestly, I thought we’d have another Cubs deal to deconstruct by now. Don’t get me wrong, having two signings at the Winter Meetings is not a small amount, but things felt SO active that I figured we would see quite a bit of after-effect on Thursday. Two big Mets signings, yes, but nothing for the Cubs, nothing on the shortstop market, and nothing among the starting pitchers. I’m not sure Brandon Nimmo (or David Robertson) was preceding some other big move, but if it was, I fear that it was the Giants waiting on his decision before they went whole hog on Carlos Correa.
  • I tentatively expect a good bit more to shake out today around baseball, as deals that got to the 1-yard-line at the Meetings get finalized and announced. But some of the biggest stuff may take some time yet. The next pressure point is probably not until Christmas-time (some guys just want to have things resolved before then), and after that, it really isn’t until the start of Spring Training.
  • Great pull by Bryan, because I’d forgotten about the slider Keegan Thompson started playing around with at midseason:
  • Do you remember Thompson’s back-to-back ugly starts in June in Baltimore and then New York? And then how he really bounced back? That was when his pitch mix changed pretty dramatically, with the slider getting incorporated and the four-seam usage ticking waaaay up. His results from that point on in the season were actually slightly worse than before, but his peripherals got much better. We know that Thompson has shown his best when he’s been in a multi-inning relief role, but you don’t want to close the door on him starting if there is still more evolution available in his game.
  • All that said, something to be mindful of with Thompson’s 2022 season is that all of the peripheral indicators would have predicted pretty average (or worse) results, so I think we were seeing some good fortune for Thompson’s results last year, particularly when starting. But he can continue to improve, and like I’ve said about him for a couple years now, it’s clear that when he knows he’s going only 40-ish pitches and one-time through the order, he just balls out. It’s not the worst outcome in the world that you wind up with a stud three-inning guy.
  • As things stand now, you would project Thompson to begin the year in the bullpen (Stroman, Taillon, Steele, [One More New Guy], Hendricks in the rotation, with Sampson as the six and Wesneski as the seven?). That doesn’t mean he won’t make some starts on the year, because the Cubs are probably going to have 10+ pitchers make at least SOME starts in 2023. That’s just the way it works. And for as much as I do wish the Cubs had been able to add a front-of-the-rotation type, I do appreciate that the quality of their depth is pretty extreme.
  • … of course, the depth can get tested mighty quickly with a couple injuries, with Hendricks maybe continuing to struggle post shoulder surgery, with Sampson regressing, etc. So, yeah, still make sure to sign another quality starter, and maybe also another depth/reclamation starter type, please and thanks.
  • Jayson Stark writes about the extreme spending this week, particularly in terms of the length of deals and the willingness to pay older players. It’s an interesting read for the anonymous commentary from mid-tier and small-market executives (they think all of this is nuts), but I would take issue with the discussion about players aging better now thanks to performance science, and thus teams are more willing to sign a guy to a 10+ year deal that takes him late into his 30s and beyond. I don’t think there was some sports science revolution in the last two years that transformed the thinking on older players THIS offseason in particular. But there WAS a revolution in the form of the new CBA, which I think provided enough financial comfort for these teams to make deals with huge guarantees AND provided an incentive to want to drop the AAVs as much as possible if you’re going to be a team consistently over the luxury tax. So you do that by stretching the contract over as much length as possible, and then you get the side benefit of essentially deferring a lot of the payout to seven+ years down the road. That way, you don’t even care if the guy is performing at age 38 or whatever – you were just deferring the salary and keeping the luxury tax bill down anyway.
  • Which is not to entirely dump on the idea that SOME guys are indeed playing better at an older age than they used to – they absolutely are! I just mean that I think that trend actually goes back a little longer than this particular offseason.
  • We all know WHY this is, so it’s not really a commentary on anything – I just find it really interesting:
  • Also, lol:
  • Nintendo Switch games, toys, books, and more are among the Epic Holiday Days today at Amazon. #ad
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    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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