The worst part about a terrible snowstorm and brutal cold is that not only are various activities and options and things you might want to do cancelled, but also that they are cancelled because nobody wants to leave the house. So if your backup plan to having stuff cancelled was to just go outside, well, you can’t do that either!
- Two moves for the Cubs yesterday, neither of which is official – so the Cubs don’t have to boot anyone from the 40-man roster just yet. I do tend to think they’re seeing if a last-minute trade option will pop up (Nick Madrigal, perhaps?), but you can never bet on that. Instead, I think maybe after Christmas, we’ll see one or both of the Drew Smyly and Tucker Barnhart signings go official, and a player will be DFA’d off the 40-man and placed on waivers. Yes, I am kind of obsessing about this, not because I’m *worried* about whom the Cubs might lose, but instead because I find the Cubs’ choices at the edges of the 40-man roster to be really interesting.
- Listen. Anyone who tries to tell you that a Yan Gomes-Tucker Barnhart pairing behind the plate this season will be an offensive plus is just lying to you. I guess flukey and weird things happen, but that’s just not anyone’s remote expectation. All you’re hoping for on offense is that they don’t create a total zero spot in the lineup. And on that front, all I’m saying is that, even as neither is seen as a good bat, Gomes has a career 117 wRC+ against lefties, and Barnhart has a career 86 wRC+ against righties. You can’t strictly platoon catchers like that – they’ll develop relationships with certain pitchers, and some starters simply don’t want to bounce around among catchers throughout the season – but I’m just saying that, when the match-ups are all right, that spot in the lineup won’t be like having a pitcher batting.
- … It definitely won’t be like having Willson Contreras batting either, though, so the Cubs better be right about the impact on run-prevention by going with a glove-first duo like Gomes and Barnhart.
- That got me curious about Cubs offense from the catching spot in general. Last year, it was a 107 wRC+, 6th highest in baseball (just 8 clubs got an above-average offensive output from the position). The average was about an 85 wRC+, and the world champion Astros were at just 59, so it’s not like it’s a requirement for winning. Then again, the Braves (128), Phillies (127), and Dodgers (120) got a heckuva lot of offense from their catchers, and those teams were pretty darn good.
- Marquee has announced that it will be available nationwide on fuboTV, which is something I know some non-Chicago-area folks have been wanting. It’s important to note that live games are NOT included (because they are still subject to MLB’s blackout restrictions), so if you’re not in the Cubs’ home territory (Illinois, Iowa, much of Indiana, and a tiny bit of Wisconsin), those games will be blacked out for you. You would have to get MLB.tv to get the live games.
- MLB is reportedly still looking to create a nationwide streaming option without blackouts, but that’s going to be a long process, and if it involves buying the Sinclair/Bally RSNs (it likely would), that is apparently not going well, at least not for Sinclair. Diamond Sports Group – the subsidiary that owns and operates the RSNs – is reportedly on the verge of bankruptcy, and MLB/NBA/NHL are not going to buy them out before that happens, according to the Post. So, then, if this does wind up in bankruptcy, the TV rights contracts for 14 MLB teams (and 16 NBA teams and 12 NHL teams) are going to be thrown into total upheaval. That’s when a streaming provider could try to swoop in and buy up the rights, or the league(s) could re-enter the mix. Ultimately, it seems very likely this ends with most of the streaming rights to most of the games, nationwide, ending up on a single platform, for which you pay a monthly fee to get it all.
- The rights for premium teams, though, like the Yankees and Cubs, whose networks are partly owned by Sinclair but are not part of this Bally group of RSNs, might make for more complex negotiations down the road. In the meantime, the Cubs are looking to create a standalone streaming app for Marquee as soon as this coming season (i.e., people in the home territory can just pay a monthly fee for the Marquee app – instead of a cable subscription – and they’ll have the games; again, OUTSIDE of the home territory, your path to Cubs games is still MLB.tv).
- One thing I hope MLB and its teams keep in mind throughout this transformational process: the more you silo off your games so that fewer people can see them, even if it nets you more short-term dollars in direct subscriptions, the worse you’re going to be in five, ten years when you are hemorrhaging fans that still can’t see your games. You will HAVE TO make a lot of your games FREE for fans to stream and watch.
- A little behind-the-scenes on Dansby Swanson’s arrival this week:
- The Rockies ZiPS projections just came out at FanGraphs, and what stood out was the .289/.374/.498/124 OPS+ for Kris Bryant and just 1.7 WAR. It’s not a terrible slash line, though at Coors Field, it’s not all that great, and obviously ZiPS is down on Bryant’s defense and availability. It’s only the second year of his seven-year, $182 million deal, and Bryant turns 31 next month. I would hope to see him bounce back quite a bit more than that ZiPS projection. Still easy to root for.
- So, any rumors about this being a Boras-and-Correa-orchestrated back-out definitely seem way off base. I still feel like we’re missing something about why – REALLY – the Giants backed out. Yes, the medical was a factor, maybe even the primary factor. But they seemingly backed away SO COMPLETELY that it suggests there was more to it. Even a deep dive by Jeff Passan, although a good read, leaves me wondering why the Giants freaked at the last minute about an eight-year-old leg injury:
- The Giants remain silent on the whole thing, so we’re getting only one side of the story. But boy does it look bad for the Giants, who seemingly flagged an eight-year-old leg issue at the very last minute, asked to talk about renegotiating the 13-year, $350 million deal, but then never actually re-engaged. If that’s truly what happened, you cannot blame Correa or Boras in the least for sprinting to Steve Cohen and trying to get a deal done ASAP before the player’s market was further deteriorated.
- The issue, according to the reports, was a broken leg Correa suffered back in 2014 in the minor leagues, which the Giants worried could impact his mobility. Correa is only 28, so you certainly wouldn’t expect a degradation of his mobility any time soon, but I guess that’ll be the issue to watch for in the years ahead. The fact that he’ll immediately be moving to third base instead of shortstop could hide some of those concerns anyway.
- Random thing about playing in Detroit: it still KILLLLLLLLS your hard-hit fly balls in the air. Look at these numbers:
- For Báez, that difference is almost entirely about his ISO and BABIP at home – the strikeout rate, walk rate, etc., are all basically the same at home and on the road. What a terrible home park for offense. (The Tigers should totally just give the Cubs Báez back so he can play third base. I’m kidding. Or am I? I am. Probably. Or maybe not?)
- Of note, though, Barnhart actually had better overall numbers at home last year, so you can’t fully blame his down offensive season on the move from Great American to Comerica.
- Stay together for the dogs:
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