Top Relievers on and Off the Cubs, Velazquez's Mixed Year, Old Friend Sparks Good Memory, Trade Deadline Date, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Top Relievers on and Off the Cubs, Velazquez’s Mixed Year, Old Friend Sparks Good Memory, Trade Deadline Date, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

Hope none of you are flying today, with all flights grounded due to an FAA software problem. It’s gonna be a day full of massive delays, at best, and I gotta say … not too thrilled that I’m supposed to fly tomorrow.

  • The nature of relievers is such that coming up with a list like this is going to be a bit of a silly exercise, but it does sting to see Jason Adam on there after the Cubs couldn’t quite make it work with him (despite the pitches and the peripherals looking great):
  • Adam, 31, dominated with the Rays this past season (1.56 ERA over 63.1 IP, 2.86 FIP, 31.6% K, 7.2% BB, 5.0% barrel), and hey, maybe he never would’ve turned that same corner with the Cubs. But I’ve gotta believe the Cubs helped get that process started, and then the Rays got to reap the benefits.
  • Anyway. Since we’re on relievers, who is your *ONE* pick among Cubs relievers who could show up on a list like that next year? There are a ton of options, because the Cubs have so many guys with the stuff to do it. I’m gonna go with Adbert Alzolay, because we know he, too, has the stuff, and he has yet to be fully transitioned into a relief role until this year. We got flashes of just how dominant he could be as a true reliever late last year (even in a multi-inning role), and he’s fully bought into the role. I think we’re going to see more dominance from him this year.
  • Brad put together an excellent thread on Nelson Velazquez’s rookie season with the Cubs, and how it may have been underrated:
  • Ultimately, Velazquez hit .205/.286/.373/87 wRC+, and the underlying metrics suggest his results probably should’ve been a touch closer to average. Really not a bad debut at all. As Brad notes at the end, though, there is a wholllle lot of platoon protection in those results, and that might just wind up who he becomes: a lefty-masher. If that’s the case, then he’s really going to need to preserve the ability to play passably in center field for as long as possible (or he’s going to need to dramatically improve against righties). It’s still TBD where Velazquez, who just turned 24, opens the 2023 season.
  • The financial particulars on Rafael Devers’ 11-year, $330 million extension are kinda interesting. For one thing, it’s actually a 10-year, $313.5M extension that kicks in after 2023 (for which Devers will just have his one-year, $17.5 million avoided-arbitration deal, and that’s all that goes on the luxury tax this year). And thanks to deferrals, the present-day value of the extension is more like $290 million, so the long-term luxury tax number for the contract will be right around $29M AAV, rather than $31+M. Just a reminder that you can play with these things quite a bit so that the publicly-reported deal number winds up being slightly different than what a team “actually” pays out, or a team “actually” gets charged with for luxury tax purposes.
  • Old friend Kohl Stewart has a minor league deal with the Royals after missing the 2022 season. Stewart was with the Cubs in 2021, and although he didn’t quite succeed, he was on the mound for the start of one of the best games in that season. Remember the first game where Wrigley Field was back to full capacity? The comeback win against the Cardinals? With that crazy Anthony Rizzo at bat? That was awesome:

  • It’s a horrible, horrible pitch (and I mean that as a compliment):
  • Burnes, 28, has been among the best pitchers in baseball the last three seasons (his 14.4 WAR in that time leads baseball by a full win), and the Brewers have him under team control for two more years. I would think this is the year they’d push hard for an extension, but I would also think Burnes might be beyond the Brewers’ realistic ability to commit huge years and dollars to a guy who’ll be 30 in his first year of free agency. If that’s the conclusion they draw, and if the Brewers were out of the race by mid-year, they might wind up shopping Burnes in July for a maaaaassive haul. You might say that’s wishful thinking on my part – I’m ready for Burnes to be gone from Milwaukee – but it’s not like I want to see the Brewers get a huge trade return either. I’d rather see him just, you know, leave in free agency.
  • Oh, speaking of midseason trades, Joel Sherman reports that the Trade Deadline will once again be in August this year, not the traditional July 31. It’s going to be August 1 this year at 5pm CT. The Cubs are hosting the Reds at Wrigley Field that week, so they will be playing at home the night before the deadline, and then the night just after the deadline. Hopefully they’ll be BUYING and it won’t be another year of awkward-maybe-possibly in-game goodbyes.
  • For you Coffee/Happ/Convention fans:

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.