Time to head home from Chicago after a wonderful Cubs Convention weekend. It’s just so good to have it back. Thank you to everyone I saw and chatted with, and I’m getting pretty excited for this season. Just sayin’.
- After all that maybe-they-will, maybe-they-can’t, it turns out the Chicago Cubs really were still in on Trey Mancini all along, reportedly agreeing to a two-year deal with him last night. Mancini, 30, reportedly gets $14 million guaranteed, though he can opt out of the first year of the deal if he reaches 350 PAs this season and prefers to hit free agency again. For the Cubs, Mancini provides so many things at once: a clear power boost to a lineup that needs one; a mostly-split-neutral guy who can play at first, a corner outfield spot, or DH, whenever needed; a quality clubhouse presence; a reduction in pressure on Matt Mervis to be ready right away; more depth.
- I also want to reiterate that Mancini, who is now another year removed from cancer, was probably very unlucky last year (his xwOBA was 15 points higher than his actual wOBA) *AND* likely would have had quite a few more balls leave the park if he’d been playing in a different home stadium.
- This is very much a big power boost for the Cubs, and it comes from a guy who sports a league-average strikeout rate. Also, a random fun fact? Mancini’s expected wOBA of .327 last year was the same as Seiya Suzuki. So there’s some context on how at least one metric sums up the results he SHOULD have gotten.
- At least initially, my guess is that we see Mancini and Eric Hosmer splitting time at first base, not so much in a strict platoon, but depending on match-ups AND depending on what David Ross wants to do at DH that day. Mancini’s presence will impact not only Hosmer’s playing time, but also Patrick Wisdom and Christopher Morel (because Wisdom now probably loses some DH starts, and Morel therefore probably loses some third base starts). You have to keep in mind, though, that (1) not everyone will be completely healthy at the same time, (2) regular rest for all the guys is a very good thing for optimizing production over a full season, and (3) if a guy like Christopher Morel is breaking out*, he’s going to find his way in the lineup every day, regardless of the other dudes.
- *(Assuming Morel doesn’t start the year at Triple-A Iowa, which wouldn’t be absolutely crazy, mind you.)
- Also keep in mind: optimizing match-ups is not just about platoons. It’s also about which hitters are best against which type of pitch profiles:
- Something something let Jed cook something something:
- Speaking at the Convention, Kyle Hendricks sounded very positive and happy about where his shoulder is right now (capsular tear, no surgery). He’s six weeks into his throwing program, feels very good, and he’s just taking his time building back up, as per the team’s/doctor’s plans. He said that being back by Opening Day might not be realistic, but his goal is soon thereafter.
- Given the extreme depth the Cubs have on the starting pitching side, they probably wouldn’t hate Hendricks really taking his time to be ready. It would not only give him more time to solidify the mechanical changes he’s made to keep the shoulder in better shape, but it would also reduce the total innings Hendricks might pitch in the year. While he’s out, you could see guys like Hayden Wesneski, Adrian Sampson, and Javier Assad have more starting opportunities early in the year.
- The kids know how to have a good time:
- Today is the day the new International Free Agency period opens up, and Bryan has your preview here.
- Oof. This deal did not work out for the Yankees in the 2022 part of it, and now the 2023 part is starting off in trouble:
- Cubs gotta work on their impressions:
- Random, but always good:
Hosmer’s Role and Runway, Madrigal’s Health, Cruz’s Swing, Marlins Weirdness, National Broadcast, and Other Cubs Bullets
Here Comes the Marlins Pitching Trade: Pablo Lopez Heading to the Twins in a Deal Involving Luis Arraez (UPDATE)
Baseball Prospectus’s Preseason Top 101 Features Three Cubs Prospects, But Maybe Not the Three You’d Expect