More on Merryweather, Roster Moves, Happ, Ohtani, Rules Changes, and Other Cubs Bullets

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More on Merryweather, Roster Moves, Happ, Ohtani, Rules Changes, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

I was excited to see ‘The Mandalorian’ Season 3 trailer this week, though it immediately made me realize that ‘Andor’ raised the bar so much for Star Wars content (for me, at least) that I’m gonna need Mando to keep getting better and better, or else.

  • Basically, that tool is suggesting Merryweather’s four-seamer – which has good spin, comes from good extension, and touches 100 mph – SHOULD perform like an incredible pitch … but hasn’t. That’s exactly the kind of thing the Cubs love to get their arms around and try to work with. The first place I’d look is the pitch location, where you can see that he’s really good at keeping the fastball in the strike zone (hence the low walk rate), but it seems like there are a whollllle lot of them in the middle-middle part of the zone.
  • As for Merryweather’s role/roster placement, I still think there’s a chance the Cubs try to sneak him through waivers at some point as rosters get more and more crowded. Because he doesn’t have minor league options available, you’d be left with either putting him in your eight-man bullpen to open the season (and never being able to option him thereafter), or you’d have to let him hit waivers at a time when teams are able to put guys on the 60-day IL to open up 40-man spots (and thus it’s much more likely you could lose him). If you’re not 100% certain he makes your Opening Day bullpen – which would seem to me to be pretty hard to project right now for a guy who hasn’t put it all together at the big league level yet – it would be far more preferable to have Merryweather, effectively, on a minor league deal. That way you could work with him for all of Spring Training WITHOUT having to think about his readiness to open the season in your big league pen (i.e., if you’re working on things that could take a little time), and then you could bring him up from Iowa when you feel he’s ready to go.
  • Meanwhile, the Cubs have some yet-outstanding moves to sort out: the resolutions of Mark Leiter Jr.’s and Manny Rodriguez’s DFAs, and the official signing of Trey Mancini.
  • And this is a fun find by Greg Zumach, who noticed that new Cubs baseball scientist Mike Sonne had previously looked at Merryweather’s biomechanics:
  • I mean, whatever, though I’ll note that Ian Happ finished third in WAR among actual left fielders last year (behind only Alvarez and Kwan):
  • Given that Juan Soto and Taylor Ward are likely moving across the outfield to left field this year, I guess I could justify having them ahead of Happ. But Schwarber’s total value is likely to be less than Happ’s, as much as I love Schwarber. Arozarena is the same story because of the defense (apparently he’s not good out there? That was kinda news to me), but I wouldn’t fight you too hard on him. O’Neill had one huge year in 2021 and has otherwise been mediocre at best (he might not even start in that Cardinals outfield much this year!). And Brantley is not even an outfielder anymore (how can both he and Alvarez be the starting left fielder for the Astros … ).
  • Reds President Phil Castellini, whose family owns the Reds, gave a presentation to a fan group that complained about guaranteed contracts for players, that belabored a (made up?) statistical point about more teams being out of the race on Opening Day than in years past, and claimed that ownership ran the Reds like a non-profit (The Athletic). This is the same guy who, last year before Opening Day, asked fans “where you gonna go” when they grumbled about the team trading away good players, and suggested that if the family had to sell the team, the Reds would then move out of Cincinnati. I feel like the tenure is not going well.
  • I think I disagree with Michael on the likelihood that Shohei Ohtani gets $500 million, even if I do get his main point:
  • I think the thing with Ohtani, specifically, is that he’s so uniquely valuable – as a pitcher, as a hitter, as a guy who combines to do both in one body, AND as an international marketing superstar – that teams could see the first four or five years of his deal as worth upwards of $80 million annually. So, getting that next $100 to $150 million over the following four or five years might just be the price of poker.
  • Zach Crizer writes at Yahoo about this year’s rules changes, and how much we will or will not notice them. I think he’s rightly got the pitch clock at the top, but I wonder if the pick-off limit (two disengagements with the rubber per plate appearance – and if you try a third time and are unsuccessful, the runner automatically moves up a base) should actually be up there at number two, rather than the shift limits. Don’t get me wrong, I think the shift limits are a big deal, but I’m imagining a world where the pick-off limits (in conjunction with the bigger bases) will really change the dynamic/gamesmanship between pitchers, catchers, and baserunners.
  • Also in there from Crizer is a reminder that the schedule has changed dramatically, in case you forgot: every team plays every other team at least once this year. You get 14 games in your own division, 6 games against every other team in your league, and then 3 games against every team in the other league (with the exception of 4 games against a geographic interleague rival). It’s a masssssively more balanced schedule than it used to be, which may have been less the point than getting fans a chance to see all other teams, but will impact playoff races for sure.
  • An oof note from Joel Sherman: the World Baseball Classic is being played under the old rules, so some guys will arrive at Spring Training getting coached up on all the new rules … and then leave for two weeks to play in the WBC under the old rules … and then come back for a little bit of Spring Training under the new rules before the season starts.
  • Pretty sure this means the Cubs and the USWNT are both going all the way:

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.