At laaaaaaast. The actors’ strike is over, which, in tandem with the previously-ended writers’ strike, means that the gears of entertainment can finally start back up in full. Thanks to the lag time involved, though, we’re still in for a serious reduction in shows and movies for much of next year, though enough has been punted that maybe we won’t feel it too badly.
Ideally, the Cubs will be awesome next season, and that will cover up most of the entertainment gaps for us …
The 2023 All-MLB Team nominees are out, and the Cubs have a number of guys included, though I’m not sure any will make the final team: Dansby Swanson, Cody Bellinger, Nico Hoerner, Justin Steele, and Adbert Alzolay.
Really nice nod for Alzolay, in particular, because I think his season was under-appreciated nationally. Among all relievers with at least 60 innings, Alzolay’s ERA was 18th best, WAR was 10th best, K-BB was 16th best, so on and so forth. No, he wasn’t necessarily one of those dead-bang-tip-top closers, but he was clearly one of the 20-ish best relievers in baseball. Considering that there are, oh, 300 or so semi-regular relievers in any given season, I would say that’s pretty good!
This year was Alzolay’s first full season in relief, which is a reminder of just how good an impactful a “failed” starting pitcher can be in the bullpen. It doesn’t always work out that way, and there are definitely still good reasons to try as long as possible to make it work for a guy as a starting pitcher. But when we think about the Cubs’ coming young relievers (it’s arguably a thin group in the minors at the moment), it’s not all about the guys who climbed the ladder as relievers the whole way, or even the guys who were converted to relief at Double-A/Triple-A. Sometimes, your best relievers were somewhat-capable starting pitchers who just can’t quite get over the hump (or get innings) in the big leagues. Hopefully another like Alzolay emerges in 2024.
Speaking of which, the Cubs will also have to add to the bullpen externally this offseason. Obviously. From Jed Hoyer on how he views the priority of improving the bullpen (via The Athletic):
It should help having Craig Counsell as a manager who has shown he is exceptionally adept at handling a bullpen. The arms have to be there, obviously, but balancing impact, rest, match-ups, etc., it all seems to be a Counsell strength.
The Angels have found their new manager, hiring Ron Washington away from the Braves. Washington, 71, was the long-time manager of the Rangers from 2007 through 2014, and has spent the last seven seasons as a coach on the Braves’ staff.
The Brewers, Astros, and Padres are the three teams left still looking for a manager. The Brewers are looking at bench coach Pat Murphy as one of their options, but if he doesn’t get that job, it’s possible he could be permitted to follow Craig Counsell to the Cubs. Murphy has been Counsell’s bench coach since 2016, so you would definitely like to have him on the Cubs’ staff if at all possible.
“High. Ultimately, fatigue at the end of the year really set in. We probably weren’t deep enough in the bullpen last year. I’m responsible for that ultimately. We’ve done a pretty good job of building bullpens in the past. But last year, I think the sprint really wore us down. I felt like we had big chunks of the season where the bullpen was good, but I think it got overused because we were winning so many games in a condensed area. In September it got worn down. So we have to bolster and add more guys, add depth ….
“Certainty is a hard thing to find. You have to be creative in the bullpen. You have to find guys who have good stuff, find guys on bounce-back years, find guys coming off injuries. You take all those demographics and then a couple guys that might provide ‘certainty’ so to speak and you blend that all together. I do think taking a lot of shots on goal can help. In a bunch of those offseasons we signed a bunch of guys to small deals, you know going in the hit rate is not going to be 100 percent. There’s just no way. But if you get two or three of those right, that can really benefit you.”
The Padres have apparently not talked to David Ross just yet about their managerial opening (and, let’s be real, about his take on the state of the Cubs and their player preferences/weaknesses/etc.), and it’s possible they won’t talk to him before making their decision. If they are going to SERIOUSLY consider him for the job and he would SINCERELY want it, then, sure, I will hope they talk to him. Otherwise, I hope they do not.
Trevor Bauer’s agents are working to get him back into MLB:
Bauer, 33 in January, hasn’t pitched in MLB since mid-2021 following allegations of assault and a subsequent suspension by the league under its domestic violence policy. He’s probably still quite capable of being an effective or better big league pitcher, but it’s not clear any team is going to want to risk the chaos that could/would come with signing him. Bauer’s camp would undoubtedly point to the various legal actions that have gone his way since the suspension began, but the off-field considerations (and that suspension) go beyond legal exposure.
I guess we’ll see if anything comes out of the talks this week, or if there are reports of specific teams showing interest.
If you missed it, though, the GM Meetings got shut down overnight due to a spreading illness.
Clearly several other Cubs got robbed: