Thoughts About Windows

Cubs Convention opened this weekend with the usual pomp and circumstance, but there was not the same substance to this celebration as years past. The team is still a very good despite the incomplete grade for the offseason. The team had a World Series trophy to show off last Cubs Convention, and the two years before were highlighted by the mega-deals signed by Jason Heyward and Jon Lester. The team even had a new manager and Kris Bryant to show off in the 2014 Cubs Convention. Tyler Chatwood, Brandon Morrow and Steve Cishek just doesn't have the same cachet.

Many seem content with the current state of affairs for the club. That may change if this is the team that shows up one month later in Mesa, but for now there seems to be a large group convincing themselves that this club does not need any major upgrades to be competitive. As it stands that is a true statement with this team poised to win a third straight NL Central title. The thinking posits that the playoffs are ultimately a crapshoot and the way to maximize your chances for another title is to give yourself as many tickets into the postseason. This philosophy is reluctant to sacrifice future financial flexibility or future potential talent for marginal but important wins in 2018. This viewpoint has some serious flaws that has bothered me for a while now.

The Cubs have a window of competitiveness that is set to expire after the 2021. This window has been indentified explicitly by the Cubs unusually candid front office. It would be clearly looming with Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber and Mike Montgomery all poised to enter free agency after that season even if the front office didn't say it out loud. The first flawed assumption is that the team will have roughly equal chances to win in each of these seasons. The hope is that this unparalleled string of success in franchise history will continue, but it is far from a foregone conclusion that the Cubs will be in a position to win the World Series in 2021.

It was never going to be simple to make it to the postseason seven years in a row. The team loaded up to maximize a window within the window. This off-season marks a transition that the front office has to negotiate, and so far it has been a very conservative approach. The team has plugged holes with some higher than expected average annual value deals, but largely offered shor term deals with upside. Tyler Chatwood and Brandon Morrow eptimoze this approach. Chatwood has good stuff, and reasons to dream that moving a few thousand feet closer to sea level will allow him to reach the levels predicted as a former top 100 prospect. Tyler Chatwood has also never thrown 160 big league innings in a season. That is why Tyler Chatwood is signed and not among the great mass of starting pitchers waiting to find a home. Brandon Morrow is also a pitcher with a clear cut profile of an impact arm going back to being drafted ahead of Clayton Kershaw and Tim Lincecum. Morrow's injury history is well documented, and last year marked the first time he had the impact that had long being projected. There are a few indicators that Morrow's success was not a one year fluke, but it is still viewed as a gamble given the modest 2 year deal given in comparison to the monster season and postseason.

The upside is huge with the team as constructed. There are reasons to beleive in big bouncebacks from many players currently on the roster from Kyle Schwarber, Addison Russell to Justin Wilson. The Cubs could hit on more than a few, and this team will look far more like the 2016 incarnation than the 2017. It is entincing to dream of that with the massive flexibility it would give the team to add in the monster 2019 free agency class. However, baseball has a cruel way of destroying the best laid plans especially those built on so many high variance bets. After all, you'd be hard pressed to say that on paper the Cubs entered 2017 in worse shape than the 2018 clubs looks right now, and it took a now patented Maddon Cubs second half charge to claim their rightful place in the standings.

The Cardinals still lurk in the picture and also find themselves with their own closing window. It is far closer as I think the deal for Marcel Ozuna shows. It is also an attempt to strike in this aforementioned transition window. The Cardinals are also aggressively pursuing options at the top of the pitching market. Jared correctly assessed that the Cardinals are most likely playing for a Wild Card spot as is, but that changes a lot if the Cardinals add one of the top three starting pitchers and Greg Holland to a revamped bullpen. Their lineup remains strong with a supremely talented outfield, and if the Cubs stand pat than the gap between the two clubs close well within the range of baseball being able to baseball.

The other fundamental assumption underpinning the desire for a conservative offseason this year is the belief that the Cubs will have their pick of the monster free agent class next year. The belief specifically is that Bryce Harper will form a potentially historically great triumvirate in 2019. I've dreamed of that possibility for a long time as well. It is not a certainty as much as Bryce Harper can tease us about his desire to play with Kris Bryant in Chicago. Theo Epstein and company have earned as much faith as you can have in their ability to recruit players, but the two biggest spenders in baseball have also spent multiple offseasons gearing up for that free agent class.The Cubs have the ability to pursue Harper while still being aggressive this offseason, and if they play it safe this year they could be left with just minor upgrades around the edges of the roster if the very real possibility of missing out on the top of the class next year occurs.

The Cubs also have another clear window within a window right now. The Cubs current starting four are all under contract for the next three years. That gives the team some flexibility with relative cost control with only Kyle Hendricks salary undetermined during that time frame, but there are huge looming questions about what the makeup of that 2021 pitching rotation looks like. The Plan was always a multilayered approach, and it has unquestionably been a success. The focus has been on the high first round draft pick position players and the Cubs developing a core of cheap position players to lead the club. That enabled the Cubs to spend heavily on pitching, particularly starting pitching, during the first half of the window. As Kris Bryant's arbitration first year total indicates those days are rapidly coming to an end.

The front office has been candid about their current inability to develop pitching internally. The bullpen and starting staff is again unlikely to feature a single pitcher who has spent their entire professional career in the Cubs organization on opening day. It is pretty clear that the hope has been that they would have been able to develop some pitching to fill in the bottom of the pitching staff at this point, and that by 2021 the entire starting staff would not have to be bought. There are indications with the next wave of prospects being centered around arms that this might come to pass, but these are big ifs than what the Cubs are gambling on in 2018.

The Cubs should be more aggressive now because 2021 is not guaranteed. They should be willing to sacrifice some, not all but some, of that future flexibility for increased chances of success in the short term. This year is why the team stripped down to the studs in 2012. The history of big deals signed in January and February have generally been very good for the clubs, and the Cubs need to make sure the window now is open as large as possible to ensure that the current championship drought is as short as possible.

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  • Disagree. Let the market come back to you. The single most important thing at this stage is to give yourself a chance to get one of next year’s jewels. Blowing your budget this year, helps for 1 year at the sacrifice of the next 3-5 years, when your competitors will stock up on verifiable studs - Darvish would be roughly the 8th best FA option next year (Arrieta maybe the 105th best). Getting Harper, or Machado, or Blackmon, etc. - and keeping them from your competitors - for several years is significantly more valuable. We can thank the Heyward contract for this discussion.

  • In reply to Stubbs:

    Signing Darvish or Jake for 4 years won't preclude us from getting Harper.

  • In reply to TTP:

    I am more concerned about signing long term as many of the Bryant/Baez/Schwarber/Contreras/Russell/Happ/Almora group as possible than signing Machado or Harper. IMO the Cubs don't need to spend huge money on hitters when that is not a need for quite a while.

  • In reply to John57:

    I agree with you John ......go ahead and put both Harper and Machado on the Marlins right now .....and they don’t win.

    What impacts the Cubs the most really is if they wound up with a direct competitor unless they sign with AL teams......then it’s only WS competition

  • In reply to Stubbs:

    I agree with your disagreement.

  • In reply to Stubbs:

    And this is why I don't get people insisting on trading Russell for Machado this offseason. Giving up a starting SS under four years of control for someone who almost certainly won't sign an extension would be a bad, bad move, even if the (money) cost didn't enter into the discussion. Then, next year, they'd have to either spend a lot to sign him or spend a lot in both money and possibly players to replace him.

  • I think another pitcher for the rotation is the top priority, but my head has been contemplating the lineup all winter. On paper they should score enough runs. My problem is the more specific scoring them in game situations. Risp left on base was huge problem and dry spells in scoring period. I realize that if a couple of guys, like one from the side and from the right step up or return to their normal,it will be helpful. Still, I wonder if this lineup will win close games.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    left side

  • I don’t see this as a transition year for the Cubs unless they don’t spend any more money on pitching. Schwarber, russel, Baez, happ, almora, and contreras all have upside on their WAR. I don’t see a single hitter that you can anticipate a WAR regression from. Heck even heyward and zobrist can’t be much worse than last year. Last year was my biggest concern. Knowing the pitching and defense had both been really really good in ‘15, and fowler and zobrist’s production was going to be likely less (0 in fothe let’s case), I thought the hitting would need to really step up to be great. While it didn’t last year, I think this year the offense takes a big step forward. With one more year of performance for the hitters, plus the free agent class, I feel like this is he last year before 2021 where we have any uncertainty as to what the lineup is going be

  • In reply to kb60187:

    I agree that this is still a very good team. It is a transition year in the sense that they have to change over several key pieces of the previous championship run, specifically Jake Arrieta. This is that whole window within a window concept. The first of these windows was built around an extremely young, talented and cheap core of position player allowing the franchise to buy veteran starting pitching to fill out the roster. The position player core is still most of those things, but it is getting more expensive after the arbitration raises. The core is still cheaper than their market values, but there has to be a transition in the way the front office builds the roster for this next window (Tyler Chatwood deal that is an upside play in comparison to the John Lackey deal meant to fill out a playoff rotation, e.g.).

  • Reed signed with the twins.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    For 2yrs/$17M. I don't want to sound like the obnoxious fan who says if we just matched the offer he'd much rather play for us than them, but...

    This tells me one or more of a few things: the club may have faith in what we have and are expecting big things out of Wilson, Maples, possibly Grimm, or even Alzolay or Smyly later in the year, or we could be targeting another arm for the pen through free-agency or trade. We could be saving that money with a confident shot at Darvish or Arrieta. Either way, I don't think we're done with the pitching staff, and expect at least one more significant addition. Seeing Reed go at that low of a cost gives me hope we are close on other fronts.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    And that those other options we have confidence in are valued by the FO more highly than Reed at 2yrs/$17M, which is an important and encouraging distinction.

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    Agree with both you.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    BP I agree with you that I think the FO is confident to get one of Arrieta/Darvish/Cobb. We just have to be patient for the FAs asking prices to come down to what is reasonable. Theo will pay reasonable.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I think the addition is in the starting rotation

  • I know that the 2021 season ends the window but I would be very surprised to see them mail in 2022-2024 or so. I’d bet they resign a couple of those guys or extend them beforehand, plus Contreras is around til 2022.

    I’d they start to try and rebuild some prospect strength (not just depth guys) on the farm around 2019 or 2020 so some players can step in for the ones who leave.

  • In reply to DirkDiggler:

    Unfortunately won’t likely be Theo tho. He’ll move on after this contract.

  • In reply to Stubbs:

    Probably true. Hopefully he’ll stick around but I wouldn’t be surprised if he leaves his guys in charge and retires (at least temporarily).

  • In reply to DirkDiggler:

    Retires after his Cubs contract? No way. We'll take down the Indians in their next 2 World Series appearances, and Theo will join Chief Wahoo in his next curse-busting adventure.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I’m pulling for a Cubs v Stros WS in 2018. Both teams are stacked.

    Feels like the Indians are falling apart. Which would be a good time for Theo to swoop in and bust their drought.

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    I have to believe that Theo et al are planning to sign at least half of the 4 and possibly trade one or the other two--Branch Rickey always said to trade someone a year before you want to and we might see this with the Cubs. This FO wants to be a winner with multiple players and teams not just for this decade but continuously.
    I will be disappointed if we don't sign one of the big 3 but not overly so. We still have good pitching and maybe one of our own will come up (Hatch possibly) or even Smyly pulling a Schwarbs and start in Sept. We still have one of the best defensive teams, a team that scored over 800 runs with a number of our players having down years and our players are just coming into their prime.
    This is another WS team, with an easier win this time.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I feel like Bryant & Rizzo are franchise players. Theo & Co have scouted, drafted and groomed these two b/c they are exactly what they want for the foundation of their team. I don’t see how they drop $300M on Bryce Harper and then let either of those two walk. Bryce Harper is not a team leader. He is an egomaniac that gets in fights with his own teammates in the dugout!! Now, do I want to see his stats in our box score? Hell yes! But not at the expense of our own ‘homegrown’ MVP caliber players.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I don't think they should go after any of the big 3

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    Well since they have talked to all 3, chances are they want one of them. IMO they will get the first one that agrees to the Cubs offer.

  • Wow! The Astros will acquire right-hander Gerrit Cole from the Pirates.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Doesn't seem like the Astros gave up that much for him. Righty Joe Musgrove and third baseman Colin Moran.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    And, Good Golly, I'd almost bet the Cubs FO had a sniff of this and prolly figured this may affect the rest of the market, allowing Reed to "slip through" at 2yrs/$17M and leaving us with one less competitor on the big boys.

  • Pirates got an underwhelming borderline terrible haul for cole

  • In reply to bolla:

    Musgrove is a pitcher with a good future. Is he a finished product today? No. And a Moran after adding loft changing his approach at the plate whacked 18 HR in 79 games. He is settling into his draft pedigree. Martin is a solid add to their system and Feliz is a filler at this point. It is not a terrible haul.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Compared to what the Cubs gave up for Quintana. The Pirates got robbed. But, of course to earlier to say. See what it looks like 3-4 years from now.

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    In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Alternatively: the Cubs gave up way too much for Quintana.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    That could be. Jimenez could turn into Larry Walker and Cease could be Nolan Ryan. Or they could be Jorge Soler and Trey McNutt. We have Quintana for three more years. He is one of the, if not the (according to some analytics), most consistently valuable SP's in MLB the last 5 years, and is expected to be for the next 5 years. We had a massive hole at the top of our rotation during our most critical years of contention. I do that deal every day, and will cry myself happy with several adult beverages if I watch Eloy blast 40 bombs a year.

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    (1) The initial logic is that uncertainty about the prospects helps justify the trade. That isn't fair. Todd Noel was an uncertain prospect that we moved for Felix Heredia. The Marlins then flipped Todd Noel for Mike Lowell. Todd Noel then crashed and burned. The Cubs still didn't get enough for Todd Noel.

    Eloy Jimenez was one of the very, very few prospects in the game that could form the basis of a trade for a true ace. The Cubs didn't get one.

    (2) It's very likely that the Cubs were the only team in baseball that valued Quintana this highly. Not Friedman. Not Cashman. Nobody. We can infer that because the White Sox contacted them late in the game on this. They gave a silly offer on Sale (Bryant) meant to tell the Cubs thanks but no thanks. Reinsdorf doesn't like his players going to the Cubs. After months of trying to make a similar deal for Quintana, the White Sox couldn't find an offer they liked and asked the Cubs. When the offer came, it came together fairly quickly. It's hard to imagine the White Sox wouldn't have accepted something similar from another team months earlier -- like they did with Sale.

    (3) Why might the offers have been low? Because Quintana isn't as good as he advanced metrics suggest he is. The eyeball test watching him suggests this to be true. He seems to suffer from one-big-inning-itis. Can we see this in statistics? You say he's one of the 5 most valuable pitchers in baseball. Let's take 3 others who are absolutely there: Clayton Kershaw, Chris Sale, and Max Scherzer. We'll throw in Lester as a further comparison to a guy we know well. Do they pitch better in high leverage situations to keep the score close?

    OPS in low leverage situations:
    Kershaw: .542
    Sale: .658
    Scherzer: .671
    Lester: 686
    Quintana: .677

    OPS in high leverage situations:
    Kershaw: .592
    Sale: .611
    Scherzer: .636
    Lester: .692
    Quintana: .767

    It's noticeable. He does much worse in high leverage situations than low leverage situations as compare to truly elite pitchers.

    We can also see it in games where their team doesn't score a lot of runs for them.
    Kershaw: 26-47
    Sale: 11-39
    Scherzer: 8-48
    Lester: 15-55
    Quintana: 1-42
    Again, if the other team doesn't score, Quintana struggles to win games for his team compared to the others.

    This doesn't make him bad, but he's a middle of the order pitcher, albeit an excellent one. He's essentially a better Jake Arrieta. A guy with potential you take and hope he puts it together. That's not a bad thing in a vacuum. But to give up one of the elite prospects in all of baseball for a MOR stater with upside is a crazy overpay, and it seems clear the other GMs in the game felt the same.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Possibly why the Cubs scooped up this talent: "Jim Benedict and Ray Searage, the Pirates' pitching coach, were credited with improvements from Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano, Mark Melancon, Edinson Vólquez, and Charlie Morton. On October 24, 2015, the Miami Marlins hired Benedict from the Pirates as their new vice president of pitching development. The Marlins traded Trevor Williams to the Pirates for Richard Mitchell as compensation for Benedict's hiring.The team’s new ownership fired Benedict after the 2017 season,[12] and the Chicago Cubs hired him as a special assistant to baseball operations." And a quote as to his talent: “It’s going to a place where others haven’t gone,” Benedict said. “I call it the five levels of, ‘Why?’ Keep digging to find out why. Why does this happen? Why do you get Tommy John? The Clayton Richards, the Volquezes, those guys. Why are you in Pittsburgh? Why aren’t you making $150 million like a lot of other guys who are less talented than you? Let’s figure out why." One could say Quintana would make for a prime student as to bring him to the TOR the Cubs rotation. Same for someone like Chapman or possibly Cobb if they sign him, as for Montgomery, Edwards, Wilson etc.

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    In reply to rnemanich:

    I think it's a possibility, especially combined with the Wilson and Warren issues. I still say it was an overpay but -- given where they are -- bringing in the best to turn around their pitchers is a great option. Really, the only option.

    I'm more hopeful that they can clean up the minors so our young pitchers can start developing.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Not 1 top 100 prospect just decent players.Frazier & Adams(what the yankees offered) blows this haul out the water imo

  • In reply to bolla:

    I would probably tell you the Yankees didn’t offer that because that is a stronger offer. The Pirates would certainly take better deals.

    This deal equates to Happ, Monty, Grimm and Dj Wilson. That is pretty solid.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Would you have done that deal (Happ, Grimm, Monty, and DJ)? Because I think I would.

    That is still does not seem close to what the Cubs gave up for Q. Is Q that much better than Cole, I know the contact for Q is excellent.

  • In reply to OverTheLake:

    I would be on the fence on it. I really like Happ. That would be a tough call.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    I’m not sure Moran is Happ tho.

  • In reply to good4you:

    I would agree. I was simply trying to find players similar not exactly perfect matches. If Candelario were still a Cub, then him for Happ may have been closer.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Ny papers printed it lol this is a fact. They were discussing fraziers,adams and andujar. The pirates initially wanted gleyber torres and were rejected so pit countered with a package headlined by frazier and adams and were trying to get andujar too.

  • In reply to bolla:

    I’d be pissed if I were a Yankee fan too. They kept pushing Frazier and Pit is flush with OF. Crappy, lopsided deals like this really get rub me the wrong way.

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    In reply to bolla:

    The mere fact that it's reported doesn't mean it's true. Important to remember here.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    You mean like the 7/$160 for Yu offered by the Yanks only to have Yu tweet those numbers are wrong? LOL.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Sorry I'll take reporters word over a bloggers. Btw go read todays ny daily news there's an article saying the yankees offered frazier. I feel like some of you guys just disagree just to disagree. It's ok to be wrong

  • In reply to bolla:

    I think a reporters word and a bloggers word come from the same source most of the time. Just made up stories.

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    In reply to bolla:

    You don't really have to trust either one. The Schwarber draft is a good example of that. The Cubs -- according to reporter and blogger alike -- were enamored of Nick Gordon and planned to take him if the pitcher I'm forgetting didn't slip to them. It seems to have been absolute BS from the word go.

    I learned years ago that a lot of these rumors are BS from the front office to help them in another negotiation.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    The rumors seem to be that the Pirates wanted absolutely no part of Frazier. He certainly didn't do his value any favors last year but I'm still a little surprised that this was the package Pittsburgh accepted. I would have assumed that the deal would have had to included Tucker or Whitley.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Keith Law had an article on ESPN (not the biggest fan, but......) where he pointed out Cole just is not an “ace” and his last 2 years with injuries make him a decent MOR type. I think this is how baseball views him. So the deal for 2 Top 100 types was not there for Cole and only 2 years of control. This is becoming a seismic shift in baseball. I think teams are trying to un-do the ass clown trade the D Backs made for Shelby Miller. Control and number of assets are becoming more relevant.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Cole is not an "ace", I often to hesitate to even use that term since I think there are about four or five of those in the whole of the game, but he's a solid 2 and his FIP of 3.23, 2.66 and 3.33 in 2014-2016 indicate that he could be better than that at time. 2017 looks to be a clear outlier to me and the number that hurt him the most was the HR/9 of 1.37 a number he never had gotten remotely close to in the past with a previous high of .72. What I saw when he pitched this last year was a dispirited player who didn't like who we was playing for much. I fully expect him to be in the top 20 of pitchers in MLB playing for the World Champs.Neil Huntington clearly picked quantity over quantity in the deal or he really, really didn't like Frazier. I would disagree with the strategy but I'm not sure it tells of a lot about pitching values going forward. I could be wrong though, I didn't see the escalation of starters salaries over the last 4-5 years coming either.

  • In reply to bolla:

    Frazier or Adams - not both

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    It’s not terrible but I think other teams would have given them something better. The Pirates’ brass committed the cardinal sin of selling (very) low on a premium player.

  • In reply to good4you:

    I would say this IS the best deal. You can’t assume teams made a better offer. Potentially yes, but you cannot accept what is not offered.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    All the more reason to love our FO. They moved a lot of pieces in the rebuild and sought out some good/great returns. I’d be pissed if I was a Pirates fan.

  • Also go read the comments on the cole trade on mlb trade rumors or the pirates reddit. There is not a single pirates fan happy with this return, Not one

  • I totally disagree with this article. There are too many variables looking ahead to 2021. What happens if Harper blows a knee? Or they re-sign Jake and he has elbow issues, and needs TJ surgery? What happens if Rizzo goes on the DL for an extended period? If I were part of the Cubs brass, I'd make sure that the 2018 season is the best, let the cards fall where they may.

  • In reply to LRCCubsFan:

    I think what Mike has written falls more in line with what you are feeling, LRCCubsFan, than you realize. I often misinterpret a comment or opinion at first glance. Try giving it another read. You'll see the point he is making is there is no guarantee for 2021, so we should build the best team (within reason) now.

    I've noticed many people who I feel are misinterpreting 2018 being referred to as a "transition year". I understand that term has been used by the FO, but it does not mean we are holding back and not expecting to compete. Far from it. The "transition" aspect is moving on (?) from Arrieta, who fronted the rotation for this historic run of success, and the loss of other key pieces of the pitching staff. The "transition" is about key pieces of the roster, not any lessening of the expectation to win. We are not done adding to the 2018 roster, and I will argue, without even taking into consideration the expected progress of our young position players, that we are a better team on paper than last year.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    You are correct in my intentions at least. I was trying to raise the issue that wins right now are more important than potential wins in a distant (in baseball terms) future. That you cannot perfectly and optimal time when it is best to add players.

    Also your assessment of the term transition is perfectly correct. The way the Cubs were able to win (buying veteran starting pitching while the position core is ridiculously cheap) the past three seasons is over. The Cubs are fully within a championship window, but the way they are going to win has to shift as the position players become increasingly expensive.

  • I think the Cubs will try really hard to sign Darvish, Arrieta or Cobb. Next year’s class is ridiculous but mainly position players. The only SP of interest is Keuchel.

    Alternatively, they could trade some of our beloved position players for TOR and then sign some free agents but that just does not seem like their plan A.

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    It's way to early to judge the Cole deal, but on the surface it Astros made quite a good deal. They now have the best rotation in baseball, but I would still take our position players over theirs.
    Let's see who is on the team March 29 and go from there.

  • Cubs Insider has a great picture of K Bryant. Note his middle knuckles of both hands are aligned and his back elbow is up and out of the way. This is just Hitting 101. If they could get Heyward to make these two changes he would improve by 40 points and 15 HRs.

  • A question: I would like to e-mail Michael and/or Sean with a suggestion. I see your e-mail addresses aren't listed in the "About Staff" option. Could I get an address to offer an opinion? Thank you.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    My email is dabynsky at gmail dot com. It made sense at the time when the staff page for me to withhold that information, but I will see about getting that changed as Cubs Den continues it own transition.

  • In reply to Mike Banghart:

    Thanks, Mike.

  • I see 2018 as a golden opportunity in the NL and I have to think Theo and company feels the same. Adding Darvish, or even Arrieta, to me makes this team the second best in the NL going in and that's a good spot. Washington is #1 mostly because if you're a team with Scherzer and Strasburg at the top and you're not considered the best team something is wrong with your lineup and there isn't much wrong with the National's squad. With the addition of say Darvish I think this will be the second best rotation in the NL to Arizona but I think our lineup, admittedly with some answered "ifs" is pretty close to Washington. I don't like LA in 2018. If you want to talk transition there's a team for that term. They are going to be scary over the next several years but in 2018 I feel strongly that they will fall back to the pack. Hernandez is likely not good enough in LF, Puig, Taylor and Turner are unlikely to repeat their 2017 numbers and Corey Seager appears to be a guy who could have chonic back issues. Add to that the fact that I don't believe a rotation of Kershaw and a bunch of 3/4 guys can be that good two years in a row. Does anyone really think Alex Wood will replicate his 2017? I think that division is a dogfight and see LA as more of a 90-92 win team than 104. If Arizona gets a Machado rental I would pick them ahead of LA without a second thought.

    As for the Cubs, as long as we add that starting pitcher, I see an opposite scenario. With the exception of Willson Contreras nobody had a career year. Sure Bryant and Rizzo had good years, but if you were guessing would you expect them to be better or worse? I think the answer is obvious. Plus you've got a lot of guys who underachieved in 2017 that I don't believe will do so again. Oh and the team still won 92 games. I like that they've been conservative but not idle, thoughtful if not aggressive and have systematically addressed needs. They're wasn't perfect starting pitcher available so why pay for one? I think they get their guy and I think I pick them two return to the NLCS for the fourth year running. I know with my pitching obsession that people think I'm a bit pessimistic so maybe you think this optimism is out of character, but really it isn't. It is completely contingent on one piece though and I believe in this FO.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Let us remove the names and bring in the mathematical formula in short you are saying this pitcher at a 3.5 WAR ('17) while there is another who projects at a 2.4 WAR, difference in the aggregate is .1.1 WAR for $10m less, use some of that on a good reliever who brings .7 WAR, for $5-6m one year. Leaves you .4 short. So let us add in Montgomery as a true 6th starter who gets 15 starts during the season keeping Lester, Hendricks, Quintana and Chatwood plus the 2.7 WAR fresher for the playoffs. Montgomery projects to a 1.6 WAR in 2018 and was 1.3 WAR of a total difference of .1 WAR

    Suddenly thinking in the aggregate you get almost the same WAR from three players than one with high risk. With Cap space figured to be $35m spending $20-21m leaving some in reserve for mid season need/oppty acquisition appears to be the smartest path.

    Filling in names, Cobb is 2.4 WAR projected at $15m, Duensing $5m at .7 WAR and of course Montgomery.

  • Very disappointed that the 2 biggest stories from cubs convention so far have been talks of a new cubs channel and rickets not speaking kindly of Sosa.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    I am ok with the Cubs Channel info, but I am equally dismayed by the Sosa talk track.

    There is no proof he did anything wrong. And if you want to assume he did, he did that same as nearly all players were doing. There were no baseball rules against PED usage and there are no laws, from what I read, against PEDs in the DR which is his home country.

    I don’t know why he would be singled out and called out like this. The biggest known PED user and known as one of the bigger jerks, Barry Bonds, is so beloved in SFO. Why is Sosa so vilified? This really bothers me. Sosa brought us fans so much joy in watching baseball. He played hard everyday, changed his approach with Pentland’s help to be better, and single-handedly made the Cubs watchable when they were really putrid. I acknowledge his exit was less than graceful and some are unwilling to accept that era of baseball. Ricketts hires Manny Ramirez who failed 2 tests, but busts Sosa’s chops?

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Agree comlpetely

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Cubs Channel could turn out to be like the Dodgers channel were the majority of fans in the LA area can't get the games because the cable providers will not pay the large fees for it. I agree with your points on Sosa. The Cubs should not single him out for his obvious use of PED's. Hiring Manny Ramirez just makes this a slap in the face.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Idk, Sosa seems to have some serious issues going on in his life, not the least of which is, that looks l like a fat white guy now. The front office is being cautious about bringing him back into the fold. Something is amiss with Sammy.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I don’t see what any current issues Sammy may be facing have to do with the slap in the face from Ricketts.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    I'd like to see a reunion with Sammy and the Cubs, but I didn't read where Ricketts was super-critical of Sosa, he simply called for some honesty. Manny admitted his steroid use and moved on. Sosa continues to be silent on the issue. That said, I haven't heard a large public clamor from the fans for Sosa's return, either. Maybe fans in Chicago think differently than they do in SF.

  • I understand both the "win now" and the "conserve for the long-haul" points of view and I'm not convinced that it's necessary to choose either. The "window" doesn't HAVE to close. All of the players who currently comprise the core of this team will NOT be resigned. Playoff-caliber teams can't count on top draft picks to restock the farm, so they rely on using the picks they have wisely and strong development programs, supplemented by obtaining prospects in trades. At least one or two of the current core will be used for that purpose, probably a year or two before contract time. There will be "wailing and gnashing of teeth," but it will happen. Who goes will depend upon what replacements are available and ready in the minors and who is available in trade. FOs who stand pat and watch their teams age on the field set themselves up for many years of mediocrity (or downright suckism) peppered with an occasional run at the playoffs. I don't see Theo & company on that path.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Yeah it isn't an either or proposition. The "win now" crowd that I have advocated for a few times here isn't saying burning everything to the ground to win in 2018. I don't think the "conserve for the long-haul" crowd doesn't want to win it all in 2018. It is a question of the best way to use limited resources to win the most championships in this window. I like to think of it in terms of a spectrum. I feel like many Cubs fans think 2021 is guaranteed to be an equal or better chance to win it all than 2018, and that therefore the Cubs shouldn't expend resources for "marginal" wins in 2018 at the expense of 2021. I've tried to lay out the case for why I disagree with that thinking.

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    I said in 2015 that in 5 years we'll look back and see at least 1 and probably more WS titles with that Cubs team. Well, we got the 1. Our players are still young and last year TC154 said, only Willson had a career year. We have lots of pitching in the minors and with Maples coming on and maybe even Tseng they are starting to make their way to the show. Maybe we don't have a KB or Rizzo, but who knows? Rizzo had a few bad years and then became the MVP candidate he is now. Who will show up this year? Maybe Fernando Kelli will be a difference maker in a few years. Maybe Albert A can hit decently against RH pitchers and be a power plus a GG outfielder. It appears that at the worst we'll still win our division, at the most, another WS title.

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    Did anyone hear Willson's advice to John Lester right before Lester threw to first and pick off Tommy Pham? It was hilarious. A bit adult language but everyone loved it. Priceless.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    No. Can you share the details in a PG format?

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    "Hey mother-er, throw the &!$#-ing ball to first" was the gist of it.

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    That was after wc flashed jl the "#1" sign! lol!

  • The Astros gave up NO short term or long term players that are important to their WS window. Colin Moran will never achieve a career of numbers equal to what Happ put up last year. Moran is and will continue to be a big time high 1st round bust. Mugsgrove (think Jason Hammel as a ceiling) and Feliz are #5’s at best and Long Relief at worst. Martin has steadily improved from year to year and was 22 years old in High A and Double A last year. He is at least 2 years away from MLB and is projected as a #5 outfielder, at best.

    I believe that there are no teams in MLB that will deal with the Cubs in a straight forward manner. If the Cubs want a player, the team will force the Cubs to overpay for a trade to happen. It may even extend to collusion between FO’s.

  • Seriously? No teams in MLB that will deal with the Cubs. Why do you say this? Why the Cubs? Makes no sense.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    You Missed the point completely. “Straight Forward” is the term you missed. Of course teams will trade with the Cubs. However, only if they over pay. Seriously!!!

    I know the Astros sstem inside and out. To put the trade in Cubs terms.
    Musgrove = Butler
    Feliz= Underwood
    Moran = Vosler
    Martin = Burks

    The Astros will get Cole to start throwing his fastball up in the zone and using his curve more. His ERA will drop to mid 3’s as the #3 or #4 starter on the team.

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    Why do the Cubs have to over pay to trade with other teams? I don't think I get what you are saying.

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    Teams deal with the Cubs (or anyone else) to help their OWN ballclubs, not to force an overpay by the Cubs. If they want a Cubs player, they pay what the Cubs are willing to accept.

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    I believe your comp about Musgrove to Butler is less than accurate.

    Musgrove has 44 BB to 153 K’s in his first 170 IP in MLB. Hose are both very good ratios and point to a solid career. Butler only dreams of numbers like that. And Musgrove was a dominant starter in his age 21, 22, and 23 seasons getting a cup of coffee in HOU. He definitely profiles as. 3. The improvement you see in Cole is likely to be seen in Musgrove. He is no Eddie Butler, for sure.

    You are pretty hard on Moran too given his documented overhaul and then subsequent explosion. He went from a .368 SLG to a .543 SLG while increasing his BB rate. I would say he is primed as a 24 yr old to be a solid MLB player moving forward. Vosler may never see the big leagues—at least with the Cubs and as a regular.

    I don’t believe the deal is that bad as you are making it seem. Time will tell on this one.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    I have seen every game that Musgrove has started in the majors.
    His dominant mid-1 ERA only came around when he was moved to the bullpen in mid-July 2017 and used in low leverage situations. As a starter of 15 games in 2017, Musgrove was 4-8 with a 6.12 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, allowing a .306 avg, in 78 innings of work. That was following his 2016 season where he started 10 games going 4-4, with a 4.06 ERA, in 58 innings or work. He is league average in going a little over 5 innings per start during his career. For his career, Joe is a .7WAR. Butler was a .8WAR player in 2017.

    Musgrove is a tall guy. He has trouble pitching up in the zone, which is the Astros team philosophy. Maybe Ray Searage sees something in Musgrove that he thinks he can change like many of the pitchers he has transformed. IMO, Searage is the best pitching coach in the NL, maybe all of baseball.

    As for Moran, he is 25 and will turn 26 during the season, a year older than Vosler. I believe he will follow the path of fellow UNC alum, Dustin Ackley. I don't put too much stock in PCL-Fresno hitting numbers. That is a hitter friendly league and a hitter friendly home park.

    As you said, time will tell.

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    As you told someone above “you missed the point” as Musgrove has upside and some decent peripheral stats which would show he has a chance to become a good pitcher. Butler does not. I would not write off Musgrove after his first 170. Butler will never see 170 innings in the big leagues. I still don’t think the comp is strong.

    As for Moran, I put value in his stats only because of the drastic improvement AFTER making an overhaul. Look no further than Chris Taylor to see what an overhaul can do for a player who hasn’t had a breakthrough from AAA to the big leagues.

    The Pirates didn’t deal on what they are today but how they will be contributors in the next few seasons. It was not a huge haul by any means, but it also was not a giveaway.

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    I understand what you're saying but I'm missing intent. Why would teams not want to deal with the Cubs unless they overpay? Theo and Jed are both among the best liked execs in the game, they tend to go for the need and not the "win" in deals and teams they deal with they have good relationships with and usually will deal with again. There is nothing indicating what you're saying. Pitching usually requires an overpay of either dollars or players and I wouldn't take the Cole deal as the exception that proves the rule as opposed to taking any deep market shift.

    What Neil Huntington did in accepting a large package of players as opposed to picking one of Frazier or Chance Adams along with some depth was a belief in his own young players like Austin Meadows, Josh Bell and Jamison Taillon and knowing that he has to fill the roster with solid MLB players to go along with those guys. I don't know that I agree with that but after hearing him talk about it was clearly a choice. Frankly I would have taken Chance Adams and worried about depth from trades of McCutcheon and Josh Harrison but the Pirates are an analytical organization and made a calculated choice.

    Again I don't see any evidence that teams are unwilling to deal with th clubs without "winning" a deal because you haven't shown me what the intent of that strategy would be. Well liked guys, easy to deal with and by all accounts a class organization. Reading anything else into it seems a reach to me. To step in Barley Pop's turf I'll close by quoting The Clash as way of describing pitching acquisition:

    "Now every cheap hood strikes a bargain with the world
    And ends up making payments on a sofa or a girl "

  • On the whole, this is a period of adjustment off season because of two things, A) the agreement and how the luxury tax is actually a cap and how that cap has affected the luxury of BIG MARKET PAYROLL Market clubs managing their payrolls. Boston is currently over by $7M followed by WAS being $2M over, the rest are under in this order; SFG $16M, LAD $17M , NYY $20M, LAA $25M, SEA $26M, Cubs $35M, TOR $39M, TEX $44M CLE $49M, COL $59M, BAL $61M, AZ $69M.

    B) So we can say that the new agreement has changed behavior. My bet is as spring training approaches Boston will try to shave payroll as will Washington. But more so is the secondary item of cost of wins with looking at WAR. Fangraphs says it is roughly $9M per win so if the Cubs pursue Darvish as $25M AAV and if he gains 3.5 WAR in '18, with diminishing productivity it is costly. But with so many FA's out there including Arrieta, Cain, Hosmus etc, plus the middle of Cobb, Holland, etc there is not much space especially for teams like NYY, LAD, LAA, SEA all without room Darvish is out of a market. He is not left with many options pushing him to the Astros, Rangers and Twins. So that leaves a Cobb with more demand but with a ceiling of $15-18M AAV.

    Again it comes down to cost of WINS or then again the valuation of WAR.

    Boston needs to rid themselves of Hanley Ramirez's $22M AAV possibly paying someone half the contract where if he has 500 PA appearances his '19 contract is vested. But saving $11M times 20% or another $2.2M otherwise Ramirez's contract is actually $55M over these two years plus draft choices and IFA money. WAS is in the same boat but with smaller number.

  • As the article stated, the off-season remains a work-in-progress. We all know the simplified roster wants: 2 starters and more quality relievers. But I like focusing on the more granular goals Theo detailed in his end-of-year news conference: more strike throwers overall and improved situational hitting. By measuring the off-season by this list, we can get a stronger sense of how much more still needs to be accomplished before Spring Training.

    On offense, obviously, nothing as been done aside from hiring of a new snake charmer coach in Chili Davis. So expect at least one move to be made there (and the leaked Baez to Padres trade proves what most smart observers suspected: the FO is actively looking for ways to parlay its bat surplus into a couple more arms -- but the price has to be right). And the issue on offense isn't the 802 runs scored in the regular season. It's the much lower than expected performance in last year's playoffs (.530 OPS), as well as to a degree in 2016 when the great starting pitching and just enough great relief pitching from over-used Chapman and Montgomery took great pressure off the offense.

    In terms of the starting staff, Chatwood is a step back from Lackey's 2016 performance as a strike thrower and as an innings-eater -- although it's a marginal step back because the Cubs will hope not to need Chatwood to start any playoff games, just as they avoided that in 2017 with Lackey. So this leaves it to how Arrieta is replaced to judge whether the starting rotation can be improved over last post-season. Sadly, it seems unlikely to significantly improve on Arrieta as the No. 4 pitcher. Even replacing 2017 Arrieta with an older Arrieta is a partial step back. Which actually leaves any improvement in this area to our Top 3 starters improving over last year, as well as Maddon managing his rotation better in the playoffs to extend their innings when the team has a lead and not so readily using them as spot relievers early in the playoffs. (But this seems unlikely as Maddon has proven himself a bit of a playoff panicker in this regard.)

    The bullpen has been the one area of significant strike-throwing improvement. The pen has lost Wade Davis, Rondon and Duensing who combined for 3.33 BB/9 last year but partially replaced with Morrow/Cishek's 2.58. However, the departed trio handled twice as many innings as Morrow/Cishek. So another arm or two is needed still in the pen. If this can be achieved, this would create the needed depth required for a deep playoff run. Then if Edwards can prove himself to be a quality late-inning arm, the bullpen could go from a short-coming to an actual asset. But a lot more work needed there. And it will be fun to see how much more is achieved by Spring Training.

  • In my opinion, the Cubs will sign either Jake, Yu, or Cobb at a price they're comfortable with. And that they're agnostic as to which one it will be. Whoever it is, they'll be happy. As would I.

  • In reply to YouCannotBeSerious:

    There is also a chance that Cubs get none of the three. Obviously, the front office put a value on all three which they have no intention of exceeding, especially in years more than dollars. If others team's do, I think the boys will just pass.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I have a hard time seeing them going into the season with what they have in the rotation. It's simply not good enough, maybe not even for the division. Is it possible they take a pass? Sure, but I don't see it as likely unless there's a trade we're not even thinking about.

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    In reply to TC154:

    Agreed.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Well, we have four solid and Monty.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Signing or trade has to make sense.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    The market for teams that would realistically sign either Jake, Yu, or Cobb wasn't that big to begin with and just got one team smaller when Houston got Cole. The likelihood of the Cubs landing one of those three guys is pretty high. As TC said, hard to believe the Cubs would go into 2018 with the rotation they have at this point.

  • In reply to YouCannotBeSerious:

    I think realistically it's the Cubs, Yankees and Twins. I realize the Dodgers and Rangers are on the periphery but the money would be a stretch for Texas putting them right at their highest salary level historically, and LA would have to shed Kemp's money and then some to stay under the tax. Of course the Yankees would also have to shed money but are said to have been looking for suitors for Robertson and Gardner which would free up money and allow them to sign Darvish. I still think he ends up in Chicago but I'll feel a lot better when it's done.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I don't think the Yankees want to get rid of Robertson and or Gardner. I think they would rather give Ellsbury away and eat at least half his remaining salary. Robertson is a very valuable reliever and Gardner is their leadoff man.

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    In reply to TC154:

    I wonder if the Reed signing took enough money for the Twins to be out on Darvish.

  • In reply to TC154:

    2016 Cubs, I don't think they want to but according to some reports on MLB Radio over the weekend they've been quietly looking for suitors for both. If they could shed any of Pedroia's salary they would have done so already. Even if they ate half his money you're still talking 4/$30 mil to the acquiring team. If you were that team who would you rather have Pedroia or sign Lorenzo Cain for less years and less money? Plus the Yankees would still have to shed more salary.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I don't think the yankees can sign Darvish and stay under the cap. I think Darvish's possible market is shrinking. I am guessing it is the Cubs, Tex, and Twins right now that can afford him. If you were Darvish who would you rather play for?

  • In reply to TC154:

    John57, I don't think the Rangers are even all that serious. You'd be taking about a $170 mil payroll for a team that even with him might be the fourth best in a strong division with Houston, Anaheim, Seattle all looking to be ahead of them talent wise. I really think it's down to years. If Minnesota offers him say $12 million more total what does he do? I think the Twins have a deep run in maybe once in the next couple of years but the Cubs could have three or four runs over the life of his deal. It's an interesting choice.

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    Well put.

  • TC, I think you mean Ellsbury not Pedroia? Also, Ellsbury is owed ~$68M over 3 years including buyout. So the money per year is close with Robertson and Gardner. There is no reply button on my page so I hope this post lands close to your reply.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Ellsbury, sorry. Got my current and former Red Sox confused. Glad you understood what I meant. I can't see them moving Robertson and Gardner either btw but they'd likely have to for Darvish so I don't see them as serious suitors quite yet.

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