I Know the Pieces Fit

Mike Banghart:

The Cubs are currently analyzing their organization top to bottom trying to find ways to improve. Here at Cubs Den the analysis might not be nearly as in depth, but we also are trying to improve the site for what should be one of the most exciting offseasons in several seasons for the Cubs. One of those decisions was to add a name that should be familiar to any long time denizen as a contributor. Barley Pop should not need much introduction, but he is going to contribute his unique brand of insights and lyrical references in a more formal way for all of us to enjoy.

Are they still playing baseball? I've heard rumors but have lost the will to follow with anything approaching enthusiasm. Welcome to the reality of being a Cubs fan during this Golden Age, when a 95-win season and postseason berth is felt as a disappointment without a deep run. 2018 was a roller-coaster ride with not enough peaks and far too many valleys. Now that we've had some time to cuss, mourn, and recuperate, it's time to assess and look forward.

In order to have a clear and successful plan for the future it's crucial to identify the flaws and failures of the past. We all have our own opinions on what to do. Which of our personal darlings should stay and the ever-growing list of bums that need to go. I certainly have my own ideas, but I learned long ago the best way to learn and truly get a handle on any situation is to listen to those that know more than I do (and, you know, actually MAKE those decisions). On that front, Theo Epstein did not disappoint. He delivered an honest and passionate assessment of the 2018 season during a 70-minute end-of-season press conference, touching on a wide variety of topics. The main focus was the offense, or more precisely, the lack thereof. He stated simply the offense "broke" at some point in the 2nd half of the season. Identifying what went wrong and how to fix it will be perhaps the biggest goal of the offseason. Those fixes could include re-evaluating individual approaches and playing time for the players currently on the roster or bringing in talent from outside the organization. I'd guess it will be a bit of both.

On the coaching front it appears Maddon will be back for the last year of his current contract, but without an extension. Theo mentioned the FO and manager don't always see eye-to-eye on baseball issues, but that is to be expected. He doesn't want a "yes man" as a manager, and that respect also flows the other way. But he made some poignant criticisms of the past season, notably the lack of a sense of urgency throughout the entire season. He lamented the lack of a killer instinct to put teams away and being satisfied taking 2 out of 3. The belief the early season doesn't really matter, we'll just turn it on later in the year, and ultimately losing the division by a single game. He also had harsh words for the offensive approach, saying launch angle and the ability to hit the ball out of the park is not a fad. What that means for Chili's future is anyone's guess. I think some of the most critical discussions will be held on this topic and the final decision on whether or not he is retained will depend on the outcome of those talks. Hickey appears safe, but only because there haven't been many public comments. Anything is possible, but Theo did say he believes in continuity among the coaching staff.

The position players will receive the most scrutiny and public debate. An important point Theo stressed was that it is time to start evaluating players based on production rather than potential. I see Rizzo at 1B, Bryant (hopefully healthy, no shoulder surgery is scheduled for now, but that didn't sound certain to me) at 3B and/or a corner OF spot, Javy somewhere on the dirt, and Contreras as the primary C. Honestly, that's all I have in ink. Zobrist will likely return; we need his bat and leadership. There is the remote possibility he is moved for financial reasons. He is set to make $12M in the final year of his contract, but with only a limited no-trade clause. Same with Heyward. J-Hey can opt-out of the 5 years and $106M remaining on his contract this year or next, though that seems unlikely. More importantly is the way his contract is structured. He was given full no-trade rights for the first couple years of his deal, and will acquire veto power as a 10-and-5 player following the 2020 season. The Cubs included a two-year window to deal him (this offseason and next) with only a limited no-trade clause in anticipation of this year's monster FA class. Moving him and his contract would likely involve eating money and/or packaging him with a more valuable asset, but the option is there. I expect both to return, and the only way either is dealt would be to clear salary to sign Harper or Machado.

I believe Russell will be gone. His lack of progress and projection are reasons enough in baseball terms, but of course there is more. No need to rehash that here.

Thanks for the temporary spark, Mr. Murphy, and good luck in your inevitable phase as a DH.

The next tier of young guys are where all the questions lie. Caratini is valuable, versatile, and cheap. He will be shopped, and whether he returns or not likely depends on what we are offered. We can always acquire, and perhaps need, a steady veteran back-up backstop. LaStella is probably in the same boat. He serves a valuable niche role, but is that role worth a roster spot? I think that answer comes down to the rest of the roster configuration, which will probably include David Bote. He will be paid the league minimum and may not bring back enough to justify moving him.

Now for the big decisions: what to do with Schwarber, Almora Jr., and Happ. Again, Theo stated it is time to move on from potential and focus on results. He also made passing remarks of some young players not showing up ready to play every day, whatever that means, and said that was the reason some saw reduced playing time down the stretch. I love Almora Jr. I love his grit and determination, and I've always been a sucker for a baseball rat. I just don't know if he's good enough, at this point, to be the everyday CF on a Championship-caliber team. A 4th OF? Sure. I do think he is good enough if the rest of the lineup is stacked with bats, but I also recall Theo's not-ready-to-play comments and wonder who he was referring to. Happ is good, with potential, but not yet good enough. Maybe he was rushed a bit and the lack of consistent playing time has hindered his progress. I've long thought his highest value to this team is in trade, for a variety of reasons, and this may be the year we pull the trigger. Kyle Schwarber, I love you, big fella. You impressed the FO with your profane pre-draft interview, amazed us with your offseason body transformation to improve your defense, and your work ethic, comeback, and performance in the 2016 WS will forever live in Cubs' lore. We can all dream on that Ruthian left-handed bat, but the time for dreaming may be over. Schwarber is productive, more than he is given credit for, but may be a victim of a roster crunch. I think he is dealt in our biggest trade of the offseason, but for what? Pitching? We shall see.

Speaking of pitching, we have a lot, but never enough. The starting rotation seems fairly set and possibly deep. Big Jon Lester returns. You tell him he's gone, because I sure won't. He scares me. The Professor is the Professor, and turns more from Hendricks into Hendrix with every passing season. We watch and marvel yet still can't quite figure out how he does it. Sometimes there is no rational explanation, you just sit back and enjoy the show. Yu Darvish is still under contract and will be for a long time. He suffered through a very forgettable 2018 season due to health issues, but underwent arthroscopic elbow surgery on September 12th and is expected to be ready for spring training. That would be good. Quintana has a $10.5M club option for 2019 (and another for 2020), so yeah, of course. I really believe if Darvish and Chatwood were more certain Q could be moved, but for now we don't have that luxury, IMO. I almost forgot about Chatwood, perhaps subconsciously. He's under contract for two more years and another $22.5M. There have been calls to DFA him, but that seems unrealistic. He most likely reports with pitchers and catchers with a lot to prove and we go from there.

Hamels has a club option for $20M or a $6M buyout. There has been much confusion about who pays what, but the best info I can find is the Cubs would pay $20M if the option is picked up or Texas pays the $6M buyout if it is not. I think we pick it up and $20M applies to the luxury-tax threshold next season, because it is all Monopoly money at this point (more on that in a moment).

Beyond that we have options and depth. Montgomery is under control and proven. He's also very valuable in his role on this team and in trade. Like Caratini I expect him to be shopped and see who bites. Smyly is under contract for another year and should be healthy. Alzolay and Underwood Jr. are knocking on the door, and Mills made a strong impression. I feel pretty good about the rotation.

The bullpen was both our salvation and our demise. Brandon "Glass Joe" Morrow will be back and effective when and if healthy. There are already hints he could be handled even more delicately next season. Cishek also returns for one more season, assuming his arm is still attached to his body, which may not be the case with Edwards Jr. He is nasty yet unreliable, and has the unfortunate combination of elbow AND shoulder issues. I'm not sure if he will be available next season, but I certainly hope so. Duensing is also under contract for one more year, but dealt with injury and ineffectiveness. I expect him to be here in the spring, and his $3.5M salary will be jettisoned if necessary. Maples, Mekkes, Mills, and Rosario (among others) are also in the mix.

There are a couple contractual options available. Strop has a $6.25M club option, which, duh. Kintzler is a little different. He has a $10M club option, which is sure to be declined, but then a $5M player option, which he probably accepts. Wilson is a free agent and likely gone. Chavez is also a free agent, and has said he wants to re-sign with the Cubs or retire. His performance was as impressive as it was unanticipated. I'd like to see him back, but then I remember Duensing, another pen arm on the wrong side of 30 who parlayed a solid performance into a new multi-year deal. I'm conflicted.

The Cubs have enough talent currently under contract/control to field a playoff-worthy team in 2019, especially if Bryant returns to form. But fans like to focus on the sexy stuff, and this year's FA class is certainly attractive. There is enough there for a whole new discussion, but some things obviously stand out. Harper and Machado are young, pre-prime FA's that this FO covet, and they will both be aggressively pursued. Landing one or the other surely dictates other moves with the roster, and makes decisions about some of the young players on the bubble a bit easier. Both will be insanely expensive, but the Cubs print money and are a year away from printing much more by means of a lucrative new TV deal.

I've been using the term "Monopoly money" recently, so I'll try to explain my thought process. The dollars spent are real, of course, but at this stage of the competitive window/financial climate they have somewhat different meanings. The Cubs have enough available resources to run a $300M payroll if they wanted to, but there are painful penalties to consider. Under the current CBA, which runs through 2021, teams are penalized for going over a pre-set threshold. That limit was $197M in 2018, and all indications are we stayed below that this year, by design, because penalties get progressively worse with each subsequent year of overage. The threshold gets a bump next year up to $206M, and I fully expect to surpass it. With the current contracts and expected arbitration raises we are already near the limit. Picking up Hamels' option likely puts us over, and I expect us to go hard after Harper and/or Machado. If we land one, and I think we will, that pushes us up in the $225-$240M range and into the penalty phase, which would begin to be assessed following the 2019 season and every year after that we remain over the limit. Those penalties include a monetary hit, but the real pain is felt in future FA signings and losses when a qualifying offer is attached. Those transactions affect draft pick compensation and IFA slot money. That's a complex system that would probably only interest us true baseball nerds, but it hinders a team's ability to build for the future and something that must be carefully considered.

We have a longer-than-usual offseason ahead of us, relatively speaking, and it's time to get to work. Rumors and speculation are going to fly. Some moves will delight the fan base, some may break our hearts, and others will leave us scratching our heads. It will be interesting and it will be busy. I say bring it on, and Go Cubs!

I couldn't end this without a lyrical reference. I jokingly refer to these guys as "the best band you've never heard of". A little agressive for some tastes, but that's the attitude this FO will carry into this offseason. The song title, "Schism", accurately reflects some of the internal turmoil currently within the organization, and even these lyrics seem eerily pertinent and possibly prophetic:

"There was a time that the pieces fit
But I watched them fall away.
Mildewed and smoldering, strangled by our coveting.
I've done the math enough to know
The dangers of our second-guessing.
Doomed to crumble unless we grow
And strengthen our communication."

Filed under: Cubs, Roster decisions

Comments

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  • Nice piece, BP, and wlecome to the writer’s side of the Den!

    When I heard Theo’s comment about «productivity over talent», my first thought was Heyward. I believe he will be traded this off-season for an overpaid bullpen piece or back-up catcher. Sort-of bad-contract for bad-contract. I think a veteran back-up to spell Willy more often will be a key to success in 2019. One thought was Russel Martin. alhough his offensive numbers do not appear to be defensible.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    "Fish don't fry in the kitchen.
    Beans don't burn on the grill."

    Thanks, Norway.

    I don't think we get rid of Heyward just to get rid of him. His performance is actually in line with what is paid out at the current rate. Moving his contract is complex, and I don't personally expect it to even be an issue... unless Harper/Machado.

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    Imo, Harper would be better defensively in LF. Fangraphs shows he is a bit above average in LF, but he hasn't played LF in quite some time. Also his defense is way below average in CF & RF. Of course you can say his offense by far negates his bad defense. Keep Heyward in RF.

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    And I'm really looking forward to your writing. You have always been one of my favorite posters. Congrats.

  • In reply to Wrigley0923:

    Thanks, Wrigley0923. Your comments have occasionally caught my eye as well, and then I put my beer down. We can both laugh at ourselves, which is a liberating trait.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I disagree BP only because you are using the WAR/$8MM metric saying a 3 WAR player is worth $24MM annually. WAR is a good metric but Heyward's value is skewed so heavily defensively that he simply is not worth his contract. And his 2.0 fWAR says his contract is an overpay. Also given Defensive metrics are somewhat flawed, I just can't see Theo keeping a declining defensive RF who simply sucks at the plate (we should be honest about his ability/production as a hitter). A Sub .340 OBP and a sub .400 SLG for a RF is not going to cut it. I believe Theo finds a taker with some perhaps another piece with value is moved.

    Interesting enough Schwarber posted a 3.2 fWAR and Rizzo posted a 2.9 fWAR. Put that into perspective on when people want Schwarber moved.

    I am excited for this off season. I think Theo poked Almora, Happ, Schwarber, and Russell directly in the chest with his comments. Those guys are all #1 picks -- start producing like it.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    I can't disagree. Heyward hasn't worked out as anticipated. I have to admit a bit of bias as I've actually talked to him and thrown a few balls back and forth. He's a great dude, but...

    I think of Heyward when I hear the clamoring for Harper or Machado. I want these guys on my team, but those numbers scare me. I recall the first monster contract, Soriano, and every deal since. Again, the news made me happy, but I instantly felt a sense of dread when contemplating the commitment.

    That's where we are at this offseason. I said I expect us to land Harper or Machado, but I really don't believe it. That's too easy. I say that because of the way some of the big contracts were structured. The FO wrote in the ability to chase these big dogs, but that doesn't mean we hold the leash. We could easily go in another direction.

  • Welcome aboard B-Pop! I read today that Kris Bryant, and his agent we all love to hate Scott Boras turned down an offer upwards of $200 + million from the Cubs. Was this a ploy by the FO to gauge what he's going to ask for, or judging by the way last year's Free Agency worked, sticking their necks out too early? This team has a bunch of things to ponder over.

  • In reply to LRCCubsFan:

    Thanks for the welcome, my friend, but I haven't seen that report. It wouldn't surprise me, because I think KB is hitting free agency no matter what. In the Cubs' defense, I believe they have been generous in their dealings with him, possibly as a wink and a nod about the obvious service-time manipulations in early 2015. But these decisions are looming and I'm going to try to put a piece together to attempt to make sense of it all.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Kris reminds me a little of Troy Klaus and Evan Longoria. They started out as barn burners and morphed into quality, but more pedestrian than projected. I wonder if Bryant's trajectory with the shoulder issue will follow Troy and Evan's going forward.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I hope not. I've said since his debut that when I watch Bryant play baseball I feel like I'm watching a hall-of-famer. I really am concerned about his future. I assume he will be fine, but shoulder issues have derailed many a career. So has taking a 97 MPH fastball to the head. From a purely selfish point of view I want him back. It would be an absolute shame if he isn't.

  • Congratulations on the official move! I wanted to use “Won’t Get Fooled Again” but it would come off as snarky. Great article. As for Chavez, I can honestly say I never had any unease when he came into a game and I believe Theo feels the same.

  • In reply to IVYADDICT:

    "Meet the new boss.
    Same as the old boss."

    Chavez is intriguing. He's getting a little long in the tooth but was an absolute revelation. He wants to stay, and we want him back. But for how much, how long, and how how will we feel about this decision in the future?

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    It’s true Chavez has been around a while, but I think he will be OK as he throws strikes and his control is on the money.

  • I pretty much agree with everything you stated in your article BP and also want to welcome you to the writers' side of the Den. You are a very talented writer.

  • In reply to clarkAddson:

    Thank you. I'm going to try my best to honor John. I'll surely fall far short of his inherent talent, but not for a lack of passion for the community he created or the team we all love.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Well, no one can replace John. He made it seem as though he was in the room with Ricketts and 'the boys' with his insight and finger on the pulse of the org. I have always looked forward to your comments and glad you are expanding your role. A good move for the Den.

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    Congratulations on the gig. You expressed my feelings and ideas of what the Cubs should and possibly could do over this season exactly as I would have, had I had the talent and patience to write.

  • In reply to Theodore Anderson:

    Thank you, Theodore. Don't sell yourself short. Your comment reminded me of something I wrote in my "interview":

    I'm good enough.
    I'm smart enough.
    And, doggone it, people like me.

  • Nice article BarleyPop. Glad to see that you will be doing more articles here. Good for you! And us.

  • In reply to stevec2:

    Thank you, sir.

  • Who are you to waive your finger?

  • In reply to TTP:

    Sorry, Barley, couldn't resist quoting my favorite Tool song.

    Nicely done. I've previously expressed my views:

    1. Sign Machado -- assuming he can play SS or 2B.

    2. Give Shcwarber one more year to see if he can move up from a mediocre power hitter to an elite slugger.

    3. I love JHey, but if we can move him and eat less then half of his salary, do it! Only if we can move JHey should we be interested in Harper.

    4. Order Joe to play Almora almost everyday.

    5. Keep Hamels. Maybe even extend him for two more years if he'll be reasonable.

    6. Bullpen: Forget Edwards. Move one. He lacks intestinal fortitude. Definitely can't count on Morrow. But fixing the bullpen is far too complicated for me to offer any true solutions.

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    In reply to TTP:

    Would you rather try to sign Machado, or try to trade Schwarber or Happ + a couple prospects for Simmons? I would try for the latter & push hard for Harper. The infield defense would improve tremendously and I'll take 100+ bb, runs, & rbi's over Machado in a heartbeat. Manny's obp will never come close to Harper's and I'd rather have better IF defense. Maybe if Machado agrees to play 3b and is cheaper, I'd be willing to signing him. Move KB to LF, and try to trade for Simmons. I'd actually like that the more I think of it. But that's jmo.

  • In reply to TTP:

    I'm glad you explained. As a fan of of Bluegrass, Americana and twangy-old-country music, I don't always recognize the lyrical references from the R&R world.

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    In reply to TTP:

    Just so you know, I'm not disagreeing with your post. Both are very elite players & either would make the team better. We just need to put the players in the positions where it will improve the team as a whole.

  • In reply to Wrigley0923:

    I like your thinking. But is Simmons available? And if he is, I see that he's only signed for two more years at $13M for 2019 and $15M for 2020.

    I like Machado because, like Javy he can (as I understand it) play 2nd, SS or 3rd. So I'm thinking he mans 2B or SS next year and then when Nico Hoerner is ready in 2020, Manny slides over to 3rd and KB to the outfield. And I also really want to see of Schwarber can move toward his ceiling next year.

    In any event, I know we are all confident in Theo and Jed for figure out. So lucky to have them steering the ship. And as they seemingly have done since they came here, I fully expect that they'll surprise us with move(s) none of us contemplate.

  • In reply to TTP:

    I don't believe Machado has ever played 2nd in any game as a professional. He might not of played 2nd ever. So I would rule out him playing 2nd. I would like to see the Cubs sign him and have him play 3rd. Move Bryant to left.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    I've warmed to the possibly of Bryant in LF if you got Machado, but I think people also have to realize how much less valuable he would be there. LF has inherently less value in terms of WAR than 3B. If in his best years he's a 7.5 WAR player at 3B he's closer to 5.5-6 in LF. That could be up to 2 wins. It's not an outrageous idea but you have to think about that when you shuffle the deck.

  • In reply to TC154:

    An example would be Christian Yelich. Dude had to put up monstrous numbers to post 7.6 WAR playing LF. Most very good LF are somewhere between 3.5 and 5.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Wouldn't the team make up for the loss WAR and plus some by having Machado at 3rd. I agree Bryant's WAR would decrease but the teams WAR with Machado at 3rd would go up.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Yes but in terms of WAR at 3B Machado and Bryant are close to equal. Both 6 plus WAR players. All that said it shouldn't be the only factor to consider, some of it is artificial, but you have to be mindful.

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    In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    He has played 2b, but only a handful of times. Not even close enough games to rate him there. But everyone knows he's way better at 3b tha SS.

  • In reply to Wrigley0923:

    Don't think he has played 2nd ever as a pro. Don't see it anywhere. Can't find a single game.

  • In reply to Wrigley0923:

    I wanted to add, I agree 0 games played at 2nd is not enough game to rate him there.

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    In reply to TTP:

    I have no idea if he's available, but the Angel's is a dead end destination to play. That's why I was confused that Ohtani chose them. Yes, they have Trout, but that's about it. I'm just guessing Simmons could be available because he has 2 years left & if they rebuild he should be on the block. They have a ton of cash going to Pujols and Idk about Hamilton. Both were bad signings.

  • In reply to TTP:

    You must have been out your head. But I agree with most of your assessment.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Ha! Love it BarleyPop!

    Very happy to see you expand your role here since you've been a major contributor over the years. So . . .

    Thank you. May I have another?

  • In reply to TTP:

    Wanna hear a funny story? My mother was reading this, all proud as mother's do, until she saw your comment. She got pissed. "Who's this guy talking about pointing fingers?" she screamed. I walked her through the intellectual back-and-forth, and the lyrical references, and she calmed down. Hilarious!

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    That's great. Hilarious indeed. I originally was only gonna post that one lyric but, while I knew you would get it, I realized hardly anyone else would.

    You Da Man! Be well.

    Ted

  • Congratulations on your first "official" Cubs Den piece! I can't disagree with anything you mentioned. I agree that the player moves we'll see depend on who gets signed. I'm OK with any of them, but there MUST be change. The biggest disappointment for me would be to see the same team take the field in April with a different expectation. Having endured decades of ineptitude, we know that windows of opportunity come along only so often and the Cubs have fallen short too many times. I don't want to see more "wha' happened" articles after the 2019 season and there's no room in my memory for another "almost made it" story.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Thanks, Cliff. We will not simply drag the same team back in the spring hoping for different results, but I also don't see the need for a complete overhaul. We're all upset, and the FO probably more than us. There will be serious reflection and changes, and we all get to watch and opine.

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    I'd try to package Morrow also and actually sign a legit closer, like Kimbrel. I have no faith Morrow stays healthy and this closer by committee crap is getting old.

  • In reply to Wrigley0923:

    I can't see moving Morrow. All the headlines will revolve around the position players but the pen needs the most attention as a unit, IMO. We'll have Strop and Cishek, but that's about all that is certain. I'm worried about the arm on Edwards Jr. There's not much after that.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I really am not that worried about the bullpen. It's Theo's strength. Nearly every year he goes into the season with the best pen on papaer (2018 was no exception) and like every bullpen in never turns out like that, but Theo and company adjust better than any other FO out there IMO. How many guys like De La Rosa, Chavez, Rosario, etc, etc has he managed to find when the pen looks like it's going south? Seriously, my very last worry with this team is the pen. I know Theo will get it right.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Agree. #3 in MLB this past year. We leaked oil at the end but was hardly a reason we are talking about 2019 instead of getting ready for the NLCS.

  • I have never like playing armchair GM, but I will say this.

    The lack of OF production needs to be addressed. The current batch of Cub players are not the answer, so any changes will most likely involve one or more from that group.

    From my vantage point, any or all on the bubble to be traded. Which player(s) that don a Cub uniform in 2019 to replace the current crew is up to those who make the decisions.

    I'm just a fanatic with no control or say so.

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    Welcome BP. It's like you crossed the line in Field of Dreams and suddenly you're on the other side. Well thought out by the management and you'll do great.
    I saw in MLB trade rumors that the Mesa brothers are probably going to the Marlins or Orioles, but with the Marlins one trade target for the elder brother would be Albert A. He's a very, very good prospect but hasn't played in the majors yet but has a higher ceiling than Albert.
    We certainly aren't old, but compared to the Brewers and Braves I just felt we were, and slow too. If Gore could hit anything I'd love him at the TOO because we need a legit one and difference makers too. I see Happ and Schwarbs gone but not just to move them but for someone with less SO and more OBP.
    My thoughts for now, and again, congratulations.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Nicely done BP! Your contributions and our discussions have been among my favorites over the years. We're not always on the same page but we are more often than not and when we aren't we respect each other's viewpoints even when not agreeing with them. I feel the same way here with your first piece, and I actually agree with most of it. Clearly you have the main topics pointed out so here are a few thoughts:

    The bullpen- I'm in lockstep with you here. They need a guy to backup Morrow at closer. That could mean just getting another closer and moveing Morrow to the eight but I don't think they'll do that. They haven't shown the desire to pay for top closers which would seem to eliminate Britton or Kimbrel but here's a thought: could you sign Greg Holland to a one year deal? He was much better with Washington than he was in St. Louis and he very well could have been severely effected by the late signing. If he's still represented by Boras (which I heard this morning he may not be) that's probably not an option but if it is I like the idea. Receivers are on and off again guys by nature and you tweak every year. The only real need I see here besides the usual tweaks is a "backup" closer the rest I consider maintenance.

    Offense- Obviously this is a clear need. the mix is off. I think we can expect a better year from Rizzo, a bounce back from Bryant and hopefully another step forward from Baez. I think you can have one guy in your lineup at or slightly below league average run production numbers as long as he gives you lights out D and with Russell likely gone I'm Ok with Heyward in RF. I expect Contreras to get better and I would like to see a more veteran backup at C. What that means for Caratini I don't know but if he's still there it isn't horrible. So that leaves an IF position and two OF positions available to improve your offense. I still see the .275/.400/.500 mark as attainable for Schwarber and was a 3.2 WAR player this year and reached that "slightly above average" category on defense that we were looking for. That said he is also their most valuable trade chip. At 3 WAR he's basically "worth" $24 mil/year and will likely make $6 in arb this year with increases the next two. A bargain by any stretch. That makes him attractive to keep or trade and if he just doesn't "fit" based on other acquisitions in trade or FA you have to listen on him. I've been a proponent of signing Michael Brantley to play LF but another option would be to sign A. J. Pollock for CF and retaining Kyle. Despite missing a lot of time Brantley is probably still less of an injury risk than Pollock though so you consider that. Kyle would net you that LF or CF that you need, maybe a larger trade with Ian Happ for multiple pieces. For the first time I'm OK with that.

    To go along with that OF shuffling I think you have to make a huge push for Machado. In the last few days it's come out that he might be willing to play 3B for "the right team". That could be your answer and move Bryant to LF. Maybe then you trade for that CF and let Happ and Zobrist man 2B. There aren't a lot of good choices in FA for 2B. the two best are DJ LeMahieu and Daniel Murphy but the former's career numbers might shock you and his away numbers are downright bad. He's a product of Coors but he is a great defender. Murphy is the opposite and you'd have the old man combo at second and his value is estimated at something like 3/$60 mil. No thanks. I think you go with Happ/Zo or make a trade.

    Starting pitching- BP I know you'll be amazed at this, but I'm OK with this rotation assuming the health of Darvish and the return via picking his option of Hamels. That's a formidable starting five. Now you need 9 starters at least at your disposal and I think you look at Alzolay, Chatwood, Monty, Mills and Underwood as those guys. Of course you'd have to get Chatwood good enough to be in the pen but you cross that bridge when you get to it. If he can't improve, I do disagree with you here, he has to be DFA'd. The only tweak I could suggest would be picking up Quintana's option and moving him with other pieces in a deal that would bring back a younger arm. I'm not suggesting they DO that, but I would think they'd consider it. One thought there would be getting Newcomb from Atlanta. They have seven 55 grade pitchers or better in the minors and could afford to move a guy like Newcomb and getting another veteran might help them and it would be a lefty/lefty swap. This is probably fantasy because I like Newcomb so much but it's not all that crazy. Quintana alone won't get Newcomb though so you're talking a larger trade. Then again you could address pitching for 2020 instead and keep Q making him the best #5 starter in the league. I've never been happier with the rotation either way.

    In the end I do think you're right, they could make minor tweaks and trot out a similar lineup and probably have a better 2019 than 2018, this was a year where you lost one of your top two starters, your best player going into the year and your closer all for significant stretches and still won 95 game. Of course you don't exist in a vacuum and the rest of the NL, including your division, is getting better. Cincinnati is probably one veteran starter away from .500 and two away from making some noise, Pittsburgh will be better and Milwaukee isn't going anywhere. The Cardinals have some nice young arms and could seriously improve. The rest of the league is going to include the now awakened Dodgers with an influx of new talent and a great farm system, a no longer flukey Braves team that has asets and money to spare to improve, Philly who has money and young talent, and teams like the Rockies and Nationals who aren't going away. The Cubs have to get better and I believe they will. What a fun offseason this will be.

    Oh and if I may step into your area for a minute here are some lyrics for you

    "Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
    Turn and face the strange
    Ch-ch-changes
    Don't want to be a richer man
    Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
    Turn and face the strange
    Ch-ch-changes
    There's gonna have to be a different man
    Time may change me
    But I can't trace time"

  • In reply to TC154:

    What do I say, TC? John created and carefully cultivated a community here, one that I am proud to be a part of. What drew me in, like so many others, was the intelligent content and respectful discussion. There are many here who have the talent to keep this place afloat, and you and your contributions are at the top of that list. I've always respected you, and was a bit depressed when you contemplated your future involvement. Don't go!

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I left, you were incommunicado at the time. I made it four maybe five days. I can't help it I like this group here, I just wasn't enamored of how some handled the pressure of an admittedly tough season to watch. Nobody really did anything wrong but I can't enjoy baseball like that and if I'm not enjoying it why bother? It all worked out though and glad to see you as a full fledged contributor.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to TC154:

    What about Cutch in LF? Less injury risk, good bat, pretty good defense(compared to his decline in CF).

  • In reply to Wrigley0923:

    I think Brantley's better at this point of his career. His injuries were flukey and were not soft tissue related which is where I get nervous. McCutchen looked done 18 months ago but has resurrected himself some. Both look to be valued about the same with Spotrac estimating Brantley at 5/$100 mil and McCutchen at 5/$95 mil. I'm concerned that the value in WAR for either is just above Kyle's value there. Depending on what they do either could be a better fit in the order. After hearing that Machado might play 3B for "the right team" I'm thinking moving KB to left would be a nice fit. He won't put up 6-7 WAR seasons playing LF, the value of 3B being that much greater, but Machado could be putting up those numbers at 3B.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Thanks, Jonathan, but that's not a line I want to cross. I'm just an idiot with an opinion. I relish my place here with the rest of us fanatics, and hope to never lose that.

  • Don't know what the Cubs will do this off-season, but Cubs Den is off to a great start. I don't comment too much anymore but as an avid reader of this site, I have to say that your recent "hiatus" away from civilization for a couple weeks left quite a void here.

    I've always enjoyed your positive but realistic views and knowledge of the Cubs. Most importantly, to me at least, I think you, Barley, along with TC154, Joel Mayer, Cliff, and many others have always striven to maintain the values and respect for each other that John Arguello set for this website many years ago. Look forward to reading more of your stuff.

    Congrats and nice job Cubs Den!

  • In reply to NoDoubtAboutIt:

    Those words mean a lot to me, NoDoubtAboutIt, and thank you. This place is bigger than any of us. There have been a couple times I've lost it and embarrassed myself, but nearly always to defend another Denizen or the integrity of this site. Let's keep it that way.

  • Since we're including our "Wish Lists", why not package a trade with the LA Angels for Andrelton Simmons and Shohei Ohtani. We could offer Schwarbs, Happ, Russell + ? and throw in some money so LA could go after the Mesa brothers and/or some FAs. Shohei Ohtani stated he regrets choosing the Angels and not researching more for ‘good major league baseball teams’. This trade would relieve LA Angels of a lot of money and allow them to go after some elite players to better their team in return.

  • fb_avatar

    I just read a few articles that the report of the Cubs offering KB 200mil+ is false. Now I'm curious if they really did. Not that it would matter much because Boras never extends. I would say it could effect Harper's decision, but he's a Boras client and he's not going to take a discount to play with his bestie. A few million less is the biggest discount he'll take. I believe the moves the FO makes this offseason will determine if Manny or Bryce sign with us. I know cash is king, but so are rings. Theo is very good at selling the Cubs future on FA's. Lester being the the best example.

  • In reply to Wrigley0923:

    I just read The Athletic article on KB and that subject. And it really brought home the fact that a healthy KB next year will go a long, long way to fixing our offense. The note the following:

    "It’s easy to forget just how good Bryant was to start the season. Through the season’s first 38 games, Bryant had a .311/.422/.595 slash line. He was walking at a 12.2 percent rate, striking out just 15.6 percent of the time and on pace for 60 doubles, 35 home runs, 120 runs scored and 99 RBIs."

    Yes, the production we got from Russell, Contreras, Schwarber, Happ, JHey was disappointing, if KB had kept that pace (which he easily could've done) I'm sure we would clinched the Division several days before 162.

  • In reply to TTP:

    See I just don't see Schwarber's production as being much of an issue if other things had gone right. He gave you 3.2 WAR in LF and the only guy in the NL that gave you significantly better WAR was Yelich and he's going to be the MVP. Plus he was still a 15% above league average run producer with an .823 OPS. The issue with Kyle is that unless he gets up to that next level, say .260/.390/.500 with about a 5 WAR there could be a better fit. He was hardly bad in 2018.

  • In reply to TC154:

    You're right, but I run so hot and cold on Schwabsy. I love him. After Javy, he's my next favorite. I desperately want him to not only be good, but to be GREAT. I've had such high hopes and exceptions. Maybe unreasonable expectations. So I think I'm disappointed with him only because I expected (and am still hoping for) Perennial All Star, Hall of Fame greatness as one of the great sluggers of all time.

  • Great write-up, Barley! Glad to see you will be a featured contributor.

  • In reply to Denizen Kane:

    Thanks, and your user name always brings a smile to my face.

  • Excellent post, BP! I'd say welcome to the Cubs Den team but it seems that you have been an integral part of Cubs Den for a long time now.

    I agree with most of what you wrote here. I would make an argument, however, that when the FO does its deep dive on the offense this year, they may find the collapse of the O in the 2nd half of the year was largely driven by fatigue/weariness of the young position players.

    The offense was actually elite-level before the All Star break. It wasn't until after the break that it leaked oil heavily.

    This offensive collapse was largely due to the four young'uns Almora, Happ, Schwarber, and Contreras. Looking at their OPS splits, here are their numbers for pre/post all star break.

    Almora - .795/.547 (yikes)
    Happ - .832/.653
    Contreras - .818/.585
    Schwarber - .873/.740

    Those are stark drop-offs. These guys were elite-level (or near) hitters in the first half and then (other than Schwarbs who was still near league average) "Cardinal'd" the bed after that. What happened?

    For Almora and Contreras, I believe you have to assume it was definitely fatigue. Both players had > 100 more ABs than their previous all-time high in the majors. I admit Contreras' drop off is surprising. But although he is a sturdy player, he is small for an MLB catcher, and I think he played too many games in the first half. Caratini should have played more.

    Regarding Happ, his dropoff was not as bad as the previous two. But he is probably more problematic. 1) His ABs this year were only ~20 more than last year. 2) He strikes out way too much and that has not improved over the last two years. This FO appeared to make him the Cubs' future Zobrist. He is actually the most versatile player on the team position-wise. He can play a decent CF, in addition to the corner spots, and also 2nd and 3rd, with more power and speed than the young Zo. The FO really, really wants him to succeed because of this. But the contact issues are a real problem.

    I added Schwarbs because he did drop off, although much less than the other 3. It's interesting to note that he had the same # of ABs last year. More reason to think that fatigue played a big role for AA and Contreras.

    I think in terms of a future with the team, only Happ looks like a possible outlier. He has trade value, with his versatility, power, speed, and of course youth, meaning that his ceiling is still pretty high. I love the guy, but he needs to improve his contact rate. If the final analysis is that there is question regarding that, then he may be included in a package to aquire a lead-off type hitter.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    Thanks, HefCA. I do disagree to an extent about the young guys being exhausted. I'd actually argue the other way, that some of the regression was due to a lack of consistent playing time or defined roles. What really hit me was Theo's comments that some players did not show up ready to play every day. I don't know what that means, but it will surely impact offseason decisions. Who was he talking about, and what does that mean?

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    They did not start regularly (the 4 young players I mentioned) in the first half of the season either, yet they all hit very well. So I'm not sure consistent playing time affected them that much, although may be a small factor.

  • Here's an out of the box trade proposal for you. Pick up the option on Quintana and then trade him along with Happ and Schwarber to Atlanta for Sean Newcomb and Ender Inciarte. it's not risk free as Inciarte had a down year (mostly just in terms of OBP he still was a 2.9 WAR player) but it does look like an outlier. Supposedly Harper is Atlanta's top FA target and they want to move Acuna to CF ASAP. If they do get Harper this trade gives them one hell of an OF and Quintana gives them a veteran lefty instead of a young lefty. Plus Schwarber gives them even more left handed power in addition to Harper. Plus then could use Russell at 2B, move Albies to SS like they want to and let Swanson play 3B until Austin Riley is ready. After that they can decide which of Swanson or Russell they want to keep as they're both underachievers. Since they have 7 55 plus grade pitching prospects all close Newcomb could be expendable for them. Gets us a starting CF, lets Almora be the 4th OF and gets us a younger lefty with more upside than Quintana for cost controlled dollars. Quintana is almost a waste as a fifth starter but Newcomb could be slotted there and has an upside of a number two. Plus Newcomb has five years of control and won't be arb eligible until 2021 which would free up some money to pick up Hamels option. Then you sign Machado and a LF and call it a day. Thoughts?

  • In reply to TC154:

    I like the idea of Newcomb and Inciarte a lot. I've always liked the thought of Inciarte at the top of our order. But I think Q, Happ & Schwarber would be too much. Would Q, Happ (or Schwarber) & a couple of minor leaguers, maybe a catcher like Higgins or Pereda and a guy like Eddy Martinez, be enough?? Not sure what Atlanta would want back to give up Newcomb, but if we could pull it off, that would be great

  • In reply to Cubpack:

    Might be too much. You could substitute Russell for Happ who would have some value but probably not enough to be traded on his own.

  • This was a really nice summative piece - easy to follow but thorough. Nicely done. I liked how you touched on the luxury tax component. That is interesting and shows the risk that the cubs take in chasing after these free agents even if they have a ton of money. I'd be interested reading another piece down the road that talks more about the luxury tax in detail.

    I do wonder what the cubs could get in return for Quintana. Given the demand for starting pitching in MLB these days and also given Quintana's contract, age, and being a lefty, I would think that he would be very valuable in a trade - possibly to acquire another starting pitcher, an elite starting pitching prospect(s), etc.

  • In reply to Bill Buckner #22:

    Thank you. That's actually the next thing I'm working on. We do have money and much more is on the way. But there are penalties involved with spending too much. I couldn't get too deep here, but I will take a big-picture look at where we go and what it all means very soon.

  • Thanks, ya'll, but it's been a long day. I need to get back to work, or go to bed, or get another beer. Who knows? I'm actually going to spend this night turning under a summer garden, preparing for next year and jamming Metallica while singing eulogies to my departed food-producing friends.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    One more kudos before your next beer. This was a great piece. I've always enjoyed reading your posts and musical references. Like you, I love my Cubs, barley (almost reached a thousand different flavors on my beer app, UnTapped) and Rock & Roll. I'm looking forward to reading many more of your articles. Thanks

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to BarleyPop:

    Thanks again for a very entertaining day--and informative too. So many people know so much that I learn a lot each thread.
    BP, I love the lyrics you include but wonder if sometimes you can give us the artist so we can look up more songs. I recognize some but not many.
    The first of many days with you as a Cubs Den writer. Congrats once more.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    That's an interesting point, Jonathan. I've always tried to stay just enough off the edge of the envelope to not be obvious. "I want to hold your hand" or "she's buying a stairway to heaven" are too obvious. The curiosity is part of the game to me, and I think makes it a bit more fun when you "get it". Either way all I'm trying to do is honor those who wrote here before and give a nod to the creativity that John encouraged. If you are ever stumped you can simply type the lyric into Google and you'll get an answer.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Going forward, I might start to include links, but my dumb ass has to learn how. For now, as an example, you can just type "YouTube Schism" into Google and it will take you to a recording with lyrics.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    And while you're there, check out "Aenema", but you didn't hear that from me. Make sure the kids can't hear the words or read the lyrics on your monitor. That's one of my favorites, but definitely adults-only.

    "Learn to swim."

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to BarleyPop:

    Thanks. I know to google but being a sometimes lazy person it’s easier to read it. But to look them up might be like looking up things in the encyclopedia when I was young— one thing led to another and then another and I was hooked.
    I know many probably know this but Chili Davis was let go tonight.

  • Choosing between Harper and Machado, I like Bryce. I'm a sucker for left hand power and we have Baez and Bryant from the right side already. I guess one more wouldn't hurt, but Schwarbs has disappointed and I have tired of watching Happ strike out.

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    In reply to 44slug:

    If Schwarber can become more patient in his approach at the plate this discussion would be moot. His obp & BBs speak volumes. He's been pressing and swinging at way too many pitches out of the zone. If he can go back to making pitchers make pitches in his zone, he would be an elite hitter. But from what Theo said, I think he's their best trade chip.

  • I think meekes and/or steele and depending on what trades are made alzolay will be legitimate bullpen options next season.Only fa I would sign is britton for the bullpen.I don't trust andrew millers health he may be declining,2018 wasn't a good year for him.He's not the same as he was 2016 don't know if it was a down year because of injuries or overall decline, too risky to find out unless it's a low risk incentive heavy type deal.

  • Excellent piece, BP. You set yourself a high bar, that I have no doubt you’ll exceed.

    It’s no surprise that you are the latest in a long line of Denizens to move into features (and deservedly so). We haven’t always seen eye to eye (and admittedly, I regret some things I’ve posted), but I hope we can both agree that we have a mutual passion for Cubs Den and what it means to long time readers.
    The hotstove and MiLBcoverage are the bread and butter.
    I have an honest question, does Jason Heyward have a limited no trade clause this offseason? He has an opt out, but I have heard both, as far as ‘limited no trade clause’.
    Roster Resource has nothing:
    https://www.rosterresource.com/mlb-chicago-cubs-info/

    And links to MLB trade rumors, which is ambiguous:
    https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2015/12/cubs-sign-jason-heyward.html

    Stating:
    Heyward receives full no-trade protection from 2016-18 and limited no-trade protection in 2019-20, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. (Heyward will have 10-and-5 rights after that point, assuming he remains with the Cubs.) Heyman also reports that Heyward receives a $20MM signing bonus that is fully deferred, adding that the he’ll earn $15MM in 2016, $21.5MM in 2017-18, $20MM in 2019, $21MM in 2020-21 and $22MM in 2022-23 (links to Twitter).

    Heyward can opt out after the 2018 season, and, if he chooses not to do so, will trigger a second opt-out clause following the 2019 season by reaching 550 plate appearances in 2019, Heyman adds.

    2020 his 10-5 rights kick in, which is in itself, a limited no trade clause.

    I’ve gone on record saying, the first chance to trade JH, do it.
    I’m so confused.....

  • I think it’s confirmed, straight from a horses mouth, once Heyward refuses his opt out this offseason, the Cubs limited trade clause kicks in, thru the end of the 2020 season. Then his 10-5 rights kick in.

  • I also believe if he opts out or is traded he gets his $20M signing bonus right away.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Yes, he has a ‘fully deferred’ 20m signing bonus, whatever that means....
    These contracts now are above my pay grade.

    Bruce Sutter, of all people, got a contract that Boros couldn’t even imagine:

    https://tomahawktake.com/2015/07/04/atlanta-braves-morning-chop-a-bad-contract-still-being-paid/3/

  • Thanks for the kind words. The next piece I would like to do is about all of that. Harper and/or Machado are easy when it isn't our money, but would have a massive impact on the future of the organization. What is the future of the organization? Do we go all-in with the realization of a rebuild, or try to maintain sustainable success? I'll try to figure it out, or at least give us something to talk about.

  • Chili Davis has been launched

  • In reply to TC154:

    He's being scapegoated but I also understand why it had to happen. Now it's on theo and co to hire/promote a hitting coach that can get better production or they need to look in the mirror at their picks.

  • In reply to bolla:

    I don't think he's being scapegoated. I think he was the wrong fit. They wanted a guy that preached more contact than Mallee did but I don't think they expected launch angle to go out the window. The lack of power was real. There are quite a few guys out there who could do both.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Dismissing 2 hitting coaches in 2 years when the cubs were top 5 in most offensive statistical categories both years says scapegoat to me. Theo should start moving some players, the same ones he acquired and drafted like heyward,happ,schwarber,almora,russell. Can't blame the hitting coach when these guys are underwhelming or flat out can't hit and the cubs for 3 consecutive seasons have struggled with situational hitting and with risp.

    I understand why davis took the fall because that 2nd half slump is the reason why the cubs are at home right now.Somebody had to take the blame, like the saying goes.Life aint fair

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    In reply to bolla:

    Ding Ding Ding.

    I am not saying Chilli was a great hitting coach or did an excellent job here, but I believe in Theo and company and they will more likely not lie unless they have to. Politics be damned.

    Anyway, last yr Theo said that Mallee was a great hitting coach and would never have even been let go if the best didn't become available..... The best being Chilli Davis. I find it hard to believe he just forgot how to teach hitting coming to Chicago.

    This is why I believe exactly what Bolla said and he had to be scapegoated. They couldn't fire Joe or something drastic like that, but someone had to be deemed "responsible" . You think Theo was going to blame himself and his mgmt team publicly for his choices in coaches and players? Regardless he shouldn't have to as he's done way more on the good side of the column then the bad side.

    I just think some of these players that they overrated and are not advancing the way they planned need to be moved on from. Sometimes a spade is a spade.

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    Yup and it makes me sick to my stomach watching gleyber torres on the yankees while schwarber is still here drawing walks and hitting his one hr every 2 weeks in between several k's.

  • In reply to bolla:

    I know you don't like Schwarber and "blame him" because the FO traded Torres 2+ years ago. However, even as bad as you paint Schwarber, he had a better overall offensive season than Torres. I watch a ton of Yankees games (wife and daughter are big fans), and while Torres is an exciting talent, after a torrid April and May, he dropped off offensively. After the ASB, his batting line was 249/329/404/733 with 15 XBH and 35 RBI's. Like all young players, it will be interesting to see how Torres improves and adjusts to a league that has adjusted to him.

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    Torres had higher war his rookie season than schwarber ever had, more rbi's, higher ba and hit 24 hr's as a rookie ops .820 schwarber career high ops is .823.He can also play 2b and ss and is like a mini baez in the field.He may have tailed off but I'll take this kid anyday of the week over kyle schwarber. Theo's moves (heyward,trading torres and jimenez) add darvish and walkwood have really handcuffed the cubs imo. The astros are what the cubs were supposed to be, and they still have elite prospects and hit on their trades like verlander and cole.

  • In reply to bolla:

    In short the players just didn't buy in to what he was teaching and these kids aren't stupid in my eyes we don't have a difficult group of characters to work with also it's not like trying to work with Jimmy butler with what's going on with the minnesota twolves. I don't think it's an accident that Red sox owner john henry said the biggest move they made was replacing davis I'm sure his opinion was derived from negative feedback by his players as well. On one hand I agree with you that at some spots we simply need to acquire some upgrades to be 1st tier contenders but on the other hand Theo made a mistake hiring Davis he isn't perfect hopefully we get the right guy this time

  • In reply to bolla:

    I could not agree more with this assessment. Situational hitting has been pathetic. I wish it was as easy as "hey, go watch Rizzo choke up and try to spray to all fields with 2 strikes". If the Astros young guys can continue forward, I am clueless why the ours have generally gone backwards since 2016.

  • In reply to bolla:

    Bolla I'm pasting a message I wrote to wait til next year on chili davis: My source close to Contreras told me in late July/August that Chili Davis maybe fired this offseason even before our sustained offensive struggles a lot of the cubs hitters didn't like working with him for whatever reason I guess he's a very opinionated individual that many players felt tried too hard to alter their approach and change who they were as hitters.

    "Either way there's clearly a trend here with Davis and his teams seeing drastic declines in home runs and increases in ground balls this guy clearly doesn't specialize in teaching launch angle and I absolutely think Davis is in part to blame for Addison Russell and Contreras struggles they looked like different hitters this season. No question some of it is just the front office putting too much stock in their young OF's but still I've been saying Davis is still part of the problem and not the solution the team had the worst offensive half this group has ever had. Theo made a mistake hiring him the results with the red sox and cubs this year speak for themselves and it's on Theo to correct that mistake now.

    And for those of you that are interested my cubs insider source that's in Contreras close circle also told me in July that by midseason many of the players didn't want to work with Davis they felt he tried to do too much to alter their approach and change who they were as hitters. Many of the hitters including Jason Heyward who Davis is given credit for worked moreso individually with many of our assistant hitting coaches because they felt a better one on one chemistry learning from them then Davis. This isn't something Theo would ever admit but looks like a lot of the players didn't buy into Davis teachings."

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to TC154:

    I think they wanted a balance between Chili's & Mallee's approach and it just didn't work with most of the players. Now the question is "Who do they hire?"

    Besides hitting coach, I really think they should bring back Ross as bench coach or assistant manager. He'll make a big difference with the teams intensity, Contreras making a step forward, and helping Joe with in game strategy. Martinez helped Joe with in game strategy, but I believe Ross can help with that plus other deficiencies with the team.

  • In reply to bolla:

    You say Davis is "being scapegoated" in one sentence and mention the need for a coach "that can get better production" in the next. Sure, it's always on the player to produce, but people paid to manage / coach them are responsible to see that they do. It's probably a combination, but I'm not shedding any tears for Chili Davis tonight.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    No,I'm saying malle was let go then the cubs hired davis to improve hitting to all fields and 2 strike approach.Then after the 2nd half slump davis was let go now the onus is on theo to hire someone who will make the cubs offense productive at a satisfactory level because technically the cubs have been a top 5 offense in mlb the last few years .It's not davis fault schwarber habitually watches strike 3 go down the heart of the plate,or that happ struck out 167 times or that almora was awful in the 2nd half.The cubs hit 58 less hr's this season compared to 2017 that was the real issue, and bryant missing time with the shoulder and not hitting for power when he returned had a lot to do with that along with contreras regression offensively.

    check this out:

    Cubs team wRC+ in 2017: 101.

    Cubs team wRC+ in 2018: 100.

    47.5% GB in 2018, 46.6 in 2017.

    Weak contact %: 4.2 in 2018, 6.3 in 2017.

    87.8 MPH exit velocity in 2018, 86.5 in 2017.

    the cubs were 4th in mlb in ba,4th in mlb in on base%,9th in runs,10th in ops and 13th in k's after being 4th in k's last season

    Davis is being scapegoated theo's picks/acquisitions aren't as good as he thought/hoped.

  • In reply to bolla:

    My bad, the cubs were 10th in strikeouts in 2017 and 13th in strikeouts in 2018. Slightly less

  • I'd like to see them take a look at what Houston is doing as far as hitting. They preach launch angle and contact. Dave Hudgens may not want to leave there but his former assistant Alonzo Powell is in SF and might want to move to a contender. Jeff Albert is another guy they could look at it. His current gig is "second hitting coach" in Houston to Hudgens but he was the minor league hitting coordinator from 2014-2017 as all there talent was coming up.

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    In reply to TC154:

    I like your choices.

  • Players in exit interviews said davis approach altered their swings and "the feedback was too strong to ignore", yet in the 1st half the cubs had the best offense in the nl except for hr's. He's definitely being scapegoated.It's not chili davis's fault that some of these hitters drafted by this fo arent that good and severely regressed.Baez was a hendry/wilkins pick, so besides bryant what hitter drafted by this fo has been worth anything? Can't point fingers at everyone else,look in the mirror.

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    In reply to bolla:

    Well, technically they drafted Rizzo while they were in Boston, but your point still stands.

  • In reply to John Winter:

    I know but I was just talking about cubs hitters drafted since 2012.

    and I'm not questioning theo's track record I mean his crew drafted several good players like rizzo,betts,pederoia,ellsbury ,lowrie signed bogearts to name a few, all with the red sox. His cubs picks haven't been as good so far with bryant being the exception.

  • In reply to bolla:

    Do you have a source for the player exit interview comment? I'd like to see more about that.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    https://twitter.com/dan_bernstein/status/1050534393444478977

  • In reply to bolla:

    Thanks. I'm not a "tweeter" so I'm late to the party at times...

  • In reply to bolla:

    I think that in the first half the Davis approach was helping with some guys. Don't always go swinging at the first pitch, take the walk as opposed to a bad pitch. As the season went on some of these guys were frustrated by the lack of power and began pressing. Y'all know I'm statistically oriented but I didn't need metrics to tell me they weren't hitting HR in key situations. It was painful. How many times did you think "If player X would just hit a HR here we'll be up 3-0" and then they wet the bed. A lot of that was approach. They had learned to be very patient but as scouting caught up with them that was turned against them and taking that first pitch became going down 0-1 and looking fro ball 4 became strike three with someone standing there with the bat on their shoulder. I think those are things directly tied to the hitting coach. That said those things weren't Davis' intention, so I don't like the blame game about positional coaches as a zero sum thing, but they ended up accumulating to the net effect.

    Then you get to the numbers. The Cubs hit a full 25% HR in 2018 as opposed to 2017. Now, they hit more HR in 2017 than 2016 which was seen as a sign of leaning on the HR too much but this was an overcorrection. In overall SLG they posted .437 in 2017 and .410 in 2018 which was a 6.5% drop. The net result was that they scored nearly 8% less runs. As I mentioned I think Schwarber benefitted the most from Davis' approach learning that he didn't need that uppercut swing to hit for power and that it would come naturally. As a result the BA rose and the K's dropped and at first the HR was only marginally down. In June his K rate was down to 24%, his OPS hovered in the .860 range with a wRC+ of about 130. Then he started trying to sell out for the HR. He ended up hitting a few more but his total was still down by 4 from 2017 and his BA dropped and his K rate rose. Kyle still had a good season with a good if not great 115 wRC+ and .823 OPS which is why I say that Davis had a net positive effect, but I also think that the pressing and his habit late of going for either a walk or a HR did hurt him. He tuned Davis out and it was obvious. In an oversimplification I would say that Davis' approach helped Schwarber, Heyward and frankly David Bote but hurt everyone else to various degrees. It looked to me like Rizzo stopped listening in June, went back to that uppercut in spots, started being agressive on first pitch and his numbers went back to closer to his career norms with 144 wRC+ and .919 OPS.

    In summary I can see the some negative effects of Davis' approach in both the eye test and the numbers. The FO exit interviews overwhelmingly pointed to dissatisfaction with Davis. Nothing is all anyone's fault, but I think to say he was "scapegoated" is dead wrong. Did Theo overestimate some of his talent? Maybe. Basically in that argument you're talking about the underachievers of Contreras, Russell and Happ. I don't think anyone believes that that good swing and solid, but aggressive approach, of Willson are gone forever. Young players have down years often right about the time Willie did, but maybe he'd benefit from a different voice. Happ has had 500 PA in the big leagues, we have no idea what he is yet but he should be a better hitter. The idea of another hitting coach for him right now, before the bad habits solidify, is not a bad thought. As for Russell, I think that whole thing is too complex to figure out. It's possible that where Theo misjudged on him the most was character and mindset. He's not going to be here anymore so I'm not focusing in on that too much. Bottom line for me is that while replacing Davis might not be the be all end all for this team, I think we all know they need to tweak the mix of types of hitters, it was a pretty obvious decision to make and IMO in no way a knee jerk reaction.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I agree.I do think they were pressing especially in the 2nd half.Great post

    I'm highly anticipating this off season because changes definitely gonna come and it will be justified.

  • In reply to bolla:

    nice opinion

  • Some great discussion about the off-season. Will be exciting. Changes are needed and the hitting coach was a good start. Pitch selection, however, must be emphasized just as much as launch angle. It will only make Javy and others even better. The bullpen needs updating and a Machado signing to me makes the most sense. I would expect Schwarber, Caratini, and Russell would be part of the changes.

  • I can’t help but think, they were on the right track. And this may lead to Major changes. Baseball is a game of adjustments, not to mention the dead ball is back. Pitchers are already making changes, leaning 4 seamers and off-spead.
    Schwarber is a perfect example, he refused to go outside his zone and got rung up consistently in big situations. A guy who has power to all fields, maybe should watch Rizzo video.....Speaking of, take out Bryant’s injuries and Rizzo’s (Happ and Schwarber regressed; Wilson, just wore out; AA, who knows?). Heyward, may even be tradable, certainly at a loss, but Chili should get an extension for even that being a single possibility.....

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    I wish everyone would look at Rizzo’s approach. Hereyou have a power hitter who is willing to choke up on the bat with 2 strikes who is willing to do anything to get on base or even bunt on the other side of the shift. Why don’t others follow him? Also, teaching hitters to go the other way or hit the ball where it’s pitched and not try to pull the ball is smart baseball. These aren’t off the wall ideas. Follow them and it’s high OBP and run producing baseball.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I love Rizzo's approach, but I'm not sure that's what they are teaching anymore. The focus now is home runs, even if it means high strikeout rates. Kids learn to hit the long ball and are encouraged to keep doing it through HS and college. Personally, I'd love to see the HR Derby replaced with some sort of hitting contest that emphasizes bat control, hitting to all fields, etc.

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    In reply to Cliff1969:

    They should have a skills contest like hockey and baseball. Hit to each field, along the lines, maybe some others too. It's not just the long ball, it's about runs scored and that entails getting on base.
    I've said before that one year Fergie lost 5 1-0 games because the Cubs couldn't score any runs. He was also among the leaders in giving up HR every year but still won almost 300 games with an ERA of 3.34 because he hardly walked anyone--997 in 4500 innings. That's pitching.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Ahhh, Ferguson Jenkins vs. Bob Gibson, Cubs & Cards, Wrigley field and sunshine. What memories!

  • Some thoughts building on others comments

    1) seems that in 2018, cubs did not develop any young minor league pitchers as major league capable so would advocate that cubs needs to keep 1-2 roster positions open for this long term and upside goal. Thus I would recommend not signing Hamel for $20M as need this roster spot and have many starters. Same for Chavez and any other free agent relief pitchers...keep roster spot open for best of Maples, Mekkes, Steele, Rosario, etc
    2) non tender or trade LaStella. Do not need his left bat nor his 3B& 2B as have Happ. Retain Happ as Need for 2020 when Zobrist is no longer on roster. Use LaStella roster spot for free agent position player signing or trade. I favor a right hand hitting outfielder as have Schwarber, Heyward, Zobrist and Happ as leftie outfield hitters
    3) I expect cubs to retain Russell for 2019...maybe a trade in 2019/20 offseason but not before then. Possibly Russell will surprise by growing up and getting his head focused on baseball in 2019. Use Baez at short (can Bote be used at SS every 4 day to rest Baez?)until Russell off suspension Maybe Hoerner shows upside in 2019 to compete for SS position in 2020

  • 1) I'm not sure it makes sense for a team in contention to sacrifice starting pitching depth to open a roster spot for a prospect.
    2) Happ may have more value as a trade chip than he does by retaining him, unless a new hitting coach can drastically cut down on his strikeouts.
    3) I don't think Russell plays another game in a Cubs uniform, but who knows?

  • Lots of questions on the Cubs roster but the Cubs Den's new addition is great. Nice job BP. Looking forward to your future columns.

    A few thoughts... I'd hate to see any of them Happ, Almora, and Schwarber go but I think lack of playing time is really hurting them. I still like Swharber best because of his upside but honestly that's why I'm guessing he's going - You probably get more for him in a trade than either of the other guys.

    As far as Chilli goes, I don't think he's as much a scapegoat than he was a bad fit. He may have the message the front office wanted but delivered it in a way that bothered players. Those awful second half splits make sense to me. It could be that he was actually helpful to players in the first half but rubbed guys the wrong way resulting in them eventually tuning him out completely.

  • I think I want to change my screen name to WaitUntilTheYearAfterNextYear, just to add to all the confusion.

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    There's actually a story behind the screen name. Back in 2014 my brother brought my nephew who was born earlier that year in California to Chicago for a visit. I got to hold him for a bit so my sister in law could eat dinner and started talking to him about how there was hope for the Cubs with all their prospects. I rambled on for about 20 minutes and my brother took out his phone and caught a few minutes on video. The last words were "Wait 'till the year after next year".... my nephew is the now a huge Cub fan who saw Arrierra's LA no hitter in person and called me over the phone (with my brother's assistance) in 2016, the year after next year.

  • Those kinds of stories are the best!

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    I agree, and one of the ideas I've had for some of the down time during the offseason is to wax nostalgic. Every team has it's own fan base and history, but I think the Cubs are unique in that sense, as are us long-suffering (is that still applicable?) fans. I know I can tell a story or two, and love hearing others that connect us all.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I'm going to apologize to Kevin Bass, hint, hint, for what I did in 1989.

  • That's a cool story man! Thanks for sharing...

  • Possible (??) trades with Yankees
    1) Chatwood for sonny gray
    2) Russell for Gregorius

  • In reply to 1147wenonah:

    the yankees aren't trading gregerious for russell. Gregerious is a very good player.Russell sucks and walkwood is one of the only starters in mlb who was worse than sonny gray last season. Neither trade makes sense for new york, gray for russell makes more sense

  • In reply to 1147wenonah:

    1) Chatwood for Luis Severino
    2) Russell for Aaron Judge

    If you're going to dream dream bigger.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    The Cubs would need to throw in La Stella for Judge.

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    I admire Milw in the way they play but the only reason I don’t want them to win is Ryan Braun. They keep getting key hits and great pitching and remind me of our 2016 Cubs. When we needed a hit we got it. I am conveniently forgetting all the times we complained that year of our lack of hitting with RISP.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I'm not a fan of Braun either but I do admit seeing them playing in the NLCS and generally showing they can match up with the Dodgers does make me feel a little better like maybe the Cubs weren't as bad as we thought and just maybe we need to tip our hats to the Brewers and I think although they're gonna be a major threat to us moving forward I also think we faced a lot more adversity than them this season and I'm looking forward to the offseason

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    Boo? I don't know what to think. Are they good or are we bad? There is no question they are on an unbelievable run. Hat tip to them. As much as it pains me to say it, Yelich took MVP honors from Javy. Javy didn't lose it, he was worn down and tired from carrying the team on his back, and hurt. He played through a lot of pain. But again, Yelich performed. He took it. We'll see how it plays out next year.

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    Yelich earned it in Sept. He had an OPS of 1.307. I believe up until then it was Javy's and in Sept his OPS was .802. He had 13 RBI and Yelich had 33. When Milw needed him he came through. Still, Javy had a great year and he's only 25 and one of the core's core.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    You're preaching to the choir with me. I believe Javy has another level, one that takes him to true "unicorn" status. He is truly the most naturally gifted player I have ever seen. I also think his stable home life, and new child, may ground him even more, and motivate him further. What else can we say? "El Freakin' Mago!".

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    How about Javyhoudini?

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    That works. We're saying the same thing, which is laughing at all the doubters who said "this is what he is". I've always thought BTO said it best: "You ain't seen nothin' yet.".

    "You need educatin'.
    You got to go to school."

    Javy is nowhere near done. He is probably the most talented ballplayer I have ever seen, and he is just now getting a full grasp on his abilities. He wants to be better, in fact he wants to be the best, and will soon prove it.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I'm trying to dispel my own hyperbole at this point. Trout is better. Ain't no way he can fly around the middle infield like Javy does, but his bat and approach makes that a mute point. Trout is obviously better, but we're talking a historical talent there. I'm seriously thinking of who I can remember who had more natural talent than Javy. Griffey, Jr.? Nah. Bonds? His later years made me nullify his whole career. I know I'm big on Javy and people make fun of me because of it, but I believe. This dude is amazing, and I always go back to what I said in 2014, when the baseball world was echoing each other while seeing nothing but his strike-out numbers on their collective computer screens: have you ever seen this kid play baseball? He is amazing.

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    There have been way better hitters than Javy, better handlers of the bat
    (Rod Carew was a master) and faster of course but when he’s playing there is no one I’d rather see. The plays he makes defensively, the base running when the ball is in play—he seems to know where the ball is, who’s going to get it, the arm strength and accuracy is off the charts. His tagging ability and his baseball IQ is unmatched. I want to see him on the field, at bat and on the bases.
    He is exactly why you don’t trade young talent who struggle for a year or two.

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    In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    He’s like the 1985 Bears—I loved seeing them on defense (the best I’ve ever seen) and then seeing them on offense with McMahon and Walter and Gault—must see TV.

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