Taking Stock and Looking Forward: The Infield

javierbaezworldseriesclevelandindiansvbgtnyzn74alFor long-time Cubs fans the promise of a 95-win season and a spot in the postseason, any shot at October baseball, would have been welcomed with open arms. We'd have a magical season or two that would pop up and reinforce our false beliefs that we were an actual MLB team, but those oddities were interspersed within years, even decades, of complete futility. How does a team with Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, and Ron Santo anchoring the order never even win a division? Times have changed, and we can now play with the big boys as we have competent ownership and management. I've heard some Cubs fans say it's easier and less stressful rooting for a loser because there are no expectations to fall short of and break your heart. I'm not in that camp. Give me more!

This team has been painstakingly built to make a deep postseason run year in and year out, and the fanbase has the scars from the rebuilding years to prove it. I'm fully on board with Theo when he says that rather than celebrating a 95-win season we should be pissed about giving away a division title that should have been ours. There's plenty of blame to go around: injuries, under-performance, and questionable coaching. But there is no denying the reason the Cubs didn't run away from the division and deep into October was a massive offensive freefall in the season's second half. Theo had this to say the day after the Wild-Card loss to Colorado:

"We had those three games - Saturday, Monday and Tuesday - where if we win one of those games, we're still playing. In each of those games, we scored 1 run with a handful of hits. Unfortunately that was foretold a little bit by the nature of what happened to our offense in the second half.

"That's unacceptable. We have to learn from it and we have to get better. What's the cause of it? What are the contributing causes? We have some ideas, but that's why we're doing all these exit interviews. ... We just have to figure it out.

"I've never been part of something like this offensively and I never want to be again. We have to be an offensive force. We should be with the talent on our roster, but it's probably time to stop evaluating this in terms of talent and start evaluating in terms of production. We need to do everything we can to produce offensively."

Odds are we could carry this team, as is, into next season and win the Central, and maybe more. A different hitting approach, fully healthy seasons from key contributors, and the natural progression of young, talented players would probably be enough to enter 2019 with a very competitive team. But I don't think the FO is going to settle for that. I'm thinking more and more that, with many of the young core set to hit free agency following the 2021 season and Theo's current contract expiring at the same time, we're going to put the pedal to the floor and make some moves to maximize our chances of another Championship or two before then. I'd be surprised if we don't.

WHO'S HERE:

Javier Baez

Javier Baez

When I dug into the numbers while researching the outfielders, the downward spiral of the second half became so overwhelming I had to take a beer break (as if I ever need an excuse). While the performances of the infielders wasn't quite as bleak, the unit does present its own unique headaches, both literally and figuratively. Collectively, however, the boys around the diamond represent the team's star power, and any group that includes El Mago inspires me to pop a cold one in celebration.

The IF is anchored by the heart and soul of the team, a Gold Glove first-baseman who's excellence on the field is perhaps only overshadowed by his humanitarian work off of it. The hot corner is currently manned by a player with the talent and drive to be worthy of the lofty praise "generational talent", and roaming the middle is an entity known within baseball circles as a "unicorn". That's some serious talent, capable of 100+ HR's and 300+ RBI between the trio, but that's only three bodies for four positions. Questions remain on how to fill in the fourth spot, as internal options consist of a player who may or may not be with the team come spring, guys who are needed in the OF, and role-players who aren't ready for a full-time gig by way of inexperience and/or a lack of ability. This is another area where we may add an impactful player from outside the organization.

Zobrist and Happ will take their turns in the IF, at both 2B and 3B, but should see the majority of their playing time in the OF, so I've already profiled them there. I'm not sure if catchers are technically infielders but I'll do them here rather than in a separate category or awkwardly lumping them in with the starting rotation, which is on deck as the final edition of this series.

ANTHONY RIZZO: .283/.376/.470 25HR 101RBI 74R wRC+125 fWAR 2.9

There really isn't a whole lot to break down on the big guy. He's been a model of consistency in his time with the Cubs, and you can basically count on 150+ games and a slash line of around .285/.380/.510 with 30+ HR and 100+ RBI. The aberration in 2018, both for him personally and the team as a whole, was that Rizzo had a sub-par first half and a monster second half. A balky back may have had an influence on a line of .246/.341/.407 with a wRC+ of 101 before the break, but he rebounded nicely, slashing .329/.420/.550 and a wRC+ of 157 the rest of the way. Throw in multiple Gold Gloves and leadership and character beyond reproach and I see him as a strong candidate for a "career contract". Enough said.

EDNEL JAVIER "EL MAGO" BAEZ: .290/.326/.554 34HR 111RBI 101R wRC+131 fWAR 5.3

What else can I say about El Mago? He possesses possibly the greatest collection of tools I've ever seen in a ballplayer, and he finally put it all together in his MVP runner-up 2018 season. The offensive explosion is only part of the package with The Magician, as his defense all over the dirt, daring base-running, lightning fast tags, and overall baseball intelligence and instincts often make it appear as if he's playing against inferior talent. Which is technically true.

Javy took a huge step forward at the plate in 2018, with the very simple explanation that he began punishing the baseball. He has a saying of how he hits the ball, "HAM!", that I won't decipher in this family forum, but it means hard as heck. He demolished previous career highs with 34 HR, 40 doubles, and nine triples.He worked the entire field, which is the main thing I noticed throughout the year. He used to begin his swing too early, allowing him to pull the fastest of heaters but leaving him way out in front of off-speed pitches. I saw him delay the start of his swing just a touch, driving those fast balls the other way and staying back enough to pull the slow stuff rather than flailing away. There is still work to be done in that department, but I take that as a good thing as there is still room for improvement.

I've been aboard the Javy train for years, since I first began watching him play. The tools, man, the tools are amazing. I've argued with people who said he would only be a part-time role player, saying "this is who he is." I've disagreed with their opinion of him when they realized he may be an everyday, glove-first contributor, insisting "this is who he is." Nope. But after witnessing the glory of his 2018 season I'll finally agree: "THIS is who he is."

KRIS BRYANT: .272/.374/.460 13HR 52RBI 59R wRC+125 fWAR 2.3

KB was on a path to baseball immortality, steadily collecting awards and accolades every step of the way, until injuries took a (hopefully brief) toll in 2018. He was hit in the head with a fastball in a scary incident in Colorado on April 22, and injured his shoulder sliding into a base in late May, an issue that lingered for the remainder of the season, sapping his power and forcing him into altering his swing. It appears no surgery will be necessary, with hopes that rest and rehab will suffice.

He pulled the ball more than usual (48.1%) than any other point of his career in 2018, connecting with more soft contact (18.9%) and less hard contact (31.2%) than usual, but I'm hesitant to put too much stock into those numbers due to the shoulder injury and swing alterations. He had a solid first-half, slashing .280/.384/.482 with a wRC+ of 133 before falling to .252/.347/.402 and 105 wRC+ after the break, but again I would attribute that more to the injury than any club-wide calamity or coaching shenanigans from Chili.

Bryant is beyond a baseball rat, I refer to him as a baseball robot, and I'm sure he will work tirelessly to return to health and productivity. The Cubs will look to add an impactful, consistent piece to the offense. Bryant's versatility allows us multiple options, as he can remain at 3B if we decide to add an OF bat or he can slide into a COF spot if we decide to go big by adding a bat to the left side of the diamond. Whatever the case, I expect a return to form and they continued march towards Cooperstown.

ADDISON RUSSELL: .250/.317/.340 5HR 38RBI 52R wRC+80 fWAR 1.4

Perhaps we should go back to that slick salesman who sold us Barry Larkin and demand a refund. Russell is as smooth as they come at SS and only a lack of superior arm strength keeps him from being among the game's elite. But the offensive production is dropping annually, and he has yet to post even a league-average 100 wRC+ in his four seasons in Chicago, cratering to a wRC+ of 80 and failing to OPS .700 in 2018. I could break down the reasons why, but there's really no need to, because...

The offensive woes are the least of his concerns. He is in the midst of a 40-game DV suspension which runs until May 3rd of 2019, and his future with the Cubs is as clear as a misty morning in the Great Smoky Mountains. He is undergoing mandated counseling and I believe the Cubs are sincere in wanting to help the young man to straighten his life out, but I was also disappointed in Theo's statement that he only knows Russell in a "baseball context". I'm nobody and I've witnessed things firsthand, so there's no way the FO wasn't aware of his love of the nightlife. Granted, I was as lit as he was in the wee hours of the morning, but I wasn't starting at SS for the Cubs in 10 hours.

Russell is projected to earn $4.3M in his first year of arbitration. While the Cubs care about his rehabilitation, there is also baseball value to consider. Getting something of value in return would be nice if they decide to deal him, or they could simply cut bait by not offering a contract by the Nov. 30 non-tender deadline. My guess is, one way or another, he's gone.

DAVID BOTE: .239/.319/.408 6HR 33 RBI 23R wRC+95 fWAR 1.0

Bote  snuck up on all but hardcore baseball fans in 2018, making his debut April 21st for the Cubs. During his time with the big club he certainly had a flair for the dramatic, setting up Rizzo's walk-off bomb against the Diamondbacks on July 26 with a game-tying shot of his own, and hitting one of the most dramatic home runs in baseball history, a two-out, two-strike PH GS to erase a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the 9th vs. Washington on August 12.

Bote has always hit the ball very hard, and adopted the launch-angle approach with his swing at the request of Cubs' development staff after several years of toiling away in A-ball. The power is legit, as is his defensive ability at multiple positions. The Cubs have an opening in the IF, but I'm not sure if Bote is ready for a full-time position just yet, but he is definitely a useful and versatile piece to keep around.

TOMMY LASTELLA: .266/.340/.331 1HR 19RBI 23R wRC+86 fWAR 0.2

Affectionately known as 3AM for his ability to roll out of bed and hit a baseball, LaStella has carved himself a niche role as a pinch hitter. His overall offensive numbers dipped across the board in 2018, but the numbers as a pinch-hitter remain strong. He set a Cubs single-season record for pinch hits in 2018 with 24, besting the previous Cubs mark of 20 set by Thad Bosley in 1985 and matched by Dave Clark in 1997.

Tommy is projected to receive around $1M in arbitration and would be a welcome addition to many teams, but the uncertainty surrounding his desire to continue his career anywhere but with the Cubs puts a huge question mark on his trade value.

WILLSON CONTRERAS: .249/.339/.390 10HR 54RBI 50R wRC+100 fWAR 2.6

Contreras had a down year offensively in 2018, but the entirety of his game was still able to produce a very respectable 2.6 fWAR. He is excellent behind the plate with a cannon for an arm that has become a weapon, not only in gunning down potential base-stealers, but also in keeping runners honest with frequent back-pick throws to the occupied base. His pitch- framing leaves a lot to be desired, but he works tirelessly to improve his craft.

Willson's offensive numbers suffered largely in the power department, as his home run total fell from 21 in 2017 to 10 in 2018. He even hit 12 home runs in 2016 in 261 fewer PA"s. His GB/LD/FB  rates stayed about the same, but he began hitting the ball the opposite way more often, and saw a 6.6% decrease in his hard-hit rate and a 5.5% increase in soft contact over 2017. Part of this could be attributed to the teachings of Chili, but I think the heavy workload was more of a factor. He appeared in 133 games behind the plate in 2018, starting 123, and his 1109.2 innings behind the dish let all backstops by a wide margin.

Contreras is establishing himself as one of baseball's elite catchers. I firmly believe we need to sign a quality, veteran backup to ease the load and mentor him in the finer points of the game. On that front, it has been announced that David Ross will take a more hands-on role on the field for the Cubs in 2019, and I'm looking forward to his renewed interactions with our young catcher.

VICTOR CARATINI: .232/.293/.304 2HR 21RBI 21R wRC+65 fWAR 0.0

Caratini began 2018, somewhat surprisingly, with the big club as the backup to Contreras. He was optioned back to Iowa in late May, as a clause in Chris Gimenez's contract forced Victor back to Triple-A before being recalled for good on the 4th of July. The switch-hitter has had a rough time offensively and his two partial seasons and 266 PA's in the bigs, but that's not unusual for a young backstop with sporadic playing time.

He's hit well in his time in the minors, showing good plate discipline and bat-to-ball skills, albeit without a lot of thump. He possesses solid receiving skills and is well-liked by the pitchers he works with, and can also play 1B and even 3B in a pinch. I think he projects as an average starter at the MLB level, and with my firm belief that we need a veteran mentor to backup Willson, Caratini's highest value to this team may be in trade. If he remains, I expect him to begin 2019 in Iowa, but that's also what I thought in the spring of this year.

POTENTIAL FA TARGETS:

The Cubs have many options if they decide to bring an upgrade into the IF, as only Rizzo at 1B is locked into his position. We could potentially add a bat at 2B, SS, or even 3B, sliding KB to the OF, though I think Machado is the only one who would add enough impact to make that move a reality. There are also numerous options available on the FA market, at a variety of production levels and price tags. So many, in fact, that I cannot do a detailed evaluation of everyone available without writing a novel. I'll highlight several of the names we may be interested in, and a few notes, so feel free to offer your opinion in the comments. Contract projections are from fangraphs.

  • SS/3B MANNY MACHADO (8y/$256M, age 26):  Machado is the other big fish in this year's class, although I don't see the Cubs making a strong push. Over the last year, I thought he was a better fit than Harper, but now I don't think so, though I could be wrong. I know his stated desire is to play SS, but if he were to sign on the North Side, there is no way he moves Javy. He would bump KB to a CO spot.
  • IF/LF MARWIN GONZALEZ (3y/$30M, age 30): The former Cub can play all four IF positions and LF. The  switch-hitter had a breakout 2017, but fell back to Earth in 2018, finishing with a basically league-average 104 wRC+. If we don't go big in free-agency, this is the type of player I can see us targeting to cover 2B and back up Javy at SS.
  • 2B D.J. LEMAHIEU (3y/$36M, age 30): The former Cub is  a very good defender at 2B, and his offensive numbers look good, at least in the mile-high air of Colorado.
  • 2B BRIAN DOZIER (3y/$36M, age 32): Dozier had a good run with the Twins from 2014-2017 but fell off in 2018. He projects to bounce back but is a risk.
  • 2B JED LOWRIE (2y/$24M, age 35):  Lowrie is a popular pick to be a potential sleeper signing. The switch-hitter would look good at 2B for the Cubs, but chances are he returns to Oakland.

There are so many other options available, including Daniel Murphy, Josh Harrison, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Ian Kinsler at 2B and Jose Iglesias at SS. Yasmani Grandal and Wilson Ramos are available at C, though both will be costly and expecting to start. I think the Cubs may look at Robinson Chirinos, A.J. Ellis, Jonathan Lucroy, or former Cub Rene Rivera to back up Contreras.

MY VERDICT:

This group, as a whole, has the potential for greatness. Four of the five spots around the diamond are currently manned by potential MVP candidates. We have the internal options to cover 2B in Zobrist, Happ, and Bote. No moves are absolutely necessary, except possibly for a backup SS, but I will reiterate my belief that the Cubs have a bold move or two up their sleeve.

A look at the starting rotation is the next and last chapter in this series. I believe the personnel is pretty well set, so my look will be mostly a deep dive into what we have and what to expect out if them. I might be going AWOL for a few days, possibly until after Thanksgiving, but I'll get it up as soon as I can. Hold down the fort while I'm gone.  If you don't hear from me before then, Happy Thanksgiving, my fellow Denizens.

Comments

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  • fb_avatar

    I've read that the Cubs might want to keep Baez as an all over the field player and look to add a full-time SS to replace Russell. Anything to that?

  • Caratini isn't discussed much, but I think he'll be moved. The Cubs have catching prospects in the system but a veteran backup for Willson could pay big dividends.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    A team could use both Caratini and Russell and might be willing to give up a highly ranked prospect in order to nail down two positions at the MLB level?

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Not sure if Caratini is considered good enough to nail down a every day catching role. And there is so much uncertainty with Addison. Would you make that deal if you were giving up a highly ranked prospect?

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    If I needed an MLB ready catcher AND outfielder, yes I would. Neither are superstars but both can fill positions and have a reasonable chance for improvement.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Caratini's value is to an AL club who could use his versatility. He could be used at C, DH, 1B and LF which would be useful to a lot of clubs. I can see the Rays having interest as they've locked down their defensive catcher in Zunino but could use a super sub. I think Caratini has more potential than some think but I also don't think he can reach it in Chicago. The problem is that he's more sweetener in a deal than key player.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Since the Braves lost their catcher (Suzuki) to the Orioles, I wonder if they would be interested in a reunion with Caratini? And perhaps they would also welcome back JHey if we paid "some" of his salary.

  • In reply to DropThePuck:

    Why would the Braves want Heyward? I don't believe there is much of a market for a highly paid weak hitting outfielder with no power and declining defense.

  • In reply to DropThePuck:

    The problem with moving Heyward to anyone this year is the limited no trade and the vesting opt out. that's language that's hard to sell to an acquiring club. Realistically Heyward is a $14 mil player right now and that will go down by the end of the deal. I think he can be moved next year if he has little bit better 2019 and they eat $50 mil. The Braves need a power hitter in their OF, so he's not a fit there.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Markakis has hit 3, 13, 8, 14 HR is his 4 years without ATL. As a replacement to Markakis, Heyward would be a fit.

    You and I disagree on Heyward. I think he is moveable and I believe Theo is working on multiple deals to get him moved. He wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t.

  • In reply to DropThePuck:

    Suzuki went to Washington.

  • In reply to Hagsag:

    Thanks, you are correct.

    Darn, I was hoping to make it through another year without making a mistake :)

  • Here's a couple ideas.

    As I suggested earlier, I would attempt to trade for Reds 2B Scooter Gennett whose 2018 slash line was .310/.357/.847. He fills our 2B hole, addresses our offensive shortcomings, and puts one of the NL's top Cub killers in OUR dugout. I have read that the Reds might be willing to move him as he is on the last year of his contract. Maybe the Reds would take "the next Barry Larkin" for him. And maybe we could get Mr. Gennett to drop the "Scooter" nickname.

    I do not know what $'s are being throw at Daniel Murphy but I would not mind seeing him brought back as Tommy LaStella's replacement.

    And a Happy Thanksgiving back to you, Barley Pop. Thank you for sharing your time and talents with us.

  • In reply to DropThePuck:

    I like Gennett but he's a one year rental and the Reds are looking for MLB pitching in return which the Cubs don't have. Plus the in division thing when the Reds are trying to take a step forward is a tough sell to their fans.

  • Can I be the first to go "off topic" and ask who is on your HOF ballot?

    IMHO, Mariano Rivera should be a unanimous selection. And maybe this is the year that the Veterans Committee looks at former Cub / Cardinal reliever Lee Smith's statistics and finally puts him in the HOF where he belongs.

  • If the Cubs do decide to let Russell go (I put the odds at 50:50 or so) then I would not mind seeing them target Marwin Gonzales. He's been pretty consistent, if not exceptional offensively, and he would give them somebody to back up Baez as SS. Bote may be adequate as a SS in a pinch, but I wouldn't want to have to depend on him there defensively consistently, and he's still got some holes in his offense he needs to work on.

    Thanks for the summary BP.

  • fb_avatar

    Still rooting for an Andrellton Simmons trade. Throw Russell in as a side piece.

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    I like the idea of trying to pry Jean Segura from the Mariners. Does Schwarber & Monty get it done?

  • In reply to Glen Krisch:

    My suggestion was Schwarber, Russell, and Monty for Segura and Colome, plus/minus prospects as needed to balance. Schwarber gives them a replacement for Cruz and Russell replaces Segura. If they want Chatwood at about half price might not even have to give up Monty.

  • In reply to Glen Krisch:

    That's a huge overpay from the Cubs standpoint. Schwarber and Montgomery each have three years of arb left and in those three years will probably make about $45 mil (in arb) and their combined 2018 WAR was 4.6. Segura will make $46 mil in those same three years (including the buyout of his option year) and was a 3.8 WAR player in 2018. Considering that Segura probably overperformed and Schwarber and Monty probably underperformed, at least a little, you're looking at losing 1 win in WAR per year getting one player for two. Not to mention that you're losing 20 HR in the swap when the team needs MORE HR not less. Not a chance do I make that move. People are way undervaluing Schwarber's trade value.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I mean Schwarber for Segura straight up is an overpay because of the money. The WAR is about a wash.

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    In reply to TC154:

    Looking at Baseball Reference, Schwarber had a 1.5 WAR, Monty a 1.3. Segura is listed at 4.3.

  • In reply to Glen Krisch:

    I really only pay attention to fWAR.

  • Surprised there is not more talk about Daniel Murpy coming back? Is it his salary or lack of defensive range? Love his attitude and the at bats he gives a team.

  • In reply to DANTANA67:

    Mostly defense, but Spotrac estimates him at 2/$30 mil and that's would be a concern as well. I just don't think he fits.

  • In reply to TC154:

    His range is enough for me to not want him back. I'm not sure that he can hit enough to make up for his low mobility at second.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Agreed. I think he's a perfect fit for the Yankees though. He could play a little 2B, 1B and DH for them.

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    BP, another great recap and one that took a lot of work too. Also, in 1969 the Cubs had another HOF in Fergie and they still couldn't win. Fergie won at least 20 games in 6 of the 7 years with the Cubs. Oh well, that's in the past.
    What I like about Segura and Gennett is that they're on the right side of 30. Theo has said he doesn't want to pay for past performance and all the ones you mentioned (except Manny M) are probably going into declines. They might be able to play at a relatively high level for a year or 2 but let's get someone who can play at a high level for at least 5 years.
    Unfortunately we don't have any high quality replacements in the minors--that we know of now. Who would have thought Bote would do what he did. I like him a lot and would rather have him at 3rd than KB.
    Nico is probably a year away and no one else has his talent. We are still a playoff team and a WS contender even if we don't do anything.
    As for the HOF, for me it's Rivera and Smith at least.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Hi Jonathan, who's Smith? I may be missing something.

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    In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Lee Smith from the Cubs. One more I think should be in the HOF and gets no respect is Billy Wagner. Look at his stats. His career WHIP is .99 and he pitched a long time.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    OK, thanks for explaining that. I think Smith is off the ballot now. He was the last player to be on the ballot for 15 years and not make it.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Can Lee Smith still be elected by the veterans committee? They changed the rules and frequency of elections several years back, so I lost track.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to DropThePuck:

    He can still be elected by the Vererans Committee.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    If I hear another Nico is about ready post, I'm ready to puke. This guy was just drafted and played less than one year in the system, he is probably headed to A ball to start next year. He is not a top 100 prospect last time I checked. Let's wait till somebody actually proclaims him a good prospect before we crown him the next Baez.

  • In reply to tater:

    After seeing the initial results from rushing Ian Happ and Kyle Schwarber through the minors, I agree with you 100%.

    That's why I think we are better off with a one or two year stopgap productive middle infielder (eg, Scooter Gennett) than counting on Nico this year.

  • Nice piece, BP. Like you I had been dead set on Machado for the best part of a year. I never minded the idea of putting him at SS and minded it less after he looked much better in LA. He would add power and, playing SS, would give the Cubs the best offensive IF in baseball making improvements in OF offense less of a concern. Then he opened his mouth and made him an almost impossible sell to an increasingly ornery and impatient fan base. So now what? I honestly don't know. i think the Jean Segura suggestion is interesting but Seattle is looking to get younger and get salary relief and we don't have a package that makes that happen without an overpay. Honestly, if you could get him cheaply our old friend Starlin Castro isn't a terrible thought but the money is too much and the meatballs might eat him for breakfast. Zobrist is a part time player and I don't trust 2018 given his age. Marwin Gonzales is going to be paid Zobrist money from someone. Honestly, I have no solutions for the infield that aren't a) too expensive b) too risky or c) not great fits. A couple of posters have mentioned Scooter Gennett, and he's probably the one guy that makes sense, but why would the Reds trade him? I think it's more likely that they lock him up to a deal before the season.

    The most likely thing to happen is for Zobrist and Happ to share 2B, and TLS to be replaced by a utility IF who can play short. Bote probably needs to go down to AAA and be a shuttle guy. As far as C goes I'd like to see a defensive guy but keeping with Caratini is probably safer, even if it isn't the best thing for him. The failure of Russell is the single biggest issue on this team. You could live with the failure of Heyward if Russell could hit but you can't have two guys hovering around or under 100 wRC+ and frankly Heyward is the better bet to improve on that. This one is a pickle. I'm glad Theo and Jed are smarter than me.

  • In reply to TC154:

    You have explained why the Cubs will probably be involved in the off field Russell rehabilitation business. I think we could handle second with Baez at short with Zo and Bote, but we still need a mlb shortstop to back up Javy. Happ hasn't seen much of second lately? Our best infield D is with Javy starting or moving to second late and Addison at short.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Agreed about the best Defense being with Russell at SS and Baez (mostly) anchoring 2B.

    Assuming that Russell is both kept by the Cubs going into 2019, and that he's mostly got his abuse issues (substance and personal life) under control - are we more likely to see the kind of offensive production he appeared to be capable of his rookie year and 2016? That's the two-part question.

    He may never be a guy who hits for average - but there's room on a lot of rosters for a SS with his level of defense and that can get you 20+ HR and 80+ RBI.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    My issue with Russell, aside from the personal stuff, is that I don't think he can hit. He shows flashes and then fades. That said, this is probably not a good year to move him. Now 15 HR and a 105 wRC+ and that won't hurt you. Can he do it. I don't know.

  • Cubs just signed LHP Ian Clarkin off waivers from the White Sox. He was a 1st round pick of the Yankees in 2013. I don't know much about him though. The Cubs are at 39 players on roster & deadline is tonight at 8:00 to protect guys in the Rule 5 draft. Steele, Clifton & Leal are all guys they may want to protect, but will have to waive some players to make room.

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    In reply to Cubpack:

    I have looked at his scouting report (from several years ago) and he threw a low 90's FB, and most of his other pitches were average to above average, which is like most of our pitchers now. I think you have to lump him with all the others we have and see what sticks.

  • Jim hickey resigned!!! Cubs looking for new pitching coach

  • In reply to bolla:

    Stepped down for personal reasons

  • Regarding the trade of Addison Russell: I've read over and over that the Cubs can't trade him now because his value is at the lowest it's been in his ML career. That part is true. The next thing I read over and over is that the Cubs would be "giving him away" and would get "nothing" for him.

    First, they will get some player as future return. But the "for nothing" part is misguided. Cubs traded Jeff Samardzja (did I do that right?) and Jason Hammel for 20 year old Addison Russell. Russell came up early and helped transform the infield in his first year and then made huge contributions to the championship team in 2016. He was an integral part of the team, he is part of the most magical and amazing Cubs team and season any of us (or any of our parents) have ever seen.

    So I'd say that we did get something out of Russell, and any player(s) the Cubs get in return is just a little more champagne on the trophy.

    And further, I wonder what exactly people think Russell will do if reinstated with the Cubs. Will all of sudden hit .280 with power and patience? He hasn't for the last two seasons? And if he does, why would the Cubs then want to trade him?

  • In reply to JohnCC:

    Non tender Russell = getting nothing that’s basically cutting him

    Trade him while his value is rock bottom production wise and personally = getting nothing. Nobody is giving up anything for a light hitting, injury prone glove 1st ss with 29 games of suspension left.

  • In reply to bolla:

    I'm not a big Russell fan, but I think you're undervaluing him. Some team with a hole at SS might take him on, using the same reasoning the Cubs did with Chapman, he's paid the price, been rehabilitated, etc... He's still young and some GM could easily think that his team's coaching staff can help him improve his performance. I'm not saying there will be a rush of GMs after him, but I wouldn't be shocked if there was some interest.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    I think you're right, especially with the "some team" and "some GM" part. I've tried to stay impartial, but here's what I know:

    Russell has fallen offensively every year since being called up in 2015. We can only speculate how much his off-field issues have effected his on-field performance, but it's not a good look. I noticed his lack of drive and desire, compared to Bryant or Baez for example, way before these disturbing stories came to light. For purely baseball reasons, we should move on.

    But there are more than baseball reasons, of course. I have some strong opinions about Russell as a Cubs fan and a man in general. I don't think his focus is becoming the best baseball player he can be. I've seen things that make me want to beat his ass, pardon my French, and I don't think a couple MLB-mandated counseling sessions are going to fix the young boy.

    I do think the Cubs' FO is sincere in wanting to aid in his growth. But I also believe they feel burned by his denials, both publicly and in face-to-face meetings.

    What happens next is mostly decided by the contrition and acceptance of responsibility by Addison Russell. I'll try to contain my true feelings on the possibility of that happening by saying I wouldn't expect it. His days with the Cubs' are numbered, and I hope we can turn him for something.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    It seems a little unlikely that a 40game suspension and the fact that his career could be in jeopardy would not wake him up, at least for awhile. Nico could be ready by the trading deadline. From a baseball perspective, Russell has always looked like the odd man out to lengthen the lineup, but the Cubs will need a middle infielder. It's always possible that Addison is just a lost cause.

  • The cubs traded Jason vosler for Rowan wick(padres relief pitcher)

  • twenty minutes after the deadline, i haven't seen anything about anyone being dfa'd so the cubs can add steele,clifiton, and leal. if not , they will be gone. someone who can afford to stash them for a year will take them.

  • steele, added to 40 man, leal and clifton evidently not.

  • Nice work BP!!!

    After reading about our OF I had a little throw up in my mouth. Our OF is and was brutal. It’s hard to comment when only 1 regular (Schwarber) is a quality hitter and we know he is not near a “Silver Slugger” level yet. IMO, they all could be replaced for 2019.

    So on to our IF. First and foremost, Russell needs to go. Whether they cut him or throw him into a deal. This is addition by subtraction. With a young team filled with girlfriends and young married couples, Russell and his antics do not fit. Get rid of him. And he is an awful hitter and vastly overrated SS, BTW.

    Machado has to be in play here. He fits on so many levels. The premium offense at a critical spot is a huge advantage for a team over 162 than an 80 wRC+ SS. And as I have been adamant, Machado is a good SS. Not Top 5, but certainly Top half and that is sufficient. He makes the routine play.

    If the Cubs don’t go Machado, then it gets interesting. Does Javy slide over and a 2B becomes a target? If so, then who? There has been multiple names thrown out in here—Gennett, Merrifield, Murphy. Honestly none of them move the needle for me. I could almost live with Zobrist, LaStella, and Bote for a year and save money in the IF.

    I am so intrigued by what Theo/Jed will do with this team. It would be my plan to land Manny or Bryce. To put either one of them into the middle of this Offense cures many ills by the player they replace. Adding an MVP caliber player and replacing them with near automatic outs is significant.

    Stay tuned.

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    In reply to rbrucato:

    Thank you. That's my point too. We already have above average players, or platoons, at every position. The infield is much better though imo. In all reality they need 1 impact elite player that fits the best. I lean towards the OF because the IF defense is good/great. And 2 of Riz, Javy, or KB can easily put up a 5 war season. Same with Schwarber in LF.

  • In reply to Wrigley0923:

    Agree mostly, but they need an obp guy batting ahead of our 2,3,4 & 5 hitters. 1 elite guy would be nice, but so would a table setting obp guy.

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    I'm rooting for a Simmons trade. It would probably take Schwarber as centerpiece, but it would be worth it imo. Especially if they can add in chatwood & Russell to have some extra cash to spare for Harper.

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    In reply to Wrigley0923:

    I'd prefer to keep Kyle, but Simmons adds way for to the team than Schwarber. Atleast in production. Idk if Simmons is good teammate. I'm guessing he is.

  • In reply to Wrigley0923:

    I’m not sure why anyone thinks the Angels would trade Simmons. They have two years of Trout left and they’re trying to contend. Nice thought, if you sign Harper and replace Kyle’s HR totals, but I’d be shocked if the Angels did that.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Just a little offseason dreaming. Christmas is coming!

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    In reply to TC154:

    Well, they should rebuild. All their money is tied to Pujols, Trout, Simmons, and Ohtani. They need alot more to compete. But they have low income.

  • In reply to Wrigley0923:

    Ohtani makes league minimum. So he should not be included. Also the Angels are in a large market.

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    In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    I agree about Ohtani and they're a large market team. But they aren't. The Dodgers get all the revenue compared to the Angel's. If it wasn't for Trout, they'd be way worse.

    And a 2 year window to barely(most likely not) complete? Lmfao. They need a complete rebuild, but their so called large market team can't make it through a full rebuild. And that's a fact.

  • In reply to Wrigley0923:

    The Angels are in a large market. LA is a large market. They may not have the TV revenue the Dodgers have but, they are in a large market.

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    In reply to TC154:

    I also believe they'd do it for Schwarber & Russell. Only if we get Harper. Otherwise, forget it.

  • Agree Contreras needs a quality back up but Ross is around to be a mentor still. Javy needs to slide to SS and have Zo play the majority of games at 2nd. Then look for quality SS back up either through trade or waiver at the end of spring training. Save $ in order to Keep working on the outfielders.

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    In reply to 523WSC:

    Where's Ross? I thought he was just an analyst. I could be wrong. Idk.

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