Taking Stock and Looking Forward: The Outfield

Albert Almora Jr., Ian Happ and Jason Heyward (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)

Albert Almora Jr., Ian Happ and Jason Heyward (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)

As we continue our ongoing delve into the various areas of haves, wants, and needs of our beloved Cubs, I turn my attention to the outfield. I began this series with a look at the bullpen situation because I feel that unit has the most question marks and may receive the most attention, at least in quantity. The moves we make in the outfield, however, could have the biggest impact in terms of altering the course of the franchise during this current competitive window, and perhaps beyond. There is a BIG name available, a few other big names that can be had, and a variety of smaller pieces that don't have the sex appeal but may round out the picture depending upon the course of action.

The flip side of additions, though, is subtractions, and this may be the year we finally deal away promising young talent off the big-league roster to bolster other areas of need (sorry, Soler, you don't count in my book, though I'm sure others disagree). One or more of these young guys are almost sure to go, leaving some fans jumping for joy and others heartbroken. But the offense needs a jolt, and I believe the outfield is the most likely area to receive a facelift.

At some point in 2018, for whatever reason, the offense broke. I remember a commercial from years ago where a young daughter tattles on her mother: "Dad, Mom broke the car!". I can hear that little girl's voice in my head now: "Theo, Chili broke the offense!". That may be a bit harsh, but several players said it and Theo obviously agreed, giving Mr. Davis the boot after one disappointing season. Fans argue about the affect and amount of impact coaches can have on professional ballplayers but there seems to be consensus that Chili's philosophy didn't fit with this group of young sluggers. As Theo put it, "Launch angle is not a fad. Line drives and balls in the air are way more productive" than the rash of ground balls suddenly squibbling off the barrels of our bats. Enter Anthony Iapose, a teacher of launch angle and possible mea culpa for the firing of John Mallee.

But simply replacing a hitting coach isn't going to fix what ails this team and return our boys to Championship contention. Theo spoke of judging players based on production rather than potential, and many began seeing visions of a major house-cleaning. That's not going to happen, but no one is happy about the current state of the team and our inability to seal the deal in 2018. There should not be a celebration of a 95-win season when we expect more. Theo explained:

"The takeaways are that we got caught from behind and we had opportunities to put that division away and to make another postseason run. For myriad reasons, it didn’t happen, so we damn well better be honest with ourselves about the reasons why it didn’t happen and find ways to fix it. Or else what the hell are we doing here? So, yeah, we’re not going to sit here and celebrate 95 wins. We’re going to be pissed off about the way the season ended. It doesn’t matter if I’m pissed off. Our players are pissed off. And they know that they have an opportunity to be part of something special. They basically built it. They helped build it. And we want to take full advantage of it because you can’t take anything for granted in this game. You look up and it goes really fast."

Them's fightin' words! I don't know what moves are going to be made this offseason. No one does. But I know everyone involved is hungry, from ownership on down. This team isn't afraid to make a bold move. They've shown that in the past with big FA signings and win-now trades. "If not now, when?" Theo famously answered when asked why he gave up so much for Chapman in pursuit of a WS title. I have a feeling there are some big moves coming. Not "tear it all down" or "mortgage the future" moves, but I think the FO is even more competitive than we are. They realize we are smack-dab in the middle of a Championship window, and I actually think they have a chip on their shoulders. They've been the darlings of the rebuild model, yet are falling behind. I think they feel they have something to prove, and as a Cubs fan, I can't wait to see what they pull off. Let's roll.

WHO'S HERE (FOR NOW?):

Well, that was depressing. Pardon me a moment, please. I need a drink...

Good grief. I had a general idea of how I wanted to begin this section, but after taking the closest look at all the deep offensive numbers that I have all year, that intro went out the window. We've all heard Theo talk of how the offense went away in the second half. Heck, we watched it. We saw the final scores and felt the pain of the losses. We knew it was bad, but dayum!

Overall, this is a pretty good OF. There's a decent mix of power and speed, experience and youth, and L/R platoon possibilities with a couple switch-hitters thrown in for good measure. Four of the five have positional flexibility and 3 can handle CF. One corner is covered by a perennial GG candidate, who's serving as a mentor for potentially another up the middle, and the other corner is usually manned by an alleged AL DH with a cannon for an arm that gunned down 11 baserunners who were foolish enough to challenge him.

Anyhow, good isn't good enough for a team with dynastic aspirations. There's a proven commodity aging like a fine wine but nearing an expiration date, a young veteran worthy of everything but his contract, and a few kids with blue-chip pedigrees plodding along on their own journeys to reach the promised land. Deciding how to find the proper mix, which buttons to push and levers to pull, may be the most impactful moves of this offseason.

BEN ZOBRIST: .305/.378/.440 9HR 58RBI 67R wRC+123 fWAR 3.6

A stellar year in 2018 should quiet any naysayers who doubted that Zobrist's near-replacement-level 2017 season was due largely to a nagging wrist injury that sapped his power. He bounced back in a big way, posting numbers more in line with his career marks, even setting career highs in a couple key areas. There were only a couple bright spots offensively for the Cubs in the second half of 2018, and the 37-year-old was one of them, and the only member of this OF group who didn't completely and inexplicably fall off a cliff after the break.

Always respected as a leader and consummate professional, Ben led by example out of the batter's box. Comparing his 2018 stats to 2017 is a waste of time because 2017 was such an outlier, but even when comparing these numbers to his earlier days in Tampa, when he was among the game's elite, a couple notable achievements stand out. His .305 AVG was well-publicized as being a career-high, but he also had the second lowest strikeout rate of his career at 11.5%. What really stuck out to me, however, was the quality of his contact. Zobrist made medium contact right around his normal rate at 52.6%, but made soft contact at a career-low 11.9% and hard contact at a career-high 35.5%.

Going into 2019 in his age-38 season, he is on the last year of his contract, which pays $12M. Normally an aging player entering the final year of a hefty contract is a candidate for a salary dump. If Zobrist can come close to replicating his 2018 campaign, we may begin hearing calls for an extension.

JASON HEYWARD: .270/.335/.395 8HR 57RBI 67R wRC+99  fWAR 2.0

Like Zobrist, Heyward has dealt with wrist injuries during his time with the Cubs that have sapped his bat speed and power. But, also like Zobrist, those injuries appear to be behind him. Heyward had an abysmal offensive season in 2016, his first in Chicago, but nearly every indicator across the board is steadily moving in a positive direction. In wRC+, perhaps the best catch-all indicator of overall offensive production, Heyward has improved from a horrific 72 in 2016 to 88 in 2017 to a basically league-average 99 in 2018.

That's not by chance as all the underlying indicators back it up. His slash lines are up in every category year after year. As his BB% holds steady at 8.5-9.0%, his already-low K% continues to drop, from 15.7% in 2016 to 13.9% in 2017 and finally 12.3% in 2018. At age 29, I believe the positive trends can continue, although I think nearly all of us have given up on the dream of Heyward becoming an offensive force.

Normally, a league-average bat in the hands of a perennial Gold-Glover with superior baserunning skills and leadership qualities is a prized possession, but Heyward is not normal. He will be measured against the 8y/$184M contract he signed prior to the 2016 season for as long as he remains in Chicago. I'm positive the Cubs are pursuing all trade avenues, although I don't know how aggressive they will be in eating some of the 5y/$106M remaining on his contract to get a deal done. I see him returning in 2019 unless he is moved in unison with another major acquisition, like the Castro/Zobrist  combo or, to a lesser extent, Smyly/Hamels (and just to make everyone mad, including myself, DeRosa/Bradley).

KYLE SCHWARBER: .238/.356/.467 26HR 61RBI 64R wRC+115 fWAR 3.2

If any of the young guys are moved, and a Schwarber deal becomes a reality, "I think I'll miss you the most of all." Kyle is entering his first year of arbitration and is expected to receive around $3M. His time with the big club has been a rollercoaster ride. He broke onto the scene in 2015 and broke his knee in 2016. He willed and worked his way to a legendary WS return, then played his way back to Iowa in 2017. The last two seasons have been no different as they've both been a tale of two halves. 2017 began with a botched experiment as a leadoff hitter before rebounding for a solid finish down the stretch, while 2018 began with a bang before his big bat faded with nearly all the others in the second half.

Schwarber's slide in 2018 was mostly due to a lack of power caused by the type and quality of contact. He began hitting more line drives and ground balls, and his 37.1% flyball rate was the lowest of any point in his professional career. The hard contact fell from 42.2% in the first half to 36.9% in the second, while soft contact rose from 15.6% 18.9%. I think a lot of this can be attributed to a bad back but the negative influence of Chili's approach can't be ignored. His strike out and walk rates are both trending in the right direction, down three points and up three points over 2017, respectively. LH pitchers still present a problem, especially in the power department, as he hit only one of his 26 bombs off of a southpaw and slugged just .303, 200 points lower than against righties.

Schwarber strikes me as a guy who is willing and eager to adapt and please, perhaps to a fault. He accepted the leadoff role that seemed to be an odd fit, and I believe bought into Chili's ill-fated approach. But I think he has grown and matured enough to begin to trust himself and believe in his abilities and what works for him, and he's my pick for a monster, breakout performance in 2019. Hopefully that happens in a Cubs uniform.

IAN HAPP: .233/.353/.408 15HR 44RBI 56R wRC+106 fWAR 1.5

Of all the Cubs' players who may have been negatively impacted by the teachings of Chili Davis, I think Happ may have been the biggest casualty of them all. Some of his regression maybe simply explained as that of a young hitter (he was perhaps rushed to the big leagues after only 978 PA's in the minors), but Theo also stated he "learned some things" following his personal exit interviews with the players he was not aware of, and fired Chili almost immediately.

Happ adopted the launch angle approach while on the Cubs' farm and his power increased dramatically. When he seemed to back away a bit in 2018, the results suffered. He began using more of an all-fields approach, pulling the ball less in 2018 (36.0%) than in 2017 (44.8%) while hitting the ball more up the middle (36.5% from 31.5%) and the opposite way (27.5% from 23.7%). Despite hitting the ball harder in 2018, his home runs dipped from 24 in 2017 to 15 in 2018, mainly due to a drop in HR/FB rate from 25.3% to 17.9%. Something I noticed was that while his BABIP spiked from .316 in 2017 to .362 in 2018, Happ's AVG dropped from .253 to .233, but the increased K rate from 31.2% to 36.1% explains the 20 point drop.

Ian became a much more patient hitter in 2018, taking more pitches both in and out of the zone, swinging at only 42.8% of all offerings this season as opposed to 49.3% last year, and increasing his BB% from 9.4% to 15.2%. Being more selective in the pitches he decides to attack probably explains the increase in his hard-hit rate, which is a good thing, but a drop in contact with balls in the zone from 77.9% in 2017 to 70.2% in 2018 led to more strikeouts, which isn't. Happ is much more productive from the left side, slashing .244/.374/.442 with a wRC+ of 118 as opposed to .202/.291/.317 and a wRC+ of 69 from the right-handed batter's box, and hitting 12 of his 15 home runs from the left side. Like most of the rest of the team, his production dropped off dramatically in the second half, with a slash line of .256/.379/.453 with a wRC+ of 123 before the break and .196/.313/.340 and a wRC+ of 80 afterwards.

ALBERT ALMORA JR.: .286/.323/.378 5HR 41RBI 62R wRC+89 fWAR 1.1

Ian Happ had a scorching hot spring training in 2018 and entered the regular season as the starting center fielder and leadoff man. He started the year with a literal bang, hitting a HR in his first AB. Things quickly went downhill from there, and Almora Jr. stepped in and became a fan favorite. He was hitting as slickly as he fields before succumbing to the dreaded and seemingly contagious second-half swoon. The up-and-down season was particularly odd for Almora Jr., because looking through all his numbers, both in the majors and minors, one thing stands out starkly: consistency. Contact rates, plate discipline, power numbers, they've all remained relatively steady throughout his pro career.

Almora started hot in the first half, slashing .319/.357/.438 with a wRC+ of 115 (and garnering some All-Star consideration) but fell to .232/.267/.280 and a wRC+ of 47 (!) in the second. A little bad luck may have played a role, as his BABIP fell from .373 to .279, but it was a dramatic drop.

A knock on his offensive game has been that he can't hit righties, but he tightened that up in 2018, though he was shielded from some of the tougher matchups. AA hit .295/.340/.402 with a wRC+ of 101 vs. left-handers and his numbers dropped, but not significantly, to .282/.315/.369 and a wRC+ of 84 vs. right-handers. A big reason for the discrepancy is his strikeout and walk rates, which sat at 6.3 BB% and 11.1 K% facing southpaws but fell to 4.5 BB% and 20.0 K% versus right-handers in 2018.

Overall, Albert is a fine player. His pro career suggest this is who he is, a league-average bat with a sterling glove in CF. He would play every day for over half the teams in MLB, but I see him as a fourth outfielder on a Championship-caliber Cubs team. If the lineup was stacked and you could bury him in the order, fine, I'd play his glove in center everyday. But we're not there right now.

POTENTIAL FA TARGETS:

The FA class for outfielders isn't quite as deep as the reliever market, but there are options available in a wide variety of makes and models, priced accordingly. A big name sits atop this list, but recent events and reports suggest we may be shopping for something more affordable. We may not shop here at all, choosing instead to wheel and deal for an upgrade, and spend FA $ elsewhere. Whatever the case may be, we are in the market for an upgrade to balance out an inconsistent offense, and I wouldn't rule anything out. Contract estimates are from the crowd-sourced mean average of fangraphs' 2019 FA Tracker (Note: Bryce Harper and A.J. Pollock were offered and declined a QO, so if we were to sign one or the other, we would  lose our second-highest pick in the 2019 Amateur Draft and $500K in IFA pool money).

  • BRYCE HARPER (10y/$330M): The anticipation of the 26- year-old's free agency has nearly equaled the hype leading up to his MLB debut as a teenager in 2012. Whether or not the production in his seven years in the league has matched that hype and anticipation is debatable. The LH slugger had a season for the ages in 2015, slashing .330/.460/.649 with 42 HR and 118 RBI, good for a 197 wRC+, 9.3 WAR, and earning him MVP honors. He's posted 3 other seasons of 4+ WAR and settled in at 3.5 WAR in 2018, although injuries have played a role. Despite a slow first half in 2018, Harper finished at .247/.388/.503 with 33 HR and 94 RBI, bolstered by an impressive .312/.433/.571 line after the break. He has lacked protection in the Nationals' lineup for much of his career (you may recall a game in May of 2016 when the Cubs walked him a record-tying six times before Javy walked it off with a bomb in the bottom of the 13th), often seeing fewer pitches in the zone than any hitter in baseball, so being surrounded by other thumpers could help his overall numbers as he enters his prime years. I've seen the term "generational talent" passed out like Halloween candy, and while it's a matter of personal opinion if Harper is worthy of such high praise, he's sure to be paid as such. The odds of those massive paychecks being drawn from an account connected to the Ricketts family have tumbled significantly, but you never know.
  • A.J. POLLOCK (4y/$64M): Perhaps no other free-agent outfielder comes with as many question marks as the Diamondbacks centerfielder. Pollock offers a potent bat in addition to stellar defense when healthy, but staying healthy has been an ongoing battle, one he has lost more often than not. He has broken his elbow (twice, costing him his entire 2010 season in the minors and nearly all of 2016), hand, and thumb, and has missed time with a strained groin. Most of these injuries are of the freak variety resulting from hard-nosed play, but the toll is certainly cumulative on any 31-year-old body. Pollock enjoyed a breakout 2015, accumulating 6.8 WAR by slashing .315/.367/.498 with 20 HR and 111 RBI in addition to swiping 39 bags and flashing some serious leather in center field. But that was a fully healthy season, and he has played only 469 games in the past five seasons. 2018 started strong at .293/.349/.620 with 11 HR and 9 SB before he broke a thumb attempting a diving catch on May 14th, costing him a month and a half, and finishing the season at .257/.316/.484 with 21 HR, 65 RBI, and 13 SB in 460 PA. We often talk of potential in young players based on tools and development, but in Pollock's case that potential merely consists of staying in one piece. He has averaged 3.3 WAR throughout his career, but that number nearly doubles based on 650 PA. Pollock embodies many traits I love in a ball player, and I'd love to have him on my team, but his age, price tag, and injury history may place him into that "paying for past performance" category we are all familiar with.
  • MICHAEL BRANTLEY (3y/$45M): Fortunately for any team wanting to sign Brantley (or Andrew Miller or Cody Allen), the Indians have decided not to extend a QO to any of their free agents. Much like Pollock, Brantley is near-elite level when healthy but has missed significant time due to various injuries. Shoulder surgery late in 2015 and bicep surgery in August of 2016 cost him all but 11 games in 2016 (and forcing Cleveland into playing Brandon Guyer, Coco Crisp, and even Carlos Santana in LF during a certain WS you may remember), and a bad ankle that eventually required surgery limited the left fielder to 90 games in 2017. Brantley had a healthy and productive 2018 slashing .309/.364/.468 with 17 HR, 76 RBI, 89 R, and 12 SB. His LH bat would fit especially well atop a Cubs' lineup due to his extraordinary contact ability, as he led MLB in contact on balls in the zone (97.3%) and overall (90.9%) in 2018, resulting in a minuscule 9.5% K rate. He doesn't walk a lot, but that high contact rate and batting average support an OBP acceptable for a leadoff man, and has the wheels to steal double-digit bases. Brantley is well-respected and demonstrates toughness and leadership in the clubhouse, something that the front office may be looking to add given some of the comments regarding complacency over the last couple seasons. If the Cubs indeed deal from the stable of young outfielders, Brantley could be an attractive target.
  • ANDREW MCCUTCHEN (3y/$42M): McCutchen has taken a couple steps back from his perennial-MVP-level prime roaming CF for the Bucs, but is still a valuable and productive player. Much of what I just wrote about Brantley also applies to McCutchen, except from the right side and minus the injury history. He has been very durable throughout his stellar 10-year career, averaging over 150 games per campaign. After a bit of a down year in 2016, he has rebounded nicely, posting WAR numbers of 3.7 in 2017 and 2.6 in 2018. Reports of his demise may have been premature. Cutch split 2018 between San Francisco and the Yankees, producing a .255/.368/.424 line with 20 HR, 65 RBI, 83 R, and 14 SB. While no longer a viable everyday center fielder, he should be perfectly serviceable in a CO spot for the next few seasons. McCutchen is also a high-character guy and would fit nicely into a veteran leadership role within the Cubs' clubhouse. For what it's worth, MBLTR predicted McCutchen signing with the Northsiders at 3y/$45M.

There are several other OF options available in free-agency, but the rest mostly fall into the platoon/role-player  category rather than someone to be penciled into the everyday lineup. Nick Markakis is an interesting option (I considered giving him his own profile) but I think his 2018 campaign with Atlanta was a bit of an aberration and most teams share that view. Former Cubs' farmhand Marwin Gonzalez is available at an estimated 3y/$30M, but he's more of an infielder who can play the OF, so I will profile him more extensively in the next installment covering the infielders. Adam Jones is a player on the decline who reportedly vetoed an August trade from Baltimore to Philadelphia because he wanted to play every day and didn't want to move off of CF. Other names to keep an eye on, with various levels of projected productivity and roll significance, include Carlos Gonzalez, Lonnie Chisenhall, Denard Span, and our old (albeit brief) friend Austin Jackson.

MY VERDICT:

Just as I did in the bullpen piece, I'm going to take a pass on speculating on potential trades. There are certainly players that come to mind that would make a great fit, but there are simply too many options, rumors, and complexities involved to make it worth my time. If proposing specific trades is your thing, speculate away in the comment section.

The offense needs a boost and some consistency, and I believe a fair bit of that will come internally by way of natural progression from some of the young players. But I also don't think this group, as currently constructed, survives the offseason intact. I don't see any reason not to hold on to Zo's professional bat and aura for the final year of his contract. I'm sure we're trying to unload Heyward's contract, and I wouldn't be shocked if we do, but only in conjunction with another move. My guess to go, based on the value he could bring back versus his necessity to the team, is Happ. Schwarber could bring a bigger return, but not big enough to justify the loss. I think Almora stays on as a 4th/5th outfielder, though he could be moved as well. I see us adding, somehow, an everyday center fielder or right fielder with Heyward shifting more to CF if necessary.

From the very beginning of this offseason, I've had an anxious feeling while pondering potential moves. In my 40 years of Cubs fandom I've always dreaded the thought of trading away young talent for fear of them reaching their potential and breaking out somewhere else. I never even gave thought to what we were adding to the roster in these trades, as it really didn't matter because we always usually sucked. But times have changed. Even so, is Harper really a gazillion-dollar upgrade over Schwarber in his first year of arbitration eligibility? What if Happ reaches his ceiling, or the free-agent we signed to fill his vacated roster spot is a bust? I can look at a list of shiny FA names and start playing Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" in my mind, but then I get to those lines that remind me of my long-held fears:

"Did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
Did you exchange
A walk-on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?"

Comments

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  • Great analysis, BP. I also think Happ is most "expendable" of the outfielders and signing McCutchen would pretty much seal it. I don't see the Cubs moving Heyward. Like most Cubs fans, I'd REALLY like to see someone from the current roster step up. A breakout year from Schwarbs or Almora would be nice...

    I'm interested in your take on Russell, when you get to the infield...

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Thanks, Cliff. There is enough talent on this team to keep it all together and have a WS-contending team, and a healthy Bryant and non-repeat of the second-half offensive nose-dive will go a long way towards fixing the offense. But I just can't see the FO standing pat. They are a proud and competitive group, and I have a feeling they are taking this personally. So often when looking at a roster the holes are obvious and you can just say "we need a SS" or "we could use a better 1B", but with the players we have and the flexibility they offer, this is a fluid situation. It will be fun to see what they do.

    As for Russell, you mean the Cubs' back-up SS? :) I should have that piece ready in a couple days. I want to get this all in before things possibly explode at the Winter Meetings.

  • Great job Barley. I see three young outfielders ready for breakout seasons. Keep all three, because it would be devastating to watch elsewhere. Then what do I know?

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Thank you, 44slug, and I'm with you on the risk of dealing away young guys with so much potential. Theo stated right after the season ended it was time to start evaluating talent based on production rather than potential. Many people took that as meaning some of the young guys were gone. In reading between the lines of his comments since then, I think he's walked that back a bit and 2019 may be the make-or-break year for some of them. We'll see.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Better chance these players are who they are over they all take big steps forward.

  • Nice, comprehensive review of the pieces in play, BP. You've covered all the bases here. As far as my take, I really want no part of McCutchen or Brantley at this point. I actually would have wanted either one if Machado was a viable infield option but considering he probably isn't I don't see those guys as an improvement over Schwarber in LF. To examine why I think you have to look at Schwarber. He was a 3.2 WAR player in 2018 despite absolutely tanking down the stretch,. His early season numbers, as you point out, were solid pointing at a guy who could be a .900 OPS, 130-135 wRC+ player with 30 plus HR. He is clearly capable of an even better OBP than the .356 he posted last year because he's not afraid to walk. He also proved that while he's never going to be a great OF that he's about a league average one and with those numbers you'd take it. Because of those numbers and his still untapped potential it makes him the biggest dilemma because while you might want him back, you would like some more certainty out of the position and he's your most valuable trade asset.

    So for the sake of argument lets say you trade him for an area of need like a CF or a couple of pen arms and you're considering McCutchen or Brantley to replace him. Let's start with Brantley. First of all I love this player, my original thought for the Cubs in FA was to sign Machado and Brantley and get everything else via trade. The guy has an absurd K rate for this era of baseball with it being 9.5% in 2018. His walk rate is less than you would like at 7.6 but he does hit for average so on balance that's OK. He was a 3.5 WAR player in 2018 though and that's only a very slight improvement over Schwarber and defensively he might pass the eye test but he's not great entering his age 32 season. The biggest drawback I see is power. His SLG numbers are decent but the guy is likely to hit around 15 HR (17 in 2018). Considering that you should be able to pencil Schwarber in for at least 30 (26 in 2018) you're talking roughly 15 HR out of the position when increasing HR totals is probably the greatest area of offensive need this offseason. Then you have the injury factor which if some of the other areas were more net positive I could ignore, but because of them Brantley is non-starter for me.

    Next you have McCutchen. First, let's look at the broad strokes. With a 172 more PA than Schwarber he was a 2.6 WAR to Kyles 3.2. That's not a promising start. Then you look at the offense. McCutchen had a .792 OPS to Schwarber's .823 and the wRC+ were comparable at 120 vs 115. The two men walk at about the same clip in the 14-15% range and the K rate is not nearly as different as you would hope at 21% to 27%. Sure it's a difference but it's impact is about 5% wRC+ a relatively insignificant number. Also, as is the case with
    Brantley, you're talking a dip in power both in SLG and HR. You can expect McCutchen to hit 20 HR/year and again that's a reduction in HR when this team is desperate for an increase. At this point in his career McCutchen can only play LF and will certain ly be adequate there it's not a huge increase in defensive ability than Kyle. In range, probably but then you lose that laser arm. To me defense here is a wash.

    I didn't get into money above but to just touch on it briefly Spotrac estimates McCutchen at 4/$76 mil and Brantley at 4/$78. So roughly you're looking at $19 mil AAV and CBT hit while Kyle is going to make about $6 mil. The only way to me where this makes sense would be to get power from somewhere else but considering the open positions are probably 2B (or SS) or CF where are you going to make that up? I'm figuring you'll net another 20 HR from Braynt, Rizzo and incrementally from other players but you probably need to get over the 200 HR mark and they hit 167 in 2018. Subtract from LF and you're looking at a total that just won't get it done. Now, before it's even mentioned, I think you can build a team with contact over power but that's not how the core of this team is built and even then a team like that needs power pitching to get that done and that's not a strength. If you trade Kyle for other needs I think it's because you're signing Bryce Harper to play LF and adding a little power in the IF and maybe in CF. Otherwise I don't move him. Brantley and McCutchen are nice players but I fail to see how they make this team better right now.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Wow! Thanks for breaking it down. Heyward isn't going to hit a lot of HR and neither will Almora, so Schwarber's bat could be huge for the Cubs outfield in 2019.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    I see one or two outfielders traded

  • In reply to TC154:

    Makes sense to me.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Thanks, TC, and as usual your analysis is spot-on. Michael Ernst said he was open to accepting submissions for a guest post, or more. There's a lot of down time in the offseason. Maybe something you would consider?

    I want to add a general concept that keeps gnawing at the back of my brain. We're in the middle of a competitive window that was meticulously planned and implemented. So many of the core players reach the end if their current club control following the 2021 season, and Theo has repeatedly said 10 years is enough time in any one position. His current contract, and that soft 10-year term limit, expire after the 2021 season. I'm not saying he would intentionally sabotage the future, but I wonder if this artificial expiration date may play a role in the moves we make. Do we sacrifice some longer-term potential to maximize our chances over the next three years?

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Interesting question. I'd be interested in TC's take as well. I think that if everyone plays to their capabilities in 2019, a lot of help won't be needed.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    If everyone plays to their capabilities in 2019 no help will be needed.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    I would agree but it’s hard to stand pat in the middle of a window.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    I don't see the front office bringing back the same team and hoping for improvements. How do you know last year wasn't playing to their capabilities?

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I second BP's nomination of TC154 to the Cubs Den Writer Staff!

  • Thanks for this great article, I enjoyed it a lot.

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    You put in a lot of work BP and we greatly benefit from it. It's always a problem to know when to trade or keep young talent. Many would have traded Javy a year or two ago and now he's one of our top players. Admittedly he had the physical talents but hadn't harnessed them yet. Someone like Albert A, who I like a lot, has shown us what he can do in the field, but his offense was worse than in 2017. Was that blip or a trend? Happ's too regressed. Schwarber's increased and his fielding was noticeably better so is it time to sell high or continue with him. Theo said when he got here that he didn't want to sign players who's best years were behind them and except for Harper that's true with all the players mentioned. Unfortunately we don't have any outfield candidates pushing hard to graduate to the majors so it's either keep ours, sign an older player or trade on of our veterans and get young talent.
    I am still looking for Harper because I feel his best years are ahead of him and he would bring a toughness to our ball club, but I don't know what kind of clubhouse teammate he is and that's important.
    Even if the FO does nothing (and that's not going to happen) we still have one of the most talented teams in the majors and most teams would gladly trade their talent for ours.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Thanks, Jonathan, and I agree with everything you said. Despite all the reports, I still believe we are making a strong push for Harper. The way we've built our team and structured some of our big contracts (mainly Heyward's) has been with this option in mind. Harper could put us over the top for the next several years, and as I noted in the article, the lack of protection in the Nat's lineup may have suppressed his true offensive potential. Surrounded by Rizzo, KB, El Mago, and Schwarber could raise his game to another level.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Just don't see Harper as a target. Payroll is already at the league.

  • If the Cubs wind up with either McCutchen or Brantley, Schwarbs has to be a goner.

  • In reply to Hagsag:

    As I posted above though either would be little (Brantley) or lesser (McCutchen) value to the club at significantly more money. What is the argument for a move like that?

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    In reply to TC154:

    Argument for Brantley is to get another contact hitter i.e. table setter at top of the lineup.

    He's a professional hitter who gives a professional at bat virtually everytime out. This is something the Cubs lineup missed tremendously last year esp w KB injured and a shell of himself. I know its prob a lot to ask, but if Zorilla can produce like he did this year over about 400 or so At bats this lineup can be very dangerous again w Brantley.

    This team needs a more variety of hitters. These 3 outcome hitters who can't hit w RISP is not working.

    I am not saying Brantley will solve all our problems, but its a very good start if Harper is not coming.

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    I'm all in on Brantley, he fixes two items this team sorely lacks, a potential lead off hitter and he puts the ball in play, doesn't strike out.
    If we could move Heyward I would look to sign Harper,this would free us to maybe move Schwarber and Happ to build up our depleted farm system, maybe pick up a couple blue chip prospects.
    On another level I would like to get feedback on maybe moving Bryant to the Rockies and getting Arrenado for 3rd base, I
    I believe both are due up around the same time and I would prefer him at 3rd, Otherwise we might move Bryant to the outfield and have no 3rd basemen, also the Rox have a young ss coming and could move their ss to 3rd.

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    In reply to tater:

    I would love to get Nolan Arenado, and I would make that trade. He is on a HOF track and plays the best defense in the NL, possibly in the ML, although his OPS is .772 away and over 1.100 at home so that is a caution, but he's such a good player that I think he could adjust.
    I still would like to see KB in the outfield and have Bote see if he can hit enough to stay at 3rd--last year was his rookie year and I would hope he will get better his 2nd year in the majors.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Have you seen the splits for Arenado? His BA and OBP drops 100 points, and his OPS dropped to a pedestrian .772. Granted he plays stellar defense, but I don’t think you will get what you think you’re getting for that HOF contract.

    With that being said, I think you’re still looking at an excellent player, just not the Colorado version.

  • In reply to mcoley32:

    I apologize, I had a brain cramp and replied to your post while thinking about another. 4 kids under 8 and the wife blaring christmas music on a Sunday morning can do that to ya lol

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    In reply to mcoley32:

    With 4 kids under 8 I don't see how you can even write an intelligent sentence! I have no kids so I don't have any excuse for my mistakes.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Bote should not be mentioned as a stsrter

  • In reply to tater:

    Arrenado is a FA after 2019. I think we have Bryant for 3 more years, so I wouldn’t be in favor of a straight up trade

  • In reply to Cubpack:

    I've mentioned a couple times that I am worried about KB maintaining his early production. He seems a little fragile to me, both physically and dare I say mentally as well. It takes a certain amount of toughness to excel consistently at this level. I don't know that Kris doesn't have that 'I won't be denied' quality, but it's not obvious to me. Many players have a quite toughness and are nasty underneath a reserved image. This might be the case.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    You're certainly not the only one to suggest this but I always wonder what would lead someone to this conclusion. He obviously came out of the gate strong and won RoY, Had an amazing 2016 and won MVP , had a nearly identical 2017 statistically, with a slight drop in HR, and before the injury in 2018 actually looked like he might put up his best numbers to date. Here are the slash lines

    2015- .275/.369/.488 .371 wOBA 136 wRC+
    2016- .292/.385/.554 .396 wOBA 148 wRC+
    2017- .295/.409/.537 .399 wOBA 146 wRC+

    Then just as an example his pre injury numbers through 5/15 in 2018

    .288/.421/.583 .420 wOBA 167 wRC+

    This is a player getting better year to year, not worse and the injury wasn't just the first in his career, it was the first in his life playing ball. Plus during this time his K rate kept dropping from 27.3 in 2015, 22% in 2016, 19.2% in 2017 and 15.1% pre injury 2018. People talk about Arenado, and he is a fine player, but while he's a better defender he isn't close to the offensive player Bryant is which is easily seen in his road splits and his wOBA and wRC+ which of course are park corrected numbers.

    44slug, this is certainly not a rant directed at you but I just can't figure out the narrative when all the statistical evidence points away from that POV.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I believe that the "Bryant is not a clutch player" POV comes from his RISP average. Not sure what his numbers were last year, but a 2017 article ranked KB's "clutch" stats as the NL's second worst.

  • In reply to DropThePuck:

    I understand that, and that people like to talk about his numbers with RISP as evidentiary but with these kind of numbers posted by a player that is just about ready to enter his prime in 2019 for his age 27 season, the assumption is that those numbers will eventually take care of themselves. If you were talking about a selfish player, then maybe there would be a concern, but KB is not a selfish player.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I think that you are probably correct. I'm an eyes guy and rarely dive into the stats. It could just be the short sample thing. I don't want to disrespect KB. He wouldn't the first player come out of the box kicking butt, only to taper. I'm pulling for him.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I get it. He can certainly be frustrating in certain spots of the game at the plate. As I've stated many times I'm a "both" guy when it comes to statistics and the eye test, I don't think you can evaluate one without the other, but I start with stats to try to explain what I see and then compare the two. As I said in another post if I saw a selfish player I would believe that the RISP thing was a flaw in his game and character, but I don't see one single bit of evidence of that. This was a player that likely should have been shut down this year but he wasn't having any of it and there have been no work ethic or character issues associated with this player in his entire playing career going back to Little League. Because of that I look at the RISP thing as an anomaly with probably a little bit of an approach problem but mostly just sequencing and the luck of the draw. There is nothing that suggest that this is an inherent flaw in the player either statistically or by watching the games.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I'm not denigrating sabernetics though, I just think that enjoy the game more just watching. I don't miss many games. I realize the valley of stats.

  • In reply to tater:

    The moves you suggest would decrease or basically be a wash (Bryant for Arenado who outside of Coors would probably be about a 30 HR guy) to the teams HR totals at a time when they need more power, not less. I don’t mean to be a broken record I just see very few people discussing the fact that this teams offensive woes were directly proportionate to the 25% dip in HR 167 in 2018 to 223 in 2017. If you don’t sign Harper or Machado you cannot move Schwarber.

  • Great piece BP! And to finish it with those Floyd lyrics is perfect. Thanks for all the time/effort your putting in for all of us.
    I’m probably way off, but I really think we can pull off a Hayward trade with Atlanta. If we could somehow get Inciarti for CF & one of their young arms, it would be perfect. I keep thinking giving them Quintana, Happ, Hayward (+$) & maybe Caratini would be enough. Atlanta could use a veteran pitcher, a replacement for Markakis in RF and a catcher, so this would give them much of what they’re looking for. We then sign Harper and our offseason is a success
    Like I said, I’m probably way off, but that’s my Dream offseason

  • In reply to Cubpack:

    Thanks, Cubpack. Like most of us here I've read for years and often offer praise and thanks to the writing staff. But being on the other side I'm realizing how much work and effort go into creating these pieces and have an even greater admiration, especially Michael with his daily minor's reports during the season. That's amazing. But it's also a labor of love and makes me a better and more informed baseball fan, and I can think of worse ways to spend my time than immersing myself in Cubs baseball and sharing it with this wonderful Cubs Den community.

  • I like to have Harper, but not at any cost in money and years. I'm a frugal guy, both for the player and org. It's a a red flag when the player goes after the last dollar above all else, or an owner throws monopoly money around like there is no tomorrow. It rarely leads to success. There is example after example. Players get injured or press trying to live up to their contracts, and organizations are hamstrung trying to fill out the rest of the roster for years to come.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I agree, even the most financially sound teams can end up wallowing in baseball mediocrity weighed down by bad contracts. Regardless of what everyone thinks, the Rickets aren’t cheap but they aren’t the Yankees of the 90s either.

  • I have to agree with TC's comments that there are no FA alternatives that improve on our existing OF. And with Scott Boros currently belittling Harper's $300M / 10 yr offers as WAY to little and short, I see no way he wears the Cubbie Blues for the next decade.

    After our second half offensive collapse, however, returning the same lineup (less Daniel Murphy) is not an option. Not to pressure BP to speed up his Infield column, but I am wondering if Scooter Gennett would be a sensible trade target. His 2018 slash line was .310 / .357 / .847 and (like Daniel Murphy) he always murdered Cubs pitching. Given that he only has one year left on his contract, perhaps the Reds would be tempted to trade him for a couple of MiLB pitching prospects (New Reds pitching coach and former Cubs MiLB pitching coordinator Johnson should know who he wants)

  • In reply to DropThePuck:

    I like that a lot. I still think they sign Harper but barring that it's a solid move. Then maybe move Happ and Russell for a CF.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I have a different opinion in that I sure hope they do not sign Harper. A 400 million contract will be an anchor around their neck for 10 years. No thank you.

  • In reply to John57:

    OK, I get the concern but Bryant is going to probably make $60 mil in his final three years of arb and then going into his age 30 season as a FA probably want $250-$260 mil over say 8 years. so if Bryant is your target, and you're pretty sure you can sign him in three years. your going to pay $310-$330 mil over the next 11 years. I believe Harper to be a marginally better player just entering his prime and will get 11-12 years at around $375 mil or so. Plus he'll certainly want an opt out in two years to coincide with Trout's FA year so if he opts out Bryant is still an option, and if he doesn't based on the landscape around him, you can trade Bryant with a year left on his deal for some serious value. Unless your thought is that you don't need an elite player on that level you're going to end up paying Bryant very similar money over the same time period and I think Harper probably has three 9 WAR seasons in him with four or five 5-6 WAR seasons. Bryant may have a 9 WAR season but I think most of his top years will be 5-6.5. The math isn't all that different for these two guys and you'd have the added benefit of having them both for a minimum of two years.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Besides paying Bryant they are going to have to pay Baez and whatever other young players they keep. Pass on Harper.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    We will agree to disagree. Fans need to stop paying so much attention to money, especially with large market teams. MLB tries to keep salaries tamped down, and last year was a huge victory in that regard, but they probably caused a labor strike by those actions and value is value. There are a lot of overpaid guys, but Harper is worth every penny of $350 mil. I'm not sure I'd pay him much more than that but its for the market to decide.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I disagree that Harper is worth 350+ million. Too much of a chance of injury or decline in performance over the long term deals. Harper has had many average years during his career. I think they can spend money more wisely than paying for the huge long term deals.

  • In reply to DropThePuck:

    The main thing about Washington's 10/$300 mil offer that you have to remember is that there were no opt outs. A guy like Harper is going to want opt outs, especially in two years, so that he can get into the year that Trout's on the market. Early estimates for Trout are 12/$500-$600 mil and Harper could possibly go to a team that was prepared to pay Trout but lost out and maybe parlay that into close to $400 mil going into his age 29 season. If I'm guessing I think Harpers deal will be around $375. Could be 10 years but a team might make it 12 to lower the AAV against the CBT. Either way I would expect opt outs at years 2 (age 28 season), year 4, (age 30 season) and year 6 (age 32 season). I would do that deal for many of the reasons I've mentioned in other posts over the last few weeks. Look, I was a Machado guy until some of his character flaws were exposed and I realized that he would be too much of a gamble. He's the guy that fits the best without a lot of moving parts where with Harper you've got to really shuffle the deck, but he's no longer an option. This team needs the kind of bat Harper provides, not to mention his drive.

  • In reply to TC154:

    No details were released on the Washington offer. No way Trout get close to 50 million per year.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    as long as Artie Moreno is the owner, the ludicrous is always possible.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    All reporting is that there were no opt outs in the offer. MLB Radio even had it in their updates. Pretty sure it was leaked by Boras but I have no reason to believe it wasn't true. As far as Trout work out his value mathematically, he'll get that half a billion. There is no precedent for a player that good to hit the FA market.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I see owners being more cautious in length of deals and dollars per year.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    Not with this kind of generational talent. You're talking two guys who are top ten to top twenty players in this league and haven't hit their prime years yet. Harper and Machado are going to be paid handsomely. Now, that said, some of the more downmarket FA will be treated with caution. m

  • In reply to TC154:

    I don't think Harper is generational talent. He has had one great year in 7 full seasons. He is already in his prime years. What does he have left in prime years - 3 more years? Many believe prime years end at 29. Don't want to over pay for a player with most of the deal in the players 30's.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    Prime years in baseball are usually defined as 27-32. He'll play 2019 at 26. That's why this kind of money is being talked about, Machado is a year older but the same thinking applies.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I've seen prime years as now 24 - 29 or 25 - 30.
    Even if prime goes to 32 you could be paying half the contract for past prime years. I also don't think Harper is generational talent.

  • In reply to TC154:

    The more I think about it I’d be really happy to have Harper at my predicted 13y/$379M contract. Give and take a little on cost and years, but I’d think the cubs can get him to agree to a contract that’s right around a $30M AAV (my prediction was at $29m). I originally mentioned opt outs after years 3 and 6. Your reply to me the other day makes a lot of sense in him wanting to jump in on Trouts FA offseason payday. So I can be on board with the 3 opt-outs you mention. I still think it would have to be front-loaded in order for that to make even more sense for Harper to turn down larger offers. The opt-out sure adds a lot of strength to the players side of the deal and adds more risk to the team, but I see it all being worth the risk, even seeing how the Heyward contract has played out at this point. Which brings me to my other thought... I’d be just as happy to see the cubs go strong for Kimbrel (something like 5y/$95M), Jed Lowrie (3y/$35 w/ a team friendly 4th year option), and Josh Donaldson on a one year deal, pushing KB to the OF for now. That actually pushes our threshold tax up higher, but also leaves more opportunity for future adjustments in not being weighed down by another single albatross contract. Lowrie would very much take over as a Zobrist-type veteran for when his contract is up. Then we’d have to turn at least 2 of Schwarber, Happ, Almora, and/or Russell into more parts for our bullpen. It wouldn’t necessarily extend our 3 year window, but I think it would really balance out our entire roster for the next couple years.

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    In reply to Cubber Lang:

    Like I said above, I like your Harper deal. I think 5 yrs is too much for Kimbrel and I think he's going to want more money too. I really don't trust Kimbrel to hold up for more then 3 yrs. Even then, he seems to have peaked and is on his way down ( career arc wise).

    I would like to get a younger cheaper closer. Like maybe we can make a trade to Seattle for Edwin Diaz or to Tampa as they always seem to make good relievers out of nothing.

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    Acquiring Edwin Diaz would really be great, but at what cost? Seeing what the Yankees just gave up for 2 years of James Paxton, would Schwarber, Russell, and Alzolay be enough for him? Maybe we'd even have to add someone like Monty going back to the M's too.

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    I wouldn't make that move. Sure, Diaz is great, but is he as much a need as something else those guys could bring? Plus I'm not trading Alzolay at all. That cuts into your depth. You need 9-10 starters to get through a season. We know the starting 5 and currently the depth is Montgomery, Chatwood, Alzolay, Mills and Underwood. It's not awesome depth to begin with and if you find a way to move Chatwood you do it. I can't move a pitcher who could be the best of that bunch.

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    In reply to TC154:

    If thats the case and he really wants to be a FA when Trout is then sign him to a 2 yr 80 million dollar deal.

    Lets go for b2b world series titles. Then in 2 years, if our minors have still produced basically ZERO starting pitching prospects to replace our aging staff ( at that time) then perhaps its time to do a short 1-2 yr rebuild and trade are soon to be free agents.

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    Well, ideally you’d love to do that but the reality is that he want to have his cake and it eat it to and someone is going to give it to him. He’s the most talented player to reach FA a full year before his prime years in a generation. He holds all the cards.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Harper would make Schwarber redundant. We could say goodbye and good luck to Kyle.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Harper is the only way I trade Schwarber because Harper will hit at least as many HR as Kyle playing LF and at that point he becomes more valuable in trade than on the field. I suppose you could move Heyward to CF for a year but Schwarber could also get you a real CF or a quality IF. if they don't sign Harper you can't afford to lose Kyle's HRs.

  • Paying a lot of money for the likes of Pollock, Brantley or McCutcheon seems silly. If you fire Davis there has to have been a reason. So now you have fixed that problem. Why pay big bucks after that. Now if Davis wasn't the problem (he was) then you have to make some changes. Don't be signing off injured/aging outfielders and giving up on your youngsters. Stay the course.

  • In reply to veteran:

    I think you're probably closer to what Theo & Jed will actually do - work to get more out of the talent already on the team. Still, they need to take advantage of the competitive window they have. I like what Theo said about evaluating players by their performance. I hope some of the Cubs players heard that as a "shot across the bow" and understand that they need to step it up.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Me too, Cliff. The three young outfielders are gifted and have can do attitudes. Progress is not linear and I expect each to improve and one or all are capable of breaking out. Most fans would be more comfortable taking a financial hit on Heyward(not that he is nothing) because we pretty much know what he is.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    You can't expect all players to always improve. Some are at the level they are at and some even decline.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    I agree totally. Still, when I look at Happ, Schwarber and Almora, I see too much upside in young cost controlled players, who have yet to come into their own.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    That is where self scouting comes into play. If the front office thinks the player is at their level then they should be traded.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    Concur, it depends who we get for them or free agent signing makes them available.

  • I've always been one of 'those Cubs fans' who hates to see my favorite players traded. And I also agree (in general) with those here who have pointed out how abruptly Chili Davis was dropped end of season - as being a sign that management is pretty sure that the coaching was a more underlying problem than the talent on the field offensively. I don't see any of the current OF being moved this Winter UNLESS the Cubs bring in one of Harper, Brantley, McCutchen or Pollock. I suspect I am in the minority here, but I would prefer that the Cubs not make a play for any of these big-name OF Free Agents.

    That being said - either Brantley or McCutchen makes the most sense IMO if they do. However, I don't think either of them adds much to the team that is not already at least potentially there.

    Loved the improved defense from Schwarber in LF - and yes - that dude has a heck of an arm. Almora is always smooth defensively, and improved (at least early season) more into the hitter that we thought he could be. Heyward showed consistency most of the season at the plate and was his usual stellar defensive self. Zobrist seems to have found some sort of youth and health elixir. And if Happ is the 'weakest link' in the roster as an OF,... that's one heck of a decent weak link. Bryant isn't a slouch in the OF either part time.

    Schwarber is probably the most tradable of the bunch - if they can find an AL team that wants a LF/DH guy with power. I would hate to see him go, but he might make the most sense if one of them needs to be moved.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    I don't mind a player getting traded if it improves the team. Can't get too attached to players.

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    A pleasure reading this article. I would hate getting rid of any of our current outfielders; without a ++ prospect(S). I say give them all time to grow together. Look for Haywood to bounce back in power category. Born in 1950 and first game in 1959; most people don't appreciate how good we have it. No dynasties in MLB any more. Look what they said about the Astros last year!

  • In reply to From the burg:

    Heywards 3 years with the Cubs 7, 11 , 8. I think he is what he is.
    Time to move on from 1 or 2 position players. If not they will continue to play part time with Maddon.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    Well that makes sense, but I suppose that the Cubs could start 2019 with the same roster as they finished with in 2018 and still be optimistic. In addition, to the youth that was unable to be consistent all year, there were key injuries and unexpected down years from key players. I agree with making changes and putting together a better mix, but I'll look forward to improved results without major changes as well. The org has of the best baseball minds trying to figure it all out. Some tough.calls to be made.

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