While all of us sane folks were sleeping the regular season kicked off with the Mariners edging out the A's 9-7 over in Japan. Former Milwaukee outfielder Domingo Santana hit the first home run of the year. The game also featured a touching moment for Ichiro:
— MLB (@MLB) March 20, 2019
Ichiro comes out of the game.
Pardon us, we're crying in the club rn. pic.twitter.com/09aKuLlsiQ
— Cut4 (@Cut4) March 20, 2019
It is my understanding, the Mariners plan a similar move tomorrow in order for the legendary hitter to receive another ovation from the new crowd.
Yesterday featured a pair of big contract extensions. The whopper, of course, was the 12-year $430M deal signed by Mike Trout. I'm sure Kris Bryant and his rep took note. Later in the afternoon word came out that Alex Bregman has agreed to a 6-year $100M extension with Houston, which I'm sure was of great interest to Javy Baez and his camp. The Trout deal will likely a ceiling for any extension talk for Bryant, while the Bregman deal will likely be the floor for talks with Baez. Neither situation aligns perfectly, but at this point, I'm sure negotiations with Bryant will now include a $400M+ price tag, with Boras eyeing the potential to top Trout's deal if Bryant decides to test UFA in two years. Any deal for Baez will probably kick off in the $150M+ range as Baez was one year ahead of Bregman on the arbitration ladder. Contract length on both deals will obviously factor in but we at least have decent comps for current market value now.
A Quick Scare
As if the Cubs didn't have enough health questions on their pitching staff already, Yu Darvish exiting his start yesterday afternoon with an apparent hand or finger injury. It was revealed afterwards to be a minor blister issue. So, hopefully Darvish will remain on track and continue to build momentum from his strong spring training into the regular season.
The pitching health woes extend to the Minors
Remember all those tweets and occasional article where I mentioned I wasn't sure how the Cubs were going to squeeze all of their starter prospects into their Minor League rotations? Yeah, that's no longer a problem.
The current list of pitchers questionable for Opening Day is long, and extends through each level in the system. In Iowa, Adbert Alzolay is definitely a no-go at the start of the year. Now, it appears Alec Mills and Colin Rea are not throwing as well. Further down: Matt Swarmer and Eric Leal (Oscar de la Cruz will also miss the start of the year due to suspension) are on the shelf for Tennessee, Erich Uelmen in Myrtle Beach is too. The only affiliate that appears healthy is South Bend. The situation in Iowa has gotten desperate enough that Jen-Ho Tseng and veteran Christian Bergman appear to be locks for the rotation, and Trevor Clifton is being stretched back out to take a spot as well, even though the Cubs initial intention was to use him out of the pen this season. With 3/5 of the projected rotation hurt, it is very possible one of Michael Rucker or Keegan Thompson begin the season in Iowa as well.
None of the seven starters are seriously hurt, at least according to limited reports, so the hope is the depth will be rebuilt relatively quickly, but it bears watching none the less.
The affiliate bullpen arms appear to be in far better health, and the logjam for jobs in Iowa is still intense, even if the picture is clearing somewhat. As of now I am projecting Dillon Maples, Rowan Wick, James Norwood, Duane Underwood, Dakota Mekkes and Allen Webster to open as the right-handed options, with all but Mekkes and Webster on the Cubs 40-man roster. Randy Rosario and Kyle Ryan will fill out the left side. Tony Barnette and Xavier Cedeno look like they will open the year on the IL. If any of these arms end up beginning the year in Chicago (Maples and Webster seem like the most likely options to me) or another injury crops up hat would open the door for Junichi Tazawa, Alberto Baldonado, Matt Carasiti, or Carlos Ramirez to earn a job in Iowa.
I believe the team would like to hang on to at least a couple of those extra arms so we could see a veteran or two stay back in EXST just like Ryan did last year to work in the Pitch Lab while they await an opening. With Addison Russell and de la Cruz scheduled to make a returns to the 40-man roster about 50 days from now, there will be a cascading effect down through the system as room is made.
Filed under: Spring Training