Early Morning Dabs: There

The First Hundred

Over there. The Cubs have headed out west and started it out on a sour note. This road trip feels more critical than it probably truly is at this point in time. Perhaps it is the fact that teams throughout the NL are deciding what to do ahead of the trade deadline, and a strong performance in this series could provide the Cubs multiple benefits. That said trips out west don't seem to favor Chicago sports teams and last night was the latest chapter. It is probably an observation not based in fact, but it feels like these extreme westward swings are always tougher than the competition. Either way the Cubs won't come back until it's over, over there.

Random and Capricious Accountability

Rowan Wick has pitched very well in 2019, and appears to be an interesting option for the Cubs bullpen this year. I'm thinking Wick deserves to be back. Carl Edwards Jr. was the roster casualty, and a number of people rejoiced at that notion. Edwards has been extremely frustrating, and it is hard to trust him in high leverage spots.

But it does feel like another example of how randomly the front office has decided to enforce the much talked about accountability and production over every other consideration. Edwards got exactly one outing and then was banished back to Iowa to figure things out. The move seems counterproductive given the fact that the Cubs really need good Edwards in the bullpen. There is so little swing and miss in the pen, and Edwards provides that.

This comes at a time where the worst of the punishment for Russell's terrible game was Joe Maddon actually saying mean things about a player out loud. Pedro Strop continues to be given the eighth inning despite showing that he currently isn't the usual Cubs Pedro Strop. However, Edwards has a terrible outing and is sent down.

Maddon and the front office hopefully are making this move more to help Edwards rather than the team at this point. A pitcher struggling to find himself cannot be helped with a demotion following a single chance to prove himself. Edwards is another player who those outside the organization love to psycho-analyze, and I am reluctant to speculate too heavily about confidence levels of a player. But it would be understandable if this type of move would cause a player to press in the future.

The other factor that is annoying is that relievers are the easiest position on the field to find a chance for them to work through struggles at the big league level. Low level situations are easier to find for relievers as opposed to position players who either have to face whatever pitchers the opposition throws at them, or find themselves in the Daniel Descalso role getting a pinch hit appearance every other week.

Edwards hopefully will figure it out in Iowa because the Cubs really do need more strikeouts in the bullpen.

Pinching Pennies

The Cubs are going to add someone before the deadline. I am not certain who and what level of player it will be. But it would be shocking if the Cubs didn't add a single other player from outside the organization prior to August 1. However, it is going to be a tricky proposition because the Cubs are not wanting to expend either prospect capital or financial capital.

According to the most recent reporting from Patrick Mooney and Sahadev Sharma the Cubs might have some concerns absorbing the full four million owed to Nick Castellanos. There should be frustration at this pronouncement. The blame can be spread around between the front office and ownership, but it is a situation that shouldn't exist with this almost fully functional death star of a financial organization.

The front office has made a number of moves that have not panned out. I am sympathetic to the front office since I was a fan of all of the major moves they made. But it is true that the Cubs are spending over $200 million for the first time ever, and that is vastly more financial resources given to this front office than is to most teams.

The Ricketts family though is also deserving of some derision for being unwilling, so far, to stretch any further. The Cubs as an organization have a practically guaranteed return on their investment, and it isn't like adding any one or two players will result in bankrupting the team. In 2016, according to Theo Epstein the Ricketts family signed off on the Chapman acquisition that pushed the club passed the competitive balance tax threshold. Epstein stated that the family was deserved credit for being willing to stretch then. If that is true, then it is only fair that the family receives criticism when they aren't willing to stretch in special circumstances. After limiting the front office to Daniel Descalso and Brad Brach signings in a historic free agent class, it is only fair.

Cubs Common Denominator Lineup

Well the lineup yesterday featured the colorful history of Cubs first round draft picks. Every player was one selected in the "first" round, I included a supplemental selection in there or two. Still the list of Cubs first round draft picks is a pretty quick explanation for the historic futility of the organization.

First Rounder Name Position
1991 Doug Glanville CF
1993 Kevin Orie 3B
1985 Rafael Palmeiro 1B
2013 Kyle Schwarber C
2006 Tyler Colvin LF
2015 Ian Happ 2B
1982 Shawon Dunston SS
1981 Joe Carter RF
1987 Mike Harkey Pitcher

No puzzle today as I am debating whether to continue this gimmick. I tried a number of different things while writing recaps. We stopped doing the three stars a couple of years ago, but I have refused to give up random references. So it is to be seen whether this will go the way of three stars or random reference.

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  • As it get's closer and closer to deadline. We are seeing who the 25 are that Cubs want to go to post season. Why is Daniel Descalso stil on the team.

  • Fondly getting around to reading 'Early Morning Dabs'. I hate when a man can't a game off his mind, like last night. Anyway, I'm reluctant to put the blame for the budget restrictions on Theo or the Ricketts for that matter. The cast has been set and the org should try to work within it. It's rarely a good time to throw financial causing to the wind, because Tomorrow always comes. This team has a few holes and changes will be made. It's not a good time to do something stupid. I don't see an obvious big move. I believe that there is a path that keeps us in the mix. I just have no idea what those incremental fixes might be, but I will bet Theo and Jed have a plan.

  • I love reading your "Early Morning Dabs" Mike. Your time and effort is truly appreciated. I have to disagree a little with your take on the money situation. The last update I saw said the Cubs were just over $240 million for the 2019 luxury tax payroll. So they are already over the 2nd tier in tax. I think the bigger issue isn't paying more in taxes or payroll, but if they cross the final tier, which I believe is $246 million, they drop 10 spots in the draft and lose International money. My bet is that is the reason for needing Detroit to eat some of Castellanos contract. If they take on the full $4M, then they probably can't trade for anyone else, or possibly even have Zobrist back without crossing the $246M.

  • In reply to Cubpack:

    I see the Cubs just over $232M right now. That would leave the Cubs with just under $14M to spend and not go over the $246M threshold.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Athletic showed just over $240M. Not sure which is correct but I know it's not just salary. Luxury tax also includes pension benefits, etc.

  • In reply to Cubpack:

    OK, I see. Cots is showing $232M which also included benefits and the 40 man roster. I agree not sure which one is more accurate.

  • Dabs, I always enjoy reading these, I was too busy this weekend to comment though. And I always suck at the CCDL, but enjoy thinking about it a little.

    I agree with others, we are very close to that threshold that incurs harsh penalties. So the return on investment is that they will pay even more in taxes and lose a draft pick. We all pay the price as fans if that happens. The only return on investment that matters to me is another World Series title, and that is out of reach without seriously improving this team, especially if we need to stay under the threshold and not drop 10 picks in the draft.

    There's that saying in sports, if you're standing still, you're moving backwards. That's what we did this offseason, we stood still, and thusly, moved backwards. Right now, with so much change needed on this team, and those moves still not being made, it feels like we are moving backwards even more. The poor pitching from the bullpen doesn't help. Nor does the offense's untimely ability to not get hits. The Cubs base running and defense has moved backwards at an even faster pace than anything else.

    So I ask, is the 2019 version better than the 2018 version? Or put another way, how do you Cubs fans rank the 2017, '18 and '19 Cubs? Because I really feel that the answer is this organization has been moving backwards for 3 years. If so, why should we mortgage more future assets to continue moving backwards. Why not make a big move, one medium one, and 2 or 3 little ones that moves this team forwards?

    I think this team can reshuffle/rebuild in one quick swoop of moves over the next 9 days. They'd still be in a position that they could win the NL Central this year. The playoffs would still be a crapshoot. They'd still have a chance to win it all. But the difference is our farm system would still be in tact, even beefed up, and maybe we even would be left with better major league depth for the rest of this year and next, and there would be multiple top 50 MLB prospects at the top of our system (even a pitcher) to be mixed in with the remaining 2-3 core members who don't get traded. Just think, the 2020 version of the Cubs could have new young blood that is hungry, and doesn't know any better, just like the 2015 and '16 Cubs.

    I have to repeat something I said in the game recap last night. We have the 10th best record in MLB (3rd best in the NL). But I have something to add. We are 12 games worse than the best team in all of MLB, but only 3.5 games better than being ranked with the 17th best record in MLB. To magnify it, just look at the NL alone. We are still 12 games from the top team, but only 3.5 games better than having the 9th best record in the NL (or 6th worst). Further, we are terrible on the road, and we are going up against 3 teams on the road that look way more hellbent to turn their season around than we do ours. We are one bad road trip away from being in the middle of the pack... Are we really buyers?

  • The cubs are in a real pickle right now.

    They are playing well enough to be leading the NL Central, but not well enough to really be considered the juggernaut in the NL, let a lone, a WS contender. This is a dilemma because if the Cubs want to really improve their current roster, they would need to give up significant pieces from the system to do that. But if they "stand pat" and go with who they have right now, then people will wonder why they aren't "all in" for this season.

    Another complicating issue is that there are few sure-fire answers out there in the trade market and the ones that are, are either overpriced or have stiff competition for their services.

    Are we willing to gut the farm to play the Dodgers in the first round (with a good probability of losing the series) and then see those trade chips walk in the off-season because they were a 2-month rental? On the other hand, can we afford to just stay the course and not go all-in for another chance to get hot/lucky in the post-season, while we are in this window of contention?

    I don't have a good answer, but I do sympathize with the intense pressure the FO probably feels to do "something" to appease the fans/players and baseball in general.

  • In reply to DetroitCubFan:

    What do you think of Castellanos (rental). Forget what they have to give up to get him, would he be helpful? Defense is close to poor, does his offense against LHP make up for that?

  • In reply to stix:

    I know you didn't ask me. Castellanos' offense would be nice, but it would also be very easy for an opposing pitcher to pitch around him and get the next guys out like they've been doing when they've needed to against the Cubs lineup.

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    I asked him because he lives in the Detroit area given his ID. Thought he might have insights that others might not have.

    Tigers are terrible and wonder how that might impact his current performance even though it’s his walk year.

  • In reply to stix:

    that's a tough call on Castellanos.

    Yes his defense is below average, with part of the reason being he is lumbering and slow, so doesn't get good reads to take good routes on balls hit to the outfield. His arm is average at best.

    Offense-wise, he is a beast for a RH hitter and has been especially hot the last month or so. He is currently the best hitter the Tigers have. I would say he is very "clutchy" and is good at driving in runs when you need them.

    Mentally, he is kind of in a funk right now in Detroit. this past weekend, he was venting about the dimensions at Comerica Park and how they hurt power hitters like himself. He is also very gruff with reporters when the subject of the trade deadline comes up (probably because he is sick of hearing his name brought up the last couple of years). The Tigers have made no significant moves to keep him beyond this year, so I think he is ready to move on from Detroit.

    He is best suited as a DH going forward, but the dude can flat-out hit and he could provide a real threat from the right side of the plate for the Cubs. I could see him getting the bulk of playing time in LF to help the Cub's playoff push. Because he is a rental, I would hate to give up a lot for him and then lose him in the off-season because he is going to want $15M or more per year on his next contract.

    Anyway, that's my take on him. I think he could really help the Cubs just for his bat alone. His defense, however, would be a slight problem.

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