Tuesday Talking Points: An Anniversary, SP Depth, Best Bullpen, Craig Sager

This week marks my one year anniversary at Cubs Den. I remember the excitement of opening the email from John last December, and I also remember feeling a bit nervous about hitting “publish” on that first piece. Myles and I came aboard at the same time, and I’ve genuinely enjoyed his work here along with writers like Sam, Dan, and Mike (Dabynsky) who have added to the stellar job that John does for a long time. It was Sam’s Sunday posts and Dan’s rumor threads that first drew me to the site, but I got hooked on the game recaps a few years ago too. John’s depth of knowledge of the farm system and the way the organization works is unparalleled, and he is gracious enough to let the rest of us here share the space, which is incredible.

Being a part of the game previews and recaps this past season still feels surreal, not only because of how the season turned out, but because I have been such an avid reader of them for a while. It’s a great deal of work to head all of that up, and Mike probably doesn’t get the credit he deserves for that task.

I appreciate the readers and commenters here even more now, too. Before being a contributor, I read a lot and commented rarely, but I’ve seen nowhere else where the comments section is often as informative and thoughtful as the post itself. I’m thankful for readers who have been patient with my mistakes, non-edited writing, and probably painful growth process. I’m a better writer and more informed Cubs fan for my time here. I’m excited for that to continue into 2017 at Cubs Den.

So, onward, then.

Time to add SP depth

The Tyson Ross rumors are intriguing, and they are currently pointing to him being in a Cubs uniform next year. I am very, very much on board with this because it’s the way to add some needed depth to the rotation without jettisoning prospects or divvying out too much cash. He’ll be cheap, and if his shoulder is healthy, quite good.

As John mentioned already, he’s visited Wrigley, and he’s also been on the Cubs’ radar for a few years. The shoulder issues essentially took away his 2016 season (he only pitched Opening Day), but prior to that, he had been a very effective starter in 2014 and 2015. He’ll add some pressure to Mike Montgomery’s starting bid, but depth of this sort is never a bad thing. I expect and hope that the Cubs will have signed him before Christmas.

The Best Bullpen?

The Cubs have chosen to invest in the bullpen this offseason, concentrating their acquisitions on that part of the roster thus far. Wade Davis, Koji Uehara, and to a much, much lesser degree, Brian Duensing, are pieces to creating an even stronger reliever corps than the top-tier one that the Cubs had in 2016.

They wisely and unsurprisingly chose to let Aroldis Chapman go and did not make much of a pursuit for Kenley Jansen, choosing instead to improve the bullpen at a much lower cost, though with greater risk. Craig Edwards had good perspective on this at Fangraphs a few days ago. He details why this is a high risk, but high reward ‘pen headed into 2017 very carefully, but here’s the gist:

By projections, the Cubs have gone from one of the worst 10 bullpens in baseball to the third best. While the Cubs are taking on a lot of risk, Davis, Rondon, and Uehara could all profile as very good to elite next season. Edwards, Jr. and Strop also have some upside. If everything works out, this bullpen is fantastic. Everything isn’t likely to work out, and some combination of those top guys will likely be hurt or prove to be ineffective. That is still an okay outcome for a Cubs team that doesn’t need a great bullpen to be a great team.

By taking on a bunch of risks, the Cubs have increased their chances of having an elite reliever without paying the price of the big free agents who were on the market. It’s possible the Cubs could still be searching for a better bullpen at some point next season, but they have done a good job at deepening their pen and insuring against disaster.

The Cubs are resisting the temptation to spend big in order to repeat as World Series champions in 2017, and there’s a pretty good chance it’s going to pay off. The fruits of the rebuild that left us to watch the abysmal teams of 2011 and 2012 extend beyond just this year’s trophy.

Farewell, Craig Sager

John touched on it already, but Sager will be sorely missed. I spend a lot of my winters watching basketball to distract me from the absence of baseball, and as a result, I saw a lot of Craig Sager.

David Roth at VICE Sports had a very nice piece on this a few days ago, if you missed it. Here’s a bit of it that I especially appreciated:

From the fond recollections that have followed after his passing, it seems safe to say that Sager really was that person—self-possessed and goofy, confident and ego-less, sincere in his love for his work and the people around him. His collection of supremely terrible suits—monstrosities in shades of nitrate-y meat and hallucinogenic wallpaper and disco waterfowl, without one ever being repeated—marked him as a clown, but everything else suggested that he was an admirable man in a public but mostly unimportant job. For all the inspirational heft his disease thrust upon him, he was mostly admired for his ease and comfort in himself as much as his struggle against the undefeatable. He seemed like a very good guy, in other words, and NBA fans accepted him as that.

Take the time to read the whole thing. It’s worth it. For us, Sager was also special for his love of the Cubs and the reminder that it’s sometimes okay for sports fandom to still be childlike. Better that than the sometimes heated, violent, and ugly thing that sports fandom can do to those who choose to take it too seriously.

 

Comments

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  • I can appreciate your feelings on your anniversary and, along with many, enjoy your contributions. I certainly concur with your comments on Sager.

  • If they can add Ross that would be a pretty good "tweak" to the starting depth. Even if he needed an extra month or 2 to be fully ready.

    Off topic but, I'm also warming up to the idea of Schwarber leading off. Just having him in the lineup is awesome enough... He,ll be the "He goes, we goes" of 2017.

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    Congrats on your anniversary, Jared. I always enjoy reading your stuff on here.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Thanks Joel!

  • In reply to Jared Wyllys:

    Jared,

    As a fellow teacher, I have always been amazed at how frequently you are able to write about the Cubs, teach (I assume), parent, husband, and all the other aspects of your life that we do not read about.

    My school has put together a yearly book club for students to read over the summer, but I have never participated as a book leader. Instead, I have been thinking of assigning this blog because of the well-written articles, but also the comments made, which you referenced.

    The commenters definitely add to the topic, and I believe that we hold each other to a level of clarity and specificity, along with incorporating statistics and logic into discussion, which is somewhere within Common Core.

    Thank you to you Jared, to John, to all the writer/contributors, but also to all the fellow commenters for making this a GREAT community.

    Jared - One question I've been wondering about: how do you decide what article/material goes on this site, versus going on another site for which you write?

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    In reply to 2Toes:

    I can only assume that Jared makes his decisions based on market forces: Whoever pays him more gets his latest musings. LOL.

  • In reply to 2Toes:

    Thanks 2Toes!

    It's definitely tough, but I devote nearly all of my free time to it. I love doing it, so I don't mind that. Most of the writing happens at night, after teaching and parenting is done for the day.

    As for your question, I don't have a real method to that. A lot of it just comes to what I think will be better received at one site or the other.

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    i thought what was interesting for the fangraphs article
    was they had Felix Pena pitching 25 IP.

  • In reply to deport soriano com:

    I actually would not be surprised if Pena ends up contributing more to this season than Uehara. I'm still in shock they gave Uehara that much money, as basically insurance - esp at his age.

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    You're spot on with Sager. Wild coats are one thing, but if no one is inside it's just a carnival show. Even Greg Popovich respected him and that's a tough sell. He had intelligence and good humor and knowledge.
    Congrats on your anniversary (and Myles too). I retired a year ago and we certainly picked the right year to concentrate on the Cubs.
    One more BP arm we signed was Caleb Smith from the Rule 5 draft. I know nothing about him, but if Theo/Jed picked him he must have quality.
    Let's hope for another good year!

  • You start writing for Cubs Den, Cubs win World Series...coincidence? I think not! Check out this video of Heyward's new swing. Is it just me, or does it remind you of Schwarber? http://www.cubsrelated.com/2016/12/jason-heywards-new-swing.html?m=1

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    I like it. Heyward has lowered his hands and is not all tied up and should be quicker to the ball. He should find it much easier to pound the steady diet of fastballs. The mechanics are somewhat similar to Schwarber, but Kyle's swing, of course, is more fluid with greater bat speed. I wonder if Baez could benefit from this kind of simplification.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Baez's problem is pitch selection. he needs more plate discipline. his swing is fine imo

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    He can still make improvements. He doesn't always keep his lower and upper halves in sync, he also still rolls over his top hand too often.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    The new swing looks a LOT better. Thanks for the link!

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    09's link, but maybe we will see Heyward' s best offensive year. Wouldn't tat be nice!

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    Nice video, thanks for the link!

    I am by no means a baseball swing expert or for that fact was ever very good at baseball BUT I could even see Heyward's swing flaws. I thought for one his hands were to high & to close to his body. Nice to see him lower them a bit & move them away from his body too. He just had to many moving parts last year, I mean he had to move his hands out then down all before he swung. That to me was a very big reason why he could not catch up to fastballs. Swing looks a little Eric Davis like. Listen to Barry

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    Closer to Rizzo than Schwarber especially in the positioning of the hands. Should allow his natural bat speed to shine and get to the ball quicker.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Yes, I think that's true. Schwarber just kind of hangs out in the box and smacks it. Often I think Kyle is taking a pitch and hits out of the park.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I've said it many times before but Kyle's swing is my favorite swing to watch since the early of Frank Thomas despite the two hitting from opposite sides. It's so fluid and quiet that, like you say, sometimes it looks like the idea to swing was an afterthought. Heyward has the natural ability to be not only better than he was in 2016, it would be hard to be worse, but better than we was with Atlanta and St. Louis and the guy is such a class act and a hard worker that I don't doubt that he can do it at all.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I agree completely about Heyward. He has an admitted flaw of being introverted and far too hard on himself. Many players struggle with a new team in the first year of a big contract, and I think that affected Jason even more than other players. But like you say, the baseball talent and athleticism is unreal, especially for such a big boy. No one is going to work harder than Heyward to get themselves back on track. His drive and determination to improve is surpassed only by his character. He'll be back, and better than ever.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Well said BP and TC154. My sentiments exactly.

    And thanks for the link Cubswin09.

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    As an "introvert" I hardly see that trait as a "flaw." Much less something to be admitted to.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    Thanks 09 for the video. I have a feeling our offense is going to be rather good in 2017. :-)

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    I like the change also. Sure can't hurt. It looks to me like his low hand position is a bit exaggerated. Maybe as a way to get him used to keep his hands away from his body? Still seems to be a bit more movement (upward) then I'd like to see, but definitely looks better.

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    I like the pursuit of Ross, he has been the apple of their eye before...

    I'll say this: for a surgically re-constructed pitcher, being wooed by the World Champion Chicago Cubs (should I go ALL CAPS?) and getting a tour of the new and improved Wrigley Field, he would be a fool to sign anywhere else, unless ridiculous money is at stake.

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    WORLD CHAMPION CHICAGO CUBS

    Yeah, I like that better...

  • In reply to Jimmy Olsen:

    I prefer the all caps as well, at least for a while...

    There certainly seems to be strong mutual interest between Ross and the Cubs. I agree with you and Jared the only way he doesn't sign is because of a significantly higher, and more guaranteed, offer elsewhere. We have a lot to offer in addition to the WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP, including a fun, loose playing atmosphere, brilliant management, an adoring fan base, and, particulary in his case, the world-class rehab facility in Mesa. I'd be very surprised at this point if he's not a Cub next season.

    Happy Anniversary, Jared and Myles! You've been worthy additions to John's staff of writers. Since you've been here, I've been drawn to other sites when I see your name's credited. I'm sure you've drawn some knowledgeable fans from elsewhere here as well. A little lucky on the timing, though. You'll have to prove your loyalty by sticking around for the inevitable bad times a decade or so from now. :) Keep up the good work!

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    A little serenade, being that the 1st anniversary is paper and all:

    "Sippin' lemon yellow booze,
    Ol' Lead Belly sings the blues.
    All dressed up on wedding day,
    Keep on trippin' anyway".

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Thanks, BP! It's nice to hear that you read my stuff in other places as well. Thanks for doing that.

  • he has a single load and swing now. its not a set hands, load then swing like he did last year. was like almost a double hitch last year. much more fluid

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    Yeah - that swing does look better. He's just got to get the reps in to build up that muscle memory to lock it in now.

  • Happy Anniversary Jared - keep up the excellent work!

    I assume that Ross - if he is acquired this Winter would start out the Spring on the 60-day DL to finish healing up and rehabbing? What kind of price-tag would he command? Some sort of low-end base but incentive-laden deal?

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    I think the trick part of a Ross signing is the term. You would think that Ross ideally wants to sign a 1 year pact, complete his rehab, get in a rotation by May and then hope for a 4 or more year deal in FA as he enters his age 31 season in 2018. The Cubs, on the other hand, would want to sign him to an incentive laden contract with an option for 2018. Maybe a $6-$7 mil base with incentives that could get him to $10 mil or more and then the team option worth $12-$16 mil for 2018. They wouldn't want to pay for his rehab and then lose him to FA. So if you're Ross what do you do? Bet on yourself completely and sign a smaller deal for 1 year with a non contender who can let you ease into a rotation and if you're lights out get traded at the deadline, and then hit FA? Or agree to the option on the defending World Champions, also ease into a rotation and then earn your incentives with a what could be a performance commensurate salary in 2018 but not hit FA until your age 32 season? It's a really tough call for the player IMO, not so tough for the Cubs.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Thanks!

    I could only speculate on what kind of a deal, but the short end of his recovery time puts him ready to go in February, but I could see them taking their time. If Montgomery is working out as a starter, then there's especially no reason to push him.

  • Loving Heyward's new swing.

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