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.