Overflow Thoughts on Palmeiro’s Comeback Attempt, Schwarber’s Fitness, Pursuit of Ohtani

The really great part about operating an independent blog is that I can put out pretty much anything I want on whatever schedule I want. However, that often leads to hurriedly posting a write-up of breaking news or tapping something out on my phone while I’m on the elliptical machine. Which means failing to make points and inject nuance in ways that are painfully evident later.

Sometimes it’s just a matter of having topics that you find interesting but that get washed out by the rising tide of the next big topic. In any case, I wanted to hit on one item that I didn’t cover Wednesday while putting a little more meat on the bones of two others.

Palmiero wants to do what?!

Rafael Palmeiro wants to attempt a comeback (subscription required). No, this isn’t a joke. Well, it is, but the 53-year-old former slugger certainly seems to be taking the matter very seriously. Dude hasn’t played professionally in over 12 years and he was getting by with a little help from his friend, Stan Ozolol, at the end of his career.

Wait, what’s that? Oh, stanozolol.

“There’s no doubt in my mind I can do it,” Palmeiro told The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, who apparently kept a straight face throughout the interview. “I’ve taken care of myself really well. I’ve been working out for years. Everything feels better than when I played.”

Like, that’s cool and all, but — and this is the real key — YOU’RE 53 FREAKING YEARS OLD. For goodness sake, even his mustache on the wrong side of 30. This feels like a publicity stunt, a way for Palmeiro to make a little money or at least dilute the image of him wagging his finger in front of a Congressional committee.

Maybe we could just go full circus, letting Palmeiro hit against Bartolo Colon and RA Dickey just to see how close we can get the aggregate ages of pitcher and batter to 100. I don’t think that’s what Palmeiro’s shooting for, though. As insane as it sounds, this guy might honestly think he’s got a shot.

“If I go to spring training with a legitimate chance to make the team,” Palmeiro reasoned, “I won’t have to go to the minors.”

Okay, but is anyone out there equally crazy enough to green-light this sideshow?

“It’s like tying your shoes,” Orioles GM Dan Duquette said. “If you can hit, then you can hit.”

Yeah, I don’t think that’s the way it works. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if Palmeiro has resorted to Pro Wings cleats with the Velcro straps. And even if the old man’s back and fingers are limber enough to accommodate bending down and tying the laces, there’s no way he’s standing in there against Clayton Kershaw or Max Scherzer and making things happen.

While my initial and overwhelming thought is that this is merely a delusional fever dream, I do think there could be something a little deeper to it. Which is to say that there might be a little Moonlight Graham action taking place, though that’s an odd way to describe one of a handful of ballplayers with 500 home runs and 3,000 hits.

Rather than getting his only hit, I wonder if Palmeiro just wants to get one more hit. He collected two knocks, one a double, in his second game back from a 10-game PED suspension in 2005, but ended his career on an 0-for-21 skid. What if that has lingered like an itch between his shoulder blades for the last dozen years? Maybe this is just about exorcising a demon more than it is actually trying to make a real go at it.

If some team does actually give him a shot, I would gladly pay money to see this thing in action. I mean, inject that stuff straight into my veins…and then blame the results on a B-12 shot from Miguel Tejada.

Schwarber looking good

Palmeiro walking around at 20 el-bees under his playing weight is cool, but what about the transformation Kyle Schwarber has made over the last month? I’ve referred to him as a fire hydrant in the past, which makes the Dalmatian in the Twitter pic below all the more fitting, but the left fielder appears to have shed some water weight.

Were he truly resigned to a DH role, I don’t see why Schwarber would go through the effort to get himself into such good shape. This has the look and feel of a man who is hell-bent on becoming a better left fielder, and I believe that’s exactly what the Cubs want him to be.

IFA money and what Ohtani wants

One Twitter follower referred to me as clueless yesterday, which was cute. Had he been referring solely to the Shohei Ohtani business, he’d actually have had a case. No one really knows what’s going on there, not even the most plugged-in baseball writers on the planet.

Last night’s flurry of activity stemmed from dual trades with the Twins by both the Angels and Mariners, the significance of which was debated and discussed strenuously for, like, 30 minutes. Many thought it meant the Cubs were out of the running, though I think that’s taking far too myopic a view. More likely is the idea that the Twins capitalized on the situation.

Both trades took place within minutes of one another, both were for prospects drafted in the first five rounds, and both were for $1 million. You think it’s a coincidence that the Angels and Mariners hit the Twins up for that money? The far more likely scenario is that Minnesota was sitting on IFA money that they had no other use for, so they called up a couple teams that were looking for every possible point of leverage they could find.

Because we know next to nothing about Ohtani’s desires, it’s impossible to summarily rule out the idea that money will sway him. If that’s the case, though, it would fly directly in the face of everything we’ve seen and heard to this point. Were money an object, he’d have stayed in Japan.

Or if it was a matter of pitting teams against one another, the Yankees and Twins would have made the top seven or nine or whatever. Four of the teams in Ohtani’s final group are limited to a $300,000 bonus cap, thereby suffocating any significant competitive leverage and more or less nullifying the bonus (as if that wasn’t already the case).

Once he got down the seven, it seems/ed that the decision would be based on anything but bonus. Again, if it was about the money, the Rangers would now be the favorites. But let me be very clear once more: The. Money. Does. Not. Matter. Every decision to this point has been made without financial concern, that’s not changing now.

One thing that could be at play here, and I believe I saw something about this from Matthew Trueblood as well, is that Ohtani’s agency isn’t out here trying to do pro bono work. They’re already taking on a client whose earnings — at least early on — will be a mere fraction of what he’d otherwise merit, which means CAA’s take is drastically reduced. One way to improve the agency take is to increase the available bonus pools.

That all means nothing if Ohtani chooses one of the four teams with a more modest bonus, but this is an odds game. It’s also a matter of leverage, though CAA also needs to act in good faith and not alienate teams with which they’ll be doing business on other free agents in the future. And that goes back to the added bonus money and why that can’t be an issue.

Had CAA and Ohtani included four bonus-capped teams on the list, three of which (the Cubs, Dodgers, and Giants) are very big markets, only to pick a team based on them adding nominal additional money, that would be bad. Like, really bad. Putting those teams through a dog and pony show could be detrimental to the agency’s reputation and standing across the league, and that’s not something they’d be willing to risk.

Some teams already felt as if they’d been played after spending time putting together presentations only to be summarily culled from the herd days later. As silly and petty as I think that is, CAA is already in a difficult situation and won’t want to make it any worse by pulling some shenanigans at this late juncture.

So, again, Wednesday night’s trades bear the stink of desperation. Or perhaps you prefer to view it as pulling out all the stops and doing everything in their power to improve their stature. Beyond the money itself, some have pointed out that the move to acquire money could simply be a way to appeal to Ohtani by proving exactly how serious they are in their desire to land him.

That actually makes sense.

As for the next step(s) in the process, I’m guessing one more cut down to a final three or four, followed by hometown dates. Prior to this past week in LA, Ohtani’s only American experiences had been in Hawaii and Phoenix. Not exactly indicative of what he’d be dealing with in Chicago or Seattle, among others.

And while checking those places out in December is a far cry from what he’ll see during the baseball season, it only makes sense to at least check them out. Which means he’ll make a decision on his team on Friday, sight unseen.

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Evan Altman

Evan Altman is the EIC and lead writer for Cubs Insider and has proclaimed himself Central Indiana’s foremost Cubs authority. He is a husband, father, homebrewer, and award-winning blogger with entirely too much pop culture knowledge. Evan’s greatest accomplishments include scoring 400 points in Magic Johnson’s Fast Break, naming all 10 members of the Wu-Tang Clan in under 3.5 seconds, and winning the Meese Literary Award at Hanover College. You can follow him on Twitter @DEvanAltman.

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