We’re at the end of November and the hot stove is still pretty cold. It seems like the entire baseball world is being held up by Shohei Ohtani and Giancarlo Stanton, which is a major drag. Most of the signings don’t usually happen until during or after the Winter Meetings (December 10-14 in Orlando), but this year has been unusually slow.
• The Cubs just signed left-handed reliever Dario Alvarez to what we can assume would be a minor league contract. If you don’t know much about the nearly-29-year-old Alvarez, join the club. He was signed as an amateur free agent by the Phillies back in 2007, when he was just 17 years old. He pitched in the rookie league for the Phillies the next three years, appearing in 43 games (26 starts) and posting a 3.18 ERA over 172 2/3 innings.
On August 17, 2009, Alvarez started against the Mariners’ rookie team and threw six innings, allowing eight hits, no earned runs, no walks, and striking out three. The very next day, the Phillies released the 20-year-old. A quick internet search reveals no real reason why, which raises an eyebrow.
He completely fell off the grid, only to return four years later as a 24-year-old in low-A with the Mets. Alvarez worked his way to a September call-up in 2014 and has bounced between the minors and the big leagues ever since. He has made 56 appearances over four years with the Mets, Rangers, and Braves, posting a 5.06 ERA with 11.4 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9. In 16 1/3 innings with Texas last season, he walked 14 batters. Just what the Cubs need, right?
Ed. note: The Cubs actually signed Alvarez to a major league deal, which is certainly interesting. The Cubs have plenty of room on the 40-man, but the move comes just a day ahead of the non-tender deadline that could see two more spots open up.
• Getting back to Ohtani, David Kaplan of NBC Sports Chicago wrote recently that rival executives see the Cubs as a major threat to land the two-way Japanese star. That comes despite the fact that they can only offer a $300,000 signing bonus, which would normally present a major stumbling block.
If you were creating a player in a video game, Ohtani is what you would end up with. He throws a 100 mph fastball with a devastating slider, but he is also a solid outfielder that scouts have rated as a 70 in the power category. And then there is this…
…which is mind-blowing. Ohtani apparently has been timed at 3.8 seconds to first base, which puts him just a tick behind Billy Hamilton in the speed category.
The Cubs – like every team in baseball – should be doing everything in their power to bring Ohtani to Wrigley Field. This is a special talent in a rare category, someone Rays pitcher Chris Archer correctly notes could change the way we view the game. Just imagine what baseball would look like 10 or 15 years from now if coaches began developing young, talented players to be both hitters and pitchers.
I’ve been a little more reserved in my thoughts on the Cubs landing Ohtani, mainly because they’re one of 30 teams vying for the same player. Major League Baseball just slapped the Braves with the death penalty for skirting the rules in international free agency, so any team thinking of setting up an under-the-table deal has to stop and think very hard about it first. With no such deal in place, it’s hard to envision the Cubs having better than a 10-15 percent chance of winning this ultimate prize.