The Rundown: Questioning Kyle Hendricks’ Ace Credentials, Brewers Offer Darvish, Let’s Pick on the Mets

Good morning! I’ve been to colder opening days than today, so there’s that. Only 23 days until pitchers and catchers report and spring training baseball is just about a month away.

I want to pump the brakes on Kyle Hendricks for a second. Though he has been the Cubs’ best pitcher over the past two seasons, there’s a question as to whether he is a legitimate top-of-rotation starter. While his numbers were down most of last season because of injuries, a 3.03 ERA with a 1.19 WHIP should be good enough to lead any National League staff that doesn’t have Clayton Kershaw or Max Scherzer leading it.

But a deeper dive suggests Hendricks may have been a little lucky, at least as indicated by his 3.88 FIP. The 28-year-old also saw his walk numbers go up (2.6 BB/9) and his strikeout numbers go down (7.9 K/9) as compared to his breakout season of 2016. Considering the right-hander averaged less than six innings per start, that’s not the usual profile for a No. 1 starter.

Still, Hendricks’  ERA+ of 146 (an ERA+ of 100 is a league average pitcher) bested each of the top four free agent starting pitchers:

  • Lance Lynn 124
  • Jake Arrieta 123
  • Yu Darvish 118
  • Alex Cobb 113

It’s no wonder teams are hesitant to meet the contractual demands of those players.

Meanwhile, the Brewers, a surprise contender in the National League Central last season, have reportedly made a contract offer to Darvish. Milwaukee was expected to be active this winter in terms of starting pitching, has payroll flexibility, and needs a replacement for injured No. 1 starter Jimmy Nelson. Though terms of the offer weren’t announced, it did elicit another Twitter reaction from the free agent starting pitcher:

By last count, the Astros, Cubs, Rangers, Twins, and Yankees, and a mystery team (most had assumed it was the Dodgers) were known suitors. It’s uncertain whether the Brewers are the sixth team in on Darvish or whether this offer comes in addition to the others. The Cubs remain interested in Arrieta as well.

Twins owner Jim Pohlad played the part of Darvish fanboy at the club’s annual TwinsFest event this past Saturday. When asked, Pohlad confirmed the team’s interest in acquiring the pitcher. “Yes, I’m totally on board with that. There are some interesting names and some interesting opportunities there. I’m as intrigued by it as anybody and attracted to it as anybody.”

Cubs News & Notes

When Theo Epstein assumed control of the Cubs’ baseball operations, an internal conversation started with this premise: They wanted to be the best at everything. In talent acquisition and development, of course, but also in helping players make their families more comfortable and helping them transition from level to level more smoothly. The Cubs aimed to be the best in nutrition, in designing and constructing a new clubhouse, in their medical practices. The fact that this front office has exercised extreme patience this winter should be no surprise.

One baseball executive believes that Kyle Schwarber will be the Cubs’ best hitter in 2018.

“Everyone who doubted this kid may end up way off on their evaluation because he is a great hitter and now that he is almost two years removed from his knee injury, he knows what playing at the major-league level is all about I expect him to be a real force in the Cubs lineup.”

Jason Heyward has a prediction as to who will be the Cubs 2018 MVP. Spoiler alert: This player wants to be known for more than just his $184 million pep talk.

2018 is a year of significant anniversaries for the Cubs and Cubs fans.

A look back at the Cubs/Mets rivalry, as I am intent on picking on Flushing’s Finest today.

Weekend Stove

Alex Cobb wouldn’t get into specifics when asked Friday, but he has talked seriously with 15 teams and hasn’t eliminated any. The Brewers, Twins, Nationals, Orioles, Rangers, Yankees are reportedly among the in. “Everywhere is an option for me at this point,” Cobb said. Even — his words — going back to the Rays for a year, as unlikely as that is.

The Brewers may be closing in on a trade involving an outfielder, per Jerry Crasnick.

The Orioles are interested in free agent OF Jarrod Dyson.

In what is being viewed by some as a publicity stunt, Tim Tebow has been given an invitation to the Mets’ major league camp this spring.

Bartolo Colon has a goal to win six more games before announcing his retirement, which would give him the most major league wins by any Latin-born pitcher. The 45-year old right-hander, known as “Big Sexy” is said to be eyeing a reunion with the Mets. My prediction? He hits a walk-off home run for that sixth win and leaves the stadium for good in his Mets uniform. With any luck, Curtis Jackson, aka 50-Cent, would throw the ceremonial first pitch that day.

The Mets and Indians very nearly pulled off a deal that would have sent Jason Kipnis to New York, according to Jon Heyman of Fan Rag. Upper management — Heyman hints on the Mets side — ended up scuttling a deal that seemed to be in place. The Wilpon’s are among baseball’s stingiest owners.

The Mets have the worst fight song in the history of baseball, and fight songs in general for that matter.

There is a reported strain in relations between players and management/owners that some fear could lead to at least the threat of a work stoppage when the current collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2021 season. Players aren’t happy with the fallout from the last CBA negotiations and they have real concerns about free agency and forced pace-of-play rules implementations. I’ll have more on this tomorrow.

Petco Park is getting a 336,520-watt solar power system which will be made up of 716 high-efficiency, 470-watt SunPower solar modules, the Padres announced this week.

Monday Walk Up Song

Sexy Back by Justin Timberlake. Bartolo. Mets. Yes.

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