The Rundown Lite: Boras Defends Strategy, Praise for Mike Bryant, Happ’s a Full-Time OF, Decision to Roster Caratini

Mike Canter’s out and I’m all hopped up on cold meds, so this is going to be really brief. The Cubs have packed their bags and moved out of Sloan Park, though they’re still going to be on the road for another two weeks. The only real loose end remaining is the final bullpen spot, which should be revealed here shortly.

In the meantime, let’s take a look at a pair of topics that have a loose Cubbish affiliation and another that’s a little more direct.

Generation Launch Angle

Exit velocity and launch angle are the ubiquitous buzzwords of baseball’s current era of juiced balls and home run records, but it’s not just a matter of guys showing up in the majors and deciding to hit it in the air. The instruction is starting at the lowest levels of the sport, something Cubs Insider got a look at when we interviewed Mike Bryant last year about his son’s growth over the years.

We’re not the only ones who’ve been clued in to Bryant’s teaching methods, nor is the 2016 MVP his only notable student. As Tom Verducci recently wrote for SI, the Rangers’ Joey Gallo credits his childhood coach for his success.

“With every coach I had besides Mike, we were hitting ground balls to shortstop as a lefty, or as a righty hitting them to second base,” Gallo said. “A lot of those guys are in the minors now. They still have that same kind of swing, and they’re trying to change. But for me, I always had that [loft]. I kind of credit my career to Mike. We were at the beginning of that new-era hitter.”

The elder Bryant in turn credits Ted Williams for inspiring his methods, though he’s obviously added a few modern twists to the Splendid Splinter’s philosophies.

“He got it early,” Kris Bryant said of his father. “I’m sure if he wasn’t in the Red Sox organization with access to [Williams], I don’t know if he’d be teaching this way, or at all. It’s so funny. Back then it was, ‘Mike Bryant, he doesn’t know what he’s doing.’ Now everybody is saying exactly what my dad said.”

There’s a lot more in that Dooch piece, so be sure to check it out. And if you still haven’t read the interview our Brendan Miller did with Bryant, check that out too. It’s fascinating stuff.

No one made offers Boras could even refuse

There’s a lot of animus toward Scott Boras, who’s viewed by a not-insignificant portion of baseball fans as part of what’s wrong with the sport. Maybe that’s not the right way to put it, but I think you get what I’m saying. In any case, Boras is know as someone who drives a hard bargain and is dead set on getting the most money he can for his clients.

So what happened this winter? As Boras told The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, (you’ll need a subscription, and there’s a lot more than just the Boras stuff in here) it wasn’t a matter of rejecting all manner of what he felt were lowball offers.

“Everyone talks to me about waiting. I’m talking about offers. We didn’t get any offers on these players until February. There was no waiting. There were no offers made. The clubs all waited to begin this process until mid-February.

“We never ever said anything about $200 million for Jake Arrieta or J.D. Martinez. Go find the quote,” Boras said. “There were all these things being put out there and they were all media-generated and all false. We never asked anywhere near that for any of those players, never even discussed it.”

What level of veracity you choose to assign to Boras’s statements is up to you, but I actually think he’s being pretty honest here. Looking at Jake Arrieta in particular, we only heard reports of what the Cubs might be willing to offer, not that they had actually made an offer. And though I ran with Jon Heyman’s report that Arrieta had turned down a Darvish-like deal, it turned out that was not really the case.

As Rosenthal (who is finally off the DL after recovering from back surgery) confirms, the dearth of offers may have come from team execs believing that Boras’s expectations were higher than their budget. That’s more or less what happened with the Cubs and Arrieta, given that both sides were so intimately familiar with one another.

So maybe don’t get your hopes up too high when it comes to getting a bargain on Bryce Harper or signing Kris Bryant and/or Addison Russell to club-friendly extensions in the near future.

Caratini’s work earned him role

Victor Caratini being named the Cubs’ backup catcher this past weekend came as a bit of a surprise. After all, the work he needs to do and the limited playing time he’ll get to do it don’t really jibe. But while I do believe this move is largely about rewarding Caratini while maintaining as much roster flexibility as possible, there’s no denying that he’s dedicated himself to getting better.

Caratini moved from Puerto Rico to Arizona this winter due to both the devastation from Hurricane Maria and a desire to get an early start on his training for the season. His offensive numbers didn’t necessarily jump off the page this spring, but it was what he did behind the scene that really earned him a roster spot.

How long he’ll maintain that spot, however, may be determined by how much time he’s able to get on the field at the big league level. Far from an indictment on his talent, it’s a matter of giving him the chance to get consistent appearances at and behind the plate.

No 2B for Happ

Much like Kyle Schwarber giving up his catching duties, Ian Happ has had to come to terms with the fact that he’s an outfielder. A lot of that obviously has to do with Javy Baez, but it’s also about Happ playing pretty darn well out there.

The young switch-hitter figures to be the Cubs’ primary leadoff hitter and center fielder, at least to start the season, so it’ll be good to have his energy channeled in the same direction. When he first came to the organization after being drafted, Happ was very stubborn about being a second baseman, but he’s obviously come off of that over the last two seasons.

Other notes

  • The Phillies agreed to a six-year extension with Scott Kingery, who has yet to play a major league game; the second baseman will be guaranteed $24 million, but three club options ($13M, $14M, $15M in 2024-26) could be highway robbery by the team if Kingery performs well
  • The Giants are hiring Dusty Baker as a special advisor, though I don’t think that factored in MadBum’s broken hand
  • Wow, I lied about this being brief
  • If you dig documentaries, check out Wild Wild Country on Netflix; actually, check it out regardless of your opinion on documentaries
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