The Rundown: Coffee’s for Closers, Zach Britton Free Agent Profile, More Bryce Harper Rumors and Non-Rumors

I started writing a rant, but I deleted it instead when I saw Evan’s article about Bryce Harper. Maybe the Cubs are just playing possum, so I’ll let it all play out before chiming in. In the meantime, I’ll continue to remind myself that I have been known to  be more than occasionally incorrect when it comes to baseball predictions.

I watched Glengarry Glen Ross last night. For about seven minutes I heard Alec Baldwin but I felt like I was really listening to Theo Epstein. It was glorious. In fact, I feel like I should screen the movie at my house and invite you all over — BYOP (bring your own popcorn) of course. Oh, maybe somebody can send the DVD to Joe Maddon’s son. Coffee is for closers. I believe Epstein is more interested in finding one win than he is in worrying about Papa Joe’s contract.

And by the way, the comments on yesterday’s Rundown are beyond excellent. If you haven’t participated yet, get on over there and keep the conversation going. It’s nice to know that we have so many well-informed readers making intelligent contributions on a daily basis. I can’t thank you all enough. This site has been my go-to since they made the move from Chicago Now to their own URL, before I ever wrote a single column here. Cubs Insider come a long way. Congratulations Evan and Jon.

I do want to rant about the Phillies for a second. Their front office wants to spend stupid money. Well, they just lost out on Patrick Corbin (who I think will be this season’s biggest bust, btw). What the team has done, essentially, is set themselves up to be the biggest punchline of the 2019 season. What if nobody wants their stupid money? I don’t see Harper going to Philly, and I can’t imagine Manny Machado signing with anybody but the Yankees.

Once Harper and Machado have signed elsewhere, what do the Phillies do? What does the market hold for everybody else? There are better players available in trade than there are in free agency. In fact, the Nationals may have panicked. The smart play is to wait this market out. A savvy GM could have had this season’s best free agent pitcher for less than the Cubs gave Darvish last year, especially if players like Zack Greinke, Madison Bumgarner, and Noah Syndergaard are moved.

It’s not unrealistic to think that the Phillies won’t be able to sign anybody to a large-scale contract, over-exaggerated or not.

Free Agent Profile: Zach Britton

Zach Britton remains one of the best left-handed sinkerballers in baseball, but had a difficult year while trying to come back from injuries. After an historic 2016 season, the lefty just hasn’t been the same. Still, the Cubs were rumored to have pursued Britton last offseason and at the past two trade deadlines. Epstein must see something he likes.

Britton was extremely nasty during the final month of 2018, though, not allowing a run in 10 September appearances. But despite a 3.00 ERA over the past two seasons, Britton’s 7.3 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9 were unimpressive. That being said, the one-time Orioles closer still gets it up there at over 95 miles per hour and he’s still getting grounders more than 70 percent of the time.

Can he always be closing?

Handicapping Britton:

  1. Cubs
  2. Phillies
  3. Yankees
  4. Dodgers

Cubs News & Notes

Wednesday Stove

After signing Corbin, the Nationals are unlikely to sign Harper.

Hold the phone: Magic Johnson has denied any recent meetings with Harper, leading to a significantly revised Yahoo report. It’s not entirely clear from the current version of the story whether the Dodgers have or will send a contingent to meet with Harper at all.

Expect the Harper rumor mill to heat up considerably during next week’s Winter Meetings.

Now that Corbin has signed, the market for Nathan Eovaldi could spike considerably.

The Mets have made an aggressive effort to obtain J.T. Realmuto from the Marlins. Brodie Van Wagenen is determined to make the ‘19 Mets contenders.

The Mets are said to be targeting former Diamondbacks OF A.J. Pollock.

After whiffing on Corbin, the Phillies are now targeting another SP: former Astro Dallas Keuchel.

The Braves are working toward hiring Rick Kranitz as their new pitching coach. Kranitz, 60, was recently dismissed by the Phillies in favor of Chris Young.

The Brewers are reportedly interested in trading for Yankees SP Sonny Gray.

Things are getting real for the White Sox in the Harper sweepstakes because now special assistant to the general manager Jim Thome is officially involved.

Extra Innings

Changes to Wrigleyville that have been orchestrated by the Cubs or others due to the team’s stadium reconstruction and expansion have made the Lake View area one of the more popular city destinations, not just during baseball season, but year-round, too.

Wednesday Walk Up Song

Hey, St. Peter by Flash and the Pan. Number 18 on my personal list of favorite Top 20 MTV videos. Flash and the Pan were a new wave musical group formed in 1976 by Australians Harry Vanda and George Young, who met when they were members of the Easybeats. Young, who passed away in 2017, was the older brother of Angus and Malcolm Young of AC/DC.


Michael Canter

Favorite Quote: "Look Ma! Top of the World!" Cubs fan since I was five years old (1969): lover of B&W movies, the Oxford Comma, classic rock, and of course, baseball; annual roto-champ; partial insomniac; I detest the liberal use of the word 'albeit' by baseball writers; Nice guy, though somewhat brooding. Comment me, please and thank you.

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  1. Looks like you hit some black ice and slid off the road with the MTV countdown Michael! I know it is YOUR list, but I think most of us should at least have heard of the band! You got some ‘splaining to do! Lol

    1. Lol. Did you listen and watch? You may have an issue with number 17 also. FWIW I was a huge fan of the MRV show 120 minutes which showed a lot of the more avant- grade videos.

  2. Is it just me, or does the new Mets GM always look like he just walked off the set of Mad Men? I may start referring to him as Brodie Van Draper.

  3. I think the Dodgers are in the driver’s seat for Harper. I think he is a Cub if they are willing to lay the cheese, but unless my dream of shedding Heyward happens, it looks like it may not happen. I can see Harper playing for the Phils, especially in that little park, but they are clearly #3. It seems crazy to not link him with either the Yanks or RSox…bizarro baseball. I’m willing to bet money Harper doesn’t sign with the WSox. Let’s just go ahead and kill that stupid rumor.

    1. I agree. Until the Nationals signed Corbin I fully believed Washington would resign Harper. But here’s the thing: Patrick Mooney thinks the Cubs are keeping things really really REALLY close to the vest and it’s entirely possible they would sign Harper. Now we know what Harper CAN get and if the Cubs are on the periphery they’ve at least considered that they can can handle a $35M AAV hit.

      I think the Cubs, and I applaud them for this, won’t get into a bidding war for Harper. So let’s assume Washington is out: that leaves the Yankees, Phillies, Cubs, Dodgers and (maybe the Astros).

      The Yankees seem to be out of the race, unless demands from Machado’s team get uncomfortably excessive.

      That leaves the Phillies, Cubs and Dodgers. The Phillies can drive the market because they have mad money and mad intentions. I could see a situation, which they’ve walked into on their own accord, where Boras has them continually outbidding themselves. The Cubs and Dodgers would back out at that point.

      But are the Phillies set up to win now? No. Their second half last season is a huge red flag, among others. So now it’s the Cubs and Dodgers.

      And remember – though he was somewhat trolling – Boras did indicate that Harper knows where he wants to play and I know that answer is for the Cubs. Ok I don’t “know” but I’m pretty sure.

      So if he gets a $35M AAV DEAL maybe the Cubs are going to get him. But if It goes to like $40M or higher, he’ll be in Philly. Anywhere in between is LA.

      And I could be 100% wrong about all of this, too. Mind you, I’m not pro-Harper for the Cubs. I think it would be super-cool if he played here, with Bryant, Rizzo and Baez they’d be Beatles-popular. But I think the Cubs should make other moves instead, like finding lights out relievers, an everyday second baseman, and a high OBP high contact hitter.

      1. I see your thoughts and I agree with them too. I think Philly is the sticking point and Boras wants to use them as leverage, but unless the Cubs and LA just drop out…and I don’t see that happening, he won’t sign there, at least not without early opt-outs (one year?? That would avoid getting tagged again next off season, if that is even an issue). I thought the Nats might try this, but Harper wants those opt-outs. IF he has another 8-10 WAR season quickly, he might be able to go over 40mil/AAV for the rest of his career.

        I also see the Cubs low key interest as a smoke screen to keep the costs down. There is likely a threshold they have to make this deal. I kinda wish Philly would sign Machado and take themselves out of picture. That might make Boras blink!

        1. Great points Ray. Harper is such a polarizing discussion but I feel like so many are blinded by the star power or the attraction to having the highest paid player rather than the actual talent.

    2. Totally with you on this. Unfortunately, I think this goes old-school-boring and Harper goes to the Dodgers and Machado goes to the Yanks.

  4. Brody VW for the Mets has made it clear by his actions that Syndergaard will not be dealt. Smart man to go after deal-happy-dipoto.

    Agreed that the trade market is better than the FA this year, and perhaps due to volume available – the prices don’t seem all that steep. All costs considered; Goldschmidt, Segura, maybe even Cano – are the best “gets” of the of-season thus far.

    Miller or Britton? They both feel a bit used up to me. Although if I had to roll the dice on one of them, it feels like Miller.

    Phillies are becoming the Chicago Bulls of baseball. Better make some trades, because any good player with say-so isn’t playing for your organization.

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