First, apologies for yesterday’s half-column. I was in the middle of composing what was sure to be an epic version of The Rundown when I was called away for a family emergency. I forgot to tell my editors I wasn’t finished, so it got published as is. It was still team photo material for the all-time great Rundown columns, but, well, it wasn’t the output that many of you expect as far as running the full gamut of content. As Forrest Gump would say, “it happens.”
The Cubs made two key additions yesterday, in case you missed it. Both were coaches, an area where the team has made more noise this winter than any other in baseball. Mark Loretta was tagged to be Joe Maddon’s bench coach, and Bob Tewksbury will be the team’s new mental skills coordinator.
Tewksbury was an interesting signing to me. With his pedigree and background I would have thought he’d be in higher demand or even unavailable: 38 years in baseball, 15 of them as a mental skills coach, and a masters of education in sports psychology and counseling from Boston University. Hopefully Tewsksbury can help Tyler Chatwood and Carl Edwards, Jr.
In recapping the offseason up to this point, the Cubs basically have an entirely new coaching staff but have signed just two players, Daniel Descalso and Kendall Graveman. To make matters worse, Jim Bowden of The Athletic (subscription required) published a piece recently that doesn’t have the Cubs in on any of the remaining top 15 free agents, including Bryce Harper and any of the better relief pitchers. With Cubs Convention just a few weeks away, the front office should expect to take some heat from fans during the Q&A sessions.
Cubs News & Notes
- The Cubs, like almost every other team in baseball this winter, will reportedly approach arbitration using a “file-and-trial” strategy. But it’s not collusion, right? Still, it will be interesting to follow how the front office handles Addison Russell during his arbitration hearing. The thing about the process is that nearly all players get raises. Not sure if Russell is even deserving of a contract at this point.
- Harper news: The Phillies will meet with the free-agent outfielder in the coming days, while the White Sox have stated that they will not go more than seven years on either Harper or Manny Machado. Meanwhile, the Nationals are lurking beneath the surface, much like a submarine. Where does that leave the Cubs? Nobody knows.
- Coming off a disappointing finish combined with a quiet winter so far, the Cubs are starting to feel the heat from their fanbase, particularly since the Cardinals and Reds have made significant moves to strengthen their teams.
- How much offense would the Cubs lose were Javier Baez to regress to pre-2018 numbers?
- Could the Cubs be grooming Loretta to be their next manager?
- If you’re looking for key dates for the upcoming season, Paul Sullivan of the Tribune has you covered.
- The Cubs have yet to address their bullpen this season, a key area that needs reinforcement. The team may look to lean on internal options like James Norwood and Dillon Maples.
- NBC Sports Chicago made it official Wednesday, announcing a multiyear media rights deal that excludes the Cubs. The agreement, pending MLB, NBA and NHL approval, would create a new partnership with the White Sox, Bulls, and Blackhawks starting with the 2019-20 seasons. The Cubs had reportedly reached an agreement with Sinclair Broadcasting to launch their own RSN, called Marquee, though that was quickly denied. The thing to remember about launching an RSN is that the Cubs will need to sustain their level of play to remain competitive with so many sports television options. That certainly makes it more surprising that the front office has been so inactive this winter.
- Former Cubs catcher Damon Berryhill is returning for his third season as manager of the Braves’ minor league affiliate in Gwinnett.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) December 28, 2018
There is the distinct possibility that the Nationals are by this point less interested in signing Harper than they are in driving up his price for his other suitors, including the division rival Phillies.
Because so much is unknown about Harper’s market, it seems more than likely that Machado will sign before the former Nationals outfielder.
As baseball comes out of the holiday slowdown, the entire shape of the offseason still hinges, as it has since the free agent market opened in November, on where and when Machado and Harper will sign. Though neither player appears close to making a decision, the process could accelerate this week, at least for Machado.
Meanwhile, the Nationals have nearly put the finishing touches on their roster for the coming season, even as many around baseball are still plotting their second or third moves of the winter. The team’s eighth significant transaction came just before Christmas when they signed Anibal Sanchez.
The closer we get to the start of spring training, the less leverage players still looking for work have at the negotiating table. Bleacher Report lists six players who could be the most negatively impacted by this winter’s stagnant market, including closer Cody Allen.
The man known simply as Ichiro is in Japan right now working out in preparation for Spring Training with the Mariners. The 45-year-old outfielder hopes to be included on the active roster for a pair of season-opening games in the Tokyo Dome against the Oakland A’s March 20-21, and possibly for the rest of the regular season.
Countdown to Spring Training : 41 days
- “It’s the fans that need spring training. You gotta get ’em interested. Wake ’em up and let ’em know that their season is coming, the good times are gonna roll.” – Harry Caray
It was a sad day yesterday for sports fans everywhere when Purdue student Tyler Trent passed away. I urge you to read this amazing story of Trent and those who helped make his transition from life to death as peaceful as possible, and how Trent was determined to make a difference, even in his final hours.
We are without words….so beyond grateful for the OUTPOURING of love and support! If you have any questions about Tyler’s Celebration of Life service…pls click on the link below. ❤️?❤️? To God be the glory! https://t.co/30VMgSW3eZ
— Tyler Trent ? (@theTylerTrent) January 3, 2019
Thursday Walk Up Song
Money by Pink Floyd. Pretty soon Harper and Machado will have plenty of it. New car, caviar, four-star daydream
think I’ll buy me a football team.