The Rundown: Cubs Confident in Hamels, Huge Chips on Shoulders, Camps Open Across MLB, This Week’s New Spins

It is looking more and more like the Cubs’ biggest acquisition of the offseason will be Cole Hamels, which really wasn’t an acquisition at all. They picked up Hamels’ $20 million option about two days into the offseason and now it will be up to the veteran pitcher to prove he is worth the expenditure.

Hamels was the team’s best starter from the day he arrived last July, posting a 2.36 ERA in 76.1 innings for the Cubs after coming over in a trade with the Rangers. The ace lefty allowed just one earned run in his first 11 innings pitching on the North Side. In 114.1 frames with Texas, however, he pitched to a far less impressive 4.72 ERA and even uglier 5.20 FIP.

Hamels thinks he has much more in the tank and believes his arm action and the angle of the ball look more and more like they did during his best years. Theo Epstein had high praise for Hamels at this year’s Cubs Convention, referring to the lefty as “a dude.” Jed Hoyer is a believer, too.

“Zero second thoughts,” said the Cubs GM. “Cole had such an incredible impact on our pitching staff, on our clubhouse. He was totally rejuvenated coming over here. We loved having him. Having a talent like Cole both on and off the field, on a contract like that for one year, seemed like the right thing to do. No regrets whatsoever.”

Hamels entering his age-35 season and hasn’t been a genuine top-of-the-rotation arm since 2016, when he posted a 3.32 ERA in 200+ frames. The possibility exists that he can be the dominant starter he was over the last two months of last season, but the Cubs are paying an awful lot to find out.

Cubs News & Notes

Tuesday Stove

Today marks the end of the hot stove until November. Not much of a stove this year. It was more like a survival candle, actually. I’ll replace this section with “Spring Training Notes” until the season starts at the end of March.

Kyler Murray will commit to the NFL this season, though the A’s are not giving up on him. Murray will have to repay a significant portion of his signing bonus back to Oakland, and the A’s will not receive a compensatory pick in this year’s draft since Murray did initially sign with the team.

Justin Verlander had a thing or two to say about the current economic state of baseball.

MLB Network’s countdown of baseball’s best players at each position came to a conclusion on Saturday night. Here’s a look at the lists for each position.

Bleacher Report takes a look at the players who had every reason to expect more from free agency this winter.

Jonathan Mayo lists 20 rookies who could make a significant impact this season.

A look at the spring training agendas for all 15 Cactus League teams.

Eduardo Rodriguez is the first player to declare himself “in the best shape of my life” this spring. Confetti cupcakes for everybody.

On Deck

If you are off to Arizona or Florida for spring training, you left the Midwest just in time. Winter storms Maya and Nadia are set to wreak havoc this week. I’m already tired of this winter, which really didn’t even exist until mid-January.

Over 100 million Americans are affected by weather warnings this morning. Unfortunately, this is the new norm. If you’re driving, be safe. I am working from home today. I can’t even get to work because of 8-12 inches of snow that is being nicely glazed over by freezing rain.

Extra Innings

Coolest thing on the internet yesterday:

This Weeks News Spins

  1. Retrospective: The Best of Buffalo Springfield – Before Twitter was a thing, musicians use to compose songs to educate their fans on the social injustices of the world. Now musicians just whine about it for the most part. For What it’s Worth is a great reminder of the impact music used to have on the world. There is not a bad song on this LP, which is a sprawling folk, bluegrass, and psychedelic trip back to the socially-charged late ’60’s.
  2. Back to Black by Amy Winehouse – I believe her career was about to explode before the 27-year-old Winehouse passed away due to complications of alcoholism. This was her breakthrough record, one in which she wholly embraced the R&B vibe that had her on a path to commercial and mainstream superstardom. The sexually charged You Know I’m No Good is still a killer cut, though the lyrics to the title song seem very prophetic in retrospect – “We only said good bye with words, I died a hundred times/You go back to her, and I go back to black.”
  3. No Nukes (Various Artists) – The No Nukes protest concert in 1979 was one of the defining ’70’s events for aging ’60’s hippies, coming on the heels of the Three Mile Island core meltdown incident in Pennsylvania but well before the Chernobyl disaster in ’86. It had little, if any social impact and the album features a lot of throwaway songs that didn’t age very well. But the performances by Bruce Springsteen (Mitch Ryder Medley) and Tom Petty (Cry to Me) are the treasures of this two-disc set. Both songs left an impression on the 15-year old version of me, as both artists became favorites of mine, and still are. I will admit that I still love Mockingbird by James Taylor and Carly Simon. Don’t @ me.

Tuesday Walk Up Song

Ride by Cary Brothers.


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. I thought it was CSNY. Not really, but that’s a joke I’m sure you’ll understand. Also, CSNY played at Altamont, which I just finished reading about. The book was really good, though it just leaves you feeling a little empty. That’s not even a knock, since the event was so poorly orchestrated.

      1. I assume you just read Joel Selvin’s Altamont book? I think the best Altamont book is the somewhat rare 1970 paperback “Altamont: Death of Innocence in the Woodstock Nation.” More than Selvin’s, it really takes the reader back to that era. (Neither, unfortunately, goes much into the bigger event of 1969, the fabulous and ill-fated Cubs team of that year.)

  1. Michael, are you familiar with Triumph’s album “Allied Forces”? I’m sure you are, but as a 15 yo in ’81, songs like “Fight the good fight” and especially “Ordinary man” had such an impact. I truly miss the combination of song writing and musicianship of that era. I tell people all the time, music died in 2001 (death of alternative) and you can’t convince me otherwise. 🙂

    1. I’d go with 2007. I had hope for the early 2000s because there were so many good indie rock bands at SXSW. But nobody signed them. Our era is over Ray. Just like we used to bitch about our old man’s music, our kids think some of the stuff we listened to borders on ridiculous.

      Pro Tools has replaced true musicianship. We were there for the death of rock and roll but none of us believed it was really happening.

  2. This could get REAL ugly before the next CBA (below). Pitchers self-limiting innings/appearances, position players dictating position (like only wanting to play SS because it pays better than 2b). Of course the hole in this strategy for a player/pitcher is that the collective ownership would likely then devalue the player at free agency due to limited output. None of this is good for baseball.

    deGrom’s CAA agent, Jeff Berry, recently released a memo that outlined recourse for players who seek reform in free agency, following two historically slow markets. Among the ideas suggested by Berry was that pitchers could look to cap their workloads in a season to ensure their value remains at a higher level heading to free agency. And a source indicated deGrom could put such restrictions on himself if a new deal isn’t reached with the Mets.

    1. A 31-year old player is still going to be looked at as a 31-year old player by front offices, and his market will be dictated by that. The “wear and tear” clause is one of the dumbest things I’ve heard.

      I also saw that fabgrahs predicts that Harper will age better than most. What is their factual basis?

      What a crazy morning. Baseball should just go back to doing baseball again.

      I’m not sure how Ol’ Brodie got a position to run a club. He’s starting to sound an awful lot like Hawk Harrelson with some of this crap.

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