The Rundown: Welcome to 2019 Baseball Season, Dozens of Free Agents Still Available, Cubs Say All Fans Welcome

Baseball is here, unless you’re one of the several dozens of still-unsigned free agents. Many players are still  learning the basic tenets of the supply-side financial model that is the “new” baseball. In all, some 78 free agents, most of them solid major league ballplayers and a few who are a lot better than that, remain unsigned with Opening Day barely six weeks away.

But it’s not like these guys are riding boxcars across the country. I fully support the players in this fight, though it would take me eight years at my present job to earn a one-year minimum baseball salary. Sigh, such is life in my middle-management 5 o’clock world.

Do you think Washington owner Mark Lerner regrets throwing $140 million dollars at Patrick Corbin yet? I have a feeling that Corbin would have had to settle for significantly less if the Nationals weren’t in such a hurry to prove to their fanbase that they’re willing to spend money, just as long as it wasn’t on their homegrown All-Star right fielder. After all, the former Diamondback is the only free agent who has been guaranteed more than $70 million this winter.

Maybe Bryce Harper really didn’t want to stay in Washington and Lerner knew it. Heck, Harper may still not know where he wants to play. I do remember that Scott Boras tried to convince us all on Halloween that baseball’s reigning Home Run Derby champion already knew who his next team would be.

By process of elimination, and since the Dodgers and Nationals are reportedly out of the bidding, we can surmise that Harper was never intent on playing in either of those cities, if we are to hold Boras to his word. I’d count San Francisco out, too, because Harper said yesterday that he is not considering any short term deals. I don’t see the Phillies as a team he’d be dying to play for five minutes after his tenure in Washington ended.

My guy Nicky from Bridgeport says the White Sox are going to announce they’ve signed Manny Machado today, so they’re out on Harper if Mr. Talarico is indeed correct – but take that with a grain of salt. The Yankees are still lurking in the shadows, though. As are the Padres. And there’s a mystery team involved too. Could it be the Cardinals? That would sting. The Reds? They’d deserve a billion dollar military contract to design stealth technology submarines were that the case. Who’s left?

The Cubs may be in, though Theo Epstein said yesterday that he and his front office entourage aren’t looking to spend any large amounts of money right now.  A few seconds later he said that they are still talking to agents for many of the available players. He did say that their focus was on relief pitchers, so who? Is anybody not named Craig Kimbrel still available?

Joaquin Benoit, Tyler Clippard, Adam Warren, and Jake Diekman — we are taking reservations. Yes, you may bring Bartolo Colon with you, but he may not partake of the all-you-can-eat clubhouse buffet.

One last note about Harper: I still believe he is coming to the Cubs, though I admit I am not as attached to that belief as I was a month ago. I don’t think the Cubs need him, nor am I sure I want the Cubs to sign him. But my gut still tells me he’ll be playing right field at the Friendly Confines while sporting Bobby Murcer’s old number 7 jersey.

Then again, maybe I’ve just had a little too much Old No. 7 this morning. Milwaukee weather will do that to you.

And, one last note about supply-side economics. You know who benefits? The guys who are suppressing demand. Players be hungry and owners are content to make them dance for their meals. Welcome to Baseball 2019.

Cubs News & Notes

  • All fans are welcome: Theo Epstein said Joe Ricketts’ emails were filled with “ugly, disgusting views,” as part of the team’s season-opening press conference in Mesa yesterday. This winter has played out like one long episode of Better Call Saul.

  • Baseball things were happening at Sloan Park yesterday. What a refreshing change.
  • The organization is taking steps to enhance domestic violence training and awareness in consideration of Addison Russell’s return to the team. Russell will be suspended for the first 28 games of the season but can participate in spring training.
  • I like “Try Not to Suck” much better than “Own it Now” but that’s what Joe Maddon intends to run with this year. “A big part of our success this year is going to be the fact that we own each moment” the Cubs manager said yesterday. “And if you take the word ‘now’ and turn it around, it becomes ‘won.'”
  • Ryan Davis offers best- and worst-case scenarios for the 2019 season.
  • I’d like to provide a friendly reminder that this Cubs squad is not some island of misfit toys. There is a potential all-star 15 players deep on this roster.
  • Jeff Burdick used the word querulous in his column yesterday that seeks answers to nine questions facing the Cubs at the start of the 2019 campaign. He’s quite the wordsmith, that one.

Spring Training News & Notes

Cardinals pitching coach Mike Maddux is enjoying his embarrassment of riches with regard to the team’s starting rotation depth.

The Angels expect Shohei Ohtani to return sometime in May.

Justin Verlander can’t understand why anyone would side with the owners over the players in this climate of labor strife.

He’s no Harper, but the Giants are considering Cameron Maybin for an outfield spot.

Seven years ago the Mariners awarded SP Felix Hernandez with a $175 million contract and have not been to the playoffs in any of the seasons since.

Third baseman Nicky Delmonico had a little fun predicting a White Sox three-peat on Instagram yesterday.

The Mets and Jacob deGrom have agreed that any talks of a contract extension will be curbed once the 2019 season officially starts.

Jorge Posada will join Derek Jeter in the Marins front office, it was announced yesterday.

Extra Innings

Wouldn’t the Phillies be a more competitive team if they took the money reserved for Harper or Machado and spent it on Dallas Keuchel, Marwin Gonzalez, and Kimbrel? The offseason has been more than a mild success for Philadelphia’s front office. So far they’ve brought in Jean Segura, Andrew McCutchen, David Robertson, and J.T. Realmuto.

Adding a marquee name would no doubt sell tickets, but to compete in the very competitive NL East, the Phillies may be better served by lengthening their roster. The Cubs, Indians, and Dodgers are great examples of deeper rosters that are built to win year after year. You can add the Red Sox and the Astros to that list too. Harper is a final championship piece and the Phillies aren’t quite there yet.

Wednesday Walk Up Song

Hold That Thought by Ben Folds Five. We probably should reserve judgment on the Cubs offseason until we know their Opening Day roster.

Tags

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.
Close