The Rundown: Gold Glove Winners Announced, Budding Rizzo-Darvish Bromance, Cubs Buy Out Morrow

Though a lot of us worry that this season’s hot stove will be a repeat of last season’s boiler plate special, it’s nice to finally see some Cubs news when I scroll through my various baseball feeds. Yesterday the Cubs exercised their option on first baseman Anthony Rizzo, and a few hours later Rizzo won his third career Gold Glove Award.

More fun than that was the playful ways in which Yu Darvish expressed his enthusiasm for Rizzo’s stellar defense on Instagram and Twitter.

The Cubs now have Rizzo, Darvish, Jason Heyward, and José Quintana in the fold for next season, though I suppose any of those players could still be traded this winter. None of those moves change the team’s luxury tax implications, so there’s no deviation in the amount of money, if any, that Theo Epstein will have for pursuing roster additions in free agency.

The Cubs were handicapped by a bloated payroll winter, and unspectacular additions to the roster included Daniel Descalso, Brad Brach, Tony Barnette, Kendall Graveman, Kyle Ryan, Xavier Cedeño, Junichi Tazawa, George Kontos, and Luke Hagerty. Sorry to re-open those still-healing wounds, but permit me to add just a little salt to them as well. It appears as though owner Tom Ricketts would like Epstein to trim some of the fat off of this year’s payroll.

That means the Cubs will probably be more active in the trade market than in free agency. Sure, Epstein has genuine interest in bringing back Nick Castellanos, but the Cubs are going to need to find ways to remove $15-18 million from their current payroll before that becomes a reality. A big chunk of that might come from trading Quintana and promoting Alec Mills to the starting rotation. Tyler Chatwood is another pitcher who could be dealt.

Those moves, combined with a few other roster adjustments, like parting ways with Addison Russell and Albert Almora Jr., would lighten the team’s 2020 salary commitments by nearly $30 million. That might allow the Cubs to re-sign Nicky Two Bags and/or sign a starting pitcher like Jake Odorizzi or Zack Wheeler.

Of course, that may be overly optimistic thinking on my part. If the Cubs get below the luxury tax this season, and with the large contract of Jon Lester expiring ahead of the 2021 season, Ricketts may just be wanting to pocket most of that excess. Conveniently, the $30 million that would be potentially saved in the moves I mentioned above would simply cover the guaranteed money still owed to Lester.

Cubs News & Notes

Monday Stove

There is virtually no chance the Cubs will sign Gerrit Cole this winter, but teams that have a better than average shot include the Phillies, Padres, Dodgers, Angels, and Yankees. The right-hander is expected to surpass the record $217 million deal that the Red Sox gave David Price in 2016.

The Phillies intend to pursue Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Wheeler, and Cole Hamels, in that order of preference.

The Padres seem to be honing in on San Diego native Strasburg, according to Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Barring trades, the Padres have about $20 million reserved to spend in free agency.

The Twins are looking for starting pitching too, and are showing considerable interest in Wheeler.

Now that Aroldis Chapman has signed an extension with the Yankees, Giants’ closer Will Smith becomes the top reliever available in free agency. The 30-year-old left-hander was an All-Star for the first time in 2019, when he recorded a 2.76 ERA with 34 saves and 96 strikeouts over 65 1/3 innings for the Giants. Smith could receive the $17.8 million qualifying offer from San Francisco.

MLB.com provides a complete list of all of yesterday’s Gold Glove Award winners.

On Deck

Now that Maddon has taken the reins in Anaheim, and in bringing Buss and Brian Butterfield along for the ride, I can’t rid myself of the uneasy feeling that after the Cubs failed to repeat in 2017, the guys in the dugout were more interested in continuing the Waveland Avenue party than actually trying to get back to the World Series. I know hindsight is 20/20 but looking back, it sure seems like Maddon was more focused on growing and protecting his brand. Yes, being front and center after games takes a lot of the burden off the players, but it certainly doesn’t hurt your Q-score, either.

Papa Joe’s reputation as a players’ coach, initially his greatest strength, was repurposed by the media as a liability, and rightfully so when several of the team’s better players stalled or regressed in their development. Winning championships is never easy, but it seems to me that Maddon and his staff may have squandered opportunities to get back to the World Series, at least partially because staff priorities may have changed.

Extra Innings

Imagine how much cooler baseball would be today if we still had offseason barnstorming tours like this one from 1946.

They Said It

  • “[The Gold Gloves] mean a lot, they really do, especially to my mom and dad. My dad, especially. He is the biggest critic of my defense. The hitting comes and goes, but defense is pretty much the one thing you can really control every single day.” – Anthony Rizzo
  • “It’s not about how much you spend, it’s how much you win. And the correlation between spending and winning is not nearly as strong as we’d like it to be.” – Tom Ricketts

Monday Walk Up Song

David Duchovny (Why Won’t You Love Me) by Bree Sharp – A recent reboot of her 1999 tribute to the co-lead of The X-Files. The original release garnered a cult following, both for its musical qualities and its comical references to the titular actor.

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