The Rundown: Cubs’ Uninspiring Acquisitions Continue, Castellanos Remains Open to Return, White Sox Favorites to Land Price

Is it possible that Cubs fans, one of the largest collectives in sports and entertainment enthusiasm, sold our souls for that 2016 championship? Is this then the gathering of that quintessence by the leader to whom we’ve surrendered our spirit?

“And those whom once my song had cheered and gladdened, if still they live, rove through the world now saddened.”  – Johan Wolfgang von Goethe

Et tu Brutus? Et tu?” – William Shakespeare

“The framus intersects with the ramistan approximately at the paternoster.” – Paulie Walnuts, The Sopranos

In other words, what gives? I suppose we can expect to be greeted by more of Tom Ricketts’ accusations that our understanding of the baseball budget is misguided as we get closer to CubsCon ’20.

Yesterday the Cubs signed another unheralded player, one Ian Miller, in what seems to enforce the strategy of building veteran minor league depth while supporters of the team are left to wonder if there is going to be any inclination to improve the big league club. This came after ESPN’s Jesse Rogers dropped a bombshell of his own:

So last year the Cubs couldn’t afford to bid on Adam Warren and this year the team had to pass on any attempt to sign a journeyman infielder coming off of a decent, but not great, season? I’m not trying to come at you wielding death’s last dagger, but if the Cubs are that strapped for cash, why aren’t they just selling off all of their most expensive assets in a desperate attempt to provide what appears to be some much-needed economic relief?

Maybe that’s the part of the plan that has yet to truly reveal itself.

And the point isn’t that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer didn’t sign Eric Sogard, it’s that they couldn’t negotiate in an arena where even a minimal amount of financial capital is needed to compete. It certainly ascertains the need to sign Hernán Pérez Tuesday.

Joe Ricketts, the billionaire who claims he doesn’t own the Cubs despite providing the funds to purchase the team for his children, recently wrote a book called The Harder You Work, the Luckier You Get. It’s a rags-to-riches biography that details his rise from a poor Nebraska farm boy to one of the wealthiest individuals on the planet. Along the way he found his fair share of successes and failures, but the theme to the story is that the Cubs’ patriarch has continually followed a pattern of successful risk-taking with a series of penny-pinching moves consistent with his modest upbringing.

The afterglow of the glorious ’16 season has provided a bittersweet epilogue to the romantic celebration of ending that 108-year old championship drought, the longest dry spell in the history of professional sports. Who knew when Kris Bryant threw that off-balance missile to Anthony Rizzo to win the World Series that it would represent the pinnacle of success for a core group that seemed destined for similar celebrations in the near term?

“What reinforcement may we gain from hope, if not what resolution from despair?” – John Milton

“For in the day that you eat of the fruit you shall perish.” – The Book of Genesis

Even if you are a staunch believer that the North Siders do not need to increase payroll to get back to the World Series, it’s less possible to sit in support of that narrative with each uninspiring acquisition that represents the last two offseasons. The organization seems to be fervently remaining static or adding negative value to the organization with every move. The mood surrounding the Cubs has gone from utterly perplexing to downright maddening.

Cubs News & Notes

  • The Cubs are hoping to bring back left-handed reliever Danny Hultzen on a minor-league deal. That’s one inexpensive move I can actually get behind.
  • The front office will need to find a way to finance it, but there’s apparently mutual interest between the team and outfielder Nicholas Castellanos on a return engagement. I’d think the Cubs would have to trade either Bryant or Jason Heyward to make that happen. Castellanos’ “Every day is Opening Day” attitude fits in well with Epstein’s desire for urgency from his ballclub.
  • Castellanos is also said to highly value the culture surrounding the Giants. That said, I’d have a hard time believing that spacious San Francisco outfield represents the best move for either player or team.
  • A potential blockbuster trade casts either a pall or unbridled excitement over the Cubs’ fanbase, depending on which side of the fence you sit.
  • The Braves continue to be the most-mentioned landing spot if the Cubs do trade Bryant.
  • The Phillies remain players for Bryant and many believe that Philadelphia would have the means to extend the the third baseman before he reaches free agency.
  • One storyline to watch this spring is the role in which rookie pitcher Adbert Alzolay will be used if he makes the team. The Cubs need a starter to replace Cole Hamels, but Alzolay may be better suited for a relief role.
  • Either the Cubs have no clear needs, or they’re no longer considered a playoff contender. Maybe is just preparing us for the discontent that will surely be attached to this year’s PECOTA projections.

Thursday Stove

Half-hearted attempts by the Giants to extend Madison Bumgarner before he entered free agency may have played a big part in his decision to sign with the Diamondbacks.

Outfielder Nomar Mazara is excited for his new opportunity with the White Sox.

The White Sox may be the favorites to land Red Sox starter David Price.

Andrew Benintendi could be part of the package used to entice the White Sox to take on the rest of Price’s contract.

The Rays’ attempts to split their home games between Tampa and Montreal is not quite as dead as it seemed a few weeks ago.

New Phillies starter Zack Wheeler compares himself favorably to new Yankees starter Gerrit Cole.

Reliever Joe Smith has agreed to a two-year $8 million contract to remain with the Astros.

The Marlins believe that their pitching staff will allow them to contend for a Wild Card berth, if not the NL East division title.

The Tigers will retire the number of second baseman Lou Whitaker.

Extra Innings

On the flip side, you can’t honestly accuse the Cubs of not spending.

They Said It

  • “Last year didn’t meet our standards and we want to try to do better next year. We’re also at a point where after five consecutive years of charging straight ahead and pouring a lot of resources, in terms of both prospect capital and dollars, into trying to win now, we’re also at a point where we have to really think ahead and secure our future as well and try to create sustained success over a long period of time. That’s the challenge.” – Theo Epstein

Thursday Walk Up Song

Ramble on Rose by The Grateful Dead – Just like Jack the Ripper, just like mojo hand, just like Billy Sunday in a shotgun ragtime band. Just like New York city, just like Jericho, pace the halls and climb the walls and get out while you can.

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