The Rundown: Question Marks Surround Bullpen, Rizzo Prefers Cleanup, Dusty Baker to Interview with Astros

“Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I’d like to announce that the hot stove season is now over, but there are still plenty of moves to be made. One thing is certain, and that’s that the Cubs seem to truly believe that Kris Bryant will be their Opening Day third baseman. What’s not so certain is what Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer plan to do to get their payroll below $208 million. There are much less drastic ways to get there than by trading from their core.

You may have noticed that the front office has made a number of minor league signings this year, and I would assume their hope is that a couple will show enough in spring training to grab roster spots while possibly making a veteran or two expendable. For instance, if Jharel Cotton and Alec Mills step up, maybe trading José Quintana would be a consideration. The same goes for guys like Colin Rea and Adbert Alzolay. A strong camp from either might make Tyler Chatwood expandable.

One thing is for certain, however, and that’s that a high-level look at the Cubs’ bullpen is a little frightening. It’s a lot of reclamation projects like Dan Winkler and Ryan Tepera; Brandon Morrow, who didn’t pitch at all last season; and younger pitchers with some big league experience that are still relatively unproven, like Brad Wieck, Duane Underwood Jr., and Rowan Wick. Further, there are more than a few question marks surrounding closer Craig Kimbrel. Chicago’s bullpen could playfully be nicknamed the Island of Misfit Toys.

The front office could look at free agency to fortify their relief corps — Brandon Kintzler and Pedro Strop are still available, for example — but it’s doubtful that they are looking at anybody who will command a major league deal.

But hey, this hype video will give you the warm fuzzies and surely get you amped up for Opening Day. Pitchers and catchers report in 22 days!

I think the biggest thing to come out of the annual fan fest this weekend, other than the Marquee Network announcements, is that the Cubs are prepared to enter 2020 with basically the same roster as last season. Unless another team comes to the dynamic duo with an offer they can’t refuse, none of the core will be traded. It almost makes you feel a subdued sense of excitement that the team is said to be pursuing Jacoby Ellsbury. Before you rip into me for that, I did say “almost” and “subdued.”

Cubs News & Notes

Monday Stove

Baseball has become a prisoner of technology.

Dusty Baker is said to be  candidate for the opening managerial position with the Astros, but says he has not been contacted by either the Mets or Red Sox.

Baker is “full of emotion” heading into his interview with Houston.

The Red Sox seem incredibly confident that MLB will not find anything in its ongoing investigation that will incriminate the organization.

Bostin wants to attach David Price to any trade for Mookie Betts, and they also want two top prospects in return.

Apropos of Nothing

Don’t you kind of hope the Cubs retain Bryant, after which he wins another MVP while leading the Cubs to the playoffs, and watch so many of those who want the third baseman traded suffer in silence? Never mind, they’d probably still say he is overpaid.

Extra Innings

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Respect.

They Said It

  • “Chicago is a special city and Cubs fans are just great. I look forward to coming back and having fun with this thing. Thank God I don’t have to make too many decisions. I haven’t been back to the ballpark. I did a couple appearances for Oracle up on the rooftops, but I look forward to seeing the new Wrigley.” – Lou Piniella
  • “With any individual player that’s important to us, it’s more likely that he’ll be here. A lot goes into having to make any kind of significant transaction. Kris [Bryant] is an important guy here and we expect he’ll be our third baseman. But we’ve been open and transparent about the fact that we’ll talk about all our players this year. We value Kris, we respect everything that he’s done. We appreciate everything that he’s done. We look forward to many great days ahead and we hope that he’s part of it.” – Theo Epstein
  • “Candidly, I don’t think we ever imagined that finding a guy who could hit in the leadoff spot would be a struggle. I don’t think you have to have a prototypical leadoff hitter all the time, but for whatever reason, we’ve struggled. We’ve spent a lot of time scratching our head.” – Jed Hoyer

Monday Walk Up Song

Abraham, Martin, and John by Dion. Make an effort to love your brothers and sisters today, please and thank you.

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