The Rundown: Cubs Rolling Dice with Castoffs and Question Marks, Castellanos to Reds, Sosa Lacks Local Support in HOF Bid

I decided to spring forward into Vernal Equinox mode with great hope yesterday, as we look to be entering February relatively unscathed weather-wise. How did I do that? I’m glad you asked.

I started out by watching Tin Cup, which I am betting is a favorite of both Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer; made myself an Arnold Palmer (for those of you drinking along, if you add Vodka or Bourbon it’s called a John Daly); and then began analyzing minor league players for my upcoming fantasy baseball draft. I followed that with a showing of White Men Can’t Jump, and when I was ready for bed I watched a little Bull Durham until I dozed off.

Thanks to the genius of Ron Shelton (Cobb withstanding), I’ve successfully primed the pump for the Masters, March Madness, and spring training, and lost all interest (or care) that Nicholas Castellanos was reported to be leaning toward signing with the Reds, which I didn’t actually believe at the time. The Cubs have decided to roll the dice with Steven Souza Jr., and frankly I’m just happy Epstein and Hoyer signed somebody to a major league contract, and that that somebody wasn’t Yasiel Puig or Jacoby Ellsbury.

This winter feels a little Tin Cup-ish for Cubs fans, doesn’t it? The front office is gambling on a lot of question marks, and that may be spinning it positively. Perhaps we’ll see a future Shelton movie based on the 2020 Cubs that features the exploits of Dan Winkler, whose major league career so far is about as Roy McAvoy as it gets.

He even resembles a young Kevin Costner just a bit. The whole thing reminds me of a line from the man nicknamed “Cup” in the golf flick:

“I mean, look at me, all right, look at what I’m wearing. I’m playing for Rio Grande Short-Haul Trucking, Briggs and Brown Sanitation, First State Bank of Salome, Woody’s Smokehouse… You think a guy like me bothers to worry about the percentages?”

At least the only logo on Winkler’s uniform this season will be a Nike swoosh. I do hope he showed up to sign his contract wearing white golf shoes with the cleats sawed off, though. I’m going to picture it that way in my mind regardless. Ah, if only Wrigleyville had a Waffle House nearby.

And hey, I’ll give Epstein and Hoyer credit for making this team Chicago’s new lovable underdogs. We all hate the high number of MiLB and split contract signings, but deep down we’re also rooting for those guys to have a big some impact this season. Perhaps it’s simply Epstein’s intent to leave the Cubs the way he found them when he joined the organization in 2011.

hat’s at least mannerly, if nothing else. Though his contract does expire after the 2021 season, I remain among the minority who firmly believes that the president of baseball operations will stay with the franchise in some capacity.

Cubs News & Notes

  • Kyle Schwarber thinks launch angles are a bunch of BS and that some advanced metrics simply make hitting a baseball too complicated. In other words, Schwarber prefers to just grip it and rip it.
  • The Cubs’ deal with Souza will likely be officially announced after the team can perform a full medical examination on the outfielder. Souza missed all of the 2019 campaign after tearing his ACL, LCL, and PCL in the Diamondbacks’ second-to-last exhibition game last March. Seven trips to the the injured list across his six-year career have limited him to just 471 games.
  • Reliever Brandon Kintzler has agreed with the Marlins on a one-year deal.
  • The MLB Network named Willson Contreras as the third best catcher in baseball, behind Yasmani Grandal and J.T. Realmuto.
  • Sammy Sosa hasn’t received much Hall of Fame support from local writers and it’s significantly hurt his chances for induction (subscription to The Athletic required to access content). Only one Chicago writer, Chris DeLuca of the Sun-Times, is known to have included Sosa on his ballot.

Monday Stove

Per The Athletic‘s C. Trent Rosencrans, the Reds have indeed agreed with Castellanos on a multi-year deal.’s Mark Sheldon confirming that it’s a four-year pact. Jon Heyman reported that the deal is for $16 million AAV with an opt-out, then added that the Reds may be looking to trade Nick Senzel from an outfield that just got pretty crowded

Mark Kotsay has interviewed for the managerial opening with the Astros.

Despite the loss of Grandal and infielder Mike Moustakas, Brewers owner Mark Attanasio expects Milwaukee to compete for a division title this season.

Christian Yelich declared himself fully healthy yesterday at Milwaukee’s “Brewers On Deck” winter fan fest. The outfielder expects to be in the starting lineup come Opening Day.

Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson admitted yesterday that he hates facing Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg.

Rich Hill, who signed a one-year contract with Minnesota a little over a week ago, believes the Twins will reach the World Series this year.

The Dodgers and Padres are still interested in trading for Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts.

Apropos of Nothing

Count me in the minority (again), but I believe the Souza signing means the Cubs are unlikely to trade Kris Bryant before the start of the season. The team is not going to add any more outfielders, needs starting pitching, and would likely be less interested in players that cannot help them this season. With most rotations set and no available excess, it just seems like the right deal probably doesn’t exist.

If the front office feels a playoff spot is out of the team’s grasp at the deadline, I’d bet they could get just as much for Bryant at the end of July than they could now anyway, , if not more.

Extra Innings

It was a tragic day yesterday as NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his 13-year old daughter, Gianna, along with seven others, including JUCO baseball coach John Altobelli, perished in a helicopter crash. Bryant, who retired from the NBA following the 2016 season, was 41 years old.

They Said It

  • “You just want to be flat with the zone. I think that [launch angle] stuff is all BS. Just go out there, work on a flat swing and focus on hitting the ball with the barrel because things are going to happen.” – Kyle Schwarber
  • “You know, I ask the question myself [about poor Hall of Fame popularity]. Because when I was playing, I was great with the reporters. I never said no to anyone. Definitely, you’re going to have people that they’re going to hate you no matter what, but to my circle when I was there, I was talking with everyone.” – Sammy Sosa

Monday Walk Up Song

Character Flaw by Joe Ely. Like it or not, the Cubs are perceived as underdogs this year. Maybe being the dark horse is better than being the favorite.

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