The Rundown: Wishing Strop Success in Cincinnati, White Sox Seek To Rule Chicago, Baseball Gear Heads to Spring Training

I’m a little bit salty this morning because I have had to fast since lunch yesterday for a medical procedure later this morning, so please forgive my angst. I know a lot of Cubs fans are upset that Pedro Strop will not be returning but can we stop perpetuating the narrative that every single signing or non-signing is only budget related? If Theo Epstein truly wanted to give Strop a contract similar to the one he signed with the Reds I’m sure he would have. It might have meant that the front office would have had to pass on signing Steven Souza Jr. and Jeremy Jeffress, and, it’s quite possible you believe that’s a fair trade off.

Don’t expect me to agree with you.

2019 was Strop’s worst year since coming to Chicago in 2013 (4.97 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 50 games). The high-leverage reliever saw a marked drop in velocity, lost all semblance of his sinker, and suffered through multiple hamstring injuries and general regression. If that’s not enough, the team currently has 15 pitchers vying for five open bullpen spots, assuming Craig Kimbrel, Kyle Ryan, and Rowan Wick are locks to make the team out of spring training. It hardly makes sense to offer the guaranteed money that Cincinnati did without a guaranteed roster spot. Even if Epstein was in a position to absorb that type of financial loss why would he?

More than likely, the decision to let go of Strop is more a baseball decision than a financial decision. Sometimes those are the toughest decisions to make, especially when a player is universally loved by fans, and revered up and down the organization. Epstein has talked in the past about how much he loves Strop. If the President of Baseball Operations truly wanted to keep him on the team, he would have found a way to do that as long as it made good baseball sense.

Sure, a lot of Cubs fans are disappointed, yet many of those same fans wanted to run Strop out of town when he couldn’t retire a single batter before Joe Maddon turned the ball over to Derek Holland in the Bryce Harper game. Here’s how I described it the next morning:

“The Phillies entered the 9th trailing 5-1. Brad Miller hit an RBI single with one out to close within 5-2. Roman Quinn followed with an RBI single and Rhys Hoskins was hit by a Strop pitch before Harper’s bomb. Upper deck, throwback digs, and the fastest home run trot of Harper’s career. Game over, series over, Cubs swept.”

Sometimes it’s tough to think of baseball as a commodities business, but like it or not that’s really all it is. The Cubs initial investment in Strop was Scott Feldman, and the Orioles felt so bad about ripping the Cubs off at the time that they kicked in Jake Arrieta. With Strop’s exit now official, just three players remain from the roster that broke camp with Maddon in 2015: Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, and Anthony Rizzo.

We should remember Strop fondly and hope he succeeds. But I believe a parting of ways was necessary, and hopefully the Cubs will get the best of their former teammate when they meet on the field.

Cubs News & Notes

Apropos of Nothing

Friday Stove

Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger leads the list of baseball’s 25 most impactful players that are 25 years old or younger.

There is a fascinating story of an Astros fan who spent 60 hours coding an application designed to analyze and detect evidence of sign-stealing by Houston in 2017.  “The Astros took it way too far,” he said. “They kept going when they were told to stop, and we have the visceral aspect of being able to watch the video and hear the bangs. When you think about it, it’s pretty stupid.”

Dusty Baker said the Astros will not be illegally stealing signs under his watch.

The Giants may be interested in a reunion with outfielder Hunter Pence.

Arenado could be an option for the Yankees.

The White Sox are unlikely to make any more roster upgrades until the trade deadline in July.

Trucks full of baseball gear are on their way to spring training facilities in Arizona and Florida.

On Deck

January finally ends today, and February means baseball. The Cubs start their Cactus League schedule in 23 days. Pitchers and catchers report a week from Tuesday.

Extra Innings

Wishing Strop nothing but the best.

They Said It

  • “I hope he can be part of this organization when he’s done playing because that’s how impactful he is, to the other relievers and to the team as a whole. Just a great disposition and great heart on that kid. And a great pitcher.” – Theo Epstein (March 7, 2019)
  • “These last [six-and-a-half] years with the Cubs have been a memorable and exciting time in my career. I want to thank ownership, Theo, Jed, my former teammates, and all of the fans in the wonderful city of Chicago for your support throughout these years. These years will forever mean a lot to me. Thank you Chicago.” – Pedro Strop

Friday Walk Up Song

Pretty Pimpin’ by Kurt Vile. In honor of Strop, whose fashion sense is unmatched in baseball. Plus, I love me some slide guitar.

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