The Rundown: More Contreras Rumors, Dodgers May Have Interest in Bryant, Manfred Identifies Spring Training Coronavirus Protocols

I have a friend in Hollywood who truly believes that the Angels are going to acquire Willson Contreras and that Jed Hoyer intends to operate the Cubs under the “principles of mediocrity and minimal assumption.” Yes, that sounds like a California thing to say and may be partly due to the fact that the resident manager of his favorite baseball team is one Joe Maddon, because it really sounds like something the former Cubs manager might say.

I have no idea what a Contreras trade might look like, especially after the mediocre return Hoyer got for Yu Darvish. However, I do know that if the Cubs are indeed shopping their starting catcher, you’re going to have a tough time convincing me that they truly intend to compete this year. Tom Ricketts claimed “nobody is tearing anything down,” though trading Contreras would seem to indicate that’s not exactly true. Perhaps he was speaking about his 2021 financial prospectus.

Then again, it probably won’t take much to remain competitive in the NL Central. If Hoyer can raze the roster and still come away with an 82-win division championship, I suppose he is truly operating under the rule of mediocrity and minimal assumption. Opening the season with a rotation that consists of Kyle Hendricks, Zach Davies and a conveniently exaggerated cast of thousands gives plenty of credence to that theory. Minimalism is, after all, the abundance of enough, and if .500 baseball gets you a playoff entry, so be it.

Tribune columnist Paul Sullivan recently described that type of roster deconstruction as the audacity of nope, something Hoyer has been charged to sell to the team’s fans rather than the wheelbarrows full of cash and large market payrolls we were promised about 18 months ago. Those who feel the need to counter that the franchise owners have spent glorious amounts of money in the past need to realize a few things:

  1. A number of poor financial decisions sent the Wrigley Field renovation project way over budget, and that is the reason the Cubs stopped spending. It’s convenient to blame the pandemic or poor statistical returns, but the financial coffers closed as soon as that announcement dropped. This winter is merely an extension of those payroll restrictions.
  2. Hoyer and Ricketts have trimmed a great deal of payroll since the season ended and it does not appear there is any intent to put that money back into the baseball operations budget.
  3. Good teams spend competitively and mediocre teams do not. If a team owner is not investing to make the product better, then he is zero-based budgeting. Savvy business students understand that is a rolling process completed over several years based on past results that, at least in ownership’s view, are tepid at best. In other words, Hoyer is operating the Cubs like a small-market organization, either by choice or directive.

The friend I mentioned above has a 17-year-old daughter who is at the top of her class academically, and she was happy to chime in when she saw us teleconferencing.

“When you are really, really rich like Chicago’s owners,” she said, “you don’t mind coming across as poor or broke.”

That may explain why the chairman and CEO of the franchise continues to cry about biblical losses. When I asked her to expand on her very profound observation, she responded by telling me that that’s why “all the rich kids drive expensive cars but shop at the local Goodwill.” If you are having a lightbulb moment right now, don’t be so surprised, because I’m right there with you. She summed up the Cubs, at least this year’s version of the team, pretty succinctly.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

Thought you might need something to lighten your mood after a tumultuous news day yesterday. I wonder if Abbott and Costello incorporated Ty Cobb and Joe DiMaggio into their “Who’s on First?” bit.

Sliding Into Home

Sorry I was absent yesterday, I spent the morning in the ER because my body is storing too much bile and I woke up with jaundiced eyes. It was as frightful as you might imagine given what I’ve gone through over the last 15 months. Luckily, the problem is with my gallbladder rather than my liver, and I’m going to have a procedure to drain the excess tomorrow afternoon. If all goes well, I’ll get to keep the organ. Otherwise, it will have to be removed next week.

On a far more somber note, our good friend Scott emailed me yesterday and he now has a mortality timeline that’s not very promising. Based on the note, he seems to be in good spirits given the inconsolable news. I hope to talk to him on the phone today and I will ask if it is appropriate to share any of the details. In the meantime, please keep our brother in your thoughts and prayers.

Thursday Stove

Philadelphia GM Dave Dombrowski indicated the Phillies would love to bring back catcher J.T. Realmuto if the right deal can be made.

The Red Sox have “serious interest” in free agent starter Jake Odorizzi.

The Yankees and Padres executed a trade, with New York acquiring OF Greg Allen. In return, San Diego received left-handed reliever James Reeves.

The acquisition of Allen could mean that the Bronx Bombers are moving on from left fielder Brett Gardner.

Brian Cashman may pivot and use the money saved to acquire free agent starter Corey Kluber.

The Tigers have signed outfielder Robbie Grossman to a two-year deal worth $10 million, per Jeff Passan of ESPN.

Reliever Blake Treinen has re-signed with the Dodgers.

The Cardinals remain in “hurry up and wait” mode, which is pretty much standard operation for the St. Louis front office every winter.

Several teams have expressed increasing interest in reliever Brad Hand.

Pitching great Tommy John has been hospitalized with COVID-19. The 77-year-old said he started to feel ill following a trip to Nashville before he was hospitalized on December 13.

Extra Innings

Rob Manfred wants the league to know he’s not messing around this year, which I suppose is his expected stance after the Justin Turner World Series celebration gaffe.

They Said It

  • “I don’t think every single year you can put together a team that is the favorite to win the World Series. I don’t think that’s possible, and that’s probably a fool’s errand. But given our resources and our talent level, we should field a team that’s playoff-worthy every single year, and I think we can do that and field a team that’s positioned long-term as well.” – Jed Hoyer

Thursday Walk Up Song

Changes by David Bowie – A microcosm of the world and our favorite baseball team.

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