The Rundown: Breaking From Rumors to Talk Cubs Future, Development Staff Excited About Improving System, Schilling Could Get Hall Nod Tonight

“In 1962, I was named Minor League Player of the Year by the baseball writers. It was my second season in the majors.” – Bob Uecker

Though we barely talked about it yesterday, the buzz surrounding Kris Bryant and a possible trade, with or without Kyle Hendricks attached, continues to make the rounds in the news and on social media. According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, one club official not involved in any trade talks thinks the third baseman could be headed to the Mets or Blue Jays.

But I need a break from the Bryant speculation, so let’s file that until something actually happens. The story has been beaten to death and, frankly, it just doesn’t have enough legs to warrant another full column.

In other news…

Gordon Wittenmyer of NBC Sports Chicago conducted a regional exercise of sorts in which he ranked the top 10 teams of the Midwest, which is interesting when you consider the league could be looking at a possible delay or shortened season once again. The Cubs played teams strictly within their own division the AL Central last season, with a 34-26 finish equal to 92 wins in a regular season. That placed them two games behind the Twins and one game behind both Cleveland and their city rivals over at 35th and Shields.

Since then, the White Sox have made a series of moves to bolster their team while the Cubs non-tendered Kyle Schwarber, traded Yu Darvish, and have seen pitchers Jon Lester, José Quintana, and Tyler Chatwood leave in free agency. They also non-tendered Ryan Tepera, one of their best relievers last season. In light of those moves, Wittenmyer sees the two Chicago teams as polar opposites, with the Cubs ranked dead last in the region while still trending downward.

The White Sox are at number one with a bullet.

That projection would of course leave the Cubs in last place in the NL Central, behind perennial dumpster-dwellers like the Pirates and Reds. The author doesn’t even try to sugarcoat things for fans of Chicago’s North Side baseballers.

“The largest-revenue team with the highest estimated franchise value in the Midwest — by far — is slashing payroll like nobody else in the game this winter, thanks in large part to an enormous debt-maintenance tab created by all the investment and construction in properties around the ballpark.”

“With three weeks left until the scheduled start of spring training, the Cubs have exactly two pitchers on the roster who have ever made more than 11 starts in a season. All-Stars Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras are still available in trade talks. And the biggest acquisition of the offseason so far is $1.5 million free agent catcher Austin Romine.”

In other words, fans are back to thinking about the future as they traverse what will more than likely be a long road out of mediocrity. There’s nothing wrong with that and prospect watching can be downright exciting, but the front office hasn’t been very transparent about the direction of the organization since the season ended.

That said, pump the brakes ever so slightly on what is looking more and more like a scorched-earth rebuild. Though the Cubs have a couple of exciting players down on the farm, and though this year’s system rankings have yet to be released by most publications, they have been firmly ensconced in the lower fifth of historical rankings since 2017. In fact, they were ranked as low as 29th by one publication just a year-and-a-half ago. That means Jed Hoyer needs to find more minor league reinforcements to even think about Chicago’s next championship window.

You may think trading Bryant, Hendricks, Contreras, or Javy Báez is a bad idea, but it would be equally bad for Hoyer to piecemeal a rebuild since he’s obviously punting the regular season. As he’s indicated his commitment to build from the bottom up, it would be foolish at this juncture to stop after taking just a few half-measures to reconstruct his ballclub.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

Could the Twins be players for Bryant, too? The narrative seems to never end

Tuesday Stove

The results of the Baseball Hall of Fame election will be revealed tonight and Curt Schilling, who fell 20 votes shy last year, has an outside chance of getting in. Recent political comments may hurt, but a lot of ballots were cast before he signaled his approval of the Capitol riots on January 6.

Wittenmyer voted for Schilling and reasoned his choice is based on his baseball exploits only.

Yankees free agent starter Masahiro Tanaka is in talks to return to the Rakuten Eagles of the Nippon Professional Baseball league, his first professional team.

Jameson Taillon is fired up to pitch for the Bronx Bombers this season.

In a move designed strictly to slash payroll, the Yankees have traded reliever Adam Ottavino to the Red Sox. It is the first trade between the two rivals since 2014.

The Phillies are deep into talks to re-sign All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto, and their front office would like to lock down a shortstop sooner rather than later, too.

Shortstop Carlos Correa, who is entering the final year of his contract, told Astros GM James Click that he would like to remain with the team “long term.”

It’s hard to gauge just how talented Houston is right now, especially after losing free agent outfielder George Springer to the Blue Jays.

On Deck

Because I have been mostly prospect-forward this morning, it might be a good time to take a deep dive into the nine-part minor league series Todd Johnson has provided for Cubs Insider readers. He took the time to break down the organization’s young talent by position, and as he does every year, Todd provides one of the most thorough organizational analyses you’ll find online.

We should probably expect his report on the system’s shortstops in the near future, and I’m guessing he was probably waiting until the Hernandez signing was finalized.

Extra Innings

This graphic is incredible. The ascents of players like Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Barry Bonds is almost intoxicating. What’s even crazier is the nearly non-existent pace between the mid-1960s and early 2000s when Sammy Sosa, Álex Rodríguez, Albert Pujols, and Ken Griffey Jr. entered the top 10.

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
  • “I would always take Jed’s recommendation on what to do with what happens on the field. But I don’t think anybody’s tearing anything down.” – Tom Ricketts
  • “Over the course of his time as an amateur it just felt like every time we went back and saw [Cristian Hernandez], he was improving, and he was asking where he can improve. Those types of players that are hungry to get better and make adjustments, and at that young of age to be as good a self-evaluator as he is, to know that there’s parts of his game that he needed to work on, I think is what drew him to so many teams and to us specifically.” – Alex Suarez, Cubs’ senior director of international player development.

Tuesday Walk Up Song

I’m Yours by Jason Mraz – It’s time to embrace Chicago’ youth movement and the organization’s improving farm system.

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