The Rundown: Trade Winds May Start Blowing Soon, Arrieta Looks Season-Ready, A Look Back at Big Sexy’s Home Run
“He’s sitting in the catbird seat.” – Red Barber
Jed Hoyer is in an enviable position this season. He has succeeded in building a team that is capable of contending for a division title and maybe even an extended postseason run, while hedging that with a high number of players on one-year deals or at the end of their contracts. If things go sour, the executive can quickly pivot to sell mode and fortify a farm system that is finally starting to make a little headway after 3-4 seasons of stagnation.
As baseball fans, we’ll get to watch to all play out in a polarizing way. As Cubs fans, most of us will live and die with each at-bat and inning pitched, as each should move the trade barometer significantly in the minds of the die-hards. We should all hope Hoyer is not a similarly reactionary sort — and he doesn’t appear to be — because this baseball season is actually a marathon as compared to the pandemic-shortened sprint of 2020.
"People want to be here, and that's a great thing," Jed Hoyer said Sunday in Arizona. On the core group wanting to talk extension, and more in today's notebook: https://t.co/y3IC1RMp2n via @Cubs
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) March 1, 2021
Aside from Kris Bryant, Javier Báez and Anthony Rizzo, a larger-than-usual number of Cubs players could see their names floated in trade rumors as the season wears on. We’ll likely hear some Willson Contreras rumors and it wouldn’t be surprising to see any of the team’s starters speculatively mentioned ahead of the mid-season trade deadline, including everyone in the rotation except Adbert Alzolay.
In fact, the entire roster could look completely different by the time August rolls around if the Cubs aren’t in contention for a division title or a Wild Card berth. It’s difficult to wrap our heads around that type of radical, in-season transformation but that’s where we are if Hoyer doesn’t announce an extension or two for some of his star players. Excluding players in arbitration or pre-arb years, only three current Cubs are on guaranteed salaries for next season: Jason Heyward, Kyle Hendricks, and David Bote.
If you’re an armchair speculator and wanted to handicap player movement, right now Rizzo seems like the likeliest to be extended, Bryant could be the first dealt, and Báez is the team’s wildcard. It will be fascinating to watch the season play out, and each of us gets a perfect view from high atop the catbird seats.
Cubs News & Notes
- Matt Snyder of CBS Sports published his 2021 Cubs preview and there are a few surprises, including four middle infielders making the Opening Day roster – Bote, Nico Hoerner, Ildemaro Vargas, and Eric Sogard. Neither Trevor Williams or Shelby Miller projects to break camp with the team, according to Snyder.
- Snyder also slots Brandon Workman as one of the team’s middle relievers. Workman could be in line to get some save opportunities if Craig Kimbrel fails as the team’s closer to start the season.
- Hoyer indicated that the club might change its original plans to start the season with a nine-man bullpen and open a 13th spot for a non-pitcher on the roster. That could give Sogard the opportunity to make the squad as the team’s 26th man.
- Hoyer has no book of idioms or catchy slogans to describe his team, which is somewhat refreshing. With just three players under contract for 2022, the president of baseball operations is simply challenging his team to win now.
- Hendricks played coy about any potential Opening Day start.
- That tumble the Professor took at first base the other night has reignited the universal DH discussion.
- The Cubs beat the Indians 4-3 yesterday on the strength of a three-run blast by outfielder Jake Marisnick. Jake Arrieta worked four innings with five strikeouts and looked like he is ready for the start of the season.
- Arrieta doesn’t look much different than he did during his first stint with the Cubs, though he no longer needs to rely on a big fastball to beat batters.
Odds & Sods
That one time in 1968 that Charles Schulz prophesied Ian Happ and the start of the 2018 season.
"Here we go…the first pitch of the season!" — "Good grief! A home run!!"
~ Charlie Brown (Classic Peanuts – March 19, 1968) #MLB #Baseball pic.twitter.com/lBIUKmzdBY
— Baseball by BSmile (@BSmile) March 19, 2021
Spring Training News & Notes
The Brewers have named Brandon Woodruff as their Opening Day starter, his second consecutive honor.
White Sox players “love the vibe” new skipper Tony La Russa has brought to the team’s clubhouse.
Clayton Kershaw is experiencing a slight dip in velocity but the Dodgers say they aren’t worried.
Curt Schilling has decided to leave Boston for Tennessee as the majority of Red Sox fans have turned against him.
Though many of the top shortstops are set to become free agents after this season, it’s a real possibility that some or all may sign extensions before the end of the year, including Báez and Francisco Lindor.
With no DH in the National League this season, it’s always fun to look back at the improbable home run hit by Bartolo Colon in 2014. Reading about “Big Sexy” in long-form prose is just as wonderful.
Take Me Out to the Ball Game
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said fan-attended concerts and baseball games will resume this spring, ushering in what he called a statewide rebirth as COVID-19 rates continue to drop and the number of immunized residents increases. Venues seating 2,500 or more will be allowed to open at 20% capacity beginning April 1.
Apropos of Nothing
Late actor, comedian, and magician Ricky Jay could throw a playing card 190 feet at 90+ mph and could impale a watermelon rind, “the most prodigious of fruits,” from 10 paces, among other seemingly impossible card-throwing tricks. Makes you wonder why throwing a baseball is so hard.
This is just another fantastic story about Babe Ruth.
BABE RUTH AND THE PENNIES FROM HEAVEN https://t.co/F9TNhTOK03
— Alex Cheremeteff (@AlexCheremeteff) March 19, 2021
They Said It
- “We’re going to have some hard decisions at the end of spring. Some of those decisions could end up with people going elsewhere. And some of those things could end up with guys staying in the organization and going to [alternate-site] South Bend. That’s obviously a better thing for us. We’ve got questions about roster fit; we’ve got questions about handedness, about role, about the 40-man roster. And most of those questions circle around the bench and infield in particular.” – Jed Hoyer
- “When you talk about urgency of this team [with so many players essentially on one-year deals], and it’s been stated. We need to play well out of the gate. That doesn’t mean we have to play well the first two weeks. But when you think about the first half of the season, we need to put ourselves in position to be a buyer, to be a team that’s competing.” – Hoyer
Friday Walk Up Song
Smooth Sailing by Ella Fitzgerald with the Ray Charles Singers. I love counting down the days to Opening Day, and there’s just 13 to go.