Greetings, salutations, and Happy New Year to everyone who stumbles across today’s post. One of the great things about living in a digital age is that I no longer have to worry about incorrectly writing the year. I cannot remember the last thing I’ve written anything by hand except a greeting card.
Things are about to accelerate into overdrive for Cubs fans. The Cubs Convention is a week from Friday, then pitchers and catchers report a little less than a month later. Cactus League play for Chicago’s North Side baseballers begins on February 25. If you’re a weather geek like me, then you know we are currently adding two minutes of sunlight every day, and in six weeks we start adding three minutes per day. If I can warmly quote Jed Hoyer, “things move pretty fast around here.”
As long as I am being cheery and optimistic, let’s talk about things that could/should go right ahead of this season, shall we?
- Nico Hoerner and the Cubs should agree to a contract extension before the team gets to Arizona. He’s the new face of the franchise and might be the team’s best second baseman since Ryne Sandberg. Hoerner reached double digits in home runs (10) and steals (20) in 2022, all while playing elite defense. Dansby Swanson will be a Cub for the next seven seasons and Hoyer should make sure Hoerner remains with the team just as long.
Nico Hoerner, Chicago’s favorite shortstop, getting off-season dialed. pic.twitter.com/cRyiPeyYPV
— Travis Fitta (@TravisFitta) December 2, 2022
- Hoyer should trade Ian Happ if an extension is not going to happen. I hate debating the value of waiting until the deadline to move players. The Cubs were burned when a proposed deal fell through that would have sent Willson Contreras to the Astros for José Urquidy, and the catcher had to say goodbye on three separate occasions. The Yankees, Blue Jays, and Rangers line up nicely as potential trade partners, but there are probably 20 teams that could use Happ. I wouldn’t mind seeing him traded to Texas for RHP Brock Porter, though that seems unlikely.
- The training staff and hitting geniuses need to get Nick Madrigal healthy and untracked. Madrigal is not a prototypical DH, but if he’s able-bodied and hitting, he’s a valuable asset at the top of the order. Trading low on the second baseman doesn’t seem like a good baseball move, but then again, Hoyer DFA’d Kyle Schwarber two years ago.
- Cody Bellinger has a similar path. Hoyer paid for Bellinger’s elite defense, but if the centerfielder can find his stroke at the plate the Cubs will be a fun team to watch.
- Add Kyle Hendricks to the same regimen. This will probably be The Professor’s final year with the Cubs, and he gives Chicago one of the best fifth starters in the National League if he can return to form.
- David Ross needs to find a reliable closer among his melange of relief pitchers. Brad Boxberger is the likely choice, but Codi Heuer, Brandon Hughes, Mark Leiter Jr., Manny Rodriguez, and Rowan Wick will compete for saves, too. It’s too early to talk playoffs, but which of those gentlemen would you trust to finish a must-win game? I’d be a bit skittish to hand the ball to any of them to get three big outs.
- Ross also needs to determine who his third baseman is. Patrick Wisdom and Christopher Morel are the incumbents but don’t rule out the possibility of a trade. Hoyer is armed with enough minor league surplus to make a run at Rafael Devers, but he’s in his walk year. If he was the final piece to winning a World Series like Aroldis Chapman was in 2016, I’d say go for it. The Cubs are not there yet. Perhaps Jake Slaughter is a possibility, if not on Opening Day then at some point in 2023.
- By the way, Chapman is a free agent and will have to accept a minor league deal to continue playing. Would you take a chance on him?
Cubs News & Notes
- Almost every Cubs fan would like to see Happ signed to an extension, but several factors are working against that possibility.
- The Cubs are bringing back hitting instructors Greg Brown and John Mallee in new roles. Brown will work in the front office and Mallee at Triple-A Iowa. I’d like to see Mallee spend as little time with Bellinger and Madrigal in Arizona next month.
- Hayden Wesneski is a player to keep an eye on in 2023.
- Additionally, the Cubs need productive seasons from Wesenski, Morel, Seiya Suzuki, Justin Steele, and Adbert Alzolay if they intend to compete. I wouldn’t mind seeing Alzolay as the team’s closer now that I think about it.
- Reports continue to link first baseman Eric Hosmer to the Cubs. Fingers crossed.
- Call me crazy, but I wouldn’t mind seeing the Cubs acquire Andrew McCutchen as a fourth outfielder. The free agent is still looking for work. He’d also make a great platoon DH.
- Gordon Wittenmyer is leaving NBC Sports Chicago, which saddens more than just a little bit. I like his work and often find inspiration in his writing for Rundown topics. Maybe Jon and Evan can recruit Wittenmyer to write for Cubs Insider. I do think he would be an asset for Marquee, so maybe somebody should get Crane Kenney on the horn so I can make my pitch.
- If you haven’t been to the Cubs’ YouTube channel in a while, you’ll want to check out their “On Deck” and “Catching Up” series. Recent episodes feature Pete Crow-Armstrong, DJ Herz, Cristian Hernández, Kevin Alcantara, and Ryan Jensen.
- You’ll also find a great breakdown of Ben Zobrist striking out Yadier Molina in the final game of Zobrist’s career.
Odds & Sods
This is pretty cool. The Bruins host the Penguins at noon today at Fenway Park in the 2023 NHL Winter Classic.
Batters up. ⚾️ pic.twitter.com/51aWZ8kMku
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) January 2, 2023
Pete Rose placed the first legal bet in the state of Ohio, wagering on the Reds winning the 2023 World Series. Ohio’s new sports gambling law took effect on Jan. 1, though Gov. Mike DeWine initially signed it in December 2021.
I mentioned Porter as a potential acquisition for the Cubs in a Happ trade, but realistically, the Rangers have a number of intriguing pitchers to trade.
Just asking, but do you think the Rangers or the Angels have the better rotation?
Where would you rank the Cubs starters in the NL Central? I’d go Brewers, Cubs, Cardinals, Pirates, and Reds, in order. That said, the Cubs could pass Milwaukee this year, especially if the Brewers are forced to trade one or more of Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, or Eric Lauer.
It’s a new year, which means plenty of predictions among the blogger community. I do kind of like No. 7 on this particular list, however.
Slaughter can rake but he’s rarely talked about during discussions about prospects. We should be drooling over his combination of power and speed. The 26-year-old late bloomer had 23 home runs and 36 stolen bases across two levels in 2022 and posted .241 ISO at Iowa.
— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) September 7, 2022
Monday Morning Six-Pack
- The Bears took a beating at the hands of the Detroit Lions yesterday. In fact, Chicago had absolutely no fight in the 41-10 loss.
- Martina Navratilova, one of the greatest athletes in history, has been diagnosed with Stage 1 throat cancer. In addition, an unrelated form of breast cancer was discovered during exams. Both cancers are in their early stages with great outcomes.
- These are the numbers that defined 2022.
- “GOAT,” “inflection point,” “gaslighting,” and “absolutely” are among the words and phrases that should be banished in 2023. I like to use “it is what it is” just to piss people off even though that phrase makes no sense. I’m still waiting for sportswriters to veer away from using “albeit,” “draft capital,” and “prospect capital.”
- David Lee Roth said that working with Eddie Van Halen was “better than any love affair.” Roth always seems to make something nice sound slightly cringeworthy.
- A five-year-old article about Hooters and millennials has social media alpha males so butthurt that few bothered to check its veracity. This is the world we live in, folks. I’ve taken a three-month sabbatical from Facebook, and if I didn’t write for Cubs Insider and Bears Insider I’d ditch Twitter permanently.
They Said It
- “Like Michael Jordan said in his documentary: You play to win the game. Just make it simple and have a goal in mind. And don’t make it too complicated.” – Wesneski
- “I’ve said what I thought about him throughout the year. Gold Glove, everything else, the work he’s put in — he’s become an amazing player. And definitely, in my mind, arguably the best defensive shortstop in the game. Really, the work that he’s done is incredible.” – Braves president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos on Swanson at the GM Meetings
Monday Walk-Up Song
Let’s stay optimistic with a little Widespread Panic.