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Old Cubs keep getting new jobs
They need more players. Plus Trevor Bauer and Carson Wentz.
The Cubs just keep losing our favorite players. Just kidding, this time it was just Albert Almora.
Almora was demoted on August 30 last year (the second straight year that happened to him) and this time he never came back. The Cubs non-tendered him after the season, but theoretically could have re-signed him. But they didn’t, and now he’s a Met. It’s for the best. He needed a fresh start (not that I think he’ll do much with it) and we just couldn’t watch that anymore.
We couldn’t continue to watch him make an out on the first pitch of every at bat or run really hard at balls in the gap and never ever get to any of them. It’s not like we didn’t like him, there was a lot to like about him, but honestly, he’s just not a very good baseball player.
He had one league average season (2017) and then his OPS+ went from 86 to 67 to 29. No wonder the Mets signed him, their owner Steve Cohen probably thought he should get in before the Reddit Bros started driving the price of Almora stock up.
Albert was the first draft pick of the Theo Epstein regime. He was the sixth overall selection in 2012. And the first evidence we had of the Cubs plan to draft position players high, rush them to the big leagues, see them all get off to great starts and then plateau before eventually letting all of them go without giving them a contract extension. Almora was seen as uniquely advanced for a high school senior. He’d played in a lot of international tournaments for Team USA, and Corey Seager (who went 12 picks later) was “too tall” to be a shortstop.
[I’m going to pause here for a moment while I go bang my head into a wall.]
Max Fried went one pick after Albert. He’s 24-6 over his last 41 starts. But that’s cool. I’m sure the seven pitchers the Cubs took in the seven rounds after Albert will be along any time now. One of them is Duane Underwood, so there’s that. He’s pitched in 30 games for the Cubs. The other six have combined to make…one appearance for the Cubs. The uncomfortably named Pierce Johnson threw two innings May 19, 2017 against the Brewers.
That worked out just great.
Spring training supposedly starts next Monday and the Cubs are somehow still sporting a roster with four outfielders and no second basemen. Well, I mean, they technically have Nico Hoerner (who is in no way ready to hit in the big leagues and reminded us of that daily last year) and Ildemaro Vargas (I mean, holy shit), and some dude that Detroit told to go away (Sergio Alcantara). So I stand by it, they have NO second basemen.
Maybe Javy can just play right behind the bag and handle both spots. Actually, don’t mention that around anybody from The Garbage Family That Owns The Cubs™ or they’ll take us up on it.
As for the outfield you’ve probably been counting on your fingers the last two paragraphs thinking, “OK, Heyward, Happ and Joc, that’s only three.”
But that’s because you forgot Phlervin!
Yes, the Cubs signed former Reds’ outfielder Phil Ervin back in December from the Mariners. How good is Phlervin? Some of the luminaries on his “Most Similar Batters” list on Baseball Reference include Dwight Smith…Junior (not even the original Dwight), Jorge Bonifacio (not even Emilio) and recently escape goated Cubs assistant hitting coach Terrmel Sledge.
“Escape goated?” Hey, if it’s good enough for Emmitt Smith…
The problem with only having four outfielders is that two of them, Joc and Jason, should never be allowed to hit against lefthanded pitchers, ever. Kind of hard to have two outfield platoons with just one extra outfielder. And, if the answer is playing Kris Bryant in one of the spots while David Bote plays third, I mean, I guess. That’s just as half-assed as everything else they’ve done the last three seasons.
One possible solution would be to sign Jackie Bradley Jr. which would free Ian Happ up to play a corner outfield spot when Jackie handles center against lefties. But there are a couple of problems with that, too.
Jackie had a pretty good season last year for Boston (.283/.364/.450 to go with legit elite defense) so he wants actual money and for more than one year, and the Cubs aren’t keen on either of those things. Also, Jackie would want to play every day. And, even though Happ made some strides as a righthanded hitter last year, there’s still a huge gap between his lefty splits (.915 OPS) and his righty ones (.713).
Basically, the Cubs outfield is just not going to get any hits when a lefty is on the mound. So we’ve got that to look forward to, which is (not) nice.
Well, maybe they can just play Ildemaro out there. Remember who he hit his first Cubs homer against?
It came as part of this:
Honestly, the Cubs should probably just give up and re-sign Billy Hamilton and Jason Kipnis at this point. Hamilton’s an ideal fifth outfielder because of his ludicrous speed:
He won’t help you with hitting lefties though, or righties for that matter.
And Kipnis is…well, he’s local (I mean I heard that somewhere, once) and so the Cubs won’t be on the hook for any relocation money. Plus, they already have uniforms with both guys’ names sewn on them, so there’s that.
How much you want to bet that when Alcantara shows up for camp they give him one of Arismendy’s old number sevens? That might have been a big reason they traded Victor Caratini.
Oh, and if you haven’t noticed, the Cubs still don’t have a starting rotation yet. Hey, the real games don’t start until April 1 (is that an omen?) so there’s plenty of time.
The Dodgers are paying an absurd amount of money for malicious Internet troll Trevor Bauer to pitch for them. I can’t emphasize enough just what a horrible person he is. But the Dodgers are going to hold their noses and pay him $42 million this year alone so he can give them a third Cy Young Award winner in their rotation.
But here’s the thing. Do we really think he’s that good?
We all really enjoyed Yu Darvish’s dominant season last year, but one thing we didn’t ignore was that Yu benefitted from only having to pitch against the NL and AL Centrals. Of those ten teams, only two of them, the White Sox and Twins, could hit at all. I’m not exaggerating.
Remember how bad the Cubs offense was? It was easily the best in the NL Central. The Cubs finished 10th in the 15 team NL in runs scored and that was the best in the division. The four worst offenses in the NL belonged to the Pirates, Cardinals, Reds and Brewers, then there were the Marlins (who played five playoff games and scored more than two runs in two of them) and then the mighty Cubs.
Bauer made 11 starts last year and got to face the Tigers twice (awful) the Royals (punchless), Pissburgh twice (terrible), the Brewers three times (horrible), the Cubs twice (bad) and the White Sox once. So sure, he had a dominant season, one that wasn’t objectively better than Yu’s, and really not that much better than Corbin Burnes’ season. And what did all three have in common? They faced shitty offenses all season.
For a guy who is now the highest paid player in the game, Bauer hasn’t had that much success in the big leagues. He was good in 2018 for the Indians, kinda good for the 2019 Indians (and then terrible for the Reds after being traded at the deadline) and then last year. But he’s pitched in six other big league seasons and his ERAs all start with fours, fives and sixes.
My, it’d be just terrible if he went to the Dodgers and sucked, wouldn’t it?
Hey, the Cubs have only won four World Series games in the last 76 years, and Bauer pitched against them in three of them. So there’s that.
The Bears could have their next soon to be ex-quarterback by the end of the day. Rumors persist that they are after Eagles’ QB Carson Wentz and that their only real competition appears to be the Colts.
I’m not going to entertain arguments that Wentz isn’t an improvement over Mitch Trubisky because those arguments are dumb. The only way you can make that claim is by comparing Mitch’s 2020 stats posted against mostly terrible teams in an offense that reapplied the training wheels to him against the worst season Carson has ever had.
Because I’m pretty sure Mitch has never put together a three year run like Wentz had from 2017 through 2019 where he completed 64.4% of his passes threw for 10,409 yards with 81 touchdowns against 21 picks. Wentz missed the end of 2017 and the start of 2018 after having his knee nailed back together.
That’s not to say that Wentz is without faults. He was brutal last season, and inconsistent enough in 2019 that the Eagles used a second round draft pick on a quarterback (Jalen Hurts) when they had signed Wentz to a four year $128MM deal.
The Eagles won the Super Bowl after the 2017 season with Nick Foles taking over for Wentz who had blown out that knee in the season’s 13th game against the Rams. Mind you, Wentz was probably going to be the NFL MVP had he not gotten hurt in that game.
Colts coach Frank Reich was Wentz’s QB coach in 2017 and would have been again in 2018 until Josh McDaniels took the Colts job hired some assistants then quit to go back to New England. Reich’s relationship with Wentz was a lot better than the one Wentz had with then Eagles’ head coach Doug Pederson.
In Wentz’s perfect world he gets traded to the Colts to play for a coach he trusts and with whom he had his most success, and joins a team with a dominant offensive line, a real running game and better receivers than what’s likely to return to the Bears.
The problem for him is that while Colts GM Chris Ballard would like to trade for him, the Bears trio of lame ducks, Ted Phillips, Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy NEED to trade for a QB and they’ll mortgage the future to get one because it’s their only shot at keeping their jobs long term. That’s very bad and it was the number one argument against keeping Pace and letting him take yet another shot at a QB.
The fear shouldn’t be that Wentz isn’t an upgrade over Mitch (he very clearly is) or that he’s not good (his track record suggests he is), the concern should be that Pace will give up too much to get him (HIS track record makes it apparent that he will). The Bears have a patchwork offensive line, will likely lose Allen Robinson in free agency, and they have a nonsensical offensive scheme with no desire to run the ball.
No quarterback they bring in is set up to have success. But they have to find one, regardless.
Deshaun Watson probably won’t get traded and if he does he’s going to make sure it’s not to the Bears. The Bears late season wins over awful teams and ill-fated playoff appearance landed them the 20th pick in the first round, too low for a shot at picking an impact QB and also too low to realistically be able to trade up to get one.
They’re going to end up with a quarterback who fits Wentz’s current profile. A QB whose performance last year devalued him enough for a team to want to trade him. The Panthers are looking to move on from Teddy Bridgewater after one season (because they figured out he can’t throw the ball 30 yards in the air), the Niners would bite at the right price for Jimmy Garoppolo (because he’s mostly hurt), etc.
Good quarterbacks are hard to find and there aren’t enough to go around. I hate to break it to you, but Wentz might be the Bears’ only legitimate shot to get one. And he clearly comes carrying a big bag of ifs with him.
If they get him, it won’t be that the idea is bad, we just have no reason to believe they can make it all work.
Mike Pusateri and I did a quick podcast to pick the first movie in our Movie Deep Dive podcast series. We spun a wheel and it landed on a winner. If you enjoyed the pod we did on The Right Stuff back in November that’s the basic format these will take.
The first one in the series ended up being pretty fitting for this time of year.