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The Cubs and Bears face pretty simple decisions
And both seem ready to botch them
Wednesday is baseball’s non-tender deadline for players with six years of service or fewer and the Cubs have two prime candidates to be kicked to the curb. They are, of course a former first round draft pick known for weird haircuts, being an all-around good guy and a key member of the 2016 World Series championship team (remember that’s a thing that happened.) The other is a defensively challenged outfielder who has had some real offensive moments over the years.
They are, of course, Albert Almora and Jose Martinez.
Wait. Who did you think I meant? Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber? Yeah, as cheap as the garbage family who owns the Cubs might be, those two aren’t being non-tendered. Now, if you told me one or both gets traded before the Cubs ever have to actually write them a check, that I would believe, but they are not releasing Kris and Kyle into the wild for nothing.
Almora, on the other hand could certainly use a change of scenery. The first first-round pick of the recently ended Theo Epstein regime, Almora’s spikes were sent to the Baseball Hall of Fame after game seven of the World Series, not because he scored the go-ahead run in the 10th inning, but because he was the slowest player ever to pinch run in a playoff game in baseball history. That includes the time Tommy Holmes pinch ran in game six of the 1952 World Series for the Yankees against the Dodgers and actually contracted polio as he was running from first to second.
Almora’s reputation is that of an excellent defensive outfielder, and he was supposed to be one of those high contact guys who eventually started drawing walks to round out his offense. The problem, of course is that while a good instinctive outfielder who gets good breaks on balls and takes smart routes, his complete lack of speed cuts dramatically into his defensive value.
As for his offense? He walked 67 times in his best offensive season in 2017, which ranked third on the club—wait, no, that’s not right. He has walked 67 times in HIS CAREER. Yes, 67 walks in 1,316 plate appearances. He makes up for it by getting a lot of extra base hits. Well, no. He’s slugged a whopping .398 in his career.
And, he’s getting progressively worse. His OPS+ in his first full season was 100, which was exactly league average. And it’s gone down every year since, from 89 to 67 to 29.
It was telling that when Almora was demoted to the Cubs minimum security prison team in South Bend on September 1 that he never came back. He is not a starting caliber outfielder, and he really doesn’t have much value as an extra outfielder because he’s a terrible pinch hitter (career - 19 for 102, .186/.213/.245) and even as a defensive replacement unless what you’re looking for is a guy who almost catches a ball hit 60 feet from where he lined up before the pitch.
As for Martinez he would be due a raise over the $2.1 million he made last year. If the Cubs tender him it’s actually a very bad sign. It means they think he could DH for them, instead of actually going out and paying a real DH. I don’t think there’s any chance that they’ll tender Jose, though. He made a huge impact for them after they traded for him at the deadline last year. He went 0-for-21 with a walk.
Bryant “earned” $18.6 million last year. Another injury-plagued season for him, and one where he was almost mind bogglingly unproductive (.206/.293/.351, OPS+ 73). He cranked it up for the playoffs though with no hits in eight at bats.
Since the 2016 World Series Bryant is 9-for-55 in the postseason (.164) with three RBI, and 19 strikeouts to one walk. Is that bad? You know, that seems pretty bad.
So, how much of a pay cut do you think he’ll get for 2021. Hah! That’s not how this works. Granted, I don’t think he’ll get much of a raise, I’d expect him to clock in at $19 million or less, but his salary’s not going down.
You know how this is going to work, right? At some point, either by trade this offseason or during the 2021 season, or after he leaves for free agency, Bryant’s going to stay healthy for like five straight years and put up massive numbers, because he’s good. He didn’t forget how to play, or especially how to hit. Which is why the Cubs are going to work out a one year deal for him, because if the start of that stretch is next season and they decide to trade him they’ll get some value for him. Non-tendering gets you nothing, and even trading him now seems like a terrible idea.
Schwarber’s more of a threat for a non-tender. He used a great second half in 2019 (.280/.366/.613, 20 homers, 49 RBI) to go from just over $3 million in 2019 to $8 million last year. After being bad last season, .188/.308/.393, 88 OPS+ he won’t get much of an increase for 2021 either. And, he should have trade value if they decide not to keep him long-term. Even though he’s turned into an above average fielder in left, meatheads still see him as a DH, and yes, there are meatheads in baseball front offices. But luckily for Kyle, the DH isn’t likely to go away in the National League (boooooo!) which just opened 14 more potential landing spots for him.
We’ll know more when the offseason really starts (which, seriously, isn’t going to be until February) what the Cubs are willing to pay. My money is on them cutting payroll by not replacing Jon Lester, Tyler Chatwood or Jose Quintana with guys making anywhere near what those three did last year (about $31 million total). And, given the injuries to Chatwood and Quintana, and Lester’s age, there’s a fair chance they might replace those three with one or more of them at a one-season discount.
Other savings could include another season of Jason Kipnis at second base. Kipnis made “only” a million bucks last season and clearly wants to play at least part of a season with the Cubs when there are actual fans in Wrigley (not sure if you’ve heard, but he’s a local kid). It’d be nice if they’d go get a reason second baseman, but those cost money, so no.
But it’ll be another offseason of shopping at the discount rack to fill holes. They did OK last year with a pretty fair number of those guys. Kipnis was fine, Jeremy Jeffress was a surprise (not sure that surprise could have handled a full six month season, though) and MVP vote getter Ryan Tepera.
This is not how a big market team with actual playoff aspirations should be acting, but alas.
And, they’re going to get away with it for another year, at least. The Cardinals do not seem to have the stomach to add payroll to their flawed team, and they’ve already cut bait with Kolten Wong just to save money. (I really hope they cave to pressure from their toothless fanbase and re-sign Yadier Molina, though. I love watching them waste money on a guy who can’t play anymore.)
The Brewers aren’t going to add anything significant and they are trying to trade Josh “Hillbilly Marmol” Hader, at least a year too late. Ryan Braun appears to be done there, too. The Brewers didn’t pick up his mutual option for 2021. Though, they will be paying him $1.8 million every year until 2031 in deferred money. They’re going to be paying Christian Yelich until 2045. Good lord, have they never heard of Bobby Bonilla?
As for any of you out there who think the Cubs should sign Braun to DH considering his .321/.373/.554 career slash line at Wrigley (with 19 homers and 72 RBI in 92 games) there are three reasons that’s a terrible idea.
1- He’s old now.
2- He would not be facing Cubs pitching.
3- They have had enough virus concerns lately without taking on his.
The Reds are going to lose their “fascinating” asshat Trevor Bauer, and Nick Castellanos, to their chagrin, didn’t use his opt-out, so they get to pay him $16 million again next year.
But wait, wasn’t Nick good for them last year? I mean, he was an MVP candidate early on, right?
Yeah, he was. But after hitting .340/.411/.840 with seven homers through August 7, Nick hit .190/.263/.381 with 55 strikeouts in the last 45 games (which was 75 percent of the season.)
And then there’s, wait, who? Oh, yeah. Pissburgh.
Yes, the NL Central had four of the eight National League playoff teams last year. That didn’t make it a good division, as their 1-8 record in the playoffs proved. And, it’s going to be worse next year. That means the Cubs can sell the illusion of playoff contention without having to pay for better players.
And here they are, laughing at us.
Speaking of nepotistic embarrassments, the Bears pathetic 41-25 loss in Green Bay puts the McCaskeys back on the hot seat as any ownership with any desire to win games, or one that at least has some semblance of pride would clean house and fire Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy, and for the love of all that’s good, Ted Phillips.
The final score somewhat masks what was another in a long line of ass kickings the Bears have received this year. Mitch Trubisky was back at quarterback and despite some weird overly generous praise from Tony Dungy (who was foisted upon us in the NBC booth), Mitch was still bad. He threw two interceptions, lost a fumble (for a touchdown) and should been intercepted at least two other times. The Bears were down 27-3 and 41-10. They ran their third quarter scoreless streak to nine weeks, and they still have scored a whopping seven points for the season in that quarter.
Somehow, the Bears defensive scheme called for a no longer fast linebacker—Danny Trevathan—or their worst defensive back—Buster Skrine—to have man coverage on the Packers best receiver, Davante Adams. Shockingly, it didn’t work.
The Bears didn’t not just not sack Aaron Rodgers, the only hit they put on him was a roughing the passer penalty on Bilal Nichols, and even that was barely a slap.
The defense, for the first time, clearly quit during the fourth quarter, and we got to see what it looks like when Eddie Jackson really doesn’t try to not tackle. It’s a lot like when he tries to tackle, only more so.
In the postgame, The Visor said, “I’ll never question our guys quitting.” Well, I assume it’s just another case of someone not asking a question they already know the answer to.
The Packers are 8-3, but they’re not really very good, they just play in a lousy division, and they toyed with the Bears who are really not good at all.
As condescendingly kind as the NBC C-team of Mike Tirico and Dungy tried to be to the Bears, even they couldn’t hide this:
Nagy was hired to modernize the Bears offense, and all they have to show from it is 13 wins in his last 28 games, and an offense that hasn’t been league average for the last 34 games. That’s not an exaggeration. Nagy’s offense has been bad since week 11 of the 2018 season.
They were 29th in the NFL in scoring last year and only the winless Jets are worse than them this year.
Everything needs to change about this offense, and these clowns cannot be the ones in charge of changing it.