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There used to be a time when Black Wednesday meant I’d wake up with bar plans for the evening solidified. Maybe I’d be hitting a local dance club to groove to some New Order or doing kamikaze shots at a dive bar while watching whichever sporting event (usually college basketball) ESPN chose to air.
Tonight, I’ll be at home flipping through my Bill James Baseball Abstract while watching a Ken Burns Baseball marathon on Amazon Prime. If my 25-year-old self could have seen my 55-year-old self, he might have gone into a deep depression. But the truth is, baseball is the same passion for me today as nickel beers and dollar shots were when I used to hang out at Cagney’s Saloon in Oak Lawn and Erik the Red’s just off of 111th Street & Western Avenue back in the late 1980’s.
I’d get my hopes up for a transaction or two this long weekend, but we’re still in the extended speculative stage of the offseason, which means a lot of debate over potential moves that will probably never happen. Frankly I’m surprised that so many people have buyer’s remorse over Whit Merrifield even though the second baseman has yet to be acquired. A lot of the about-face on Merrifield comes from a Steamer projection that indicates he will be a 99 wRC+ player — that’s ever-so-slightly less than league average — in 2020.
So instead of gushing over the one guy who represents everything the Cubs need at the top of their lineup, Whit the Stick is now perceived as an aging middle infielder whose second-strongest skill set, speed, is about to be rendered useless. It’s no matter that Merrifield’s 20 stolen bases last season and projected 25 for this season would basically lap 2019 team leader Javier Báez. Steamer says he’s going to bust, so it must be true. Besides, Merrifield’s best attribute is his ability to make contact, a skill the Cubs are clearly lacking. Why would you not want a 3.3 oWAR player with an AAV of $4.06 million leading off for the Cubs for the next three years?
Coincidence or not, Addison Russell is projected to earn $5.1 million through arbitration if the Cubs tender him a contract next week. In the meantime, most Royals fans would like to see Kansas City keep their inexpensive All-Star.
If you look at Merrifield’s 2019 season, it looks almost exactly the same as the 2015 season of Ben Zobrist. The Cubs gave Zobrist, then 34, a four-year, $56 million contract. Merrifield is going to be 31 next year and the two players are excellent comps, so I’d say the regression fears are a little overstated. The most ridiculous thing I’ve read is that the Cubs would have Daniel Descalso 2.0 on their hands if they make this acquisition. I’m not sure how you compare a career bench player to a guy who had 206 hits last season, but that rationalization apparently exists.
True, the Royals’ alleged asking price appears to be exorbitant, but last I checked the Cubs are the only team heavily connected to the second baseman. I’d bet giving up one of Ian Happ or Nico Hoerner plus minor league pitcher Cory Abbott would get the deal done. I’d have no problem with that trade and most Cubs fans shouldn’t either. Frankly speaking, Happ, who isn’t even eligible for arbitration until next winter, should be enough to get a trade done, but Abbott is a decent enough kicker if that closes the deal.
In the meantime, let’s not get too worked up over a Steamer projection. Merrifield will probably be a 104-107 wRC+ player next year and is likely to produce 2020 stats that compare favorably with the just concluded season. He bats leadoff, makes great contact, and plays every day.
There are four cosmic phenomena that travel faster than the speed of light. You can add Cubs fans’ ability to switch from overdrive to reverse without hesitation to that list.
Cubs News & Notes
Báez and the Cubs front office are expected to discuss a long-term extension at the Winter Meetings in San Diego next month.
A poll of National League front office executives revealed that just under half believe Kris Bryant will be traded this winter.
Do the Cubs have a shot at signing free agent third baseman Anthony Rendon? Probably not, even if they do trade Bryant.
Need an offseason baseball fix? Jordan Bastian of MLB.com lists the Cubs’ top 5 wins of 2019, with plenty of video highlights.
New Scouting VP Dan Kantrovitz believes the Cubs job is the perfect one (subscription to The Athletic required).
Razzball recently profiled their top Cubs prospects, with outfielder Brennen Davis taking the No. 1 spot. Get excited about this kid, he’s going to be very, very good. Davis slashed .305/.381/.525 in the Midwest League, where he was 2.2 years younger than the average player.
If you weren’t already aware, Davis is the son of former Chicago Bulls guard Reggie Theus.
Kendall Graveman, whose option was declined earlier this offseason by the Cubs’ front office, agreed to terms with the Mariners on a one-year deal with a club option for the 2021 season, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.
The Cubs’ Marquee Sports Network will rely on the expertise of WGN’s Bob Vorwald as a special adviser to general manager Michael McCarthy.
The Rangers intend to aggressively pursue Rendon.
If Texas really wants to change its culture, signing a top free agent such as Rendon would accelerate that process.
Other than Mookie Betts, Francisco Lindor, or any member of the Cubs infield, here are 10 names that will probably be mentioned as trade candidates at the Winter Meetings starting December 8.
MLBTR offers a quick rundown of the offseason catching market, including trade candidate Willson Contreras.
The Phillies signed infielder Josh Harrison to a minor league deal.
The A’s may look to trade some of their more expensive players in an effort to slash payroll.
The Yankees are said to believe that Gerrit Cole will sign with the Angels.
The Pirates managerial search may be coming to a conclusion, as the front office, led by Ben Cherington, is said to have narrowed its field of potential hires to Derek Shelton of the Twins and Matt Quatraro of the Rays.
Evan wrote about a dubious award given by Pitching Ninja Rob Friedman to Yu Darvish and Victor Caratini but the video is still fun to watch.
They Said It
“We’ve all learned over time that in this industry — it’s cliché — but you can’t be standing still even if you’re having some success.” – Dan Kantrovitz
Tuesday Walk Up Song
Heart of Mine by Norah Jones and the Peter Malick Group. Great cover of a song written by Bob Dylan.
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