View From The Bleachers

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Monday

23

October 2017

60

COMMENTS

Winter can’t be far off, but neither is spring.

Written by , Posted in General

I know this feeling. I have had it before. The Cubs are done and the weather is turning. It’s that time in the upper midwest when the days get short and the sun is orange-gold and low in the sky. The slant of the light, even in the middle of the day, makes it impossible to find a golf ball among the leaves. The air moves and smells differently this time of year. There is a faint and familiar tang of smoke, even in the rain. Especially in the rain. I don’t care much for football. The sports page holds no special interest now. I already miss the company that baseball keeps for me.

My thoughts are still filled with baseball, but is there anything more to say? The Cubs’ season is done. Haven’t we said it all already? The Cubs are a very good team. As Sherm wrote sometime last week, the team of the past three years is the best Cubs team that any of us have seen in our lifetimes. On paper, the team they fielded this season should have been every bit as good as the ’16 championship team. But the chemistry wasn’t there. They never got it rolling in ’17. Even during their successful second half, they were not playing their best or beating the best of the competition. It never felt solid. It was disappointing when they failed against the Dodgers. But not surprising.

I hope it’s not over for the Cubs. I foolishly worry that it might be. But I will resist the pessimism. I will not yield to it. The fact is that that the Cubs are different now. They are a legitimate top tier team with genuinely excellent leadership and an elite group of players at the core. Theo Epstein’s Boston teams won it all in 2004, 2007 and 2013. I think a similar pattern could hold true for the Cubs of the next decade.

It begins with starting pitching. I would like the Cubs to pay Jake Arrieta. Of course, he wants too much money. But, my God. This has been his team. Not Jon Lester‘s. Jake has been the stopper and he proved it again against the Dodgers last week. Plus, the Ricketts can afford it. The Chicago National League franchise is printing money these days. Yet, I know that Jake is gone. Chris Bosio was the perfect coach for Arrieta. Bosio understood Jake’s motion. That crazy across the body delivery was not unlike the way that Bosio himself threw back in the day. It was no coincidence that Jake had his greatest success with Chris Bosio as his pitching coach. When the Cubs did not renew Bosio’s contract, the baseball world knew that the Cubs would not pursue re-signing Arrieta.

That means that we need two starting pitchers to fill out the rotation with Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana. I have my doubts about Mike Montgomery as a starter, but we will see. And who will be the fifth starter? I will watch the winter meetings with great interest. I think we all expect a trade of one or two of our youngsters. I think that Javy Baez, Kyle Schwarber or Ian Happ will be traded for pitching. Maybe Albert Almora, Jr. can be included too. Baez and Schwarber have proven to be one dimensional. The first is a defensive whiz, but an undependable hitter. The latter is a dependable power hitter, but a defensive bust. I have some hope that Happ can be taught patience at the plate. If he can learn the art of consistently taking good at bats, then he can be made into a satisfactory left fielder and figures to be a much better than average big league hitter.  Some have included Addison Russell as a candidate for a trade this winter too. I am not convinced. Russell is already a better all around player than Baez or Schwarber likely ever will be.

Kris Bryant, Anthony “Tony” Rizzo and Willson Contreras are untouchable. Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward are un-moveable. I have a few thoughts about each.

Bryant had a very good year. With one week to go in the regular season, he led the NL in WAR. (He finished third or fourth, I think.) He improved his OPS over 2016 and led the team in a number of advanced statistics. He is the best baseball player on the Cubs and one of the top five or so in the National League. But he must hit for a better average with runners in scoring position.

Rizzo had a superb year. He is the natural leader of this team and he is a great guy in the community. I don’t know why he wants to be called “Tony” now. And I did not understand that ridiculous “respect me” thing in the LDS. But I am prepared to forget it.

Contreras was my pick for Cubs MVP this year. His injury came at a bad time and that obscured the fact that he had such a strong year. But I expect him to be a fantastic player and I love to watch him behind the plate even more than than I love to watch him hit.

Zobrist is the least athletic player on the team and getting older. But I would rather see him come to bat in a tough situation than almost anyone else on the team. I think he will be platooned at second base next year if Javy is traded. Otherwise, I see him as mostly a part time outfielder in the regular season.

Heyward is here to stay. I take the good with the bad. But I hope that someone works with him on his hitting mechanics. Maybe he should take up golf in the off season. The first thing any golf instructor would do is synch up his arms with his body rotation. Since joining the Cubs, he is all arms.

Finally, I am going to take a pass for now in discussing the manager, the broadcasters or the bull pen. I want to think about it all a bit longer. But I probably am OK with two out of the three. Until next time . . . .

  • Bryzzo1744

    We have to trade someone on the MLB team. I think with the right coaching, Baez can be saved. He should watch tape of what he did in the 2016 NLDS and NLCS. There’s a reason he was MVP of the NLCS last year

    • Allan Birmantas

      Baez needs to be “saved” ?

      • Bryzzo1744

        He’s not a lost cause. Baez has MVP potential. They need to fix him before it’s too late

  • SouthCarolinaCubFan1991
    • Brad Lyerla

      Ouch. But I don’t buy the analysis in the linked article. It is skewed by the recency affect of the series vs the Dodgers. Wait a month or two. The Cubs will be on everyone’s list to finish near the top next season.

  • Doc Raker

    Nice piece Brad, I mean your article not Donna. You captured the change of seasons very well, I always disliked fall in Chicago because I knew winter was right around the corner. Living in Winterless SoCal is pretty nice.

    If you need more baseball take a trip down to the Arizona Fall League. It is like spring training was 30 years ago. There are few people in the stands, mostly scouts, and ballplayers are easily approachable, the weather is perfect and there is plenty to do in Phoenix this time of year. If anyone wants to see the up and coming prospects the AFL is a great way to see them. I wish the Caribbean league was broadcast on TV here, that would be cool to watch.

    Bryant and his WAR. Bryant is obviously a valuable player but my eyes tell and the rest of the Cubs are easily beaten by good pitching when it counts and they feast on mediocre pitching. Bryants numbers add up to a good season but if you can only take advantage of mediocre pitching how valuable are you? I understand the offensive numbers won’t be the same against the aces versus the 5th starter but an adjustment and or a change of approach , like going oppo or laying down a bunt, would be good to see and helpful for the offensive numbers.

    • Brad Lyerla

      I agree, Doc. Bryant needs to adjust. Maybe his hands are too high. It makes his swing longer and increases his vulnerability to the low pitch, which is the natural nemesis of tall players anyway. Right now, he really struggles with a low change of pace.

      Bryant talked after ’15 about going up the middle more. I have not seen much of that from him. But he is a really dangerous hitter. Everyone pitches him more carefully than any other player on the team. Even with Rizzo hitting behind him. But it is clear that the league has a book on him and he has to adjust to it.

      I love fall here, by the way. I even love winter. I just can’t take it for 5 whole months anymore. Donna and I bought a small place in Naples last March. It made it through hurricane season nicely. So we’ll get away to Naples when we can this winter.

  • Buddy

    The Cubs may trade for a starter, but I would think they will add at least one from the free agent pool (assuming Jake moves on of course). Some names they may consider via free agency are Cobb, Darvish (long shot), Liriano, Lynn, Moore (if the $1M buyout is exercised), Pineda, Tillman.

    • Brad Lyerla

      None of those guys are remotely as good as Jake has been the past few years. Not even Darvish, though I would love to see him in Cubs blue. It will be very hard to fill the hole that Jake will leave behind.

      • Buddy

        Of course not. Jake was historically good in 2015. That stuff just doesn’t happen very often. The pitchers on this list likely won’t want anywhere near the amount of money and number of years that Jake and his agent will likely seek, other than Darvish of course. My guess is the Cubs will be looking for solid, innings eater starters who won’t require 4+ years to sign.

      • Brad Lyerla

        Like you, I see them signing a Jason Hammel-type to replace Lackey. But they need to reach higher to address the gap that will be left by Arrieta.

      • I think we just have to keep in mind that it’s not the 2015 gap that they are replacing. I mean, sure, everyone would LOVE to have 2015-Arrieta, we sure enjoyed it. But that’s not what they have now. Now they have 2017-and-getting-older-by-the-minute-with-an-injury-prone-delivery-Arrieta. That’s not quite as difficult to replace.

      • Eddie Von White

        Agree. I don’t think anyone will ever see the 2015 version again. I don’t feel a great loss with him leaving. I already mourned his loss the last half of last year and this year. With him leaving, it means management will have to get serious about replacing him with someone good. We could sign him and hope for the best, but reality trumps hope.

      • Besides if he stays around much longer I might have to start stalking him with a beard trimmer.

      • Brad Lyerla

        He shaved yesterday, Liz. Amazing. Looks completely different.

      • Bryzzo1744

        I can’t recognize him without the beard

      • Brad Lyerla

        That’s what they were saying about Verlander in Detroit. And look at him now . . .

      • Adam Peters

        Totally, Lizzie. He hasn’t been 2015 Arrieta since 2015.

      • Bryzzo1744

        I’m more concerned with replacing Arrieta than I am Lackey. My Arrieta replacement is someone I want in the October rotation. The Lackey replacement should be someone who can eat innings. You only need 4 starters in October, but you need 5 to get there.

  • Adam Peters

    Unfortunately the Cubs did not trade Schwarber last off season when they could have gotten a lot for him. I get both that trading the World Series hero would have been extremely unpopular, and that hindsight is 20/20, but did anyone ever really think Schwarbs was going to be anything other than what he’s been in LF? He really needs to be traded to the AL. He’s shown he can be a great DH, and that can’t be said of a lot of good hitters.

    I don’t see them trading Javy. They can’t sell low on both him and Schwarber. Plus he has shown he *can* be a more selective hitter. Why he doesn’t do it all the time is a mystery. And the infield defense is sick with him and Russell up the middle.

    We’re stuck with Zobrist for another year, but hopefully he will only start 70 games or so.

    The Cubs need pitching, a leadoff man, pitching, and pitching. ideally, the leadoff man would play CF or LF.

    Heyward is only movable if the Cubs pay 2/3-3/4 of his contract, which might be worth it to get him out of the batting order. Though even with his shitty hitting he had the 8th highest WAR on the team. Higher than Arrieta.

    The bottom line is, Theo needs to do what Mike Rizzo did in Washington last off season, which was don’t give his manager the option of doing stupid crap every day. Dusty insisted on playing Danny Espinosa over Trea Turner at SS in 2016, so Rizzo got rid of Espinosa. Theo needs to take away some of Maddon’s pieces so he’s not toying around with the lineup so much.

    • Jerry in Wisconsin

      Unfortunately if we are stuck with Zobrist, Maddon will be toying with the lineup, he will always be looking to see how to get Zo in, and it will be for more than 70 games.

      • Bryzzo1744

        Then get rid of Zobrist too! This reminds me of Dusty always playing Neifi, Macias, and Hollandsworth, until his toys were taken away from him. Playtime is over for Maddon

    • Doc Raker

      I didn’t think Schwarbs would be that bad in LF and thought his 83 jacks would help compensate for the less than average D.

  • Jack F

    Baez and Schwarber have proven to be one dimensional.
    How can Baez be “one dimensional” when he all over the field with his spectacular fielding??

    • Brad Lyerla

      He has the discipline of a child at the plate. I said he is a whiz on defense. But that is only one dimension.

      • Doc Raker

        He has the discipline of a fat kid in front of a plate of cake.

      • Brad Lyerla

        Well said.

      • Eddie Von White

        Well, said, anyway.

      • Brad Lyerla

        Punctuation humor, EVW? Took me a moment to get it. Too highbrow.

      • Eddie Von White

        Punctuation humor indeed! I’m glad you got it. Much of the time my humor goes right over everyone’s head.

      • Doc Raker

        I am still confused and it was explained

      • Seymour Butts

        Appreciate the effort. Keep up the good work.

  • Doc Raker

    Can we DH for Heyward? Have Heyward play D and Schwarbs DH for him

    • Sherm

      I’ll say it again – Heyward and Schwarber for Mookie Betts. Both teams improve immediately. Eat some salary – whatever it takes to unload Heyward

      • Bryzzo1744

        Why does Boston make the deal? What if they ask us to take price in return?

      • Sherm

        Why does Boston take that deal? Because it’s exactly what they need – Schwarber is exactly the kind of hitter they need to replace David Ortiz. Heyward would be great in that spacious RF. They get better and we get better. Betts can bat leadoff, brings speed and some power without a huge defensive dip.

        Price in return? Absolutely! If he returns to form as a starter? Great! After 2 years of Heyward, I’m willing to take the risk.

      • Bryzzo1744

        Hack Theo’s phone and make the deal. We get a leadoff hitter and our replacement for Lackey. Then all we need is a replacement for Arrieta.

      • Adam Peters

        I don’t think Boston makes that deal for just the two of them. They might see the potential in Schwarber, especially because he has excelled every time he has DHed, but they won’t want Heyward’s bat in their lineup. I don;t know. Maybe if the Cubs eat 3/4 of his salary, which they should do. Though both teams have tons of money at this point.

      • Bryzzo1744

        That’s why I suggested Price be thrown in. One bad contract for another in areas where both teams need help

      • Sherm

        Boston needs Ortiz. Schwarber could “White Papi” and fill those shoes.

        Heyward is still the best RF in the game and maybe Boston has a hitting guru that can help.

        Agree that Chicago eats a large sum of the salary, but Schwarber is cheap.

        Hey, they can have Justin Wilson, too.

      • Adam Peters

        I still don’t think Boston parts with Betts. He’s a bona fide star and he’s as good a fielder as Heyward is.

      • Brad Lyerla

        Agreed.

      • Eddie Von White

        And from what I hear, the Rickettssssss’ are not short on cash. You have to eat some once in a while.

      • Adam Peters

        Schwarber could feast playing in that ballpark 81 games a year. He could pop them over the green monster all day long and he LOVES to pull the ball hard down the line, which in that park would be a HR for him when he hits it off the end of the bat.

      • Sherm

        That’s my thinking – the Red Sox have to see that, too. He’s PERFECT for Fenway.

      • Adam Peters
  • Buddy

    The Cubs will likely add a free agent reliever or two as well. Here are just a few of the many names the Cubs may consider: Cishek, Hernandez, Kintzler, McGee, Minor, Morrow, Neshek, Reed, Shaw

  • Adam Peters
    • Buddy

      He would obviously be a great addition to any squad, but Boston isn’t dealing him. Not trading Betts either.

      • Bryzzo1744

        Their Kiler B’s aren’t going anywhere for a while. Bogarts, Betts, Bradley, and Benitendi.

      • Sherm

        But Byle Bwarber is a BOMBER – and that’s what Boston needs and they know it.

        Don’t kid yourself. Great players get traded.

      • Bryzzo1744

        I don’t disagree with you, I just don’t see Boston trading any of them

      • Sherm

        I think you have two teams who fell short of their big market fan’s expectations. They’ll both watch the WS and realize they need to shake it up a little bit to keep up with the Dodgers and Astros. I think both will make some surprising moves – possibly with each other, possibly not, but I think there will be some changes to both teams major league lineups for next season

      • Buddy

        I agree that both teams will be making changes, but the BoSox aren’t trading Betts, Benintendi or Devers, and I don’t blame them. The Indians didn’t make the World Series either, but that doesn’t mean they should trade Lindor or Ramirez.

      • Jerry in Wisconsin

        They only get traded when GMs don’t over value them, or greatly under value them.

      • Sherm

        And some times you have to trade value to get what you NEED. Both teams in this example have unfulfilled needs that the other can satisfy. Without ruining the overall strategy of the team.

      • Speaking of strategy.. now that the dust has settled, I’m beginning to think the Cubs should play solid defense, hit against the shift, slide directly into and not beyond bases, work counts, hustle to first, see a lot of pitches, take good outfield routes, hit a lot of homers even though they strike out a lot, make solid throws, and play fundamental baseball next season.

      • Seymour Butts

        You left out moxie… and of course it might be nice if some of the fellows were to play hard.

      • Eddie Von White

        And smile.

      • Doc Raker

        And throw strikes