News from Florida

Last night, Dexter Fowler turned down the Cubs qualifying offer of a one year $15.8 million deal. This is upsetting to those of us who have come to enjoy the consistent lead off batter. By making the qualifying offer the Cubs ensure a draft pick should Dexter sign elsewhere in the off-season. Maddon often refers to the number 9 batter in the line up as the “lead off batter in training” which is why he usually chooses to not hit his pitchers in the 9 spot. This could make Addison Russell the heir apparent to the lead off position in the spring. I would still prefer to see the Cubs make Dexter a better offer, they can’t blow a ton of money but they can at the very least make more than a year long commitment to a fan favorite who is only 29 years old with a career OBP of .363. Dexter had an excellent finish to 2015 and has many great years ahead of him, he fit in well with the young and excited group of Cubs and so it is to be expected that he would turn down the qualifying offer, we can always hope his desire to stay with a team that he did so well with outweighs anything another ball club might offer him.

GM meetings finished last week in Florida. Jed Hoyer had said before the meetings began that the Cubs are looking to pick up multiple starting pitchers this off-season. This was expected, Lester and Arrieta at the top of the rotation are very strong, and while Kyle Hendricks and Jason Hammel both have potential neither are bona fide aces and it is unlikely that either will become one. Dan Harren, the mid season acquired 5th rotation spot pitcher, has retired from baseball, as expected. This leaves the Cubs down a man before they even go to the negotiating table. Optimally, they’d pick up as many pitchers as possible to fill out the starting rotation and the bullpen. There have already been discussions regarding Zack Greinke, now a free agent, and David Price, also a free agent. Both would be welcome additions to the Cubs. Both have seen playoff action. Price has played for Maddon before and both have been in the running for the Cy Young Award, with Greinke winning the award in 2009. Surely all of us would be happy to see both of them wearing Cubby blue come spring. To continue n the pitching front the Cubs did already pick up right-hander Ryan Cook off waivers from the Red Sox last week. He spent most of 2015 with the Red Sox minor league affiliate but has bounced around between minors and majors since 2011 with the Diamondbacks, A’s and Red Sox. He is 28 years old with 17 saves in the Major Leagues. While this addition doesn’t add a great deal of depth to the bullpen, the more options available in clutch games the better, so welcome Ryan.

In non acquisition related off season news: Anthony Rizzo won the Heart and Hustle award last week, no real surprise there as he is, according to everything I’ve read, one of the nicest guys in the game and has been an electric team leader and fan favorite. Video clips of his acceptance speech are available on the Cubs website and MLB.com. At 26 years old, he is a leader on and off the field. He fought Hodgkin’s lymphoma and won and thus began the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation. Kris Bryant was named Baseball America’s rookie of the year for 2015, which he won in 2014 as the Minor League player of the year and 2013 as college player of the year. He was also awarded the Sporting News Rookie of the year award for the National League. The MLB/ Baseball Writers Association of America will announce its winners next week on Nov 19. Kris Bryant is a finalist for NL rookie of the year. Jake Arrieta is a finalist for the NL Cy Young, along with the Dodgers Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, and Joe Maddon will face post-season rivals Mike Matheny and Terry Collins for the NL manager of the year award. One has to assume that at the very least the Cubs will take home one of these awards. It would be shocking to me if anyone other than Kris Bryant were to be named Rookie of the year. Joe Maddon and Jake may be in for a slightly tougher fight but they of course have all of Cubby Nation’s support.

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Off Season Dreams

As noted earlier on this blog, and for those of you who own a calendar, baseball season has come to a close. We can all now focus on how poorly our fantasy football teams are doing. Maybe now that I won’t be so consumed by watching baseball I’ll have more time to write about baseball, besides I need something else to focus on other than the melee of our presidential primary candidates.

In their immediate desire to take our money, the Vegas odds makers have already established our Chicago Cubs as favored to win the 2016 World Series. Obviously these odds can, and will change over the course of the off season, much like they did last year when Lester joined the team and the Cubs suddenly were rated at 12:1 odds to win it all. ESPN has agreed that their first set of MLB power rankings are in their words “way too early” non the less, the Cubs are ranked number 1, based not only on their Vegas odds, but on their young pedigree players, Joe Maddon and a 97 win season.

I’d like to see a few things this off season for our Chicago Cubs, and first let me say I think we should kill any of the rumors about trading young Kyle Schwarber, I can’t imagine the organization breeding this kid and then immediately trading him after encasing his post season home run ball atop the newly minted right field score board. The rumors of Theo and company vying to reunite David Price with Joe Maddon also abound, these rumors, unlike those about losing Kyle, are great. We can assume that the Blue Jays are going to make a serious play to keep David Price but the Cubs have a nifty bank roll and since Price will be a free agent the Cubs won’t have to give up any of their young talent to acquire the in demand left hander. If the Cubs can add a guy like price to the starting three rotation they could be in seriously good shape. Of course the Cubs will have to compete with every other team looking for a strong left handed pitcher, and let’s be serious, every team is always looking for a strong left handed starting pitcher if they can get the right price. Looking at the off-season, there is a not a TON that needs to happen to keep the Cubby faithful happy. I don’t think anyone wants to see a staple from the dynamic infield lost, we’d love to see Russell Addison work on his health, and I can’t imagine that some of these younger guys won’t bulk up a bit circa Bryce Harper last off season. What I would enjoy is to see Kyle Schwarber in the lineup consistently, which will likely mean giving up one of our three catchers. While David Ross and Miguel Montero have been great role models and team leaders for the Cubs, it would be nice to get Kyle trained up, catching big league pitchers consistently and get him out of the outfield. He did an admirable job as an outfielder while Joe Maddon tried to get his bat into every game, but his incompatibility with the job was more than evident in a few key moments in the post season. Since David Ross has become the personal catcher to Lester, it seems our man Miggy will likely have to go, and considering his post-season batting average it seems likely. Though the caveat remains that if Maddon doesn’t think Schwarber is ready for big league catching by next spring we may continue with three catchers in the roster. Keeping lead off hitter Dexter Fowler is also key, he’ll soon be a free agent, the rumor mill has noted the Cubs are interested in keeping him and it should be noted that Cubs fans, myself included, would hate to lose him. Hopefully the Cubs can make him an offer that keeps him around for at least another few seasons. While I’d hate the lose any young talent I am of the opinion that the man to give up for a good trade, hopefully more pitching, is Javier Baez. I adore his MLB stamp tattoo on the back of his neck, it makes me feel like he really is genuinely excited to just to be part of baseball, and I know Joe Maddon is a fan of his, but if the time comes for a trade and giving up a prospect and a player is key Javy is the way to go. Starlin Castro showed remarkable resolve when he was benched and then started at a new position. He kept himself in check, didn’t go all diva about it and managed to come back better than ever at second base with the leading batting average in baseball for September. If the Cubs can hold on to a guy like that, despite the problems he’s had over the years with inconsistent play, he’d be too valuable to keep around. I think what he did this year showed his value more than all the all-star moments he’s had in previous seasons.

Pitchers and catchers report on February 18th, meaning we’ve only got 105 days left! Spring can’t come soon enough. For now, go enjoy some hockey.

2015 was spectacular…lets do it again next year

Baseball season is officially over. It’s been over for Cubs fans for a little while now but I was too traumatized to write about it until now. I did however take a few notes…

The night of October 20th after a crushing Cubs loss in Chicago, my best friend, a lifelong Red Sox fan texted me with a  reminder to “keep the faith” and to think back to 2004 when the Red Sox overcame three losses to the Yankees and eventually went on to win the World Series. Oh had things only turned out that way for our 2015 Cubs. At 4:30am Eastern time on Back to the Future Day, that is October 21st, 2015, I took a rather concerning cab ride to Newark airport. The rickety minivan was captained by an elderly Russian; at least I assumed he was Russian because his accent led me to believe he once lent his voice in a Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon. I cannot express how much noise this van made, it was an endless squeaking. Upon arriving at the airport Boris had to let me out of the car because much to my dismay there was no inside door handle, can anyone say buffalo bill? As usual the TSA at Newark was grumpy and useless but the line was short and my plane was at the gate, which is in fact the only reason there is to wake up for a 6am flight, the plane will never be late coming in from its previous trip. I arrived at Midway around 7:30 and took a cab to my friend’s apartment in Wrigleyville. Even at 8am Chicago was vibrating, especially when I got to Wrigleyville. My friend and I went for coffee, where we were given extra shots of espresso because of dutifully wearing Cubs gear. Hours later we hit the bars and then eventually made our way to my section. As soon as the back to back home runs were hit I knew what we were in for. It was as depressing as you can imagine to sit there the entire game already knowing the outcome. When the Cubs scored in the 8th I gave in to a slight glimmer of hope, thinking that surely they could get a 5 run 9th inning and ensure extra innings. Obviously that flicker of hope was quickly snuffed out. To be in Wrigley the night the Mets clinched the Cubs in a sweep was emotionally draining. Ultimately the Cubs lost the first two games of the NLCS series to the Mets and they lost the second two games to themselves. It was a typical Cub move, but it just made everything seem so anticlimactic, to go out like that on Back to the Future Day after such an inspiring second half of the season was more than just a little bit disheartening.

It’s been a couple weeks now and the Royals won the World Series last night, so while I’m not over it; I’m willing to look at the bright side. The Cubs had an amazing year; I went to a playoff game at Wrigley Field, that’s been on the bucket list since I was 4 years old. The young team that has been assembled is inspiring and God willing will go the distance some time very soon. There is work to do in the off season, but not nearly as much as there has been in the past. The Cubs will come back in 2016 with a little more experience, hopefully an extra starting pitcher or two and a vengeance. As always I cannot wait until spring. See you soon Cubs fans!