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.