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The Official 2019 Cubs World Series Mailbag

Screen-Shot-2017-05-04-at-10.30.10-AM-1024x790I understand no one cares because it’s March Madness Thursday but that will not stop me from doing my job. Blah blah blah. On to the questions:

Rizzo. He’s significantly bigger than I have ever seen him. I’m talking noticeably thicc and strong compared to what’s burned into my memory since 2012. I’m thinking it’s because he got fat in the offseason leading up to his wedding and then spent the last 10 weeks power lifting 4 hours a day. Personally that’s my kind of first baseman. I think in years past Rizzo wanted to be lean and athletic, etc. Now it looks like he’s intentionally bulked up to be a traditional power bat. It’s interesting because this is his first season in the second half of his career. My impression is that Rizzo will be much better the next 6 years than the last. Don’t kill me for that just a hunch.

.275 /.340/.420 with steps forward in his plate discipline and power with moderate decrease in batting average to adjust for the change in approach. And that’s being conservative because Almora’s shown to be a pretty conservative player so far. In a perfect world, he’d look to drive the baseball more – 5 HR’s in 479 plate appearances last season isn’t bad, it’s awful. He’s way too athletic and polished to not be a bigger offensive threat and my guess is that it largely has to do with his mindset which largely has to do with his development. He’s no longer a platoon option or defensive replacement. He’s the designated centerfielder and it’s expected he makes consistent impacts both at the plate and in the field. This is my favorite position player storyline heading into 2019.

It should be very long. Happ is adored by the advanced statistics crowd. Yes, he strikes out more often than you’d like but his walk rate increased almost 80% from 2017 to 2018. And not for nothing, it was obvious he isn’t very comfortable in CF which doesn’t do this argument any favor, but when generally talking about offensive production you have to account for everything. That means a lot of looks at 2B, likely over Ben Zobrist because Happ can bring power against a right handed starter and that’s the trend. His defense will hopefully be average at best, but it can’t be worse than last year so that’s nice. I would bet if Happ got consistent reps at 2nd and was getting regular playing time to start the year, you’d see a huge jump in his offensive production. Baseball players are creatures of habit and Ian Happ is no different regardless of how much the Cubs platoon.

Bote in my humble opinion is a nice story but nothing more than a run of a mill backup with some good vibes from God and Jesus. He can hang when you need him but I would limit all fantasies about him being the next great under the radar big leaguer. Water always finds its level and Bote is no exception.

Not in the least. There’s 5 guys that I generally trust: Brandon Morrow, Pedro Stop, Steve Cishek, CJ Edwards and Brian Duensing. I’d like another lefty and another dominant late inning guy but you have to remember that it’s March. Bullpens change so much over 162 games that it would be stupid to spoon my eyeballs out now when I can do it in August. Wait and see how some of these guys come out of the gate before you sound the alarm.

First and most importantly, you’d have to give up a draft pick to sign Kimbrell before the June 2019 draft. So that’s 1… The Cubs have the 2nd worst farm system in baseball and are in no position to make that move when there are drastic long-term needs to reload.

Second, Kimbrell started the offseason looking for 6 years/$100m+ which would break both of Aroldis Chapman’s records for years (5) and money ($86m) paid to a reliever. We’re still waiting to get a return on Brandon Morrow, Tyler Chatwood and Yu Darvish. Adding a 31 year old closer at $15m+ to the mix doesn’t do us any favors unless it works out perfectly, so why take that risk?

One theory out there is that there are plenty of teams willing to pay for Kimbrell, but they don’t want to give up a draft pick, so they’re waiting until after the draft to make a big offer. That wouldn’t happen until June so he’d miss at least the first 70 games or so. The advantage to Kimbrell in this case is that his market is much more defined. The teams that need his services will know much better in June than now, which technically could create a bidding war. Don’t rule the Cubs out just yet.

If anything, this puts a lot of light on how far scouting has come. Not too long ago teams were willfully giving away draft picks to sign free agents. Things have changed so much.


I see this as an unintended result/benefit to how things have played out. I would never in a billion years accuse Theo & Co. of manipulating the situation like this. But in hindsight you imagine it gives them some natural breathing room which I don’t think any sports executive would turn down. Even so, I would hardly classify it as a built in excuse. It’s more convenient than anything.

That said, I see this more of a team-chemistry strategy from Theo. Sure you could extend Joe and make everyone feel warm and fuzzy in the process. Or you could create the perception that everyone’s playing for their job and there will be no fucking around in the process. You’d be surprised how Urgency can impact a baseball team. So while there’s truth that Joe still has to earn his next contract, I see this more as Theo pulling a lever.

The Section 108 guys are sweet. All they do is drink beer and obsess over the White Sox. I can’t tell you how much I respect those guys. That said, it’s going to take a lot of White Sox wins to give them the city-wide attention they probably deserve. If the Sox ever get there I think the 108 crew can give Bleacher Bums a run for their money but let’s be honest: it’s a very big hill to climb. Personally, I’d rather just accept that they do their own thing and represent our city and their fanbase very well in the process.

Listen I’m not thrilled he’s our rightfielder either but at some point we’re going to have to move on. You’ll never win this argument because the Cubs won a WS his first year and the circumstances were so magnificent that literally no one would change anything that’s happened up to this point.

Still, we can’t ignore facts. Jason Heywards *combined* WAR in 3 Cub seasons (5.1) would rank as his 5th best *individual* season on a stand alone basis (2015 = 6.6, 2010 = 6.4, 2014 = 5.8, 2012 = 5.5). You’re well within your right as a baseball fan to be disappointed in how bad he’s been, but I wouldn’t call him the worst.

I don’t think anyone can answer this because the Addison Russell narrative is so sensitive. It’s unlikely my take is anything new or revolutionary, but I would have released him immediately. The Cubs didn’t and it’s extended the lineup ambiguity into 2019. We’ll figure it out when we get there continues to be a main theme. Compare that to when the Cubs broke camp in 2016 with regular starters at: SS, 2B, 3B, 1B, RF, CF with a left-field platoon and catching platoon. The strength there is the middle of the field with Baez/Zobrist, Russell, Fowler and Montero/Ross (Contreras didn’t break camp in 2016). Now we have questions at every position. Is Javy the long-term SS? Is Almora ready for 500 plate appearances. Who plays second? What if Contreras gets hurt?

The strength of your team can be measured up the middle and the Cubs have more outstanding questions than they’d like heading into 2019. The same issue in centerfield last year is now at second base this year. But then again that could be dressed up as a strength – you can be flexible with your lineup. My personal preference is consistency up the middle but I just write the blogs.

If the White Sox make a run for the Wild Card it’s going to be via starting pitching. The young position guys will have their moments this year, but if you want an early rebuild playoff run you need the starting pitching. Excellent choices with Rodon and Gio. To take a page out of Michael Wilbon’s book, I sat down with Rodon in Spring Training and certainly left with the impression that he’s turned The Corner.

When healthy he’s one of the best right handed starters in the world so the expectations for him should rightfully be through the roof much as they were in 2018. That said, this year isn’t as make or break as people say – there’s tons of starting pitching depth to go around. The club can absorb another down year in a worst case scenario. That’s not what anyone wants to hear but I think it’s true.

In the simplest terms, I think you can say that if the Cubs win the World Series, they’ll need Yu Darvish at his best for some notable stretch. Without going down a rabbit hole on playoff pitching trends, trust me that it gets much harder without a power righty at the top of your October staff.

No but only because I haven’t won a bet in like 6 years. If I wasn’t haunted by a devastating amount of karma I would take this bet in a second.

In the exact order you present: Quintana, Darvish, Happ, Heyward

At this point only two guys come to mind: KB and Javy and even then the timing is awful. KB wouldn’t sign for anything less than Arenado’s extension of 8/$260 because (a) he’s that good and (b) he’s represented by Scott Boras. No way KB takes anything less than his market value which is objectively very high after this offseason.

Javy is a better candidate for a “friendlier” extension but even then I think his ship sailed to do something very friendly. If they did it last year, Javy could have been on an 7-year/$90m deal. Something like that, but who saw an MVP caliber season coming? I think everyone agrees he’s uber talented, but you’re a liar if you thought he’d turn into one of baseball’s best players. If Javy repeats his success I’d like to see him extended just so you can get some financial certainty around the club.

I don’t love it. I’ll do it when I’m hammered but then it drowns out the giardiniera and why would I want to do that?

When they stop drafting power arms that can’t command fastballs in rounds 3-8. 2017 was the first and only time they invested in pitchers at the top of the draft and neither guy has shown much promise so far. That’s a Theo thing going back to Boston. He likes pitchers that have already learned the ups and downs of professional baseball. So when they go to draft, it’s for high-upside projects that could be studs. So far none of them have panned out. Lucky enough here’s a list of their first picks from 2011-2015: Javy Baez, Albert Almora, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ. That’s good for about 50% of the 2019 Cubs plate appearances and a perfect example of why Theo’s a Hall Of Fame executive.

Ben Zobrist but only because I’d want Jesus on my side