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Cubs Mailbag!

mailbag

H/t or shoutout or whatever to my guy Robin Ozzie (@oldcomiskey) for the new mailbag picture. Guy is named after Robin Ventura AND Ozzie Guillen. Crazy shit. Follow him on twitter if you like awesome baseball and hockey GIFs. 

Follow me on twitter to get a piece of this action.

Assuming Theo wanted Trubisky in the first place, common sense tells me no frickin chance because Theo would’ve found a way to get him at 3. The idea of Theo Epstein not getting what he wants is straight up laughable.

Hard no on this year barring some crazy circumstances. He would need an entire offseason to prepare his body for the grind, a full spring training as a starter and at least some time in AAA starting games to even consider making 5+ starts in a row in the big leagues. Physically he just isn’t ready to take on the grind of starting in MLB. I think that’s fair.

That said, the more I think about the Cubs pitching depth, the more it makes sense to at least try to stretch CJ into a starter at some point. His stuff – naturally – is remarkably difficult to hit. The size/shape of his hands combined with the way he naturally releases a baseball amounts to a plus-plus cut fastball.

When you have a guy with natural stuff like CJ, you want him on the mound for as many innings possible. His minor league numbers as a starter support this argument and are absolutely FILTHY in the process: 49 starts, 1.89 ERA, 31% K rate (fangraphs considers elite >28% FYI), .986 WHIP, .172 avg against, .216 slug% against while surrendering 2 homers in 233.1 innings pitched. Objectively, that’s a nice track record as a starter.

At the end of the day… like today… the club needs him in the bullpen. That was his fastest way to the big leagues and he’s quite good without there being a need for him in the rotation – yet. I just think it would be too damn stupid not to have him try and start down the road.

And then finally, a guy named Pedro Martinez was once an undersized setup man with electric stuff. He then became an undersized starter, also with electric stuff, and we all saw how that turned out. Some fun facts: Pedro is CJ’s childhood idol, they hung out in Boston this past weekend and Pedro compared himself to CJ. I imagine that had some kind of impact on CJ. Great fucking question.

It really just depends on who got injured. If no one gets injured, then he probably replaces Szczur at some point I’d guess? But that would be late in the year and at that point I don’t think it really matters where he plays. So let’s just say that Happ will end up playing whatever position he replaces, and there’s really no way for anyone to determine what position that is. We do know, however, that he’s probably the first guy up from AAA for pretty much any injury of any significance to any position player on the 25-man roster.

That said, I’d like to point out that Happ has hit just .179 with 15 strikeouts in his last 10 games. The low average also means a low BABIP at .217 which makes the contact issues (32% K rate) even more glaring. I want to see another Theo draft pick mashing in this lineup just as bad as everyone else, but I also want to temper expectations with Happ now that he’s settling into AAA. It’s a strangely different game at that level, and it’s the last test before you prove yourself in MLB for a reason.

Happ’s power can get him to Wrigley… he hit 8 bombs in April alone on way to posting a .571 slugging percentage. The talent is there to be an impact caliber bat. I think it’s just a little longer and a matter of time until it actually happens.

Assuming the price is right: Baez, Happ, Cease, Candy Man, Eloy.

Baez is on the table because while he’s a fan favorite, he’s also overvalued as an everyday shortstop. And right now people think he’s an everyday shortstop. Mix in Zobrist’s contract, Heyward’s rebound, Happ’s development and Baez’s sluggish start and I think you just have to accept that maybe it makes sense to see exactly how much teams value him as an everyday shortstop. My hunch is quite a bit.

Notable points: Schwarber is off the table because there’s just no way the front office trades him. Theo and his crew have creepy weird man crushes on Schwarbs, so he’s not going anywhere. Also, Eloy is so young and still far away with a stacked outfield as is that he has to be dangled as trade bait. After all, that’s why you build significant depth.

Yes. Definitely. It would take a meltdown of epic proportions over the next 8 weeks for him to even become a trade piece. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume that Arrieta does explode and the Cubs do need to deal him to find salvage value. Again, this is so not happening.

If it does, then I think you only consider American league wild card options. Teams that need the shutdown guy at the top of the rotation. Even then, you’d be selling a failed Jake Arrieta in 2017 and the price of that would be pretty low considering he’s a free agent at the end of the year. The best market for that would be an AL team in the wild card hunt, and the return would be low level prospects.

Again, I 100% see Jake finishing the year as a Cub.

Regression! Not even close.

Listen, the starting pitchers have all taken a step back so far this year. There’s another 28 starts out there for each of them. There’s no doubt there will be recovery from the slow start. But is it fair to expect that all 4 starting pitchers from 2016 will bounce back in similar (or close to similar) fashion? No way.

I don’t see the offensive pains right now as growing pains. I see it as not knowing how to use all these different pieces effectively. The Cubs have tried to split Zobrist with Baez and it just hasn’t gone that well so far. Schwarber has proven he probably shouldn’t be leading off every single game to start the year. I think that’s fair to say. And Contreras is handling so much just trying to run a pitching staff that his offensive regression is kind of a no brainer here. That said, these are slam dunks when it comes to figuring it out over the year. These are great problems to have in April. We know Schwarber will come around, that Contreras will adjust (his entire career is made on adjustments), and that the front office will get an effective resolution to the playing time triangle between Baez, Hayward and Zobrist.

Harper swears by it because he’s a try hard. I can’t even fathom what that guy’s like if he can only hit off a tee or take BP in the cage because of a weather delay. Probably just complain religiously throughout the game. Any and every person willing to listen to him about how bullshit it is he could take live BP on the field. Blame it on the reps.

That said, I don’t think BP is a major part of the slow start and I’m fairly certain Joe isn’t just neglecting or ignoring it without reason. I think he’s realized in the 5 decades or whatever he’s been involved in pro ball that you really don’t need to go through the same 3 hour pre-game routine EVERY FUCKING GAME just to get ready to play. That’s one of the worst parts of playing baseball. Just being at the field and not really doing shit. It’s a lot of work to get guys their 20 swings on the field before a game. A LOT. And sooner or later it just adds up and having a break from the monotony is probably so refreshing.

Soft yes? I want to say yes because I think Tuesday night’s game against the Phillies is the kind of game that starts winning streaks. There was tough series loss over the weekend in Fenway, 10-2 loss to the Phillies at home on Monday, and lots of complaining in between. Then Lester kept the team in it enough for Schwarber to break it open with a big Yabo in the 4th and then the bullpen went 4 scoreless/hitless innings to close out an 8-3 win.

That’s a good win. That’s the kind of win that gets the whole team moving in the right direction. You got a lot of contributions from your bullpen… a shaky but effective start from Lester (perfect for him to bounce back from Sunday night against the Yankees)… yabos from Baez, Schwarber and Bryant… and the lineup knocked a pretty good pitcher out of the game after just 4 innings.

So that’s extra encouraging because, again, that’s the kind of game that ignites a winning streak for a team like the 2017 Cubs. That said, the starting pitching has been inconsistent and that’s the most important component of firing up a winning streak. You need your arms to be dialed in from the #1 to the last guy in the bullpen. We’re not there, but the back of the pen has been strong and the offense could be starting a nice little groove with 5 more games in a row at Wrigley.

Pierce Johnson looks good out of the pen in AAA Iowa. His command is questionable but the stuff (94-96, tight breaker) is there. My guess is that there wasn’t a path to the big leagues as a starter in the Cubs organization for Pierce. Too many injuries, too many inconsistencies and obviously too much success at the MLB level to justify giving him the reps and chances he would need to make it. Looks like he’s pivoting now to make a career for himself at the back end of the bullpen.

I also like Rosscup a lot because he’s got a filthy slider, natural deception in his delivery and solid big league experience with the club. He obviously needs to stay healthy (missed all of 2016) to have an impact but if he can, I think Rosscup is prime to take a big step. The simple fact that he’s left-handed with swing-and-miss stuff puts him right at the top of the list.

Starting pitching. The Brett Anderson experiment will deliver some nice starts throughout the year, but he won’t be taking the ball in October. Lackey will give the club more throughout the year than BA, but he too won’t be that strong of an option come playoffs either.

If there’s legitimate opportunity at the deadline to get front-end starting pitching, then I think we make the move. I love the depth Theo’s built, but what’s the point if the club isn’t using it effectively?