By Oliver Connolly, Editor-In-Chief
Well, how about that for a pre-holiday-season treat?
I’m sure you all had Zach Greinke in the desert and Jason Heyward in the vines heading into this year’s Winter Meetings didn’t you?
As always, the meetings gave us an education in player value, positional value, changing dynamics within the game and an opportunity to proclaim a club the ‘offseason winners’ as they then go on to unceremoniously disappoint in the following campaign.
This year’s fluff-fest heads to Theo Epstein and the Chicago Cubs.
Epstein has assembled a juggernaught in Wrigley Field, taking a 97-win regular season team and upgrading; the offense, the defense, the starting rotation and the bullpen. Not bad then. Add to that the ability to make more roster moves, with surplus young talent, a bevvy of pre-arb potential superstars, a history of turning around a beleaguered franchise and employing one of the most beloved managers in baseball and it’s really been an Epstein circle-jerk for the past week.
No one loves/loathes this more than myself. On one hand, I love Esptein, on the other hand I’m not a fan of media circle-jerks (or really any circle-jerks for that matter).
Theo, along with Jed Hoyer, Randy Bush and Shiraz Rehman have pulled off the near-impossible. Upgrading, perhaps, the most talented roster in the sport with gold glove calibre-defense, more reliable bats, a solid third rotation-arm and bullpen depth, launching the Cubs’ roster and expectations into the stratosphere. They are clearly the most talented team in baseball. They will receive ALL the love from vegas, the projection models and good ‘ol fashioned eye-test folks. At present, their lineup projects to look something like this;
Ben Zobrist, 2B, .789 (2015 OPS)
Jason Heyward, OF, .771
Anthony Rizzo, 1B, .862
Kris Bryant, 3B, .853
Kyle Schwarber, OF, .779
Jorge Soler, OF, .758
Miguel Montero, C, .711
Addison Russell, SS, .690
So, just a pair of MVP candidates and potentially three of the top-15 best pure-hitters in baseball.
Their projected rotation is beginning to look equally stacked and that’s before they make another inevitable move;
Jake Arrieta, 2.66 (2015 ERA)
Jon Lester, 3.33
John Lackey, 3.69
Kyle Hendrick, 3.75
Jason Hammel, 3.74
It’s truly an obscene collection of talent, hand-crafted by one of the best minds in the sport and anything below a 100-win season will now be viewed as a disappointment.
I don’t know how well the Cubs will do in 2016, I assume very. I also bought into the Nationals hype-train. They were also an obscene collection of talent showered in vegas money and projection-system plasma. Yet there’s a trust factor with Theo. He’s the guy who’s the smartest guy in the room, you know it and he knows it. But it goes unmentioned. A calming, brooding aura. He straddles the line perfectly between ‘fuck this guy’ and ‘fuck, this guy!’ I’m sure both were heard all around the convention halls in Nashville this past week with owners, agents and decision-makers looking on with equal jealousy and disdain for the quality of job Epstein has done and the team he has assembled. The Cubs enter the holiday season with a great weight of expectation and as the clear favorites to win it all at the end of the season. Like the Nationals before them I’m buying all the hype-currency I can purchase.
Don’t Panic: The Dodgers Story
I’ve never heard a fanbase moan so much while continuing to sport; the greatest pitcher of his generation, the greatest broadcaster to ever live, the greatest living baseball player currently in the Tyson-zone (seriously, I could text you anything about Yasiel Puig right now and you’d believe it was real), three All-Star calibre prospects making their way to the bigs and the ability to make any move, for anyone at any time. In effect, the Dodgers as a club are themselves in the Tyson-Zone. I didn’t believe they would trade for Aroldis Chapman, but they did (pending a big legal mess, and even then it could be scuppered for good). If they really feel they’re way off in the NL West following the Diamondbacks additions of Zach Greinke and Shelby Miller, plus the Giants adding Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto. Why could they not go out and land Jose Fernandez? Fernandez has been all over recent trade speculations, fan blogs and internet forums. The asking price seems to be somewhere in the realm of your entire farm system, an All-Star, a night with your wife and a piece of your soul. It’s a big deal, but if anyone could throw together a Yasiel Puig, Julio Urias and other parts deal, it’s the Dodgers. (I mean, by definition they could only trade Puig and Urias, but you see what I mean)
And speaking of Urias. Losing Greinke stinks for Dodgers’ fans and for the teams chances at retaining the West. But who’s to say that Urias can’t come to the Major Leagues and dominate straight away? Man, Jacob DeGrom entered the East in 2014 and was absurd from day one. No one saw DeGrom coming yet everyone sees Urias coming. ESPN’s Keith Law had this to say about the pitching prospect heading into last year;
“No pitcher in recent minor league history has done what Julio Urias just did in an abbreviated season in the high-A California League. In 1983, an 18-year-old right-hander dominated the high-A Carolina League, racking up an unthinkable 300 strikeouts (and 112 walks) in 191 innings for Lynchburg, a campaign that launched him to the big leagues the following year, where that right-hander, Dwight Gooden, won the Rookie of the Year award and became an instant celebrity. Urias didn’t pitch as much, but pitched at least as well, and did it despite being nine months younger than Gooden was when pitching at the same level of organized baseball.
Urias has a shot at a legitimate four-pitch mix, a fastball from 92-95 with little effort, a future-plus curveball at 78-80 and an average changeup at 81-84 with some fading action to it. I’ve also seen him throw a hard slider at 84-86 that he’d use to lefties and backdoor to righties. He stays on line well with a clean delivery that is highly rotational, and he manages to hide the ball well in the early part of his delivery. Urias is still only about 5-foot-10, so there isn’t a lot of plane or sink on his fastball, and his command is still below-average, although the delivery is clean enough that that should improve rapidly with experience. He’s so young for a full-season pitcher that the Dodgers have tied themselves into knots trying to manage his workload, limiting him to no more than 22 batters in any start and letting him start the sixth inning just once all year.
The story here is less about his age than about his present skill set, which isn’t that far away from being ready. By the time he has been built up enough to handle a starter’s workload, he’ll be working with three or four above-average pitches and ready to make an immediate impact on a major-league rotation.”
So Dodger fans, it stinks that Zach Greinke left, but there’s no need to panic. The big league roster will add Corey Seager, Joc Pederson and soon Urias. They went out, acquired Hisashi Iwakuma and continue to work through the Chapman mess. While they may have sunk to second or third in the NL West power rankings right now, they’re ripe to make a big move that vaults them back to the top spot. Be that this winter or during the season.
Edward Overend gave an outstanding lists of 20 baseball books you need to read. It’s a great list to send someone with Christmas upcoming, to use as a guide for the holiday’s yourself or just to complete your personal baseball library.
Casey Boguslaw and Patrick Brewer recapped the Winter Meetings in their latest “Bullpen Banter” podcast.
Joe Commesso believe the ‘flame is fading‘ from the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry.
Zach Bernard gave his takeaways from the Jason Heyward signing.
In perhaps the best offseason piece to date, Ken Rosenthal profiles the enthralling six-hours that led to the Diamondbacks agreeing a deal with ace Zach Greinke.
Buck Shoewalter has seemingly never heard of Star Wars or Yoda. Are you the least bit surprised?
“A member of the media asked how much McCutchen thought he was worth, particularly in light of Jason Heyward’s $184 million contract.
“I don’t know what I’m worth,” he said. ‘I don’t define my worth in money.’”
Is the latest baseball ‘inefficiency’ small sample sizes?
Talking with CSNBAYAREA.com Billy Beane suggested so, per Joe Stiglich “the A’s are pursuing a strategy of pursuing players who enjoyed comeback years in 2015 but whose poor recent track records could scare other clubs off. “If we’re right, we’re gonna be smart. If we’re wrong, you’ll know why we’re wrong — because we dealt with a small sample size,” Beane said.”
The A’s added Rich Hill in November for just $6million after four big league starts in Boston in which Hill sported a 1.55 ERA. As Beane stated, how Hill, Ryan Madson and others play in 2016 will determine how we view the ‘buy-low on small sample size guys’ strategy.
Finally, Jayson Stark writes that Pete Rose’s ban from baseball is now ‘set in stone.’ I don’t get as passionate or angry about this issue as many fans. Sure, Rose should be in the Hall of Fame. That part is silly. But I found Rob Manfred’s statement to be enlightening and yeah, I thought it warranted Rose being kept out of the game given the rules that are in place. Now, we can go back and forth on the merit of gambling and gambling in sports, but the way the rule is constituted Rose should be kept out of the game. The truly enlightening part was Rose’s admission that he still gambles on games and even more enlightening than that was that he was not originally forthcoming with said information.
“During our meeting, Mr. Rose told me that he has continued to bet on horse racing and on professional sports, including baseball. Those bets may have been permitted by law in the jurisdictions in which they were placed, but this fact does not mean that the bets would be permissable if made by a player or manager subject to Rule 21.”
“Even more troubling, in our interview, Rose initially denied betting on baseball currently and only later in the interview did he ‘clarify’ his response to admit such betting.”
|MONDAY, DECEMBER 14, 2015|
|Atlanta Braves||Jhoulys Chacin||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Baltimore Orioles||Darren O’Day||Signed as Free Agent, ( 2016-2019)|
|Baltimore Orioles||Rey Navarro||Designated for Assignment|
|Baltimore Orioles||Alfredo Marte||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Chicago Cubs||Trevor Cahill||Signed as Free Agent, ( 2016)(one-year contract)|
|Chicago White Sox||Hector Sanchez||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Kansas City Royals||John Lannan||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Kansas City Royals||Dillon Gee||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Milwaukee Brewers||Jake Elmore||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Milwaukee Brewers||Alex Presley||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Minnesota Twins||Buddy Boshers||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|New York Mets||Marc Krauss||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Philadelphia Phillies||Gregory Infante||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Philadelphia Phillies||J.P. Arencibia||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Pittsburgh Pirates||Antoan Richardson||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Seattle Mariners||Steve Cishek||Signed as Free Agent, ( 2016-2017)(two-year contract)|
|Seattle Mariners||Rob Rasmussen||Designated for Assignment|
|Tampa Bay Rays||Josh Lueke||Signed to Play in Japan, (Yakult Swallows)|
|Tampa Bay Rays||Dana Eveland||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Texas Rangers||Andy Wilkins||Acquired Off Waivers From from Mariners, Seattle|
|Washington Nationals||Nick Masset||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Washington Nationals||Yusmeiro Petit||Signed as Free Agent, ( 2016; Opt 2017)(one-year contract)|
|SUNDAY, DECEMBER 13, 2015|
|Arizona Diamondbacks||Joaquin Arias||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Chicago Cubs||Jean Machi||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|SATURDAY, DECEMBER 12, 2015|
|Chicago White Sox||Ryan Lollis||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Houston Astros||Ken Giles||Traded From from Phillies, Philadelphia (for RHP Mark Appel, seven-player deal)|
|Philadelphia Phillies||Greg Burke||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Philadelphia Phillies||A.J. Achter||Designated for Assignment|
|Philadelphia Phillies||Charlie Morton||Traded From from Pirates, Pittsburgh (for RHP David Whitehead)|
|Philadelphia Phillies||Dan Otero||Designated for Assignment|
|Philadelphia Phillies||Mark Appel||Traded From from Astros, Houston (for RHP Ken Giles, seven-player deal)|
|San Diego Padres||Nick Evans||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|San Francisco Giants||Ramiro Pena||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|FRIDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2015|
|Arizona Diamondbacks||Zack Greinke||Signed as Free Agent, ( 2016-2021)(six-year contract)|
|Arizona Diamondbacks||A.J. Schugel||Designated for Assignment|
|Atlanta Braves||David Holmberg||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Atlanta Braves||Ethan Martin||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Baltimore Orioles||Jeff Beliveau||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Boston Red Sox||Sean O’Sullivan||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Cleveland Indians||Robbie Grossman||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Detroit Tigers||Lendy Castillo||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Detroit Tigers||Felipe Paulino||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Detroit Tigers||Drake Britton||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Detroit Tigers||Tommy Field||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Houston Astros||Tony Sipp||Signed as Free Agent, ( 2016-2018)(three-year contract)|
|Kansas City Royals||Joakim Soria||Signed as Free Agent, ( 2016-2018; Opt 2019)(three-year contract)|
|Los Angeles Angels||Ramon Ramirez||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|New York Mets||Asdrubal Cabrera||Signed as Free Agent, ( 2016-2017; Opt 2018)(two-year contract)|
|New York Yankees||Domingo German||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Oakland Athletics||Ryan Madson||Signed as Free Agent, ( 2016-2018)(three-year contract)|
|Oakland Athletics||Eric Surkamp||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Oakland Athletics||John Axford||Signed as Free Agent, ( 2016-2017)(two-year contract)|
|San Diego Padres||Erik Kratz||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Seattle Mariners||Ed Lucas||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Toronto Blue Jays||Darwin Barney||Signed as Free Agent, ( 2016)(one-year contract)|
|Washington Nationals||Shawn Kelley||Signed as Free Agent, ( 2016-2018)(three-year contract)|
|Washington Nationals||Oliver Perez||Signed as Free Agent, ( 2016-2017)(two-year contract)|
|THURSDAY, DECEMBER 10, 2015|
|Atlanta Braves||Casey Kelly||Traded From from Padres, San Diego (for C Christian Bethancourt)|
|Baltimore Orioles||Edgar Olmos||Acquired Off Waivers From from Cubs, Chi. Cubs|
|Baltimore Orioles||Junior Lake||Designated for Assignment|
|Chicago White Sox||Andy Parrino||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Colorado Rockies||Rosell Herrera||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Detroit Tigers||Jake Brigham||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Detroit Tigers||Preston Guilmet||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Los Angeles Angels||Ji-man Choi||Drafted Via Rule 5 from Minors|
|Los Angeles Angels||Deolis Guerra||Drafted Via Rule 5 from Minors|
|Los Angeles Angels||Nick Buss||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Miami Marlins||Dylan Axelrod||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Miami Marlins||Dustin McGowan||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Milwaukee Brewers||Garin Cecchini||Traded From from Red Sox, Boston (for cash considerations)|
|Milwaukee Brewers||Manny Pina||Traded From from Tigers, Detroit (to complete 11/18 trade)|
|Philadelphia Phillies||Ernesto Frieri||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Pittsburgh Pirates||Juan Nicasio||Signed as Free Agent, ( 2016)(one-year contract)|
|San Diego Padres||Ryan Buchter||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|San Diego Padres||Philip Humber||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|San Diego Padres||Frank Garces||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|St. Louis Cardinals||Jonathan Broxton||Signed as Free Agent, ( 2016-2017)(two-year contract)|
|Texas Rangers||James Jones||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Washington Nationals||Zack Cox||Drafted Via Rule 5 from Minors, (Triple-A phase)|
|WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2015|
|Detroit Tigers||Justin Wilson||Traded From from Yankees, NY Yankees (for RHPs Luis Cessa and Chad Green)|
|Los Angeles Angels||Craig Gentry||Signed as Free Agent, ( 2016)(one-year contract)|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||Chase Utley||Signed as Free Agent, ( 2016)(one-year contract)|
|New York Mets||Neil Walker||Traded From from Pirates, Pittsburgh (for LHP Jonathon Niese)|
|Philadelphia Phillies||Brian Bogusevic||Signed to Play in Japan, (Orix Buffaloes)|
|Philadelphia Phillies||David Hernandez||Signed as Free Agent, ( 2016)(one-year contract)|
|Pittsburgh Pirates||Jonathon Niese||Traded From from Mets, NY Mets (for 2B Neil Walker)|
|San Francisco Giants||Jeff Samardzija||Signed as Free Agent, ( 2016-2020)(five-year contract)|
|Seattle Mariners||Andy Wilkins||Designated for Assignment|
|TUESDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2015|
|Arizona Diamondbacks||A.J. Schugel||Designated for Assignment|
|Arizona Diamondbacks||Zack Greinke||Signed as Free Agent, ( 2016-2021)(six-year contract)|
|Chicago Cubs||John Lackey||Signed as Free Agent, ( 2016-2017)(two-year contract)|
|Chicago Cubs||Adam Warren||Traded From from Yankees, NY Yankees (for 2B Starlin Castro, three-player deal)|
|Chicago Cubs||Ben Zobrist||Signed as Free Agent, ( 2016-2019)(four-year contract)|
|Colorado Rockies||Jason Motte||Signed as Free Agent, ( 2016-2017)(two-year contract)|
|Colorado Rockies||Chad Qualls||Signed as Free Agent, ( 2016-2017)(two-year contract)|
|Detroit Tigers||Mark Lowe||Signed as Free Agent, ( 2016-2017)(two-year contract)|
|Detroit Tigers||Jarrod Saltalamacchia||Signed as Free Agent, ( 2016)(one-year contract)|
|Kansas City Royals||Chris Young||Signed as Free Agent, ( 2016-2017; Opt 2018)(two-year contract)|
|Los Angeles Angels||Quintin Berry||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||Lisalverto Bonilla||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Seattle Mariners||Evan Scribner||Traded From from Athletics, Oakland (for RHP Trey Cochran-Gill)|
|Seattle Mariners||Mike Baxter||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|MONDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2015|
|Boston Red Sox||Roenis Elias||Traded From from Mariners, Seattle (for LHP Wade Miley, four-player deal)|
|Boston Red Sox||Roman Mendez||Outrighted to Minors|
|Boston Red Sox||Carson Smith||Traded From from Mariners, Seattle (for LHP Wade Miley, four-player deal)|
|Cleveland Indians||Joey Butler||Acquired Off Waivers From from Rays, Tampa Bay|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||Daniel Fields||Acquired Off Waivers From from Brewers, Milwaukee|
|Pittsburgh Pirates||Wilfredo Boscan||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Pittsburgh Pirates||Cole Figueroa||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Pittsburgh Pirates||Deolis Guerra||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Seattle Mariners||Donn Roach||Signed to a Minor League Contract|
|Seattle Mariners||Jonathan Aro||Traded From from Red Sox, Boston (for RHP Carson Smth, four-player deal)|
|Seattle Mariners||Wade Miley||Traded From from Red Sox, Boston (for RHP Carson Smth, four-player deal)|
|Texas Rangers||Armando Galarraga||Retired|