I wouldn’t pretend to know the ins and outs of a grievance arbitration or fancy lawyer talk (I leave that to Beverly Brewmaster and whenever he talks about it I just fall asleep), so maybe these kinds of things do need to take years to finish. That seems ridiculous, and even people who are at least adjacent to those in the know seemed flabbergasted by the whole Kris Bryant grievance taking this long. Especially when the outcome was pretty clear, because these are the rules of the CBA. And so it came to pass yesterday that Bryant lost the grievance, which we all knew he would. Which means that Bryant won’t be a free agent until 2021, which is when the Cubs have decided that the world will end because they want it to.
I don’t know that Bryant’s loss changes anything anywhere, other than these few things. One, no one else will try it now. Two, this will be changed in the next CBA. Three, it’s going to release a bunch of new trade rumors. This wasn’t about Bryant being bitter towards the Cubs, because exactly no one has said that, and Bryant has in fact said quite the opposite. This was just the time and place to try and draw a line in the sand for Scott Boras, because it was just so obvious what the Cubs were doing in 2015. Remember, this is a Hall of Fame caliber player the Cubs kept down for three weeks to “work on his defense.” You can’t get more clear. If there was ever a chance for Boras and other agents to open the floodgates early, this was it. They took their shot.
So now this mess. Already we’re hearing that the Cubs and Rockies have talked about a straight Bryant-for-Arenado swap. Some don’t seem to see what the Rockies would get out of that. At this rate, Arenado is not sticking around for more than the two years before his opt-out, and that’s even if they can make nice at spring training to smooth out their bullshit from the winter. So the Rockies would get the better player for cheaper for two years.
Don’t believe me that Bryant is better? Chuck your recency bias into an alley dumpster. Bryant has played two less seasons than Arenado and has been worth slightly less than four WAR. Arenado is the better defender for sure, but Bryant is the better overall player. Arenado has never produced a 6+ WAR season. Bryant has three. Shove it.
So if the Cubs were to do that…well it doesn’t make any goddamn sense unless they were sure Arenado would never use that opt-out (or bought it out) and they get a fixed cost on a player who’s still really damn good (though not exactly sure of what they’d get from him at sea level).
We still hear about the Braves, but I don’t know why the Braves would feel the need. They’re already clear favorites to win the division with the Nats losing Rendon and having no idea who their rotation will bounce back from going the route. There’s no lineup that can guarantee October success (ask the Dodgers and Astros about that one) and the Braves pitching is their problem in that they don’t have a clear, you’re-fucking-done ace. Maybe Soroka is that one day but not striking out less than a hitter an inning he’s not.
The Rangers don’t have anything the Cubs want. Neither do the Nats. Neither do the Phillies. The Dodgers probably do but they don’t need him either and they’re not going to give you what you really want from them (Lux, May, others) because they simply don’t have to. They’re going to walk to that division again and enter as overwhelming favorites again.
Which brings us to yesterday’s curiosity, which is the leak from Jesse Rogers and David Kaplan, organizational stooges if there ever were, that there was no mandate from ownership that the Cubs get under the luxury tax threshold to start the season. Which would seem pretty fucking weird considering the offseason the Cubs have had, the last two in fact, but they definitely have been told to be in range of it should the season go balls-up and they can start unloading everything.
Which is seemingly what the Cubs want. They’ve done their best to anger Anthony Rizzo, and Bryant, and maybe even Contreras. There’s still no extension for Baez. So maybe they’re hoping the team quits on ownership and the front office? This is something out of Major League.
I doubt it’ll happen. If nothing else, these players love playing together, or at least used to. They’ve just hired a manager they’re clearly all going to at least respond to, if not run through a wall for. And the division while maybe improved a touch, though that’s debatable, hasn’t gotten away from them.
If the Cubs go in as is, they have holes, but they also have a lineup that can ball-out for a few months at a time and has done, at least three good starters with a fourth (Lester) who can surprise, and a pen that can’t possibly be worse and has some candidates to surprise. Maybe the Ricketts are rooting for it, but there’s very little chance this team is going to be 10 games back come July 31st unless they are torn asunder by injuries.
And maybe one thing we can get behind, as disenchanting as these two offseasons have been, is the actual Cubs roster going on a FUCK YOU WORLD TOUR to spite their bosses. It’s still a very easy roster to root for.
-Right, couple signings to discuss, which are definitely the boom or bust kind. This one’s weird, because right after the season the Cubs couldn’t stop bleating about needing more contact and less strikeouts, two things Souza doesn’t provide even when he was healthy. He can barely patrol center field, which you wouldn’t want him doing more than as a support role. So that’s right field for Heyward against lefties you would think. And he’s struck out against lefties 30% of the time, though provided some pop as well. The last time he was healthy, three years ago now, he hit lefties well. But this is a flier, which is where the Cubs are.
-Jeremy Jeffress is the other signing, and the Cubs again are hoping health is the main issue here and not just natural decline. Jeffress lost nearly two MPH on his fastball last year, which saw his hard-contact rates ballon and lose the ground-ball rates too. He’s not the 10+ K/9 guy he was two seasons ago, as that’s something of an outlier, But if he’s not getting grounders to go along with his decent K-rate, he’s just this side of “bum.” He did have some injury issues last year and only made 48 appearances at the MLB level when he’d routinely been around 60 or more. Again, doesn’t cost you anything, could be a boom, but more likely a nothing. But again, this is the way of the Cubs now.