Baseball

Cubs fans, and perhaps only Cubs fans, could be caught in the middle of their analytic leanings, fan passions, an unwillingness to hold ownership responsible for being pricks (who just sold their main company for $26 billion I might add) and a desire to win now. But that’s where we’re at. So you can have a section of fans thinking it’s ok to trade Kris Bryant to restock the prospect pipeline even though you’re in the middle of your championship window, and those who would toss overboard up to three prospects for Whit Merrifield.

To quote a great philosopher of our time, Bubbles, “No offense, son, but that’s some weak-ass thinkin’. You equivocatin’ like a motherfucker.’

Here’s the thing. Whit Merrifield isn’t that good. He’s good, but he’s not a top tier player, like some think and the Royals are definitely charging prices equal to that. Perhaps greater Cubdom is still scarred from Jim Hendry dry-humping Brian Roberts for so long that everyone ended with up with a rash and blisters that everyone thinks the Cubs need to have that type of player.

Perhaps most think Merrifield is the player from 2o18, when he was worth nearly 6.0-WAR, stole 45 bases, made a ton of contact, yada yada yada. But he’s only been that player once, and that season looks to be the outlier. His other two seasons have seen him be a solid 2.5-3.0 WAR player, which is certainly worth having but not at the price of three pieces in return, the Royals reported asking price.

Within that, Merrifield gets on base at a decent but hardly eye-shattering rate, though he does hit enough line-drives to make you think it could improve. Additionally, his speed seemed to slip last year as he only piled up 20 stolen bases after his 45 the previous year.

To keep going, Merrifield’s defense took a sharp turn toward the Earth last year, especially in center, and he’s only been a nominally ok second baseman.

So let me ask you, what chance do any of these have of improving now that he’s over 30?

The discussion of a trade always centers around Nico Hoerner, probably because Hoerner is supposed to be at least the diet, younger version of Merrifield at worst. I guess you could see turning in the possibility for the real thing, but at some point the Cubs have to produce their own and Hoerner looked as sure a bet as any in his cameo last year.

The appeal of Merrifield is that he has a very team-friendly deal, with three years left at barely above what David Bote makes. You know who’s even cheaper? Nico Hoerner. And he’s eight years younger, I feel like I have to stress again.

Oh, and he doesn’t pitch.

I suppose you could accuse me of shouting at the rain that we’re not holding the Ricketts family feet to the fire enough, because they’ve made it clear what the Cubs will spend and we should just accept the world we’re in and what the Cubs can do in it. I won’t accept that, while allowing that’s how the Cubs will operate. Still, this doesn’t add up, unless the Cubs know of some flaw that Hoerner has that will keep him from even being anything resembling Merrifield.

I still maintain that the Cubs could roll with Happ in center to start, leaving him alone to play there every day, and Bote filling in at second until Hoerner is ready, while rotating Bryant (if he’s still here and I haven’t defenestrated myself over it) to the outfield occasionally and Heyward into center for other options in the infield. Do that to concentrate resources to the one starter and bullpen arm or two the Cubs need, and I can almost guarantee they would be approaching 95 wins again.

Merrifield would be a fine addition for a certain price, and maybe Hoerner for him straight up is something I could probably convince myself of, given the Cubs clock. But to add two more to that when you might need deadline additions as well? That’s a bridge too far.

Think harder, Homer.

Baseball

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RECORDS: Royals 53-91  White Sox 63-80

GAMETIMES: Tues/Wed 7:10, Thursday 1:10

TV: Tues/Wed NBCSN, Thursday WGN

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Talk about your must see TV. A mid September battle between two of the AL’s worst should pull in the viewers, right? Coming into this series, the Royals are on somewhat of a roll, having won their last 3 series in a row. Granted those 3 series were against the Orioles, Tigers, and Marlins, so it’s not like they’ve exactly been slaying the dragons. The Sox actually present their stiffest challenge since losing 3 of 4 to the A’s at the end of last month. One of those losses to Oakland involved the Royals giving up 19 runs, which leads into their biggest issue right now, which is run prevention.

The Royals have languished at the bottom third of the league in pitching since the All-Star break giving up an average of 5.2 runs per game. In comparison, the Sox have rocketed to the top third on the wings of Lucas Giolito and a revitalized Reynaldo Lopez, averaging 4.8 runs a game. The only decent starters in the back half of the season for the Royals have been Jake Junis and Brad Keller, each worth 1 WAR a piece. Unfortunately for Royals fans, the team has shut Keller down as he’s reached his career high in innings pitched with 165, which is 20 innings more than he pitched in 2018. The Sox will see Junis, Jorge Lopez, and moon-faced yahoo Glenn Sparkman, who as you’ll recall plunked Tim Anderson in the dome last time the two teams met and was summarily ejected.

Offensively the Royals are 25th in the league in hitting, a whopping 1 position higher than the White Sox. Jorge Soler quite possibly may have finally reached the potential he always flashed in his time with the Cubs. He’s sitting on 41 home runs thus far, with 102 RBIs which is extra impressive considering he’s only had Hunter Dozier and Whit Merrifield to knock in, as everyone else is lost in the dugout tunnel. Merrifield in particular is having another standard year for himself, getting on base at his usual prodigious clip (.364). Hunter Dozier is also having a breakout year, worth 3.4 WAR so far.

For the White Sox, they’ll send out the best of their starters with Nova, Lopez and Giolito scheduled to take the bump. Hopefully all three will get the offensive support that the Sox flashed in their weekend series against the Angels. Tim Anderson continues his quest for the AL batting title, and this is the perfect pitching staff for him to do that with. Ricky Renteria has talked about putting Moncada back in the leadoff spot, which, whatever. He can definitely get on base, but I’d rather have someone else there as Yoan is more valuable knocking in the runs. I’m curious as to which Eloy Jimenez we’ll get this season, as the one that showed against the Angels was not optimal, but the one against the Indians was cash money.

This is the final meeting of the season between these two teams, and with the Sox holding a 2 game edge all they have to do is win one for the season series. While winning the bare minimum has been the Sox modus operandi thus far I say fuck that, take all 3 and drive home the point that having fun in baseball is not a bad thing and Tim Anderson has more personality then your whole fucking city. Except for maybe Patrick Mahomes.  He’s cool.

 

 

Baseball

As we head into the 2nd half of the season, the league is increasingly divided into two sections: sellers and buyers.  As has been the case since their 2015 World Series victory, the Royals find themselves solidly in the former category.  This year, however, they don’t really have a whole lot to offer playoff contenders except for Whit Merrifield, who would probably bring quite the ransom back to a team that is desperate to bring some excitement back to BBQ City.  Merrifield is having another great year for the Royals, getting his first ever All Star team selection last week.  He’s currently slashing .309/.360/.497 with 11 HR and 44 RBI, and has added 14 stolen bases to his line.  He plays primarily at 2B, but can be slotted anywhere on the field with plus defense at the majority of positions.  Were he to continue on this pace, he’d be worth 5.4 WAR at the end of the season.  On top of that, he’s signed to a team friendly contract with 3 more years of control to any team that could acquire his talents.

Yet therein lies the rub for any team looking in on his availability, as Royals GM Dayton Moore has already come out and said that he’s not planning on moving Merrifield as he means too much to the team and no one could possibly entice them to move him.  While this might just be a GM attempting to set the market impossibly high to sell his player, it seems more likely that Moore plans on building around Merrifield and other younger players.  The Royals already have the uber-exciting Adalberto Mondesi and Hunter Dozier having success up at the major league level in addition to Merrifield.

If this is truly the case, Dayton Moore either thinks that his rebuild will be far enough along in the next three years for the team to compete, or that Merrifield puts enough butts in the seats that it’s better for the Royals to keep him around and potentially see him walk in 3 years as opposed to flipping him at the deadline for a king’s ransom of young talent that could supercharge his team’s rebuild.

So which is it?  Looking a little closer at the numbers, it seems it’s neither.  As it stands right now, the Royals farm system ranks somewhere around 19th in the league after this years entry draft last month.  They have 3 top-100 prospects in addition to the dearth of youth currently playing at the major league level.  Were the Royals to move Merrifield they’d easily jump into the top 10, much like the Sox did with the Sale/Quintana/Eaton trades.  As far as league attendance goes, the Royals pulled in about 1.7 million last season, about 400,000 below the AL average.  This is a precipitous drop from 2016 (Merrifield’s first season in the majors) where the Royals drew 2.6 million.  This season has them at 850,000 thus far, which puts them in line with last year’s numbers.  So the idea that Merrifield puts asses in seats doesn’t really pan out either.

So looking at those numbers, the smart play for the Royals would be to move Merrifield to a team desperate for leadoff infield help.  Based on a quick glance at the contenders, he would be an instant upgrade for the Dodgers at second base solidifying an already terrifying lineup.  The Dodgers also have a top 10 farm system loaded with the kind of talent that could push the Royals rebuild up a few years.  The A’s farm system is also pretty well stocked, and could use an infield upgrade on the left side.  There should be no end of suitors for Merrifield’s services, but unless Dayton Moore has a huge change of heart (or some type of brain transplant) it looks as though he’s staying put in KC.  Which in the long run is best for the White Sox as a whole, since it pushes back their competitive window even further behind the one Rick Hahn is looking at.