It took me until the end of August, and maybe even September, to admit that 2015 was the most fun season I’d had watching the Cubs. So you’d think I’d be sorry to see it go. Except I like many others expect 2016 to be even more fun. I can’t remember a two-year pivot quite like this. 2003 wasn’t as encompassing as all of 2015, just a really fun before a really awful ending. And 2004 ended up being the biggest case of baseball whiskey dick a fandom could ever experience. 2007 wasn’t very impressive, and we were too beaten down after 2008 to ever look forward to 2009. Milton Bradley didn’t help (though honestly, I was for the signing at the time, not realizing how crazy he was. Maybe he just needs a Nick Swisher to balance him out).
So there are a few thoughts rolling around before we do the pivot.
Now that the big party of the winter is over, the Winter Meetings, there’s still something left to be done for the Cubs. You never return beer after all, so they’re basically at the stage where you sit around with a few buddies and drink until sunrise. Though that’s not usually all that enjoyable. This could be.
The rumors still persist that the Cubs could move Soler or Baez for either more pitching or a center fielder or both. The two teams you hear are the same ones that we’ve always heard, and that’s Tampa and Atlanta, though they’re probably talking to a lot of teams.
When it comes to the Rays, my feeling can be summed up like this…
It’s funny what you can talk yourself into.
I know when the offseason started, I wasn’t particularly hot about Jason Hayward. I doubt I had a good reason for it. 26-year-old free agents really aren’t a thing that happens. Maybe I was clouded by being on the Cardinals, or I had just assumed they’d keep him because when do players ever leave there? After they jab players with whatever chemicals they have there that brainwashes them into thinking St. Louis is place you want to stay for more than seven consecutive seconds. Maybe I’d gotten too attached to the kids and had just assumed that a signing of Heyward would cause a jettisoning of one or two (and it still might). Maybe it was the amount of money that I thought might hamstring the Cubs, even though they’re years away from having to pay any other position player anything remotely resembling market value.
Then the clouds start to disappear, and you focus on what matters. Concerns about switching to center started to sound sillier and sillier. This isn’t some rickety right fielder who makes his living with just an arm. This is a premier athlete whose range is almost as impressive as his arm (and ask Rizzo about his arm). What’s the concern about him in center? That he can’t cover the ground? That can’t possibly be it. That it will take some time to adjust to new angles? He’s already played center enough to look comfortable.
Cubs didn’t wait around to make their Winter Meetings interesting, huh?
When viewing the Zobrist in/Castro out maneuver, and they are linked, you have to look at both the baseball terms and then the emotional. The emotional doesn’t play into the baseball aspect for the organization, and nor should it beyond any possibly clubhouse/chemistry problems. And Zobrist isn’t going to provide any of those.
I guess the angle I can’t escape, after looking at it over the night, is that if we agree Starlin’s best season was 2014, and it was. that’s basically Zobrist’s average season. Stalin had a .339 OBP. Zobrist’s career OBP is .355. Starlin slugged .438. Zobrist’s career slugging is .431. And while those numbers for Castro came at shortstop, that position is now closed to him. At the moment, right now, Zobrist is the surer bet.
We’ve gotten to the frenzy portion of the baseball offseason, the Winter Meetings. Everyone is in one place meaning we envision everyone in the hotel bar or at Tootsie’s in this case hashing out the same blockbuster trades and free agent signings that we hashed out at our local bar. Perhaps we should realize that technology in communications have made these talks accessible whenever people want, but hey, everyone’s still in one place! And given the intricate and thorough nature that the Cubs have gone about their business the last four years, somehow I doubt Theo and Jed are pulling the trigger on some move after a third Old Fashioned. Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones torpedoing the Cowboys organization at a hotel bar is a distant memory, sadly.
Still, it feels like something is going to happen. So let’s address of some of what might go down in Dixie.
Guess you can pinpoint how I feel about John Lackey.
Ok, let’s do the surface stuff first. On the surface, the signing makes total sense. It’s not a long-term commitment, it really isn’t that much money for a mid-rotation starter Especially one that’s coming off a near 4-WAR season. He doesn’t walk anyone, and even a leveling out would see him be worth 2.5-WAR or so, which is hardly bad for a #3. It’ll look even better if Jason Hammel can find it again. He’s not exactly a ground-ball pitcher but sure does get enough of them and the strength of the defense is clearly going to be on the infield.
The big fish has gone away, as they often do, off to cash in in Boston only to find that money won’t help with the traffic, or general asshole-dom of the populace. When we look back, we could tell with the rumors of the Cub budget only being $140 million or so and a serious desire to extend Jake Arrieta that the idea of David Price was always a pipe dream. And that’s fine.
But will it be fine with most Cubs fans? Have we gotten over our need to win the offseason after the highs of kind of doing so last winter with Jon Lester? Will Cubs fans lose their mud if the winter only brings a Samardzija/Leake type along with a trade for a younger starter (Miller/Teheran/Ross) and a stopgap centerfielder? I wonder.