Joe Maddon Seat Gets Hotter

This weekend as the Cubs play the White Sox the Cub fans are on Joe Maddon watch. Maddon who led the Cubs to their first World Series win in 108 years has been on the hot seat all season. This has been a Cubs season that has been up and down.

The Cubs started out the season going 2-7. After that, they put wins together and went 27-11 which put them 11 games over .500. The Cubs were in 1st place by 1.5 games and looked like they were on a roll. Since May 23, the Cubs are 17-24 going into tonight’s game with the White Sox.

So will there be an upswing in the Cubs bipolar season? At this point it is hard to say there will be. It looked liked signing Kimbel was a good shot in the arm for the Cubs but that only lasted a couple of games after he was signed. The Carlos Gonzalez experiment is over with a whimper has he elected for free agency after being DFA’ed last Saturday.

So what is the fix?

This is not something trading for a player can fix. It is something more deeper than that. On October 3, 2018 Theo Epstein talked about the Cubs needed a leadership change in the clubhouse. So all off season the fans looked for what change was coming. Then the changed happened, the Cubs signed veteran infielder Daniel Descalso. The signing at this point is looking like a true waste with Descalso hitting just .186 in 156 at bats.

So that was not a fix. What the Cubs fans has seen in the first 88 games of the season has been something you would expect from Single A South Bend. The Cubs have missed cutoff men on throws, base running mental mistakes and mental mistakes in the outfield. Players watching home runs just to see it hit off the wall and it turns into a long single. Their big lead off hitter is Kyle Schwarber and he has an OBP of .326. Clearly this is where Ben Zobrist would have helped the Cubs but continues to be on the restricted list while dealing with his divorce.

No doubt the Cubs are doing an injustice to Schwarber by having him lead off and need to find a true lead off hitter but so do most teams. So what will help?

It may be time for the Cubs to look at replacing Joe Maddon. I am not a fan of replacing a manager in mid season unless a change will give the team the best chance to get to the post season. I believe if the Cubs make the right hire they could be a post season team and go for a deep run.

On July 15, 2018 The St. Louis Cardinals fired Mike Matheny just before the All Star Break after he started the season 47-46. They replaced him with Mike Shildt who finished the season 41-28 as the Cardinals fought for a Wildcard spot and just missing out to the Colorado Rockies.

The Cardinals were a mess at the start of the season in 2018. The inmates truly ran the asylum until Mike Shildt took over. The players needed a change of message and a change of voice. I believe the Cubs need this too.

Who should take over?

Mark Loretta would be an easy choice because he has sat beside Joe Maddon all year. He is already in the organization and knows the players personalities so just to move down the bench would be easy. I don’t know if Loretta is someone that could take the Cubs to a postseason and have a disciplined team. He has never been a manager before at the big league level but then again neither was Mike Shildt.

David Ross is another choice. He was the veteran leader the Cubs had in 2015 and 16. His veteran leadership was on display in game 7 of the World Series in a conversation with Anthony Rizzo that was heard on TV since Ross was miked for the game. Going from a veteran leader to a manager would be difficult. David Ross also has a nice job with ESPN and is enjoying family time so I doubt he would change so soon after retiring.

Joe Girardi is a World Series winning manager who knows how to manage different personalities. Girardi was able to handle the New York spotlight and kept a very disciplined team. Girardi would be a true leadership change in the Cubs Organization. He is the type of person you could bring in and feel you have a chance to get to the post season. If Girardi would accept the Cubs job in midseason it would give the Cubs the jolt they need,

I do believe it is time for Maddon to be replaced. Maddon has seemed very disconnected from the team for a while now. Yes this year he has tried to be more involved but it may be too little too late.

See you tomorrow Mickey might be soon

If you think you have had the worst week ever, I would like you to look at the New York Mets week. The week started with the Mets losing a game to the Chicago Cubs on a late inning home run from Javy Baez. Which really should have just been seen as another game but it wasn’t. After the game and a grilling by the New York media, Mickey Callaway started yelling and using profanities with Newsday reporter Tim Healey. As Tim walked through the clubhouse looked at Callaway and said see you tomorrow Mickey.

Mickey who has been under fire and clearly on a hot seat started cursing at Newsday reporter Tim Healey. Callaway interpreted that the reporter was saying see you tomorrow (as in you are getting fired tomorrow). Jason Vargas who is having a decent year in any pitchers standards heard this and looked Tim Healeys way. He started shouting at Healey saying he would knock him out. Players had to get between Vargas and Healey. This was only Sunday.

Monday the Phillies piled on 13 runs against the Mets. The Mets did score 7 runs which anytime a team scores 7 runs they should figure to be on the winning side. On Tuesday the Mets lost 7-5 to the Phillies after leading 5-2 going into the bottom of the 6th inning when the Mets pitching imploded. On Wednesday the Mets lost 5-4 to the Phillies after leading 4-0 in the sixth inning when they gave up a run and 3 more in the seventh before losing in the 10th inning. Vargas started this game and gave up 2 runs over 6.1 innings of work.

On Thursday night the Phillies were up 1-0 until the top of the 9th when the Mets scored 3 runs. In the bottom of the 9th the Mets put in closer Edwin Diaz who they got in a trade with Seattle in the off season and Diaz got lit up for 5 runs while only recording 1 out as the Phillies walked off with their 2nd consecutive walk off. On Friday the Mets returned home just to lose 6-2 to the Braves.

The Mets had a big offseason with free agent signings and trades. They were acting like a team that was in a win now mode. Now being 9 games under .500 and 12 games out of first place the Mets brass has to be wondering when it is time to pull the plug on Mickey Callaway. IT never makes a lot of sense to fire a manager mid season but this might be one of those times to do it. See you tomorrow Mickey might come sooner than later.

Update: CarGo is placed on waivers, two pitchers called up and more

The Cubs announced they have placed Carlos Gonzales on waivers. This will give all of the MLB teams a chance to pick him put at his current salary (league minimum since he was released by the Indians). If no team picks him up he will be given an option to be released or go to triple A Iowa to find his swing.

The Cubs have brought up from Iowa Dillion Maples and Rowan Wick. Both of which have been with the Cubs earlier this year. Wick had 3 appearances earlier in May and June posting a 2.45 ERA. Dillion Maples has appeared in 7 games and has a 0.00 ERA.

The Cubs have officially placed Cole Hamels on the 10 day IL. He will go through additional testing today.

CarGo is likely CarGone

According to ESPN’s Jesse Rogers Carlos Gonzales was seen shaking hands with teammates and hugging others after last nights game.

CarGo never really caught on with the Cubs after being released from the Indians earlier this year. His line was .175/.306/.300 which over all was worse than when he was in Cleveland.

Now what will the Cubs do with Gonzalez being released and Hamels heading to the DL? They could call up two pitchers first since they used the bullpen a lot last night. I would look for Tony Barnett’s and Dillon Maples or Tim Collins as he continue to ride the express between Iowa and Chicago. At some point the Cubs are going to have to fill the outfield spot that is open with CarGo being released.

I would be shocked if Ian Happ was called up since he is batting .226 and has struck out 90 times in 276 ABS. As of late his strikeout rate is better but still not great. The Cubs could be working toward a trade as well. In the meantime I would not be surprised to see Jim Adduci or Mark Zagunis called up.

A trade the Cubs should be interested in is Whit Merrifield who currently plays for the Kansas City Royals. He is an infielder/outfielder who has a line of .299/.347/.497. This would cost the Cubs a lot but he will help the offense tremendously. The Cubs and the Royals have matched up before so I could see it happening again. It would be 3 to 4 player deal. The Cubs have said they are going to be active at the trade deadline and look for it to be a major move.

News and Notes for Monday Morning

According to Jesse Sanchez, the Dodgers are back in the Bryce Harper conversation.  Could they be the mystery team that was reported yesterday?  Many think the Yankees might swoop in at the last minute and make an offer.  National League teams are looking at Harper as a possible DH candidate when the DH becomes universal.

Dodgers and Harper

Clayton Kershaw will test his shoulder today after being shut down for the weekend.

Addison Russell played his first game for the Cubs of the spring.

In other Cubs news, Tyler Chatwood does not care if he starts or is int he bullpen he just wants to play for the Cubs.  If his walk rate is anything close to 8.2 per nine innings he won’t have to worry about that because he will be headed out of town.

Hanley Ramirez who signed with the Indians over the weekend will earn $1 million if he makes the team out of spring training.

David Bote of the Cubs was hit in the head by Madison Bumgarner in the game yesterday.  Giants doctors checked him out and the tests were negative but the Cubs will update his situation later this morning.

Kyle Hendricks and Javier Baez have not heard from the Cubs on contract extensions.  Both have expressed interest in saying in Chicago.

Jose Martinez of the Cardinals signed a 2 year deal for $3.25 million plus incentives.

White Sox outfielder left the game yesterday with left hamstring tightness.

The Rangers and Orioles make a trade.  The Rangers get International Bonus Money from the Orioles for minor league righty David Lebron.

The Padres could still be in the running to sign Dallas Keuchel after spending big on Manny Machado.

J.D. Martinez criticizes the way free agency is happening right now.  He calls it an “embarrassment for baseball”.

 

 

 

NL Central Will Be Fun To Watch

The National League Central is a dream to watch if teams stay relatively healthy.  You have the Cardinals who have retooled and a Yadier (don’t call me MF) Molina who still has something to prove with more then just his mouth.  They have missed the playoffs too much in the last few years and are ready to go back.  The Brewers are ready to defend their National League Central Championship and show that last year was not a fluke.  The Cubs felt like the underachieving little brother to the Brewers.

The Cardinals have signed Andrew Miller traded for Paul Goldschmidt, and brought Adam Wainwright back on a one year deal.  Which is not a lot of new faces but definitely filled some holes to help them be more competitive in the Central.  After the Cardinals fired Mike Matheny they played much better baseball and almost got to the wildcard game.  In contrary the Cubs limped to the wildcard game and got beat the the Rockies.  Their off season was adding Daniel Descalso and that is all.  The Brewers had the busier off season by tradings for Ben Gamel, Bobby Wahl, and Alex Claudio.  The Brewers also signed Cory Spangenberg, Christian Bethancourt, Yasmani Grandal, and Mike Moustakas just to name a few.

Story lines going into the year:

Yadier Molina is mad at Kris Bryant and the Cubs for saying St Louis is boring in a light hearten skit

Yadier Molina is hoping to rebound from last season that saw him in the DL for over a month

Is this Adam Wainwrights swan song?

The Cubs do nothing in the off season because they have no money but still look to make an impact

Will Joe Maddan manage all year without a new contract?

The Brewers are trying to get more of their fans to the ballpark when they play the Cubs instead of Cub fans.

Can the Brewers repeat?

Honorable mention:

The Reds have almost a new roster and will play just good enough to mess up the NL Central for one team.

What can be expected is a great season of baseball to watch.  I feel the team that starts off the season the hottest can pull the division out.  The key will be to get a good lead in the division and then maintain it.  Each team is interesting for their own reasons I think the Cubs and Cardinals have the most question marks going into this year.  Either way, it will definitely be a show.

Harper–More Hype than Substance

If your favorite team is not one of the teams in on Bryce Harper, consider yourself lucky.  Bryce Harper is a very good player but not a player you want to tie up 10 years of payroll into.  The last report is that the Phillies are trying to finally get a contract wrapped up.  This should conclude their off season of spending “stupid money”.  This will be the stupidest money they spend.  Their off season has actually been a very nice one at this point also.  I know they feel if they can get Harper  signed it will put them over the top to win the division.  That may be the case but the Washington Nationals won the division a lot with Harper and nothing else to show for it.

I am not saying a player is not worth 300 million but I feel the team that signs Harper are paying for a lot of hype and much less substance.  Harper has had a 7 year career so far.  In the past 7 years he has played more then 140 games 3 times.  In the past 7 years he has averaged 26 home runs.  He has hit more than 30 home runs 2 times. He averages 73 RBI’s and has had 1 season of 100 RBI’s.

It is easy to say that paying Harper 300 million or more is for what he is going to do in the uniform of the team that signs him.  In a 7 year sample size of Harper’s career the numbers don’t stack up.  Yes you can say well he was injured which is true but there is an injury history.  Why pay this kind of money for an injury history? Not to mention the production does not add up.  The Phillies have a club house now with a lot of big personalities.  How will they handle someone like Harper coming in?

The Phillies have spent stupid money before.  Have they forgot Ryan Howard?  They had to pay him to leave.  One of Boras’ selling points on Harper is that later in his career he can play first base.  We see how well that worked out for Ryan Howard.  Howard was not the only person they had to pay to play for another team either.

Jimmy Rollins – Dodgers

Cole Hamels – Rangers

Chase Utley – Dodgers

There are many very good players in MLB.  Harper is just one of them and the Phillies are going to be the stupid team to spend stupid money that they cannot move.

What should they do instead?  Sign Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel.  Good pitching always stops good hitting.

Winter Meetings – Tuesday Morning

Here are some news and notes from the Winter Meetings for Tuesday morning.

The Royals signed Billy Hamilton to a one year deal for $5.25 Million with an  extra $1 Million in incentives according to Buster Onley.

Overnight there is a lot of noise being made by the Yankees and Mets concerning JT Realmuto.  Even though the Marlins are downplaying this, there have been reports of a 3 way trade involving Noah Syndergaard to the Yankees and JT Realmuto to the Mets according to Bob Nightengale.  The reports have been downplayed but it looks like the Marlins are ready to move here.

The Cubs continue to get linked to Zack Britton who they have liked for a long time.  Britton wants to close and the Cubs seem to have an opening for at least the start of the season.  It may be best to let Brandon Morrow set up for Britton when he comes back from his injury.  This may allow Morrow to stay healthier and the Cubs would have a nice back of the bullpen. Speaking of the Cubs, Bruce Levine has reported the Ricketts family has signed off on the possibility of a big expenditure (Harper).

According to TR Sullivan the Rangers are open to trade talks that involve Nomar Mazara.  They pinpoint the Braves as being a fit because of all of the pitching they have in the pipeline.  This reminds me of when the Rangers filled up their system when they traded Mark Teixeira to the Braves in 2007.  Only 2 1/2 years after the Mark Teixeria trade the Rangers were in the World Series.

Robert Murray of the Athletic has reported that the Brewers are interested in Daniel Murphy and Mike Moustakas.  Any team in the central should be interested in signing Daniel Murphy since he kills Cubs pitching. The Cardinals like Moustakas a lot but it is hard to see a fit for him since they have Paul Goldschmidt now and Matt Carpenter (along with his salsa).

According to ESPN’s Jesse Rogers, the Cubs are looking to find a veteran leader in the clubhouse.  They have had a void since David Ross retired.  Jon Jay did a decent job in 2017 but this was a big void last year.

Adrian Gonzalez is not ready to retire yet and is being linked to the Diamondbacks since they now have an opening at first base.

The Yankees have closed the door on Bryce Harper but they are still in talks with Manny Machado.

The Chicago White Sox have promoted Omar Vizquel to the manager of their Double A affiliate.

The Orioles are going to interview Manny Acta for their manager opening.  Acta has previously managed the Indians and Nationals.

The Indians and Rays are having trade talks about Edwin Encarnacion and Yandy Diaz according to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.  The Indians would want to deal either Kluber or Bauer first because they would need to eat some of the money on Encarnacion contract

2008 Rookie of the Year Giovano Soto wants to make a comeback.  He last spent time with the White Sox in 2017 and sat out all of last season.

Zack Greinke has a new no trade list.  He will now accept trades to almost all big market teams as well as the Phillies and Cardinals.  Now we just have to see who will take on just some of his salary since the Diamondbacks would have to cover a good amount to move him.

Lou Piniella is disappointed that he fell 1 vote shy of the needed number to get into the Hall of Fame.  He will now have to wait 2 years to find out if he gets in again.  If you remember correctly, he quit on the Cubs in 2010 in the middle of the season that didn’t help either.  The reality is who didn’t quit on the Cubs that year is any ones guess.

The Reds are looking for a trade fit involving Scooter Gennett.  The Yankees, Brewers and Nationals would be the best fit.

The Tigers have signed Tyson Ross for $5.75 million to a one-year deal with $500,000 in incentives.

Winter Meeting News and Notes – Monday Morning

Here are the morning news and notes from Winter Meetings – Monday Morning Edition.

Lee Smith and Harold Baines were elected to the Hall of Fame last night by the Today’s Game Era Committee. For both Baines and Smith it has to feel like sweet justice.  Baines was one of the first original DH’s in the league.   Lee Smith was one of the last closers to have 3 inning saves.  His chances had been hurt getting in by the writers because he played on so many teams.  Lee Smith found out while he was on his tractor.  He says he wants to see John Franco in now.  Lou Piniella missed the Hall of Fame by 1 vote.

Many teams have asked the Cubs about Kyle Schwarber and the Cubs are not willing to move him.  He still remains untouchable.  This could be for a few reasons.  One reason could be because they feel his stock is too low and they would not get enough for him or they could feel he truly can be better than his .238 average.  Either way potential gets you no where as the sample size gets bigger and his lifetime average is .228.

The Braves could be interested in bringing Craig Kimbrel back.

Dennis Lin of the Athletic reports the Padres have an interest in Marwin Gonzalez.  The Padres also have a long standing interest in J.T. Realmuto.  They would be a team that would have the prospects to land him.

The Giants are not even close on trading Madison according to Jon Paul Morosi.

The Dodgers are among 6 teams that are interested in David Robinson, who is 33 years old.  I can only see him getting a 2 – 3 year deal at the most.

The Texas Rangers have been in contact with Martin Perez this winter.  They had declined his option this year.  They still have an interest in resigning him just not at $7.5 million that he would have received.  The Rangers will also let Isiah Kiner-Falefa focus on catching this winter according to T.R. Sullivan.

The Orioles are still looking for a manager.  They interviewed Mike Redmond yesterday and plan on interviewing about 6 more candidates which include the Cubs Brandon Hyde and the Astros Chip Hale.

The Dodgers have in interest in moving Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig and Joc Peterson according to Bob Nightengale.

 

 

Winter Meetings Preview – Sunday

As the Winter Meetings get started today here are a few stories we are watching:

Where will Bryce Harper and Manny Machado end up?

Harper by far is the player with the most hype entering the free agent market and remains unsigned as we go into the Winter Meetings.  Harper’s former team the Washington Nationals have said that he turned down an offer of $300 million over 10 years back in September.  They do not see where he would resign with them at this point.  Are the Nationals playing coy? Maybe?  Teams that have been linked to Harper at this point the Dodgers, White Sox and Phillies.  The Phillies are ready to spend stupid money and Harper’s agent Scott Boras can certainly help.  As I look at this situation, I don’t see Harper signing at the Winter Meetings (even though Las Vegas is his home town) and won’t sign with the Dodgers until January. (sorry Cubs fans)

Machado will probably sign before Harper.  Mostly because I can see the Yankees and Phillies getting into a bidding war.  I can not see the Phillies giving up easy.  Although I can see Machado signing with the Yankees.  I think he will have more marketing opportunities in New York and a chance to win.  The Phillies are still a couple years away from being an elite team that big time free agents would sign with.

What will happen with J.T. Realmuto?

As the Marlins continue to rebuild their team it only makes sense to send Realmuto to a team they can get a few good prospects from.  The longer the off season goes the harder and less value he will have so the time to deal him is now at the Winter Meetings.  Also, will Derek Jeter show up this year?

Last year during the Winter Meetings:derek jeter

Who will the Indians trade?

The Indians seem hell bent on trading one of their starting pitchers.  The Indians can afford to trade a starter to help rebuild slightly while still winning the division since it is so weak. We know that Carlos Carrasco signed an extension recently so he won’t be traded.  Now it is between Corey Kluber and Trever Bauer to see who will be traded.  If you think you know, place your bets in Vegas now.

What will the Cubs do?

Joe Maddon is on the hot seat and is in the last year of his contract.  Theo and the boys have history in the last 4 year of doing big things at the winter meetings:

2014 – Sign Jon Lester

2015 – Sign Jason Hayward, Sign Ben Zobrist, Trade Starlin Castro

2016 – Traded for Wade Davis

2017 – Quiet

2018 – TBD

This is Theo’s most crucial off season with the Cubs.  This could also be the off season Theo is criticized the most if the Cubs don’t find a way to improve the team.  More than 2 months ago Theo said they needed to get better.  The only thing that has happened that is noticeable is a new hitting and pitching coach.  At some point the Cubs need to address the on the field personnel and this is the time to start.

Which team will be the first to make noise?  Who will better their franchise for next season and beyond?  We are only getting started!  Welcome to Winter Baseball Meetings week!