With the off-season begun a bit early, so have our between season lives. That may, in some cases, include a degree of re-assessing. Perhaps, that includes how many tickets to buy for 2019. Possibly, a spring trip to Mesa will be assessed. For the Cubs front office, a degree of re-assessment is likely, as well. The most obvious is the specific free agents to court. However, an inventory of which types of players to sign to initial contracts might be undertaken, as well.
Veteran contracts will be under scrutiny. Justifiably so. When a rather major purchase backfires, the team suffers. Getting the right fit and talent in major pieces will always be fodder for discussion. Technique, and talent, are both considerations.
When the Cubs signed Brian Duensing on the cheap, it worked well. When they extended him for two seasons, because he had succeeded, it didn’t work as well. I’m not convinced that my crystal ball is much better for MLB veterans than anyone else’s, which calls my opinions on the topic into question. As such, I doubt the off-season meat market will move my needle very much.
When the Cubs sign a player, whoever it is, I hope it works. No, it isn’t my money. On the other hand, bad contracts hurt the future of the team in a de facto salary cap environment. Saying this inner-held belief is nails on a chalkboard to many of you. So, I shall meander in other pastures this off-season.
The assessments that intrigue me this off-season are the Cubs tweaks in their amateur scouting. Since Theo Epstein came aboard, the goal has been to add versatile players through the draft and international venues. Pitchers selected have largely been “repertoire” types, as opposed to hard throwers. (Remember that a very limited number of “ace” types are available in the draft. They are very prone to injury, and are often off the board rather early. The international hard-throwers go for heavy coin in a capped marketplace.)
Recently, Theo Epstein made a rather fascinating ”prroduction, not talent” comment. The brass are re-assessing in the wake of September, and the Wild Card game loss. As with above, you can argue for Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, or whoever. I’ll be burning my energy in other fashions.
My intrigue is based on how his comments apply to the draft. For instance, the Cubs selected Nico Hoerner, a Stanford shortstop, in the first round. He seems entirely capable, given a few years of preparation, to be useful. However, he doesn’t jump off the board as a future superstar. The Cubs did, in selecting Hoerner, pass on Seth Beer, an offensive masher with limited defensive value.
In the past six or seven years, the Cubs have gone in the draft with outfielders with solid defensive backgrounds. Which helps with pitchers in the pipeline. However, if you oversell defense, you’re somewhat underselling offense. If the Cubs are going to try to ramp up their production, might that mean they will de-emphasize defensive flexibility in the initial selection process?
Regarding pitchers, the most of the best are selected early. I have no qualms with drafting repertoire guys in the final 36 rounds. Especially since so many are bubbling to the upper minors in front of their Rule 5-eligibility dates. Is it time, though, to re-assess the top choice types?
The Cubs will select 27th overall next June. (That could be lowered in the case of the Braves compensation choice for Carter Stewart.) A degree of my time between now and the will be assessing the pros and cons of the conceivable choices, there. Should the Cubs look more at “ceiling” than they have, realizing that in many cases, players fall short of their ceiling? Should they attempt to unearth a prep starting pitcher, and hope to have a “Top 30 in the league” starter? Realizing his best pitches may be spent in the Midwest League.
I don’t know if the Cubs are going to adjust their assessments on veterans. And their methods if they do. Much of the decision-making will be done by people far better at assessing data than I am, whether it works or not. Will it will apply to evaluating preps, collegiates, and international players? It would probably take a few years to realize any changes, and a few more years to see if they are successful.
I’m more than willing to admit when I’m beyond my depth. I have no idea which free agents will play as well as their eight-figure contracts. Those, you can argue over. I’m more interested in if the Cubs are adjusting their strategies for prospect signings. We shall see.