Cubs brass are about to leave the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas without making any moves at all.
Some of you are disappointed in this. Me, I expected it, and it was stated as such late Wednesday:
Hoyer said it’s unlikely Cubs make a deal by conclusion of winter meetings— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) December 13, 2018
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have been repeating the same mantra basically since the Cubs made their early playoff exit: They think the Cubs have the players already in-house for improvement, they think many underperformed in 2018 (I’d agree with that), and the team won 95 games anyway, even with all this tough performance. Rather than make changes in the roster, the Cubs have uprooted quite a bit of the coaching staff, hiring new pitching and hitting coaches. They’ll need a new bench coach, too, with the departure of Brandon Hyde. This article by Sahadev Sharma in The Athletic sums things up pretty well:
It’s obvious, though, Epstein isn’t feeling pressure to make up for the mistakes of last winter by being overly aggressive in player movement this offseason. There is an understanding that they’ve had a string of poor outcomes, some of which were the result of a poor process that have since been tweaked, but also due to the pendulum of luck swinging the other way. They’ve had plenty of hits, from the Jon Lester signing to the acquisition of Jake Arrieta to the development of Kyle Hendricks. And now some moves that haven’t gone their way have bunched up in succession.
In this article which mostly focuses on the health of Kris Bryant (he’s reported as “ready to go”), new pitching coach Tommy Hottovy is quoted extensively, and appears to have a good handle on what the team needs:
Hottovy, who spent the past three seasons as an advance scouting coordinator with an emphasis on run prevention, is implementing data and video in an effort to correct Chatwood’s control problems.
“We have a lot of data on mechanics and how to make changes,” Hottovy said. “But it’s about simplifying it. It’s about giving him one or two nuggets to focus on and not 10 different things and then putting him in a good position to throw a baseball.”
Because Hottovy was part of the daily game planning with now-associate pitching coach Mike Borzello and the pitching staff, he believes that conveying data to a veteran pitching staff won’t change even with his new title.
“These guys are open to information,” Hottovy said. “They really want to learn and get better. They understand how the game is evolving and how the information can help them.”
Hottovy also shared how he plans to help pitchers lower their 3.79 walk rate per nine innings.
“It’s process-oriented, not results. It’s what can we do ahead of time that will lead to (fewer walks) — attacking the hitter, having the right approach, and those things will take care of ourselves if we take control.”
That works for me. Some of you have worried that veterans like Jon Lester and Cole Hamels wouldn’t want to take “instruction” from a guy who’s only a couple years older than they are. This seems to indicate to me that perhaps a generational connection is exactly what those guys will respond well to.
This is how the Cubs’ 25-man Opening Day roster shapes up as of today, December 13, and each player’s contract status.
Jon Lester: under contract through 2020, vesting option for 2021
Kyle Hendricks: under team control through 2020
Jose Quintana: under contract through 2019, team option for 2020
Cole Hamels: under contract through 2019
Yu Darvish: under contract through 2023, opt-out after 2019
Tyler Chatwood: under contract through 2020
Brandon Morrow: under contract through 2019, team option for 2020
Pedro Strop: under contract through 2019
Mike Montgomery: under team control through 2021
Carl Edwards Jr.: under team control through 2022
Brian Duensing: under contract through 2019
Steve Cishek: under contract through 2019
Brandon Kintzler: under contract through 2019
Willson Contreras: under team control through 2022
Victor Caratini: under team control through 2023
Anthony Rizzo: under contract through 2019, team options for 2020-21
Ben Zobrist: under contract through 2019
Addison Russell: under team control through 2021
Javier Baez: under team control through 2021
Kris Bryant: under team control through 2021
David Bote: under team control through 2023
Kyle Schwarber: under team control through 2021
Albert Almora Jr.: under team control through 2022
Ian Happ: under team control through 2023
Jason Heyward: under contract through 2023, opt-out after 2019
It should be noted that the opt-outs listed above are extremely unlikely to be exercised.
There just doesn’t seem to be any possible room for additions here, except for perhaps a veteran backup catcher, with Caratini then sent back to Triple-A, or possibly he’s even included in a deal for such a backup. (I’m still liking that Tyler Chatwood for Russell Martin deal I proposed in October.) Maybe a veteran reliever is added, but then you’re going to be paying one of the veteran relievers listed above anyway. There’s also the matter of Russell’s suspension, which will cover the first 29 games of 2019; someone will have to replace him on the 25-man roster until May 3, unless the Cubs decide they want to deal him, which is certainly possible.
But otherwise, I think the 25 men listed above are very likely going to be the 25 men you see in the visitors’ dugout in Arlington, Texas on March 28.