For much of this off-season, I’ve been muted. I’m not very confident in my opinion on which two-year, $18 million reliever a team should sign. I don’t have any high-end intelligence on a reasonably good trade for Jason Heyward. What I remain is bullish on is the draft, and no less aware than before that teams are wary of paying punishments for going over spending limits. As such, when a “punishment-free purchase” or two become available, the Cubs should pounce, and they should hire fired Braves amateur scouts Brian Bridges and/or Roy Clark.
The pair was fired Wednesday in a rather surprising announcement. Teams are currently assigning which scouts will cover which areas. The release seemed quite abrupt. Scouts, as with coaches, don’t come with handy evaluation statistics. The two are both considered good talent evaluators and that didn’t likely change this week. My guess would be that they might have had a people skills moment. There were thoughts it might have been Carter Stewart-related, but this article from The Athletic this morning says that wasn’t the case and the Braves just wanted a change:
[GM Alex] Anthopoulos fired director of amateur scouting Brian Bridges and senior adviser to amateur scouting Roy Clark on Wednesday, but a team official insisted the Stewart matter wasn’t the deciding factor and that the changes would’ve been made regardless. While Bridges and Clark were highly regarded as scouts and talent evaluators, the team wanted a different direction in its amateur scouting department.
So, the timing reeks of “You guys aren’t doing things the way I want.” Yeah, that isn’t ideal, either. However, if both are quality talent evaluators in a vacuum, they should be immediately prioritized.
The Cubs tend to be rather “repertoire over velocity” in their pitcher selection process. The Braves tend to be very velocity-first. Which seems very incompatible, at first. If the game is evaluating talent, I don’t especially care from which side of the so-called tracks a scout comes. I want the Cubs to locate and develop talent better than other teams. Debate it out, and get the proper talents.
My expectation is that the two scouts will be wooed by many of the 29 remaining sides. Part of their decision will be “cash offered,” and part will be “position granted.” Which would seem fair. They want a reasonable level of both pay and responsibility, I would imagine. As the Cubs are sitting on quite a bit of money they won’t spend on MLB talent, apparently, buy two quality scouts.
The baseball scouting department is multi-layered, and nobody really wants to lose their spot in the hierarchy, especially to a new person or two. However, the temptation ought to exceed the caution if these two are as good as reputed. How can two veterans be brought in without upsetting the apple cart?
My first thought is that I would like the Cubs to add at least one of these two scouts to the fold. Both would be better, but adding one suits the idea be-bopping inside my head. Prioritize them. Contact both, and add one of them if at all possible.
Baseball scouting is a beast unto itself. Local scouts are tasked with an area around their house, generally. The regional cross-checker double-checks on the veracity of the local scout’s recommendation, and the national guys focus on the top 80 across the Cubs board. Whose responsibility would I ease with the addition of either scout? Nobody’s, in my view.
My preference would be to not trust their negotiating prowess or their people skills. I would want to hire them for their talent recognition, alone. Toss either whatever it costs to add them for two draft cycles. Their expense won’t cost the Cubs a draft selection, or international spending money.
Teams assess through multiple viewings. If you catch a pitcher on only a good night, you get a bad read. If he struggles, you similarly get a bad read. If the pitcher gets six or eight views, you likely see him toward his best, worst and middle. You assess from there.
If a team adds a high-end scout, as both Bridges and Clark are, they can get 13 different college series covered through the season. Likely, at least 10 might be games that otherwise wouldn’t have had a team scout available. That seems a rather prosperous use of uncapped money.
In my research, the St. John’s at UCLA series looks to be a good first weekend match-up. Both sides have good top-end pitching, and the Bruins have a likely first-round hitter in Michael Toglia. The Cubs likely have that series accounted for, already. However, if the checklist goes to a certain level, the Cubs will have no scout at a game with a player in contention for an early selection. If Bridges or Clark get hired, send them to a series a week to file a report and advise on what they saw. And, in no circumstances, negotiate a deal.
The MLB Draft is an information game. The more valid information a team acquires, the more likely their draft is successful. If the Cubs spend, for instance, $10 million dollars for a two-year contract on a scout, there won’t be any league-wide sanctions. Push to hire either or both for a season or two to rehabilitate their reputation. Their ability to read talent, though, isn’t flawed.