On occasion, I note on Twitter or Facebook Cubs fans wondering what “the plan” is for the team. While I have a few hunches, it’s mostly about shorter-term contracts over longer-term ones, I’m guessing. The premise of a handful of “Joc Pederson contracts” seems likely to me. I’m not willing to wager M&Ms, or anything pricier, on being correct. If I’m wrong, I’ll admit it. I expect about a $130 million or so budget in 2022. However, regarding the pipeline, I have a few ideas on what’s being attempted. Today’s subject, Peter Matt, goes a way to explaining it.
Outfield/first base. Born May 22, 1998, Larchmont, NY
6-2, 220, bats right, throws right. Drafted in 2021, 10th Round (Duke University) by the Cubs
Back in 2019, the Cubs put together a draft that looks like it might be reasonably useful long-term. In the 10th and 11th rounds, though, the Cubs had misfires. Regardless what or why, their selections of Wyatt Hendrie and Mack Chambers didn’t work out well, as neither signed. The bonus pools in the baseball are an animal unto themselves. Teams often negotiate with draft selections pre-draft, prioritizing what the player will sign for.
For instance, if the 10th round pick often signs for a very slight amount, that allows extra spending space for other selections. Had the Cubs agreed with Hendrie on “a number,” and the player changed his asking price (hypothetically, as I have no idea whether this happened or not), that would have also make signing Chambers problematic, as his signing may have hinged on Hendrie signing for a scant amount. Losing any early picks can be a problem from a talent addition standpoint.
In this year’s draft, the Cubs made some curious decisions. On the third day (entailing the 11th through the 20th rounds), the Cubs selected preps in the 11th and 12th rounds. Not only did neither sign, they announced rather early on that they were going to college. I was frustrated with taking two preps when scads of useful college options were still available. However, the idea of draft planning is getting the best pool of talent possible. The plan, apparently, was to have a few low-cost picks to balance out second-round prep selection James Triantos, who signed for $2.1 million. By having a few other high school options, Triantos wasn’t particularly able to screw up the team’s spending. (Had Triantos tried anything off-plan, the other players might have made sense. But, there was no problem, in part, because Matt and Riley Martin signed for a combined $6,000 in bonuses.)
Matt attended the University of Pennsylvania for four seasons, and transferred to Duke University (Durham, NC) for 2021, as he was unable to return to Penn. As a grad student at Duke, majoring in Management Studies, he started in 54 of the Blue Devils’ 55 games. In the ACC with the Blue Devils, his OPS was .921 and he also swiped 15 bases.
Most of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans players squad headed back to Mesa for additional work, and Instructional Ball (moved back to October in 2021 from February in 2019). Matt, along with a few other players, was bumped to the Triple-A Iowa Cubs in late-September with injuries and call-ups smashing the I-Cubs. For Matt’s season, as a pro, his three-level OPS was only .478. That said, he seems more capable at third base than I’d have expected, off of Instructs reports from Arizona Phil.
Projecting out anything specific on Matt is projecting which portions of his game will be far better in 2022 and beyond than they were in 2021. I’m far less good at predicting the future with crystal-clear accuracy, than minding what happed last time around and listening in next time. Matt will likely be the four-corners guy (first, third, left, and right) on an affiliate based on how well he does in minor league spring training. Which will be more about how well he commits to his craft in the off-season than anything else.
The plan, though, is for the Cubs to maximize return by playing games with spending. And probably prioritizing 2023 and beyond more than 2022. More than likely, a few players will get absurdly small bonuses in the future, as the punishment for going “too far over” in draft pool spending is rather hefty. Players like Matt who sign for almost nothing from the second day of the draft provide benefit from doing exactly that.