Sometime last week, Cubs ownership decided they were into spending money again. By the time Joc Pederson and Trevor Williams had been added, the team seemed to have their eyes firmly set on a full 40-man roster, possibly without complete reliance on the waiver wire. Williams' pact even appears to violate the perceived taboo on players receiving deferred payments. The news continued on Sunday with the apparent hiring of a scout, and scouting is a bit of the rest of this article:
As I sit at the airport right now on my flight home, I want to let you all know that today is my last day working for PG. I have decided to take an Area Scout job with the @Cubs in my home state of Georgia. I want to thank @PerfectGameUSA for the past 7+ years (3 full time).— Gregory Gerard (@GGerardPG) February 1, 2021
Some of the more intriguing/frustrating writing about the Cubs has been the unwillingness/inability to keep scouts in the organization. Hearing horror stories of Dan Kantrovitz and crew having to do more with less receives the same sort of disapproval as "trade Bryant" comments elicit from many. An area scout of some merit can be located and retained for in the high-five/low-six figure range. There are added expenses, to be sure, but having "another Georgia scout" should be considered a good way to keep tabs on a baseball hotbed, more than an extravagance.
If a scout is "above average" at assessing talent, that is four to six games a week being viewed in quality fashion that might be otherwise under-served. The entire "crapshoot nation" regarding the July Draft overplays their hand rather regularly. Teams don't draft college arms who toss 85 with ERAs above seven. The preps near Atlanta? Which ones make the most sense? This new hire can bird-dog every game that Cobb County prep catcher/outfielder/second baseman Harry Ford plays in, and take in college games above and beyond that. That’s good whether Ford gets drafted by the Cubs or not.
The draft and development strategies change the pipeline. The scout who nails a player who is productive, because he pounded the desk for a player, is valuable beyond any realistic measure. Similarly is the scout who pulls back on a player he doesn't like, that pancakes.. Where would the Cubs have been if any Jon Gray (or current Cub) Kohl Stewart contingent had won on the day the Cubs eventually drafted Kris Bryant? The "getting the veterans right" and "manipulating the salary numbers" are important as well. However, ceding superior talent selection to five or six teams seems a rather unnecessary and counter-productive concession to make.
A few potential center field options appear valid for the 21 spot in July. Having the fires stoked in the draft war room with another quality opinion seems a step in the right direction. Georgia seems a relevant locale.
Hopefully, the Cubs’ increased willingness to spend is more than a short-term response. Things change, and scouting does, as well. Awareness of the players that should go in the top twenty rounds should be the baseline expectation of contemporary scouting. Having enough in-person looks in a college/prep schedule that will be more illuminating ans unpredictable than most years seems the most basic level of commitment to the future. Adding eyes in California, Texas, and Florida might be wise, as well. Welcome to the Cubs family, Mr. Gerard.