December 31, 2016


The Mets will again start the new year with one of the league's most impressive starting rotations. And an impossible task to try to keep this core of hard throwing starters on the team for the long term.

As the New York Daily News reported recently, GM Sandy Alderson has the task of trying to control the rotation for longer than their current projected arbitration years.

The idea of a contract extension is that a team offers guaranteed money through a players’ arbitration years in exchange for the first few years of the players’ free agency. Usually the player gets less money than he ideally would get on the open market, but more than he would in arbitration. They are assured that money whether he suffers a long-term injury or his level of play drops off. For a team built around pitching and these young arms in particular (and a team whose farm system is light on top pitching prospects) these decisions are going to be an increasingly important part of shaping the franchise’s future over the next few years.

Alderson said he would not rule out talking to a pitcher’s agent about an extension during the 2017 season, but indicated it was not something he was contemplating before the Mets get to Port St. Lucie.

“I am not going to say we would do or we are not going to do it,” Alderson said of looking to lock up one of their talented young arms long term during the season, “but heading into spring training, it’s not likely going to happen.”

Matt Harvey will be the first of the Mets’ young arms who will test the team’s future plans. He is in his second year of arbitration eligibility and under the Mets’ control for just two more seasons. This is really the last winter the Mets could expect any possible value in an extension. After an All-Star season in 2013, he missed 2014 after Tommy John surgery. He pitched 218 innings, a record for a pitcher in his first season back from the elbow surgery, going 13-8 with a 2.71 ERA in 2015. He struggled most of the 2016 season with command and was shut down in early July after surgery to address the circulation issues associated with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.

Jacob deGrom, who was given an extra year of arbitration through the Super-2 designation this winter, would be the ideal candidate for the Mets to discuss an extension with this winter.
DeGrom had a disappointing 2016, going 7-6 with a 3.04 ERA, after a Rookie of the Year season in 2014 and a stellar 14-8 (2.54 ERA) season in 2015. He had Tommy John early in his minor league career and was shut down early in 2016 to have surgery to move the ulnar nerve in his elbow.
Harvey said earlier this month that the surgery had relieved the issues of numbness in his fingers and he is seeing results as he works through his offseason throwing program. DeGrom was still waiting to begin his throwing program earlier this month when he spoke to reporters. Older than Harvey, deGrom will be 32 when he finally reaches free agency and could be more open to the idea of an extension.

Zack Wheeler is in his first year of arbitration eligibility and reaches free agency after the 2019 season, deGrom after 2020 and Stephen Matz and Noah Syndergaard are only under control through the 2021 season.

So the Mets have a wealth of starting pitchers for the next two seasons. However, the Mets are still running a tight team budget. As much as the talent of the franchise rests with starting pitching, the field position lacks key superstars. Re-signing Yoenis Cespedes was a mandatory cost to hold the fans' off-season attention. But with David Wright's continuing health issues, and no natural center fielder on the roster, the Mets do have glaring holes in their line up.

It is doubtful that the Mets will trade any of their starters to close the line up gaps with hitters. The Mets need to have depth at starter because its power arms are prone to injury.

December 27, 2016


Jose Quintana is an under-the-radar ace. He is only 27 years old. He is under team control for four more years at a very low salary.  In five major league seasons, he has gone 46-46, 3.41 ERA, 1.242 WHIP and 20.5 WAR. By most estimations, he is more valuable trade chip than Chris Sale.

When the White Sox were dealing at the Winter Meetings, everybody was on the table. There were rumors that several teams were interested in Quintana: the Astros, the Mets, and the Nationals. But once Sale was traded to the Red Sox for the best prospects Boston had available, the price for Quintana apparently went up. And once the Nationals seemingly overpaid for CF Adam Eaton, talks on Quintana have become whispers.

There are other teams that have been kicking the tires. The Orioles do not have the top level prospects to cut a deal, and they are unlikely to deal two players off their 25 man roster as part of a package.

The Mets are in a similar position, but they are looking for bullpen studs rather than starting pitching.

Even though the White Sox are rich in minor league starters, GM Rick Hahn continues to stockpile arms. The Mets will not part with Steven Matz in a Quintana deal.

The Rangers are always an odd-fellow in the trade market. The Rangers always prize starting pitchers as acquisition targets. But it is unclear whether the Rangers have enough depth to pull off a multi-player deal.

A team with an potential excess of starting pitchers is the Dodgers. Injuries mowed down its entire rotation. It will start camp with eight or nine legitimate major league starters. Adding Quintana would not make much sense, but the Dodgers could be the conduit of a three team trade to move some of their excess starters to another club in exchange for a starting second basemen.

But the one team that still is trying to get a deal done is the Pirates. The Pirates would love to have a cost controlled starter to throw behind Gerrit Cole. Pittsburgh did re-sign ex-Yankee Nova but the team wants to maintain its budget with players who value exceeds the price. However, moving Andrew McCutchen to the White Sox is not part of the discussion.

The White Sox have received enough fan support to go through the rest of the off-season without making any further moves. But Quintana, because of his highly favorable contract, will continue to draw interest. Ironically, the Cubs main message this off-season has been to acquire a young, controllable starting pitcher. Quintana is the that pitcher.

December 20, 2016


From the beginning, the one golden business philosophy of the new Cubs ownership has been that no one else except the Cubs should profit from the Cubs in Wrigleyville.

It did not matter that Lakeview businesses such as bars and restaurants have been serving the community for generations (even when the Cubs product could not draw flies). Ricketts strong belief is that no one is entitled to make any direct or indirect money off his team.

No wonder there has been a contentious relationship between the Cubs and the neighborhood. The suit against the rooftop owners was a prime example. Even after the settlement, Ricketts attempted to block them out of business with new jumbotrons. The residents have pushed back on the unilateral demands of the Cubs, but the Cubs have steam rolled the city council to ask for more and more exceptions to the general business rules.

The Ricketts massive redevelopment plan in and around Wrigley Field is clearly "overzoning" for the residential neighborhood. The density and traffic concerns of the area was not truly addressed as the council rubber stamped the development in a time when Chicago is still reeling from the 2008 real estate collapse.

The Cubs sued a man who was selling on the street corner his own Cubs newsletter. Despite the First Amendment rights of publishers, the Cubs were trying to muscle out anyone who would "compete" with their vendors selling game programs. It would seem petty to try to drive out a man trying to sell programs to help support his kid's education, but the Cubs took the matter to the federal appellate court, which gave me a mixed ruling - - - including a statement that the Cubs themselves were violating a city ordinance against peddlers around Wrigley Field. In response, the Cubs quietly lobbied the city to change that ordinance for the team's benefit.

The Cubs placed their own souvenir shop across the street from Wrigley to compete with the other street merchants. The team pushed the envelope by offering official player signed game jerseys.

The Ricketts wanted the triangle space to be an unregulated, open air beer garden. Even that was too much for police and fire to handle. But this is part of the plan to capture every single dollar spent in a mile radius of the park. The idea of more Wrigley concerts is a way to try to diminish other live entertainment venues like the Cubby Bear. It is also a means of the Ricketts family trying to maximize revenue from Wrigley Field when baseball is not played. It is apparent that whole concept that Ricketts wants to create their own year round entertainment center like Disneyland.

But just as sinister of motivations is how the team treats its most loyal fans, the season ticket holders. Season ticket holders paid top dollar for years of horrible Cubs baseball. The Cubs have been near the top of the league with the most expensive ticket prices. Fans were rewarded during the bad stretch with the advent of "dynamic" ticket prices - - - you had to pay more for games with good teams. All prices inside the park increased as well, making it very difficult for an average middle class family to attend games.

So with the World Championship team of young controllable core of players, the Cubs first reaction was to significantly raise ticket prices 6 to 31 percent. The highest toll is being collected on the prime box seats season ticket holders, who are also being pushed to buy "memberships" in the exclusive lounge to be built under Wrigley Field. This lounge is to keep the high rollers inside the park before and after games so they spend their booze money inside Wrigley. Some called the rise in ticket prices a slap in the face to loyal season ticket holders.

Well, the slap has turned into a full sucker punch. The Tribune reports today that many season ticket holders have lost 2017 seats because the Cubs were upset that many "sold" their tickets during the playoffs for greater than face value. The Cubs already collected the face value on the tickets. But the team is upset that it "lost" the secondary market "profit" on those tickets. It is a really tenuous argument. The Cubs set the price of the tickets and collected the money. The Cubs did not lose anything except the notion that someone else is making money instead of the Ricketts clan.

The Cubs claim that its crackdown is to keep tickets in the hands of people who actually plan on attending the games. It is also a way for them to try to maximize revenues, or at least prevent others from profiting handsomely over their popular product, according to the Tribune story.

The Tribune story states that the Cubs season ticket holder agreement is a "revocable license."
Season ticket licenses are renewed on a yearly basis, the club said, "at the sole discretion of the team." The license agreement includes language advising fans their plan may be canceled if tickets have been purchased "for the purpose and intent of reselling the tickets on the secondary market."

It is ironic since the Cubs have been for years "reselling" their own tickets through their own ticket broker. And Major League Baseball has an official partnership with StubHub makes it easier than ever for fans to sell and buy tickets with a few clicks of a button or swipes of the finger. For high-demand teams like the Cubs, the puzzle is how to capture the maximum amount of dollars without alienating loyal and longtime fans, while keeping at least some prices affordable for the average fan, those who study sports business told the Tribune.

So instead of rewarding the most loyal fans who spent the most to support their team, season ticket holders get the harshest brunt of the Ricketts greed. It just puts into focus one of the realities of this era of the Cubs. The fans truly love and admire the players and coaches, but they do not like the owners.

During the playoffs, I told friends that a Cubs World Championship would be the WORST thing that could happen to the Ricketts family. The Ricketts have not completed the bulk of their real estate development work. They have not generated any new revenue from the McDonald's block or the new triangle building. They are spending millions of dollars with the expectation that more people will flock to their venue to see the Cubs.

But one of the driving forces for fans to come to Cub games was the 108 year championship drought. They came to be a part of history, when the curse would be broken. Many paid dearly to attend games or be around the park during the World Series. It was a once-in-a-lifetime moment.

And that moment finished with a World Championship.

And that diffuses and crumbles one of the foundations of Cub fandom: the lovable losers are no more. People have their championship season. They have their World Series merchandise. They have the lifetime memories of the World Series run. Nothing will surpass that emotion.

So there is little reason for the average person to pay 31 percent more to watch in person the 2017 Cubs. Many will save their money for next year's expensive playoff games by watching games on TV. And for a few, once the top of the mountain was reached, there is no need to climb the trail again. They will become part-time, causal fans.  And those new fans who were caught up by the hysteria of the bandwagon, will probably drop off and return to their normal, non-sports centric lives.

All those elements bode for less revenue opportunities for the Ricketts because the Cubs peaked a couple of years too soon to capture all the Rickettsville revenue.

December 17, 2016


The Associated Press reported a record six teams are paying baseball's luxury tax this season, led by the Los Angeles Dodgers at $31.8 million and the New York Yankees at $27.4 million, the 14th straight year New York has had to pay the tax.

Other taxed clubs include Boston ($4.5 million), Detroit ($4 million), San Francisco ($3.4 million) and the World Series champion Chicago Cubs ($2.96 million).

Los Angeles owes for the fourth consecutive year and like New York pays at a 50 percent rate on the amount above the $189 million threshold. The Dodgers paid a record $43 million for 2015, and their four-year total is $113 million.

Boston and San Francisco pay at a 30 percent rate as offenders for the second straight year, and Detroit and the Cubs - a first-time payer - are at 17.5 percent.

The purpose of  the luxury tax in an effort to slow spending by large-market clubs and combined with revenue sharing has helped increase the competitive of small-market teams and those in the middle.
The threshold increases to $195 million next year under the new labor contract, and tax rates go up, too. There will be additional surtaxes, raising the rate to as much as 95 percent for the amount above $235 million, with the increase to be phased in for 2017 at the midpoint between the old and new rules.

Los Angeles lowered its payroll from a record $291 million last year to just under $255 million, which topped the major leagues for the third straight year. For purposes of the tax, which uses average annual values and includes benefits, the Dodgers' payroll was nearly $253 million.
Luxury tax payrolls figure to increase slightly across the major leagues next year because of a provision in the labor contract calling for the inclusion of salaries of players sent outright to the minors starting this Dec. 1.

The Yankees' regular payroll was second at $224.5 million, up slightly from last year's $223.6 million, followed by Boston ($200.6 million), Detroit ($199 million), the Cubs ($182 million), San Francisco ($181 million) and the Los Angeles Angels ($173 million).

Milwaukee had the lowest payroll at $65.5 million, down from $98 million last year. Tampa Bay was at $67 million, down from $77 million.

The AP report said that spending on 40-man major league payrolls totaled nearly $4.1 billion, an increase of $200 million.

There is an old saying that a team cannot "buy" a championship. But last year, the majority of big spending teams did well.

The Cubs got 103 wins, Boston 93, Dodgers 91, Giants 87, Detroit 86 and the Yankees 84. That is 544 total team wins by the luxury tax group or a winning percentage of .560 (about 91 wins).

December 12, 2016


Did the Cardinals overpay to sign Dexter Fowler?

St. Louis signed the Cubs World Series centerfielder for $82.5 million/5 year contract.

Fowler, 30, was a valuable lead off hitter for the Cubs. And once the team figured out that he was playing too shallow in center, Fowler's defensive metrics improved dramatically. He went from a 2.2 WAR to a 4.2 WAR in 2016.

But one could temper his improvement as being Wrigley Field bias. Fowler's career WAR is only 18.1 over 9 seasons. 35.6 percent of his career WAR is attributed to just the past two seasons.

Many fans do not care what teams spend on players because it is not their money. But that is a narrow view. Teams have tighter baseball budgets. League revenue may be great but it is suspect with the sudden decline in cable television ratings and advertising shifting to other platforms. If your team overpays for a player, it cuts down the available budget to sign other key players to make a contending team. Also, it forces the team to find more revenue, usually from the fans. Example, the Cubs raising ticket prices for 2017  by an average of 19.1 percent.

So how did the Cardinals value Fowler?

First, as a subtraction from the divisional winner, Cubs. Just as the Cubs took away Jason Heyward and John Lackey from the Cardinal roster, the Cards pull a piece from the Cubs roster to make it weaker (on paper).

Second, the Cardinals need a steady, experienced lead off hitter. Traditional lead off hitters (high OBP, speed) are harder to find. Fowler is not quite traditional, but makes up for it with more power than an normal lead off hitter.

Third,  $82.5 million deal equals approximately 14.0 WAR. Over the life of the contract, Fowler would have to average 2.8 WAR per season to hit the $82.5 million value. In his eight full seasons, he has only hit that mark twice in his career or 25% of the time. If you take his last 8 seasons of WAR (18.4) you have 2.3 WAR/season. The premium appears to be 0.5 WAR/season or about $14.75 million or almost an entire season of potential dead money.

In baseball free agent contracts, some players are willing to discount an annual salary to get more guaranteed years. This is especially true in late career two-three year deals. But in Fowler's case, this is his last peak contract. He did not discount his current performance for a future guarantee. With Adam Eaton traded to the Nationals, there were few proven center fielders left on the market. Fowler leveraged the shortage to his advantage.

Fourth, Fowler does bring a level of intangibles to a team. He was well liked in the Cub locker room. He has a friendly smile and is a fan favorite. In St. Louis, some media writers opine that his presence will help solidify the community. But just by signing Fowler is not going to turn that 17.5 game deficit from the Cubs 2016 mark to zero. But Fowler is an upgrade in CF from their existing player roster so one cannot clearly say that the Cardinals overpaid for Fowler.

December 8, 2016


In the previous two off-seasons, White Sox GM Hahn was credited as winning the winter by the moves he made to bring major league talent in an effort to win now. But all those acquisitions underperformed to the point of discontent both in the locker room and stands.

At mid-season, Hahn said he was unhappy with the performance of his club. He said the off-season would signal which direction the team was going to take. It is apparent this is a total, painful, four year rebuild process.

Ace Chris Sale had worn out his welcome with President Kenny Williams. The Sox could not win with him, so with his three year $48 million ownership friendly deal, the White Sox acquired four Red Sox prospects, including the #1 overall position prospect in Yoan Moncada.

Boston also sent highly touted pitching prospect Michael Kopech, outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe and right-hander Victor Diaz to Chicago. Moncada is the #1 ranked in the game, according to The deal marks the first time in at least 25 years that baseball's No. 1 prospect has been traded, based on the rankings done by MLB Pipeline and Baseball America.

If that was not enough, Hahn stunned the winter meetings by trading OF Adam Eaton to the Nationals for their three best prospects, including the #1 pitching prospect in the game.

Eaton, 28, is under contract for the next 5 years. He had a freak 6.0 WAR last season after moving from CF to RF. He had been one of the most productive outfielders in the Majors during the past three years even though he has flown a bit under the radar. Since 2014, he has accumulated a 12.7 WAR according to FanGraphs, which ranks 10th among all Major League outfielders. The locals who watched Eaton play on a daily basis were underwhelmed by his play, especially in CF. But the Nationals are going to play him in center so to move their best prospect, Trea Turner, to shortstop. Some believe that Eaton will wind up in RF in Washington because their home park has a large CF area that Eaton cannot cover. Bryce Harper, who is looking for a $400 million extension, could move to center. The Nationals clearly believe that their championship window is closing so they had to make a deal for an affordable, multiple tool center fielder.

In order to acquire Eaton, the Nationals traded Lucas Giolito (#1 prospect), Reynaldo Lopez (#2 prospect) and  and Dane Dunning (#6 prospect, last year's first round pick). The three right-handed pitchers are very young, but Gilolito and Lopez have tasted limited major league action. Lopez was stellar in some of his starts with a plus fastball and killer curve.  Giolito is baseball's number 3 overall and Lopez comes in at No. 38, but some scouts believe Lopez may have more upside.

So in a matter of 24 hours, the White Sox have turned their bottom quarter farm system into a Top 5 organization. The minors are now loaded with Top 100 prospects: 1., Moncada, 3.Giolito, 30 Kopech, 38 Lopez, 58 Carson Fulmer, 80 Zack Collins. The Top 10 Sox prospects are now 1 Moncada, 2, Giolito, 3 Kopech, 4 Lopez, 5. Fulmer, 6. Collins, 7 Spencer Adams, 8 Zack Burdi, 9 Luis Basabe, and 10 Dunning. Six of the Top Ten White Sox prospects have arrived in the past 24 hours.

The crazy thing is that the White Sox had good quality pitching prospects before the two deals. On the prospect list are pitchers Alec Hansen (14), LHP Jordan Guerreo (16), Jordan Stephens (17), Tyler Danish (21), LHP Brian Clark (22), and Chris Beck (24). No wonder no one blinks at the prospect that Hahn could pull the trigger and trade SP Jose Quintana to reap the same type of return as Chris Sale.

It is true that most prospects to not pan out to be impact major league players. But the Sox now have so much pitching depth that it is more probable than not that in the near future they will field a home grown, dominating starting rotation which would be the envy of the league.

December 6, 2016


The Winter meetings are slowly moving through the bars and lobby. The talk is still about Chris Sale.

Sale would be the prize of this off-season.

The reason is simple: he has tremendous locked in value.

He is signed through the next three years at the low price of $48 million.
He has amassed a career 31.1 WAR, an average of 4.44 per season.
Last year WAR was 6.6.

Based on valuation, his contract value WAR is 2.71. His average career performance WAR is 4.44 or a difference of 1.73 WAR at an annual value of $10.21 million. Over the life of the contract, a team is getting a minimum $30.62 million more value from Sale and his deal than what the team will pay him.

Last year alone, Sale outperformed his contract by $29.85 million. At that pace, you are getting a $90 million ace starter for 5th starter money.

The Dodgers just signed 36 year old Rich Hill to a $48 million, 3 year deal. For the same money, who would not want Sale over Hill?

Last year, Hill had an inflated WAR of 4.1 His career WAR is only 9.5 over 12 seasons (.0.79 = less than AAA replacement value). But by last year's standard, Sale was + 2.5 WAR better than Hill for better value by $14.75 million.

This is why the White Sox are wanting a huge price for Sale. Reports continue to state that the White Sox want at least four quality prospects (Top 10) or a mix of prospects and major league ready players under long term control.

That is why the Astros dangling OF George Springer for Sale is a possibility. Springer is under team control through 2021. He is currently at the league minimum. He hit .261, 29 HR, 82 RBI for Houston in 2016. Last year his WAR was 5.0. A package with Springer and two of Houston's best prospects could swing a Sale deal.

But the White Sox have some time to get other teams hot and bothered by a potential deal. The Nationals continue to be described as the "hottest" team on the Sale trail. But the Nats do not want to part with their two best prospects (SS Turner and OF Robles).  But the odds are that some team will be winning to "overpay" for Sale if they believe they are one key player away from a World Series berth.


Within ten minutes of this post, MLBTR reports Sale has been traded to the Red Sox for four prospects.

The Red Sox and White Sox have agreed to a blockbuster trade that will send Sale from Chicago to Boston in exchange for Yoan Moncada, Michale Kopech and two other prospects, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.

Moncada, 21, is the #1 prospect in all Baseball. The Cuban 2B/3B hit .294, 15 HR 62 RBI in A-AA ball last season.

Kopech was the #5 Red Sox prospect (#67 in majors). He is a starting pitcher who was 4-1, 2.08 ERA, 1.101 WHIP in Class A ball.

December 2, 2016


Jason Stark was on ESPN Radio recently talking about the Chris Sale market. He said teams have said that the White Sox demands are extremely high for their ace. He said it looks like the Sox want to have a team's No. 1 prospect, two more in top five and another quality player (probably major league ready). Not many teams are willing to unload 3 or 4 of their best prospects for one player.

But reports continue to surface that the Red Sox, Rangers, Nationals, Astros and the Braves have asked about Sale. Stark predicts that the price may come down, and the Sox will trade Sale before Opening Day.

Sale will command the highest price tag because this year's starting pitching FA crop is barren. The Red Sox and Nationals have indicated that they are not trading their top prospects.

It is felt that the Astros will be the most aggressive team this off-season. Houston is poised to make a break out season like the Cubs in 2015. The Astros have inked OF Aoki, Reddick,  C McCann and SP Morton. The top prospects in the system include #1 (#29 overall) RHP Franics Martes, 21, who is moved up quickly to AA with a 9-6, 3.30 record as a starter. #2 is OF Kyle Tucker, 19, in A ball. #3 is RHP Forrest Whitley, a 6'7" rookie league player. #4 is RHP David Paulino to went through 3 levels to make a sip of coffee in the bigs last season.  #5 is OF Derek Fuller, a lefty hitting OF who hit .245, 16 HR, 59 RBI and 23 SB in AAA. Another good prospect is first rounder 3B Colin Moran who hit .259, 10 HR, 69 RBI in AAA. He is major league ready.

The White Sox have plenty of pitching prospects but are weak on position prospects.  Did the Astros signal with their outfield signings it would be willing to trade George Springer, 27, who hit .261, 29 HR, 82 RBI in the right deal for a stud starter? Springer is under team control to 2021.

In order for the White Sox to "win" the Sale deal, they need to get the "best" player in the deal in return. Springer does fit a real long term need. Adding a lefty speed OF in Fuller and 3B Moran could be part of a package, since the White Sox are willing to trade Todd Frazier because the third base free agent market is as bad as the starting pitching one.

If the Sox want to trade a big piece, they have to get young quick. That was the formula that the Cubs used to snare Addison Russell.

The Sox have fence sitting fans. Any Sale trade needs to bring back immediate "impact" players in return. 

December 1, 2016


Selig's Folly is dead. In 2002, Commissioner Selig's All-Star blunder (of teams running out of players) of making the exhibition game "count" in the playoffs is no longer the case. Back to the basics of sports, the team with the best record will have earned the advantage in the World Series. This makes every game important.

The change of the All-Star game ramifications is part of the new collective bargaining agreement. The new five year deal tweaks various aspects of the old deal. reviewed the new changes:

The most surprising twist is that home-field advantage in the World Series will no longer be tied to the All-Star Game, as first reported by The Associated Press. Instead, the pennant winner with the better regular-season record will get home-field advantage in the Fall Classic.

Free-agent compensation
Specifics on Draft-pick compensation are still being discussed. That said, qualifying offers -- which will still be calculated based on the average of the top 125 salaries -- can still be extended to free agents, but no more than once per player in his career. A player must still be on his club for the entire season to receive a qualifying offer.

Teams losing a free agent who received a qualifying offer will get a Draft pick only if the player signs a contract worth at least $50 million. After that, the pick depends on a team's market size, according to MLB Network Insider Ken Rosenthal.

Beginning in the 2017-18 offseason, teams will not lose first-round Draft picks for signing a premier free agent. However, teams exceeding the luxury-tax threshold would lose a second-rounder, a fifth-rounder and $1 million in international pool money.
If a club hasn't exceeded the luxury-tax threshold, it will lose a third-round pick.

Luxury tax threshold
Incremental increases from the current $189 million of 2014-16 to:
2017: $195 million
2018: $197 million
2019: $206 million
2020: $209 million
2021: $210 million

Tax rates for teams exceeding the threshold will rise from 17.5 percent to 20 percent for first-time instances, remain at 30 percent for second instances and increase from 40 to 50 percent for third-time instances.

There's a new 12 percent surtax for teams $20 million to $40 million above the threshold, 40 percent for first instances more than $40 million above the threshold and 42.5 percent for teams $40 million above the threshold a second time, according to The Associated Press.

International Draft
Rather than an international Draft, which owners had sought, the two sides agreed to a bonus pool system, with a hard cap on how much each team can spend. That pool is expected to be $5 million to $6 million per team. Under the previous CBA, the bonus pools were scaled based on record the previous year, with the worst teams getting a little more than $5 million and the club with the best record getting a bonus pool in the $2 million range. It was also a "soft" cap, meaning teams could exceed it, but had to pay penalties for doing so.

Cuban-born players who are at least 25 years old, with six-plus years of experience in Serie Nacional, will maintain exemption from the international bonus pool, according to's Jon Paul Morosi.

Roster size
No change. Teams will have 25-man rosters for the regular season, expanding to 40 in September. An expansion to 26-man rosters for April through August had been discussed in exchange for a smaller roster expansion in September, but that did not materialize.

Disabled list
The minimum time for a trip to the DL will be reduced from 15 days to 10, according to The Associated Press.

Other items of note
• Beginning in 2018, the regular season will begin in mid-week to create additional off-days during the schedule.

• According to the New York Post, incoming Major Leaguers will be banned from using smokeless tobacco, but current players will be "grandfathered in" and still be permitted.


1. The All Star league winner for home field advantage in World Series has been a thorn on many teams sides for years.  The idea that the best team should have home field advantage during the playoffs makes the most sense and will have the biggest change in the new deal.

2. The shortening of the DL from 15 to 10 days will have operational consequences. First, it makes it easier to activate players with day to day soft tissue injuries. Second, it is a compromise between the concussion protocol and the old DL time frame. Third, it will add additional player travel cost moving players from minors to the majors. Fourth, it really gives starting pitchers a quicker avenue to get back to the big leagues (missing 2 starts instead of 3).

3. The free agent qualifying offer compensation is still a quagmire of exceptions. The new deal allows second tier free agents (normally players in their late thirties looking for a final 2-3 year deal) to reject a qualifying offer for a one year deal (for this year's amount of $17.2 million) in order to get a higher guaranteed sum in a 2 or 3 year deal below the $50 million threshold.

4. The owners lost out on an international draft, but gained additional funds for the large market teams to equalize with the small market clubs. The hard cap makes it harder for international free agents to big up their bonus demands. It also stops teams from spending Round 1 bonus dollars on foreign teenagers, which makes U.S. high school and college prospects more of a scouting priority.

November 29, 2016


ESPN's Buster Olney reports that teams tell him that they believe the White Sox “are serious about their intention to trade Chris Sale.  Only reports that  Chicago has told rival clubs they’re willing to trade anyone with fewer than four years of team control remaining, which would mean Jose Quintana, Carlos Rodon, Adam Eaton and Tim Anderson are off the table, but names like Sale, Jose Abreu, Todd Frazier, Melky Cabrera and David Robertson are all in play.

Sale’s name figures to dominate next week’s Winter Meetings, and the wide range of options available to Chicago GM Rick Hahn should mean the White Sox will be connected to plenty of trade scenarios.

Sale has worn out his welcome in Chicago. His clubhouse revolt in spring training on the Adam LaRoche matter, to the cutting of throw back uniforms in a tantrum, has made him an unwanted diva.

And Sale is the premier trading asset this off-season. The free agent starting pitching market is as dry as the desert.

The Sox could go in fire sale mode.

It seems the idea many teams are adopting is the concept of a young "core" of players under control for multiple years. Once you establish a set core of players (like the Cubs did), you can then fill needs through free agency or trade.

Olney's report states that Sox have decided that 4 years of player control is the "core" the team wants to use in order to target for a championship in 2020. But with only four core players (SP Quintana, SP Rodon, OF Eaton and SS Anderson) the White Sox are still far away from the playoffs.

However, to the right team, Sale could bring in five under-25 prospects and major league ready talent. Abreu, Frazier and Cabrera could bring a good prospect and another high ceiling low minor league prospect.

Trading those four players could yield about a dozen new, young players. Adding to the strength of the organization, minor league starting pitching, the White Sox do have the building blocks to make a rebuild work.

November 20, 2016


Qualifying offers in baseball have been the bane of agents and teams for a long time.

When Phllies starter Jeremy Hellickson  decided to accept the Phillies’ $17.2 million qualifying offer ahead of  the deadline, he said he was considering declining the QO but potential suitors told his agent, Scott Boras, that they were reluctant to give up a draft pick in order to sign the right-hander.

Some teams value their draft picks more than free agents. Other teams, like the Yankees, churn their veterans for compensation picks while losing other picks by signing other teams free agents.

Players with attached draft pick compensation have had a tough time finding a home in free agency since the QO system was adopted. Outfielders Ian Desmond and Dexter Fowler  did not  sign with their respective teams, the Rangers and Cubs, until late February prior to this past season, due to draft pick compensation being attached to them. Neither player got a multi-year deal and settled for salaries, $8 million and $13 million respectively, below last season’s QO value of $15.8 million.

Yahoo's Jeff Passan wrote that there is “increasing sentiment” coming out of collective bargaining agreement negotiations that the QO system will not be around for the next offseason. That’s great for free agents and teams that want to sign them, obviously, but bad for teams losing those free agents unless they’re allowed to recoup value in some other fashion.

The QO was designed to help small market teams that lost control of their star players to free agency to get something in return to developing talent for the large market teams. Some would say that revenue sharing and protected picks should be enough compensation for those clubs. Others felt that it was leverage for existing clubs to keep their star players. But the formula for setting the QO has gone through the roof, creating an artificially high floor in the free agent market. Some team owners gripe about $17.2 million to retain a player or negotiate with a free agent with that price tag already on similar assets.

In order for the program to change, the small market clubs will demand some other form of compensation. For example, if MLB does institute an international draft (with foreign players and representatives abhor), small market teams may be awarded extra sandwich compensation picks between rounds. Or, a team signing a "restricted" free agent (however that term will be re-defined) may have to pay some cash (development costs). Agents would not like that because a team could shave the payment off their contract offers to players. But in most CBA provisions, it comes down to money either going into the players' or owners' pockets.

November 17, 2016


White Sox GM Rick Hahn said:

“We’ve always been focused on putting ourselves in the best position to win,” Hahn said. “At the same time, I think we’re veering away from the standpoint of looking for stopgaps. A lot of what we did in the last few years had been trying to enhance the short-term potential of the club to put ourselves in a position to win immediately. I feel the approach at this point is focusing on longer-term benefits. It doesn’t mean we won’t necessarily be in a good position in 2017. It means that our targets and whatever we’re hoping to accomplish have a little more longer-term fits in nature.”

The White Sox have been mired in a "win now" re-tooling of their roster since the 2005 championship. The club has signed or traded for veterans to try to get over the hump to win the AL Central and make it deep in the playoffs. But the Tigers, Royals and now the Indians have blocked their path. But now the Tigers are ready for a fire sale and the Royals are regrouping, the White Sox have to make a major decision: stay the course or rebuild the organization?

Critics think the Sox must follow the Cub rebuild plan. Tear it all down. Trade valuable assets like Sale, Quintana, Frazier, Eaton or Abreu to stockpile young, athletic talent.

Fans and ownership still believe the Sox are just one or two players away from a division title.

The problem with the White Sox has been that the team has not drafted well position players. And the team has not spent a lot of money on international free agents. As a result, the farm system has been weak for a long time.

There are two ways to remedy the situation: hire better scouts and development coaches to boost the talent in the minors or trade for quality prospects from other teams.

If you read between the lines, it appears that Hahn is still playing a middle approach. When he says he will look for longer-term benefits, it may mean that trade targets may not be rental players but players under 2 or 3 year deals. Or that prospects will be low minor leaguers under team control for six years. It also means that the White Sox may plan to hold on to their ten quality minor league pitching prospects.

And it also could mean that the team will not pour any more money on free agents this winter. It will let the roster weed itself out by contract expiration.

My guess is the White Sox will continue to on the same path of trying to field a veteran, competitive club with a short term goal of winning now.

November 14, 2016


The Cubs go into the off-season with many open positions/issues.

1. Centerfield and Lead-off Hitter. Dexter Fowler will reject the $17.2 million qualifying offer. He wants to obtain a long term, guaranteed deal. No one can blame him. He is saddled with the lost draft pick like last year. Many writers believe the Cubs need to re-sign Fowler because when he scored, the Cubs won more than 70 percent of those games.

If the Cubs do not re-sign Fowler, the job falls to Albert Almora or a defense weakening shift of Jason Heyward from right. Heyward has enough on his plate to correct his swing to worry about moving full time to CF. He prefers right field. Leave him there. If the Cubs are high on Almora, let him sink or swim in center.

But that does leave a gap at lead-off spot. No one of the club right now is the prototypical lead off hitter (high contact, walks and stolen base threat).

2. Left handed reliever. Travis Wood is a free agent. He is likely to sign elsewhere. He was a workhorse out of the pen (and a pretty good hitter off the bench). He had 77 appearances for 61 IP. With Mike Montgomery penciled in as the 4th starter next season, the job may fall to Rob Zastrynzny, who had 8 appearances (1 start) for a 1-0, 1.13 ERA record in 16 IP. However, the Cubs are weak at starting pitching depth in the minors so Zastrynzny may start 2017 at Iowa in case there is an injury in the rotation.

3. Closer. Will Hector Rondon return from his injury to reclaim his closer role? Or will there be a closer-by-committee approach with Rondon, Pedro Strop and CJ Edwards? Most writers believe that the Cubs will go after a high priced closer to replace Chapman (and thus making the bullpen rebuild less onerous).

4. The Schwarber Problem. Where will Kyle play? With his significant knee injury, most experts doubt that he will be in the position to catch at the major league level. Too much strain and stress on the rebuilt knee. Willson Contreras will be the main catcher, and Miquel Montero the expensive back-up catcher (maybe Lester or Arrieta's personal catcher). In the best case scenario, Schwarber would catch Hendricks starts (30/ year).  Where will he play for the other 120 games? 20 at DH in AL parks? 100 games in LF?

The left field situation gets very crowded with Schwarber, Zobrist and Soler all in the mix for playing time. Zobrist has lost his second base position (unless Baez is at third which moves Bryant to LF). Zobrist has been the only consistent Cub to protect Anthony Rizzo in the line up.

5. Starting pitching. As stated, Montgomery appears to be the guy to take Hammel's spot as the #4 starter (moving Lackey to #5). But the Cubs depth chart as an organization is thin with major league ready starting pitching. Most pundits plead for the Cubs to move several young players to acquire young, durable and controllable starting pitchers. But most clubs will not trade their best pitching prospects, even for really good hitters. The free agent market for starters is also weak.

6. The bullpen. It is an annual make-over for bull pen arms. The Cubs current 40-man roster has this group to potentially fill four (4) opening day bull pen slots: Aaron Brooks, Jake Buchanan, Geraldo Concepcion, Justin Grimm, Conor Mullee, Spencer Patton, Felix Pena, Jose Rosario and Zac Rosscup. Concepcion and Patton had their call-up moments and did not stick. Grimm has been hanging around but is inconsistent. Rosscup is coming back from a major injury. Mullee was a recent waiver pick up. No matter what is in the system, the Cubs still need to look to upgrade bull pen arms.

November 12, 2016


The silly season of writer speculation is upon us.  A blogger just posted a fantasy piece about the Angels Mike Trout, the consensus pick of the best baseball player in the game.

He wrote that if the Angels would trade Trout, there is only one team that could acquire him: the Cubs.

He thought a package of Kyle Schwarber, Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Jeimer Candelario, Mark Zagunis, Ian Happ and Miguel Montero could get the Angels to make the deal.

Of the list of Cub players, maybe two are even in the trade asset column: Candelario because he is blocked at third by Bryant, and Montero who is a the end of his unhappy but expensive contract.

The Cubs have made it clear that their love for Schwarber is unconditional. His work ethic may surprise people to the point of being able to catch again. Otherwise, he is doomed to be designated as a professional DH.

Baez is the supersub Joe Maddon needs to juggle his lineup. But many fans now realize that Baez success means that he will demand more playing time, which could affect Zobrist or Soler's plate appearances. Almora is poised to take Fowler's CF job. As a top draft pick, the front office is not going to give away "one of their guys." Happ is another one of those "pure" hitters the Cubs have drafted in recent years. He can play 2B-OF. Zagunis is a AAA outfielder who is in line to probably replace Coghlan.

Trout has monster production: 29 HR, 100 RBI, .315 BA, 10.6 WAR. He is on the easy path to the Hall of Fame. And he is only 25 years old.

The hot stove winter is mainly about these type of stories. The bar talk about moves your favorite team should make in order to win next season's championship. The Cubs are in a strange position this off-season. They already have the pieces to win next season's championship.

November 10, 2016


The Cubs started tweaking their 40 man roster ahead of the winter meetings. Many of the moves are to protect prospects from future Rule 5 draft and to help build some bullpen depth for next season.

The  Cubs selected right-hander Jose Rosario from Triple-A Iowa and claimed righty Conor Mullee off waivers from the New York Yankees.

Rosario combined to go 2-1 with 14 saves and a 2.50 ERA for Single-A Myrtle Beach, Double-A Tennessee and Iowa after missing the 2015 season because of a right elbow injury. Mullee debuted with the Yankees this past season and made three appearances over two stints.

Chicago activated Mullee from the 60-day disabled list Monday along with right-hander Aaron Brooks, lefty Zac Rosscup and infielder Christian Villanueva. The Cubs also activated right-hander Dallas Beeler from the 60-day DL and outrighted him to Triple-A Iowa, and they outrighted Andury Acevedo and catcher Tim Federowicz to the minor league club.

Chicago's 40-man roster stands at 34 players.

The six remaining slots can be filled internally or through free agent/trade acquisitions.

Read more here:

November 8, 2016


The 2016 Cubs went 103-58 in the regular season. It had a team WAR of 57.4 (Hitting 37.4 + Pitching 20.0).

Currently, four key players will not be back.

Dexter Fowler: 13 HR, 48 RBI, 13 SB, .276 BA, 4.2 WAR
Jason Hammel: 15010, 166.2 IP, 1.206 WHIP, 1.1 WAR
David Ross: 10 HR, 32 RBI, .229 BA, 1.7 WAR
A. Chapman: 1-1, 1.01 ERA, 16 SV, 0.825 WHIP, 1.1 WAR

For the lack of starting pitching on the free agent market, the release of Hammel's option gives Hammel, 34, leverage to find a new landing spot on a team of his own choosing. It appears lefty Mike Montgomery will take over the 4th starter role in 2017.

Fowler, 30, declined a mutual option to again chase free agency. Last season he was close to signing with Baltimore. Rumors have it that the Blue Jays will take a run at him. It would appear Albert Almora will be the new center fielder. Whether he can be a lead off hitter is unknown.

Ross, 39, decided to retire after a memorable World Series run. He will walk away from the game, take some time off, and probably return in some coaching role. Who will be Jon Lester's new personal catcher. An angry Miguel Montero, who is still owned one year/$14 million from the Cubs, would be the leading candidate over Willson Contreras, who will catch the major of games in 2017. Most people doubt that after his knee injury, Kyle Schwarber will be able to catch games.

Chapman, 28, is set for a big payday in a very good closer free agent class. This leaves a void for Rondon, Strop or Edwards to be used as a closer by committee situation. The bullpen will get murkier as Travis Wood is also a free agent. Wood, 29, went 4-0, 2.55 ERA in 77 GP, 1.131 WHIP and 0.5 WAR. He fell out of favor with Maddon in the playoffs.

The four key departures equates to 14.1 % of total Team WAR.

The hitters departure equates to 15.8% of total Fielder WAR while the pitchers are 11% of Team Pitching WAR.

There will also be positional issues in the 2017 roster. Schwarber has shown he is built to be a DH. But the front office is so enamored with his bat that he falls into the category of a "no trade" player. But as a valuable asset, Schwarber could yield a top line starting pitcher like a Chris Sale.

The Winter Meetings start with the Cubs as the World Champions. Everyone will be gunning at the Cubs in 2017 to measure their own roster strengths. The championship hangover could hurt Chicago with a slow start.  Depth, especially in starting rotation, will be an ongoing concern.

November 6, 2016


The parade had not even started before the angry trolls and out-of-town columnists began to sandbag the historic Cub championship.

It was not mere jealousy. It was more like contempt.

The Lovable Losers moniker has been destroyed in dramatic fashion. The Cubs re-cemented themselves as the national baseball team, to the disdain of the folks in Boston or New York or St. Louis.

It may also be a combination of fear. Fear that the Cubs could go on a vintage Yankees run of several consecutive championship seasons. The young is is still very young. Most of the starting pitchers will be back in 2017. The Cubs could still spend more (given the chance by ownership) to get replacement free agents. Yes, other NL clubs are looking down the double barrel of a shotgun.

There may be also a sense in the negative fandom of other teams that their punching bag is gone. A security blanket that their own team does not suck as bad as the Cubs. The Cubs were destined to never be good. There were annual "Cubbie occurrences" which sabotaged their seasons. People outside Chicago loved to watch the slow car crash that was the Old Cubs.

But that has now changed - - -  forever.

There is no Next Year. There is no joke that the Cubs "can't lose today (because they are not playing.)" There are a hoard of screaming people waving "W" blankets in the streets and bars throughout the country. They are the New Cub Nation. Their overwhelming release of joy and relief was a tsunami of emotions for generations of fans, alive and dead.

The Game 7 telecast was the highest rated baseball game in 15 years. A media pundit may conclude in a few years that Cubs-Indians World Series was the turning point to put baseball back on the same television platform as the NFL, which has been the dominate American sports franchise but is now under the pressure of significant ratings drop.

The Cubs victory puts pressure on other teams and fans to be introspective and critical of their own teams success and failures. And that is usually not an easy thing. Being a fan is a form of escapism. Being a Cub fan was a form of communal penance for a long forgotten sin.

One of the least recognized fears is the Fear of Success. If you attain something important in your life, there is a sudden panic realization of "what's next?!"  Pause for a moment. You are no longer a door mat. You have achieved a life dream. You have had the greatest release of endorphin rush for the past two weeks. You have been in the clouds for the past 36 hours. It is like opening the greatest Christmas present, ever.

How do you top this feeling?

You don't. It is a once in a lifetime burst of wonderment and joy. It cannot be repeated at the same level of newness, surprise or desire. "Just win one in my lifetime" prayer has been answered by the baseball gods.

Even if there is a second, third or fourth championship (like the Bulls or Blackhawks), the first one is the most memorable, the most important, the most connected to the fans. it would be nice to go on a long run of winning to help enhance today's accomplishment. It gives one more ammo in bar talks comparing other teams to the Cubs.

But fans, especially the casual ones, will not mortgage their homes, max out their credit cards, ditch school or work, to spend 10 days in Wrigleyville buying expensive playoff tickets, $150 cover charges just to get into bars to eat and drink during games, or spend $50 for special event T-shirts. No, those premium prices will plummet in 2017. Supply and demand. The 2016 Cubs supplied what the fans always wanted - - - the championship. The 2017 Cubs could repeat, but fans who tapped out to see the promised land will not have the same level of interest to spend $3,000 for a playoff ticket. The casual fan caught up in the moment may not return. The demand for Cubs stuff, including games, will decline so the supply (cost) will have to be lowered to sustain a reasonable, connected fan base.

The great irony is that a Cubs world championship is probably the worst thing to happen to the Ricketts family. They paid a premium for the team because of its history and loyal fan base. The Cubs sold the possibility of ending a century of futility. They are paying a fortune to build a Disneyland of commercial properties around Wrigley Field. This season they received no revenue from these huge real estate projects. If the fan base does temper its expectations and spending habits, the Ricketts may be building an entire white elephant entertainment district.

There will be plenty of Christmas boxes filled with the discount championship logos. And by the time spring training will arrive in Arizona, there will be no crushing presence of whether "this is the year?" because 2016 was The Year. Hope will turn to Expectation of a repeat, but there will not be the emotional investment if the Cubs fail to achieve a second title. And thus, the Cubs marquee franchise will settle down into the peer group of being a very good team year over year to the knowledgeable fan. The only bristle will be the arguments with other team fans on where this Cub team ranks in history of the game. Or the fact the Cubs have only one title in 108 years. So what? Cubs diehards will reply. It does not matter anymore. The Cubs are the World Champions. That can never be taken away or diminished in bar talk or negative columns. It will be the permanent memory in the psyche of many people - - - hardwired in like the memories of where you were when JFK was assassinated, or when the planes hit the towers on 9/11.  But this will be a joyful memory that will comfort people for a long, long time.

November 3, 2016


This season started with hope. There were high expectations for the Cubs.

Since spring training, I thought the key to the season would be Kyle Schwarber. His photo was on this blog for the season. But then he got injured in an outfield collision, he was gone for the season. Two torn ligaments. He would be out to at least spring training.

But by midseason, expectations turned into the final mission: championship or bust.

Clearly, the 2016 Cubs were the best team on paper and in the field. The team had the luxury of five quality starting pitchers. The young core was supplemented by new, energized rookies. Knock on a redwood, the Cubs did not have any further significant injuries, especially to their starting pitchers.

Two midseason pick ups helped the final push. Long relief starter Mike Montgomery and ace closer Aroldis Chapman. The bullpen was set up for a lights out finish.

The mild concerns going into the post season were typical. Would the young Cub players handle the pressure of 108 years of media and fan angst? Would Joe Maddon suddenly change his style to start to overthink and overmanage games?  The latter did come true, even in the critical Game 7 decision to pull Kyle Hendricks with a large lead in favor a Jon Lester who threw at least 2 side sessions waiting in the bullpen for two innings. Maddon second guessed his own pregame blue print when he brought Lester in with a man on base (instead of starting a clean inning.)  The same was true with Chapman.

The saving grace to any Maddon miscues was Terry Francona's own blueprint to use only 3 starters in the series. Running his ace to start three games in 10 days had to have helped the Cub hitters adjust to his curve ball. The idea of having a Kluber-Miller-Allen 9 inning game to win the Series was sound. It was just the Cubs did not cooperate. Or not cooperate fully, since the Indians had several dramatic comebacks in the game to take it to extra innings.

The Indians had three chances to win it. Francona managed Games 5, 6 and 7 as they were final games. He did not want to let up. That is why he is one of the better skippers in the game. But the Indians were just short on big game heroics. In an irony, the Cubs turned into the better AL club with a DH stroking the ball and a better running game.

So I was at peace during the game. No emotional roller coaster as happened to many family members and friends who lived and died on every pitch.  I had predicted Cubs in 5. I thought the last three games set up well for the Cubs starters. The one thing that I kept saying was that the Cubs had to win the championship this season. This was The Year.

The reason was simple. It is so hard to repeat in professional sports, especially baseball with its long season and heavy toll on athletes. 2015 was the dress rehearsal for the Big Dance.

The 2016 Cubs are a very likeable team. The chemistry and purpose was shown when Jason Heyward, mired in a season long funk, spoke to players during the rain delay about being teammates and picking each other up (especially Chapman who had blown the lead). Players said afterward that helped pick them up for the 10th inning and eventual victory.

There will be many players not on the squad next season, including Chapman, Ross, Jason Hammel, Dexter Fowler, and many bullpen arms.  But they will have the vivid memory of being part of the team that won the most important championship in Chicago history. As Jason Stark wrote, it was the greatest post season baseball Game 7 contest in history.

All Hail the Cubs, champions of the world. We spent way too much time watching Cub baseball this summer. We drank way too much watching Cub post season games in the bars or at Wrigley Field. We spent way too much money on tickets and merchandise to physically grasp The Moment. So many people shed a tear for those who missed out on this life milestone.

The Cubs accomplished something they set out to do in Spring Training. Win. Win it All. Well done.

October 24, 2016


The Saturday news that Kyle Schwarber was in the Arizona Fall League took everyone by surprise.

This is the fall top prospect league, abet with exceptions (see, Tim Tebow.)

Schwarber had a severe "football" knee injury.  He was supposed to be out until next spring training.

There is no reason to rush him back for the Series.

Put sentimentality aside.

Just say no to such a roster move.

The World Series could be a tighter contest than the pennant series. You need to keep 12 pitchers on the roster to get out of middle inning jams or extra inning possibilities.

You do not need a partially rehabbing catcher-left fielder to play DH.
The Cubs will already have three catchers on the roster.

Pitching and defense wins championships. (see, Game 6 of the NLCS).

Schwarber may be a great potential player, and a great teammate but there is no need to "reward" him with a WS roster spot.  Too much is at stake.


So Schwarber is super human as a DH in Games 1 and 2.

October 20, 2016


At the beginning of the season, I thought the most important Cub player in 2016 was going to be Kyle Schwarber.

But when Schwarber got injured in the outfield early in the season, the Cubs continued to bulldoze opponents with long winning streaks. To replace Schwarber's bat, Maddon relied upon more young talent: Baez and Contreras, who now appears to be the starting catcher in 2017.

When the Cubs dropped two games to the Dodgers in the NLCS, it was the lack of offense.

It made many think of the missing Schwarber bat. He only hit .143 in the Mets series in 2015, but for the entire playoff run he hit .333 BA, 5 HR, 8 RBI. He was the spark in the line up because he had consistent hard contact.

Opponents, especially good ones, can dissect a line up card to pin point who can hurt them, who to pitch around, and who to attack. There are still many holes in the Cub line up: Zobrist, Heyward, Russell, Montero may have a singular moment, but have been consistently off.  With half a line up not a threat, that puts more pressure on the stars. Rizzo felt the pressure and tried to do too much. It was only after shattering his bat did he get back into the groove in the Game 4 10-2 blow-out.

But Game 4 spark was created by the defense. Contreras pick off and Heyward's throw to nip Gonzalez at home plate gave the Cubs the old, in season memories of being a great team. 

Now that hitting has come back, and the pitching staff has been consistent, now is the time to run the table and clinch the pennant on Saturday night.

October 17, 2016


Having predicted before the NLCS the Cubs in 6, I am not worried about the 1-0 Sunday night loss to the Dodgers.

More bothersome is the growing trend of the Tinkerer, Joe Maddon.

He is managing differently than he did in the regular season. A regular season with 103 wins. A regular season that had the Cubs winning the Dodger head to head series.

Playing Heyward in right against Kershaw was just another headscratcher to fans. Heyward had been terrible against Kershaw. The Cubs need offense. The move would have been to play Soler or Almora in right, the latter giving the Cubs a good defensive option.

Defense was not a premium last night because both Kershaw and Hendricks pitched gems. Hendricks gave up less than his league leading ERA, on a quality pitch away that Adrian Gonzalez hit to the opposite field for a homer.

You still need to score one run to win a ball game. The Cubs did not do so. The Cubs failed to even try to manufacture a run, or put pressure on the Dodgers defense. Willson Contreras' first at bat was baffling - - - he did not take the bat off his shoulder for the first two pitches, and weakly walked back to the bench after the K.

The Cubs are still the better team. Chicago has better depth in pitching, hitting and defense.

But the pressure is getting to some players. Rizzo inferred that he is trying to hit 5 run HRs during his slump. His long foul ball out of the park yielded one walk during the evening. Fowler has not been setting up the line up and Bryant is looking at too many close pitches. The 3-4-5 hitters are collectively batting .100.

The Cubs cannot play down to their weaknesses and expect to win games against the Dodgers.

October 14, 2016


The biggest number revealed this off season: $17.2 million.

That is the estimated qualifying offer number.

It is a $1.4 million increase from last off-season.

Within five days of the World Series conclusion, teams must make a qualifying offer to their pending free agents in order to secure a potential first round pick if their players declines it.

Player agents hate the qualifying offer rules. It actually limits the market for free agents with that tag as most teams do not want to give up a first round pick to sign a high price veteran.

But this may be the last year for the qualifying offer as the current collective bargaining agreement expires on December 2, 2016.

But then again, no free agent actually accepted a qualifying offer until last season. It seems that the number has grow so high that it tends to be market value, even though it is for a one year deal, of a normal free agent.  But free agents are more concerned today with the years on the contract (the guaranteed money) as a hedge against injury. It is expected that the qualifying offer rules will be a sticking point in the next union contract.

The procedure was put in place to help small market teams who would develop star players only to have them leave after 6 years for free agency. The small market team got nothing in return for developing the games best players. So, the league decided to compensate any team for a loss of a free agent with a draft pick. But at the same time, it also penalized a team for taking the player by losing a draft pick. The idea was to forge some kind of competitive balance between the clubs.

But with the large national television deals and new revenue sources, most small market teams such as Kansas City have found ways to keep their home grown talent. The Royals have been competitive. The Royals have a championship. But just as KC has found a way to work within the system, there are other teams like the Brewers who continue to tread water.

October 12, 2016



The Cubs were down 3 runs in the 9th but came back in New Cub style by taking pitches, putting the ball in play and playing stellar defense.

This season the Cubs were best offensively when they keep the order moving in an inning by "earning" walks, clutch hitting and good base running. By adding to a starter's pitch count early, the Cubs would wait for their pitches to hit.

In the playoffs, the pressure and competition level increases. For the first three games of the Giants series, it was the #9 pitcher spot that was most productive with 6 RBI. But Rizzo broke an 0-13 slump to get on base 3 times last night as a redemptive spark to the heart of the order.

Chapman also redeemed himself by mowing down the Giants in order in the bottom of the 9th. He just threw 102 mph fastballs past them.

But the most remarkable thing about this series was that the young players, Contreras, Baez and Almora, seem to thrive on the big stage. Each contributed on both offense and defense. Baez made his own highlight reel during the series.

The Cubs showed that they can claw back from any deficit. That is the great thing about baseball. You have 27 outs. The game is never over until the last out is recorded. So there is always a sliver of hope.

In the post game celebration, Maddon admitted that he did not want to have to deal with a Game 5 situation. He managed to win it last night. He may not believe in the doom of the curse, but he tends to manage against it. His moves last night were better than Game 3.

The expectation and hope increases in the NLCS. The Cubs appear to be ready to meet that challenge.

October 11, 2016


MadBum had a bad arm last night. The Cubs radio team saw it immediately in the first inning when Bumgarner only threw two fastballs.  At that point the Cubs had an advantage; batters could work the soft counts and increase the Giant's ace pitch count. It worked. Bumgarner was out of the game in the 5th.

Jake Arrieta was better than lowered expectations, especially when he hit a 3 -run homer to give the Cubs a large, early lead.

In an elimination game, you should not change what was working in the past. But Joe Maddon wanted to juggle and tinker the entire game. It showed the flaws in the Cub team.

Mike Montgomery threw 4 good relief innings, because he had to. Maddon had used everyone in the pen except C.J. Edwards.

Maddon burned through Wood, Rondon, Chapman and Grimm in the 8th inning. 

The bullpen situation unraveled in the 8th when Maddon called upon Chapman to do something he told Joe in the regular season he was uncomfortable in doing: the multiple inning save. Chapman gave up the lead in the bottom of the 8th; the staff getting torched for 3 runs.

For some reason, Maddon panicked in the 8th, thinking that he had to win the series then and now. 

But Kris Bryant hit a homer to tie the game in the 9th. This lead to a long, extra inning game with the Cubs short on bullets.

Montgomery was the only long reliever left in the pen. Some may say that was a roster mistake knowing that the Giants-Cubs play tight games. Further complicating the matter was Kyle Hendricks short start because of the line drive off the forearm. The keeping of only 11 pitchers may not be the critical issue unless you believe Cahill was a better choice than Coghlan. But Cahill would have given Maddon more relief innings than Grimm.

Montgomery gets the loss in the scorecard, but the loss really falls on the manager and how he used his roster during the game.

Now, after a long night game, the Cubs have to come back and regroup after giving the Giants the momentum and confidence to come back. The pressure is really on the Cubs tonight. And the team acquired John Lackey for his big playoff game experience.

October 6, 2016


I was sitting in a bar talking to friends. The Mets-Giants game was on in the background. A nervous Cub fan wanted the Mets to win the wild card so it would be easier for the Cubs in the NLDS.

The Mets have lost two starters to the DL.

The Giants have playoff demigod, Madison Bumgarner.

So when an ex-White Sox player hits a 3 run HR in the top of the 9th in a scoreless pitchers duel, the anxiety of a Cub fan begins to emerge.

However, being the voice of calming reason, I said "it does not matter who the Cubs play. The Cubs are going to steamroll to the championship."

Last year's playoff run was unexpected. I went along for the ride.

This year's playoff run was expected. The team did not have any significant pitching injuries. The team has balanced veteran presence and young players  maturing into All-Stars. This year I expect a championship. And so do the Cub players.

Jake Arrieta should have a massive mean chip on his shoulder when he squares off against Bumgarner in Game 2 in SF.

John Lackey will follow Arrieta with his own brand of teeth grinding contempt.

The Cubs won the season series 4-3.  The Giants have an uncanny ability to play better than their roster on paper.

There are few analysts who believe that due to the playoff format, the Cubs are at a disadvantage in the NLDS. They believe the long layoff of five days is a major rust factor for the Cubs, the #1 seed. Second, the wild card victor has momentum on their side. Third, the best of five series favors the visiting team if they can take one of the first two games on the road. The pressure is on the home team Cubs to sweep the first two games.

But the series will come down to starting pitching match-ups.

Cueto vs. Lester is probably a draw.
Moore vs. Hendricks is advantage Cubs.
Bumgarner vs. Arrieta would be a toss up if Jake shows up as the 2015 Arrieta.
Samardzija vs. Lackey is advantage Cubs if Lackey can throw strikes and not be squeezed by the home plate umpire.

The Cubs have a 75 percent chance to win the NLDS. One would expect a 3-1 series win.

October 3, 2016


Robin Ventura is not going to manage the White Sox in 2017.

Some may say good riddance. Others may still question the organization which put Ventura, who never managed at any level, in charge of a major league team.

Under Ventura’s leadership, the White Sox went 375-434 (.463) which included a second-place finish in 2012 followed by a fifth-place finish and three fourth-place finishes. The White Sox have now gone eight seasons without making the postseason.

Ricky Renteria, the current bench coach, is presumed to be promoted to manager. He was the short term Cub manager until the Cubs swooped in on Joe Maddon.

Renteria had been a coach in the Padres’ organization since 2003 and was promoted to bench coach in 2011. He left after the 2013 season. Renteria has one year of managing under his belt, leading the Cubs to a 73-89 fifth-place finish in 2014.

The first issue with the Renteria promotion is that it does not change the White Sox culture or structure. Renteria is like Ventura, not a guy will a dynamic personality. The coaching staff will remain pretty much the same - - - which may not motivate the players to play better.

The second issue is that the management of the Sox does not change. There is a conflict between chairman Reinsdorf's desires, President Kenny Williams retooling philosophy and GM Rick Hahn want to rebuild. Ownership wants to win now. The press thought the White Sox "won" the last two off-seasons with their roster moves, but the players woefully underperformed.

Until the management gets on the same page, the team will continue to struggle.

The third issue is why not have a full managerial search? Renteria may be a nice buy, speaks Spanish to Latin players, and a baseball lifer. But is he the right person for this job?  In San Diego, his forte was helping develop young players. The White Sox roster is besieged with veterans.

The White Sox strength is that the minor league system is filled with quality pitchers. The weakness of the White Sox is that the minor league system is devoid of hitting talent and positional players. This leads to a muddy middle of the road team in a weak division.

September 28, 2016


The breaking news today is that Theo Epstein has signed a 5 year extension to stay with the Cubs.

In 2011, Epstein signed a deal worth $18.5 million.

It is reported that he is now the highest paid baseball executive, which would mean he would surpass the $8 million per year mark set last year by the Dodgers who signed Andrew Friedman away from Tampa.

If true, the Cubs extension gives Epstein a 220% raise from his last contract.

Actual terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

From my vantage point, I thought Epstein would have gone the "free agent" route to see if he could cash in with an equity position with another club. Last week there was a rumor that Epstein would leave baseball to get a "giant" payday in another field, such as using his analytical skills in investment banking or another business venture. These rumors were fueled by the fact that it took the Cubs an extremely long time to come to a deal with the team President (who only has a few weeks left on his original deal.)  Further adding to the fire was that one of Epstein's core managers, scouting director Jason McLeod, was interviewing for a GM position in Minnesota.

It will be interesting to note whether this new deal gives Epstein more power over the budget to run the baseball operations. In the past, he has been put on a tight leash by the business side of the team structure.

Fans will be relieved that the architect of the current club will be around until the budding stars hit their free agency years.

September 27, 2016

100 + 6 TO GO

The Cubs won a milestone 100th game. They can now cruise into the playoffs with NL home field advantage.

It was reported that Joe Maddon is looking for an 11 man pitching staff (down from the normal 13) to increase the bench to 14 players.

It should be a fairly easy exercise to forecast the playoff roster for Round 1:

Starters: (8)

LF Bryant  CF Fowler  RF Heyward
3B Baez  SS Russell 2B Zobrist  1B Rizzo
C Contreras

Bench: (6)

OF Soler
C Ross
C Montero
OF Szczur
OF Coghlan
IN LaStella

Rotation: (4)

Lester, Arrieta, Hendricks, Lackey

Bullpen: (7)

Montgomery, Cahill, Wood, Edwards,
Strop, Rondon, Chapman

September 16, 2016


A good general manager is a man of his word. Very few succeed by trying to rip off another club in a trade. Trades are supposed to be made for the mutual benefit of both sides.

So when MLB suspended the Padres GM for serious breach of protocol, it was a surprise.

San Diego Padres general manager A.J. Preller was suspended Thursday for 30 games without pay by Major League Baseball, hours after news hit that the Padres allegedly withheld player health information in hopes of getting the upper hand in trade discussions.

ESPN’s Buster Olney wrote that the Padres allegedly built a special database to document player health details while skirting MLB’s rules about injury information. In essence, the Padres kept two sets of records: One that was incomplete and shared with other teams and another that was complete and kept in-house.

The Padres were called into question because of their July trades with the Boston Red Sox and Miami Marlins, which according to Olney, left teams thinking the Padres were using “strategic deception.”
In its announcement of Preller’s punishment, MLB didn’t comment on the specifics of its probe, saying only:
Major League Baseball has completed an investigation into the July 14th transaction in which pitcher Drew Pomeranz was traded from the San Diego Padres to the Boston Red Sox. MLB’s Department of Investigations conducted the thorough review, which included interviews with relevant individuals from both Clubs. The findings were submitted to Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr.
As a result of this matter, Major League Baseball announced today that A.J. Preller, Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Padres, has received a 30-day suspension without pay.
MLB considers the matter closed and will have no further comment.
Olney said at least three teams complained about the Padres to MLB.

Major League Baseball has a central database for player health information, where teams are supposed to keep their notes on injuries. In the event of a trade, doctors for each team trade codes and look at player notes. According to Olney, the Padres started keeping all the important notes in their separate database this year.

At the trade deadline, the Padres traded Drew Pomeranz the Red Sox and Andrew Cashner and Colin Read to the Marlins. Rea was hurt in his first start with the Marlins and in a highly unusual move, he was returned to the Padres The Red Sox were angered when they learned about preventative treatment Pomeranz was going through that wasn’t in his Padres notes.

In decades past, trades between teams were always "buyer beware." Each team had the responsibility to conduct a medical evaluation on a player before agreeing with a deal. MLB has streamlined the medical records process to help trade and free agent market evaluations.

The Padres intentionally deceived the other clubs by not putting in medical treatment into the central data base. It calls into question the trustworthiness of the San Diego organization in future team transactions. 

September 8, 2016


With every successful sports franchise, leaders and managers tend to get looked over for promotions with other teams.  It is trying to buy past success with a new employer.

Rumors have started to circulate that Cubs executives could be top talent to other organizations.  There are strong rumors that the Twins are pursuing Cubs execs Jason McLeod or Shiraz Rehman for their top baseball operations job.

McLeod has been a part of Theo Epstein's inner circle from their Boston Red Sox days.
While Jed Hoyer worked with Epstein on Boston player acquisitions, contract negotiations, player evaluations and sabermetrics, McLeod's expertise is in amateur scouting.

The Twins, being a small market team, need to have a strong scouting and development department in order to compete with big money, free agent spending teams like the Detroit Tigers, Red Sox, or Yankees.

While Epstein's contract expires after the end of the season, it is unclear the status of McLeod's contract term. In any event, it is standard practice for most teams to allow an employee to interview for a promotion with another club.

As discussed previously, the Epstein contract extension situation with the Ricketts is strange. Why both sides have not concluded an extension after last season's success is baffling to industry insiders. It shows that there has to be some rift between the baseball and business sides of the organization.

So Epstein's management team may look to parachute to new positions. This is similar to what happened when Epstein's reign was coming to an end in Boston; many of his staff went elsewhere including to the Padres before rejoining him in Chicago.

So it will be no surprise that the other teams will want to hire Cub baseball executives this off-season.

August 29, 2016


For the past week, White Sox management has been reported in disarray on the direction of the team. Will the team sell off parts like Sale, Quintana or Abreu in order to do a complete rebuild of the minor league system? Will Ventura, Hahn or Williams remain part of the management? Will managing partner for the owners, Reinsdorf, even allow a total tear down?

The White Sox just netted $82 million for naming rights for a stadium which the team does not own. There is plenty of extra cash coming into the Sox operations. The question is what to do?

Sox fans look to the North Side and see the Cubs on the verge of a historic World Series run with young talent that is getting better each week. Sox fans envy the Cubs rebuild success. But die hard South Siders can still point to the 2005 WS flag while the Cubs dream is still in hope mode.

But the Sox have done nothing special since their championship season. As everyone is aware, there is no guarantee that any team, no matter how good on paper or how many wins in the regular season, can get a championship or sustain a championship caliber team year to year.

The White Sox front office has stressed this week that this off-season "everyone will be on the same page."  The Sox claim to have a plan. It is an omen that that the Sox just traded catcher Navarro to the Blue Jays for a promising AA left handed relief pitcher?  The White Sox GM Hahn will not say what the team's real direction will be for 2017.

Frustrated sports thinkers believe the Sox have to blow up the team and start from scratch. But that begs another question: do you trust the people currently in charge to rebuild a team?  Granted, the White Sox have been really good at drafting and developing pitching talent. Nine of their top 20 prospects are quality pitchers. It is that the team scouting department cannot draft and develop consistent position players. And management trades and free agent signings have looked good on paper, but in the past two season the team has woefully underperformed their potential.

So what is the real solution for the White Sox woes?

Hire Theo Epstein.

Epstein still does not have a contract extension from the Cubs. Which is highly unusual considering the success the Cubs have had the past two seasons. It appears that Epstein wants to become the ultimate management free agent - - - with a track record to command the most money for a baseball executive and possibly and equity stake in a team.

Epstein has been running the Cubs baseball operations with one hand tied behind his back since the "business side" of the operation is controlled by Crane Kenney and Tom Ricketts. Epstein would prefer to run the entire show.

But in order to do that with the White Sox, Reinsdorf will have to fire Ventura, Hahn and Williams. Reinsdorf is known to be very loyal to his managers. He promoted Williams from GM to President instead of firing him. Can Reinsdorf purge his loyal employees to try to win another championship?

He may not have any choice. The stealing of Epstein from the Cubs would be a PR boom for Sox nation. It would energize the fan base and increase ticket sales. It would be poking a stick in the eye of Cub ownership. Reinsdorf, who is all business, would see the value in hiring Epstein away from his city rival.

But what are the odds that this could happen? With no movement in the Cubs-Epstein contract talks for more than a year, I would say it could be 50-50.  The other big market teams have new management in place (Dodgers, Red Sox).

If the White Sox really want to shake up Chicago baseball this off-season, ownership needs to be bold.

August 22, 2016


Will Maddon please stop with the manta of playing players out of position?

There was absolutely no reason to play Travis Wood in LF during yesterday's Rockies blowout of the Cubs. None.

The bullpen has been hit with a surge of injuries and tired arms. You do not need one of your healthy lefties to go out and try to cover the vast space of left field, in thin air, just to save Jason Heyward who had not played in three consecutive games.

Calling it a Maddon "fun" interjection in a bad game is no excuse. Yes, Wood got a single in his only at-bat while the rest of the team mustered three. But what if he got hurt playing left in a meaningless game?

The more times Maddon does this stunt, the odds increase that someone will get hurt.

The Cubs cannot believe they are coasting to the playoffs.  The bullpen continues to be a concern, and the starting rotation needs skip-start rest. With Montgomery and Cahill being the spot-start tandem, that thins out the regular bullpen availability of relievers like Wood.

In September, the Cubs will bring up additional outfielders and infielders and as many live arms that they can find. But until then, Maddon needs to just play players in their natural positions.

August 15, 2016


John Lackey was pulled from his last start due to soreness in the shoulder.
That is not a good sign. Afterward, he said he'd be "fine." Joe Maddon said some
post game treatment has helped him.

But most likely, he will skip his next start.

There is a doubleheader soon with a 26th man - - - most likely a spot starter like Cahill or Montgomery.

But Lackey's exit continues to spotlight the one weakness in the Cubs team: pitching.

Starting pitching has been the constant for the team with the best record in baseball. But it is a fragile rotation.

But the focus has been on the fragile bullpen. Nathan, Montgomery, Smith have been brought in to solidify a shaky pen. Only Chapman has been the real deal, monster closer.

Rondon was achy to come back and lose the final Cardinal game. Many fans hope it was just rust.

It is becoming one of those games of musical chairs with no real great ending.

The Cubs just signed Joe Thatcher to a minor league contract after the Indians cut him for the third time this season. Thatcher has not pitched in the majors in 2016. But it shows that the Cubs have no pitching depth in the system to overcome a Strop injury, nagging issues with Rondon, or the badness of Smith's home run pitches.

The bullpen will remain an issue for the rest of the season. It seems Maddon only trusts Chapman (for one inning only) and Wood (in any inning or game situation). He wants Rondon to be the 8th inning guy but there is an apparent transition for closers who lose their jobs. One would think that pitching is pitching - - - but players are intense creatures of habit.

Expect Lackey to miss at least one start. Also, each of the other four starters will get an extra day of rest in September as the Cubs need to start planning now for the post season rotation.

August 10, 2016


When Tommy LaStella did not report to AAA Iowa in 72 hours after his option, we knew that was odd. Then it was reported that he was dealing with "personal issues." That was strange since there was no more information. Now, 13 days have past and the truth his filtering out.

La Stella’s me-first refusal to report to Triple-A Iowa isn’t connected to any health issue, personal emergency or family crisis, general manager Jed Hoyer and manager Joe Maddon confirmed Tuesday, 11 days after the Cubs optioned out the bench player as a way to make room for outfielder Chris Coghlan and deal with the 25-man roster crunch.

This is the Ian Stewart situation all over again.

The trade for Stewart was the worst under Epstein's tenure with the Cubs. Stewart was supposed to be a high average, power third baseman from Colorado. He turned out to be a dud. He refused an option to AAA to work on his game. Instead, he went home to sulk. In the end, the Cubs had to get rid of him.

La Stella told ESPN that he’s considering retirement if he can’t play for the big-league team. Earlier this season, La Stella explained to his hometown New Jersey newspaper how he temporarily quit baseball in high school and rediscovered the joy of the game with Maddon’s Cubs.

“He’s not angry,” Maddon said before a 5-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels at Wrigley Field. “He’s not upset. He’s just at that point now where he doesn’t know exactly what he wants to do.

“We all have a different lens (for) how we view the world. I know when I went through my Kurt Vonnegut stage, I was kind of screwed up when I was 21.”

However, La Stella is 27. He should know better. He is a  role player on a good team that has more good players than roster spots.  LaStella may be upset that he may not get on the playoff roster if he is viewed as "inventory" by the demotion.

“I think ‘disappointed’ would be the wrong word,” Hoyer said. “Given how much we’ve talked to him, trying to understand where he’s coming from, empathize with him and give him the space.”

Commentators have started to opine on what LaStella is doing to the Cubs. Did he quit on his teammates? Does refusing to go to Iowa hurt the major league team? Is he selfish? He only wants to play in the big leagues? Was he unprofessional? In the modern pampered athlete world is that even possible?  If he reports to Iowa and badmouths his treatment by the Cubs, will that have a negative impact on organizational players?

Why does LaStella think he is more important than the organization making any move necessary to win a championship? The answer is no.

The White Sox have shown the sports world that baseball employees go off the handle at management without any responsibility or harsh accountability. In a normal business, someone who does not show up for work gets fired for cause. But athletes seem to be immune from the realities of the real employment world.

If LaStella does not want to play, cut him.

The Cubs are doing fine without him.