November 4, 2021


When the Braves won the World Series, baseball has less than a month left on its existing Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). The existing CBA expires on December 1st. There have been no reported movement between the players union and the league.

But there are still deadlines to meet.

Before December 1st, teams need to submit their qualifying offers to free agents to accept a one-year ($18.5 million contract) or hit full free agency (with a possible penalty to the new club in lost draft choice). 

Before the contract expires, teams need to finalize their 40 man rosters and submit them to the league to hold players out of the December winter meetings Rule 5 draft.

Also, teams have to submit arbitration notices to eligible players or lose them to free agency.

Some teams may also be looking to their financials to get under the luxury cap as it affects their future draft and international money pools. 

But all of those items are under the backdrop of uncertainty. No one knows what the next CBA will look like. The owners floated the idea of lowering the luxury tax (which is a default salary cap) which will be rejected by the players. The owners floated the idea of revenue sharing percentage with players, but players reject that notion because it does not include "all" income sources from affiliated enterprises such as parking, etc. The players will want to raise the minimum player salaries and stop GMs from manipulating service time so players free agency is held off an extra year. The union may want to reduce the years to get to free agency,which some owners will reject since that would adversely effect their bottom line. 

Teams are using younger players which means those stars hit free agency faster. Teams have started to "buy out" arbitration years in sweetened rookie contracts, but those rising star players may hit free agency TWICE during their career which could be problematic down the road as MLB must see that overall revenues are at a plateau.

As the NFL gets greedier by making deals with streaming services for games, it is yet to be seen if fans will actually follow those kinds of broadcasts. Likewise, MLB has hinted that it wants to get out of its own broadcasting venture ( Many teams, including the Cubs, have found running their own team channel/network not the huge profit center that cable provided with super-stations two decades ago. 

It is probable that most teams will not make any big moves until there is a new CBA. Why commit to large payrolls or long term contracts if free agency is going to change or the unlimited payroll budgets could be significantly reduced to a hard cap?

The hard financial outlook will be the center of the tug of war. It is clear baseball is not growing revenues like it used to. MLB owners still want total control of their product (and profits) as it did in taking over the minor leagues. But there is only so much blood you can squeeze out of a turnip.

October 6, 2021


 The Cubs ended 2021 with many records. Bad records. 

The Cubs used a record 69 different players. Forty-four (44) players made their ML debut with the Cubs, ten more than the previous team record set in 2013. The Cubs also used a record 9 catchers in one season.

A host of scrambled letters went through the club house turn style: Tyler Payne, Joe Biagini, Erik Castillo, Trent Giambrone and Tyler Ladendorf made their footnotes in Cub history. None made a lasting impact or really part of any future plans.

It was an all-out fire drill sending rookie fire fighters after the forest had been burnt to the ground. 

Of the Cubs Top 30 prospects, OF Brennan Davis and LHP Brailyn Marquez will be rushed into 2022 duty. If Willson Contreras is traded then C Miquel Amaya will take his place with a long learning curve ahead of him. The rest of the Top 10 have call up years in 2023 and beyond.

The Cubs will have the 7th pick in the next Draft. If the pattern holds, Hoyer will pick the best college bat available in hopes of moving the selection through the minors quickly. But the Cubs drafting record is more dubious than their team's collapse and fire sale.

Expect 2020 to be the journeymen tour of major and minor league career AAAA players getting a cup of coffee on the Cubs roster. Expect another 90 plus loss season.

September 29, 2021


Jed Hoyer is about to start his first in-charge free agency as the baseball CEO of the Cubs. His first interviews will be for a new general manager. The Cubs have been operating without won since Hoyer was promoted when Theo Epstein left the club. It is not like having a GM would have made the Cubs 2021 fortunes any better. The orders were to sell and sell often. From the preseason Darvish salary dump to the late July fire sale, the Cubs were never going to be competitive or relevant. 

Hoyer spoke recently to the media. He said the Cubs would be "really active" in free agency.

But that does not mean GOOD free agents will be coming to Chicago.

On the contrary, top free agents will see the Cubs as a play pen for 30 year old minor league journeymen. The minors have been void of creating quality players, especially starting pitchers. It seems the 2021 tank is the only plan the organization has put money back in the Ricketts bank accounts.

The Cubs are set to rocket down from $215 million payroll to small market $60 million in a matter of years. There is no rational belief that the owners are willing to spend anything on the Cubs after suffering alleged "biblical" losses during the pandemic. Those losses were surely bolstered by mismanagement, taking a cue from the strange season of broadcaster carousel in the Marquee booth. Is everyone now a 1099 freelance sportscaster?

The Cubs were so bad so often that it was hard to even root for them to fail because there is no hope for the future. Hoyer was head of scouting and the minor leagues which were floundering until he was promoted to GM instead of being fired. His resume contains 180 drafted pitchers with no quality starter being developed during his tenure. This year's parade of starting pitchers seemed like an improv audition for the fifth starter/long relievers: Steele, Thompson, Alzolay, Mills, and Sampson. With Hendricks performance slipping to a #3 or #4 starter, things do not look good for 2022.

Pundits may call for one or two free agent starters, but in reality you need four. And the Cubs are not going to pay for four aces, or four #2s. Top free agent starters like Robbie Ray (30), Max Scherzer (37), Noah Syndergaard (29), Marcus Stroman (30) or even often injured Carlos Rodon (29) are not coming to the North Side.

And neither are quality free agent position players. The nostalgia signing of Jake Arrieta was a bust. Bringing back Baez, Rizzo or Bryant seems like rubbing salt into the wounds of the lack of a promised dynasty of championships. The top stars are the free agent shortstops (with Baez probably ranking #6 in that list). Nico Hoerner is your 2022 shortstop with Nick Madrigal as the pivot man second baseman. Frank Schwindel has the same WAR as Rizzo so he is the probable first sacker. Third base is an open competition between Patrick Wisdom and David Bote. Willson Contreras is the starting catcher. The outfield is really the open sports, but Jason Heyward's contract makes him the default right fielder. Happ, Martini, Thompson or Ortega really are bench players masquerading as starting outfielders.

Basically, the 90 plus loss 2021 Cubs are going to be your 95 plus loss 2022 Cubs.

September 23, 2021


 The summer of 2021 was the season of the unwatchable Cubs.

A bad team made of mostly old, journeyman AAA players. There has been no indication that will change in the off-season. David Ross, when asked about his 2022 starting rotation, could only say Hendricks and Mills.

Another indictment of the Cubs farm system for not developing one solid starter during the Theo era. But the problem is that Hendricks has been pitching like a #3 and Mills a #5 starter. An ace #1 starter is a pitcher who can give you a complete game. A #2 pitcher gets you into the 8th on a regular basis. A #3 starter gets you 7 innings; #4 6 innings and #5 through five. But Cub starters are barely reaching five innings pitched on a consistent basis. The young arms of Alzolay, Thompson and Steele seem like middle relievers at best (as Steve Stone said "all relievers are failed starters.")

The 2021 Cubs tried to sell nostalgia to the fans with the return of Arrieta but that was a bust from the get-go. The "lovable losers" train no longer runs after the Cubs won the championship. Fans expected more from their team for the prices they are currently paying. 

Are the Cubs going to spend big money for two free agent starters when they let Darvish go for next to nothing?

A closer by committee does solidify a modern pitching staff. Except for Heuer in the Sox trade, the rest of the arms are pretty much replacement level. The bullpen will be blown up again to be filled with new journeymen arms.

2022 is the last year of Ross' contract. I wonder if he will extend himself to shepherd a low budget rebuild. Or will he chance it that Theo will take a job with the imploding Mets franchise? 

You can tell how screwed up the franchise is when you cannot even tell who are the daily TV and radio broadcasters. The revolving door of people in the booth is symbolic of the turn style of marginal talent on the field.

July 9, 2021


 The Cubs 11 game losing streak has changed the team's view of the playoffs and off-season programs.

The remaining core and recent additions are pending free agents: Bryant, Baez, Rizzo, Pedersen. Kimbrel and Contreras have one more year of potential control. 

With the CBA expiring at the end of the season, there is great uncertainty on what will happen to the free agent market and whether the FA compensation rules will change. Currenty, only those who turn down the one-year qualifying offer from their clubs will have compensation attached to them. Those offers must be made by the club within the first five full days after the World Series ends, and players then have 10 days to accept or decline the offer, during which time they can negotiate with other teams

Under the current rules, if the team that loses the free agent is a revenue-sharing recipient, based on its revenues and market size, then the selection -- if and only if the lost player signs for at least $50 million -- will be awarded a pick between the first round and Competitive Balance Round A of the 2019 MLB Draft. If the player signs for less than $50 million, the compensation pick for those teams would come after Competitive Balance Round B, which follows the second round.

The following 16 teams currently qualify for these picks: A's, Braves, Brewers, D-backs, Indians, Mariners, Marlins, Orioles, Padres, Pirates, Rays, Reds, Rockies, Royals, Tigers and Twins.

If the team that loses the player does not receive revenue sharing and did not exceed the luxury-tax salary threshold the previous season, its compensatory pick will come after Competitive Balance Round B. The value of the player's contract doesn't matter in this case. The 12 clubs that fall into this category are the Angels, Astros, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Mets, Phillies, Rangers, White Sox and Yankees.

The Cubs have several options with their pending free agents:

1. Keep them through the season. Let the core group have a final swan song together. Then let me go on their merry way.

2. Keep them through the season. Then offer them a qualifying offer (last year was $17.6 million) or even arbitration. If the player rejects the QO, then potential draft compensation may attach. If rejects arbitration, then no draft comp.

3. Try to negotiate an extension with the players. We have only heard crickets this season on any extension talk. With Ricketts claiming poverty and Hoyer trading his best starter in a clear salary dump, ownership has not signaled any willingness to commit large dollars to their old players.

4. Think about trades. If you think your scouting department can pick gems in compensatory rounds (picks from 48 to 100), then waiting to draft someone could be more valuable than trading a rental player for a low minor league prospect. Trading partners this year are highly unlikely to part with any of their Top 15-20 prospects for a two month rental player. Only if two or more teams fight over player will the value rise. 

5. Have a fire sale. Try to squeeze as much value as you can from your current roster. Everybody has a chance to get on the moving van. Trade deadline contenders usually want closers, starters and specialty hitters/defenders to fill in bench role. Kimbrel probably has the most trade value because he has had a solid year. Contreras is probably the second most valuable trade chip. He has one more year of control and is a top NL catcher. A team like the White Sox could use him now. Hendricks has already signed a team friendly extension so I doubt he will be moved but he has as much value as Contreras. Bryant is purely a rental who will hit the FA market. His up and down little injuries year does not help. Unless a contender loses a middle of the line up bat, market interest may be thin for KB. Baez has less market value than Bryant. He is too inconsistent at the plate and lately in the field (14 errors). He has the personality and PR appeal that could help some clubs sell tickets but not at a great trade cost. Pedersen fits into the Schwarber mode (DH more than OF) which limits thinking to AL teams. 

6. Let them test the free agent market, then negotiate a new deal in the wild. It is possible to try to reel back in one of your players. The Cubs did it with pitcher Hamel. But it is rare. And the Cubs would have to dramatically change its small market mind set. Also, free agents want a chance to win now and it is clear the Cubs do not have the organizational depth to field a championship caliber contender in the next few years.

If the Cubs stumble into the All Star break, the fire sale is the most likely option. But look at the Darvish trade as the bitter cough medicine fans will have to swallow. The Cubs received nothing of value in return and only one marginal major leaguer (Davies). At the trade deadline, I would expect only Class A ball players in return for any one except maybe Kimbrel or Contreras. But even then, most teams would rather see how the new CBA financial terms will be set before parting with any of their controllable (i.e. cheap) minor league players. Teams have learned their is more value in developing and promoting their draft choices to keep them for 7 years than trading away good prospects for an illusory chance at the pennant or World Series.

If I were to guess on who will be traded I think Kimbrel, Baez and Bryant are the candidates. I think the team will keep Rizzo to the end of the year because he is still the face of their franchise and the Cub house leader. I think the strong push to eliminate the 2016 team is apparent as the championship has been an actual anchor drag on the team as the players generally did not improve and scouting and operations departments failed to draft and develop their replacements.

July 1, 2021


 In about a week, the Cubs went from first to 6 GB the Brewers.

It came after a historic combined no-hitter in LA.

It ended with a near historic blowing a 7 run first inning lead to get beaten 15-7 by the Brewers.

The excuses come easy to the optimists: the Cubs have had a rash of injuries (so have other clubs); the West Coast road trip took them out of their game (teams travel all the time); the pitchers are just coming back to their mean.

But angry fans on the sports radio shows complain that a series of unheard of minor league journeymen (below replacement player talent) shows that ownership is tanking the season. Tanking, so Jed Hoyer can sell off all the pending free agents to start a complete tear-down rebuild.

It is not surprising that the Cubs have fallen into a cesspool of mistrust.  The Yu Darvish trade for basically nothing was clearly a salary dump. The irony is that the Cubs desperately needed a quality starter to be competitive in the winnable NL Central. Any hope of acquiring one at the trade deadline is zero.

It is also not surprising considering the Cubs failed to sign any player extensions in the off-season. Kyle Schwarber was let go (to go on to have a career year with the Nationals). Bryant, Baez and Rizzo have all sat on the contract sidelines, with Rizzo being insulted by the Cubs last offer.

It is not surprising considering Tom Ricketts complained loudly about the 2020 "biblical losses" sustained by the team (but most believe the red-ink blood bath was the real estate development losses).

The team has not developed a quality starter under the Epstein-Hoyer regime. Only one home grown prospect, Alzolay, has made more than one start - - - and is clearly a 5th starter at best. The pitching staff has been a patch work of other team cast offs or free agents, for good or ill. It is clear Jake Arrieta's tank is pretty empty.

The June Swoon gives management the argument that the season is lost . . . so a fire sale is in the best interests of the club. If the team does not trade its pending free agents, the current CBA allows for a Round 1A compensation pick. But no one knows what the new CBA will look like (which will freeze the free agent market this off-season).

May 19, 2021


Tony LaRussa is a fossilized dinosaur. His ideas about baseball are out of touch. His managing skills have been questioned all season. Some observers think his strategies and decisions have cost the White Sox at least three games this season. There were early rumors that many players in the clubhouse did not support LaRussa as their manager. Some think the players are winning in spite of LaRussa.
Things are coming to an ugly crossroads within the White Sox clubhouse.

The White Sox were routing the Twins, the preseason favorite to win the AL Central. The White Sox had built up a huge lead that in the late innings the Twins used an infielder as a relief pitcher.
On Monday night, Rookie Yermin Mercedes  drove a 3-0 pitch from infielder William Astudillo  deep to center in the ninth for a home run.  White Sox manager La Russa said Mercedes made a mistake, and the Hall of Fame skipper apologized to the Twins. LaRussa publicly stated that Mercedes was "clueless" about the unwritten rule(s) of baseball and that he would be punished for violating that unwritten rule.

However, prior to the Mercedes home run, the Twins bench was laughing at the White Sox who Astudillo got two outs against. Starter Lance Lynn defended Mercedes after the game. He called the Twins "crybabies" in their reaction to Mercedes hitting a HR in the 9th. "There are no rules when you put a position player out to pitch," he said. "If (the Twins) had a problem with it, then put in a (real) pitcher."

In the next game, Mercedes was the center of attention once again Twins reliever Tyler Duffey was ejected for throwing behind Mercedes in the seventh. Duffey threw the first pitch of the at-bat behind the slugger's legs. Duffey and Twins manager Rocco Baldelli then were ejected by plate umpire Jim Reynolds.

"It wasn't obvious to me," La Russa said. "The guy threw a sinker. It didn't look good. So, I wasn't that suspicious. I'm suspicious if somebody throws at somebody's head. Then I'm suspicious. I don't have a problem with how the Twins handled that."

Of course, no one believes LaRussa. It was an intentional "show up" pitch by the Twins. The pitcher was throwing at Mercedes. But LaRussa refused to publicly defend his player.

Nothing can lose a clubhouse faster than a manager not defending or having the backs of his players. Clearly, LaRussa "clueless" about what is happening on the field. By not sticking up for his player TWICE in consecutive days for doing NOTHING wrong, LaRussa has shown that he is not capable of leading the team to the playoffs.

But LaRussa is going to stay. He was an owner hire not GM Rick Hahn's choice. Jerry Reinsdorf has for decades regretted terminating LaRussa as White Sox manager. So he brought him back when Hahn had constructed a very good, play-off caliber team. 

When a team is fighting against significant injuries (the team has lost its entire starting outfield), a manager is supposed to support and rally the remaining players to battle. Instead, LaRussa was apologetic and weak. There were some commentators who thought before these incidents that LaRussa could be fired after the season. A few thought there was a remote chance he could be terminated during the season. But since the White Sox are still in first place (10.5 games ahead of the Twins), LaRussa's job is secure because he is Jerry's guy. And in the end Jerry calls the shots on the managerial position, even if it is detrimental to the team.