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The Rundown: Cubs Make Historic Hire, Oft-Injured Cotton Acquired for Cash, Trade and Free Agency Speculation Galore, Sunday Baseball Notes


The Cubs acquired Jharel Cotton yesterday and the armchair sabermetricists were praising the sleuth-like move l Theo Epstein uncovered a hidden diamond while sifting through the Athletics’ compost pile. That Cotton has barely pitched in two years and ended his Triple-A season in 2019 with a 7.71 ERA and a 1.77 WHIP is no matter. Epstein and his entourage will use their vaunted pitch lab to make him major-league ready and the failed right-hander will be the steal off the offseason, just like Drew Smyly in 2018 and Kendall Graveman last year, I suppose.

I’m starting to think that Epstein charges his staff each winter to find the most outside-the-box reclamation project and then gives a crisp one dollar bill to the winner. For an organization that has stated for the second straight year it won’t pop for big contracts in favor of the ones stamped with a big, blue light special sales tag, it still makes no sense to spend any money on a failed and previously injured pitcher. By this time next year, he will be about as valuable to the team as their batting practice pitcher, if that. With Cotton expected to earn $800K in arbitration, keeping Dakota Mekkes on the 40-man roster would have offered the Cubs far more upside.

Get your hopes up if you want, but I’ll sit this one out. Cotton is supposedly everything a cash-strapped organization like Oakland should be seeking, and they don’t want him. I’m betting he never pitches a single inning at the major league level in Chicago, and if he does, it could be a long season on the North Side. As for Epstein, maybe he’s digging through the sofa cushions for loose change so that he can sign Jacoby Ellsbury next.

Cubs News & Notes

  • The Cubs hired Rachel Folden to run their hitting lab at rookie-level Mesa. Folden is one of the first female coaching hires in all of baseball and previously founded Folden Fastpitch, a leading edge company that leverages biomechanics, science, technology, and data to help batters improve their swings.
  • Folden has also served as a hitting consultant for Elite Baseball Training. She played five seasons (2008-12) in the National Pro Fastpitch league, including time with the Chicago Bandits.
  • Jon Morosi threw Cubs fans a bone yesterday by mentioning the team’s ongoing pursuit of Whit Merrifield. Not sure what the Royals would want in return, but most rumors indicate it would be something significant.
  • Each day brings us more Kris Bryant trade speculation. The latest has him potentially going to the Diamondbacks, though no return from Arizona is mentioned.
  • One Cardinals writer thinks that the Cubs and Brewers are tanking in 2020, representing a perfect opportunity for St. Louis to take the NL Central again.
  • I mentioned this a few times in the comments sections during the week, but the Cubs and Rays apparently line up nicely in a potential trade for Willson Contreras, with relief pitcher Emilio Pagán of Tampa Bay being a player that may interest the Cubs. Contreras was worth $21.7 million in 2019 according to FanGraphs, but he only earned $684K last season and is projected to get $4.5 million in arbitration.

This Week’s Baseball Trivia

There are nine ways a batter can reach first base. Can you name them all without looking to the internet to find the answer?

Apropos of Nothing

In my opinion, those 1938 uniforms are the best the Cubs have ever sported.

Updates On Nine

  1. The Yankees also made a significant female hire yesterday. Rachel Balkovec was announced as a new roving hitting instructor for the team and will report to New York’s spring training complex in Tampa on February 1. She was officially hired on November 8 and carries two masters degrees in the science of human movement. Balkovec has been previously contracted by a few minor league organizations.
  2. New White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal accused the Cubs of stealing signs during the 2016 NLCS. “All the sudden, [Addison] Russell is not taking good swings at sliders, looking like he’s looking for a fastball and in a certain location,” the new ChiSox backstop said during that series, according to the Los Angeles Times. “Did we know [Ben] Zobrist had the signs and was doing something for it? Yeah, we did.” Grandal may get to see more of Zobrist in 2020. Though he has yet to decide on his future, BenZo would seem to be a perfect fit for Joe Maddon and the Angels.
  3. New Giants GM Scott Harris has a love for transactions, which is one of the reasons San Francisco hired him away from the Cubs. Harris had much more high-end talent in Chicago than he does now with the Giants, and the Cubs used a total 52 players last season, one more than the previous franchise record of his new organization.
  4. Free agent outfielder Hunter Pence may turn out to be a bargain for some franchise this year like he was for the Rangers in 2019. Pence may be forced to accept another minor league deal this winter and could be a decent fallback option for the Cubs if they fail to acquire a center fielder who can bat leadoff in trade.
  5. Tyler Clippard could be a free agent bargain this winter as well. The veteran reliever struggled to get a contract last year, but was practically lights out after signing with the Indians. Clippard appeared in 53 games for Cleveland, sporting a nifty 2.90 ERA and 0.86 WHIP. His .264 xwOBA was the 37th lowest among 523 Major League pitchers with at least 100 batters faced.
  6. The White Sox and Red Sox have had a very amicable relationship in the past few years, including the 2016 blockbuster trade for Chris Sale that netted Chicago three of Boston’s top prospects at the time, Yoán Moncada, Michael Kopech, and Luis Alexander Basabe. The White Sox have been aggressive this winter, and could be a nice fit for the BoSox if they decide to move outfielder Mookie Betts.
  7. Speaking of Sale, the left-hander continues to rehab from an elbow injury he suffered during the past season and reports no setbacks. He’ll likely have a follow-up with Dr. James Andrews soon, general manager Brian O’Halloran said Monday. Sale missed the final six weeks of 2019 due to elbow inflammation, and opted out of a surgical procedure in favor of physical therapy.
  8. A report indicates that the White Sox are the current high bidders for free agent pitcher Zack Wheeler. The right hander went 11-8 with a 3.96 ERA and 195 strikeouts in 31 starts for the Mets last season and is generally rated as the third best available pitcher this winter behind Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg.
  9. The Mets are reportedly interested in trading for Pirates outfielder Starling Marte. Marte is coming off of a season in which he set career-highs in home runs (23), RBI (82), and OPS (.845), and the speedy outfielder hs 239 stolen bases in his eight-year career. The 31-year-old has two years remaining on his contract.

Extra Innings

They Said It

  • “This is going to be more prominent than people think. Baseball has moved to a place where you don’t need to have been a successful ex-player to be a coach, which is always how it used to be. Women have played baseball too. And they are gravitating toward the coaching side, too, and it’s really cool that people are starting to notice that and starting to employ women.” – Rachel Folden

Sunday Walk Up Song

I’m the Only One by Melissa Etheridge. Pure badass.





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