Cubs @ Pirates (Game 54)

The Cubs dropped the last two Wrigley games for the 2020 series and their offense remained in what feels like a season-long slump. Their lead over the Cardinals stands a 3.5 with 7 Cubs games remaining. They'll defend their lead on the road beginning with a 4-game series against the distant last-place team in the NL Central.

CHC (31-22): LHP Jon Lester (2-2, 4.91 ERA)
PIT (15-38): RHP JT Brubaker (1-2, 4.79 ERA)
First pitch 6:05 pm central

Jon Lester had a strange final regular season start at Wrigley. He allowed only 2 earned runs in 5 innings, but he also struck out only one batter and surrendered a lot of hard contact. The start prior was probably his best of the season: 6 innings of shutout ball with a season high 8 strikeouts. He's earned 0 decisions in two starts against the Pirates this year, the first a solid start that the lineup could not back up and the second a poor start that he was bailed out of. Lester's track record against Pirates' veterans is solid.

Since defeating the Cubs on Sep. 3, Brubaker has lost two starts in a row. The first loss was a stinker in which he allowed 7 eared runs in 5.1 innings. The second was an undeserved loss to the Reds in which he allowed only 1 earned run in 5.1 innings.

Comments

happ / rizzo / contreras / schwarber / bryant / heyward / baez / kipnis / caratini(DH)

Q will start tomorrow night.

cubs put i.vargas on the 10-day IL...later dude...thanks for that homer.

Shockingly by virtue of that HR he has been infinitely more productive than Jose Martinez

Anyone else remember how Andre Dawson and his creaky knees looked in the 1989 NLCS against the Giants?  That's the vibe I'm getting with KB. Not sure what is up with Bote but I hope he gets some consideration for starting at third. 

The Troy Glaus comp has held up pretty well.

I don't know whether to think he's playing through an injury or going through similar small-sample frustrations as Baez, Rizzo, Schwarber, and to a lesser extent Contreras.

Bote's single accounts for RBI #26 on the year. Happ leads the team with 28 RBI - Bote got his in 72 fewer at bats than Happ.

baez just bunted for a RBI single.  that's both impressive and sad.

honestly, there's more than a few power hitters out there that can't bunt worth a damn and he pulled it off with enough ease you know he's put some work in.  it's nice to see it done well even if you don't wanna see him do it a lot.

bryant down with "right oblique" pain...

Depending the severity, that may be how his Cub tenure ends. Hopefully not, he deserves better than that

yeah, the oblique is one of those "few days, few weeks, months?" injuries.  trying to come back too soon puts guys back to starting over.

lester with a "comeback" appearance...  it's PIT, though...who could easily end up not even winning 20 games this season (15 as of now).  still looked decent, even if not overpowering.

6ip 4h 1bb 1k, 0r/er

pinch hitting j.martinez for v.caratini is another "why we doing this" batting substitution to add to the pile.

so far i'm a bit perplexed by some of the guys d.ross is having pinch hit in certain situations more than anything he's doing.  almost everything else seems mostly sane.

I'll bet the analytics guys told him to.

Just trying to give him at bats probably. Nothing wrong with that. if you want him to be an option in a meaningful spot, he has to have some reps. 

the bryant thing is gonna be longer than a day or 2, but they're not sending him to the IL as of now...that could change pre-game or a few days from now.

r.brothers, down...Q, up

Two Cubs reached significant milestones today: 

1. OF Jason Heyward now has "10/5 no trade" rights and so he cannot be traded without his consent (he had a partial "no trade" the past couple of seasons); 

2. RHRP Ryan Tepera reached five years of MLB Service Time so he now has Article XIX-A rights, meaning he cannot be sent to the minors (optioned or outrighted) without his consent. (Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Javy Baez, and Dan Winkler hit this milestone previously this season). So if the Cubs wish to remove Tepera from their MLB 28-man Active List or from the MLB 40-man roster and he does not give his consent to be sent to the minors, he would have to be either traded or released, and if he is released he gets 100% of his remaining salary as termination pay. Because of the loss of roster flexibility with regard to Tepera, reaching five years of MLB Service Time (and getting Article XIX-A rights) actually makes it more likely that Tepera will be non-tendered post-2020. 

On the other hand, LHRP Rex Brothers was on target to reach five years of MLB Service Time (and attain Article XIX-A rights) this coming Friday, but because he was optioned to the Practice Squad today to make room on the 28 for Jose Quintana he will fall short of gaining Article XIX-A rights before the conclusion of the MLB regular season and (presuming he isn't non-tendered on 12/2) he will remain under club control through the 2022 season instead of becoming an MLB Article XX-B FA post-2021. Brothers will be out of minor league options next season, however, which could limit his roster value in 2021 and 2022 since he won't be able to ride the "Des Moines - Chicago shuttle" without first clearing Outright Assignment Waivers.

Besides Rex Brothers, Duane Underwood Jr, Alec Mills, and Ildemaro Vargas, Dillon Maples will be out of minor league options next season. And so will Adbert Alzolay, unless the 2020 season is not considered to be a "qualified season," in which case Alzolay will get a fourth minor league option in 2021 (TBD).

To be eligible for a 4th minor league option year, a player must have accrued fewer than five "qualified seasons" by the time he has used his third minor league option, a "qualified season":being any season where a player spends at least 90 days on an MLB and/or minor league active list roster or rosters in a season, or spends at least 30 days on an MLB and/or minor league active list roster or rosters - followed by - a stint on the Injured List where the combined total is 90 days.

Maples accrued his 5th qualified season in 2019 so he cannot qualify for a 4th minor league option in 2021, and Alzolay would normally have reached five "qualified seasons" this year and used up his third minor league option year without being eligible for a fourth in 2021, except for the truncated 2020 MLB season (67 days) and no minor league season at all. So whether Alzolay gets a 4th minor league option year in 2021 will depend on how MLB and MLBPA define a "qualified season" (as far as eligibility for a fourth minor league option year is concerned) in 2020 (and that is still TBD). 

im impressed tepera has "only" given up 2hr in 19.2ip, but i wouldn't hold out on that holding up.  also, his control is sketchy as ever...

he's got promising stuff, but at age 33 (few weeks from now) what more does he have to learn/show?

it would probably cost the cubs 1.5m or so to keep him around (900K this year).  they liked something about him to pick him up, but who knows where that's at now...

I look at the 8 man pen for next year and would assume 6 RHP 2 LHP. The LHP would currently be two of Ryan, Wieck, and Steele (and I guess Osich but I suspect he's non-tendered).

The 6 RHP would be from Kimbrel, Wick, Tepera, Adam, Underwood, Alzolay, Winkler, Rea (and potentially others). I feel like they're only keeping one of Tepera/ Winkler for final arb year. Tough to say which is better value at this point.

DJL: I think that if Lester, Chatwood, Quintana, Jeffress, and Chafin leave via free-agency and do not return or are not replaced by at least one veteran MLB FA SP, the default Cubs 2021 Opening Day pitching staff will be Darvish, Hendricks, Mills (out of options), Alzolay (could be out of options - TBD), and either Rea, T. Miller, Steele, Abbott, Marquez, or D. Robinson as the SP, and Kimbrel, Wick, Ryan, Adam, Osich, Maples (out of options), Brothers (out of options), and Underwood (out of options) in the pen, with Winkler and Tepera likely 12/2 non-tender candidates because of their Article XIX-A status. Brad Wieck and James Norwood will probably begin the 2021 season at AAA as MLB-ready bullpen inventory (both have minor league options left). The Cubs also will have a trio of MLB-ready or near MLB-ready relievers (Trevor Megill, Michael Rucker, and Dakota Mekkes) at Iowa (presuming they are not selected in the Rule 5 Draft).  

If Winkler and/or Tepera are tendered, then Maples, Brothers, and Underwood would be competing for the #8 slot in the pen with the two losers possibly lost off waivers, although Wick, Ryan, Adam, and Osich will have minor league options available in 2021 if there is a roster crunch at the end of Spring Training and the Cubs feel they need to carry Maples, Brothers, and Underwood (at least to start the season).   

As for the position players, presuming Kipnis, Maybin, Hamilton, and Descalso (and Josh Phegley, if he is added to the 40 at some point in the post-season) leave via free-agency and are not replaced and everybody else gets tendered, the likely Cubs 2021 Opening Day 13 position players would be Contreras (C-LF), Caratini (C-1B), Rizzo (1B), Hoerner (2B-SS-3B), Bryant (3B-1B-LF-RF), Baez (SS), Bote, (3B-2B), I. Vargas (2B-3B-SS), Schwarber (LF), Happ (CF-LF-RF), Heyward (RF-CF), Almora (CF) and J. Martinez (RF-LF-1B). 

All that said, I still believe the Cubs will try and trade Kris Bryant (and replace him at 3B with Bote) for either an established MLB SP and/or for one or two decent if not elite prospects or MLB player(s) with multiple years of club control.

The teams that would probably have the most interest in Bryant (even if it's just for one season) would be the Nationals and Rangers, and maybe the Mets. Any team that is trying to make a splash or make the most out of a closing window of contention would probably be interested. The Cardinals might have interest in Bryant, too, but I'm not sure if the Cubs would trade KB to STL. But I guess if it's the best offer, then you do it. 
  
Remember that if the special CoViD-19 roster rules are not in effect next season, there will be no DH in the National League and clubs must carry no more than 13 pitchers and at least 13 position players on their 26-man roster (and I'm sure all teams will carry the maximum-allowed 13 pitchers). 

I agree with all of this. I think KB is traded for a SP. I guess here is my guess at the pitchers:

Darvish

Hendricks

Trade Acquisition 

Cheap FA

Mills/ Alzolay 

Bullpen: Mills/ Alzolay, Underwood, Adam, Tepera, Wick, Kimbrel, Ryan, Wieck (Alzolay if he loses the 5th spot battle with Mills is still starter number 6, and likely being groomed to join the rotation either later in the year or 2022)

Non-tenders: Osich, Winkler, Maples, Brothers (I could see them retaining Osich because he has an option left. Could also see retaining Winkler instead of Tepera, or non-tendering both. But I definitely think a maximum of one of them returns. Maples and Brothers I think are goners, but try to resign Maples at least as NRI)

Position Players:

Contreras

Rizzo

Hoerner

Baez

Bote

Schwarber

Happ

Heyward

Bench: Caratini, Martinez, Vargas, FA, FA (both FAs being low cost potentially even NRIs like Kipnis this year... maybe we even see them try to get a guy in rule 5 draft)

Non-tender: Almora

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  • Wrigley Rat 2 hours 47 min ago (view)

    Len Kasper is leaving the Cubs for the White Sox radio booth.

    https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&so...

     

  • Charlie 7 hours 4 min ago (view)

    I would be happy to see the Cubs no longer spend DH time on Victor Caratini. Provided there's a Kyle Schwarber or better alternative, of course.

     

  • Arizona Phil 15 hours 7 min ago (view)

    DJL: I don't think Ildemaro Vargas being out of minor league options is much of a concern to the Cubs because as things stand right now he projects as the team's primary utility infielder in 2021. He can play all four INF positions (1B, 2B, 3B, and SS, plus corner OF, too), and he is switch hitter with some pop, especially from the right side (remember the 9th inning HR he hit off Josh Hader in September?). 

     

  • Dolorous Jon Lester 15 hours 50 min ago (view)

    I'm a little surprised Ildemaro Vargas was tendered, given that he's out of options. He has value and isn't expensive as he is pre-arb this year, but still a bit surprised. Have to think he's got an inside track to an Opening Day spot at this point

     

  • waveland 1 day 35 min ago (view)

    really appreciate the years and years of your updates

     

  • Arizona Phil 1 day 2 hours ago (view)

    BRADSBEARD: Strumpf was wearing a cast on his hand in Minor League Camp before everything got shut-down in March so his not being at South Bend might have had something to do with that. I don't know why Rivas wasn't at the ATS. 

     

  • bradsbeard 1 day 3 hours ago (view)

    Do you have any idea why Rivas and Strumpf weren't at the alternate site in South Bend? I thought Rivas especially showed enough in ST games to be viewed as a legitimate depth option, especially with the DH. 

     

  • Arizona Phil 1 day 3 hours ago (view)

    Alfonso Rivas reminds me a bit of Rafael Palmeiro when Palmeiro first came up to the big leagues and was a "doubles machine" (before he started hitting home runs).   

    Rivas played D-1 baseball at the University of Arizona, so (just like Nico Hoerner, who also played in the PAC-12) I don't think he needs a lot of additional time at AAA before he's ready for MLB. He's a very advanced hitter, as long as you are OK with lots of doubles & lots of walks but not many HR.   

     

  • Dolorous Jon Lester 1 day 4 hours ago (view)

    I hadn't thought of that but I really like that option

     

  • bradsbeard 1 day 4 hours ago (view)

    I really hope Rivas has a chance at the LF job. Would ease some of the sting of Schwarber being cut loose. 

     

  • Arizona Phil 1 day 4 hours ago (view)

    CRUNCH: I got the impression that Ross had seen enough of Schwarber in LF, so implementing the universal DH may be necessary before Schwarber returns to the Cubs in 2021. I think the Cubs would be fine with Schwarber as their main DH going forward. 

    BTW, I strongly suspect that the universal DH will be included in the next CBA, but whether there will be a DH in the National League in 2021 is still TBA (which is really stupid, since clubs need to know right now for sure one way or the other whether or not there will be a DH in the N. L. in 2021). 

     

  • Arizona Phil 1 day 5 hours ago (view)

    Besides the guys on the 40, Cubs 2021 NRI relievers with a legit chance to win a bullpen slot in Spring Training include LHRPs Josh Osich and Rex Brothers, and RHRPs Jake Jewell, Trevor Megill, Dakota Mekkes, Michael Rucker, and Joe Wieland (presuming they are not taken in the Rule 5 Draft). 

    Brothers and Wieland are out of minor league options, however, so if added to the 40 they could not ride the "Chicago - Des Moines Shuttle" like the others could. 

     

  • crunch 1 day 5 hours ago (view)

    i am rooting for the cubs to retain schwarber.

    even though he's average on the best of days in LF (except his above average arm), i would like to see him and his work ethic remain in the cubs system...the homers from the left side of the plate are nice, too.

     

  • Arizona Phil 1 day 5 hours ago (view)

    At least as things stand right now, Kris Bryant is your Cubs de facto 2021 Opening Day LF! (Of course we know he will be traded before then...). 

    Otherwise, minor league NRI outfielders Ian Miller, Michael Hermosillo, and Rafael Ortega will be competing for Opening Day OF slots, with a legit shot to win a job.

    Even Alfonso Rivas (who was hitting rockets from foul line to foul line at AZ Instructs) and/or Eddy Julio Martinez (who has had a very good winter in the Mexican Pacific League) might have a shot.  

     

  • Arizona Phil 1 day 5 hours ago (view)

    I would think that both Colin Rea and Kyle Ryan must have signed contracts with minor league split salaries, otherwise I doubt very much that they would have been tendered. 

     

  • Arizona Phil 1 day 5 hours ago (view)

    With Tepera non-tendered and Winkler, Ryan, and Rea signed, the Cubs 2021 Opening Day bullpen (right now) would appear to be Kimbrel (clearly not tradeable), Wick (virtual lock), Winkler (can't be optioned without his consent), Underwood (out of minor league options), and Maples (out of minor league options), and then three from amongst Adam, Norwood, Rea, Ryan, Stock, and Wieck (each of whom can be optioned back & forth to AAA as needed).