Cubs @ Pirates: Series Thread (Games 157-159)

Having suffered a disastrous and heart-rending sweep at the hands of the Cardinals over the week, the Cubs remaining shot at the postseason is frighteningly improbable. Still, if they are to retain any hope at a Wild Card spot, the Cubs will have to take at least two out of three from the Pirates in Pittsburgh. At the same time, Nationals and/or Brewers losses to the Phillies and Reds will also be necessary. On the bright side, the Pirates have been absolutely dismal lately, combining poor baseball outcomes with horrible off-the-field news. See below for the match-ups in Western PA.

Game 157, Tuesday, September 24, 6:05pmCDT
CHC: RHP Kyle Hendricks (11-9, 3.37 ERA)
PIT: RHP Mitch Keller (1-5, 7.74 ERA)

Hendricks was so-so in his last start, getting a no-decision on four earned runs in 5.1 innings pitched. He had six strikeouts but also allowed eight hits. Before that, he defeated the Pittsburgh, allowing one earned run over six innings at Wrigley.

Mitch Keller last earned a victory on August 12, and he's gone 0-4 in six starts since then. He wasn't bad in his last start, a loss to Seattle in which he struck out seven and allowed two earned runs. The Cubs served him a loss at home on August 18, scoring six on seven hits, including a pair of homeruns.

Game 158, Wednesday, September 25, 6:05pmCDT
CHC: LHP Jon Lester (13-10, 4.51 ERA)
PIT: RHP Dario Agrazal (4-5, 5.08 ERA)

Lester last went five innings and allowed one earned run in a no-decision to Cincinnati. Before that he earned a win against the Pirates in a very offense friendly day at Wrigley despite allowing seven runs, four earned, along the way.

Dario Agrazal will be making his first start against the Cubs and 14th overall start in the majors. It's been a bit of a struggle for him so far, as he has neither struck out many batters nor coaxed a high groundball rate. Last time out, the Mariners scored four off of him in five innings and handed him his fifth loss.

Game 159, Thursday, September 26, 6:05pmCDT
CHC: TBD but probably LHP José Quintana (13-8, 4.55 ERA)
PIT: RHP Joe Musgrove (10-12, 4.49 ERA)

Quintana has a string of three no decisions despite allowing 14 earned runs in just 8.1 innings over that stretch. He hasn't gone past the fourth in any of those starts. He had won every start against the Pirates until the most recent, a no-decision in which he went only 2.1 and allowed five earned runs on eight hits.

Musgrove last went five against the Mariners and allowed four runs, two earned, in a no-decision. His strikeout rate has been up a bit lately, including in an August 16th start in which he struck out nine Cubs over 7.1 innings. The Cubs are 0-1 in three of his starts this year, having scored nine runs (only two earned) in his 16.1 innings pitched against them.

The Cubs will have do their work without Bryant now, as he suffered an ankle injury in Sunday's game.


m.keller 1-5 with a i guess we can expect something like 7ip 1h 1bb 14ks, 0 runs

rizzo / cast / zobrist / schwarb / contreras / happ(3rd) / hey / hoe / hendricks

javy tried to do some fielding today and he's still unable to catch/field without pain so he's still out indefinately.  bryant with a "moderate" ankle strain so no idea when he'll return.

very limited crowd for tonight's game.



the 7th inning of this game is everything wrong with the 2019 cubs on the field, only no one's gotten injured yet to pile up on top of it.

Weirdly I was thinking the same exact thing...

Its been a pretty quintessential 2019 Cubs game overall. Early lead, multiple shots to add on, capitalize on none of the opportunities.

I turned the tv on to start watching the game at the bottom of the seventh seemingly an hour ago. Cubs were leading 1-0 with Hendricks on the mound. Now the Pirates are up 7-1 and only one out (but two Cubs errors so far this inning increasing their total to 5 errors in the game)

Clearly Dr Evil has stolen the Cubs mojo!!!

MIL wins.

CHC lose their 7th in a row.

it's not like they were ever dominating large, but this was a hell of a collapse.  i mean, even going well into september i think most cubs fans felt like a wild card spot was nearly a given even if they didn't win the division.

Trying to bright side this... if we lose out we have a good chance of moving up from 20th draft pick to 17th. So we’ve got that going for us. Which is nice.

There’s always next year (our common refrain).

Kinda hoping we can take a game or two off StL and force them into a one game playoff vs MIL for the central, to return that favor they did to us last year.

I hate Milwaukee as well, but theres nothing I hate more in sports than St Louis. I could subsist on Cardinal fans tears alone.

This is reminding me of my childhood in Chicago: it's late September and the Cubs are going down faster than a crack whore for a sawbuck. 

rizzo / cast / zobrist / schwarber / contreras / happ / heyward / hoe / lester

did david bote kick maddon's dog or something?

Bote doesn't buy Joe's new beer.  Or pasta sauce. 

Grab some bench, kid.

i choose to believe this is fact.

MIL scores 6 runs in the top 1st.

yeah, let's crush the limited scope of the cubs sticking in this thing before they get a chance to finish batting in the 1st

as MIL's lead settles in at 8-1 after 3 innings, rizzo is out and caratini is in at 1st.

gotta get that ankle 2020 ready...

About 10 minutes of hope left 

I was wrong. 5 minutes. Season done. 

Among other things, one thing I hope the cubs have learned this year is “Bury Milwaukee before Sept”

it's been mostly fun.

it's not been fun lately.

an unrelenting MIL surge paired with a slew of losses in a row for CHC is a hell of a way to go out even if it's been a "quick death."  the amount of 1-run losses in that stretch has been a hell of a way to do it, too.

cubs lose their 8th in a row.


David Phelps made his 40th appearance of the 2019 season Tuesday night, which automatically escalates his 2020 club option salary from $3M to $5M (plus another $3M+ in potential performance bonuses). There is no buy-out required if the club option is declined. 

i like phelps, but i dunno if he's worth $5m+ of like.

he didn't do himself any favors tonight.

i dunno what their plan is considering they gave up t.hatch to get him...that's the kind of trade you make if you plan on keeping the guy around unless they lost all faith in hatch before trading him.

I think Hatch was a victim of being eligible for rule 5 this year.

Agreed on Phelps. Would have kept him at 3mill though.

Considering how well Kintzler turned out for just $5M after looking like toast last season, I’m a little hesitant to dismiss the possibility of picking up Phelps’ option. But I still lean towards letting the young guys inherit the bullpen next season. 

I agree with you on all points. I’m sure Phelps will be a solid reliever next year, wherever he plays. I think it’s more that I’d rather see the team invest 5 mil elsewhere and see if some of the young guys can come through next year. Maybe try and get some reclamation projects or guys who slip through the FA cracks with NRIs. Or minor trades for guys in similar situations to Rowan Wick this past offseason.

Trading for middle relievers at the deadline won’t hurt the system too much, and in fact is usually a good way to utilize the guys who are rule 5 eligible that the team won’t have room for on 40 man (like Hatch).

kemp(LF) / happ(RF) / garcia(2nd) / caratini(1st) / lucroy(C) / bote(3rd) / russell(SS) / almora(CF) / Q

i feel bad for people who bought tickets to this weird spring training game.

The B team is gonna win tonight!  The pressure‘s off,  so they'll hit he ball all over the stadium. Don’t miss it!

Hey AZPhil, could you explain why a team would wait until the non-tender date to cut a player loose rather than just outright release him in the interim?

jdmym: Unless a club prefers the $50,000 waiver price more than retaining an outrighted player on a minor league roster, the best way to remove a player from an MLB 40-man roster is by non-tender. 

1. NON-TENDER IS BETTER THAN OUTRIGHT RELEASE: If a club releases a player during the period of time extending from September 1st up until MLB Opening Day, the club cannot re-sign the player to a major league contract and add the player back to the club's MLB 40-man roster until May 15th. There is no such restriction if a player is non-tendered. 

2. A NON-TENDER IS - USUALLY - BETTER THAN AN OUTRIGHT ASSIGNMENT TO THE MINORS. If a player is removed from a club's MLB 40-man by Outright Assignment to the minors, Outright Assignment Waivers must be secured before the player can be sent outright to the minors and there is always the possibility that the player could get claimed off waivers. Of course sometimes a club actually would prefer to receive the $50,000 waiver price than retain the player on a minor league roster, but if the club does want to retain the player (just not on the MLB 40-man roster), waivers are not required if a player is non-tendered.and then subsequently signs a minor league league contract with the same club.  

The problem is that the MLB contract tender date is just one day -- December 2nd (or December 1st if 12/2 falls on a Saturday or November 30th if 12/2 falls on a Sunday)  -- and it's not always feasible to wait until 12/2 to remove a player from the club's MLB 40-man roster when that player 40-man roster slot is needed for another player.

For example, minor league players eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft cannot be added to the 40 any later than November 20th, and a minor league player eligible to be a minor league MLB Rule 55 free-agent must be added to the 40 no later than 5 PM Eastern on the 5th day after the final game of the World Series, so if roster slots are needed for those types of players, it's just not possible to wait until December 2nd to non-tender somebody.  

Another practical reason for using the non-tender is when a club wants to remove a Draft-Excluded Player from the 40. While Draft-Excluded players can be traded, non-tendered, or released without restriction, a Draft Excluded Player cannot be sent outright to the minors unless Outright Assignment Waivers are requested no later than the 5th day after the last game of the World Series (and even if secured the waivers expire after seven days or by the end of the waiver period, whichever comes first) and then the player cannot be sent outright to the minors until 20 days prior to MLB Opening Day. (A Draft-Excluded Player is a player on a minor league reserve list who has less than three years of MLB Service Time and who is eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft but who is added to an MLB 40-man roster after August 15th). EXAMPLE: Danny Hultzen

Also, a club will sometimes non-tender an arbitration-eligible player if the club cannot sign the player to a contract for the next season by December 2nd, because once the player is tendered a contract the player can potentially take the club to arbitration, and if that happens there is no way to know in advance how an arbitration panel might rule.

In addition, sometimes a club might want to cut the salary (especially the minor l;eague split salary) of an auto-renewal (pre-arbitration) player by more than the maximum allowable 20%, but the club is bound by the 20% max cut rule if the player is tendered a contract. For example, a player's minor league split salary must be at least 80% of what the player was actually paid during the previous season (which for many auto-renewal players who rode the MLB-AAA shuttle could be as much as $200K), but if the player is non-tendered the player can then be subsequently re-signed to a major league contract for the MLB minimum salary (including the minimum minor league split salary, which is only about $90,000). 

The main problem with non-tendering a player is that the player does not have to re-sign with the same club after being non-tendered, and if a player is non-tendered and then signs with a different club, the player's former club receives no compenstion (like the $50,000 waiver price a club would receive if a player is claimed off Outright Assignment Waivers). That's why clubs will often have a deal in place in advance with a player prior to non-tendering the player. 

The best technique for removing a player from the 40 and then retaining the player on a minor league roster is to non-tender the player on 12/2 (so there is no risk of losing the player off waivers), and then wait until after the conclusion of the Rule 5 Draft to sign the player to a minor league contract (so that he can't be selected in the Rule 5 Draft). But to do that the player's 40-man roster slot cannot be needed sometime earlier than 12/2 for a Rule 5 Draft eligible player or for a player eligible to be a minor league FA, and the player must agree in advance to the arrangement (which usually means he must be offered an NRI to Spring Training - AND - at least as much money or maybe even more money than he would have received if he had remained on the 40). And of course the player can just refuse the offer and tell the club to take a hike. 

if this team is gonna carry 2-3 guys next year who can start 30+ games a year and only throw 170-180 innings doing it, the pen is gonna need a few multi-inning guys.

Q isn't going out on top with this game.  not a great "see you in 2020" look.

Looks like around 30 pitchers will have 180+ innings pitched this year. A lot of teams better have multi-inning relievers. Welcome, 26th player.

Sidenote: Skimming stats just now from years past. Remember when Jon Lieber led the majors in IP with 251 and had an ERA over 4 while doing it? Maddux had a paltry 249.1 innings pitched for Atlanta that year (2000).

healthy lieber was a great innings eater without pushing his workload.

i liked his initial run with the cubs even if he wasn't an ace (though he was the cubs 1-2 starter during most of that tenure).

Don't forget Steve Traschel, the eater of innings. Weird to go from post-2016 "SUN WILL NEVER SET ON THE CUBS EMPIRE" to whistfully thinking about Lieber & Traschel.  Trax averaged 197 IP with a 4.23 ERA over NINE seasons (w/CHC & NYM)... not sure what to make of my thinking "yeah, we could use somebody like that".

On a similar note, there should be a "Hall of Not Bad" to recognize players who were freakishly average for long periods of time. We could name it after Jamie Moyer (17 seasons from ages 30-46, averaging 188 innings per season with an ERA of 4.12).  

steve traschel...some say he's not really retired and is out there this very moment shaking off a catcher waiting to throw a pitch while the batter slowly weakens from lack of sleep and malnutrition.

I hear that Trax now makes his living going around the country DOMINATING those contests where you have to keep your hand on the car/boat/jet-ski/etc. until everybody else gives up. 

For the "Hall of Not Bad", I am thinking somebody like Jose Vizcaino on the position player side... but not sure. Open to suggestions.

Maybe Juan Pierre, Coco Crisp, or Mark McLemore...

bill mueller...not great, but not bad at all D...good ob%, didn't K much, not much pop, not much speed...he'll end up on 1st and go station to station a good amount of the time...and he did it steady from rookie til retirement.  you knew what you were getting.

he'd totally make my HoNB list.

i was gonna throw around some names like mark grace and john olerud, but they're too good to be not bad.

How about Mark Bellhorn? Not sure he was good enough for the not bad hall.

Mark Grudzielanek wasn’t bad. Neither was Todd Walker. As far as non Cubs, one that comes to mind is Bill Hall.

they're all a bunch of perfectly cromulent guys.

Todd Walker and Mark Bellhorn, both guys I enjoyed watching as Cubs, belong on a lower tier from the others. Maybe Hall of Not Particularly Good? They were slightly better than Ryan Theriot over their careers.

If Starlin Castro can wring 6 more years of 1-win per-year value from his career, he'll be in the Hall of Not Bad category.

whatever building is housing all these legends, there's going to be a lot of hallways.

The hall of Acceptable?

this is gonna regress to the point where bill bergen gets his own hall.

All of these "not bad" nominees have their moments, or unique strengths.  Bill Mueller apparently didn't find a high-90's cutter all that difficult to hit.  Check out his career stats against Mariano Rivera, including the Boston Red Sox's most important single in the 21st century.

Imagine Trachsel pitching in today's hitting environment, including today's ball. He'd get pulled before the fifth if he had a career at all.

CHARLIE: The new 26th player in 2020 must be a position-player, and there can be a maximum of 13 pitchers on a club's MLB active list roster prior to September 1st and then a maximum of 14 pitchers in September when active list rosters expand to 28.

Also, the "26th man" for doubleheaders will become the "27th man" in 2020 and he can be a pitcher, and the minimum MLB injured list stint for a pitcher will be increased from ten days to 15 days. 

ham getting the saturday start...darvish and hendricks are officially done for the season...mills tomorrow, unknown sunday starter...

i have low expectations for a full roster of b-team bats, but pitching giving up 9 runs through 6ip to f'n PIT is some kind of special.

cubs lose 9th in a row.  PIT sweeps.  wow.

Phil, what do you think Caratini would bring in a trade? I like bringing back Lucroy as a backup, if the price is right.

HAGSAG: If the Cubs decide to trade Victor Caratini this coming off-season they could probably get a good young MLB (or MLB-ready) position-player at just about any position or a young MLB (or MLB-ready) SP. 

While I don't think the Cubs will keep both Willson Contreras and Victor Caratini until they both hit free-agency (Contreras is under club control through 2022 while Caratini is under club control through 2023), the Cubs really need to wait to trade Caratini until they can determine whether or not Contreras is willing to sign a long-term deal (at least through 2024) before making Caratini available in a trade, because if Contreras is not inclined to sign a long-term deal before becoming a free-agent the Cubs will need to consider trading Contreras and keeping Caratini as the primary catcher until #1 prospect Miguel Amaya is ready (ETA 2022-23).   

They will have until a day or two after the World Series to decide this, but if Yu Darvish does not opt-out and returns to the Cubs in 2020, the Cubs might choose to decline Jose Quintana's $10.5M 2020 club option and pay the $1M buy-out and then look to acquire young MLB-ready (or near-MLB ready) SP candidates in trades this coming off-season (with Kendall Graveman, Alec Mills, and Adbert Alzolay already expected to contend in 2020 Spring Training for what has been the Cole Hamels #5 rotation slot). 

Or if they find that there is a market for one year of Quintana at $10.5M, the Cubs could trade him, either prior to declining his 2020 option (which they would have to do immediately after the World Series), or sometime during the off-season if the Cubs do exercise his 2020 club option. 

Also keep in mind that Jason Heyward can opt-out out of his contract after this season (and it's his last chance to do it until he becomes a FA again post-2023), and while everybody knows that isn't going to happen (he is owed 4/$86M in salary through 2023 but that's only if he doesn't opt-out), he can be traded anytime up until he becomes a "10/5" player next September, so if the Cubs do want to move him (and they would have to eat some of his remaining salary and/or take-back another "albatross contract" for it to happen), this coming off-season (rather than during the 2020 season) would probably be the time to do it. Otherwise the Cubs are stuck with Heyward through 2023. 

i hate the diluting of the amount of teams in the playoffs (10 teams), but i love the absolute brutality of the 1-game elimination to win the wild card slot.

i didn't think i'd like the change from 8 to 10 teams as much as i have so far.

speaking of brutal...omg

Being in the DC area, I hate that their garbage fans will be so happy but I do enjoy that it came at the Brewers’, and even more Josh Haders’ expense 

Guess I'm a Braves fan.  Really its whoever is playing the Cardinals at this point.  Personally find the Nats are way more likable without Bryce and Dusty.  Sidenote, has Rendon reached the point where everybody talking about how underrated he is that his underatedness is becoming overated? 

it's a bit amazing/criminal that 2019 was the first year rendon made an all-star team.

True, but 3rd base has been stacked.  Between 2015 - 2019, by total WAR (fangraphs) he's 3rd in NL behind Bryan and Arendado.  In looking that up, I was surprised that in that date range Bryant is 3rd overal in fangraphs war behind Trout and Betts. 

fangraphs WAR also likes jason heyward in 2018 better than jason heyward in 2019.

and yeah, 3rd's been stacked.  i was just a bit "hmmm, okay" about him not getting in there somehow in 2017/2018.

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  • crunch 21 hours 3 min ago (view)


    it's not like i think he's something special, but if he had 5mph more on his stuff he'd probably be a top prospect in the system combined with his command/control.  he's got highly repeatable junk and he's still young enough there might be a little more velocity to discover.


  • Arizona Phil 1 day 17 min ago (view)

    CRUNCH: As long as Carrera is placed on the AAA Iowa reserve list on 11/20 he should be safe from selection, and I would say he is in fact close to a lock to be placed on the Iowa roster.

    Presuming he is on the Iowa reserve list going into the Rule 5 Draft, I doubt very much that he would get selected in the Major League Phase because he hasn't pitched above Lo-A. 


  • crunch 1 day 28 min ago (view)

    nice info...

    i'm low-key keeping an eye on faustino carrera if he's not protected...which he may not be protected.

    he throws junk, but he throws it well, and with great control.


  • Arizona Phil 1 day 46 min ago (view)

    I've talked to Player Development people over the past many years about the Rule 5 Draft and how an organization goes about deciding whether to protect or not protect a player from selection. 

    STEP 1: How many of your Rule 5 Draft-eligible players are actually legit candidates to get selected in the Major League Phase?. Usually there a dozen or more who could conceivably/realisticaly get selected. You need to identify them and then carefully evaluate them. 
    EXAMPLES: See my lists above. 


  • crunch 1 day 3 hours ago (view)

    "There are no untouchables," Epstein said.

    In truth, the Cubs boss has said the same every year, but it certainly sounds like he means it this time. "We're in the 'information collecting' stages of the process," one general manager put it on Tuesday.


  • Dolorous Jon Lester 2 days 5 hours ago (view)

    I think, in relation to the higher profile guys like Javy or Contreras, they're trying to put some pressure on to sign extensions.

    That said I do think they're listening on everyone with the only name I haven't seen being Rizzo.


  • crunch 2 days 22 hours ago (view)

    i wonder where the cubs will go with things.

    there's a lot pointing to the cubs being expected to listen to offers on almost anyone.  as it is, on paper, the cubs could roll right into 2020 with no changes whatsoever and still field a very competitive team.  the whole "shakeup" thing seems to be a very hot topic from a variety of sources, though.

    bryant, contreras, schwarber have all been linked to "cubs may be listening" rumors...probably listening to anything on happ, bote, almora, russell, too...


  • Hagsag 2 days 22 hours ago (view)

    Even the Cubs should be able to out bid the Marlins!


  • crunch 2 days 22 hours ago (view)

    "According to Joe Frisaro of, the Marlins are "believed" to have interest in free agent outfielder Nicholas Castellanos."

    by interest, i assume they mean they'd like to have some baseball rookie cards or his or maybe a hug from him.  i can't imagine they actually want to spend money on someone they could use to make their team better because that makes no sense.


  • Arizona Phil 3 days 15 hours ago (view)

    Prior to joining the Cubs in 2012 Scott Harris was Director of Baseball Operations in the MLB office, which means he received, reviewed, and approved all major league and minor league contracts and transactions, as well as providing MLB clubs with schedules, rules updates, and draft information. 


  • Cubster 3 days 23 hours ago (view)

    Giants hire Scott Harris, from Cubs front office,  as GM


  • Charlie 5 days 1 hour ago (view)

    For anyone else who immediately wonders but is not invested enough to look it up, this is not Chris (Ryan) Young, former Padres starter and fisticuffs partner of Derrek Lee, but rather the two-years younger Chris Matthew Young.


  • crunch 5 days 12 hours ago (view)

    rev up those off-season rumor fryers...

    Jeff Passan @JeffPassan
    Multiple teams in search of catching help believe Cubs catcher Willson Contreras will be available this winter. The Cubs will get creative this winter, and with a deep catching free agent market, they could trade Contreras and begin retooling under new manager David Ross.


  • crunch 5 days 17 hours ago (view)

    former padres manager andy green is gonna be ross's bench coach.

    green was c.rea's manager in SD, btw.


  • Arizona Phil 5 days 23 hours ago (view)

    Last year the Cubs signed four free-agents to minor league contracts prior to the Rule 5 Draft: LHP Alberto Baldonado, OF Wynton Bernard, RHP Corey Black, and RHP Jose Rosario. All four were members of the Cubs organization in 2018 but declined to sign a 2019 minor league successor contract prior to being declared a free-agent, but then came back to the Cubs after briefly testing the free-agent waters. 


  • crunch 6 days 3 hours ago (view)

    chris young to be named new bullpen coach (former phillies pitching coach)

    mixed messages on whether lester strode will have a new cubs role or leaving the cubs...