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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  • Hagsag 12 min 46 sec ago (view)

    Phil, we all are so glad you are getting to somehow "view" these games. Stay safe my friend.

     

  • Arizona Phil 1 day 5 hours ago (view)

    Someone to keep an eye on in 2021 is RHRP (ex-1B) Jerrick Suiter. 

    He was selected by the Cubs from the Pirates in the AAA Phase of the 2019 Rule 5 Draft and the Cubs  immediately converted him from a mediocre AA first-baseman to a full-time pitcher, having seen him throw garbage innings in blow-outs for the Pirates AA Altoona affiliate in 2019.

     

  • Dolorous Jon Lester 1 day 11 hours ago (view)

    Good to see Roederer and Velasquez  providing some production. From what I've followed they haven't been up to much. Granted this season isn't great for development

     

  • Arizona Phil 1 day 15 hours ago (view)

    The Cubs have added OF Brennen Davis to their AZIL Active List roster. 

     

  • crunch 1 day 17 hours ago (view)

    "He's a strong kid and shows a lot of HR power in BP and it's just a matter of making it game-usable."

    reggie golden flashblacks...if BP was a game he'd be an all-star.

     

  • Arizona Phil 1 day 18 hours ago (view)

    Unfortunately for the Cubs, all of their Top 10 position-player prospects (M. Amaya, Davis, Hearn, Howard, Made, C. Morel, R. Morel, Quintero, Roederer, and Strumpf -- listed alphabetically) are two or more years away from the big leagues, in most cases more like three or four or even five years away. 

     

  • Arizona Phil 1 day 18 hours ago (view)

    TIM: One of the things people wonder about when they see a young shortstop for the first time is does he have the arm and range necessary to play SS or would his tools maybe be better suited for 2B, 3B or OF. So far at Instructs Kevin Made has shown all of the attributes of a SS, and he is an advanced hitter (for his age) as well. 

     

  • Arizona Phil 1 day 18 hours ago (view)

    AZBOBBOP: Ethan Hearn showed off his plus-arm by back-picking a runner off 1st base last week. You don't see catchers with the confidence to attempt pick-offs much out here. 

    He's a strong kid and shows a lot of HR power in BP and it's just a matter of making it game-usable. His hitting (contact and barreling) has improved at instructs, and that's one of the things he needed to improve.

    His receiving should improve with experience as well. 

     

  • azbobbop 2 days 8 hours ago (view)

    Phil, saw Ethan Hearn with a couple of hits today. How has he been trending?

     

  • tim815 2 days 23 hours ago (view)

    That Kevin Made is already representing offensively seems, on the 1 to 10 scale with 10 being fantastic news, in the 17 or 18 range.

    Nwogu in the 9 to 11 span.

     

  • Arizona Phil 3 days 16 hours ago (view)

    For those of you wondering about catcher Ronnier Quintero (the Cubs #1 IFA signing in the 2019-20 ISP), he participates fully in pre-game and Camp Day work-outs and he catches bullpens, and while he has been the bullpen catcher at every AZIL game he has not yet played in a game.

    As a catcher he has a lot to learn, and the Cubs would prefer that Quintero mainly concentrates on receiving and learning how to work with pitchers right now. He can learn about hitting and baserunning later. 

     

  • Arizona Phil 3 days 17 hours ago (view)

    In adition to the 22 pitchers originally on the Cubs AZIL Active List roster plus RHP Manuel Rodriguez (right biceps strain last March) and LHP Brad Wieck (wearing a brace on his left knee) who are on the Cubs MLB 60-day IL and are rehabbing at AZIL, the Cubs have added four additional pitchers to their AZIL Active List roster:  

    RHP Josh Burgmann 
    RHP Chris Clarke 
    LHP D. J. Herz
    RHP Michael McAvene 

     

  • Charlie 4 days 14 hours ago (view)

    This is weird. He seemed well liked and shifting him to another role would've made just as much sense.

     

  • bradsbeard 4 days 19 hours ago (view)

    I'd say the only guys who struggled all season were Baez and Bryant. Willson struggled for a lot of August but was one of the few who hit in September. Most of the team hit well in 2019 (including Baez and Bryant before injuries derailed them). I don't know if there's any reason to blame Ipoce in particular for the September slump. 

     

  • crunch 5 days 9 hours ago (view)

    iapoce expected to stay.  i'm surprised.  i know it's a weird/short season, but it was a season-long slump for a lot of guys and answers weren't showing up.

     

  • crunch 5 days 10 hours ago (view)

    i eagerly await the espn 10 part mini-series "Rafael Palmeiro, More Like Rafael Baseballmerio" covering those 28 legendary games.