Pitchers and catchers report today for our own Chicago Cubs. I am going to be straight forward with you guys, this was not the offseason I was expecting. There are still tons of questions left unanswered. What happens with Addison Russell? Will Willson Contreras bounce back? How does Joe Maddon fare on a one year deal? Will Yu Darvish pitch more than 10 games?
Those are just a few of the questions that surround the Cubs entering 2019. Let’s just start with the most disappointing topic, Bryce Harper. Tom Ricketts decided spending money on a 26 year old, generational talent was just not in the budget. There may be no salary cap but there are spending restriction for each franchise. I get that. Just let me be disappointed that owner of one of the most valuable franchises in the universe didn’t want to pony up some money to capitalize on a competitive window. The offense was extremely inconsistent last season and the only upgrade was Daniel Descalso. It sucks.
I do not like that this team is depending on health in 2019. I expect Kris Bryant to return to form. I expect Yu Darvish to win at least 10 games. I expect Willson Contreras to bounce back from a year of career lows. It is fair to depend on health as a bounce back for some players. Who is to say some players won’t regress a bit though? Javy Baez put up MVP caliber numbers. He put the 2018 Cubs on his back. It is not fair to expect him to do that once again. Jon Lester is only getting older. It would surprise no one if all his years as the bulldog of the pitching staff finally catch up to him. Ben Zobrist had one of the better years of his career in 2018, he turns 38 this season. Father time eventually always wins. What if a full season takes a toll on David Bote? It is hard to expect him to play hero time and time again.
In an era where having a dominant bullpen is pivotal come October, the Cubs decided to go with the quality over quantity approach. This is once again a downfall of not opening up the check book. Brandon Morrow will be out for at least a few months. The Cubs signed Brad Bach and Tony Barnette. I am sure they will be fine relievers but those don’t sound like names I can trust to shut down the game in a pivotal moment in October. Willson Contreras played in 138 games last year. You would think it would make sense to acquire a veteran catcher to backup and mentor the energetic youngster, a la David Ross. Nope, Theo and Company are going into the season with Victor Caratini and Taylor Davis as the backups. I am not mad, just disappointed.
Speaking of disappointed, Addison Russell is still a member of the Chicago Cubs. If they are keeping him around to make sure he gets his mind right and they think this is his best path to recovery, fine. I do not want this to be a distraction all year long. Players already have to answer questions that they should not have to. They need to focus on themselves not answer questions about their woman beating shortstop. Those questions should be answered by Theo Epstein and Cubs ownership only. He should not play another inning for the Chicago Cubs after everything that has come out about him. Simple as that.
Joe Maddon is coaching for his job this season. Crazy to think the man that has put together the most impressive stretch in Chicago Cubs history is coaching for his job but here we are. I actually think Joe will do a fine job this season. I think he knows exactly what is on the line and he will get the most out of his team as he has continuously done throughout his tenure in Chicago. He knows the division has gotten better, the window isn’t getting bigger, and Cubs fans have become restless.
I am an eternal optimist when it comes to this team. I do think they have enough to contend and win a World Series this year. You may not think it from everything I have just said but I have always believed in Theo Epstein. I have zero reason not to. He has brought this franchise from the ashes and turned it into a World Series or bust culture. I think he will make a big splash at the deadline if he needs to. This season will not be easy but this team is not full of young players anymore. It is filled with players who have been there before. Maybe it is good this team is being doubted. For the past few years everyone has just assumed worst case they will be in the NLCS. Maybe a year of uncertain expectations will inspire everyone to play at another level.
Cubs baseball will be on the TV screen before we know it. As disappointed as I am in the front office, that can all go away with success on the field. March cannot get here soon enough.
P.S. Bryce still hasn’t signed. There are still a lot of free agents available. Theo, if you are reading this please go sign a few. Thank you.