A Quick Game of ‘Not Gonna Happen’ with Contreras, Almora, and Chapman

I’ve done some exhaustive research on the topic of what people love to read, and, while I’ve repeatedly failed to leverage my findings, I’ve learned that prediction pieces do really well. I think that’s because said material is fun for both the reader and the writer. I get to make a series of predictive statements and you get to marvel at my unparraleled genius and remarkably nuanced insight. I also get to rake in an extra $0.30 from all the clicks. Everyone wins.

Well, I mostly win because I’m that much closer to being able to afford that Maserati…Hot Wheels.

Anywho, I wanted to throw a little twist on the format by providing myself a back door within each of the statements below. You know, like how I said Albert Almora wouldn’t be up before September and how one of my friends has proceeded to tout his prediction of a June call-up. Enjoy your technicality-riddled victory, Chrispy. Seriously, though, the trouble with trying to base statements off of what you’re seeing in the crystal ball is that the visions are kind of foggy.

Nothing is set it stone, so to present something as such is to invite abject failure. Then again, it feels pretty good to be absolutely right. At least I assume it does, as I don’t know that I’ve ever been such. Oh, shut up and get to the taeks already.

Fine, here we go:

Willson Contreras comes up before September

Why it’s not gonna happen:

Contreras is riding a 20-game hitting streak during which he’s collected 31 knocks (16 XBH) and is batting .383 with 24 RBI. He’s slashing .350/.439/.591 on the season, which is significantly better than his numbers from last year’s breakout season at AA Tennessee. At the same time, the Cubs are carrying Tim Federowicz on the 25-man roster. You have to think Contreras and his extra L could help the Cubs pick up some extra W’s, right?

Maybe, but it’s not as simple as all that. Catching at the MLB level is a lot more than just squatting behind the plate for 9 innings and being able to rake. Unless you’re Mike Piazza. So until Contreras starts rocking a sweet Fu Manchu and having people question his backne, I think we can slow down on the promotion talk. Facial hair or no, you don’t hand a top-flight pitching staff over to a rookie, particularly when you’ve got two highly capable defensive backstops on the roster already.

The Federowicz thing is really irrelevant too, as he’s more or less a non-entity in terms of playing time. Neither Contreras nor the Cubs are going to get much out of a spot start every couple weeks, with a pinch-hit thrown in now and again for good measure. Maybe he could get some time at one of the infield corners from time to time too, but is that really doing anything for his development?

It’s really kind of a weird situation, as the Cubs sort of shoehorned an out-of-position Kyle Schwarber into last year’s lineup and we saw how that worked. This is a very different situation, though, and they’ve got the luxury of being much more patient with Contreras. He’ll be up when rosters expand at the end of the season, not before.

Why I could be wrong:

I had said pretty much the exact same thing about Almora, who I thought would be allowed to marinate at AAA while someone like Matt Murton filled in for an injured Jorge Soler. Stuff happens, I guess. And if stuff happens to Miguel Montero, I might have to throw out what I wrote above. I don’t think there’s anything Contreras can do to force his way to Chicago, but a serious injury could necessitate a move.

UPDATE: Hahahahahaha, I am wrong in a big way mere hours after writing all this…

Albert Almora sticks around after Jorge Soler is activated

Why it’s not gonna happen:

Almora has been pretty much everything I thought he would be in his brief time so far with the Cubs, but that doesn’t mean he’ll force their hand when it comes to making room for him moving forward. There are times, like with War Bear’s initial call-up, where you set a plan and stick to it. I believe the Cubs wanted to give their young outfielder a taste of the Bigs and saw Soler’s injury as an opportunity to do so.

Once Soler comes back, playing time is going to be really hard to come by. Do you keep Almora around knowing that you’re going to have to find a way to balance his at-bats with those of the other outfielders? Joe Maddon doesn’t seem to think so.

“A guy like Albert, you want to give him the opportunity for playing time, you don’t want him to sit,” the Cubs skipper explained Wednesday. “He’s still in the developmental stage. He’s a good player. I think you can only see [him staying with the team] if you thought you could get him in games on a regular basis.”

Dexter Fowler and Jason Heyward aren’t going to be displaced for more than the occasional scheduled off-day, which means you’ve got one everyday spot to be shared by Soler, Almora, Chris Coghlan, and Matt Szczur. Sure, you could DFA one of those guys, but that still doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room. You’ve also got Tommy La Stella coming back, which takes away even more AB’s, though it probably impacts Coghlan the most.

Regardless, I can’t envision a scenario in which Almora is around past the end of June.

Why I could be wrong:

It’s possible that Soler and/or La Stella remains on the shelf longer than anticipated and that Almora stays so hot the Cubs have no choice but to keep him up. They could decide to part with Cogs once again, or perhaps drop Federowicz from the roster. Almora does a lot of things really well, and maybe he forces some hard decisions here in the next week or so.

Cubs trade for Aroldis Chapman

Why it’s not gonna happen:

The Cubs have as good a late-inning combo as anyone in the league at this point and they’re not going to pay what the Yankees are going to want for a guy whose impact on the team could be negligible. I’m not a big fan of guys being prosecuted over and over in the court of public opinion, but there’s no way to look past the perception of Chapman as an unsavory human being.

And while the PR cost — what with both the domestic violence and gun issues involved — is steep enough to scare some folks off, there’s also the price in terms of prospects. Remember, this guy would only be a four-month rental. I just can’t see the Cubs swinging this and I think rumors of talks involving Chapman are more a product of either the Yankees or the pitcher’s representation trying to inflate the asking price for the pitcher.

If I’m going to part with talent in order to pick up a lefty reliever, I’m looking to the A’s Sean Doolittle, who is signed through 2018 with team options for 2019 and 2020. Doolittle is set to make only $2.6 million next season and $4.3 million in 2018, with the options costing only $6 and $6.5 million apiece ($500K buyouts each season). Given the cost of pitching and the idea that the reliever market could escalate rapidly in the near future, that’s an absolute steal.

You also have to consider the Cubs’ recent acquisition of lefty Brian Matusz, who is going to be used as a starter in Iowa but who has realized moderate success as a reliever. So let’s just stop talking about the fireballing Cuban because he’s not coming to Chicago unless it’s as part of a visiting team.

Why I could be wrong:

Baggage or no, having a lefty reliever who throws 100 mph is a pretty cool thing. Maybe the Yankees fall of in the AL East and are willing to deal Chapman on the cheap. Maybe.

The front office blows up the bullpen

Why it’s not gonna happen:

This ‘pen has been good enough to support the rotation through a 44-20 start and it’ll be good enough to continue to do so through a run in October. Yes, the various members of the relief corps can be shaky at times, but that’s pretty much par for the course. There will no doubt be some changes as the season moves along, but we’re not going to see a full-scale overhaul because it’s neither prudent nor necessary.

Why I could be wrong:

I won’t be. We might see a couple guys jettisoned or moved around, particularly if one of the above options pans out, but this group will remain pretty much intact.

Where did I go wrong? Got any predictions of your own to share? Keep the conversation going below.

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