Rainy-Day Thoughts on Cubs Luxury Tax Figures and Pedro Strop

So, I’m currently writing this from under a hurricane since the edge of Florence hit Charlotte Saturday morning. For now it is mostly just a sustained medium rain shower, but we have already (briefly) lost power three times in the last 24 hours. Since I do not have the time for a thoroughly researched article, you get some quick thoughts.

The Cubs have at least $7 million in luxury cap space remaining according to the Associated Press. The AP released luxury tax payroll figures, current to August 31, compiled for the commissioners office. ESPN reported that only the Rex Sox and Nationals are over the $197 million cap and that the next three totals were the Giants ($195.3M), the Dodgers ($194.5M), and the Yankees ($192.1M). As such, the Cubs have to be at or below that latter figure, though it should be noted that these values do not include potential player bonuses or minimum salary for September call-ups.

If these numbers are to be believed, the Cubs could actually afford a last-minute bullpen arm via waiver trade. Such a player would not be postseason-eligible, but a veteran arm could help win one or two of our last 13 games and be a big help ensuring the Cubs hang onto their division lead.

On the subject of bullpen arms, I still am not over the Pedro Strop disaster. When his name appeared in the Gamecast batter’s box (I was blacked out from watching the game since Charlotte is in the DC media market), I was already upset. Bases loaded, one out is a significant run-scoring opportunity and Strop is an almost guaranteed double play (which it turns out he was).

A pinch hitter would statistically be worth about one run in that situation. I would rather have an inferior pitcher with a two-plus run lead than my closer with a one-run lead every time. Plus, Strop had already pitched 1.1 innings and 21 pitches. Bottom line: That decision made no sense even before considering the injury risks.

The Cubs bullpen was rock-steady virtually all year, but it is dissolving at the worst possible time. Conversely, the starting pitching has been quietly stellar the last three weeks. Jon Lester went seven scoreless innings on Saturday to cap off a great cycle through the rotation. The Cubs may need their starters to continue averaging 7 innings to help the bullpen through the next two weeks.

Speaking of Saturday’s game, when Joe Maddon talked about using a closer-by-committee, I did not realize he meant using three pitchers for three outs in the 9th. That’s all for now, I’ll be back after getting some time to dry out.

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