The Rundown: Do Cubs Really Need Major Changes? Cy Young Award Winners Announced, Manfred Extension, Andrew McCutchen Free Agent Profile

There is no soap opera in the Cubs’ world to report today, so my morning is missing its usual spice. But that gives me (well, all of us) a break to pause for reflection. Does this team really need to make major changes? Let’s lean on our old pal Pythagoras, or rather, the baseball interpretation of his theorem as defined by Bill James.

The Pythagorean Theorem of Baseball is a James creation that relates the number of runs a team has scored and surrendered to its actual winning percentage. It is based on the idea that runs scored compared to runs allowed is a better indicator of a team’s performance than actual winning percentage.

The Cubs won 95 games in 2018, and, yes, life would have probably been much easier had they won 96, but Chicago tied for the best record in the National League. And with a run differential of +116, they finished one game better than their expected (Pythagorean) record.

Theo Epstein’s mantra this offseason is that the Cubs need to find a way to be one game better in 2019. The easy answer? Find some consistent offense. The Cubs, as everybody knows by now, were shut out or scored just one run in roughly 25 percent of their games. What are the chances that that will happen again? I’d say it is more than likely improbable.

What are the chances that the Brewers are going to play nearly .700 baseball for an entire month? I’d bet against that too. Milwaukee finished with a run differential of +95, meaning according to James’ formula, they finished six games better than their expected win total of 91. And they needed a game 163 victory over the Cubs to snatch the division title.

So, does the answer lie in throwing an extra $35 million into the roster this winter? This team needs a car wash, not an engine overhaul. And Epstein has said as much, using different terminology of course, and we should take him at his word. After all, the guy has been the definition of transparency since he arrived in 2011.

Free Agent Profile: Andrew McCutchen

Andrew McCutchen is a guy who would seem to fit well on the Cubs, though at a projected contract of three years and $45 million dollars, I’m not sure that would be the best use of whatever financial resources the Cubs may have this winter. MLB Trade Rumos has predicted the Cubs will sign the 32-year-old outfielder, for what it’s worth.

On the surface, I like the idea. McCutchen provides veteran leadership and has hit well at Wrigley Field throughout his career. I’m just not enamored with the price tag. In AAV that would only be $1 million less than what the Brewers are paying Lorenzo Cain.

McCutchen no longer possesses the power and speed combination that made him an all-star and perennial MVP candidate in his 2011-15 seasons. He is no longer a .400 OBP player either, though .368 is still quite good, and he’s not a 20 stolen-base threat.

But is he a significant upgrade over what the Cubs have now? Not at $15 million per year, he isn’t. If the Cubs could get him on for $24 million over two years, I’d say go for it. That seems about right given his WAR the past three seasons. But the Cubs could probably do better in trade, and if they are going to add an outfielder, I’d like to see them get someone better defensively. McCutchen has been league average or below throughout his career. He’d make an awful lot of sense for a younger team like the Twins, Rangers, or Braves in my opinion. Maybe the Athletics.

Handicapping McCutchen:

  1. Twins
  2. Braves
  3. Phillies
  4. Rangers
  5. Athletics (I like this as a dark horse signing)

Cubs News & Notes

  • Addison Russell has some explaining to do if he wishes to remain with the Cubs in 2019 and beyond.
  • If the Cubs decide to part ways with pitching coach Jim Hickey, it could be another effort to separate themselves from Joe Maddon or it may be a knee-jerk move of an angry and panicked front office. Perhaps it’s a little of both.
  • The Cubs’ long-running stadium enhancement project continues with seat renumbering and work on the upper deck, including some new amenities.
  • Jeff Burdick takes a look at future rotation options from within the Cubs’ farm system.
  • The Cubs could still cut a deal to remain part of NBC Sports Chicago, but that scenario does not look likely, according to sources. The Cubs want full control of their local media rights when their current deal expires in 2020. Currently, the Bulls, Blackhawks and the two Chicago baseball franchises own 20 percent each of NBC Sports Chicago, with NBC Sports Group holding the remaining 20 percent.
  • The Cubs have done quite well in trades with the Rangers since Epstein took over.

Wednesday Stove

Jacob deGrom and Blake Snell are your 2018 National and American League Cy Young award winners.

Fox Sports has reached a 10-year, multi-platform extension with Major League Baseball. The deal keeps the World Series on Fox, which has broadcast it every year since 1996, and will step up the number of regular- and post-season games on the network starting in 2022.

SI’s Emma Baccellieri projects what a “lifetime” contract for Bryce Harper could cost, and also looks at some creative options for signing the free agent outfielder.

Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said Manny Machado’s comments about not wanting to be “Johnny Hustle” are “troubling.”

The Yankees and the Astros are talking to the Mariners about a trade for lefty James Paxton.

Zack Greinke could be the $35 million steal of the offseason.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora reached a contract extension with the team. Cora led the Red Sox to the World Series title in his first year at the helm.

The Marlins are going to reveal new uniforms today. I wonder if they will come with the existing stench of current and previous ownership.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred received unanimous approval on a five year contract extension today.

The Indians and Pirates completed a five-player trade yesterday. Pittsburgh acquired infielder Erik Gonzalez and right-handers Tahnaj Thomas and Dante Mendoza in exchange for outfielder Jordan Luplow and infielder Max Moroff. Adjust your fantasy rosters accordingly.

Major League Baseball is apparently preparing to get into the summer travel baseball game, a move that could mark a dramatic shock to the prep baseball ecosystem.

On Deck

Today is the . Quitting an addictive habit isn’t easy. It takes time and a plan. Let today be your day to start your journey toward a smoke-free life.

Extra Innings

DeGrom won 29 of 30 first place votes for the National Cy Young award, and the one writer who voted against him, John Maffei of the San Diego Union, wasn’t in the mood to talk about his ballot. The BBWAA member gave Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer his first place vote. Maffei is the paper’s high school sports reporter.

Thursday Walk Up Song

Mayor of Simpleton by XTC. Maybe we are really overthinking this Cubs offseason.

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