The Rundown: Rise of the Resistance, Ralph Breaks the Rumor Mill, Conflicts in Cubs News

Saturday is typically a day of rest for The Rundown, but I was MIA yesterday and felt the desire to put a little something together in Mike Canter’s stead. The only problem is that the Cubs have done next to nothing and I’m completely exhausted, which is at least partially due to Pope Gregory XIII being an unrepentant dick and deciding that 2020’s Leap Year would feature an interminable January instead of just giving February an extra day.

I know those of you not in the Midwest may not be able to relate, but the constant cloud cover here has resulted in a Vitamin D deficiency that has everyone more sluggish than the Cubs’ efforts in free agency. On top of that, I had to wake up much earlier than usual on both Wednesday and Friday, which left me roughly as worthwhile as a bump on a log. Okay, so I can’t really complain much about Friday.

My real job had me in Orlando for a conference, which meant getting up at 4am on Wednesday to catch a flight down there. But the conference was only two days and we were staying at a Disney property within walking distance of Hollywood Studios, so I decided I’d head over there and try my luck at riding Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. After finding out about what it takes to actually do that, however, my initial fascination morphed quickly into obsession.

You see, this isn’t just some run-of-the mill theme park attraction. As the website describes, it’s “a massive attraction with multiple ride systems that is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced at Walt Disney World Resort… or anywhere else in the galaxy!” In any case, I was so hyped up for the experience that woke up ahead of schedule and couldn’t fall back asleep.

Rather than prattle on about it, I’ll just let you know that I got Group 27 and was called to board at 10:08am. However, the ride broke down for about 90 minutes during my time in line and I ended up spending roughly three hours queued up. Disney was really cool about it and sent people around with water, bananas, and chips to keep would-be riders from bonking, so that made it more tolerable. We also had the pleasure of meeting Chewbacca, with whom I became fast friends.

The good thing is that I didn’t miss much of anything in the way of Cubs news, though I suppose that’s been the case for about 99% of the days since the season ended. I mean, I just saw fit to write more about a day at Disney World than about what the team around which this entire site is based has done lately. Maybe I should go ahead and get to some of that.

Kris Bryant extension and Cubs payroll

One of the topics on which I failed to comment in a timely fashion was David Kaplan’s piece about the Cubs not offering Bryant an extension commensurate with his peers in the game. I took issue with the veracity of a past report from Kaplan that Bryant had turned down an offer “well north of $200 million” after getting information from my own sources that the figure was inaccurate and the timing dubious. That said, Kap is dead on with this one.

In particular, his sources told him that Bryant would prefer to remain with the Cubs if they were willing to pay market value. That’s something you’ve heard from us here at CI for the last couple of years and it’s not been altered by the long-awaited decision on Bryant’s grievance. Because I can’t assume you’ll click that link, I’ll briefly summarize my thoughts and move on.

Bryant may not like the business side of the game, but he’s been forced to get intimately familiar with it since being called up about two weeks later than he should have been. Part of that business is trying to earn as much money as possible, which is both simple and agnostic. But if you’re able to make roughly the same amount of money from several different teams, choice becomes a factor.

Familiarity with the city, the ballpark, and teammates can go a very long way in that regard, so Bryant would just as soon maintain as much of that as he can. One more time and a little louder for the people in the back: Kris Bryant is not trying to force his way out of Chicago. And please stop with the notion that he’d take a team-friendly deal if he really wanted to stay. You can romanticize blank checks and hometown discounts all you want, but the Cubs didn’t exactly do KB any favors in 2015 and he’s under no obligation to do them any right now.

Which brings us to the idea of payroll and whether or not there’s a mandate to get under the $208 million competitive balance tax threshold. Kaplan reported in the same piece that there is no directive and that ownership is “prepared to navigate another year in the luxury tax if the club remains in the playoff picture in 2020.” There’s been a lot of talk about this over the last few days, including on the latest episode of the wildly popular Into the Basket podcast, but it’s really nothing new.

By that I mean it would have been pretty silly to think that Tom Ricketts personally went to Theo Epstein and was like, “You can’t really buy a team, so do not spend more than $208 million on the total payroll in 2020.” The business side sets a budget that the baseball side needs to operate within, so there doesn’t need to be anything explicit at all. What’s more, the increasing penalties and an understanding of the overall financial picture mean that getting under this year opens up the potential to go big in 2021.

Another factor here is that next season is the last under the current CBA, after which a new agreement could drastically alter or eliminate the current penalty structure. Not to mention the Cubs should have the full force of Marquee behind them by then, though the timing of the network’s impact on revenue has remained in flux for a while now. The main thing is that the front office is well aware of how this all works. So while no one had to say specifically that being under the CBT threshold was a directive, it’s pretty clear from the Cubs’ actions that it’s a target.

Unless, of course, they do end up catching lightning in a bottle and can make some late acquisitions to help. So while I don’t believe this news from Kaplan is entirely a spin job from the Cubs, I do believe the team understands the PR challenges it has created and is absolutely seeking ways to fill some of those potholes.

Cubs News and Notes

  • I generally make it a point not to drag professional baseball writers publicly because I’m a pretty diplomatic person and my public profile has gotten to the point that I rub virtual elbows with some of those guys. However, Jim Bowden is someone I’ve got no problems going after. Unscrupulous behavior added the “former” to his GM status, but his commentary frequently reveals that skimming money from international signees wasn’t his only shortcoming. In his latest for The Athletic ($), the man who once blamed his bad tweeting on “Ralph” suggested that the Cubs could trade Bryant to the Cardinals.
  • Bowden had also retweeted a fake Jeff Passan account regarding a trade, so there’s that.
  • The Cubs agreed to a minor-league deal with second baseman Corban Joseph, a 31-year-old AAAA journeyman who’s logged 94 total MLB plate appearances for five different teams. He’s got a .474 OPS with a .207 wOBA and 25 wRC+ in that time, but has a career .803 OPS across nearly 5,000 plate appearances.
  • Per Arizona Phil of The Cub Reporter, Craig Kimbrel will go back to his preferred No. 46 in 2020. He wore 24 last season in deference to Pedro Strop, who recently signed with the Reds for nearly as much as what the Cubs have committed to the only two MLB deals they’ve inked so far.
  • AZ Phil also noted that Kimbrel switching numbers means tabling discussions on the retirement of Lee Smith‘s 46, which was mentioned as a possibility last season.
  • While we’re on the topic of jersey numbers, an additional comment from the same outlet reported that Daniel Descalso will switch to 33. Rather than being an esoteric reference to his age or his K percentage following an ankle injury on May 4, he’s changing because Manager David is getting his old number back.
  • You know things are bleak when half of your notes are about jersey numbers.

MLB notes

  • Pretty slow and my Disney commentary probably prevented anyone from getting this far anyway.

They said it

Those players who have recently signed all got long-term deals with certainty on where they would be playing. If you want to sign the best players in the game then you have to be willing to give those players what other teams are willing to give. Otherwise, why wouldn’t a player just go through arbitration and then get to free agency where he could get his market value? Players aren’t going to sign what you want them to if they have more attractive options available to them. – Kaplan’s source


Saturday Walk Up Music

The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme), John Williams — It was pretty darn cool to step foot on a star destroyer.

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