The Rundown: Happ Extension Creates New Core, Hoyer ‘Predicted’ Epic Comeback Win, Rays Stay Undefeated

“There’s a hero living at 2401 and all around a family circus in the sun.” – John Mayall, 2401

The Cubs and Ian Happ finally agreed to an extension yesterday and I like what it says about the team going forward. The Cubs are building a new core, and though it may not match the heady days of Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber, and Javier Báez, I’ll happily go to battle with Happ, Nico Hoerner, Dansby Swanson, and Seiya Suzuki. The next championship run will be driven by starting pitching anyway, so guys that can stick a little and play above-average defense are essential cogs. I’m happy for Happ and for Cubs fans as well.

Of course, now everybody wants to know which minor leaguer will be traded and for whom. That’s not anything anybody should worry about right now or for the rest of this year. The designated hitter gives Chicago some flexibility, plus injuries and attrition are bound to occur. If three prospects emerge from the system to become major league stars, there will be room for each. Winning teams find ways to roster and play their best players.

Pete Crow-Armstrong is locked in as the team’s center fielder of the future, perhaps as soon as next year. That’s why Cody Bellinger is on a one-year prove-it deal, and could/should serve as trade fodder come July. Kevin Alcántara and Owen Caissie are going to be big league studs in my opinion, but each is a few years away. That means Brennen Davis and Alexander Canario could be trade pieces, though that’s not a given. Davis has little projection left and seems to me the most likely to be traded. Others believe it’s Canario who could be moved. Time will tell.

Needless to say, it’s a good problem to have. When the Cubs traded Dylan Cease and Eloy Jiménez for José Quintana, Theo Epstein was not dealing from depth because the system was perilously shallow. Of course, the front office believed they had a sizeable window of contention, and Quintana was the starter that was supposed to give the team an almost unbeatable playoff rotation. It’s also fair to note that nobody predicted Chicago’s key offensive players peaked, for the most part, in 2016. Schwarber and the MVP run by Báez in 2018 are the notable exceptions.

Happ is one of those players who continues to improve a little each year, which makes his three-year extension a safe way to keep him around. There’s value for each side in that contract and it shouldn’t alter the plans most fans have for the future of this ball club. It’s obvious that Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins see Happ as a key component in Chicago’s short-term future, and rightfully so. Some of Chicago’s talking heads compare Happ to Billy Williams, but that’s way off. I think Ben Zobrist with a little more power is a better comparison, plus their career OPS+ is almost identical.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

Someone with sharp media skills needs to mash up this video of Pete Fairbanks with the caller during each opening of the Scream film series.

Central Intelligence

Climbing the Ladder

“‘We’ll meet on edges soon,’ I said, proud ‘neath heated brow. I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.” – The Byrds, My Back Pages (Bob Dylan cover)

The Cubs’ offensive surge the other night raised the team’s batting average from .269 to .280, a welcome change. It’s been years since Wrigley Field has been as charged up and loud as it was when Velázquez hit his grand slam Tuesday night. The home run is no longer the centerpiece of the team’s offensive production and the death of three-outcome batting in Chicago is such a wonderful visual.

The Cubs are third in the National League in scoring, but rank 14th of 15 teams in home runs. Additionally, 74.5% of their hits have been singles and Chicago has struck out less than 21% of the time for most of the season. Their strikeout rate in 2022 was 24%, so maintaining their current pace would mean the Cubs will strike out 167 times less than last year’s squad. They are averaging nearly two more runs per game than they did in ’22, though that gap should tighten over time.

  • Games Played: 11
  • Total Plate Appearances: 419
  • Total Strikeouts: 87
  • Strikeout Rate: 20.76%
  • Team Batting Average: .280
  • Runs Scored: 61
  • Runs Allowed: 51
  • Chances of Making the Playoffs: 29.3%

How About That!

A’s reliever Chad Smith earned his first major league win thanks to a rarely applied official scoring rule.

Salt Lake City would like to be considered as a potential MLB expansion city. A group headed by longtime Jazz owner Gail Miller unveiled plans for a new stadium and entertainment district.

According to a report from ESPN, the coalition to bring Major League Baseball to Utah includes Larry H. Miller, former players Dale Murphy and Jeremy Guthrie, and other local business leaders.

Five MLB teams have now announced relaxed beer sales in lieu of the shorter games.

In addition to the “Dong Bong”/”Homer Hose” celebration for home runs, the Orioles are also using a “sprinkler” celebration for extra-base hits.

Jarred Kelenic hit a mammoth home run in yesterday’s win over the Cubs that may still be airborne.

The deal that sent Marlins starter Pablo López and prospects to the Twins for Luis Arráez has been a rare win-win trade for both teams.

Wednesday’s Three Stars

  1. Tampa Bay Rays – They’re now 12-0 and have established residence at the top of this list until they lose. The Rays could play .500 ball the rest of the way and still finish the season with 87 wins.
  2. Max Muncy – Funky Muncy is on quite a tear these days. He had two homers and five RBI in the Dodgers’ 10-5 win over the Giants yesterday. The third baseman finished the three-game set with four big flies and 11 ribeyes.
  3. Bobby Witt Jr. – The young Royals star went 3-for-5 with a triple, an RBI, and three stolen bases.

Extra Innings

Seiya…See ya!

Thursday Morning Six-Pack

  1. I thought at first that this was an SNL parody, but apparently, it’s real.
  2. NPR is breaking up with Twitter because it was bullied by Elon Musk. PBS also cut ties with the social media behemoth. NPR will keep its 52 accounts but will not post new content to the feeds. “We are not putting our journalism on platforms that have demonstrated an interest in undermining our credibility,” the media organization said in a statement yesterday.
  3. If you live in Ft. Lauderdale I hope you have an ark. The Atlantic-side coastal town was deluged with 20 inches of rain yesterday.
  4. Warner Bros. Discovery confirmed it’s combining HBO Max and Discovery+ into one mega streamer called simply Max. The company also announced some of what the new service will offer, including a Harry Potter series, a new Game of Thrones prequel, and new DC Comics content.
  5. Rocker George Thorogood has a “very serious medical condition” and has canceled 18 shows through May 21. If only it was something that One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer could heal. Sending good vibes only to George.
  6. Arnold Schwarzenegger was fed up with what he thought was a pothole in his Brentwood, CA neighborhood, so he too matters into his own hands. SoCal Gas was not very happy with Arnold’s efforts.

They Said It

  • “The exciting part about being here is being able to build something and work towards a championship. That is the motivating factor for me, how much I love this place and how much I love the idea of competing in the playoffs in a Cubs uniform.” – Happ
  • “As people, as players, I feel really great about — I don’t know exactly how Rossy’s going to make out the lineup card, but you can see a situation where those top four guys in the lineup are all prime age, they’re all signed through at least 2026. I’m really thrilled to have that stability. This was certainly a priority to get these deals done.” – Hoyer

Thursday Walk-Up Song

I love that we got a little taste of summer here in the Midwest this week.

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