The Rundown: 10 Dynamic Changes Cubs Can Make, ‘Stros in on Stro & Belli, Ohtani Sweepstakes Heating Up

“Well now they often call me Speedoo ’cause I don’t believe in wastin’ time.” – The Cadillacs, Speedo

It’s not fun to write about another underwhelming performance by the Cubs. Like Marcus Stroman, I’m also tired of the narrative that the next X amount of games will determine if Jed Hoyer is buying or selling. The Cubs should be competing every year, full stop. I spent the better part of yesterday evening reading the comments sections of competitive bloggers to gauge the temperature of Chicago’s diehard fans, and it isn’t pretty.

The Cubs need to make some dynamic changes, and I’m here to recommend a few. Naturally, your responses are as important as anything I have to say. I’m more a frustrated fan than an expert, so take these suggestions with a grain of salt or a couple Xanax.

  1. It’s time to say goodbye to Hoyer, Carter Hawkins, and David Ross. Hoyer entered last night’s game with a 349-391 (.472) record as an executive without bosom buddy Theo Epstein. The dynamic duo was 1534-1270-1 (.547) while working in tandem. Ross has been in over his head from the outset and he peaked when the Cubs started 13-3 in 2020. He’s 222-254 as Chicago’s manager.
  2. Promote Craig Breslow to replace Hoyer and let Breslow rebuild the front office.
  3. Hire Mike Shildt to replace Ross. There’s nothing like kicking a team when they’re down and there’s no better team to go all Goodfellas on than the Cardinals. Now go home and get your shinebox, John Mozeliak.
  4. Trade Jameson Taillon, even though you’ll get next to nothing for him, and earmark his contract to extend Stroman. I’m aware that’s an almost impossible task, but if you want to act like you own the place, you find a way to make that happen.
  5. Extend Cody Bellinger. Some of the exaggerated numbers I’ve seen are attributed to being represented by Scott Boras. That said, a middle-of-the-order left-handed bat that can play every outfield position and first base is a strong building block for any contending team. I’ve used Andrew Benintendi as a comp, but 5/$70 million is a little light for a player whose 2023 OPS+ is 137. Nick Castellanos got 5/$100 million from the Phillies and I think that’s a fair starting point for negotiations.
  6. The Cubs should buy at this year’s deadline, but with an eye on next season. Jeff McNeil is signed through 2027 but he’s having an off year, so maybe Hoyer can get him on the cheap. Chicago also needs a closer. Scott Barlow, David Bednar, and Kendall Graveman are better than decent options.
  7. Solidify the corners. Matt Mervis should be given every opportunity to prove himself as Chicago’s first base option for 2024 and beyond. He’s mashing at Iowa once again and at least the organization can find out if he’s cut out to be a major leaguer. Third base is a little tougher, however. The Orioles and Rays are going to be buyers this year, so if Stroman has to be traded, the targets should be Junior Caminero, Jordan Westburg, Curtis Mead, or Coby Mayo, even if Hoyer has to include a sweetener. I’d prefer Caminero or Mead.
  8. Strike quickly. Teams who want a shot at Shohei Ohtani are going to be reluctant to deplete their systems of the types of MLB-ready prospects the Cubs should be seeking.
  9. Optics are going to be important, so Hoyer needs to stress that he’s fortifying the core, even if it means taking a slight step back at the deadline. Nobody wants to see the addition of more prospects who are four or more years away or anything that even remotely smells like an extended rebuild.
  10. Hoyer probably won’t acquire a closer if he’s punting on this season. In that case, it’s time to let Jeremiah Estrada sink or swim. His WHIP is a bit inflated this year and he’s allowed 16 base runners in his last four innings of work. I don’t think he’s the long-term answer, but it doesn’t hurt to audition the young man.

That’s all. I’m gonna go get the papers, get the papers, and a coffee to go.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

Ohtani is a cheat code. Tom Ricketts should give him a blank check this winter.

Central Intelligence

Climbing the Ladder

“My clothes may still be torn and tattered but in my heart I’d be a king.” – Tony Bennett, Rags to Riches

I don’t want to pile on Hoyer, but I’m going to anyway. The desire to try to win without superstar talent will ultimately be his undoing. Chicago’s farm system has a lot of good but not great players, just like the major league roster. If you look at the MLB Pipeline top 10 players by position, only Mervis, Pete Crow-Armstrong, Cade Horton, and Jordan Wicks make the cut. Sadly, the president of baseball operations doesn’t have attrition to blame. It’s like being a somebody in a neighborhood of nobodies.

Hope lies in players like Shaw, Ben Brown, Jackson Ferris, Owen Caissie, and Kevin Alcántara, among others. But the Cubs are not positioned to blend minor league talent with All-Star caliber veterans to compete in 2024 without major additions. If it looks and smells like a rancid rebuild, that’s exactly what it is.

The Cubs now have 777 hits on the season, so maybe their luck is about to change. Or maybe not.

  • Games Played: 93
  • Record: 43-50 (.462)
  • Total Plate Appearances: 3,563
  • Total Strikeouts: 859
  • Strikeout Rate: 24.11%
  • Team Batting Average: .247
  • Runs Scored: 433
  • Runs Allowed: 415
  • Chances of Making the Playoffs25.4%, 1.1% to win the World Series

How About That!

MLB analyst Eric Karros believes the Giants will win the Ohtani sweepstakes.

Jim Bowden believes the Dodgers are the favorites, but that they’ll have to sell the farm to acquire Ohtani.

MLB Network analyst Jon Heyman said the Angels will not trade their two-way superstar to the Dodgers.

The Mets have reportedly scouted star Japanese pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto.

You’ll enjoy a few pointers if you’re as addicted to Immaculate Grid as I am. Who knew Rickey Henderson, who finished his career with 3,055 hits, never had a 200-hit season?

Baseball is in bed with gambling, but does that make Rob Manfred a hypocrite for his treatment of Pete Rose?

Monday’s Three Stars

  1. Nick Pivetta – The Red Sox hurler struck out 13 batters in six no-hit innings piggybacking off of opener Brennan Bernardino.
  2. Keibert Ruiz – A 3-for-3 evening against the Cubs that includes a two-run homer gets the Nationals catcher a spot in this section.
  3. Aroldis Chapman – The closer earned his first win with the Rangers with three strikeouts in one inning of work. He also hit 103 MPH on the radar gun.

Extra Innings

We’re all dying to know if Shaw can play third base. He was officially drafted as a second baseman.

Tuesday Morning Six-Pack

  1. Every time I say I’m going to start producing more content here and at Bears Insider, I fall prey to illness. But I’m going to try again starting this week. Keep your fingers crossed I don’t lose a lung or something in the next few days.
  2. Few know that there was a different ending to Seinfeld that never aired, something Cubs Ballhawk brought to my attention yesterday.
  3. Nobody won Powerball last night, so the grand prize in Wednesday’s drawing will exceed one billion dollars. That’ll keep you from ripping off an airport.
  4. This Sopranos/Gilmore Girls crossover theory is a haunting televison paradox that will freak you out.
  5. Ray Liotta once received a horse’s head from Tina and Nancy Sinatra. The sisters weren’t pleased that the Goodfellas star was the choice to play father Frank in the move The Rat Pack. The whole world is drunk and we’re just the cocktail of the month, pally.
  6. Martin Scorcese wanted Tom Hanks to play Bill “The Butcher” Poole in Gangs of New York, a role that ultimately went to Daniel Day-Lewis. I can’t picture Hanks saying “Ears and noses will be the trophies of the day,” but it would be fun if he said it as Forrest Gump.

They Said It

  • “My internal timetable is to go fail with the best of them as soon as [I] can. In the big leagues, people hit .250 and .300 and that’s really good. For me, obviously, there’s a lot of different pressures that I don’t understand yet when it comes to the fans, the community, and everything that I’ll eventually learn. But when it comes to baseball itself, people are failing a lot more in the big leagues than they are in college. So for me it’s a great opportunity to go and learn and fail and see what [I] can make of it.” – Shaw
  • “There’s definitely times during the season where you press and try to get something done, and that’s never helpful.” – Happ

Tuesday Walk-Up Song

The piano coda on this hit is still one of rock’s signature moments, but did you know it was stolen from Rita Coolidge and is also attached to a gruesome murder?

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