The Rundown: Morel Key Player in Cubs’ Offense, Farm System Gets High Praise, Taillon Hurting, MLB Slowly Improving Diversity

Is it just me, or does it feel like the Cubs need at least one more player acquisition to entrench the team among baseball’s best? I know we’re taking a leap of faith with Christopher Morel at third base, but should we be concerned enough to seek another option? I think Morel is going to be fine. Matt Chapman might have been better, but Morel could surprise us.

That said, would you be willing to include the young slugger in a trade with the Guardians for Shane Bieber and  José Ramírez? Even though Morel alone wouldn’t be enough, the addition of those two players could make the Cubs tough come playoff time. Yoán Moncada is another option, but I still have a strong distaste for dealing with the White Sox thanks to the José Quintana trade.

I like the idea of Morel as a placeholder for Matt Shaw, and Jed Hoyer would probably prefer not to add any more major salaries this year. Ramírez is locked up through 2028 at a cool $105 million, and Bieber, who will be a free agent after this season, is owed a little over $10 million. The 2020 Cy Young Award winner might be somebody the front office considers at the trade deadline instead.

For now, however, let’s get back to Morel vs. Ramírez. The Guardians’ third baseman had a 131 OPS+ and was worth 5.1 WAR last year. This is his age-31 season and his 2024 offensive projection is similar to last season’s output. Morel strikes out more and is a poorer fielder, but his power production is similar to Ramírez’s. Still, Morel is worth about 3.5 wins less than his Cleveland counterpart and he’s unlikely to improve his fielding enough to close that gap. Nick Madrigal will probably serve as a late-inning defensive replacement at the hot corner.

That said, I believe Morel is capable of a 35-home run season. If he can hit that many big flies and adjust to the way he will be pitched when necessary, there’s no stopping him. If the 25-year-old can be that type of offensive force, the Cubs won’t need to add anybody else. Chicago had six players hit 20 or more home runs last year despite weak production at first base. Nico Hoerner and Yan Gomes won’t provide much power, but a lineup with seven players having the potential to eclipse 20 taters is very tough to beat. It’s not a stretch to believe Morel will have a big season and field his position adequately enough to be a mainstay.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

Don’t do blue, Canter. Don’t do blue.

Climbing the Ladder

I was disappointed that Pete Crow-Armstrong was sent to minor league camp, but Chicago’s farm system is stacked. MLB Pipeline ranked the Cubs No. 2, right behind the Orioles and just ahead of the Brewers. Hoyer and his staff have done an excellent job since inheriting a barren system from Theo Epstein, giving the North Siders potential stars at every level. Many of the players below will get new designations this year.

The trade that sent Jackson Ferris to the Dodgers was tough, but Wiggins might end up being the better pitcher and I believe Busch is going to be a star.

Central Intelligence

Spring Training News & Notes

MLB is seeing slowly improving diversity in its youth pipeline despite a record-low number of Black major leaguers.

Yankees starter Gerrit Cole is having difficulty recovering between outings, so he’s going to have an MRI on his elbow.

New York is also giving Aaron Judge some time off due to general wear and tear.

Braves manager Brian Snitker doesn’t know exactly when Ronald Acuña Jr. will resume playing in spring training games, but the reigning National League MVP’s previously sore right knee has responded well to daily activity over the past week.

Tyler Glasnow will face Yu Darvish when the league opens its 2024 season with a two-game series in Seoul, South Korea between the Dodgers and Padres. Yoshinobu Yamamoto will take the bump against Joe Musgrove in Game 2.

Montgomery and Blake Snell were the butt of social media jokes thanks to the rapid pace of the NFL’s free-agent frenzy.

Trevor Bauer pitched against some Dodgers prospects, but no scouts were in attendance.

Tuesday Morning Six-Pack

  1. We’ve got some Bears news, so let’s get to it in chronological order. The team signed cornerback Jaylon Johnson to a four-year, $76 million extension over the weekend.
  2. Former All-Pro safety Kevin Byard agreed to a two-year contract on Sunday night to play for Chicago.
  3. Finally, the Bears struck first in free agency by coming to terms with running back D’Andre Swift on a three-year deal.
  4. GM Ryan Poles has yet to find a trade partner for quarterback Justin Fields, and NFL Insider Ian Rappaport believes the team has yet to seriously consider trading the fourth-year quarterback.
  5. John Fogerty is going on tour with George Thorogood & the Destroyers. That’s great news for Thorogood fans because the 74-year-old guitarist canceled several tour dates last year while dealing with a “very serious medical condition.”
  6. Al Pacino at the Oscars? The actor’s presentation for Best Picture was priceless and bizarre at the same time. I’ve tried to watch Oppenheimer several times but always fall asleep about 30 minutes into the award-winning flick. That said, wouldn’t you love to see Cillian Murphy play David Byrne?

Extra Innings

Something I did not know previously that makes me very happy.

Sliding Into Home

I spoke with our good friend Torque by email over the weekend and he’s currently recovering from multiple ailments. Do me a solid and wish him a speedy recovery in the comments section. Naturally, I cannot disclose anything about his health, but a healthy dose of good cheer might speed things up. He has been reading every day.

They Said It

  • “When we signed Cody [Bellinger], our thought right now is the best place for PCA to start is in the minor leagues. Then just knock down the door for us and make us figure something out on the major league side. Pete’s 21 years old. He just needs to play baseball and learn from his experiences playing baseball. As he keeps doing that, the younger you are, the more you just have not experienced yet. Do that and he’s going to get better quickly. That’s how it’s going to work for him.” – Counsell
  • “I think power mostly comes from approach. Understanding that you have to hit the right pitches. Then when I get that pitch, making sure I don’t miss it. Being very confident in that plan and being able to square up balls consistently in the air. A lot of guys are going to hit home runs if they do that. For me, it’s being consistent with that approach and the power comes naturally a bit.” – Shaw
  • “There’s a lot of right-handed pitching in the game and it’s hard to run our lineups when you know that a guy with a good slider is gonna give you fits that night. To have that kind of balance I think is really valuable on both sides. I don’t think you wanna be, especially in Wrigley [which] kind of favors righties a little bit, you don’t wanna be too left-handed, but I do think you need to be able to match up and balance the lineup in a good way.” – Hoyer

Tuesday Walk-Up Song

I’m gonna dedicate this one to Torque. I believe he’s a big Stax Records fan.

Back to top button