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So what should the Cubs do now? I have some thoughts.
Trade Albert Almora and move Jason Heyward to center. And have the switch-hitting Ian Happ spend extra time during the off-season hitting right-handed because when he isn't subbing for Heyward against tough lefties he'll be subbing for Kyle Schwarber over in left.
The Cubs should give Schwarber, who hit all but one of his 26 homers in 2018 against righties, 550 more at-bats to take one last shot at his becoming the big-time, almost-everyday power hitter they projected him to be. If a hitter is going to be much better against one sort of pitcher than another, better it be against righties just because there are so many of them among humans (usually estimated at 90 percent of the population). In other words, Happ will usually sub for Heyward. Unless Happ is playing second base.
Almora had a decent year hitting the baseball (less so drawing walks but why should he be different than anyone else in this goofy organization?). He is an above average defensive centerfielder (remember that the average major league centerfielder is at least good). He is just the sort of guy that a successful team with well above average hitting at the corners (first and third, left and right) can put in center to play great defense first and foremost.
Almora (third on the team with a .286 batting average) doesn't do a good enough job drawing walks and he has at-best doubles power. I'm not saying you will get a huge haul for him but someone should be willing to part with at least a decent prospect and at least one more guy who has least a long shot at contributing in the majors some day. Teams need at least a few batting average guys. They can hit sixth or seventh (or eighth if the team is good enough) and actually drive in runs rather than coax yet another walk that doesn't drive in the guys on second and third. And hopefully at least a few teams haven't noticed what a lousy baserunner he is.
Sign or trade for a great hitter who can play at least average right field. The chances of the Cubs signing Bryce Harper are not great and they should think long and hard before they even get involved in that bidding war. And someone other than Theo Epstein needs to weigh in with a persuasive case to make a big free agency signing.
When you look at Epstein's extra-large moves during his tenure with the Cubs - and his final few years in Boston - the record of failure is downright disturbing. The general manager signed Carl Crawford, Hanley Ramirez, Jason Heyward and Yu Darvish to deals worth almost $600 million collectively. Other than Heyward's glorious Game 7 speech, the deals haven't paid off. Thank goodness that isn't my money. And don't feel bad for the Rickettses. The billionaire family is still doing just fine.
Here's an idea: work out a trade for Miggy Cabrera. Of course, the Tigers will have to pick up a big chunk of his contract to make it work (although again, I don't care). Sure, Miggy has been more of a first baseman of late but I'll bet he can play a decent right field . . . wait a minute, I just looked at his contract. The injury-prone now 35-year-old ballplayer is owed $30 million in 2019, 2020 and 2021 and $32 million in 2022 and 2023. Maybe that isn't such a good idea and moving on now as we say a prayer of thanksgiving that we aren't Detroit sports fans (although nice win over the Packers on Sunday, Lions!).
The main thing I'm trying to say is the Cubs are probably better going and getting a bad contract (but not Cabrera's disaster) to fill the hole in right than they would be having Theo give Harper who knows how much moolah. Have Theo make a trade rather than break the free agency bank.
In the infield, it is hard to believe that Addison Russell will play another game for the Cubs. Hey Addison, you accepted a 40-game suspension. If you want to play here again, you will need to make a statement expressing way more contrition than you have yet.
So Javy settles in at short. My thought would be to then stick with Kris Bryant at third (he is above-average defensively at the position - far less so in left field) and give David Bote a shot at second. And if Bote can't do it well enough, bring in Happ.
The first priority in the offseason is to find a veteran catcher who will be a new David Ross going forward. Willson Contreras regressed massively during the last few months of the 2018 season. He looked like he was maturing in the first half of the season but at the end he was the same overly emotional mess that he has been too frequently during his Cub career. And he couldn't buy an extra-base hit to save his life.
There we go. Just a few moves to make the lineup better going forward while remembering that this 2018 team did win 95 games.
As far as the pitching goes, well, with eight legit major league starters under contract for next year, doesn't it makes sense to groom at least one of them, if not two, to be Andrew Miller style multi-inning relievers? Of course it does.
Go get em, Theo!
Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.
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