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One in an occasional series tracking the movements of former Cubs.
1. Pedro Strop.
"This past offseason was not one to remember for the Cubs, a big-market, high-payroll team that spent a mere $3.5MM on free agents after failing to make the playoffs in 2019," MLB Trade Rumors notes.
"The club also lost quite a few of its own notable free agents, including reliever Pedro Strop, even though the right-hander revealed Wednesday that Chicago had interest in retaining him (via Gordon Wittenmyer at the Sun-Times).
"They did try hard to bring me back. It's just money-wise, they couldn't, because they weren't allowed [with] all the salary cap stuff; they wanted to try to stay below," Strop said.
"The 34-year-old Strop, a Cub from 2013-19, ended up with the National League Central rival Reds on a modest single-season pact worth $1.825MM. The Cubs weren't even willing to go to those lengths for Strop, however, thanks in part to their desire to stay under the luxury tax (not the nonexistent salary cap) this year. They were one of three teams that had to pay the tax in 2019, when they were forced to fork over a $7.6MM bill. The threshold then was $206MM, but it has climbed to $208MM for 2020. Although they spent next to nothing over the winter, the Cubs project to start this season about $6MM over that mark, per Jason Martinez of Roster Resource and FanGraphs.
"Should the tax really be a concern for the deep-pocketed Cubs? Arguably not."
2. Wade Davis.
"That Wade Davis has been named the Rockies' closer in and of itself isn't shocking," MLB Trade Rumors says.
"Davis is one of the most accomplished closers of this era, changing the game with an incomparable three-year run of dominance with the Royals from 2014 to 2016. Over that span, Davis appeared in 185 contests, posting a 1.18 ERA/1.86 FIP. He gave up just three home runs in that time, and along with running mates Greg Holland and Kelvin Herrera, showcased the potential for an uber-dominant bullpen to undergird a champion. Whether that unit was truly transcendent is a debate for another day, but they did, at the very least, help drive the transformation of bullpen usage that, in part, defines our current era of baseball.
"And yet, Davis wasn't the nominal closer on those Royals teams. Not until an injury to Holland forced him into the role. But he is, once again, the nominal closer for the Colorado Rockies despite the 8.65 ERA he posted in 50 games last season, per MLB.com's Thomas Harding."
Davis notched a 2.30 ERA/3.38 FIP in his one year (2017) as a Cub. He appeared in 59 games that season and made the All-Star team.
He was acquired, of course, for Jorge Soler. The Cubs let him go as a free agent and went with Brandon Morrow instead.
2. Jonathan Lucroy
"With spring training nearly half over, the [Red Sox'] backup catcher's spot is still wide open between Kevin Plawecki and Jonathan Lucroy," MLB.com reports.
"When camp started, the expectation was that it was Plawecki's job to lose. But it became a full-fledged competition when Lucroy signed a minor league deal with a camp invite on Feb. 20."
Lucroy's deal is for $1.5 million should he head north with the team.
"New Red Sox catcher Jonathan Lucroy played with a herniated disc in his neck for three years. The new scar on the left side of his neck is from surgery he underwent this past offseason to repair the disc," MassLive reports.
"I'd like to sit here and make excuses and say that's the reason why I haven't played good but I'm not going to," Lucroy said. "It did affect me. But I got it taken care of. And I feel a lot better than I have in a long time. I'll just put it like that.
"It's been a huge increase in bat speed. We measured it. Before and after, we measured it. And it's huge. So I feel pretty good."
The Cubs picked up Lucroy last August after the Angels released him; he appeared in 27 games for Chicago, slashing .189/.283/.283. He became a free agent at season's end.
"I knew about (the Astros' sign-stealing system) two years ago, what was going on," Lucroy said. "I know it just recently came out, but everybody in baseball, especially that division that played against them, we were all aware of the Astros doing those things. And it was up to us to outsmart them, which is kind of hard when you have a computer program that breaks your signs.
"We actively changed signs - almost every pitch we were changing signs. You had to because they had them - they would relay them to second base.
"They were stealing signs from first, too, from between your legs. So they had a very intricate system going on. We were well aware of it. It was a challenge.
"It was crazy some of the pitches they would take. It was like, 'Man, these guys are the best hitters I've ever seen.' It all made sense when I found out, when we found out how they were doing it. It all made sense. Then it was like, 'What are you going to do?'
"We knew they were stealing signs before, because you would be back there catching and they would be whistling or yelling. I'm always listening for those things. Those guys do it all the time. If I set up outside, they will whistle. They will whistle location. Or they will call their last name or their number for location if I go in or out. So you will see catchers setting up late so guys don't have time to do that. But I knew they were doing all that, which a lot of teams do that. That's OK. That's on the field. On the field is one thing. That's fair game. That's part of it. But when you're talking about it the way they were with the trash can, that's pretty tough."
3. Alex Avila.
A lock to make the Twins.
Avila came to the Cubs along with then-projected future closer Justin Wilson in the 2017 July trade deadline deal with the Tigers, in exchange for Isaac Paredes, Jeimer Candelario and cash. He appeared in 35 games with the Cubs, slashing .239/.369.380 (like Lucroy, he wasn't brought here for his offense, though wow, look at that OBP). He was not brought back in 2018.
4. Starlin Castro.
"This year's spring training has made Castro as hopeful as he has been in years," the Washington Post reports.
"He will turn 30 in late March, but he joined the World Series champions after he had one of the best offensive stretches of his career in the second half of last season. He's expected to be the everyday second baseman - he could slide to third sometimes if prospect Carter Kieboom can't lock down that spot - and hit cleanup. And he will be playing high-stakes baseball again."
Refresher: In December 2015, the Cubs traded Castro to the Yankees for Adam Warren and Brendan Ryan.
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Posted on Jan 11, 2021