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Thanksgiving week is here, and historically we do see a little movement around baseball as some folks try to wrap things up before the holiday. With Aaron Nola signing, that too might free up some other movement. That said, I wouldn’t expect the floodgates to open, as Shohei Ohtani’s free agency is still going to hold up a lot, and ditto Yoshinobu Yamamoto not even being posted yet (though that could finally come today).
Yet another plus of landing Craig Counsell as manager is the set of outside eyes he could bring to young big leaguers (or prospects right on that minor league/big league border) to help re-situate them in a way we hadn’t necessarily been thinking before. Here’s how Patrick Mooney frames it:
That’s a great point. We all know Báez could be a superstar talent from before Maddon arrived, but it wasn’t until Maddon pushed hard for Báez to make the 2015 Opening Day roster (showing new confidence in Báez, who wouldn’t actually arrive that year until September), found a temporary new defensive home for him as a utility man, and told Báez to “try not to suck,” that it seemed like he really found his footing in the transition to the big leagues. Would the Cubs have believed as much in Báez going forward without Maddon’s view and push? Would Báez have become what he did in 2016 and on? Who might Counsell see in a new light, or push in a different way than the Cubs had been thinking? It’s wild to think like, for a random example, what if Counsell is a huge Alexander Canario believer or something? Or what if he sees Hayden Wesneski as a starter and knows how to help him attack lefties?
This ties a little bit back to my thinking on how Counsell is a new and valuable outside voice for the front office, but this is a slightly different point – it’s more about player development at the big league level, and identifying the who and how of it. I’m pretty excited to think about how Counsell could positively impact the Cubs in that way.
If you missed the coaching staff news over the weekend, Andy Green is off to the Mets, Johnny Washington is off to the Angels, and Tommy Hottovy and Dustin Kelly are staying.
Congrats to Ian Happ on getting married this weekend, and I hope it was a great time for the newlyweds. One maybe mild bit of awkwardness on the timing:
Cubs lefty Bailey Horn, whom we discussed this weekend, gets a shot from MLB Pipeline as one of the seven unranked prospects who got 40-man spots last week:
“It will be interesting to see how Counsell factors into this process after managing the Milwaukee Brewers for nine seasons. Maddon brought his experiences with the Tampa Bay Rays into his first spring training with the Cubs and raved about Báez, who was not drafted by the Theo Epstein regime and would be mentioned frequently in trade rumors. It’s not that the Cubs suddenly realized Báez possessed freakish talents once Maddon mentioned it in a meeting, but a fresh set of eyes and the right attitude helped Báez find his role, become more comfortable and play with more confidence.”
Zack Britton is calling it a career:
Britton was incredible for many years, but it’s his 2016 season that will always stand out to me as one of the best relief seasons ever: 0.57 ERA over 67.0 innings, 29.1% K, 7.1% BB, 0.13 HR/9, and – wait for it – an 80 FREAKING PERCENT GROUNDBALL RATE. So nearly 30% of the batters he faced struck out. And then 80% of the batters who put a ball in play hit it on the ground. That winds up being 80% of ALL BATTERS he faced that year EITHER struck out or hit a ground ball. Every time you faced him, you had a 4 in 5 chance of striking out or hitting a ground ball. Bonkers.
Wait. 2015 Jake Arrieta didn’t even make the top ten?!
[W]inter [W]onderland in effect:
That’s incredibly fun, and also about the only way you’d get proof that he himself did it:
“Bailey Horn, LHP, Cubs: Originally taken by the White Sox in the fifth and final round of the 2020 Draft out of Auburn, Horn was shipped to the Cubs at the 2021 Trade Deadline for Ryan Tepera. He’s spent the past two seasons pitching out the bullpen, and while his command needs work (4.9 BB/9 in 2023, in line with his career rate), he’s missed a ton of bats (11.3/9 this past season) with a fastball that now touches 97 mph, a low-80s slider and a slower curve.”