By Tony Hooker
Hot stove or hot mess?
It’s nearing Thanksgiving here in the river city, so of course my thoughts are turning to…baseball? The Cardinals, after winning the NL Central and then defeating Atlanta in the first round of the playoffs, have offered Marcel Ozuna a qualifying $17.8 million-dollar one-year contract, which he turned down. I think the birds would have loved to have him back, but he’s looking for a long term deal at this point in his career, and as one of the youngest free agent outfielders on the market, he’ll probably command one, and the Cardinals have a plethora of younger, cheaper outfielders, including Tyler O’Neill, Dylan Carlson, and Lance Thomas, whose summer contributions were solid before he suffered an injury. With so many of you include young outfielders like Harrison Bader, Randy Arozarena and others available, St. Louis might look to bolster their starting pitching by packaging together one or two of them for a trade. At any rate, the Cardinals have stayed good without getting old for the most part. They will need to make a contingency plan in case Matt Carpenter continues to play at historically poor levels. They will also need to find a way to ease Paul DeJong’s playing time at short. DeJong was second on the team to Ironman Paul Goldschmidt in games played, with 159, which is a staggering number for a shortstop.
Meanwhile on the north side…
The Cubs have parted ways with Joe Maddon, whose leadership led them to their first world series win in 108 years in 2016. Anyone care to guess who the last manager to lead the Cubs to a world series title was? Frank Chance, who also played first base for the small bears. Chance was one of four eventual hall of famers to take the field for the Cubs in 1908. Two others were shortstop Joe Tinker and second baseman Johnny Evers. The trio was immortalized in 1910 in “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon”, a poem by Franklin Pearce Adams. The fourth hall of famer was pitcher Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown, who learned to grip a baseball in a way that allowed him to throw exceptional curve balls after losing parts of two fingers in a farming accident at the age of twelve.
As for the modern-day Wrigley dwellers, there seems to be some consternation in Cub nation as what looked to be a budding dynasty has stumbled after winning it all in 2016. It looks like the Cubs first item of business is to sign Javy Baez to an extension as soon as possible. From there, the magic eight ball is cloudy. The Cubs’ starting pitching was solid last year, as they had four players with ERA’s under 4.00. The bullpen was another matter, however. At times it seemed that no lead was safe. Late season free agent acquisition Craig Kimbrel, who was signed as a stop gap when the heretofore reliable Pedro Strop had a season long slide toward mediocrity. Only the 2020 season will determine if “Hat to the Left’s” 4.97 ERA, more than 1.7 runs higher than his career average, is an anomaly or a concession to father time. Strop will be 35 in June. At any rate, Chicago will need to address this potential issue before the season begins. The Kris Bryant question is also on many minds these days. Seemingly a cornerstone for years to come when the Cubs won in 2016, the past few years have been tough on the third baseman, mostly due to injuries. So much so that there have been rumblings of possible trades involving the soon to be 28-year old. Plenty of teams, including the guys with the birds on the bats on their uniforms, would love to have his 30 homers and .280 batting average on their team, but of course he might not want to come to “boring” old STL and compete for championships.
So, there you have it. A little “hot stove” talk as we head into the cold days of winter. Incredibly, the first spring training game is only 97 days away.