It was an ice cold stove for most of the offseason, but things finally picked up after Shohei Ohtani signed with the Los Angeles Angels of Disneyland on the eve of the Winter Meetings.
The Cubs picked up a pair of relief pitchers and a injury project that could see some time in the pen late this year:
This was mostly covered in last week's post, but the Cubs signed Morrow to a 2/18 deal, with a $12m club/vesting option for a third year or $3m buyout. Morrow was a solid starter for the Blue Jays before injury prone-ness cut his starting career short. I thought he had started for the Brewers at some point but must be confusing him with someone else. He had shoulder surgery in 2015 that finally put an end to his starting career, and he was lights out in his first full season as a reliever with LADoLA, posting a 2.06 ERA and 1.55 FIP. There's a bit of injury concern as he threw 60 innings last year in his first full season back from the surgery, but I think this is a pretty great deal for the Cubs. I get the vibe that they don't intend for him to close, which could indicate that they aren't done with bullpen shopping.
The Cubs also signed former Marlins closer Steve Cishek to a 2/13 deal. Cishek is a sidearmer who is a ground ball machine (career 49.8%) but also gets a decent amount of strikeouts (career 9.58 K/9). He's struggled with walks in one or two seasons but holds a career mark of 3.29 BB/9. He's also been remarkably consistent, posting a sub-3.00 ERA in five of his seven full seasons, and even his worst season was merely a 3.58. The Cubs would have loved that in the back half of last year.
This one is more of a project, as Smyly is coming back from TJS. He's always been a projection system favorite, and I would have guessed he was a Joe Maddon favorite too but their time with the Rays only overlapped for seven starts at the end of the 2014 season. He main claim to fame metrics wise is that he has one of the most over the top deliveries in the league, which changes how his fastball plays. It's also a big reason he was such an injury risk and probably why he ended up on the surgeon's table. He might be back as a RP later this season, and I'm sure the Cubs would love to have him in the rotation next year.
- Having missed out on Ohtani, it sounds like the Cubs are now in on Yu Darvish. There were reports out of Japan last week that suggested this, and the US reporters reported that the Cubs were at least kicking the tires a few days later.
- If the Cubs don't get Darvish (or maybe even if they do), it sounds like Montgomery is pushing harder to be a more permanent part of the rotation. He's been incredibly valuable as a swingman for the Cubs, but it must be a kind of frustrating role for a player to be in for a long period of time. On top of that, his relatively distant future as a free agent would look a lot rosier if he had more starts under his belt. He could be a decent trade piece of the Cubs end up deciding he's superfluous.
- The Cubs have also been loosely connected to trade talks for Danny Salazar and Danny Duffy. It could also just be that someone overheard some Cubs scounts talking about Dennys and got confused. You never know.
- Wade Davis is still out there, and the Cubs would love to bring him back if his market isn't quite as robust as he thought. The Cubs also made an offer to Luke Gregerson before he signed with the Rockies.
- Alex Cobb also remains unsigned, and may be a fallback if they don't sign Darvish. I can't think of any FA over the past few years that the Cubs have been more connected to, though.
Around the league
- Obviously, the big splash of the week was the Yankees picking up Giancarlo Stanton for Starlin Castro and a few bags of peanuts. Well, more specifically Stanton and his contract. That team could set the record for the most home runs in a season. I still think the best part of this process was the Marlins working out a deal with the Cardinals for the trade first followed by Stanton saying NOPE to playing for the BFIB. At least he's not in the NL. Bummer for Starlin, whose chances of picking up a WS ring have been drastically reduced.
- The Dodgers brought Matt Kemp back to LA as part of a salary dump to get under the luxury tax. Given how much of a legendary albatross Kemp's deal was a few years ago, it was quite the head scratcher to see a headline to the effect of "Dodgers acquire Kemp, get salary relief". Adrian Gonzalez got Wally Pipped last year, but it's still going to be strange to see him playing for another franchise.
- Former Cubs closer Hector Rondon signed a two year deal with the Astros. It was probably the right move to let him go, but I've still got a bit of Randy Wells Disease on Rondon and can't shake the feeling that the Cubs might end up regretting it, despite what everything else might say about it being the right move. He could just need a change of scenery.
- In addition to Ohtani, the Suburban Hellscape Angels also signed perennially underrated SS Zack Cozart. Mike Trout might finally have a decent team around him, which should be great for baseball.