Stroman’s Return and Future, Roster Moves Coming, Frazier Now Raking, and Other Cubs Bullets

Committed to an extreme spoiler-free existence, I will say only that I very much enjoyed the new ‘Thor.’ A delightful experience.

  • That was really about as good as you could hope from Marcus Stroman last night, returning after just one very short rehab start:
  • Stroman is famously a tinkerer, always trying to maintain and improve, so it’s not necessarily a surprise that he says he was working on his mechanics even while he was away and resting / rehabbing (Cubs.com). “It’s a process, a journey,” Stroman said. “Out on the mound, it’s just trying to find my breath and make sure I make those mechanical adjustments each and every pitch, which is hard to do when you have a lot going on. When I feel like I hone in and hit those points, I feel like my pitches come out with much better action. So it’s a matter of getting there. ”
  • Ultimately, the rest of the season for Stroman and the Chicago Cubs is just about helping him get into a really good place by the end of the year, with an eye toward his contributions in 2023. There is an alignment of interests there, too, since Stroman has an opt-out after 2023 (which would really be a consideration only if he’s great the rest of this year and next year), and the Cubs are going to be pushing hard for competitiveness in 2023 (both because they can’t take multiple years off like this in the post-World Series world and not expect to hemorrhage season ticket holders and Marquee subscribers, and because they can’t get lottery picks in consecutive seasons anyway, so tanking in 2023 is of very limited draft value). Long story short: everyone involved should be approaching 2022 as all about ensuring top-level Stroman performance in 2023.
  • Stroman’s spot on the 26-man roster, by the way, came from Justin Steele going on the paternity list this weekend (congrats!). Another move will be necessary to open up a spot for Drew Smyly to start today. Mark Leiter Jr. back out the door? Anderson Espinoza back to Double-A? Or will Rowan Wick get a chance to recalibrate himself? Espinoza feels like the most likely, though someone else will have to go when Steele comes back early next week.
  • Jackson Frazier appears to really be settling in at Iowa now that he’s getting regular starts:
  • That is Frazier’s fourth homer in eight games, and his recent scorching stretch has finally got his slash at Iowa into positive territory (.237 / .330 / .423 / 101 wRC +). He’s at .271 / .342 / .500 / 120 wRC + since he was outrighted to Iowa and accepted (literally and figuratively) that he would have to work his way back in the minors. Good slash line, though notable that it comes with a massive 36.7% K rate. Wonder if he was working on some mechanical tweaks in addition to just getting regular playing time? The strikeout rate is much lower over the last 10 days when he’s been going off, for what it’s worth.
  • Ultimately, I think Frazier is going to be in that mix of outfielders the Cubs will want to give looks after the Trade Deadline. It’s a big group: Frazier, Narciso Crook, Darius Hill, Nelson Velazquez (who may be better served by getting some more time at Iowa to work on what he’s experiencing now in the bigs), plus longer shots to get a look like Jared Young , Greg Deichmann, and Nelson Maldonado (Michael Hermosillo is still TBD).
  • I’m going on the assumption – foolish as I may be! – that Jason Heyward will remain out of the picture one way or another, and that Rafael Ortega will be dealt with. Even still, unless Ian Happ is traded, you’re going to have only one outfield spot regularly open for a young player to come up and start (and that assumes Christopher Morel keeps moving around). The rest will be a lot of coming off the bench, working in occasionally at first base, and then at DH. Of that group, I’d most like to see Frazier and Crook getting some significant second half playing time.
  • Stray thing to keep in mind whenever talking about the positional maneuverings ahead: Frank Schwindel (back) and Nick Madrigal (groin) are currently on a rehab assignment at Iowa, though you could argue both have reason to be at Iowa for a little while in any case (Madrigal was already the subject of calls to spend some time at Triple-A after his brutal start, and Schwindel was actually headed there before roster needs brought him back (and he’s hitting just .255 / .302 / .438 / 102 wRC + since that return, which isn’t terrible, but also isn’t what you would need from a bat-only first baseman)).
  • Wonder if there’s a team out there that could send the Mets a catcher and an outfielder:
  • I’m not entirely joking; but since I see it a lot, I will say that Cubs fans who are pining for Francisco Alvarez need to turn that off, unfortunately. He has become a top five prospect in the game, and also completely and utterly untouchable (and now we can see why the Cubs wanted him so desperately the last couple years, but couldn’t pry him from the Mets). Even if the Cubs packaged Willson Contreras and Ian Happ, for example, you just aren’t getting close to Alvarez. Heck, the Mets might just CALL UP Alvarez at this point.
  • If you are into sports memorabilia, Fanatics’ memorabilia arm SportsMemorabilia.com is having a 25% off everything sale, so there is a boatload of Cubs (well, and everything else) stuff worth checking out. I am definitely getting something today, I just have analysis paralysis and can’t decide what I want most…

If commissioner Rob Manfred is as serious as he seemed when telling ESPN last week he wants to start implementing automated strikes zones in the majors by 2024, the game’s in worse straits – and worse hands – than we thought.

The game needs to restore more of its human element, not less, if it wants to connect again with younger fans. We already have robo swings, robo sliders made in pitch labs, robo scouting, robo managing and robo roster building driven by tank-happy computer models.

The last thing this increasingly hard-to-watch, de-personalized sport needs is robo umps.

  • As a hardcore Bring Me The Robo Umps guy, I will admit, this is the version of an argument against robo umps that does land a little bit. It at least gives me a moment of pause in wondering whether the upside in “getting everything right” will be outweighed by the increasingly “robotic” nature of the sport. I’m not sure I fully bought it, but there’s a fair argument there. (And it might wind up the best argument for going with a limited challenge system, rather than fully-automated balls and strikes.)

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