The Cubs and Pirates are squared off in a key double-header today at PNC Park as the teams jockey for position in the NL Central — and, quite possibly, the rights to host an all-or-nothing Wild Card game. Let’s check in on the latest notes from that division and its corresponding grouping from the American League side.
- Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein says he’s not worried about the possibility of losing front office talent to other organizations this winter, as Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. “I think we have a pretty tight-knit group, and this is a great time to be a Chicago Cub,” he explained, going on to add that, “but if we do [lose front office staff], I think we have a really deep organization, that there’s another layer ready to step up.” Epstein’s own contractual status is set to move towards the front of the burner for Chicago, of course. He says that he’s not giving any thought to the matter at present, and it’s hard to blame him: with organization’s baseball operations department firing on all cylinders, his leverage only seems to be on the rise.
- There is some real cause for concern with Royals closer Greg Holland, writes MLB.com’s Mike Petriello. His fastball velocity and spin rate have both fallen off a cliff of late, and a recent ten-day rest did not reverse the trend. That not only creates questions the rest of the way for the World Series-hopeful Royals, but adds to the offseason intrigue for the 29-year-old righty. Kansas City already has a ton of cash (relative to its overall payroll) committed to the pen, and Holland will line up for a raise on his $8.25MM salary in his final year of arbitration. He had seemed a plausible trade candidate, but will need to answer some questions over the final weeks of the season and the postseason before his offseason outlook can be assessed.
- Former Reds great Barry Larkin has seen his name mentioned frequently as a hypothetical candidate to take over in the Cincinnati dugout, though it’s not clear yet whether Bryan Price will be retained for 2016. Larkin said today on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (Twitter link) that he interviewed for the Rays job last year and had preliminary discussions about the Tigers’ most recent opening, which at least gives credence to the idea that the Hall-of-Famer has interest in such a position.