The Padres have done a tremendous job in recent years growing the top farm system in the game, but the organization underwent a financial reshaping that was just as important to long-term stability, per Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Mired in the debt inherited from previous owner John Moores, Executive Chairman Ron Fowler led the charge in two important ways: refinancing the debt (thereby lowering interest rates and freeing up money to funnel into baseball ops), and opening the organization’s spending ledger to the public – an uncommon degree of transparency for an MLB club. Acee’s entire article is well worth a read as it paints a fairly complete picture of San Diego’s battle to build a winning franchise that is also fiscally sustainable. Essentially, the Padres followed the structural rebuilding approach popularized by Theo Epstein in Chicago: improve fan experience with additions/renovations to the ballpark while pouring roster resources into the acquisition and development of amateur and international talent. Epstein’s focus on improving the ballpark itself was a strategy he employed in Boston with Fenway Park, and again with Wrigley Field in Chicago. Speaking of…
- The Red Sox are treading awfully close to the penalty-inducing $246MM tax threshold, and Masslive.com’s Christopher Smith wonders if that might be why they didn’t make a push to sign reliever Adam Ottavino. Dave Dombrowski has said there’s no mandate from ownership to avoid the highest tax bracket – but that’s still the goal. It’s easy to wonder why the Red Sox haven’t made more of a push to reinforce the back end of their bullpen, but it’s not totally fair to assume Ottavino was available to them for $9MM a year, as merely matching the Yankees offer doesn’t steal the contract like a white elephant gift. Still, with Joe Kelly in LA and Craig Kimbrel twisting in the wind, there is a surprising lack of urgency to add to the current stable of arms in the bullpen, especially considering the narrow margin for error in the AL East.
- Much has been made of the Cubs lack of activity this winter as well, burnished by Theo Epstein’s early-offseason assertion that the offense was broken. Owner Tom Ricketts, however, doesn’t see any room for an addition in the lineup, writes the Athletic’s Sahadev Sharma. Considering the overall youth of their core and the injuries that limited star Kris Bryant to 102 games last season, Epstein and Ricketts might both be right. The team clearly isn’t willing to give up on Jason Heyward yet, so you can pencil him into the starting spot in right, with Ian Happ in center and Ben Zobrist at second, Albert Almora Jr., Addison Russell, David Bote and Daniel Descalso make up the remaining bench unit, ostensibly filling the roster. Outside of fringe roster types, the Cubs offense might be a one-man-in, one-man-out situation for the rest of the winter.
- There’s cause enough to be concerned about the Cubs offense in 2019, certainly, between Russell’s suspension, Zobrist’s age, and Willson Contreras’ obvious exhaustion near the end of last season, but internally, there’s much to be excited about. At the Cubs Convention this week, Bryant and Epstein both talked up new hitting coach Anthony Iopace, whom Epstein calls “the ultimate fox-hole guy,” per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (via Twitter). As the Cubs former minor league hitting coordinator, he has a rapport with many Cubs hitters already and should be able to hit the ground running. Bryant, for one, is excited about a new season under the infectious energy of “’Poce,” per MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. The Cubs brain trust appear firm in their belief that tinkering of internal processes is all the team needs to bounce back from a “disappointing” 95-win season and challenge for the top spot in the NL Central once again.