In a piece for The Chicago Tribune, Meghan Montemurro recaps David Ross’s first full season managing the Cubs. The turbulent season saw Ross’s Cubs cruise through the early months before a midseason collapse led to a July fire sale. The skipper notes that he was prepared for the club to eventually retool with younger players, but that even he was surprised by the exodus of Cubs veterans on July 31. Ross quipped “I don’t think in my mind I ever thought it was going to be one day,” referencing how the retooling effort was seemingly confined to a single day. The leaner club finished with a 71-91 record and a fourth place finish, a far cry from the team’s first place performance in 2020. Still, Ross relishes the chance to grow as a manager now that Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Javier Baez likely won’t be holding down the fort with him. The manager’s open-mindedness, combined with his year one success, is part of why Montemurro reminds that Ross is likely to maintain control of the dugout for some time. Ross is guaranteed to be the Cubs manager through 2022, with a 2023 club option, but there is mutual interest in extending those terms. With some contention-minded moves already made, a David Ross extension would be another sign the club is looking to make the playoffs with a new core in place.
Some more from baseball’s central divisions…
- The Cubs are ramping up their efforts to develop homegrown pitching reports Sahadev Sharma and Patrick Mooney of The Athletic. The organization was hit with a number of pitching injuries in the minor leagues, with most of the team’s best pitching prospects sidelined at some point this year after last year’s cancelled minor league season. President Jed Hoyer is reluctant to attribute these injuries to increased workloads however, acknowledging that there are a number of ways the organization can help its players better stay on track. To that end, the Chicago organization has hired former MLB pitchers Craig Breslow, Daniel Moskos, and Danny Hultzen to further develop the game plans used by young pitchers as they come up through the system. Under Vice President of Pitching Breslow’s watch, the Cubs pipeline has already started showing improvement. Despite the swath of recent injuries, many of the players who were healthy enough to pitch this past season found improved velocity under the new pitching regime. More work will need to be done before any young player can be fast-tracked to the Majors, but the authors note that any homegrown Cub who breaks through to the big leagues as a pitching fixture will be the first to do so since Jeff Samardzija debuted in 2008.
- Hopping to the AL Central, where the Twins are dealing with a rare prospect surplus on the heels of their Byron Buxton extension. Writing for The Athletic, Dan Hayes and Aaron Gleeman discuss whether top shortstop/center field prospect Austin Martin can be flipped to acquire a pitcher that will help a Twins rotation short on experience. It would be a short stay in the Minnesota system for Martin, a top-30 prospect who was just acquired in July’s Jose Berrios deal, if he’s dealt. Hayes reasons that the Twins have a dire need for pitching, and speculates that acquiring Luis Castillo or Tyler Mahle of the Reds, or Frankie Montas of the A’s would provide a more immediate benefit to a team looking to contend. Neither writer is convinced Martin should be traded, considering the two players ahead of him on the depth chart (Buxton in center field and top-30 prospect Royce Lewis at shortstop) are hardly locks to stay healthy or productive. Still, with the Twins surprising inactivity in the free agent pitching market, both writers agree a lot of work needs to be done to have the pitching staff match a strong position player group.