The struggles of left-hander Justin Wilson following a trade to the Cubs perplexed not only Chicago evaluators but execs throughout the league, writes Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic (subscription required and highly recommended). Sharma spoke to both Cubs manager Joe Maddon and GM Jed Hoyer about Wilson’s troubles, and Maddon made it clear that he views Wilson as an important part of the ’pen for the upcoming 2018 season. Hoyer, meanwhile, acknowledged that some of the blame likely falls on the organization, especially considering that these sort of struggles have happened in the past. (Sharma points to Adam Warren as one prominent example.) “…[W]e’ve had a number of guys who have come in and struggled beyond what they’ve done in the past,” Hoyer tells Sharma. “That’s something we have looked at and will continue to look at and talk about how we ’onboard’ guys, so to speak. … We’ve been, candidly, somewhat frustrated by it and we’ll keep working on it.”
More from the division…
- Patrick Mooney of The Athletic argues that the time is right for the Cubs to make a big splash on the free-agent market. Big spenders like the Yankees, Giants and Dodgers are striving to dip below the luxury tax, while several other clubs throughout the league are also operating under financial constraint. Within their division, the Pirates could be on the verge of a rebuild, as trade rumors swirl around Gerrit Cole, Andrew McCutchen and Josh Harrison. Meanwhile, the Reds don’t yet look to be ready to push back into contention. Mooney notes that the Cubs are remaining in touch with agents for Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta and Alex Cobb, though the Chicago brass doesn’t seem to have Lance Lynn as high on its list of priorities, he adds.
- There’s little precedent for Tommy Pham’s enormous breakout season at the age of 29, writes SB Nation’s Craig Edwards. Pham posted a roughly six-win season for the Cardinals (5.9 fWAR, 6.4 rWAR) last year on the strength of a .306/.411/.520 batting line through 530 plate appearances. However, he’d provided minimal value to the Cards over his first 136 games in the bigs after progressing slowly through the minor leagues. Edwards looks for historical context for Pham’s breakout, noting that there’ve been 48 outfielders with a WAR between five and seven in their age-29 season over the past 70 years. Of that group, only three — Jose Bautista, Ryan Ludwick and former Tigers outfielder Charlie Maxwell — broke out with as limited a track record as Pham. It’s an interesting look at a unique breakout season that also attempts to gauge how Pham will perform in 2018 and beyond.
- Pirates skipper Clint Hurdle recently sat down for a Q&A with Tracy Ringolsby of MLB.com. Hurdle discusses his journey from a 10-year playing career to a minor league manager to a coach and skipper in the big leagues. Hurdle shares an anecdote from his time with the Rockies in which he thought he was on the verge of being dismissed as hitting coach when he was in reality being promoted to skipper. The two also discuss Pittsburgh’s return to postseason contention earlier this decade after a prolonged drought, as well as the recent rough patch over the past couple of seasons. It’s well worth a read — particularly for fans of the Pirates and Rockies.