They’ve made a mini-celebration out of “Truck Day” in Boston — that day when the semis full of gear leave Fenway and head down to Ft. Myers — for the past ten years or so. Kinda silly, but a nice enough little ceremony. Better than the groundhog as far as harbingers of spring go anyway.
This is the first year, however, where I’ve heard of other teams — or fans of other teams — making hay over their own Truck Days. The chatter on this has been growing all week. MLB.com has a whole article about it today, talking about various trucks leaving various parks for various spring training destinations. Which leads me to ask two questions:
1) Has this always happened? I’ll grant that I may have missed it in the past — I’m obviously following things a lot closer this winter than I did back when I was a working stiff — but I have no memory whatsoever of anyone but the Red Sox making a big deal out of it before this year, and even then it was a really minor and relatively recent phenomenon;
2) If I’m not imagining it and it is a new thing, do we give the people at MLB credit for coming up with a new marketing/promotional thing, or do we heap scorn on them for synthesizing some phony fan event, ripping off the Red Sox or whatever? Because I’m kind of confused about it.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Cubs won’t deal Kyle Schwarber this winter, despite multiple inquires from teams around the league. Schwarber is approaching his first year of arbitration and will remain under team control for another three seasons before reaching free agency in 2022.
The decision comes on the heels of one of the strongest seasons of the 25-year-old outfielder’s short career. Over 137 games and 510 PA for the Cubs, he proved a passable defender in left field and batted .238/.356/.467 with 26 home runs, an .823 OPS, and 3.2 fWAR in 2018. He also led the National League in intentional walks, with 20, and bumped up his total walks from 59 in 2017 to 78.
Despite his marked improvements from previous years, Schwarber’s performance still left something to be desired — specifically against left-handed pitchers, who held the slugger to a paltry .224/.352/.303 with four extra-base hits across 91 PA. Still, it’s evident the Cubs feel Schwarber is capable of strengthening his splits in the years to come, and they might stand to get more value from him on the field than they would in a trade this offseason.
Of course, that’s not to say the Cubs intend to pass the Winter Meetings in total silence, especially as they’ll be seeking bullpen and catching depth in advance of their 2019 run at the division title. As club president Theo Epstein remarked last week, “We’re certainly open and active in trade talks with a lot of deals that usually don’t come to fruition. So, we may make some trades. We could make big ones that transform the roster. We may make smaller complementary ones. But there’s certain things we’d like to accomplish.”