No seriously, Billy Wagner is not coming back

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Yesterday I tweeted, mostly jokingly, that Billy Wagner was still on the Braves 40-man roster. Many others have continued to notice the same thing, fueling rumors that the left-hander isn’t ready to retire.

David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution did his best to dispel that notion last night, writing that there has been no indication from anyone involved that Wagner has wavered from retirement and is quietly gearing up for spring training. His retirement isn’t official yet, but Wagner’s agent has told Braves general manager Frank Wren on multiple occasions this offseason that his retirement paperwork will be filed.

Well, what the heck has taken so long? Who knows. Buster Olney of ESPN.com wonders if perhaps Wagner has held back on his final decision just in case he gets the impulse to pitch again as spring training nears. Plausible, I guess, but the Braves are confident that Wagner’s fantastic career is over.

Cubs won’t make Kyle Schwarber available in trade talks

Kyle Schwarber
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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.”