The Cardinals have a day off today so Tony La Russa has some extra time to think about it, but it seems pretty clear that Ryan Franklin’s time as the Cardinals’ closer is over.
Or hell, maybe it ended yesterday and we just didn’t notice it. I mean, in a 1-0 game in the ninth inning, La Russa went to Trever Miller first, who gave up that double to Andre Ethier. Only then did he summon Franklin. I don’t pretend to understand what La Russa does with his bullpen, so it’s hard to say if that, in and of itself, meant anything, but it’s pretty academic now. The closer is the big subject in St. Louis, even if La Russa would rather not talk about it:
Manager Tony La Russa attempted to deflect questions about the topic afterward. “What about the offense?” he said. “We only got two runners to second base against their starter. It’s not all about the closer.”
That might have worked better if he hadn’t berated the media the last time they tried to ask him about the offense.
In any event, Bernie Miklasz has all of the brutal detail about why Franklin has to go. And I can’t say I disagree with any of it. You don’t overreact to a blown save. Or even two. But when you have a 6-4 road trip and three of those losses came when you held the lead at some point in the ninth inning, well, that’s all she wrote.
Bernie thinks the job should go to Mitchell Boggs. Others are lobbying for Eduardo Sanchez, though it seems hard to picture La Russa going with a guy who has two major league appearances under his belt. Whoever the best candidate is, something has to be done.
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.”