Is it time the Cubs think about Kyle Schwarber in left field?

37 Comments

Much like Kris Bryant before him, 2014 first-round pick Kyle Schwarber has had his way with minor league pitching since the day the Cubs signed him. After hitting two homers for Double-A Tennessee on Sunday, he’s sitting at .333/.448/.657 with nine homers in 108 at-bats for the season. His career line of .341/.434/.641 in 370 at-bats is nearly a match for Bryant’s .327/.426/.667 line.

Meanwhile, Cubs left fielders have hit .217/.283/.370 in 138 at-bats this season. It’s not a total disaster, but it’s certainly not good. Most of the playing time has gone to Chris Coghlan, who has hit .194/.269/.370 overall. Chris Denorfia was expected to be his platoonmate, but he’s been hurt.

Given that the Cubs are all in, having already called on Bryant and Addison Russell, there’s going to be some point at which it might make sense to add the 22-year-old Schwarber to the mix. One slightly complicating factor: Schwarber isn’t currently a left fielder.

While Schwarber played 36 games in left (and 20 behind the plate) after being selected out of Indiana last year, the Cubs recommitted to him as a catcher over the winter. All of his starts this year have come behind the plate (21) or at DH (eight). He hasn’t excelled defensively — he’s given up 35 steals in 42 attempts over the course of 21 games — but neither has he been such a failure to cause the Cubs to doubt their decision.

The Cubs, though, did pick up Miguel Montero over the winter, committing $40 million to him through 2017. He’s been terrific this year, and there’s every reason to think he’ll be a solid starter through the end of his contract. The Cubs could always trade him when they think Schwarber is ready to play, but given that Montero is a better defender now than Schwarber is ever likely to become, there’s still a good chance Schwarber is going to end up in left field anyway. Unless someone else steps up, it might as well be sooner, rather than later.

Report: Astros’ assistant GM yelled ‘Thank God we got Osuna!’ at female reporters

Mike Stobe/Getty Images
5 Comments

Last year, then-closer for the Blue Jays Roberto Osuna was arrested in Toronto on an assault charge. He allegedly assaulted the mother of his then three-year-old son. The charge was eventually withdrawn in exchange for a peace bond, but Major League Baseball still suspended Osuna for 75 games without pay.

Due to the off-the-field ugliness, the Astros were able to acquire Osuna on the relative cheap, sending Ken Giles, David Paulino, and Hector Perez to the Blue Jays. Osuna has been mostly great for the Astros since the trade, finishing the 2018 season with 12 saves, a 1.99 ERA, and a 19/3 K/BB ratio in 22 2/3 innings in his new uniform. This year, Osuna racked up an American League-high 38 saves with a 2.63 ERA and a 73/12 K/BB ratio in 65 innings.

With the Astros holding a 4-2 lead in the top of the ninth in ALCS Game 6 against the Yankees, manager A.J. Hinch called on Osuna to get the final three outs to send his team to the World Series. He ended up allowing a leadoff single to Gio Urshela, then a game-tying two-run home run to DJ LeMahieu. Nevertheless, the Astros won it in the bottom of the ninth thanks to José Altuve’s walk-off two-run homer off of Aroldis Chapman.

In the postgame celebration, Stephanie Apstein of Sports Illustrated reports that Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman yelled towards a group of three female reporters, “Thank god we got Osuna! I’m so … glad we got Osuna!” Taubman repeated the phrase half a dozen times. One of the reporters was wearing a purple domestic violence awareness bracelet.

The Astros declined to comment on the issue and did not make Taubman available for an interview. That shouldn’t come as a shock because the Astros have organizationally failed repeatedly to meaningfully address Osuna’s behavior. GM Jeff Luhnow released a poorly thought out statement last July about Osuna, claiming that the Astros’ due diligence was “unprecedented,” and citing that Osuna is “remorseful” and “willingly complied with all consequences,” despite pleading not guilty and not having had his day in court yet, thus no consequences. The Astros released another statement in August defending their belief that “Roberto deserved a second chance.”

Later that month, Osuna went after his critics, saying, “Everybody is judging me for things they don’t know. I don’t like that.” In the postseason, teammate Ryan Pressly defended Osuna from a heckler, telling the fan, “You can talk all the sh– you want. Just don’t bring that stuff up.”

The Astros also kicked out a fan who protested Osuna’s presence by holding up a sign displaying a domestic violence hotline number. After receiving plenty of criticism for that, the Astros decided to display flyers, featuring the National Domestic Violence Hotline number, in women’s restrooms at Minute Maid Park.

Taubman’s behavior is not the first strike for the Astros on this issue. Acquiring Osuna was strike one. Luhnow’s statement and the club’s subsequent statement were strikes two and three. Osuna’s backlash was strike four, Pressly’s defense of him was strike five, and the whole issue over the DV hotline sign was strike six. The Astros are in danger of having the side strike out on this issue.

It’s also worth mentioning that Luhnow worked for McKinsey and Company, a management consulting firm, before getting into baseball. McKinsey has been consulting for the Astros since 2017, The Athletic’s Evan Drellich reported in July. McKinsey has, ahem, a checkered past.

The Astros have clearly and intentionally thrown ethics to the side in order to run a baseball-related business. That they have repeatedly mishandled a very serious domestic violence issue within the sport shouldn’t come as a surprise, and it shouldn’t be surprising that the Astros are hoping the issue goes away with the World Series set to begin on Tuesday.

Update: The Astros released a statement. Via Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle:

The story posted by Sports Illustrated is misleading and completely irresponsible. An Astros player was being asked questions about a difficult outing. Our executive was supporting the player during a difficult time. His comments had everything to do about the game situation that just occurred and nothing else — they were also not directed towards any specific reporters. We are extremely disappointed in Sports Illustrated’s attempt to fabricate a story where one does not exist.

The Astros had an initial chance to respond to the story before publication and didn’t take Sports Illustrated up on it. They also didn’t deny that Taubman said what was reported. They’re disputing the context and the intended audience, but that doesn’t really make them look that much better. Perhaps an organization with a less spotty history would get the benefit of the doubt, the Astros certainly haven’t earned it.

Furthemore, Hunter Atkins of the Houston Chronicle and Hannah Keyser of Yahoo Sports both confirmed Apstein’s report. Atkins tweeted, “The Astros called this @stephapstein report misleading. It is not. I was there. Saw it. And I should’ve said something sooner.”