NEW YORK -- “Super Tuesday” can’t come fast enough for New York Mets fans hoping for a brighter future, clinging to their belief in the plan, while wondering if/when summer baseball will again be relevant in Queens.
That’s when Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler are scheduled to face the Atlanta Braves next week at Turner Field. Cubs fans should recognize all those mixed emotions that come with the next big thing.
Harvey and Wheeler represent the young pitching studs the Cubs don’t have now and might have passed on when they selected University of San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant with the draft’s No. 2 overall pick.
The Houston Astros are reportedly nearing an agreement with No. 1 choice Mark Appel, and No. 3 overall pick Jonathan Gray has already made a deal with the Colorado Rockies. Like Appel, Bryant is being advised by Scott Boras, though industry sources expect the super-agent to take this negotiation (the slot value is around $6.7 million) right up to the July 12 signing deadline.
“We’ve been in contact with Scott and been in contact with the family,” general manager Jed Hoyer said before a 6-3 win at Citi Field. “We’d love to get him out and playing and get his Cubs career started as early as possible.”
The timeline for when the Cubs (27-38) will actually compete is hazy, though 2015 has been viewed internally as a breakthrough year, with a maturing Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo entering their prime and a wave of homegrown prospects including Javier Baez and Jorge Soler about to crash into Wrigley Field. Appel or Gray might have fit into that Opening Day rotation.
“We feel really good about our young core of position players,” Hoyer said. “We know that we need to continue to add pitching. It is an organizational weakness. (But) drafting for need in baseball is exceptionally dangerous.
“For our money, we felt like we took the best player on the board at that time. I don’t think it effects our timing, but it does mean that pitching will be an emphasis in future drafts, any kind of trades we might make, in free agency.”
Edwin Jackson, the biggest free agent signed so far by the Theo Epstein administration, limited the Mets (24-38) to one run across six innings in front of 32,208. The $52 million investment is now 3-8 with a 5.40 ERA, though Hoyer pointed out this front office has traded for Travis Wood and signed Paul Maholm and Scott Feldman.
“We have shown a certain ability to find starting pitching,” Hoyer said. “Looking at the history (and) different pockets of success, taking who we felt was the best college position player has certainly been (a) relatively stable area of the draft.
“Any kind of pitching comes with risks. So pitching in general, I think, is often best attacked through volume.
“Sort of pinning all your hopes on one arm can be a challenge.”
The Cubs have been outbid for Yu Darvish (Texas Rangers) and Hyun-Jin Ryu (Los Angeles Dodgers), and leading up to the July 31 trade deadline they will face a major decision with free-agent-to-be Matt Garza.
Hoyer acknowledged it’s difficult to find young, high-impact pitching, while also pointing out it’s not easy to find a projected power bat and athletic third baseman like Bryant.
Hoyer didn’t bring up Kerry Wood, Mark Prior and Carlos Zambrano, but 10 years ago the bleacher bums felt this same wave of excitement. Mets fans don’t want to think about what could possibly go wrong with Harvey and Wheeler. Cubs executives calculated the attrition rate and bet on Bryant.
“It is a volume game with pitching,” Hoyer said. “That’s just the nature of it. You feel like you got this great young rotation set up and guys go down. There’s no way to avoid that.”