Stick with me here.
Yesterday, my timeline was inundated with Willson Contreras news.
Though I haven’t watched a Cubs game all season — a real departure from the rest of my life — it was impossible to miss nor was it possible to ignore my feelings about Willson.
He likely played his last home game for the Cubs yesterday, which clearly meant a lot to him. Willson homered in his first AB as a Cub in that championship season of 2016, and proceeded to be the heartbeat as well as one of baseball’s best catchers for the next seven years.
Of course, his energy wasn’t always appreciated by his manager because David Ross is A) a blithering moron and B) realized that Contreras wasn’t white so he wasn’t allowed to tell other players not to loaf it, apparently. Whatever. You couldn’t watch Contreras and not be taken in by him, somehow keeping his passion and energy up every game behind the plate through grueling summers.
Anyway, Conteras is the last position player standing from that 2016 team that made all our dreams come true. Only Kyle Hendricks remains on the pitching staff.
And why was Contreras in tears and issuing his goodbyes to teammates and fans alike? No, he’s not retiring. No, he doesn’t play on some slapdick tiny market team that simply can’t hope to compete for championships, though the Cubs would certainly like to be and act like one.
No, Contreras’ sin is that he wants to be paid fairly for his work, and the Cubs have no interest in that. So by Tuesday, he’ll be shipped off for a collection of eighth graders that will have a gaggle of Stockholm Syndrome-stricken bloggers flapping over whatever the fuck a 70 hit tool is. Because grading on a 100-point scale was apparently not assholic enough. Also, prospects don’t just “hit,” they have a “hit tool.” I got a tool for ya.
But wait….there’s more!
The Tigers, who have been in a rebuild for seven or 31 years — I can’t remember — have made it clear they will listen to offers for Tarik Skubal. That’s the same Skubal who was supposed to be a part of the last rebuild being over when he arrived. He’s 25, and while he’s had serious sequencing issues this year, he’s still running a 2.93 FIP. Al Avila, the only man on Earth right now who is drowning while sitting in his office by himself, will try to cash in Skubal for yet more teenagers they can pay a shiny nickel every week and sell their fans on promise. GMs like to do that because as long as the future can be sold as bright, they get to keep their jobs. Owners like it because they don’t have to pay anyone.
Meanwhile, only fans of a few teams have any hope that the players they have become attached to will stick around for years while everyone else gets to look forward to deadline deals for two or three guys who are more likely to come up for a couple of months, hit .219 and strike out 40 percent of the time and end up a personal trainer five years down the line. Fuck, Aaron Judge could hit 65 homers this year, and the goddamn Yankees won’t even pay him market rate.
So let’s remove the minors. Let’s remove the idea of a rebuild entirely. Let’s remove prospects. Every minor league team is now independent. Every league is an independent one. MLB teams get their 40-man roster and that’s it. Wanna throw promotion and relegation into it? Cool. Leading high school players can sign with any of the 120 teams that pay them a decent wage (not like MLB owners do). If they crush it in Round Rock, well, then an MLB team can pay that team $20 million or $50 million for his contract and fund their operation for the next year or three. You don’t want to pay your star catcher who’s given you everything for seven seasons? Fine, but you’ll have to pony up for someone to replace him because you can’t trade him for the false dawn of what might happen in five years with some magic beans in the form of a centerfielder who needs to spend eight months in a weight room.
Yeah, I’ve heard, these teams can’t survive without their MLB affiliations.
If they’re such great baseball towns, then people should come out to see a team actually built to win its league instead of in service to a team in a bigger city. Lighting it up your freshman year of college? Sign with a Double-A level team and keep working your way up.
I don’t want to read about some 20-year-old hillrod “working on his change-up” as a reason I should buy tickets now. I don’t need meaningless minor league homers on Twitter as proof that a team might take a crack at .500 in 2026. Fuck all that. Do you want that guy striking everyone out in Colorado Springs? Fucking pay for it and leave all of us the fuck alone with your Prospect Pervert Reports. Every player everywhere can be subject to the highest bidder. And GMs can’t buy more time, and owners can’t keep swindling their fans with the ever-moving goalposts of rebuilds. This is the way.