Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Workman's Comp

 Happy pitchers and catchers report day!

Baseball has been a frustrating sport to follow over the past few seasons, what with all the constant labor strife, ham-fisted attempts to "fix" the game, rampant minor league contraction and stifled pay, billionaire owners crying poor, slimeballs like Jared Porter and Mickey Callaway exposing a seedy underbelly, TV and streaming rights throttling the ability of anyone to watch the damn games, and.... okay, I'm droning on and on about the negatives, but today is the first official day of Spring Training and I'll be damned if I'm not still excited.  Of course, my chosen team is a whole other basket of badgers with it's own litter of troublesome issues piled on top of MLB's problems and the weather isn't exactly "spring" like, but my enthusiasm cannot be completely dampened!... Unlike my pant legs, which are soaked through from having to shovel out my parking spot for like the third time this month.

With the end of the offseason officially at hand, the Cubs' hurlers and backstops have begun to trickle into the Sloan Park facilities in Arizona.  Perhaps looking to make the most of this milestone, this morning, the team added one more pitcher to the attendance list, signing Brandon Workman to a one-year, Major League contract worth $1MM with another $2MM available via incentives.

Accordingly, I decided to use the Workman acquisition as an excuse to pursue my maiden dalliance with 2021 Topps.  To this point, I have not so much as seen a pack of this product in the wild, let alone purchased any.  In fact, I had to take to Ebay just to buy this single card.  I'm not about to battle with the investor bros stalking Target vendors over such trivialities and my LCS doesn't seem to have any of the seminal Topps product in their stock just yet.  

Of course, I don't have the card in-hand at this point, so I'm not going to go in-depth reviewing the cards and it's design - after all, it wouldn't be fair without getting my hands on the actual product.  However, I will say that I'm pleased with the return of borders and, as a Cubs fan, the fact that red and blue factor so heavily into the design is a major plus.  One the other hand, the font used for the nameplate might require a stronger prescription from my eye doctor.  

Anyway, maybe I'll do an actual breakdown once this card arrives in my mailbox.  For now, let's get back to the subject at hand, the Cubs All-Time Roster Collection's latest addition, Mr. Workman himself.

Workman during his Fenway days.  Image courtesy of Maddie Meyer at Getty Images

Just yesterday, the Cubs' new President of Baseball Operations, Jed Hoyer, broke from the norm and basically told the press outright that they'd be signing another Major League reliever in the very near future, though he stopped short at naming the mystery moundsman.  Some wondered if it might be the reclamation project known as David Robertson, as the team had representatives at his latest showcase.  But, the Northsiders were far from the only team to show up, all but ensuring that the price tag would far exceed what the Rickettses would allow.  Others posited that a reunion with Jeremy Jeffress was on the horizon.  That being said, the guy's 2020 results far exceeded his peripherals, indicating that major regression is in his future.  Still more Twitter experts bandied about names like Shane Greene and Trevor Rosenthal, but, strangely, I don't think I saw anyone mention Brandon Workman.  Honestly, I forgot he was even a free agent.  Did anyone out there call this one correctly?

Anywho, the former Red Sox bullpen stalwart was a solid performer after making a full-time transition from the rotation to the pen in 2017.  But, Brandon truly made his name with a phenomenal 2019 campaign, going 10-1 with a 1.88 ERA  and 16 saves in 71.2 innings for Boston that year.  His fortunes dipped slightly in the weird COVID-ridden follow up season, as did the Red Sox's as a whole - thus, the now-closer was shipped to a contending Phillies club at the trade deadline where he was promptly lit up (10 earned runs in 13 frames, plus 3 blown saves) and allowed to walk after the schedule's conclusion.

All in all, Mr. Workman probably isn't as good as his 2019 stat line, but he also probably isn't nearly as bad as his Phillies tenure turned out to be.  I think the statistics from last year's shortened season are almost meaningless due to short sample sizes and dozens of other mitigating factors, not the least of which was the weirdness of the time.  

While the high upside would be phenomenal to have, if Workman's stats and results can meet somewhere near the middle of that peak and valley, he'll make a solid, if unspectacular, bullpen option on a roster that lacks such stability.  This dearth of depth is especially exposed if Rowan Wick and Kyle Ryan's health do not rapidly improve, as these key cogs both reported to camp with maladies of their own.  As a sort of insurance policy meant to compensate for potential production lost during injury and sickness, does that make Brandon's signing... Workman's comp?

I will not apologize for art.

Anyway, if this franchise does one thing consistently well, it's isolate worthy rebound bullpen candidates and, with a few tweaks, turn out usable arms.  I mean, they got Ryan Tepera an MVP vote, after all and turned no-namers like Wick and Jason Adam into legitimate late-inning weapons.  This is one aspect of the Cubs that do actually feel some confidence in.  Although, that could just be the warm and fuzzy feelings brought on by "pitchers and catchers report" clouding my judgment.

As an aside, do you still feel the good vibes that are normally brought on by the first official day of training camp or has all the negative press surrounding baseball killed the mood for you?  Furthermore, what are your thoughts on the look and feel of the 2021 Flagship card set?  I encourage you to share your opinions in the comment section below!

At any rate, welcome to the Windy City and to my CATRC, Brandon Workman!


  1. I always liked Workman, and I hope he does well this year.

  2. Funny post! He's a solid reliever. Can never have enough of those guys.