Tagged: Joe Maddon

This Cubs Video Will Get You Amped for the Season

The Chicago Cubs have been picked by The Sporting News to win the World Series, and guys like Joe Maddon and Jon Lester are talking championships on the north side, so it’s not surprising that some fans are going to extra lengths to get fired up for the 2015 season.

With that preface in mind, here is one such video that should get you good and amped for the season to start:

Chicago Cubs – 2015 Hype from Jay Tuohey on Vimeo.

The callbacks to Harry Caray, as well as video of Ernie Banks and Ron Santo, definitely hammer home what it would mean to see the Cubs return to relevance this year, and with young players and new faces, it’s going to be a fun year to be a Cubs fan, and it all gets started this week when the team begins reporting to Mesa for spring training.

h/t to CBS Sports

Should Cubs’ Interest in James Shields Be Praised or Feared?

The Chicago Cubs are done adding pitchers with hefty price tags this offseason, but with the price tag on one free agent dropping down to more reasonable levels, the team could be pulling the trigger on a move after all.

That’s because rumors are flying that free agent pitcher James Shields could be on the team’™s radar, according to David Kaplan of CSN Chicago*.

For those that can’t read the tweet, here’™s the gist of Kaplan’™s argument: the Cubs have been waiting for the market to take shape for Shields, and it’™s becoming apparent at this point that he’s not going to get a contract worth more than $100 million this close to spring training. With teams preparing to report in two weeks (!), he’s looking to make a decision by the end of the week, and his history with Joe Maddon could make Chicago an attractive landing spot.

With those things in mind, a Shields signing would make perfect sense for the Cubs under the right parameters. If the deal is going to be in the three year range, the Cubs should jump on it and offer him as much money yearly as they want. A four-year deal would still work too, but going over $20 million per season would probably be a bit much.

The reason for an aggressive push if the term of the deal is right is simple: the Cubs don’™t have a ton of salary on the books for the next few years as some of their impact players have cheap deals. Guys like Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, and Addison Russell are all on really cheap deals during that time, and if two or three of them pan out as advertised (still a sizable if, but a much more reasonable thought than the notion that all four will be stars), having a guy like Shields added to the rotation could make the Cubs a serious contender during that time.

If Shields was paired up with Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta, the Cubs would have a rotation that would rival anything that an NL Central foe could throw out there, and they’d likely have one of the top five or six rotations in all of baseball. When coupled with the offense that the team is potentially going to have with guys like Miguel Montero added to the fold, and their dreams of making Back to the Future 2 could be much closer to reality than fans dare hope.

* = Kaplan is fairly plugged in with the Cubs, but he also has occasional misses (as do most reporters), so take this and all reports of activity on the North Side with a grain of salt.

Sporting News’ Cubs Championship Pick Feels Premature

Stay tuned to the blog over the next few weeks, as we prepare for a website relaunch in time for spring training. We’ve got a lot of cool stuff in the works, and we’re hopeful that you’ll want to see it in action.

The Chicago Cubs have made a ton of moves this offseason that have put them in a position to be competitive sooner rather than later, but if one national publication is to be believed, that ability to compete for a playoff spot may come sooner than a lot of us think.

In an article published on their website, The Sporting News revealed that the Cubs are their pick to win the World Series in 2015. That’s right. A team that went 73-89 and finished in the NL Central basement in 2014 is the team that SN is picking to win its first championship in 107 years.

Here is what Jesse Spector had to say about the Cubs, and why the publication picked them to win it all:

“The Cubs have the talent in place to make a quick jump in the standings. Once playoff time comes, it’s just about making the right plays at the right times and getting good pitching performances. Several teams are capable of winning the World Series this year – as the Giants and Royals both showed last year, if you get into the playoffs, you can make some noise. The Cubs are the pick to win the 2015 World Series because, after 107 years, they’re good enough to get there and, honestly, aren’t they due a couple of breaks?”

While we appreciate Spector’s enthusiasm, it’s probably best to pump the brakes just a bit. The Cubs are almost assuredly going to be a lot better than they were last season, but with teams like the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates to jump over in their own division (and not to mention teams like the Nationals, Padres, Giants, and Dodgers to jump over in the rest of the National League too), it’s going to be a tough hill to climb for Chicago to even make the postseason, much less win a championship.

That isn’t to say that Spector didn’t make several good points, such as the potential emergence of Kris Bryant, their hugely-improved pitching staff, and their solid bullpen. Those are all things that could help the Cubs turn around their record quickly, but it still seems slightly premature to crown them as predicted champions.

Of course, what the heck do we know. This team has underperformed for so long that they may just be due to overperform after all.

Cubs Reportedly Sign Jason Motte to 1-Year Deal

The Chicago White Sox have been stocking up on bullpen arms like it’s going out of style this offseason, but the Chicago Cubs joined the fray on Monday night as they agreed to terms with former St. Louis Cardinals closer Jason Motte.

Motte, who missed all of 2013 thanks to Tommy John surgery, had 42 saves for the Cardinals in the 2012 season, and while he only pitched 29 games in 2014, he showed little of the promise he had displayed in his breakout year. He had a 4.68 ERA in his appearances with the Cardinals, and his WHIP of 1.52 and K/9 of 6.1 were both well off the pace from his year as a closer. He was ultimately left off the Cardinals’ postseason roster as a result of his struggles.

On the plus side of the ledger, Motte’s velocity didn’t seem to be an issue during the season, as he averaged 94 MPH with his fastball.

According to reports, Motte will be paid $4.5 million during the 2015 season, and his signing illustrates that the Cubs aren’t going to take any chances that their bullpen will continue their success from last year. It’s unclear where Motte will fit in at this point, but it wouldn’t be impossible to imagine him in a seventh or eighth inning role to start with under the guidance of Joe Maddon and Chris Bosio.

Cubs vs. White Sox: Who Has Had the Better Offseason?

If there has been a dominant theme at baseball’s Winter Meetings over the past few days, it’s been tinged with blue stripes and red stars. The city of Chicago is absolutely holding court on one of MLB’s biggest stages, with both the Cubs and the White Sox addressing major needs and making huge splashes all over the place.

Now, with the Winter Meetings close to concluding, we have an opportunity to evaluate where each of the teams stands in terms of their offseason to-do lists. Which one is having the better time of restructuring their roster? Let’s find out.

Addressing Needs – Edge: White Sox

The Cubs came into the offseason needing to add a top of the rotation pitcher, and they also wanted to add a different, more defensively proficient catcher to the mix. They’ve done both of those things, signing Jon Lester to a rich contract and trading for Miguel Montero from the Arizona Diamondbacks.

While they will still be making moves as the offseason wears on, the White Sox have done a better job of addressing more of their needs. Right-handed pitcher to slot between Chris Sale and Jose Quintana? Done. Relief pitchers to shore up a horrendous bullpen? Done and done. A left-handed bat to help protect Jose Abreu in the lineup? Done.

The Cubs have really done a great job of addressing some of their needs, but Rick Hahn has really done some great work in shoring up the Sox roster.

Star Power – Edge: Cubs

While names like Adam LaRoche and David Robertson certainly move the meter in terms of what they can do for a team, they are no match for the talent that the Cubs have brought in. Montero is a pretty big name (at least from a catching perspective), but Lester was the top of the heap in terms of available pitchers, and landing Joe Maddon went a long way toward showing the baseball world that the Cubs mean business.

Bang for Your Buck – Edge: White Sox

The Cubs shelled out a ton of money for both Maddon and Lester, and the White Sox really paid a ton for Robertson to come protect the back end of the bullpen. They did get some really nice value in signing LaRoche for two years, but the one that’s most intriguing is adding Zach Duke for $5 million per season. He could be an excellent eighth inning guy, and the Sox could presumably use him in closing duty if Robertson is injured or needs a day off.

Having that kind of an arm in the bullpen is a huge asset, and while neither team has been particularly frugal this offseason, the Sox hold a narrow edge.

Long-Term Impact – Edge: Cubs

The Sox made a big move by trading for Jeff Samardzija on Monday at the Winter Meetings, but there is no guarantee that they will be able to sign him to a long-term extension before he hits free agency after the 2015 season. LaRoche is also signed for just two years, and while Duke (three years) and Robertson (four years) are signed for slightly longer, none of them figures to be a player that the White Sox build themselves around for the next five or more years.

On the other side of town, the Cubs’ additions have the potential to be those kinds of cornerstones. Of course, you get what you pay for in that regard, with Lester being signed for seven years, but the real thing that pushes this category into the Cubs’ column is Maddon. Adding him to the mix not only signals a seriousness of purpose on the part of the north siders, but it also means that the team will be able to get the most out of the young players working through their system, and by proxy means he’ll make a larger long-term impact than any other acquisition by either team this offseason.

Overall – Edge: Cubs

Both teams have made big splashes and important moves that have them poised to be a lot better in 2015, but we have to give the narrow edge to the Cubs in terms of the quality of their offseason. Maddon and Lester are a formidable combo that is tough to beat, but the White Sox and their additions of Samardzija, LaRoche, and Robertson do come very close.

It’s a tight race, but it looks like the north siders win by a nose.

With Lester in the Fold, What is Next for the Cubs?

If Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer had drawn up a wish list before the offseason began, Jon Lester would have likely been at the top of it. On Tuesday night, they were able to add a check mark next to his name, signing Lester to a six-year deal worth a reported $155 million.

 

The news came as a delightful surprise to Cubs fans who were preparing themselves for the worst, waiting for the Boston Red Sox or San Francisco Giants to swoop in and grab Lester out from underneath them. Instead, an offseason that began with the Cubs bringing in Joe Maddon to be their manager has hit a crescendo with the biggest name on the free agent pitching market heading to the north side.

 

The question now is a simple one for the Cubs: what comes next? The team has already addressed some of their biggest holes, adding a top of the line starting pitcher in Lester, bringing in more rotation depth with Jason Hammel, and bringing in an excellent defensive catcher in Miguel Montero. Other players from the minor league system will certainly be on the way to plug holes, with Kris Bryant likely joining Javier Baez and Jorge Soler sooner rather than later at the big league level.

 

All of those things are great, but there is still work to be done. Some reporters, including Ken Rosenthal, believe that the Cubs will continue to pursue a big veteran bat to add to their lineup. Whether that means trading for a big-name player like Matt Kemp or Justin Upton, or signing another free agent like Chase Headley, the Cubs could look to accelerate their rebuilding process even more than they already have by acquiring another bat.

 

Outside of making another big splash, there are still plenty of areas where the Cubs could shore up their roster. Adding another starting pitcher wouldn’t be out of the question, so a guy like Justin Masterson could be an interesting player to keep an eye on. He would likely come cheaper than some other options, and he would add more competition in a rotation that is already significantly deeper than it was over the past few years.

 

The Cubs could also be looking to move a starting pitcher or two in order to bring in other pieces. Travis Wood could be one of the guys moved, as he would likely yield a nice return in the event of a trade. He would also provide a really nice third or fifth starter for the Cubs, depending on where they would like to slot him, and so Epstein and Hoyer would have to make a tough choice in that regard.

 

Moving Edwin Jackson’s contract will also be a key thing for the Cubs to do. It will likely mean taking on another contract that a team is looking to unload, but if the Cubs could find the right trade partner, they could turn arguably the biggest mistake of the Epstein/Hoyer regime into less of a misstep.

 

The Cubs are obviously not where they want to be as an organization, but they are quickly making their way in that direction. With a new manager, a huge free agent acquisition, and a major trade, they have made massive strides toward competing in 2015, and with some more tweaks and additions, they could be poised for an even bigger leap toward World Series contention than they are at the moment.