Patrick Mooney

Up close, White Sox see same big potential Cubs forecasted for Dylan Cease


Up close, White Sox see same big potential Cubs forecasted for Dylan Cease

The Cubs made the Jose Quintana deal knowing it would have been more difficult to give up Dylan Cease if he was already performing at the Double-A level, and that the White Sox organization would be a good place to continue his education as a young pitcher.

While Eloy Jimenez keeps drawing ridiculous comparisons – the running total now includes Kris Bryant, Miguel Cabrera, Edgar Martinez and David Ortiz – Cease is more than just the other name prospect from the deal that shocked the baseball world during the All-Star break.

“We still project him as a starter,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said during this week’s GM meetings in Florida. “He certainly has the stuff where it’s easy to envision him as a potential dominant reliever. But to this point – for the foreseeable future – we deal with the starting and continue to develop him as a potential front-end arm.”

The Theo Epstein regime still hasn’t developed an impact homegrown pitcher, but that hasn’t stopped the Cubs from winning 292 games, six playoff rounds and a World Series title across the last three seasons, while still being in a strong position to win the National League Central again in 2018.

Without Quintana and his affordable contract that can run through 2020, Epstein’s front office might have been looking at the daunting possibility of trying to acquire three starting pitchers this winter.

While surveying a farm system in the middle of a natural downturn, Baseball America ranked seven pitchers on its top-10 list of prospects from the Cubs organization: Adbert Alzolay, Jose Albertos, Alex Lange, Oscar De La Cruz, Brendon Little, Thomas Hatch and Jen-Ho Tseng.

So far, only Alzolay, an Arizona Fall League Fall Star with seven starts for Double-A Tennessee on his resume, and Tseng, who made his big-league debut in September, have pitched above the A-ball level.

Cease – who went 0-8 with a 3.89 ERA for Class-A Kannapolis in his first nine starts in the White Sox system – has a 100-mph fastball and a big curveball and won’t turn 22 until next month. That stuff allowed Cease to pile up 126 strikeouts against 44 walks in 93.1 innings this year, putting him in the wave that includes Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Michael Kopech and Alec Hansen.

“Ideally, we have a lot of guys we project to be part of the future, very good, championship-caliber rotation,” Hahn said. “In an ideal world, there’s not going to be room at the inn for all of them. You only have five in that rotation and some of these guys will wind up in the bullpen. In reality, as players develop, you’re going to see some attrition.”

One spot after the White Sox grabbed Carlos Rodon with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 draft, the Cubs did Kyle Schwarber’s below-slot deal, using part of the savings to buy out Cease’s commitment to Vanderbilt University ($1.5 million bonus for a sixth-rounder) and supervise his recovery from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.

Cease was never going to be on the fast track to Wrigley Field, and now the White Sox hope he can be part of the foundation on the South Side, where it’s easier to sell a rebuild after watching the Cubs and Houston Astros become World Series champions.

“It doesn’t change really for us internally in terms of our commitment or focus or our plan or our timeline or anything along those lines,” Hahn said. “I do think, perhaps, it helps the fan base understand a little bit about what the process looks like, where other teams have been and how long the path they took to get to the ultimate goal of winning a World Series (was). In Chicago, many fans saw it firsthand with the Cubs.

“There are certainly more and more examples in the game over the last several years to help sort of show fans the path and justification for what we’re (doing).”

Game on as Jake Arrieta, Wade Davis and Alex Cobb turn down qualifying offers


Game on as Jake Arrieta, Wade Davis and Alex Cobb turn down qualifying offers

During the middle of Jake Arrieta’s 2015 Cy Young Award campaign, super-agent Scott Boras compared the emerging Cubs pitcher to another client – Max Scherzer – in the first season of a seven-year, $210 million megadeal with the Washington Nationals.

Now don’t focus as much on the money – though that obviously matters – as when Scherzer arrived for that Washington press conference to put on his new Nationals jersey: Jan. 21, 2015.

It might take Boras a while to find a new home for his “big squirrel with a lot of nuts in his trees.” Teams have been gearing up for next winter’s monster Bryce Harper/Manny Machado free-agent class for years. Mystery surrounds Shohei Ohtani, Japan’s Babe Ruth, and the posting system with Nippon Professional Baseball. Major League Baseball’s competitive balance tax may also have a chilling effect this offseason.

As expected, Arrieta, All-Star closer Wade Davis and pitcher Alex Cobb were among the group of free agents who went 9-for-9 in declining the one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer before Thursday’s deadline.

With that formality out of the way, if Arrieta and Davis sign elsewhere, the Cubs will receive two third-round picks in the 2018 draft.

By staying under the $195 million luxury-tax threshold this year, the Cubs would have to give up a second-round draft pick and $500,000 from their international bonus pool to sign Cobb, an obvious target given their connections to the Tampa Bay Rays, or Lance Lynn, another starter on their radar who turned down a qualifying offer from the St. Louis Cardinals.

That collectively bargained luxury-tax system became a central part of the Boras media show on Wednesday outside the Waldorf Astoria Orlando, where he introduced “Playoffville” as his new go-to analogy at the end of the general manager meetings.

“The team cutting payroll is treating their family where they’re staying in a neighborhood that has less protection for winning,” Boras said. “They’re not living in the gated community of Playoffville. Certainly, they’re saving a de minimis property tax, but the reality of it is there’s less firemen in the bullpen. There’s less financial analysts sitting in the press boxes.

“The rooms in the house are less, so obviously you’re going to have less franchise players. When you move to that 12-room home in Playoffville, they generally are filled with the people that allow you to really achieve what your family – your regional family – wants to achieve. And that is winning.”

Boras also represents four other players who rejected qualifying offers – J.D Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Greg Holland – another reason why this could be a long winter of Arrieta rumors, slow-playing negotiations and LOL metaphors.

Why Zach Britton no longer makes sense for Cubs team going in different direction with bullpen


Why Zach Britton no longer makes sense for Cubs team going in different direction with bullpen

ORLANDO, Fla. – The Cubs executives who checked out of the Waldorf Astoria Orlando on Wednesday had to ask the Baltimore Orioles again about Zach Britton. But any standard due diligence during the general manager meetings doesn’t mean Britton will follow Aroldis Chapman and Wade Davis as the next All-Star rental closer at Wrigley Field.

Whatever window that might have been open probably closed right before the July 31 trade deadline, sources said, when the Cubs found Baltimore’s asking price to be too high, wondered if internal issues might prevent the Orioles from actually going through with a Britton deal and then pivoted to acquire their other targeted lefty reliever – Justin Wilson – from the Detroit Tigers.

To find a ninth-inning solution, the Cubs have identified options like converted starter/setup guy Brandon Morrow, who shut them down during the National League Championship Series and appeared in 14 of 15 playoff games for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Cubs are also expected to monitor Addison Reed, who closed for the White Sox earlier in his career, pitched in pennant races with the New York Mets and Boston Red Sox and will be only 29 next season.

The Cubs still want to be in the loop with Davis, in case he isn’t overwhelmed with the kind of four-year, $62 million contract the San Francisco Giants gave Mark Melancon last winter and needs to find a good landing spot when so many of the traditional large-market, big-spending teams already have established closers or are in rebuilding/cost-cutting modes.

The Cubs also realize this a deep group of free-agent relievers who might feel the supply-and-demand squeeze this offseason. Even if it takes until January – weeks after the industry returns to Florida for the winter meetings – the Cubs can round out their bullpen later with short-term deals for established relievers who aren’t necessarily part of that top tier. 

No doubt, Britton is an elite talent, though a strained left forearm limited him to only 37.1 innings last season. MLB Trade Rumors projected he will make $12.2 million through the arbitration system in 2018, his last year before free agency.

The Cubs could justify giving up Gleyber Torres in the Chapman trade with the New York Yankees because they had a legitimate World Series contender and were near the end of the 108-year championship drought.

The Cubs saw Jorge Soler as a diminishing asset with limited opportunities to play at Wrigley Field and decided to move the Cuban outfielder in the Davis deal with the Kansas City Royals during last year’s winter meetings.

On all levels, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein doesn’t really feel that same sense of urgency for that kind of trade now.

Broadly speaking, Epstein said, “You definitely don’t want to make it a habit to give up five, six years of control for one year of control back.”