Cubs

Beliveau hoping to make Cubs take notice

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Beliveau hoping to make Cubs take notice

MESA, Ariz. Jeff Beliveau remembers exactly where he was when Dave Roberts stole second base against Mariano Rivera and the New York Yankees.

Beliveau, who grew up in Rhode Island, had traveled to Arizona with his parents for a showcase tournament for high school prospects. They watched Game 4 of the 2004 American League Championship Series at Flemings steakhouse in Scottsdale.

That ninth inning became an iconic moment to so many people from New England. The Boston Red Sox began to erase a 3-0 series deficit and take down the Evil Empire. A self-proclaimed band of idiots reversed the curse and gave Red Sox fans their first World Series title in 86 years.

That meant a lot to me and my family, Beliveau said Monday. Im pretty excited about whats going to happen the next few years.

Fast forward to last months Cubs Convention, where a fan asked Theo Epstein to name one under-the-radar prospect in the system who could make an impact. The new president of baseball operations identified Beliveau. The 25-year-old left-handed reliever will be given an opportunity to win a spot in the Cubs bullpen.

Beliveau has gone from being an 18th-round draft pick out of Florida Atlantic University in 2008 to the organizations minor league pitcher of the year in 2011. He went 6-1 with a 1.89 ERA at Double-A Tennessee, finishing with 69 strikeouts against 13 walks in 57 innings, numbers that would make Epstein take notice.

Cubs manager Dale Sveum has mentioned how Beliveaus disappearing fastball should play at the next level. Beliveau has tried to model himself after retired closer Billy Wagner, with a short-arm delivery thats hard to pick up out of the left hand.

Beliveau was playing for Team USA last fall while the Epstein compensation negotiations dragged out. He thought about how it would be cool to meet the guy who helped build that forever Red Sox team.

Near the start of his first big-league camp, Beliveau met with Epstein, Sveum, general manager Jed Hoyer and pitching coach Chris Bosio in the managers office. Each player had a meeting to go over expectations. The message was loud and clear.

They told me: Dont come here just for the experience. You have a chance to make the team. You had a great year last year keep it going.

Booze ban?

After an epic collapse last September generated sensational stories about the fried chicken and beer culture around the Red Sox, new manager Bobby Valentine banned alcohol in the clubhouse.

Cubs players have been spotted drinking the occasional beer after games in the clubhouse its not widespread and the team doesnt serve alcohol on charter flights headed back to Chicago at the end of road trips. Sveum was asked Monday if policies have been discussed for 2012.

No, we havent talked about anything like that, Sveum said. Thats up to the front office and myself and I dont know, to tell you the truth, the policies that have been here before. So I dont really have much comment on that right now.

Etc.

Rodrigo Lopez is scheduled to start Sundays Cactus League opener vs. the Oakland As, followed by Ryan Dempster (Monday vs. As) and Matt Garza (Tuesday vs. the Colorado Rockies). Sveum said this isnt an indication of who will start Opening Day, a decision that should be announced by the middle of camp. Starlin Castros right arm was said to be fine after being hit by a Kerry Wood fastball during live batting practice on Monday at Fitch Park. Paul Maholm (flu) was sent home after throwing on Monday before his bunting tournament matchup against Lopez while Geovany Soto (groin) continues to be limited during workouts. Wood lost to Sveum in a first-round match in the bunting tournament. Also advancing were Soto, Dempster, Jeff Baker, Marlon Byrd, David DeJesus and Carlos Marmol.

Why did Kris Bryant get a first-place vote in this year's National League MVP balloting?

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USA TODAY

Why did Kris Bryant get a first-place vote in this year's National League MVP balloting?

Kris Bryant was the 2016 National League MVP. And despite having what could be considered an even better campaign this past season, he finished seventh in voting for the 2017 edition of the award.

The NL MVP was awarded to Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton on Thursday night, a fine choice, though it was nearly impossible to make a poor choice, that's how many fantastic players there were hitting the baseball in the NL this season.

After Stanton, Cinicinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto finished second, earning the same amount of first-place votes and losing out to Stanton by just one point. Then came Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon and Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon ahead of Bryant.

But there was someone who thought Bryant deserved to repeat as the NL MVP. Yes, Bryant earned a first-place vote — as did everyone else mentioned besides Rendon, for that matter — causing a bit of a social-media stir considering the Cubs third baseman, despite his great season, perhaps wasn't as standout a candidate as some of the other guys who finished higher in the voting.

So the person who cast that first-place vote for Bryant, MLB.com's Mark Bowman, wrote up why he felt Bryant deserved to hoist the Kenesaw Mountain Landis Memorial Baseball Award for the second straight year.

"In the end, I chose Bryant because I believe he made the greatest impact, as his second-half production fueled the successful turnaround the Cubs experienced after the All-Star break," Bowman wrote.

"Though I don't believe the MVP must come from a playoff contender, in an attempt to differentiate the value provided by each of these three players (Bryant, Votto and Stanton), I chose to reward the impact made by Bryant, who produced the NL's fourth-best OPS (.968) after the All-Star break, when the Cubs distanced themselves from a sub-.500 record and produced an NL-best 49 wins."

It's easy for Cubs fans and observers to follow that logic, as the Cubs took off after the All-Star break following a disappointing first half. As good as Bryant was all season long, his second-half numbers, as Bowman pointed out, were especially great. He hit .325 with a .421 on-base percentage and a .548 slugging percentage over his final 69 games of the regular season, hitting 11 home runs, knocking out 21 doubles and driving in 35 runs during that span.

Perhaps the craziest thing about this year's MVP race and Bryant's place in it is that Bryant was just as good if not better than he was in 2016, when he was almost unanimously named the NL MVP. After slashing .292/.385/.554 with 39 homers, 102 RBIs, 35 doubles, 75 walks and 154 strikeouts in 2016, Bryant slashed .295/.409/.537 with 29 homers, 73 RBIs, 38 doubles, 95 walks and 128 strikeouts in 2017.

Of course, the competition was much steeper this time around. But Bryant was given the MVP award in 2016 playing for a 103-win Cubs team that was bursting with offensive firepower, getting great seasons from Anthony Rizzo (who finished third in 2016 NL MVP voting), as well as Dexter Fowler and Ben Zobrist. While the Cubs actually scored more runs this season and undoubtedly turned it on after the All-Star break on a team-wide basis, Bryant was far and away the best hitter on the team in 2017, with many other guys throughout the lineup having notably down years and/or experiencing down stretches throughout the season. Hence, making Bryant more, say it with me, valuable.

So Bowman's argument about Bryant's impact on the Cubs — a team that still scored 822 runs, won 92 games and advanced to the National League Championship Series — is a decently convincing one.

Check out Bowman's full explanation, which dives into some of Bryant's advanced stats.

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

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AP

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.