Cubs

Brett Jackson is getting ready for The Show

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Brett Jackson is getting ready for The Show

From the start, the Cubs told the Red Sox that Brett Jackson was untouchable in the Theo Epstein compensation negotiations that will now be mediated by commissioner Bud Selig.

More than three months later, the president of baseball operations has traded away two former first-round picks (Andrew Cashner and Tyler Colvin), as well as the first Cub from the 2009 draft class to reach the majors (DJ LeMahieu).

Clearly, Epstein has little attachment to the players he inherited, and that would have gone for just about anyone who took over at Clark and Addison.

That doesnt seem to bother Jackson, the dude from California who went to Berkeley and still plans to be a core player here.

All players are tradable at any time, Jackson said. That doesnt put me on edge. Its a business and theyre going to do the best for the organization. Colvin and LeMahieu are incredible players and are going to do great things for Colorado. (We) got a great player in Ian Stewart and Ive heard nothing but great things about him as a player and a person.

A lots unknown right now. We dont really know the people at the top yet, but we have a sense of what they can do (and) what they did in Boston and San Diego. That sense of excitement is there and weve been looking for that (in) Chicago.

Listening to Jackson last week at the Cubs Convention, it wasnt hard to picture him standing in front of his locker at Wrigley Field, looking into the cameras and taking the heat off his teammates.

The 31st overall pick in the 2009 draft wants to make the team out of camp, and hell be a good story in spring training, but the Cubs wont rush their 23-year-old outfielder. Sometime this summer would be a better guess.

While the industry likes fast-tracking prospects from the Double-A level, Epstein has said that he views Triple-A as a valuable step for player development.

The Cubs have also rationalized several offseason trades by pointing out how theyre acquiring years of club control, so its doubtful that theyd want Jacksons major-league service time to start ticking in April.

Jackson went on to Team USA after a 2011 season split between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa. He said thats how the game should be played: Deep into October.

Combined Jackson hit .274 with 20 homers and 58 RBI last season in the minors. He posted a .379 on-base percentage and stole 21 bases. He also struck out 138 times in 512 plate appearances.

He plays the game hard, assistant general manager Randy Bush said. He does a lot of things the right way, the way that Theo and (general manager Jed Hoyer) have talked about (how) they want it done.

Hes still relatively young in terms of at-bats in the minor leagues (1,133). He knows he needs to get better in certain areas and hes working hard at that. Well all know when the time is right. His performance will tell us that.

Jackson may never emerge as an All-Star or hit 30 bombs a year in the majors. But people whove tracked his development describe him as the type of athletic, well-rounded player Epstein likes.

This front office will create space for players who can impact a game in several ways defensively, running the bases and working the count and will be looking for new clubhouse leadership.

In the past, the Cubs had hoped that Jacksons personality would rub off on his good friend Josh Vitters, so that the third overall pick in the 2007 draft would feel the same sense of urgency.

All Brett wants to do (is) be a great player in the big leagues, said Dave Keller, a longtime hitting instructor in the Cubs organization. I always joke around with him, because right after he signed we were in Boise. Hed been there like three days. I got done throwing to his group and were all out there picking up balls for the next group.

(Hes exhaling and is) a little bit frustrated and excited about his BP round. He goes: Man, I just got to get to the big leagues.

You dont hear that with guys that just signed (and) go to Boise (or) Arizona (or) the rookie-ball season. (You) dont hear them saying that.

You will be hearing a lot about Jackson, who has some swagger and could push center fielder Marlon Byrd and his expiring contract toward a contending team at some point.

Jackson heard about the rave reviews the new Cubs executives are getting as rock stars, and said everyones excited to see what kind of show they put on. Theres no doubt that he wants to be a part of it.

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.