Cubs

Cashner keeps his grip on Cubs rotation

Cashner keeps his grip on Cubs rotation

Monday, March 21, 2011
Posted 9:40 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

TEMPE, Ariz. It was cold, wet and windy, the conditions that Andrew Cashner will encounter at some point this season at Wrigley Field.

Cashner convinced the Cubs front office that he deserved a spot on the major-league roster with the way he finished last season, posting a 1.40 ERA in his final 18 games. But its unlikely that hes going to Chicago as a bullpen piece.

Maybe this was Cashners last chance to make an impression before manager Mike Quade, general manager Jim Hendry and their lieutenants meet Tuesday to make more personnel decisions.

But opinions began forming years ago on Cashner, the 19th overall pick in the 2008 draft. The Cubs believe he can become a front-line starter, and that projection probably trumps everything else.

On a gray Monday afternoon at Tempe Diablo Stadium, Cashners start was washed out and the game canceled with the Cubs leading the Angels 7-4 in the top of the fourth inning.

Cashner lost his grip on a few sliders and allowed four runs on seven hits and two walks across three innings. But its difficult to see him slipping away from the rotation.

Ive thrown the ball well this whole spring, Cashner said. Whatever decision they come up with, thats what Im going to do. Ive given it my best shot and I could have pitched better, but I thought I pitched well enough. So well see what happens.

Cashner hasnt dominated like Randy Wells (1.35 ERA), who accepted the challenge and seemingly established himself as the fourth starter. But the 24-year-old also hasnt been overwhelmed like Carlos Silva (15.88 ERA).

That, in essence, is the steady Cashner, who doesnt get very high or very low.

Theres so much I like about his poise, his calmness, Quade said. The stuff is there.

Its just a matter of being consistent. Cashners trying to get the feel back for his changeup, which he didnt use much out of the bullpen last year. The Cubs think it is major-league ready.

Cashner will also have to harness a fastball that runs close to 100 mph. He has to mix in three pitches for six, seven innings at a time, instead of the three batters hed face last season.

In five Cactus League appearances, Cashner still hasnt stretched out beyond four innings yet, and the Cubs will be monitoring his pitch counts to see just how deep he can work into games.

After Cashner struggled with his grip and a few sliders drifted out of the zone, he spoke with Greg Maddux, the front-office assistant who watches in uniform from the dugout and has become another set of trusted eyes.

Cashner felt like he was getting ahead of hitters, but couldnt finish them off.

I got 0-2 (and) strike one on a lot of guys and I just didnt make that pitch that I needed to, Cashner said. Thats what (I) talked to Maddux about. Hes just like: You dont have to be great, just be good.

That just about sums it up. Cashner didnt have to be perfect or pitch like a Cy Young winner this spring to get the job. The weight of the franchise isnt on his shoulders. Right now all the Cubs need is a reliable fifth starter, while hoping he becomes much more than that in the future.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

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.