Cubs

Could Cubs trade Garza for Rizzo?

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Could Cubs trade Garza for Rizzo?

With the Reds-Padres trade Saturday, there was some speculation San Diego's top first base prospect Anthony Rizzo could be on the trading block and that the Cubs could have interest.

Matt Garza's name has been involved in trade talks as well this offseason, most notably with the Rangers during the winter meetings in Dallas earlier this month.

Both of those talks are picking up more now as Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio tweeted out in the wee hours of Sunday morning:

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JIM BOWDENPadres have interest in a package deal with the primary trade pieces being Anthony Rizzo and Matt Garza...should be interesting in Cubs view
Dec 18 via webFavoriteRetweetReply

Hard to see the Cubs trading him, especially as Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein continue to express a desire to improve the team's run prevention, which obviously includes the starting rotation. It wouldn't fit with that strategy for the new Theo Trio to send away their best pitcher.

But then again, if the Cubs were to trade Garza for anybody, Rizzo may be one of the top guys.

Jason McLeod drafted Rizzo in Boston and then Theo sent the young first baseman to San Diego (where Hoyer was GM) in the package for superstar Adrian Gonzalez.

All three are familiar with the 22-year-old and they're all high on him. He could be a team cornerstone for years to come.

Rizzo struggled in the 49 games he appeared in with the Padres last season, but considering the 1.056 OPS he put up in Triple-A last year, he appears to be ready to take over a Major League position at the start of the season.

The Cubs do need a first baseman (especially if all this Prince Fielder talk really is a media smokescreen) but it would still be really hard to trade Garza. There would likely be other pieces to the puzzle and more players coming back to Chicago than just Rizzo.

Albert Almora's strong connection to Team USA baseball

Albert Almora's strong connection to Team USA baseball

Who was Theo Epstein’s first draft pick with the Cubs?

The answer to that trivia question will always and forever be Albert Almora Jr. picked sixth overall in the 2012 amateur draft.

In some ways, the young outfielder from Florida became the forgotten man in the stable of can’t-miss prospects that Epstein and top lieutenants Jed Hoyer and Jason MacLeod amassed since their arrival over six years ago. While players such as Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ zoomed through the minor leagues on their way to the majors, Almora took a different path – one that included seven different stops over parts of five developmental seasons before he broke into the big leagues during the 2016 season.

But Almora’s road to the majors began years before he was selected by the Cubs, when he began playing for Team USA as a 13-year-old. Over the next several years, Almora played for the Red, White & Blue seven times, his final appearance coming in 2015. The seven appearances are the most in the history of USA Baseball, and Almora recognizes the impact his time with the national squad had on his playing career.

“[It was] one of the best experiences of my life," he said. "Every year I had something special to play with, unbelievable guys, went to crazy places, and out of those six years, five of them came with a gold medal so that was pretty special as well. Also, that helped me in my baseball life, how to experience things and learn from those type of experiences.

“I’m a Cubbie and that’s what’s on my chest right now, but Team USA will always have a special place in my heart.”

While Almora carries those national team experiences with him every day, his main focus coming into the 2018 season is becoming a consistent difference-maker. Almora made only 65 starts during the 2017 campaign, and 63 percent of his at-bats last year came against left-handed pitching, against which he hit a robust .342. That led to a platoon role in a crowded outfield, with Jason Heyward, Kyle Schwarber, Jon Jay, Ian Happ and Ben Zobrist all taking turns on the merry-go-round. But with the departure of Jay, Almora believes his time is near.

“I have the most confidence in myself that I can play every day, but I try not to think about that kind of stuff because it’s out of my control," Almora said. "All I control is like last year what I did; whenever I was given an opportunity, I tried to do my best and help the team win.”

Almora’s ultimate role on the 2018 Cubs remains to be seen, but there’s no question that Theo’s first Cubs pick will earn whatever role he ends up with, and the foundation of Almora’s journey to Clark and Addison was laid many summers ago during his time with Team USA.

Willson Contreras willing to pay the price for mound visits

Willson Contreras willing to pay the price for mound visits

News broke to Willson Contreras that the league will be limiting mound visits this upcoming season, and the Cubs catcher —notorious for his frequent visits to the rubber — is not having it.

“I’ve been reading a lot about this rule, and I don’t really care. If you have to go again and pay the price for my team, I will," he said.

The new rules rolled out Tuesday will limit six visits —any time a manager, coach or player visits the mound — per nine innings. But, communication between a player and a pitcher that does not require them moving from their position does not count as a visit.When a team is out of visits, it's the umpire's discretion to allow an extra trip to the mound.

But despite the new rules, Contreras is willing to do what's best for the team.

“There’s six mound visits, but what if you have a tight game? They cannot say anything about that. If you’re going to fine me about the [seventh] mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”