Cubs

Cubs catcher Miguel Montero drops truth bomb, throws Jake Arrieta under the bus after Nationals run wild

Cubs catcher Miguel Montero drops truth bomb, throws Jake Arrieta under the bus after Nationals run wild

WASHINGTON — Within 24 hours, the Cubs followed up maybe their best win of the season with one of their ugliest losses and a classic Miguel Montero rant. Next stop: The Trump White House.

Montero walked out of the showers and across the room late Tuesday night with towels wrapped across his waist and draped over his shoulders. He didn’t even bother to change into his clothes before calling the waiting reporters over to his locker after a 6-1 loss to the Washington Nationals.

Montero dropped a truth bomb in the middle of the visiting clubhouse at Nationals Park, calling out Jake Arrieta without directly mentioning his name and talking in the third person after Washington stole seven bases in four innings.

“It really sucks because the stolen bases go on me,” Montero said. “When you really look at it, the pitcher doesn’t give me any time. It’s just like: ‘Yeah, OK, Miggy can’t throw nobody out.’ Yeah, but my pitchers don’t hold anybody on. It’s tough, because it doesn’t matter how much work I put in.

“If I don’t get a chance to throw, that’s the reason why they were running left and right today, because they know he was slow to the plate. Simple as that. It’s a shame that it’s my fault because I didn’t throw anybody out.”

Now 0-for-31 in that department this season, Montero namedropped Jason Hammel — the ex-Cub now pitching for the Kansas City Royals — to show the de-emphasis on holding runners.

“We talk every year in spring training, but it’s frustrating, because it seems nobody really cares about it,” Montero said. “Like: ‘OK, yeah, I got to pitch. And if they run, they run, I don’t care.’

“Perfect example: We got Salvador Perez, the best throwing catcher in the game, and Jason Hammel’s got 10 stolen bases and only one caught stealing, so what does that tell you? They didn’t give him a chance.”

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This pitching philosophy didn’t stop the Cubs from winning 200 games and a World Series title across the last two seasons. Even with his rocket arm, Willson Contreras would have trouble stopping Washington leadoff guy Trea Turner, who stole four bases and now has back-to-back 30-steal years, even though so far he’s never played more than 73 games in a season.

“It always goes to the catcher and I’m the bad guy there,” Montero said. “It really sucks, but it is what it is and I got to take full responsibility. But in the end, I would like a little help.”

Montero is a two-time All-Star catcher known for his brutal honesty and willingness to mentor players like Contreras. But Montero is about to turn 34 and making $14 million in the final year of his contract and clearly aware of his uncertain future.

“I feel like I can still throw,” said Montero, who rushed one throw to third base and fired the ball into left field, allowing Michael Taylor to score. “I got a good arm. My arm felt great. I just try to be quicker. I try to be perfect. And to make those two go together, it’s hard to do.”

This is Miggy Being Miggy.

Joe Maddon requested a sit-down meeting with Montero in spring training after he criticized the manager’s communication skills and in-game World Series decisions during a WMVP-AM 1000 interview ... on the same day as the championship parade and Grant Park rally.

Over red wine at an Italian restaurant near the team’s complex in Arizona, the two cleared the air and posted to social media a photo of them toasting drinks. The frustration is building again for a team that is supposed to do the little things well.

Why are the defending champs 39-38 and so inconsistent?

“That’s the million-dollar question right there,” Montero said. “If I would have known the answer, I would be talking to the guys to figure it out and get it going. It’s tough. It’s one of those days that you get beat.

“We played sloppy. Simple as that. We all did. It’s going to be hard to sleep on it, because it was just a bad game.”

Davey Martinez makes his pitch to keep Bryce Harper in D.C. — and away from the Cubs

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USA TODAY

Davey Martinez makes his pitch to keep Bryce Harper in D.C. — and away from the Cubs

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Davey Martinez finally has his dream job of running a Major League Baseball team.

And he wasted no time in petitioning for Bryce Harper to remain in Washington D.C. next year...and not joining forces with hometown buddy Kris Bryant.

"Can I lobby for him right now?" Martinez asked reporters at the MLB Winter Meetings Monday morning. 

Harper becomes a free agent at the end of the 2018 season and Cubs fans have been dreaming about a possible Las Vegas reunion between the 2015 NL MVP and the 2016 NL MVP in 2019 and beyond. Martinez, on the other hand, hopes he gets to work with Harper for "a lot of years" with the Nationals.

Martinez also stayed true to his roots and asked Maddon for advice on managing. Martinez served as Maddon's bench coach for the last three years with the Cubs and the two were paired together in the same capacity from 2008-14 with the Rays in Tampa Bay.

As he met with the media as the new skipper of the Nationals, Martinez relayed Maddon's words of advice:

"He told me, 'Be yourself. You know what you're doing; you've been around a while. Have fun with it,'" Martinez said.

Maddon's two pillars of counsel included:

1. Be yourself
2. Don't be afraid to try things

That advice is right on par with Maddon's style, as he and Martinez have worked to create a clubhouse with the Cubs where players feel free and comfortable to be who they are as players and as people. 

And of course Maddon has rarely backed down from a crazy, half-baked idea, famously putting pitchers in the outfield, hitting pitchers eighth, bringing in magicians to the clubhouse and any number of off-the-wall concepts.

Martinez — who was drafted by the Cubs as a player in the third round in 1983 and spent seven years in Chicago as a player (four with the Cubs, three with the White Sox) — has been interviewing for managerial jobs for the better part of the last decade, but now finally gets his chance with the team the Cubs knocked out of the playoffs just two months ago.

"I really believe this feels right," Martinez said. "It feels lucky to be part of a winning organization. This is the moment and I'm going to embrace it. I can't wait to get to spring training and get started."

The 3 biggest Cubs questions as MLB Winter Meetings kick off

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USA TODAY

The 3 biggest Cubs questions as MLB Winter Meetings kick off

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — As the baseball world descended upon Disney World, the Cubs are sitting pretty.

Theo Epstein's front office is poised to make "The Happiest Place on Earth" a reality as they already appear to have some of their major offseason issues resolved.

The Cubs reportedly have an agreement in place with late-inning reliever Brandon Morrow, a move that should be announced Monday once a physical is passed, the "I" are dotted and the "T"s are crossed. 

Couple that with last Thursday's signing of starting pitcher Tyler Chatwood and the Cubs' search for pitching has gone well even if they missed out on 23-year-old Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani.

However, while the Cubs are in an enviable position of filling most of the pressing holes on their roster entering the MLB Winter Meetings, there are still questions to be answered.

Here are the top three questions facing Theo and Co. in Florida this week:

1. Who will fill the final rotation spot?

The Cubs are said to be pushing hard for Alex Cobb to fill out their starting staff, but as of the official tipoff of the Winter Meetings, no deal had been reached.

Cobb and the Cubs have been linked since before the right-hander even reached free agency. There was a clear need for another starter on Chicago's North Side heading into the winter and Cobb had the connection with Joe Maddon from their days together in Tampa Bay.

Cobb's connection to the Cubs was strengthened when Maddon hired former Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey to serve in the same role in Chicago.

If the Cubs are able to secure Cobb's services, they will have their starting rotation set for 2018:

Jon Lester
Kyle Hendricks
Jose Quintana
Alex Cobb
Tyler Chatwood

Depending on the length of the deal for Cobb, the Cubs could have some rotation consistency for the next several seasons as all four current starters (Lester, Hendricks, Quintana, Chatwood) are signed through the 2020 season.

However, if the Cubs and Cobb can't come to an agreement — they are hardly the only team bidding on the 30-year-old's services — who will be the fifth and final starter? The free agent market is rather slim after Cobb, Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish, though the trade market is clearly an option with the Cubs currently possessing a surplus of young position players.

2. Will the Cubs pull off any major trades?

There's no doubt the Cubs will be linked to plenty of trade rumors throughout the week at Disney World, but will anything actually come to fruition?

Kyle Schwarber has been linked to a pair of American League East teams — the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox — over the last few days, but it'd be tough to see the Cubs sell low on a guy they absolutely love.

Forget the fact that he's lost a bunch of weight and in the best shape of his life (which does matter if he's to improve his range in the outfield), here's how Epstein explained why the Cubs feel such a personal attachment to America's Now-Not-So-Large Adult Son:

"I will say that it's really an organization-wide evaluation of this player," Epstein said the day after the Los Angeles Dodgers eliminated the Cubs from the NLCS in October. "But I'm not skirting responsbility. I'll happily endorse him. He's the type of the player that we want to win here with the Cubs and have won with. 

"The fact that he hit 30 bombs in a bad year is a good start. But power is not everything. I think he fell into this year becoming a little bit more of a slugger and less of a hitter than he really is. That's important for him to get his identity back as a hitter, as a dangerous hitter that honestly, we feel he has the potential to be an all-around hitter on the level of Anthony Rizzo, per se. 

"When he reaches his prime, I think we feel like that's what he could be. He's got certain toughness and certain leadership qualities that are hard to find that we don't necessarily have in surplus in abundance running around in this clubhouse and organization. Certain energy and grit and ability to bring people together. That's important. We rely on it. But the biggest thing is his bat. We think he's the type of offensive player that you build around along with a couple other guys like him."

You'll be hard-pressed to find a better public endorsement of any player from Epstein.

But even if Schwarber isn't dealt, the Cubs can still trade any number of guys from a pool that includes Ian Happ, Albert Almora Jr., Javy Baez or Addison Russell.

3. Will Morrow have any other new bullpen mates?

Assuming Morrow's deal doesn't hit any snags, will the Cubs add any other relief reinforcements this week?

It's a pretty good bet to take. Never in the history of baseball have relievers had such an impact on important games — particularly in October — and the Cubs clearly understand that as well as anybody.

After Maddon's mix-and-match approach with the bullpen the last two postseasons, the Cubs clearly cannot go into 2018 with World Series expectations when they boast essentially the same relief corps, with Morrow replacing Wade Davis.

Speaking of Davis, the presence of Morrow doesn't necessarily mean the 2017 Cubs closer with "huge balls" won't be returning. Morrow's reported $10+ million per year makes a Davis return less likely, but the Cubs certainly need another impact reliever and Morrow can slot in as a seventh/eighth inning setup guy.

Here's how the Cubs bullpen depth chart looks right now (with Morrow inserted):

Brandon Morrow
Carl Edwards Jr.
Pedro Strop
Mike Montgomery
Justin Wilson
Justin Grimm
Dario Alvarez

Plenty of high-leverage relief options remain available on the open market, including Brandon Kintzler (whom the Cubs were linked to this week), Addison Reed, Anthony Swarzak, Jake McGee and Bryan Shaw.