Cubs

Cubs deal Chris Coghlan to make room for Dexter Fowler signing

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Cubs deal Chris Coghlan to make room for Dexter Fowler signing

MESA, Ariz. - The Cubs made a splash on the trade market, dealing Chris Coghlan to the Oakland A's for right-handed pitcher Aaron Brooks. The move was made to free up salary cap space for Dexter Fowler, who the Cubs signed to a one-year deal on Thursday.

Coghlan played a major role for the Cubs in each of the last two seasons, appearing in 273 games with a .265/.346/.793 slash line.

Coghlan was in the Cubs' Opening Day lineup last season, hitting fifth and playing left field.

After Kyle Schwarber came up midseason and moved to left field when Miguel Montero was healthy, Coghlan switched to the infield, playing second base and hitting third in Joe Maddon's lineup.

[RELATED: Dexter Fowler reverses course, signs one-year deal with Cubs]

Coghlan did not play at all in the Cubs' victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the wild card game, but did appear in six games between the NLDS and NLCS, going 1-for-12 in the postseason.

Coghlan's role for 2016 was up in the air with Schwarber penciled in for left field, Jorge Soler in right and Ben Zobrist at second base.

Brooks is a 25-year-old right-hander who has pitched in 15 games (10 starts) in the big leagues for the Kansas City Royals and A's over the last two seasons. In those games, Brooks was 3-5 with an 8.38 ERA and 1.759 WHIP.

Brooks was a former ninth-round pick of the Royals in 2011 and sports a career 4.18 ERA in the minor leagues, where he worked mostly as a starter.

Coghlan was set to make $4.8 million in 2016 and is a free agent after the season. Freeing up that money will allow the Cubs to pay Fowler's $8 million base salary in 2016.

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.”