Cubs didn’t come here for a ‘f------ haircut’ and are out to make more World Series history

Cubs didn’t come here for a ‘f------ haircut’ and are out to make more World Series history

ST. LOUIS – “He didn’t come here for no f------ haircut, boys!” Jon Lester screamed inside Busch Stadium’s visiting clubhouse, introducing John Lackey for Wednesday night’s postgame toast as the Cubs celebrated back-to-back National League Central titles.

Lackey waded into the middle of the mosh pit after his Big Boy Game, a 5-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals that eliminated the Milwaukee Brewers from the division race and again showed the defending World Series champs are ready for October.

The Cubs huddled around Lackey in a space that looked like something out of “Breaking Bad” with big plastic sheets taped up against the walls, creating a room within a room and sealing the party off from the lockers around the perimeter.

It got quiet for Lester, who won another World Series ring with Lackey as part of the 2013 Boston Red Sox and sees him much differently than the perceptions of the old cowboy bickering with umpires, throwing his hands up at infielders and firing off one-liners at reporters.

“I’ve had the pleasure to call this guy a teammate for eight years,” Lester said. “I’ve learned a lot about this game from this guy. And I’m sure you guys have, too. He’s one of the best teammates and one of the best people I’ve ever got to play with. Tonight was probably his last regular-season start. Here’s to one hell of a f------ career!”

With that, teammates sprayed beer all over Lackey, the Cubs back in their soaking-wet element after a 43-45 first half that looked like sleepwalking and a 46-24 sprint since the All-Star break. Lackey – the guy who promised he would never go on a David Ross-style retirement party – held up a handle of Crown Royal and poured the whiskey all over his face and down his throat.

The Cubs were feeling no pain, from Lester’s left shoulder to Jake Arrieta’s right hamstring to Lackey’s bubble status on any playoff rotation. There will be more than a week to break down how they match up against the Washington Nationals and where they could be vulnerable.

Bench coach Dave Martinez started the chant “11 more!” As in how many playoff wins before the Cubs can become the first team to win back-to-back World Series titles since the New York Yankees pulled off the three-peat in 1998, 1999 and 2000.

Here is one area where the Cubs will have a clear edge over the Nationals: The been-there, done-that confidence they showed in finishing this division race, the never-panic attitude created around those Yankees and the even-year San Francisco Giants.

“We’ve only got one ring,” outfielder Jason Heyward said. “We’ve got some work to do on that before we can put ourselves with the Giants, with the Yankees. (But) the experience that we have together is huge. It’s comforting. It’s calming. It’s crazy.”

Arrieta understood what this meant as someone who got traded here from the Baltimore Orioles in the middle of the 2013 season, transformed into a Cy Young Award winner two years later and will cash in with a nine-figure megadeal this winter as a free agent.

“The front office has done a tremendous job of acquiring players and drafting players and developing those players,” Arrieta said. “If you do those three things successfully, you’re going to put a quality product on the field, year in and year out. That’s what I saw when I first got here, all these young players that were really close to being at the big-league level. Then in ’15, a bunch of these guys get there. And then in ’16, we add more.

“This could be – for a lot of the guys in here – a last go-round in this organization. And we’re going to do everything in our power to take advantage of it.”

Drenched in his blue NL Central T-shirt, blue shorts and Under Armour sandals, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein held a Budweiser can in one hand and a green bottle of champagne in the other, the relaxed picture of someone who doesn’t have to deal with 100-years-and-counting pressure anymore. But this was never going to be only about 1908. It doesn’t matter how they got there. The Cubs are coming now.

“It’s opportunity,” Epstein said. “I don’t know, but I assume people aren’t picking us to win the whole thing. That doesn’t really matter. Our guys love the adrenaline. They love big games. They love competition at the highest level, so it’s an opportunity to go out and make some history.”

Report: Cubs agree to deal with reliever Brandon Morrow

Report: Cubs agree to deal with reliever Brandon Morrow

The Cubs are making moves before the Winter Meetings even begin.

According to John Heyman the team has agreed to a deal with relief pitcher Brandon Morrow.

Morrow, 33, had a breakout campaign for the Dodgers in 2017, posting a 2.06 ERA in 43.2 innings for the Dodgers as the main set-up man to Kenley Jansen. He was solid in the postseason, logging a 3.95 ERA in 13,2 innings for the World Series-bound Dodgers.

Watch Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki discuss the reported deal.

Live from the Winter Meetings, Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki are breaking down the Cubs' expected signing of reliever Brandon Morrow

Posted by NBC Sports Chicago on Sunday, December 10, 2017

New report suggests Cubs likely to pursue Rays All-Star pitchers Chris Archer and Alex Colome

New report suggests Cubs likely to pursue Rays All-Star pitchers Chris Archer and Alex Colome

The Cubs might be looking to bring a little bit of Florida sunshine to the North Side this winter.

Already rumored to be interested in signing free-agent pitcher Alex Cobb — something that might be a tad less likely after signing starting pitcher Tyler Chatwood a few days ago — a new report Saturday indicated the Cubs are likely to pursue a trade with Cobb's old team, the Tampa Bay Rays, in an attempt to secure the pitching services of Chris Archer and Alex Colome.

There's always been plenty of "what if" surrounding Archer and the Cubs, who dealt the right-hander away back in 2011 as part of the deal that brought Matt Garza to Chicago. Archer has been on plenty of fan wish lists over the years, too, as he's had a great run in his six big league seasons with the Rays, making a pair of All-Star appearances, posting a career 3.63 ERA and making at least 32 starts in each of the last four seasons.

Archer's numbers have been slightly less appealing in the past two years, a combined 4.05 ERA in 2016 and 2017 after turning in a combined 3.28 ERA in 2014 and 2015. But he's still just 29 years old and considered one of the game's better arms.

Colome, meanwhile, led baseball with 47 saves last season and has saved a combined 84 games over the past two campaigns. He was an All Star in 2016, and he finished that season with a pencil-thin 1.91 ERA.

Archer is under team control through 2021, while Colome is under team control through 2020.

Certainly the Cubs are in the market for another starting pitcher and a closer thanks to the free-agent departures of Jake Arrieta, John Lackey and Wade Davis. Losing Arrieta and Lackey put a significant hole in the starting rotation, though the signing of Chatwood filled one of those two open spots. The Cubs are shorter on options when it comes to a ninth-inning man. They've been connected to free-agent relievers Brandon Morrow and Brandon Kintzler this offseason, and there's the potential option of bringing Davis back on a new contract, one that figures to be expensive after he converted 32 of 33 save opportunities in 2017.

Archer and Colome would knock two huge items off Theo Epstein's offseason to-do list. But as Rogers mentioned, it will likely take a big-time return package to net a couple of All-Star pitchers. The Cubs' minor league system has been seriously depleted in recent years as many of the organization's biggest names have either reached the big leagues — helping the team to that curse-smashing World Series win in 2016 — or been traded away in midseason deals for Aroldis Chapman and Jose Quintana in the last two years. That means it'd likely take multiple guys on the major league roster to acquire Archer and/or Colome. The same names that have been speculated about this offseason would once more figure to come into play in this discussion: Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ. But perhaps Javier Baez and others would be needed to swing a deal like this, too.

Of course, the Cubs would figure to have tremendous scouting reports on Archer and Colome — and Cobb, for that matter — with not only Joe Maddon's history in St. Petersburg, but also with Jim Hickey now on Maddon's staff as the Cubs' new pitching coach. Hickey came to Chicago this offseason after 11 seasons with Tampa Bay.

It remains to be seen if anything comes of this at the Winter Meetings, which begin Monday in Florida, or later on this offseason. Certainly starting pitcher and closer are two areas of need for the Cubs, but they might not have the assets to pull off a trade of such magnitude.