Cubs: Joe Maddon sees Carl Edwards Jr. as a future closer

Cubs: Joe Maddon sees Carl Edwards Jr. as a future closer

The Cubs have shown a willingness to trade from their surplus of hitters to fix the ninth inning, shipping out their best prospect (Gleyber Torres) last summer to have Aroldis Chapman in the playoffs and flipping Jorge Soler to the Kansas City Royals at the winter meetings for one season of Wade Davis.

But generally speaking, Theo Epstein’s front office is philosophically against the idea of handing out a big-money, long-term contract to a guy who works one inning at a time, the way the New York Yankees did a record-setting, five-year, $86 million megadeal to bring back Chapman. Ideally, the Cubs would like to find more organic solutions, growing pitchers from within and not buying at the top of the market.

Davis could cash in after a winter that also saw the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers spend $142 million on Mark Melancon and Kenley Jansen in their arms race. While the Cubs acquired Davis with the idea of him getting the last out of the World Series again, they could also be grooming his replacement while watching Carl Edwards Jr. develop into a lights-out reliever.

“He’ll be a closer someday, there’s no doubt,” manager Joe Maddon said before Monday night’s ugly, rain-soaked 10-2 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field. “The biggest thing with him is to not abuse him as he’s getting bigger and stronger. His stuff plays against righties and lefties and he knows how to pitch. Having been a starter a little bit (in the minors), it’s not unlike Wade.

“Wade knows how to pitch. Rafael Soriano – he knows how to pitch. C.J. knows how to pitch. So it’s nice to get those guys at the end of the game that aren’t just throwing that one weapon.”

At the moment, the Cubs are a 13-12 team with inconsistent starting pitching, an offense not quite clicking on all cylinders yet and a defense playing below last year’s historic level. But this bullpen looks far more ready for October than the one put together on Opening Day last year.

Davis hasn’t allowed a run during his first 11 appearances in a Cubs uniform, winning two games and going 6-for-6 in save chances. Edwards finished April with 10 scoreless innings, stranding all five inherited runners while limiting opponents to two hits through 30 at-bats.

“I don’t want to rush anything,” Maddon said. “This guy can do several different things. But more than anything, I’m just liking his ability to breathe and be right here. It’s really outstanding to watch."

With a 95-mph fastball and that feel for pitching, Edwards lived by a simple code as a rookie: Go right at them. After striking out Mike Trout and forcing Albert Pujols to ground out in a one-run game last August – the same inning where Pedro Strop tore the meniscus in his left knee – Edwards put it this way: “I just pull my hat down more, so I don’t see their faces.”

By November, Maddon trusted Edwards to get two outs in the 10th inning of a World Series Game 7. If Edwards can handle that pressure, the ninth inning at Wrigley Field shouldn’t be a problem.

Willson Contreras' bat-flip game is already in midseason form

Willson Contreras' bat-flip game is already in midseason form

The MLB regular season is still 13 days away, but Willson Contreras is ready for the swings to count.

The Cubs catcher hit an absolute bomb of a homer Friday afternoon off White Sox pitcher Reynaldo Lopez, but it wasn't just a homer.

Contreras put an exclamation mark on the dinger (his third of the spring and the second this week) with an A+ bat flip:

I'm not sure what's more majestic: The 450-foot shot or the 45-foot bat-flip.

Either way, Contreras is ready for those 2018 NL MVP votes.

Cubs opposition research: It's an even year, so count on a Giants comeback


Cubs opposition research: It's an even year, so count on a Giants comeback

The expectations couldn't be any higher for the 2018 Chicago Cubs. 

It's 2016 all over again. The goal isn't just a trip to the playoffs or another NL pennant. It's World Series or bust for this group of North Siders.

With that, let's take a look at all of the teams that could stand in the way of the Cubs getting back to the Fall Classic:

San Francisco Giants

2017 record: 64-98, last place in NL West

Offseason additions: Andrew McCutchen, Evan Longoria, Austin Jackson, Gregor Blanco, Tony Watson, Julian Fernandez

Offseason departures: Michael Morse, Matt Cain, Matt Moore, Denard Span, Kyle Crick, Christian Arroyo

X-factor: Brandon Belt

The trades for Longoria and McCutchen are going to get all the attention, but the Giants are sort of acquiring Belt, too. 

Their sweet-swining lefty first baseman only appeared in 104 games in 2017, missing the last few weeks of the season with a bad concussion. When he was on the field, he led the team in both homers (18) and walks (66) despite just 451 plate appearances. 

Belt has turned into one of the most patient hitters in the game and if he is able to stay healthy for a full season, would slot in perfectly in the 2-hole ahead of McCutchen, Longoria and Buster Posey. 

Projected lineup

1. Joe Panik - 2B
2. Brandon Belt - 1B
3. Andrew McCutchen - RF
4. Buster Posey - C
5. Evan Longoria - 3B
6. Hunter Pence - LF
7. Brandon Crawford - SS
8. Austin Jackson - CF

Projected rotation

1. Madison Bumgarner
2. Johnny Cueto
3. Jeff Samardzija
4. Ty Blach
5. Chris Stratton


The Giants tied for the worst record in Major League Baseball in 2017, surprising many around the league. Absolutely nothing went right for the team, from a lack of power on the field (Belt missed a third of the season and still led the team in homers), injuries (Bumgarner only made 17 starts) and general ineffectiveness (Mark Melancon).

But the Giants are a team that excels in even years, though the Cubs may have broken that juju by knocking San Fran out of the NLDS in 2016.

Still, between the return to health of key players and some big moves that improved the lineup, this team is primed for a return to form.

Watson is a nice piece at the back end of the bullpen and bet on a rebound from Melancon, who was one of the best late-inning relievers in the game from 2013-16 (1.80 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 147 saves).

Expect more out of the rotation with Bumgarner and Cueto a dynamic 1-2 punch. Cubs fans are familiar with what Samardzija can do if he gets on a role, too.

It seems crazy to pick the Giants to finish higher than the Diamondbacks, but they still have the same core of players from the championship years and have a much-improved roster.

Prediction: Second place in NL West, wild-card team

Complete opposition research

San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Franciso Giants