Cubs

Cubs will look at other options while waiting on Brett Jackson

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Cubs will look at other options while waiting on Brett Jackson

The front office is building the 2013 Opening Day roster without Brett Jackson, while the marketing department is putting him front and center promoting the Cubs Convention.

That push-pull dynamic will be fascinating to watch as Theo Epstein builds The Foundation For Sustained Success (even the president of baseball operations seems tired of using that phrase) while the business side tries to sell the actual product on the field.

The media still snickers at the Three Cs campaign that once featured Tyler Colvin, Andrew Cashner and Starlin Castro. And the explosion of information on the Internet makes people fall in and out of love with prospects all the time. But Jackson doesnt have to be rushed, and he doesnt need to be hyped.

The Cubs can start negotiating with free agents at 11:01 p.m. Friday, and they are going to be in the market for outfield help this winter, perhaps a short-term bridge to Jackson. They dont feel hell be ready after striking out 59 times in 120 at-bats. They saw this coming before they called him up from Triple-A Iowa in early August.

Brett Jackson was promoted for specific reasons, Epstein said. We sat in (manager) Dale (Sveums) office (and) we all said: Right now, his swing is not ready to compete up here. He does a lot of other things very well, but we dont think hes necessarily ready to succeed up here.

But there were other reasons to get him up here. Dale wanted to see it firsthand. We wanted Dale and (hitting coach James Rowson) to have a chance to work with him. We wanted to show Brett certain things, certain adjustments that he needed to make to ultimately have success at the big-league level.

Hes going to have a much more productive offseason because of what he was exposed to (rather) than if he had stayed at Triple-A in what was generally, for him, somewhat of a disappointing season.

Jackson wouldnt argue that point. On the final day of the season, he was philosophical while packing up his stuff inside the Wrigley Field clubhouse before heading home to the Bay Area.

Youd like to bounce back from a below-average year, Jackson said. Im not proud of my numbers. That being said, Im proud of how far Ive come and whats been learned. Its not necessarily on paper sometimes the value of an experience.

Jackson is again ticketed for Des Moines after a season in which he struck out 217 times. But he still walked 22 times in 44 games with the Cubs and saw 4.24 pitches per plate appearance in the big leagues.

Jackson was smart enough to go to Cal-Berkeley, so there are reasons to believe that he can figure it out. He was fast enough to steal 27 bases at Iowa and cover a lot of ground in center field. He showed his fearless nature by almost blowing out his knee while making a spectacular catch at the PNC Park wall in September.

So even if no single part of Jacksons game is spectacular, hes still the kind of well-rounded player Epstein likes to build around.

Remember that at this time last year there were also questions about Anthony Rizzo, who fixed his swing, crushed Triple-A pitching for almost three months and firmly established himself as a core player on the North Side.

As Jackson said: Rizzos a good example of somebody who took an experience, learned from it, made adjustments in the offseason and came out this year and did some damage.

Epstein would love to see Jackson force the issue.

The ball jumps off Jacksons bat when he does make contact. He still managed to post an .817 OPS at Iowa and generate four homers, six doubles and a triple with the Cubs. The staff believes theres enough to work with here.

Id like to see him completely revamp his swing and lower half, Sveum said. (But) theyre not things (where) youre asking somebody to stand on their head. There have been players in this game that have made drastic, drastic adjustments (which) have propelled some of them to Hall of Fame stature (and) long careers in the big leagues.

Ill go to my grave saying if you dont make any adjustments in this game, youre not going to stay here very long.

Lets not overlook the obvious: Jackson is still here, unlike Colvin (Colorado Rockies) and Cashner (San Diego Padres), two other first-round picks traded away by the Epstein administration.

Jackson showed up at the last Cubs Convention and had a money quote about the new bosses, saying how people are raving about the new bosses being rock stars, so everyones excited to see what kind of show they put on here.

I feel very fortunate to be a part of it, Jackson said. I believe in them. I think they believe in me. Im motivated to work hard to be that player for them to be someone that can help this team win. Theyve proved themselves. Theyre good at what they do. (Its) going to be up to us the guys on the team to put it all together.

Why did Kris Bryant get a first-place vote in this year's National League MVP balloting?

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USA TODAY

Why did Kris Bryant get a first-place vote in this year's National League MVP balloting?

Kris Bryant was the 2016 National League MVP. And despite having what could be considered an even better campaign this past season, he finished seventh in voting for the 2017 edition of the award.

The NL MVP was awarded to Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton on Thursday night, a fine choice, though it was nearly impossible to make a poor choice, that's how many fantastic players there were hitting the baseball in the NL this season.

After Stanton, Cinicinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto finished second, earning the same amount of first-place votes and losing out to Stanton by just one point. Then came Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon and Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon ahead of Bryant.

But there was someone who thought Bryant deserved to repeat as the NL MVP. Yes, Bryant earned a first-place vote — as did everyone else mentioned besides Rendon, for that matter — causing a bit of a social-media stir considering the Cubs third baseman, despite his great season, perhaps wasn't as standout a candidate as some of the other guys who finished higher in the voting.

So the person who cast that first-place vote for Bryant, MLB.com's Mark Bowman, wrote up why he felt Bryant deserved to hoist the Kenesaw Mountain Landis Memorial Baseball Award for the second straight year.

"In the end, I chose Bryant because I believe he made the greatest impact, as his second-half production fueled the successful turnaround the Cubs experienced after the All-Star break," Bowman wrote.

"Though I don't believe the MVP must come from a playoff contender, in an attempt to differentiate the value provided by each of these three players (Bryant, Votto and Stanton), I chose to reward the impact made by Bryant, who produced the NL's fourth-best OPS (.968) after the All-Star break, when the Cubs distanced themselves from a sub-.500 record and produced an NL-best 49 wins."

It's easy for Cubs fans and observers to follow that logic, as the Cubs took off after the All-Star break following a disappointing first half. As good as Bryant was all season long, his second-half numbers, as Bowman pointed out, were especially great. He hit .325 with a .421 on-base percentage and a .548 slugging percentage over his final 69 games of the regular season, hitting 11 home runs, knocking out 21 doubles and driving in 35 runs during that span.

Perhaps the craziest thing about this year's MVP race and Bryant's place in it is that Bryant was just as good if not better than he was in 2016, when he was almost unanimously named the NL MVP. After slashing .292/.385/.554 with 39 homers, 102 RBIs, 35 doubles, 75 walks and 154 strikeouts in 2016, Bryant slashed .295/.409/.537 with 29 homers, 73 RBIs, 38 doubles, 95 walks and 128 strikeouts in 2017.

Of course, the competition was much steeper this time around. But Bryant was given the MVP award in 2016 playing for a 103-win Cubs team that was bursting with offensive firepower, getting great seasons from Anthony Rizzo (who finished third in 2016 NL MVP voting), as well as Dexter Fowler and Ben Zobrist. While the Cubs actually scored more runs this season and undoubtedly turned it on after the All-Star break on a team-wide basis, Bryant was far and away the best hitter on the team in 2017, with many other guys throughout the lineup having notably down years and/or experiencing down stretches throughout the season. Hence, making Bryant more, say it with me, valuable.

So Bowman's argument about Bryant's impact on the Cubs — a team that still scored 822 runs, won 92 games and advanced to the National League Championship Series — is a decently convincing one.

Check out Bowman's full explanation, which dives into some of Bryant's advanced stats.

Game on as Jake Arrieta, Wade Davis and Alex Cobb turn down qualifying offers

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AP

Game on as Jake Arrieta, Wade Davis and Alex Cobb turn down qualifying offers

During the middle of Jake Arrieta’s 2015 Cy Young Award campaign, super-agent Scott Boras compared the emerging Cubs pitcher to another client – Max Scherzer – in the first season of a seven-year, $210 million megadeal with the Washington Nationals.

Now don’t focus as much on the money – though that obviously matters – as when Scherzer arrived for that Washington press conference to put on his new Nationals jersey: Jan. 21, 2015.

It might take Boras a while to find a new home for his “big squirrel with a lot of nuts in his trees.” Teams have been gearing up for next winter’s monster Bryce Harper/Manny Machado free-agent class for years. Mystery surrounds Shohei Ohtani, Japan’s Babe Ruth, and the posting system with Nippon Professional Baseball. Major League Baseball’s competitive balance tax may also have a chilling effect this offseason.

As expected, Arrieta, All-Star closer Wade Davis and pitcher Alex Cobb were among the group of free agents who went 9-for-9 in declining the one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer before Thursday’s deadline.

With that formality out of the way, if Arrieta and Davis sign elsewhere, the Cubs will receive two third-round picks in the 2018 draft.

By staying under the $195 million luxury-tax threshold this year, the Cubs would have to give up a second-round draft pick and $500,000 from their international bonus pool to sign Cobb, an obvious target given their connections to the Tampa Bay Rays, or Lance Lynn, another starter on their radar who turned down a qualifying offer from the St. Louis Cardinals.

That collectively bargained luxury-tax system became a central part of the Boras media show on Wednesday outside the Waldorf Astoria Orlando, where he introduced “Playoffville” as his new go-to analogy at the end of the general manager meetings.

“The team cutting payroll is treating their family where they’re staying in a neighborhood that has less protection for winning,” Boras said. “They’re not living in the gated community of Playoffville. Certainly, they’re saving a de minimis property tax, but the reality of it is there’s less firemen in the bullpen. There’s less financial analysts sitting in the press boxes.

“The rooms in the house are less, so obviously you’re going to have less franchise players. When you move to that 12-room home in Playoffville, they generally are filled with the people that allow you to really achieve what your family – your regional family – wants to achieve. And that is winning.”

Boras also represents four other players who rejected qualifying offers – J.D Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Greg Holland – another reason why this could be a long winter of Arrieta rumors, slow-playing negotiations and LOL metaphors.