Cubs

Does Fielder signing affect Cubs-Tigers trade rumors?

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Does Fielder signing affect Cubs-Tigers trade rumors?

Now that Prince Fielder has inked a megadeal with the Tigers, what does that mean for the Cubs?

For one, it just assures the NL Central will be without the slugger until at least the end of his prime (barring a trade or opt-out clause in the contract). It's great for the Cubs that they won't have to face Albert Pujols or Fielder in 60 or so at-bats each season. Maybe that will be enough to bring Cubs pitchers back down a more respectable level in 2012 after a less-than-stellar '11 season.

The Fielder deal also affects the trade market for certain Cubs.

For one, the Tigers were one of the teams allegedly in big on Matt Garza. It hasn't worked out that way so far and with all the money thrown at Fielder, Detroit needs cheap pitching. The Tigers currently don't have a surefire No. 5 starter without turning to a rookie -- like Jacob Turner, whom the Cubs wanted as the centerpiece of a deal for Garza.

Garza will earn at least 7.95 million in arbitration for 2012, which is awfully expensive to a team that will pay three separate guys at least 20 million in 2012 as well as Victor Martinez 13 million to sit on the disabled list all year. If Garza wins arbitration and his '12 contract is 12.5 million, that may count out the Tigers completely.

Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski vehemently denied any interest in trading for Garza before, but he also denied any interest in Fielder and look what happened there. It's possible Garza is still on the table, but maybe not for Turner, according to Dan Dickerson, the radio voice of the Tigers. Check out the video on the right for more from Dickerson.

The Fielder signing also probably puts the Tigers out on possible Alfonso Soriano or Marlon Byrd trades. There really haven't been any rumors here -- only speculation -- but there's no way the Tigers would want to take on either of these guys' contracts, even if the Cubs eat some money.

If Detroit moves Miguel Cabrera to third base and plays Prince Fielder at first, they would still have an opening at DH, but Byrd or Soriano probably aren't good fits, if only for their price.

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.”