Cubs

Does a Starlin Castro trade make sense for Cubs and Yankees?

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Does a Starlin Castro trade make sense for Cubs and Yankees?

Starlin Castro’s name figures to be in trade rumors throughout the offseason, and the New York Daily News delivered Friday morning by reporting the Yankees had discussed a Brett Gardner trade with the Cubs as part of their wide-ranging talks involving the All-Star outfielder.

The Daily News adjusted its reporting hours later, spiking the idea of a Castro-for-Gardner deal.

If the Yankees move Gardner, an industry source said, the belief is they will want a lower-cost player to create more financial flexibility as part of an overall youth movement within the final years of the Alex Rodriguez/Mark Teixeira/CC Sabathia megadeals.

Castro, who has notched 991 career hits before his 26th birthday, is guaranteed $38 million across the next four seasons and coming off a strong finish to this year, helping the Cubs advance to the National League Championship Series.

[RELATED - How Cubs plan to rebuild their bullpen for next October]   

Never say never when you’re talking about potential deals, but another source said the Cubs have scenarios where Castro sticks around next season as their primary second baseman.

Theo Epstein’s front office and Joe Maddon’s coaching staff appreciated the way Castro handled Addison Russell taking over at shortstop in August, how a three-time All-Star didn’t complain and remade himself at a new position. 

A third source predicted the Cubs will find their next centerfielder by either making a small trade or signing a free agent. The assumption being Dexter Fowler will get paid somewhere else, with most of the available resources poured into the pitching staff this winter.

The Yankees didn’t bite when the Cubs shopped Castro at the July 31 trade deadline, but they are said to at least be open-minded about a player who sometimes has a perception problem, given his uneven performance and concentration issues in the past.

Jim Hendry – the former Cubs general manager who promoted Castro to the big leagues from Double-A Tennessee in 2010 – is now a special assistant to Yankees general manager Brian Cashman.

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There’s a lot to like about Gardner, a self-made player who – as the story goes – got cut from the College of Charleston team before making it as a walk-on and ultimately developing into a World Series champion in 2009.

Gardner has 34 playoff games on his resume, a career .346 on-base percentage and a reputation for being a good leader. But he’s 32 years old and reportedly owed $38 million across the next three seasons.

In terms of a more realistic match, Fox Sports identified Atlanta’s controllable starting pitchers (Julio Teheran, Shelby Miller) as targets for the Cubs. In trying to build a World Series contender for 2016, the sense is the Cubs will try to use their dollars and trade chips to address the pitching deficit. 

Cubs Talk Podcast: Sitting down with new Cubs coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Sitting down with new Cubs coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey

Spring training baseball games are up around the bend, but before the boys of summer get into organized action, two of the team’s new coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey sit down with Kelly Crull.

Plus, Vinnie Duber joins Kelly to discuss these baseball conversations including the memorable first words of Kyle Schwarber to Chili Davis, “I don’t suck!"

Listen to the full episode at this link (iOS users can go here) or in the embedded player below. Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.

Changes aren't exactly popular, but Cubs and Sox — except maybe Willson Contreras — will adapt to baseball's new pace-of-play rules

Changes aren't exactly popular, but Cubs and Sox — except maybe Willson Contreras — will adapt to baseball's new pace-of-play rules

MESA, Ariz. — We know Willson Contreras doesn’t like baseball’s new pace-of-play rules.

He isn’t the only one.

“I think it’s a terrible idea. I think it’s all terrible,” Jon Lester said last week at spring training, before the specifics of the new rules were even announced. “The beautiful thing about our sport is there’s no time.”

Big surprise coming from the Cubs’ resident old-schooler.

The new rules limit teams to six mound visits per every nine-inning game, with exceptions for pitching changes, between batters, injuries and after the announcement of a pinch hitter. Teams get an extra mound visit for every extra inning in extra-inning games. Also, commercial breaks between innings have been cut by 20 seconds.

That’s it. But it’s caused a bit of an uproar.

Contreras made headlines Tuesday when he told reporters that he’ll willingly break those rules if he needs to in order to put his team in a better position to win.

“I’ve been reading a lot about this rule, and I don’t really care. If I have to pay the price for my team, I will,” Contreras said. “There’s six mound visits, but what if you have a tight game? … You have to go out there. They cannot say anything about that. It’s my team, and we just care about winning. And if they’re going to fine me about the No. 7 mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”

Talking about pace-of-play rule changes last week, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said his team would adapt to any new rules. In Chicago baseball’s other Arizona camp, a similar tune of adaptation was being sung.

“Obviously as players we’ve got to make adjustments to whatever rules they want to implement,” White Sox pitcher James Shields said. “This is a game of adjustments, we’re going to have to make adjustments as we go. We’re going to have to figure out logistics of the thing, and I would imagine in spring training we’re going to be talking about it more and more as we go so we don’t mess it up.”

There was general consensus that mound visits are a valuable thing. So what happens if a pitcher and catcher need to communicate but are forced to do it from 60 feet, six inches away?

“Sign language,” White Sox catching prospect Zack Collins joked. “I guess you have to just get on the same page in the dugout and hope that nothing goes wrong if you’re out of visits.”

In the end, here’s the question that needs answering: Are baseball games really too long?

On one hand, as Lester argued, you know what you’re signing up for when you watch a baseball game, be it in the stands at a ballpark or on TV. No one should be shocked when a game rolls on for more than three hours.

But shock and fans' levels of commitment or just pure apathy are two different things. And sometimes it’s a tough ask for fans to dedicate four hours of their day 162 times a year. So there’s a very good reason baseball is trying to make the game go faster, to keep people from leaving the stands or flipping the TV to another channel.

Unsurprisingly, Lester would rather keep things the way they are.

“To be honest with you, the fans know what they’re getting themselves into when they go to a game,” Lester said. “It’s going to be a three-hour game. You may have a game that’s two hours, two hours and 15 minutes. Great, awesome. You may have a game that’s four hours. That’s the beautiful part of it.

“I get the mound visit thing. But what people that aren’t in the game don’t understand is that there’s so much technology in the game, there’s so many cameras on the field, that every stadium now has a camera on the catcher’s crotch. So they know signs before you even get there. Now we’ve got Apple Watches, now we’ve got people being accused of sitting in a tunnel (stealing signs). So there’s reasons behind the mound visit. He’s not just coming out there asking what time I’m going to dinner or, ‘Hey, how you feeling?’ There’s reasons behind everything, and I think if you take those away, it takes away the beauty of the baseball game.

“Every game has a flow, and I feel like that’s what makes it special. If you want to go to a timed event, go to a timed event. I’m sorry I’m old-school about it, but baseball’s been played the same way for a long time. And now we’re trying to add time to it. We’re missing something somewhere.”

Whether limiting the number of mound visits creates a significant dent in this problem remains to be seen. But excuse the players if they’re skeptical.

“We’ve got instant replay, we’ve got all kinds of different stuff going on. I don’t think (limiting) the mound visits are going to be the key factor to speeding this game up,” Shields said. “Some pitchers take too long, and some hitters take too long. It’s combination of a bunch of stuff.

“I know they’re trying to speed the game up a little bit. I think overall, the game’s going as fast as it possibly could. You’ve got commercials and things like that. TV has a lot to do with it. There’s a bunch of different combinations of things. But as a player, we’ve got to make an adjustment.”