Cubs

LaHair trying to maximize opportunity with Cubs

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LaHair trying to maximize opportunity with Cubs

Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011
Posted: 11:15 p.m. Updated: 11:49 p.m. By PatrickMooney
CSNChicago.com CubsInsider Follow @CSNMooney
Box score
READ: Cubs tell Brett Jackson wait until next year
WATCH: Dusty Baker talks NL Central on CTL
WATCH: Kap and Hollandsworth sing the stretch
WATCH: Campana says he knows he was safe
WATCH: Quade on Leake's performance

The Cubs gathered in the green seats behind their dugout late Tuesday afternoon for their annual photo. The board of directors sat in the first row, surrounded by people from marketing, media relations, baseball operations, actual players and the coaching staff.

You can be certain that the exact same group wont be there next year.

The next general manager isnt working for the organization right now. But in the final three weeks of this lost season, there will still be revealing moments.

Bryan LaHair will turn 29 in November, long past the expiration date for prospects. He lasted until the 39th round of the 2002 draft and spent parts of the past six seasons on the Triple-A level, where he has nothing left to prove.

The Pacific Coast League MVP stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 240 pounds. He absolutely hammered Mike Leakes 90 mph fastball beyond the right-field seats.

Wrigley Field was mostly empty on a cold Tuesday night nowhere near the announced crowd of 35,297 but it got loud after LaHairs two-out, two-run pinch-hit homer tied the game in the ninth inning.

Leake was one pitch away from a complete-game shutout before LaHair showed the Cincinnati Reds what he did all season long in Iowa, where he generated 38 homers and 109 RBI.

It was an incredible moment, LaHair said. This is an incredible place to play.

Few bothered to stick around until the 13th inning when John Grabow the sixth Cubs reliever that night gave up back-to-back doubles to left-center field. After almost four hours, it finally ended as a 4-2 loss at 11 p.m.

LaHair can play the outfield, where the Cubs dont seem to have any openings, and first base, where Carlos Pena has repeatedly expressed a desire to return. Thats on the agenda for the next administration.

Pena gave LaHair a scouting report on Leake before he stepped to the plate and hit his first big-league homer since Sept. 20, 2008, when he was with the Seattle Mariners. LaHairs gone 4-for-9 since being called up last week. Though its unlikely hell take starts away from Pena and get regular at-bats, this cant hurt his chances.

(Penas) been amazing since I walked in here, LaHair said. Hes really made me feel comfortable. (Were) just trying to feed off each other.

When LaHair was asked the other day about what this final month could do for his career, he sounded like someone in a 12-step program: Im just trying to take one day at a time. This time he got one unforgettable night.

The Cashner Plan
The Cubs are still going to be cautious, but the wait is almost over for Andrew Cashner, whos expected to be available out of the bullpen on Wednesday night. This would mark his first time on a major-league mound in almost five months after straining his rotator cuff.

The plan is to use Cashner for an inning at a time, and not on back-to-back days. He wont be the power arm to protect a one-run lead in the eighth inning look for him in lower-leverage situations.

Cashner, who turns 25 on Sunday, will get stretched out as a starter in the Arizona Fall League. He would be a game-changer for the 2012 rotation.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

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.