Cubs

Mooney: Quade doesnt see Castro at leadoff yet

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Mooney: Quade doesnt see Castro at leadoff yet

Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011
Posted 7:25 p.m.
By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. The Cubs want to push Starlin Castro without overwhelming him. There will already be enough pressure on the young shortstop.

Castro, who will turn 21 next month, knows he has to focus on his defense. With more game experience he should cut down on the 27 errors he committed last season. He will realize when to throw the ball, when to hold it and when to take a moment to let the game slow down.

Eventually Castros natural instincts should take over, and with his range and ability to track pop-ups he should become a quality defender.

And if Castro continues to evolve offensively, he could become the more traditional leadoff hitter the Cubs have been lacking. But manager Mike Quade isnt ready to give him those responsibilities just yet.

He hasnt earned the right to figure hes going to hit anywhere, Quade said Thursday at Fitch Park.

The Cubs dont want to hand Castro anything, but he finished 10th in the National League last year with a .300 average and settled nicely into the No. 2 spot.

Theres all sorts of value where hes at right now, Quade said. Id like to think hes going to be talented enough to possibly be that guy someday. But for right now itll be something well consider, (though) Id just as soon leave him and hope he proves me wrong.

Castro can only draw from less than 1,500 at-bats as a professional. Hes played in only 125 games in the majors. But hes also shown the ability to adapt.

Castro hit .339 (43-for-127) against left-handers and finished with 41 hits last August, the most for any Cubs rookie in any month since Ernie Banks in 1954. The Cubs are getting tired of the sophomore jinx story line.

I am leery about the second-year thing, Quade said. If we want this guy to play well (and) get off to a decent start with all the adjustments that are going to be made by other clubs on him, (then) well leave him somewhere we believe hes comfortable.

It may not be all that statistically significant where Castro hits in the lineup. But like the Opening Day starter question, it can be revealing about a manager and his clubhouse.
Ryan Dempster will pitch April 1 because he earned it with his performance and professionalism. Quade looked at the matchups and felt good enough about his relationship with Carlos Zambrano to tell him that he wouldnt be starting that day.

Quade will make concessions to Aramis Ramirez, who wants to hit cleanup and has been an RBI machine when healthy.

He doesnt figure to be one of those guys Ill mix and match with, Quade said. Some guys dont care, and I know he does. He seems like the four-hole to me.

The Cubs used nine different leadoff hitters and nine different cleanup hitters last season, a sign of their offensive dysfunction. Depending on his mood, Lou Piniella could be amused or annoyed by the daily lineup questions.

Quade tries to work two or three days in advance while scheduling this out. Ultimately, hell take the long view, on Castro and anyone else who produces enough to demand playing time.

Im a grown-up I reserve the right to change my opinion, Quade said. (But) the less worrying I have to do about lineups, the easier my summer will be, and thats the Gods honest truth. Because that means that guys have really taken charge and are doing things that make it easy for me.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor 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.