Cubs

Sveum addresses trade rumors surrounding Cubs

816066.png

Sveum addresses trade rumors surrounding Cubs

Trade rumors are running rampant around Major League Baseball right now, and the Cubs are right in the thick of things.Ryan Dempster figures to be dealt before the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline, and other big names such as Matt Garza, Geovany Soto and Alfonso Soriano may also be packing their bags in a couple weeks.Even veteran role players -- such as Reed Johnson or Jeff Baker -- or guys with only a couple years under their belts such as Darwin Barney or Bryan LaHair -- hear their names mentioned in rumors."It's that time of year. It's inevitable," manager Dale Sveum said before Friday's game.Garza and Dempster's names have been linked a plethora of reports over the past couple of months, and for two veteran guys with families to think about, the rumors can grow tiring.
However, Sveum says he doesn't believe his players' performances are affected."I don't think it ever impacts wins or losses," he said. "It's in the media, whether it's all 25 guys' names or not. You just never know how that works out. It's part of the game. I think once these guys cross the line -- even in batting practice -- none of that stuff comes into play."Off the field, it's something that's there. It's been there for a long time. You have to deal with it and understand that rumors are rumors and until it happens, it ain't no big deal," he added.Sveum, a first-round pick of the Brewers in 1982, has been around the game for almost three decades, both as a coach and player. He's been traded, released and seen other guys go through the same."That's the course of the game sometimes -- the rumors and everything," he said. "I've been on teams where there's a little bit of talk or a lot of it and then you get to the trading deadline and wow, nothing happens."When you do deals and all that stuff, you still have to get something in return. There's not always the perfect deal out there. The team that wants your players has to have the right scenario that you want to get back, too."So sometimes everything can fall apart as well as good things happening, too. You can have the in-between, you can have a fire sale, or you can have nobody get traded."This season will be different than years past, as the addition of the second Wild Card in each league creates another playoff spot teams can vie for. There are currently 22 teams across the league that are within six games of a Wild Card spot. Sixteen of those teams are within 1.5 games."There's no question the extra Wild Card is impacting things," Sveum said. There's 20 teams right now that are capable of getting into the playoffs with that extra team."There's going to be more talk and more teams that say 'OK, if we put this piece of the puzzle together, we have a lot better chance of getting to the postseason.' So there's definitely more teams involved now."The Cubs entered the All-Star break hot, winning nine of their last 13 games. The streak helped them climb out of the cellar in the NL Central, as they begin play Friday a half-game up on the 33-53 Astros.The Cubs are 8-4 since Anthony Rizzo was called up, and his presence in the three-hole and at first base has allowed Sveum to find a better balance in the lineup."Consistency," he said. "That's what we were able to do the last two weeks -- put together a lineup, put together the back end of the bullpen. Being able to mix and match with Manny Corpas, Shawn Camp and James Russell and Carlos Marmol's doing a good job in the closer's role."Those are the things you just try to establish. You end up winning a lot more games that way."With the Cubs as one of the only MLB teams considered "sellers" at the deadline, consistency may be short-lived for Sveum and this team.

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.”