Is Theo working on another big deal for Cubs? 'Ask wetbutt'

Is Theo working on another big deal for Cubs? 'Ask wetbutt'

BALTIMORE — Are the Cubs working on another big deal?

“Ask wetbutt,” Theo Epstein said, crediting one of the Reddit users who scooped everyone this week on the blockbuster Jose Quintana trade between the Cubs and White Sox.

Looking relaxed and sounding upbeat after the All-Star break, the Cubs president showed up Friday at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, where he got his start in professional baseball as a summer intern in 1992, the same year this classic stadium opened in downtown Baltimore.

The kid from Yale University is now the future Hall of Fame executive who’s ended 194 years of championship droughts combined between the Cubs and Boston Red Sox. For all the speculation about where Fortune’s “World’s Greatest Leader” will pivot after baseball, Epstein wants to build a dynasty on the North Side and believes Quintana can help make that a reality.

No, the Cubs won’t stop looking to make deals when there are more than two weeks left until the July 31 trade deadline. But the latest Sonny Gray rumor sounds more like Epstein doing a favor for his buddy Billy Beane and trying to drive the price up for the Oakland A’s and maybe messing with the Milwaukee Brewers.

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The more relevant question for wetbutt23: Is it realistic to think the Cubs can land another frontline starter after Epstein just gave up his top two prospects (Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease) and doesn’t want to break up a World Series core?

“I don’t know,” Epstein said. “Right now, we’re taking a step back. Take a breath and kind of understand our roster and payroll dynamic looking forward now that we have Quintana in the fold. We’ll certainly still be active with phone calls, at least this month. And anything we might want to try to accomplish this winter — it’s good to take a look and see if we might be able to get a head start and do that now.

“We’re going to see how we play, too. It’s a really important two weeks. If we can get hot and start to play the way that we know we’re capable of, that probably puts us in a little bit more aggressive posture, trying to maximize all 25 spots on the roster and maybe even do some things just for this year. But if we don’t get hot, obviously, you have a little bit longer-term perspective.

“I like the look in the guys’ eyes. I think everyone’s refreshed and ready to put the first half behind us while still being accountable for it. We’re ready to move on and play better baseball.”

Whether or not the Cubs can close a 5.5-game deficit against Milwaukee and win a weak division, Quintana’s club-friendly contract creates some cost assurance and opens up even more possibilities for the future.

With the All-Star lefty guaranteed $8.85 million next season — and under team options for 2019 ($10.5 million) and 2020 ($11.5 million) — the Cubs could splurge on a Yu Darvish this winter, pounce on the monster free-agent class headlined by Bryce Harper and Manny Machado after the 2018 season and stay flexible if an international superstar like Shohei Otani becomes available.

“It’s really significant when you can acquire a really good player who’s got a very reasonable contract,” Epstein said. “You almost, in your head, start thinking of a slot being created for a second player, perhaps, in free agency that can come along with him that you can then afford because his contract is so manageable.

“You don’t look at it as if you’ve already acquired that player. But in your mind, understanding the limits of the CBT thresholds and everything else that you have to work within (the luxury tax), it really does create a ton of options.

“We’ll be able to pack more talent on the roster because of his contract. There’s no way around it.”

Why did Kris Bryant get a first-place vote in this year's National League MVP balloting?


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,'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


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.