What’s next for Cubs and John Lackey?


What’s next for Cubs and John Lackey?

ST. LOUIS – The Cubs can at least rule out John Lackey turning into Grandpa Lackey and doing a David Ross-style retirement tour, going on “Dancing with the Stars” and writing a book that turns into a movie where Bill Murray plays manager Joe Maddon.

Jon Lester tipped off Lackey’s future plans during Wednesday night’s postgame toast inside Busch Stadium’s visiting clubhouse, saluting what was probably the final regular-season start of a career that earned him three World Series rings and roughly $140 million, according to the Baseball-Reference salary database.

Lackey ended September with a 2.51 ERA in five starts, beating the St. Louis Cardinals and earning the win that clinched a National League Central title, setting the stage for a best-of-five battle against the Washington Nationals.  

Could a strong finish and big-game experience create a spot in a playoff rotation that already appears to be full with Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana?

“We haven’t gotten there yet,” Maddon said Thursday. “Jonny Lester came up to all of the coaches and said, ‘Listen, I want to do this.’ I thought it was a great tribute. You could see how sincere he was in regards to how he feels about Johnny Lackey.

“John does all the little histrionics on the field on occasion. But when you’re with him all the time, and when he’s actually not performing, he’s an entirely different person. Watch him with his family and his kids, he’s really a softie outside of what you see on the field. You could understand where Johnny Lester was coming from.

“I’m not prepared to say anything about the roster yet. We’re just going to continue to talk about it. We haven’t really sat down and decided anything yet.”

It’s not just that the Cubs are trying to avoid an awkward conversation with Lackey. Lester hasn’t looked sharp since the All-Star break (4.79 ERA), struggling to regain his feel and command after spending two-plus weeks on the disabled list with left lat tightness/general shoulder fatigue.

Lester – who will start Saturday against the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field – has given up 32 hits and 14 walks in 27.1 innings this month. Arrieta still has to test his right hamstring again and make it through Sunday’s Game 162. Meaning the Cubs may need Lackey in case of emergency or use him in a scripted piggyback role.

“Now you get to take your time and really analyze what you think is right,” Maddon said. “We got to play this all the way through, make sure that these guys are healthy, and then you make your best decisions.”

Willson Contreras' bat-flip game is already in midseason form

Willson Contreras' bat-flip game is already in midseason form

The MLB regular season is still 13 days away, but Willson Contreras is ready for the swings to count.

The Cubs catcher hit an absolute bomb of a homer Friday afternoon off White Sox pitcher Reynaldo Lopez, but it wasn't just a homer.

Contreras put an exclamation mark on the dinger (his third of the spring and the second this week) with an A+ bat flip:

I'm not sure what's more majestic: The 450-foot shot or the 45-foot bat-flip.

Either way, Contreras is ready for those 2018 NL MVP votes.

Cubs opposition research: It's an even year, so count on a Giants comeback


Cubs opposition research: It's an even year, so count on a Giants comeback

The expectations couldn't be any higher for the 2018 Chicago Cubs. 

It's 2016 all over again. The goal isn't just a trip to the playoffs or another NL pennant. It's World Series or bust for this group of North Siders.

With that, let's take a look at all of the teams that could stand in the way of the Cubs getting back to the Fall Classic:

San Francisco Giants

2017 record: 64-98, last place in NL West

Offseason additions: Andrew McCutchen, Evan Longoria, Austin Jackson, Gregor Blanco, Tony Watson, Julian Fernandez

Offseason departures: Michael Morse, Matt Cain, Matt Moore, Denard Span, Kyle Crick, Christian Arroyo

X-factor: Brandon Belt

The trades for Longoria and McCutchen are going to get all the attention, but the Giants are sort of acquiring Belt, too. 

Their sweet-swining lefty first baseman only appeared in 104 games in 2017, missing the last few weeks of the season with a bad concussion. When he was on the field, he led the team in both homers (18) and walks (66) despite just 451 plate appearances. 

Belt has turned into one of the most patient hitters in the game and if he is able to stay healthy for a full season, would slot in perfectly in the 2-hole ahead of McCutchen, Longoria and Buster Posey. 

Projected lineup

1. Joe Panik - 2B
2. Brandon Belt - 1B
3. Andrew McCutchen - RF
4. Buster Posey - C
5. Evan Longoria - 3B
6. Hunter Pence - LF
7. Brandon Crawford - SS
8. Austin Jackson - CF

Projected rotation

1. Madison Bumgarner
2. Johnny Cueto
3. Jeff Samardzija
4. Ty Blach
5. Chris Stratton


The Giants tied for the worst record in Major League Baseball in 2017, surprising many around the league. Absolutely nothing went right for the team, from a lack of power on the field (Belt missed a third of the season and still led the team in homers), injuries (Bumgarner only made 17 starts) and general ineffectiveness (Mark Melancon).

But the Giants are a team that excels in even years, though the Cubs may have broken that juju by knocking San Fran out of the NLDS in 2016.

Still, between the return to health of key players and some big moves that improved the lineup, this team is primed for a return to form.

Watson is a nice piece at the back end of the bullpen and bet on a rebound from Melancon, who was one of the best late-inning relievers in the game from 2013-16 (1.80 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 147 saves).

Expect more out of the rotation with Bumgarner and Cueto a dynamic 1-2 punch. Cubs fans are familiar with what Samardzija can do if he gets on a role, too.

It seems crazy to pick the Giants to finish higher than the Diamondbacks, but they still have the same core of players from the championship years and have a much-improved roster.

Prediction: Second place in NL West, wild-card team

Complete opposition research

San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Franciso Giants