Cubs

Why Greg Holland would make sense as next Cubs closer

Why Greg Holland would make sense as next Cubs closer

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Why would the Cubs give up young talent to get Wade Davis when they could just sign the other closer who helped transform the Kansas City Royals into World Series champions?

That question frames how the Cubs are looking at their closer situation during the winter meetings, with industry sources saying Greg Holland remains a free-agent target and on track to be ready for Opening Day 2017.

At that point, Holland will be 18 months out from Tommy John surgery, an injury that allowed Davis to take over as closer during Kansas City’s playoff run in 2015. Davis maximized that opportunity, putting up a 0.00 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 10 2/3 postseason innings. Davis earned his second All-Star selection this year while Holland rehabbed his right elbow.

But the Royals can see their window to contend closing, with Davis, first baseman Eric Hosmer, third baseman Mike Moustakas, shortstop Alcides Escobar, outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson and left-hander Danny Duffy all positioned to become free agents after the 2017 season.

Holland had been a big part of that core, a homegrown Royal who saved 145 games between 2011 and 2015, made two All-Star teams and showed up twice in the American League MVP voting.

When Kansas City made it all the way to Game 7 of the 2014 World Series, Holland notched seven saves and posted a 0.82 ERA during those four playoff rounds.

The Boston Red Sox are no longer in the mix for Holland, a team source said, after filling that late-inning need with Tuesday’s Tyler Thornburg trade with the Milwaukee Brewers, a deal that got blown away by the Chris Sale blockbuster.

[SHOP CUBS: Get your World Series champions gear right here]

Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer predicted the White Sox would be the Chicago team making the big headlines here at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center outside Washington, D.C., downplaying the possibility of making a huge splash.

The Cubs have checked in with Kenley Jansen’s camp, industry sources said, and signaled that they have no interest in bringing back Aroldis Chapman. The Los Angeles Dodgers — and essentially all of the teams involved in the Jansen/Chapman discussions — are also particularly intrigued by Holland, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network and FanRag Sports.

The San Francisco Giants already handed Mark Melancon the biggest contract ever for a closer, though Jansen and Chapman could both get deals longer than four years and will shatter that $62 million record.

If Davis will cost, say, Jorge Soler plus $10 million in salary, then the Cubs could decide to invest in Holland’s upside and use the Cuban outfielder in a different trade for pitching.

Javy Baez, the Cubs' versatile King of Swag

Javy Baez, the Cubs' versatile King of Swag

Even his teammates are having a hard time wrapping their minds around Javier Baez, the farmer.

Anthony Rizzo asked the flashy infielder before one of the panels this weekend at Cubs Convention, “What is it you do exactly? Feed chickens?”

The exchange garnered a good laugh from the crowd, but let’s be honest: only Baez could make feeding chickens look as cool as feeding a double play ball at Wrigley. Having asked at least 10 different Cubs players this weekend which teammate has the most swag, it was always Baez. And there was never any hesitation. 

Like the bling that hangs around his MLB logo-tatted neck, Baez dazzles on the field as well. His tags are a thing of beauty. You can just imagine young ballplayers around Chicago imitating the swipe, much like a Michael Jordan fadeaway jumper. Whether manning second or short, the 25 year-old All-Star has become a must-see defensive player.

Last season Baez took over at shortstop as Addison Russell dealt with a strained right foot/plantar fasciitis problem. In 30 games Baez thrived at his natural position, so much so he left some wondering if the Cubs would consider flipping Russell back to second base.

Baez has the more traditional, powerful shortstop arm, but Theo Epstein will tell you when you look at Russell’s defensive rankings compared to other shortstops, he’s a special player in his own right as well.

One thing’s for sure: the Cubs are fortunate to have that kind of depth up the middle. Joe Maddon made it clear last September that without the play of Baez, it’s doubtful the team would have been in position to clinch the division.

“We have two legitimate shortstops," Maddon said. "It’s very unusual to have that.”

Sure, a great problem to have. But how does it play out for the Cubs when all is said and done?

Does Baez take over at short with Russell moving to second, or is it Maddon having a tough conversation with Ben Zobrist and plugging No. 9 in as his everyday second baseman? There's Ian Happ, too. Is he the Cubs' second baseman of the future with Russell/Baez being the trade chip that lands a frontline starter?

All viable options, but just for fun in the video above we put Baez on the spot at Cubs Convention and asked him: Are you a shortstop playing second, or a second baseman playing short?”

He flashed a big grin and said a second baseman playing short. In other words, he gets it.

His bling doesn’t blind him from being a team player. "El Mago," the magician, knows his time is coming. A process that will begin in a few weeks when the Cubs report to Mesa.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Takeaways from Cubs Convention and players primed for a 2018 breakout

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Takeaways from Cubs Convention and players primed for a 2018 breakout

On the latest edition of the Cubs Talk Podcast, Kelly Crull, Tony Andracki, Jon Graff, Matt Buckman and Scott Changnon rattle off their main takeaways from the weekend’s Cubs Convention, including the funniest moments and how the players engaged with fans and each other throughout the three days at the Sheraton Grand Chicago.

Plus, which players — besides Kyle Schwarber — made the most of the offseason and are primed for a breakout in 2018? The crew gives its take, with options including Albert Almora Jr., Ian Happ and Jason Heyward.

Take a listen below: