Cubs

Will Sveum hiring lead to Fielder signing?

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Will Sveum hiring lead to Fielder signing?

Dale Sveum has spent the last six seasons coaching from various positions on the Milwaukee Brewers staff.

Or to put it another way, he's seen all but 39 of Prince Fielder's 998 career games firsthand from the top step of the dugout.

Fielder made his MLB debut in 2005 as a 21-year-old, but earned just 62 plate appearances. Sveum was hired as the Brewers' third base coach before the '06 season, a position he held for one season.

Sveum, who was a first-round draft pick of the Brewers back in 1982, spent time as the bench coach the next season, then moved back to third base coach, spent a short time as interim manager and then moved to hitting coach, a position he has held the last three seasons.

That's just a long way of saying he and Fielder have spent almost every day together for the the past six seasons, the last three of which Sveum directly impacted Fielder's performance as part of his hitting coach duties.

The slugging first baseman is currently a free agent and interested in reaping the benefits of his offensive prowess to the tune of a huge payday. Huge like 200 million over nine years huge.

He doesn't turn 28 until five weeks into the 2012 season and is right in the heart of his prime. As new Cubs president Theo Epstein said, he is not interested in signing free agents who have left their best years behind them. Given his age and history, it's conceivable to think Fielder's best years are still ahead of him.

Fielder has never been shy about his appreciation for Sveum, claiming the 47-year-old is one of the best coaches he's ever had.

Does this all add up to Fielder signing the megadeal he seeks with the Cubs?

Just imagine how many times he'd hit the ball out onto Sheffield Ave. He'd have a fan club just waiting out on the street for a chance to nab a home run, much like Sammy Sosa did in his heyday.

Imagine Fielder spending 81 games hitting in cozy Wrigley Field. Imagine when the wind is actually blowing out. With his huge uppercut, there wouldn't be a pitcher in the league that would want to pitch to Fielder.

However, it appears those dreams may just have to stay in our imagination.

"It's an interesting theory, but the sense I'm getting is the Cubs aren't really looking for that guy that will cost 25 million and would an eight- or nine-year commitment," Cubs Insider Patrick Mooney told David Kaplan on CSN after Sveum was announced.

"Theo and Jed Hoyer said all along how committed they are to building from within, from the ground up and that's really what attracted Theo to this job. So I think they're going to put their money into pitching and defense and more volume of pitching than just one big-name stud pitcher."

Sigh. That would have been awesome.

Mooney has a point. While the Cubs are still under Alfonso Soriano's and Carlos Zambrano's nauseating contracts, it would be tough to imagine the new regime shelling out that kind of money for one player, even if it is a guy young enough and good enough to build around.

Who knows, maybe something will work out. Maybe Theo and Jed are just giving everybody the runaround right now, playing this one close to the vest.

Cubs fans can only hope.

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.