Cubs

Cubs will have a new closer in 2018 as Wade Davis reportedly agrees to big deal with Rockies

Cubs will have a new closer in 2018 as Wade Davis reportedly agrees to big deal with Rockies

The Cubs' bullpen puzzle got a little trickier Friday, as it appears Wade Davis won't be returning as the North Siders' closer.

According to a report from Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan, Davis has agreed to a huge three-year deal with the Colorado Rockies, one Passan reports is worth $52 million.

Cha ching.

That's one of the biggest contracts ever for a relief pitcher — one that can get even bigger, per Passan, as big as $66 million should a fourth-year option kick in — but for the Cubs, it means they'll have to come up with someone else to close out games.

Of course, this has been a possibility for some time, with Davis one of the hottest commodities on the market in terms of relief arms. But there's no doubt Davis was excellent last year in his lone season on the North Side. He converted 32 of his 33 save opportunities and turned in a 2.30 ERA in 59 appearances.

After helping the Kansas City Royals to back-to-back appearances in the World Series (including a championship in 2015), he once again pitched in the postseason, saving four games for the Cubs in series against the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers. While he surrendered three earned runs in 6.1 innings during the playoffs, he picked up the save with an epic performance in Game 5 of the National League Division Series, pitching 2.1 innings to eliminate the Nationals.

As for 2018, though, the Cubs will need a new ninth-inning man. That could be Brandon Morrow, who the team added earlier this month on a free-agent deal. Morrow has saved just 18 games in his 11-season career, but he was a very effective late-inning arm for the aforementioned Dodgers last season, posting a 2.06 ERA in 43.2 innings of work. The Cubs also inked Steve Cishek this month, who has closed for the Miami Marlins and Seattle Mariners, picking up 121 career saves. He saved a combined 73 games for the Marlins in 2013 and 2014. Internal options include Carl Edwards Jr. and Pedro Strop.

And of course the Cubs could add another free-agent arm to the bullpen, too. One big-name closer remains on the free-agent market: Greg Holland, a former teammate of Davis' in Kansas City. Holland was the NL saves leader in 2017, with 41 for the Rockies, who seemed to have replaced him with Davis. Also still available is Addison Reed, who saved 19 games for the New York Mets last season.

Cubs announce minor league staff for 2018, with many familiar faces receiving new roles

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USA TODAY

Cubs announce minor league staff for 2018, with many familiar faces receiving new roles

The Cubs finalized their minor league staffs for 2018 on Thursday, making changes at numerous staff positions.

The organization has retained managers Marty Pevey (Triple-A Iowa), Mark Johnson (Double-A Tennessee), and Buddy Bailey (Single-A Myrtle Beach) and Jimmy Gonzalez (Single-A South Bend). New to the organization is former Philadelphia Phillies' catcher Steven Lerud. Lerud, 33, will manage Single-A Eugene in 2018.

Eugene also added Jacob Rogers to its staff as assistant hitting coach. Rogers, 28, played in the Cubs organization from 2012-2016. Also new to the organization is Paul McAnulty, who is the new assistant hitting coach for South Bend. McAnulty, 36, played in parts of four seasons with the Padres from 2005-2008 and with the Angels in 2010. He recently served as a coach in the Angels' system in 2016.

Those with new roles for 2018 include Chris Valaika, who is now an assistant coach with Triple-A Iowa. Valaika, 32, began his coaching career last season with rookie league Mesa after playing ten seasons professionally. The former utility player hit .231 in 44 games with the Cubs in 2014.

Like Valaika, former Cubs' farmhand Ben Carhart has a new role with the organization for 2018. Carhart, 27, is now an assistant coach with South Bend after serving as a rehab coach with Mesa last season. From 2012-2016, he hit .270 in 372 minor league games, all in the Cubs' organization.

The Cubs also announced their minor league coordinators for 2018. Holdovers include Darnell McDonald and John Baker. McDonald played for the Cubs in 2013 and will return for his fourth season as the organization's mental skills coordinator. Baker, who played for the Cubs in 2014, will return for his second season as a mental skills coordinator.

Jeremy Farrell returns to the organization for a third season, although 2018 will be his first as the Cubs' minor league infield coordinator. Farrell played in the White Sox farm system from 2013-2015 and is the son of former Red Sox and Blue Jays' manager John Farrell.

Here is a complete list of the organization's major league training staff and minor league managers and staff for 2018:

 

 

 

Albert Almora Jr. is hungry for more

Albert Almora Jr. is hungry for more

While most of the Cubs were focusing on rest and relaxtion this winter, Albert Almora Jr. sees no need for chillin'.

Kris Bryant admitted he was worn down by the end of the Cubs' playoff run last October and most other regulars would say the same thing.

But some Cubs saw the winter not as an "offseason" but as the first opportunity to prove something.

Kyle Schwarber has shed weight and looks to be in great shape, but Almora is in the same boat.

The 23-year-old outfielder is chomping at the bit, anxious for the season to start. So anxious, in fact, that he spent just a couple weeks at home in Florida before heading to Arizona to start training for 2018. 

Yes, that's right. He's been in Arizona since November — training, eating right, mentally preparing himself for the grind ahead, taking swings. 

That's nothing new for the first draft pick under Theo Epstein's front office who's constantly trying to validate the sixth overall selection in the 2012 Draft.

"I'm always going out there trying to prove them right, trying to make them happy," Almora said.

This is a kid who earned a World Series ring before his 23rd birthday and has five gold medals from playing for Team USA as a teenager. 

Almora's no stranger to the big stage and he's already accomplished so much at such a young age, but he's never experienced anything quite like the 2017 season.

He's always been a starter and everyday player. From age 8, when he was playing up with 14-year-olds, Almora has been among the youngest guys on any team he's been on. 

That was the case with the 2017 Cubs once again, but this time, he wasn't a key contributor. He played nearly every day — notching 132 games — but only started 65 times throughout the course of the year. He had to learn a lot about waiting for his moment and making the most of his one at-bat or one inning in the field.

"[Playing time is] not in my control and I'm gonna do whatever I can when my name is called to help the team win games and have a lot of fun with it," Almora said. "That's the only way to stay sane and not worry too much.

"At the end of the day, all I can control is what I do on the ballfield and that's it."

Almora admitted he's let that external stuff creep into his mind in the past, though that was mostly in the minor leagues when he was wondering when he'd get called up to the next level.

In the majors, it's all about winning and Almora believes he can help the big-league team get back to the Promised Land.

Even Epstein admitted Almora is primed for a larger role in 2018, as the young outfielder proved down the stretch last year he could contribute against right-handed pitching as well as southpaws.

What does he make of his progression the last couple years?

"I can answer that by just saying I'm confident," Almora said. "The more opportunity I get, the more experienced under my belt. You're not intimidated, you're having a lot of fun out there and your confident in your game.