Cubs

Ex-Cubs prospect Eloy Jimenez is speeding up the timetable on White Sox

Ex-Cubs prospect Eloy Jimenez is speeding up the timetable on White Sox

ORLANDO, Fla. — The White Sox are beginning to understand what the Cubs already knew about Eloy Jimenez, a young right-handed power hitter who drew comparisons to Kris Bryant, Miguel Cabrera and Edgar Martinez.

No pressure. But Jimenez reported to big-league camp with the defending World Series champs and thought he could leave Arizona with a spot on the Opening Day roster, a sign of his confidence, natural talent and sense of belonging.

Jimenez started 2017 with advanced Class-A Myrtle Beach, but he still wound up saving their season by showing enough potential that the Cubs could make him the headliner in the blockbuster Jose Quintana trade with the White Sox during the All-Star break.

Now one of the most interesting pieces to the White Sox rebuild is in the Dominican Winter League, roughly 1,000 miles away from the general manager meetings at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando, representing one of the game’s strongest farm systems.

“The biggest lockbox whenever you make an acquisition,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said Tuesday, “is what you’re getting from a makeup standpoint. Scouts do a tremendous job digging and getting as much background information as they can.

“But until you actually have him on campus and see how he works and goes about his business day in and day out, you don’t really know. We had positive reports, (but) I don’t think we fully appreciated the magnetic element of Eloy’s personality and how well he plays in the clubhouse and how diligent he is about his work.”

Hahn has seen the video of Jimenez with Gigantes del Cibao, where he’s hitting .365 with four homers, two triples, five doubles and 20 RBIs through 17 games. That is building off his first Double-A exposure in August and September, when Jimenez put up a .956 OPS in 73 plate appearances.

“Eloy might be forcing our timetable a little bit,” Hahn said. “You obviously have a young kid who’s 21 years old and has only been above A-ball for about 20 games. But in a short period of time in Birmingham, he made that ballpark look small.

“He’s obviously had a wonderful stay so far in winter ball. We’ll see him in big-league camp. I’m sure he’s going to continue to open eyes and impress not just with what the performance is on the field, but his work ethic and how he goes about his business, which has been equally as impressive since we got him.”

All this means Jimenez could be coming to the South Side sooner rather than later, right when the Cubs-Sox rivalry should be heating up again and Chicago baseball fans will be expecting October baseball at two different Red Line stops.

“It’s reasonable to have a development plan that has him in Double-A for the entire year next year,” Hahn said. “And if he does well, that’s a very fine year and age appropriate. That said ... the good ones have a way of sort of forcing your hand on it.

“What we’ve seen from Eloy in this short period of time that we’ve had him already, he may be forcing our hand a little bit.”

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.