Cubs

Giancarlo Stanton reportedly heading to Yankees: What's it mean for the Cubs and the Bryce Harper sweepstakes in 2019?

1209_giancarlo_stanton.jpg
USA TODAY

Giancarlo Stanton reportedly heading to Yankees: What's it mean for the Cubs and the Bryce Harper sweepstakes in 2019?

Giancarlo Stanton is reportedly heading to the Big Apple.

According to multiple Saturday morning reports, the New York Yankees and Miami Marlins have agreed on a deal and Stanton is expected to approve it, sending the National League MVP to the Bronx.

The implications are many for baseball, with Stanton — who belted 59 home runs last season, the most since Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa hit 73 and 64 dingers, respectively, in 2001 — teaming with American League Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge — who smacked a rookie record 52 homers in 2017 — to create the most formidable middle of the order in the game. After coming close to reaching the World Series in 2017, losing to the eventual-champion Houston Astros in the AL Championship Series, the Yankees could be the presumed favorite heading into 2018.

But what's all this mean for the Cubs? The most obvious effect is that Stanton is out of the NL, making things easier for the North Siders, though the Marlins weren't much competition to begin with, finishing eight games below .500 last season. And Stanton rejected a trade to the Cubs' division rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals, on Friday, meaning they dodged a bullet not having Stanton slugging in the NL Central.

But the Cubs were one of four teams on Stanton's reported short list of clubs he'd approve a trade to. This could be viewed as the Cubs missing out on the offseason's two biggest targets in as many days, with Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani picking the Los Angeles Angels over the Cubs and five other finalists Friday. But just because Stanton said he'd like to play on the North Side doesn't mean the Cubs were ever actually showing any interest or talking with the Marlins about a deal.

Instead, the biggest effect of this trade from a Cubs standpoint figures to come a year from now, when Bryce Harper becomes one of the biggest and most sought-after free agents in baseball history. The Washington Nationals star has been on Cubs fans' wish list for a few years now as his impending free agency draws closer. There has been plenty of speculation that the Yankees would be a leading candidate for Harper's services, with their historically deep pockets and rapid rebuild that has them near the top of the baseball heap once again. But does the Stanton trade knock them out of the running? Stanton's contract is gargantuan, a massive 13-year deal when he signed it that still has as many as 10 years and $259 million remaining (he can opt out after the 2020 season). Plus, Stanton and Judge are both corner outfielders, the same position that Harper plays. With those corner outfield spots and a whole ton of money spoken for between Stanton and Judge, the Yankees might no longer make sense as a destination for Harper, arguably baseball's biggest star.

The Cubs, meanwhile, now don't have to promise long-term corner-outfield spots to either Stanton or Ohtani. The money will of course be tricky, with the team's young stars like Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Javy Baez, Kyle Schwarber, Kyle Hendricks and Willson Contreras all due big-time raises in the next few seasons. But the Cubs could move to the forefront of the Harper conversation — even if they already were in Chicago, where Harper's every move has seemingly been construed as a sign he wants to join fellow Las Vegas native Bryant in Cubbie Blue.

As for the present, the Cubs still have Schwarber and Jason Heyward patrolling the corner-outfield spots at Wrigley Field, with a host of interchangeable parts for Joe Maddon to play with. And the middle of the order, dominated by Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Contreras, is still a mighty strong one.

But there's a new souvenir company to compete with in New York.

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

MESA, Ariz. — “That’s last year, don’t want to talk about that.”

In other words, Addison Russell is so over 2017.

The Cubs shortstop went through a lot last year. He dealt with injuries that affected his foot and shoulder. He had a well-documented off-the-field issue involving an accusation of domestic abuse, which sparked an investigation by Major League Baseball. And then came the trade speculation.

The hot stove season rarely leaves any player completely out of online trade discussion. But after Theo Epstein admitted there was a possibility the Cubs could trade away one or more young position players to bolster the starting rotation, well, Russell’s name came up.

And he saw it.

“There was a lot of trade talk,” Russell said Saturday. “My initial thoughts were, I hope it doesn’t happen, but wherever I go, I’m going to try to bring what I bring to the table here. It’s a good thing that it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m happy being in a Cubs uniform, I want to be in a Cubs uniform, for sure. But there was some talk out there. If I got traded, then I got traded, but that’s not the case.”

No, it’s not, as the Cubs solved those pitching questions with free-agent spending, bringing in Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood to replace the departed Jake Arrieta and John Lackey. It means Russell, along with oft-discussed names like Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ and Javy Baez, are all still Cubs.

While the outside world might have expected one of those guys to be moved in some sort of blockbuster trade for Chris Archer or some other All-Star arm, the Cubs’ young core remains intact, another reason why they’re as much a favorite to win the World Series as any team out there.

“I’m really not surprised. The core is still here. Who would want to break that up? It’s a beautiful thing,” Russell said. “Javy and I in the middle. Schwarber, sometimes playing catcher but mainly outfield. And then (Kris Bryant) over there in the hot corner, and of course (Anthony) Rizzo at first. You’ve got a Gold Glover in right field (Jason Heyward). It’s really hard to break that up.

“When you do break that down on paper, we’ve got a lineup that could stack up with the best.”

This winter has been about moving on for Russell, who said he’s spent months working to strengthen his foot and shoulder after they limited him to 110 games last season, the fewest he played in his first three big league campaigns.

And so for Russell, the formula for returning to his 2016 levels of offensive aptitude isn’t a difficult one: stay on the field.

“Especially with the injuries, I definitely wanted to showcase some more of my talent last year than I displayed,” Russell said. “So going into this year, it’s mainly just keeping a good mental — just staying level headed. And also staying healthy and producing and being out there on the field.

“Next step for me, really just staying out there on the field. I really want to see what I can do as far as helping the team if I can stay healthy for a full season. I think if I just stay out there on the field, I’m going to produce.”

While the decrease in being on the field meant lower numbers from a “counting” standpoint — the drop from 21 homers in 2016 to 12 last year, the drop from 95 RBIs to 43 can in part be attributed to the lower number of games — certain rate stats looked different, too. His on-base percentage dropped from .321 in 2016 to .304 last year.

Russell also struggled during the postseason, picking up just six hits in 36 plate appearances in series against the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers. He struck out 13 times in 10 postseason games.

Of course, he wasn’t alone. That World Series hangover was team-wide throughout the first half of the season. And even though the Cubs scored 824 runs during the regular season, the second most in the National League and the fourth most in baseball, plenty of guys had their offensive struggles: Schwarber, Heyward and Ben Zobrist, to name a few.

“You can’t take anything for granted. So whenever you win a World Series or you do something good, you just have to live in the moment,” Russell said. “It was a tough season last year because we were coming off winning the World Series and the World Series hangover and all that. This year, we had a couple months off, a couple extra weeks off, and I think a lot of guys took advantage of that. I know I did. And now that we’re here in spring training, we’re going to get back at it.”

Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans

mikemontgomerycubs.png
USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans

Jon Lester has arrived at Cubs camp, and he’s pleased with the new-look rotation full of potential aces. Kelly Crull and Vinnie Duber discuss the 5-man unit, and where Mike Montgomery fits into the Cubs’ plans.

Plus, Kelly and Vinnie talk Jason Heyward and Kyle Schwarber, along with the continuing free agent stalemate surrounding Jake Arrieta.

Listen to the full Cubs Talk Podcast right here: