Cubs

How Wade Davis returning to Cubs could fall into place

How Wade Davis returning to Cubs could fall into place

ORLANDO, Fla. – The Cubs viewed Aroldis Chapman only as a rental closer and didn’t show any interest in the free agent last winter or even pretend like a reunion might happen. That trade-deadline deal with the New York Yankees was all about World Series or bust.

Wade Davis – who became part of the defending champs after the Jorge Soler trade with the Kansas City Royals during last year’s winter meetings – is a different story as a low-maintenance closer with a sophisticated approach to pitching, quiet leadership skills and no off-the-field baggage.

That doesn’t mean Theo Epstein’s front office will come anywhere close to the record-setting, five-year, $86 million contract the Yankees handed Chapman last offseason. But just look at the supply-and-demand dynamics and there appears to be a way Davis could return to Chicago, where he set a franchise record by converting his first 32 save chances in a Cubs uniform.

This is only Day 1 of the general manager meetings at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando. But you can already cross off the Yankees – and the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants after they invested $142 million combined in Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon last winter – and begin to see how the options narrow for an All-Star closer tagged with a qualifying offer.

The Boston Red Sox are set with Craig Kimbrel. The Philadelphia Phillies and Detroit Tigers are rebuilding. There are only so many teams that can afford a high-priced closer, have a clear ninth-inning need and expect to contend in 2018. Plus, right-handed relievers are seen as an overall strength in an otherwise underwhelming class of free agents.

“We think the world of Wade, on the field and off the field,” Epstein said Monday. “We’re definitely going to talk to him.

“Not only did he have an outstanding year in terms of his performance, but he was a terrific leader in the bullpen. He was really valuable to those other guys down there. Any club would love to have him in their clubhouse.

“We’ll certainly engage with him. He knows that we’re not known for giving long multiyear deals to relievers, but it’s definitely worth talking.”

The Cubs are also expected to revisit their talks with the Baltimore Orioles about Zach Britton, as Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports and MLB Network reported, though Epstein broadly hinted that for now they are probably out of the business of trading a young player with four or five seasons of club control for a one-year rental.

“There are a number of guys on the board that we would be comfortable with closing for us,” Epstein said. “Some have closed in the past. Some haven’t.

“There are a lot of different ways we could go with that.”

MLB Trade Rumors projected Britton will make $12.2 million through the arbitration system in 2018, his final season before free agency. The Cubs targeted Britton this summer but didn’t want to risk the Orioles dragging it out until the final moments before the trade deadline and winding up with nothing, taking what they thought was a good deal on July 30 with the Tigers for lefty reliever Justin Wilson (who put up a 5.08 ERA and didn’t make the National League Championship Series roster).

“Guys pop up,” said Epstein, who believes Wilson will rebound next season and pointed to Hector Rondon developing from a Rule 5 pick into a 30-save closer. “Things change quickly, so you don’t want to panic and say: ‘We have no closer coming the next four years.’"

“We have a really talented ‘pen. Right now, we don’t have someone that we can fully count on in that role. But I know we will by the time we get ready to head to Arizona.”

Whether Davis reports to Mesa – or winds up closing for the St. Louis Cardinals – the Cubs are going to be patient and creative during an offseason where they will have options (like Brandon Morrow) as they try to find multiple high-leverage relievers.

“You can destabilize a good club really quickly with uncertainty at the back of the ‘pen,” Epstein said. “You blow a few games in April and May. You have undefined roles. Worse yet, you don’t have enough talent to close down close games and it can really destabilize the entire team, beyond just the impact of the wins and losses.

“The starting pitcher feels pressure to go deeper in games. The offense feels pressure to put up a huge number. It can be tough. If you’re a contending team, you have to go into the year with enough talent in your ‘pen where you feel confident you can shut down close games against good teams.

“Whether or not you want to have a ‘proven’ closer or have someone grow into that role, that’s an open question. But you certainly have to have enough talent.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Yu Darvish, Jim Thome, Sammy Sosa and more

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Yu Darvish, Jim Thome, Sammy Sosa and more

Tuesday on Sports Talk Live, David Kaplan along with Chris Bleck, Rich Campbell and Jordan Bernfield discuss:

            -the posibility of the Cubs signing Yu Darvish and the need for one more pitcher in the rotation

            -Jim Thome looking like he'll be inducted into Cooperstown tomorrow

            -Sammy Sosa's Hall of Fame chances

            -Corey Crawford back to working out as the Hawks losing continues

            -DeMarcus Cousins with a game for the ages, but is his baggage worth signing him?

            -Do the Eagles have a chance of beating the Patriots in the Super Bowl?

Day after reported offer to Yu Darvish, now Brewers have trade offer for Christian Yelich, too?

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USA TODAY

Day after reported offer to Yu Darvish, now Brewers have trade offer for Christian Yelich, too?

The Milwaukee Brewers apparently mean business.

How much that business will pay off in superstar players remains to be seen, of course, but a day after the Cubs' division rivals to the north reportedly made a contract offer to free-agent starting pitcher Yu Darvish, there's a report out there that they also have put together a trade offer for Miami Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich.

There's been plenty of discussion involving Yelich this offseason as a trade target for just about every team in the game. The Marlins — and more specifically their new regime led by Derek Jeter — sparked speculation that they'll deal just about anyone after trades that shipped Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon out of South Florida. That fueled guesses that Yelich would be next considering how attractive a trade candidate he is, with five seasons of major league success under his belt (including a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger) and a desirable contract that keeps him under team control for another five seasons.

So of course it's no surprise that any team, including the Brewers, would have "strong interest" in acquiring Yelich. The Brewers, however, might be a more attractive trade partner than most considering their rebuilding efforts that have produced a bunch of young talent the Marlins might find appealing. And with the Brew Crew advancing their timeline last season and becoming unexpected competitors with the Cubs in the National League Central, adding a player of Yelich's caliber could change the dynamics in the division.

Social media is home to plenty of Cubs fans who'd like to see Yelich land on the North Side, seeing an opportunity to upgrade in the outfield after less-than-ideal 2017 campaigns from the likes of Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist. But after the Cubs' own wildly successful rebuild and last summer's trade with the White Sox, the minor league cupboard isn't as fully stocked as it used to be, and that could make crafting a return package difficult. That is, if the Cubs were even interested in acquiring Yelich in the first place. They're pretty happy with their already populous outfield.

The team across town has been involved in plenty of online speculation regarding Yelich, too. But while the White Sox have a tremendous amount of minor league talent, they might not be far enough along in their rebuild to part with any of their highly rated young players until they know exactly what they have.

The Brewers, for what it's worth, had six of the top 100 prospects in baseball as of MLB Pipeline's most recent (and soon to change) rankings: the Nos. 13, 59, 81, 82, 86 and 97 guys. Is that enough to fetch Yelich? And is Yelich enough to put the Crew on even footing with the Cubs in 2018 and beyond? And what if Darvish takes the Brewers up on their offer?

All valid questions. But the biggest question involving the Brewers: Who's going to sponsor the sausage race?