Cubs

New report suggests Cubs likely to pursue Rays All-Star pitchers Chris Archer and Alex Colome

New report suggests Cubs likely to pursue Rays All-Star pitchers Chris Archer and Alex Colome

The Cubs might be looking to bring a little bit of Florida sunshine to the North Side this winter.

Already rumored to be interested in signing free-agent pitcher Alex Cobb — something that might be a tad less likely after signing starting pitcher Tyler Chatwood a few days ago — a new report Saturday indicated the Cubs are likely to pursue a trade with Cobb's old team, the Tampa Bay Rays, in an attempt to secure the pitching services of Chris Archer and Alex Colome.

There's always been plenty of "what if" surrounding Archer and the Cubs, who dealt the right-hander away back in 2011 as part of the deal that brought Matt Garza to Chicago. Archer has been on plenty of fan wish lists over the years, too, as he's had a great run in his six big league seasons with the Rays, making a pair of All-Star appearances, posting a career 3.63 ERA and making at least 32 starts in each of the last four seasons.

Archer's numbers have been slightly less appealing in the past two years, a combined 4.05 ERA in 2016 and 2017 after turning in a combined 3.28 ERA in 2014 and 2015. But he's still just 29 years old and considered one of the game's better arms.

Colome, meanwhile, led baseball with 47 saves last season and has saved a combined 84 games over the past two campaigns. He was an All Star in 2016, and he finished that season with a pencil-thin 1.91 ERA.

Archer is under team control through 2021, while Colome is under team control through 2020.

Certainly the Cubs are in the market for another starting pitcher and a closer thanks to the free-agent departures of Jake Arrieta, John Lackey and Wade Davis. Losing Arrieta and Lackey put a significant hole in the starting rotation, though the signing of Chatwood filled one of those two open spots. The Cubs are shorter on options when it comes to a ninth-inning man. They've been connected to free-agent relievers Brandon Morrow and Brandon Kintzler this offseason, and there's the potential option of bringing Davis back on a new contract, one that figures to be expensive after he converted 32 of 33 save opportunities in 2017.

Archer and Colome would knock two huge items off Theo Epstein's offseason to-do list. But as Rogers mentioned, it will likely take a big-time return package to net a couple of All-Star pitchers. The Cubs' minor league system has been seriously depleted in recent years as many of the organization's biggest names have either reached the big leagues — helping the team to that curse-smashing World Series win in 2016 — or been traded away in midseason deals for Aroldis Chapman and Jose Quintana in the last two years. That means it'd likely take multiple guys on the major league roster to acquire Archer and/or Colome. The same names that have been speculated about this offseason would once more figure to come into play in this discussion: Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ. But perhaps Javier Baez and others would be needed to swing a deal like this, too.

Of course, the Cubs would figure to have tremendous scouting reports on Archer and Colome — and Cobb, for that matter — with not only Joe Maddon's history in St. Petersburg, but also with Jim Hickey now on Maddon's staff as the Cubs' new pitching coach. Hickey came to Chicago this offseason after 11 seasons with Tampa Bay.

It remains to be seen if anything comes of this at the Winter Meetings, which begin Monday in Florida, or later on this offseason. Certainly starting pitcher and closer are two areas of need for the Cubs, but they might not have the assets to pull off a trade of such magnitude.

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

chrisvalaikacubscoach.jpg
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.