Cubs

Scott Boras has a very high opinion of the Cubs — even if they won't hand Jake Arrieta $200 million

Scott Boras has a very high opinion of the Cubs — even if they won't hand Jake Arrieta $200 million

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Scott Boras saved all his money one-liners for other teams like the Miami Marlins and New York Yankees.

The Cubs weren't on the wrong end of any of the super-agent's zingers like they were a few years ago with Boras' "Meet the Parents" comment about how the Ricketts family preferred not to jack up their payroll during a rebuild.

Instead, Boras has completely changed his tune from that timeframe and took several opportunities to give the Cubs rave reviews as he stood on a literal pedestal to deliver his State of the Union Wednesday morning at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort.

"The club, economically, they're $2 billion above where they were five yeras ago, which just says a great deal about the operation with Tom [Ricketts] and Theo [Epstein] and Jed {Hoyer], what they've done," Boras said in a 1-on-1 interview with NBC Sports Chicago's Kelly Crull. "They've really done a remarkable job with the restoration of the franchise.

"The next step — and often the hardest step — is how do you reinvest in your success? How do you continue to give that fanbase their best opportunity?"

Boras, of course, is alluding to money and how the Cubs have to spend money to stay where they are. Because it always comes back to money with the world's most powerful sports agent.

Money is also a major sticking point for Jake Arrieta, the top free agent pitcher on the market and Boras' No. 1 priority this winter.

Arrieta and Boras are reportedly asking for somewhere in the neighborhood of $180-$200 million, though Boras balked at that, claiming he doesn't set the market (c'mon...).

But Boras was also creative in how he sold Arrieta to the media throng of 200+ people Wednesday morning. He could've gotten into the epic 2015 season, Arrieta's Cy Young votes the last few years or his reputation as an elite (or close to it) starter.

Instead, Boras continued to talk about the road to "Playoffville" and how Arrieta has joined the ranks of Madison Bumgarner and Justin Verlander as active October legends.

Boras also continually pointed to Arrieta's lack of wear and tear on his arm, with only 1,161 big-league innings under his belt through his age-31 season.

The Cubs almost certainly won't pay an exorbitant amount for what figures to be Arrieta's only big contract of his life, but that won't stop Boras from keeping Epstein and Co. in the loop publicly.

"There are a number of people who are Jake's age who are 30, 31 and they have 1,700-2,000 innings on their arm," Boras told Crull. "Much like Max Scherzer, who was a similar age when he signed his contract 2-3 years ago, he also only had about 1,200 innings on his arm.

"So [Arrieta is] about 4-5 seasons behind the customary wear and tear you usually see. I think it's part of the fact, but with Jake's conditioning, the rarity of his innings, having Cy Young success, being a big-game pitcher — those are components that you rarely don't find in a free agent market."

The low-key move that may pay dividends for Cubs in 2018 and beyond

The low-key move that may pay dividends for Cubs in 2018 and beyond

The Cubs-Cardinals rivalry is alive and well and this offseason has been further proof of that.

The St. Louis Cardinals haven't made a rivalry-altering move like inking Jake Arrieta to a megadeal, but they have proven that they are absolutely coming after the Cubs and the top of the division.

However, a move the St. Louis brass made Friday afternoon may actually be one that makes Cubs fans cheer.

The Cardinals traded outfielder Randal Grichuk to the Toronto Blue Jays Friday in exhange for a pair of right-handed pitchers: Dominic Leone and Conner Greene. Leone is the main draw here as a 26-year-old reliever who posted a 2.56 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 10.4 K/9 in 70.1 innings last year in Toronto.

But this is the second young position player the Cardinals have traded to Toronto this offseason and Grichuk is a notorious Cub Killer.

Grichuk struggled overall in 2017, posting a second straight year of empty power and not much else. But he once again hammered the Cubs to the tune of a .356 batting average and 1.240 OPS. 

He hit six homers and drove in 12 runs in just 14 games (11 starts) against Joe Maddon's squad. That's 27 percent of his 2017 homers and 20 percent of his season RBI numbers coming against just one team.

And it wasn't just one year that was an aberration. In his career, Grichuk has a .296/.335/.638 slash line against the Cubs, good for a .974 OPS. He's hit 11 homers and driven in 33 runs in 37 games, the highest ouput in either category against any opponent.

Even if Leone builds off his solid 2017 and pitches some big innings against the Cubs over the next couple seasons, it will be a sigh of relief for the Chicago pitching staff knowing they won't have to face the threat of Grichuk 18+ times a year.

Plus, getting a reliever and a low-level starting pitching prospect back for a guy (Grichuk) who was borderline untouchable a couple winters ago isn't exactly great value. The same can be said for the Cardinals' trade of Aledmys Diaz to Toronto on Dec. 1 for essentially nothing.

A year ago, St. Louis was heading into the season feeling confident about Diaz, who finished fifth in the NL Rookie of the Year race in 2016 after hitting .300 with an .879 OPS as a 25-year-old rookie. He wound up finishing 2017 in the minors after struggling badly to start the season and the Cardinals clearly didn't want to wait out his growing pains.

The two trades with Toronto limits the Cardinals' depth (as of right now) and leaves very few proven options behind shortstop Paul DeJong and outfielder Tommy Pham, who both enjoyed breakout seasons in 2017.

Jason Heyward predicts he will be the MVP of 2018 Cubs

Jason Heyward predicts he will be the MVP of 2018 Cubs

“Who will be the Cubs’ 2018 team MVP?”

Jason Heyward: “Me!”

No hesitation, no pause. Just an honest answer from a confident 28-year old with a $184 million contract.

Nobody wants to succeed more at the plate than the Cubs’ two-time Gold Glove award winner, but the offense has been downright ugly (.243, 18 HR, 108 RBI in 268 games).

Despite not performing up to a megadeal, Heyward has no problem talking about his contract:

“It is what it is, I earned it," Heyward said. "I earned that part of it. For me, it’s awesome. To be where I want to be, that’s the most important thing.”

After spending time talking at Cubs Convention speaking with Heyward, his manager and six of his other teammates, it’s no surprise that it was Heyward who delivered the now-famous Game 7 “Rain Delay Speech.”

His teammates adore him.

Question to Ben Zobrist: “Who’s your favorite teammate of all-time at any level?”

After a 10-second pause: “Jason Heyward.”

That definitely says something coming from a 36-year-old, three-time All-Star and World Series MVP.

For the true blue Cubs fans that can’t stand Heyward and his untradeable contract, sorry, his teammates and manager have nothing but good things to say. 

By all accounts, Heyward is a quality human being despite his shortcomings in the batter’s box the last two seasons.

And his goals for an offensive renaissance in 2018 are simple and basic:

“Just being in the lineup every game.”

His teammates will be behind him 100 percent, even if the fans are not.