Cubs

Kap: Cubs didn't maximize return for Dempster

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Kap: Cubs didn't maximize return for Dempster

The drama surrounding the trade deadline and the Chicago Cubs is over and after trading three players on Monday night the Cubs made an additional move on Tuesday, trading pitcher Ryan Dempster to the Texas Rangers for two prospects.

Pitcher Kyle Hendricks and third baseman Christian Villanueva are both in Single-A and are considered just average prospects by several evaluators that I spoke with this afternoon.

"Hendricks is an okay pitcher who projects as a back-of-the-rotation starter or middle reliever. He has outstanding command and a plus curveball, but the rest of his pitches are just okay. He does not have a lot of upside as a high-end starter, but he should make the big leagues," one scout who has seen him multiple times told me.

As for Villanueva, he comes with better credentials, but he is not a big-time prospect either. The scouts I spoke with are unsure if he will have the offensive credentials to make it as an everyday player on a contending team.

"Villanueva has a very good glove, but he is a bit undersized for a third baseman and I am not sure he can be an everyday guy on the type of team that Theo is trying to build there in Chicago. He should make the big leagues but I see him as more of a utility guy or a third baseman who always leaves you wanting more," one scout told me.

A former GM I spoke with was fairly critical of what the Cubs received back in the deal, but empathized with the position that Epstein and Jed Hoyer were put in when Dempster blocked a deal to the Atlanta Braves.

"To go from getting Randall Delgado to two Class-A prospects who are big question marks is a major setback for the Cubs front office," he said. "It isn't their fault because they made a great deal with Atlanta but the 10-and-5 rights killed the trade and they got a lot less back from Texas. Randall Delgado would have been pitching in the big leagues and there is no guarantee either guy they traded for from the Rangers will ever make it. This is a lopsided deal for Texas."

One other evaluator I spoke with also understood the position that the Cubs front office was in, but feels that the aborted trade with the Braves is a significant loss for a team as starved for pitching as the Cubs are.

"This is absolutely a huge difference in the quality of the two deals," he said. "Delgado would have been an impact starter and a major addition with huge upside, and instead the Cubs get two maybes who are a long way away. At least they still have Garza, who they absolutely have to move this off season to add in multiple players who could make an impact.

"Theo had his hands tied and while the Yankees were interested, they weren't offering enough and the Dodgers were unwilling to meet the Cubs' price so Theo sent him to Texas."

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

MESA, Ariz. — The first thing Kyle Schwarber told his new hitting coach?

"His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.'"

The Cubs hired Chili Davis as the team's new hitting coach for myriad reasons. He's got a great track record from years working with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics, and that .274/.360/.451 slash line during an illustrious 19-year big league career certainly helps.

But Davis' main immediate task in his new gig will be to help several of the Cubs' key hitters prove Schwarber's assessment correct.

Schwarber had a much-publicized tough go of things in 2017. After he set the world on fire with his rookie campaign in 2015 and returned from what was supposed to be a season-ending knee injury in time to be one of the Cubs' World Series heroes in 2016, he hit just .211 last season, getting sent down to Triple-A Iowa for a stint in the middle of the season. Schwarber still hit 30 home runs, but his 2017 campaign was seen as a failure by a lot of people.

Enter Davis, who now counts Schwarber as one of his most important pupils.

"He's a worker," Davis said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "Schwarbs, he knows he's a good player. His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.' He said last year was just a fluke year. He said, 'I've never failed in my life.' And he said, 'I'm going to get back to the player that I was.'

"I think he may have — and this is my thought, he didn't say this to me — I think it may have been, he had a big World Series, hit some homers, and I think he tried to focus on being more of a home run type guy as opposed to being a good hitter.

"His focus has changed. I had nothing to do with that, he came in here with that focus that he wants to be a good hitter first and let whatever happens happen. And he's worked on that. The main thing with Kyle is going to be is just maintaining focus."

The physically transformed Schwarber mentioned last week that he's established a good relationship with Davis, in no small part because Schwarber can relate to what Davis went through when he was a player. And to hear Davis tell it, it sounds like he's describing Schwarber's first three years as a big leaguer to a T.

"Telling him my story was important because it was similar," Davis said. "I was a catcher, got to big league camp, and I was thrown in the outfield. And I hated the outfield. ... But I took on the challenge. I made the adjustment, I had a nice first year, then my second year I started spiraling. I started spiraling down, and I remember one of my coaches saying, 'I'm going to have to throw you a parachute just so you can land softly.' I got sent down to Triple-A at the All-Star break for 15 days.

"When I got sent down, I was disappointed, but I was also really happy. I needed to get away from the big league pressure and kind of find myself again. I went home and refocused myself and thought to myself, 'I'm going to come back as Chili.' Because I tried to change, something changed about me the second year.

"And when I did that, I came back the next year and someone tried to change me and I said, 'Pump the breaks a little bit, let me fail my way, and then I'll come to you if I'm failing.' And they understood that, and I had a nice year, a big year and my career took off.

"I'm telling him, 'Hey, let last year go. It happened, it's in the past. Keep working hard, maintain your focus, and you'll be fine.'"

Getting Schwarber right isn't Davis' only task, of course. Despite the Cubs being one of the highest-scoring teams in baseball last season, they had plenty of guys go through subpar seasons. Jason Heyward still has yet to find his offensive game since coming to Chicago as a high-priced free agent. Ben Zobrist was bothered by a wrist injury last season and put up the worst numbers of his career. Addison Russell had trouble staying healthy, as well, and saw his numbers dip from what they were during the World Series season in 2016.

So Davis has plenty of charges to work with. But he likes what he's seen so far.

"They work," Davis said. "They come here to work. I had a group of guys in Boston that were the same last year, and it makes my job easier. They want to get better, they come out every day, they show up, they want to work. They're excited, and I'm excited to be around them.

And what have the Cubs found out about Davis? Just about everyone answers that question the same way: He likes to talk.

"I'm not going to stop talking," he said. "If I stop talking, something's wrong."

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

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USA TODAY

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here: