Bulls

Kap: Cubs need to think long-term, not 2012

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Kap: Cubs need to think long-term, not 2012

While the 2012 Chicago Cubs are playing decent baseball and looking far better fundamentally than most Cubs teams of the past decade, their bullpen has been largely responsible for several late inning losses.

Change a handful of those losses into wins and you have a team that would be right in the thick of contention in a very weak National League Central.

Through games of May 16th, the Cubs have lost five games after having the lead in the seventh inning or later. Former closer Carlos Marmol has three blown saves and has been an adventure most every time out, as has top setup man Kerry Wood. Their poor performances have been a major reason why the Cubs sit 15-22 and seven games in back of the division leading St. Louis Cardinals despite outstanding starting pitching.

With the poor bullpen costing the Cubs several games early in the season, there has been considerable angst among Cubs fans who are clamoring for Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer to make a move or two to solidify the back end of the pen. However, premier relievers do not come cheaply and for the Cubs to acquire one would cost them one of the few trading chips that they have.

An honest assessment of what the Cubs have of value that they would also be willing to part with is a very short list.

I believe that it is a foregone conclusion that Ryan Dempster will not be on the Cubs roster after the July 31st trade deadline. He is throwing extremely well and with his contract up at the end of the season, he will not require a major financial commitment from whoever acquires him. As long as he stays hot, the Cubs will be able to extract a fairly substantial package of players from a contending team as starting pitching is very tough to add in season.

However, adding a top flight reliever should not be at the top of Epstein and Hoyers list.

Instead, the Cubs will be looking to add a piece to their team that will impact the team 145 or more times a year. That means finding a long-term answer at third base, second base, corner outfield or catcher. They could choose to add a young, top-flight starting pitching prospect but those deals are very tough to make because with the price of pitching in the free agent market skyrocketing, most teams are unwilling to trade such a precious commodity.

Who has trade value that the Cubs would be willing to deal? Dempster -- who I am 100 percent confident will be traded -- and Matt Garza who is a top-of-the-rotation talent but could bring back a huge haul in a blockbuster deal if the Cubs choose to move him and perhaps a prospect or two out of the system if the deal made sense.

Beyond that, the current crop of Cubs talent has very little value to contending teams in terms of being able to receive an impact player back in trade.

So while it is extremely frustrating to watch a struggling bullpen continually give away games, the current state of the Cubs does not have the luxury of trading key players in their system to improve the bullpen of a very suspect 2012 team.

While I do expect Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer to be active in moving veterans for young players with outstanding potential, they must remain focused on the long-term plan that they developed upon their arrival in Chicago last fall.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Are the playoffs in sight for the Bulls?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Are the playoffs in sight for the Bulls?

On this episode of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Seth Gruen and Ben Finfer join Chuck Garfien on the panel.

The Bulls win again. Do they dare think playoffs? Vincent Goodwill joins the guys to discuss.

Plus, they debate where the “Minneapolis Miracle” ranks amongst the greatest plays in NFL playoff history and if Tom Ricketts is right to say that Sammy Sosa needs to put everything on the table to rejoin the Cubs family.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Humorous things we learned at Cubs Convention

Humorous things we learned at Cubs Convention

One of the best things about Cubs Convention is the access fans and media have to the team and the state of mind the players possess in mid-January.

At this point, they’ve had time away from the field to rest and relax with their family and friends and as Anthony Rizzo says “no one is oh for four yet.” While workouts are in full swing, few have started hitting or pitching at this point in their off-season schedule, so “baseball talk” is not always priority. Instead, this is when we get to hear fun stories and entertaining tidbits about these players.

It’s no secret this team genuinely enjoys being around one and other and that the camaraderie is on full display for fans as they interact and poke fun at one and other during the question and answer panels. So, for those that may have missed the weekend’s festivities here are a few humorous things we learned about the Cubs:

  • When asked about a celebrity crushes, Anthony Rizzo coaxed Javier Baez into a J-Lo response while Kyle Schwarber weighed out his options before coming up with Katy Perry. That was “until she shaved her hair off and now looks like Eleven from Stranger Things!”
  • Schwarber’s name has consumed the recent headlines following his physical transformation this winter, but he isn’t the only Cub who dropped some weight this off-season. Those that got a picture or autograph from Ian Happ over the weekend should have noticed a slimmer physique as well. Happ told me “you have to look and feel your best for your first full season.” And when it comes to all the trade rumors involving his name, he said he’s been too busy golfing and working out this offseason to pay any attention.
  • During a one-on-one interview with new Cubs starter Tyler Chatwood, he gave us his best scouting report on himself, “four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, I’ll throw my curveball a lot more. That’s always been my best pitch and I kind of got away from it a little bit, but I’m going to be throwing that a lot more. Cutter and a changeup, too. So, you know, try to trick them with something.” And when asked which Cubs player he’s most interested in meeting, his response was Kris Bryant. “Just watching him it seems like he does everything cool.”
  • Addison Russell recalled his favorite memory or most funny moment of 2017 as the exchange with Nacho Man. Bringing Cubs and Cardinals fans together over nacho cheese and selfies. The All-Star shortstop also informed us that if he weren’t playing major league baseball, his fallback would be, a dart player. That’s right.
  • After being left off the panel of last year’s Kids Only Press Conference, Anthony Rizzo asked to be the host this year. “It’s my favorite event of the weekend,” Rizzo said. The Cubs first baseman did a tremendous job, toeing the line between appropriate parent/child humor. And after a few minutes of trash talking with Kris Bryant, Rizzo conceded that the younger Bryzzo partner would likely beat him in a one-on-one pickup game. Something I’m sure we’ll see a few weeks from now in Mesa at Spring Training.
  • And last, but certainly not least, Willson Contreras stole the weekend as he recalled the best defensive play of 2017 being Jon Lester’s pickoff of Tommy Pham. “I went out there and said hey motherfu**** throw the ball to first.” A moment that left his teammates on stage shaking their heads in disbelief. But our takeaway: the young, fiery catcher is not intimidated working with the veteran lefty, and he’s just the guy you want behind the plate for this experienced rotation.

After an easy going weekend full of laughs and selfies, the players now buckle in and turn their attention to spring training, with pitchers and catchers reporting to Mesa in less than a month.