Houston Astros

Looking back at just how lucky the Cubs were in the 2013 MLB Draft

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AP

Looking back at just how lucky the Cubs were in the 2013 MLB Draft

Revisionist history is one of the best parts of being a sports fan.

Looking back at how drafts went for each league, realizing what teams made mistakes and what teams got lucky is a modern-day American national pasttime.

The Cubs certainly deserve a lot of credit for drafting and developing Kris Bryant, but they also got really, really lucky, too. 

Thursday morning represented more proof of that.

Mark Appel — the former can't-miss pitching prospect selected right before the Cubs grabbed Bryant in 2013 — announced he will be stepping away from baseball at age 26.

If Appel never returns to the professional game, he will become just the third player ever to be selected No. 1 overall and not even reach the majors.

The Houston Astros chose to pass on Bryant, opting for Appel out of Stanford instead. At first, the move looked fine. Appel found himself among all the top prospect lists in the game for three straight seasons, but the numbers never matched that reputation.

Appel wound up making 37 starts at Triple-A, but posted a 4.82 ERA and 1.59 WHIP in those games. In his five-year minor-league career, the 6-foot-5 right-hander sported a gawdy 5.06 ERA.

He was traded from Houston to the Philadelphia Phillies before the 2016 season and even a change of scenery didn't help matters.

Still, things worked out just fine for the Astros, who will head into 2018 as the defending champs — which is even more impressive now after getting no help from their No. 1 overall pick five years ago.

Had the Astros gone with Bryant first overall, it obviously would've changed the landscape of both franchises. It's hard to even envision the Cubs without Kris Bryant let alone trying to think how the Cubs would've ended the longest championship drought in American sports history.

If Bryant was the consensus first pick, would the Cubs — selecting second — have gone with Appel or Jon Gray? At the time, the three players were seen as clear frontrunners. Gray — selected third by the Rockies — has emerged as a budding ace in Colorado and could draw the Opening Day start in 2018.

The rest of the 2013 first round didn't fare much better than the Astros, so the Cubs were also lucky just to be choosing second overall:

After Gray, the next nine players selected in 2013 have combined for just -0.1 WAR. Later in the first round, only Tim Anderson (17th), Aaron Judge (32nd), Sean Manaea (34th) and Corey Knebel (39th) have provided any notable impact for their big-league club to date.

Theo Epstein's front office did so many things right to get to this point of sustained success, but they also needed quite a bit of luck along the way and they were never more fortunate than the 2013 MLB Draft.

Report says Giancarlo Stanton would approve trade to four teams — including the Cubs

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USA TODAY

Report says Giancarlo Stanton would approve trade to four teams — including the Cubs

Here’s an offseason bombshell no one saw coming: Giancarlo Stanton would approve a trade to the Cubs.

The National League MVP is believed to almost surely be traded away from the Miami Marlins in the coming weeks, with the Marlins’ new ownership group led by Derek Jeter looking to shed salary. But while much of the conversation around Stanton’s departure from South Florida has focused on the San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers, a Thursday night report suggested that the Cubs are one of four teams that Stanton, who has a full no-trade clause, would approve a trade to.

As you’ll notice, the aforementioned Giants and Cardinals aren’t on that list.

Now, none of this means that the Cubs have shown formal interest or even talked with the Marlins about a deal. In fact, earlier reports laid out that the Marlins had agreed to the frameworks of trades with the Cardinals and Giants and were awaiting Stanton’s approval. But this latest news would seem set to shake everything up, with neither of those teams on his list.

Stanton, a right fielder known for his incredible power, tore the cover off the ball in 2017. He smacked 59 homers, putting him in the top 10 all-time for long balls in a single season. It’s the most anyone’s hit in more than a decade and a half, when Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa hit 73 and 64 home runs, respectively, in 2001. Stanton also led baseball with 132 RBIs and led the NL with a .631 slugging percentage, edging Joey Votto for MVP honors in the Senior Circuit.

The 28-year-old Stanton is about to enter the fourth year of a massive 13-year contract that has him under team control through 2028. Of course, it comes with a hefty price tag. He’s set to make $25 million in 2018, and his annual salary peaks at $32 million a year from 2023 through 2025.

There’s a great argument to be made, though, that he’s well worth hit: Stanton’s already hit 267 homers in his eight big league seasons.

Now, with a depleted farm system after trades for Aroldis Chapman and Jose Quintana in each of the last two seasons, the Cubs wouldn’t figure to have the minor league assets a rebuilding team like the Marlins might desire. That could mean this is all just a Stanton wish list rather than a rumor with legs. But at the same time, the Cubs have several young, affordable position players at the major league level, guys like Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ, who have been involved in trade speculation this offseason.

Would that be enough to reel in a fish as big as Stanton, though?

While the Cubs have an already-crowded outfield — though in order to land Stanton, it’s a safe bet that one or multiple of those outfielders would have to go to Miami — being able to insert Stanton’s bat into the lineup obviously would mean making him the starting right fielder. That would likely mean Jason Heyward moving to center, a move that’s been suggested plenty this offseason independent of any Stanton news.

Cubs fans and observers have been laser-focused on the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes — of which the North Siders are one of seven finalists for the Japanese superstar who can pitch and hit — but this new information throws a brand-new wrench into the offseason: the prospect of one of baseball’s biggest bats wanting to call Wrigley Field home.

Cubs send Astros a lot of pizzas for World Series victory

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Cubs send Astros a lot of pizzas for World Series victory

The Cubs paid it forward on Friday by sending the Houston Astros at least 40 pizzas in honor of their World Series win.

It became a tradition in 2014 when the Boston Red Sox, who won the World Series in 2013, sent hometown pizza to the San Francisco Giants front office after their championship.

The Cubs kept that tradition alive by sending pizzas from Fuzzy's.

Last year, the Kansas City Royals sent the Cubs pizzas from Giordano's.

Will the Astros be sending pizza back to the Windy City at this time next year?