Cubs

Anthony Rizzo insists 'We got urgency' after Cubs fall to .500: 'It’s not all peachy right now'

Anthony Rizzo insists 'We got urgency' after Cubs fall to .500: 'It’s not all peachy right now'

SAN DIEGO – There’s a fine line between staying calm and not overreacting and assuming this will happen again for the Cubs just because they’ve done it before. 

This appeared to be the perfect setting for a team coming off a three-game sweep at Dodger Stadium where they had been completely dominated and looked nothing like the defending World Series champs.   

The Padres have an Opening Day payroll around $68 million (with more than $30 million going to guys no longer on the team), three Rule 5 picks on their active roster, two players who’ve been DFA’d by the Cubs within the last 10 months (Clayton Richard and Matt Szczur) and the No. 3 overall pick in the June draft. San Diego’s best starting pitcher – Trevor Cahill – is on the disabled list with a strained right shoulder and didn’t make any of the three playoff rosters last year as a Cubs reliever. 

After flying cross-country from Washington the night before, the Padres had to wake up for a 1:40 p.m. first pitch on Memorial Day. And yet there was All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo standing in Petco Park’s visiting clubhouse trying to make sense of a 5-2 loss that dropped the Cubs back down to .500 after 50 games.  

“It’s not all peachy right now,” Rizzo said. “We got urgency. We’re grinding. We got a lot of guys that grind and will continue to – no matter what. We’ll keep playing hard…that’s really all you can do.”

This became a microcosm of the season so far, Kyle Hendricks racking up five strikeouts through three innings, retiring the first 10 batters he faced and working with a 2-0 lead that should have meant cruise control for a National League Cy Young Award finalist and the major-league ERA leader last season.

[MORE: How Kris Bryant became the face of the never-panic Cubs]

The perfect game vanished when Hendricks gave up back-to-back singles and hit cleanup hitter Ryan Schimpf (.167 average) with a pitch. Hunter Renfroe then launched an 87-mph Hendricks fastball into the left-field seats for a grand slam in front of a sellout crowd (41,414) that didn’t come to see the Padres (20-33). 

“I don’t think anybody expected us to be .500, but it doesn’t matter,” Hendricks said. “We’re at where we’re at. The only way we can go from here is focusing pitch to pitch. We got to get back to the basics, just playing the game of baseball. 

“All the attention – all that – we just got to forget about it. Focus on the game and simplifying as much as we can.” 

While the postgame focus became the 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and the 11 men left on base, Hendricks knows the Cubs won’t feel any sense of momentum when the rotation has a 4.58 ERA and 19 quality starts through 50 games.    

“It’s got to start with us on the mound,” said Hendricks (4-3, 3.75 ERA), who gave up five runs in five innings but has been the most reliable Cubs starter next to Jon Lester. “We’re the ones with the ball in our hands, so we’re the ones that have to stop it. Regardless of how the offense is going, if we throw up zeroes, we got a good chance of winning.” 

Rizzo couldn’t believe it – “Did we walk 10 times?” – when a reporter mentioned another part of the box score. “That’s a formula that usually shoots out more than two runs.”  

But the “Anchorman” theme trip has already been stranger than fiction, going through a 19-inning scoreless streak and then getting 11 hits off Clayton Kershaw in another loss to the Dodgers. The Cubs have obviously been there and done that and come back from much worse. But will that be enough? 

“You just keep playing, that’s all you can do,” Rizzo said. “We just all need to take a deep breath, exhale a little bit and relax. It is what it is. It’s the grind of the season.”

Cubs Talk Podcast: Laying out a Báez extension and why Contreras' trade value spiked

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Laying out a Báez extension and why Contreras' trade value spiked

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, David Kaplan gives his thoughts on what a Javier Báez extention could look like. He also discusses how Yasmani Grandal signing with the White Sox increases Willson Contreras' trade value.

1:25 - Will Cubs and Javy Báez agree on a contract extension?

3:44 - If Báez doesn't want to commit long term, do Cubs trade him now?

6:15 - Kap gives his proposed deal that Báez could accept.

8:41 - Will Cubs lock up other key players with same type of mentality?

10:52 - Will Cubs be willing to trade Willson Contreras?

11:55 - With Grandal to the White Sox, teams might be more willing to part with their best prospects with Contreras in a deal.

Listen to the entire episode here or in the embedded player below.

Cubs Talk Podcast

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Cubs showing interest in Korean pitcher Kwang-hyun Kim, report says

Cubs showing interest in Korean pitcher Kwang-hyun Kim, report says

The Cubs are one of several teams interested in Korean left-handed starter Kwang-hyun Kim, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (subscription required).

Kim, 31, has pitched with SK Wyverns in the KBO League since 2007. The team posted him on Friday, meaning he’s free to negotiate with all 30 MLB clubs. Kim was also posted in 2014, but the system between MLB and KBO has changed since then.

When KBO teams posted their players prior to 2018, interested MLB teams submitted blind bids for the exclusive right to negotiate with the player. The highest bidding MLB team had 30 days to negotiate a contract with the player if the KBO team viewed the bid as reasonable.

If the KBO player agreed to a big-league contract, the KBO team pocketed the bid. If he and the MLB team didn’t come to terms, the MLB team received their bid back. The Padres submitted the highest bid for Kim in 2014 ($2 million) but the two sides didn’t agree to terms.

The new system —  introduced in July 2018 — is much simpler: if a posted KBO player signs with an MLB team, his KBO team receives a transfer fee based on the size of his MLB contract. As was the case with the old system, players have 30 days to negotiate an MLB deal.

Got all that?

In 12 KBO seasons, Kim holds a 3.27 ERA in 298 games (276 starts) with 1,456 strikeouts in 1,673 2/3 innings. According to Sung Min Kim of the Lotte Giants (also KBO) R&D department, Kim’s repertoire includes a low-to-mid-90s fastball, an upper 80s slider with a sharp break and a slow curveball averaging 69 mph.

The KBO is a lower level of competition than MLB, but Kim could fill a hole on the Cubs’ pitching staff as a starter, reliever or both.

The Cubs have an opening in their rotation after not tendering Cole Hamels a qualifying offer (a one-year deal worth $17.8 million). That would’ve been very enticing for Hamels, but the Cubs payroll is already projected to be $219.8 million in 2020, not including any potential offseason acquisitions.

Hamels could return to the Cubs in free agency at a cheaper salary, but Tyler Chatwood is already under contract for 2020 at $13 million. Chatwood enjoyed a resurgent 2019 season as a reliever/occasional spot starter and has earned the right to compete for the No. 5 rotation spot next season, should Hamels sign elsewhere.

But with or without Chatwood in the bullpen, the Cubs will need to address their relief corps this offseason. The bullpen struggled to pitch in high leverage spots in 2019, and Steve Cishek, Derek Holland, Brandon Kintzler, Brandon Morrow and Pedro Strop are all free agents. And as things currently stand, Kyle Ryan is the only lefty reliever penciled into the 2020 Opening Day bullpen.

Kwang is experienced and would fill at least one need on the Cubs roster. The Cubs doing their due diligence on him can't hurt.

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