Cubs

Anthony Rizzo: Starling Marte’s PED suspension shows MLB needs more drug testing

Anthony Rizzo: Starling Marte’s PED suspension shows MLB needs more drug testing

Surrounded by reporters at his locker looking for a reaction to Tuesday's steroid bust, Anthony Rizzo flipped the question around: Why wouldn't Starling Marte take the risk? 

The Pittsburgh Pirates already handed Marte a six-year, $31 million contract before Opening Day 2014, plus two club options that could make the deal worth $53 million for the All-Star/Gold Glove outfielder. Major League Baseball suspending Marte for 80 games after testing positive for nandrolone will cost him roughly $2.5 million and the chance to play in the postseason this year.  

That doesn't sound like much of a deterrent to Rizzo, one of the faces of the world champion Cubs and a star player willing to speak his mind on certain issues.

"Is it a big risk if you're suspended 80 games and you got a guaranteed contract?" Rizzo said. "Do you take that risk to get the reward? That's the question you ask. For some guys, it is a big risk, for others, you get away with it, you get the big deal. But it's part of the game. And my opinion is we need to drug test a lot more."

Standing in the Wrigley Field clubhouse before a night game against the Milwaukee Brewers, Rizzo said he hasn't been screened since the initial round of testing in spring training.

"Me, personally, I haven't been tested since the season started," Rizzo said. "It's been a solid two months now. It's a random drug test and I'll probably be drug-tested a week from now, because I'm saying this. But for me, it's 15 minutes. We should be getting drug-tested a lot more."

Marte – who hit .311, stole 47 bases and won a second Gold Glove last season to bump Andrew McCutchen out of center field – homered off Jake Arrieta during Pittsburgh's weekend sweep in Wrigleyville. 

"I don't look in the rearview mirror," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "Yeah, you could go backward and get upset about moments like that. If they had done this sooner, would it have made a difference? I really don't know, so I don't live that way."

After dangling McCutchen in offseason trade talks, the Pirates pulled back a proud franchise player, while power-hitting infielder Jung Ho Kang is still dealing with the legal fallout from multiple drunk-driving incidents in South Korea. Marte's suspension leaves a small-market team trying to catch the Cubs with almost no margin for error.

"Is it perfect?" Maddon said. "Probably not, but I also believe when something like this occurs, as we continue to move forward, whatever is falling through the cracks eventually will not anymore. 

"In some ways, it's unfortunate for Pittsburgh. That really is devastating to the entire group, not just the individual himself. It's really a tough moment to be in.

"(But) it appears that the system is working. (And) if it's not 100 percent working, at least it's trending in the right direction."

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Rizzo is also realistic enough to understand that kind of hit rate won't happen in what's become a booming $10 billion (and counting) industry.

"Any system that's in place, you're going to have people trying to beat it," Rizzo said. "No matter what you do for a living, people are going to try to beat the system. It's no different here. If there are loopholes, guys know about them. 

"(Marte) happened to get caught, but for sure there are other guys that are doing something very similar, because to get caught with something that aggressive in his system, there's obviously something wrong."

Rizzo also sounded disappointed on a different level. At the age of 28, Marte should be in the prime of his career, a worthy rival for the defending World Series champs. But now one of the more dynamic players in the game looks like a fraud. 

"I personally love playing against Starling Marte," Rizzo said. "Every time he gets on first, I like talking to him. We mess around a lot in-game. And then something like this comes along, it's just like: 'Man, anybody could be doing it.' It's unfortunate."

Cubs reportedly interested in Troy Tulowitzki

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USA TODAY

Cubs reportedly interested in Troy Tulowitzki

According to MLB Insider Jon Heyman, the Cubs are one of the teams interested in free agent shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. The 5-time All-Star will be holding a workout soon, with Chicago being one of the six teams reported to have a scout present at his workout.

Heyman did mention that while the Cubs aren’t necessarily the favorites right now, we will know how good of a chance they will have soon. Tulowitzki and his team are reported to be narrowing down their list to (at least) 6 teams.

Last season Tulowitzki played 66 games for the Blue Jays, batting .249 with 7 home runs and 26 RBI. For his career he is a .290 hitter and is looking for a bounce-back season after dealing with complications from bone spur injuries in both heels over the years.

Toronto has to pay the $38 million left on Tulowitzki's contract, freeing up other teams to sign the veteran to a more reasonable deal. Since the Blue Jays went the route of cutting him, teams can offer Tulowitzki a league minimum salary.

For the Cubs, he represents-however small-a chance to extract great value from a veteran player, which would be a big bonus considering how the Yu Darvish signing backfired in year one.

Tulowitzki is likely to be searching for playing time on a legit title contender, so if he can provide any solid offensive production going forward, he and the Cubs could be a solid match.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Winter Meetings recap

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Winter Meetings recap

When nothing happens in Vegas, it stays in Vegas. Luke, Kap and Tony talk about the Cubs lack of moves during the Winter Meetings.

In this episode of the Cubs Talk Podcast with Luke Stuckmeyer, David Kaplan and Tony Andracki:

00:10 - What happen in Vegas stays in Vegas and this year that means nothing. Luke, Kap & Tony talk Cubs lack of moves at Winter Meetings.

00:50 - Where the heck is all the money? This was supposed to be a wide-open window - we step on the accelerator.

01:25 - Cubs keep throwing money at the problem (Chatwood, Darvish) and it has become a cautionary tale.

02:50 - Are the Cubs playing at the shallow end of the kiddie pool?

03:50 - Tony talks about the volatility of the relief market.

05:15 - Where is the bullpen market? Brewers are making moves, but it's still "crickets" for the Cubs.

06:20 - Tony: Other than bullpen - Cubs have to address backup middle infielder most of all.

06:57 - Daniel Descalso rumors. Kap describes him as a grinder who fits the leadership mold.

07:47 - Luke is a little worried about Steve Cishek. He threw a career-high 70 innings last season.

09:34 - The guys talk about the possibility of a "second deadline" for the Winter Meetings to force clubs to make more moves.

11:06 - Luke: "I wanted to see Machado and Harper walking down the strip and making it rain!"

12:45 - Cubs still have so much to address. Some Cubs fans are starting to get a little itchy. Teams in the division are making moves. What about us?

14:45 - Question: Is Anthony Rizzo the third-best 1st baseman in the Central Division?

15:50 - Prediction time: What's biggest move the Cubs will make before opening day? Kap believes that Ian Happ will not be a Cub before the regular season starts.

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

Cubs Talk Podcast

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