'Bash Brothers' 2.0: Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo will drive Cubs


'Bash Brothers' 2.0: Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo will drive Cubs

Cubs fans can dream about Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo hitting back-to-back homers for the next six-plus years.

Theo Epstein’s front office has Bryant and Rizzo under control through the 2021 season. That covers Bryant’s age-23 through age-29 seasons. Rizzo won’t turn 30 until a few weeks after the 2019 All-Star Game. The rest of the National League will have to get used to this.

“(Rizzo) jokes around, like: This is ‘The Bash Brothers,’” Bryant said before Tuesday’s 6-1 win over the New York Mets at Wrigley Field. “We have fun with it. He’s just a good guy for me to learn from and watch how he goes about his business. I’m definitely having a whole lot of fun with him so far.”

Bryant and Rizzo won’t have the same attitude as Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire from those steroid-fueled Oakland A’s teams in the late 1980s and early 1990s. They’re way too polite, not edgy enough, more like family-friendly Disney characters. It even sounded like Rizzo — who was born in 1989 — actually might have been making a reference to “The Mighty Ducks.”

[MORE CUBS: Buzz is back for Cubs-Mets as Jake Arrieta upstages Noah Syndergaard]

Bryant almost hit for the cycle against the Mets, with the 6-foot-5 slugger hustling for an infield single, showing off his speed with a triple and crushing a ball that left fans in the left-field bleachers scrambling for the souvenir.

Bryant certainly isn’t one-dimensional. His long strides beat the throw from Mets third baseman Daniel Murphy with two outs in the third inning. The Cubs didn’t score during that sequence, but it forced 22-year-old flamethrower Noah Syndergaard to throw 18 extra pitches during his major-league debut.

“Any groundball I hit, I’m going to run as hard as I can,” Bryant said. “That’s something I can control. I believe that if you play the game the right way, it treats you the right way back. That’s how I approach the game. That’s how I always play.”

[MORE CUBS: Cubs need Jon Lester, the perfectionist, operating at full strength]

The Cubs are definitely feeling The Bryant Effect.

“He’s a baseball player, man,” manager Joe Maddon said “That’s the thing right there. That’s what you want. You want baseball players, a guy that plays the whole game, understands the concepts of offense and defense.

“The home runs are beautiful. Whatever. But how about the pick at third base? That was a great play. You’re talking about (how) that’s the second time he’s beat out a routine groundball in a week.

“He’s hit balls very far. But it’s a baseball player. Everybody’s always just talking about this guy as though he’s just a power hitter. Whatever. He’s a baseball player and a really good one.”

[SHOP CUBS: Get a Kris Bryant jersey right here]

Bryant is heating up after not hitting a home run in his first 91 major-league plate appearances, homering in three of his last four games.

“They’re still trying to get the book on him,” Rizzo said, “how you can get him out, where he’s hot, where he’s cold. I just keep telling him: Keep taking those walks.

“If you keep going up there having quality at-bats, like he’s doing, good things are going to come out of it.”

All this the night after Bryant and Rizzo hit back-to-back homers into the bleachers off Jacob deGrom, the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, which set the tone in the first inning of a 4-3 victory over the first-place Mets.

At a time when offense is down throughout the game, the Cubs have hoarded power hitters. Bryant led minor-league baseball with 43 homers last year. Rizzo doesn’t look satisfied with one All-Star selection, putting up a 1.055 OPS so far this season. Maybe this could be Bash Brothers 2.0.

Reds are favorite to sign Cubs free agent outfielder Nick Castellanos, report says


Reds are favorite to sign Cubs free agent outfielder Nick Castellanos, report says

The odds of a Cubs-Nick Castellanos reunion happening have seemed slim all offseason. Although they've been connected to him at various points this winter, bringing back the fan favorite right fielder would require some serious financial gymnastics for the North Siders.

With the Cubs cognizant of the luxury tax, the division rival Reds have emerged as the favorite to sign Castellanos, according to MLB insider Jon Morosi.

The Reds have emerged as the frontrunner to sign free-agent outfielder Nicholas Castellanos, one source said Sunday, and there are indications the sides have made progress over the past several days. While Cincinnati is now the favorite to sign Castellanos, the Giants also have negotiated with the 27-year-old in recent weeks.

Because of their desire to stay under the luxury tax in 2020, the Cubs have only made low-cost acquisitions this winter. They were penalized $7.6 million for eclipsing the threshold in 2019; if they do so in 2020, they'll be taxed 30 percent on their overages —  and see their 2021 draft pick drop 10 spots, if they go over the figure by $40 million.

At this point, the only realistic scenario where the Cubs re-sign Castellanos is if they shed salary. However, they've reportedly signed outfielder Steven Souza to a one-year deal, giving them five outfielders (along with Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora, Ian Happ, Jason Heyward). That might be the biggest indicator of a reunion not being in the cards.

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Brandon Kintzler, Cubs most consistent reliever in 2019, signs with Marlins: report


Brandon Kintzler, Cubs most consistent reliever in 2019, signs with Marlins: report

Brandon Kintzler officially won't be back on the North Side in 2020.

Saturday, ESPN's Jesse Rogers reported Kintzler has agreed to a one-year, $3 million deal with the Marlins. The deal includes a $4 million option for 2021.

Kintzler was the Cubs' most consistent reliever in 2019, sporting a 2.68 ERA and 1.02 WHIP (both career highs) in 62 appearances. He was effective against both righties and lefties, the latter of which hit .163 against him.

The Cubs haven't been connected to Kintzler this offseason and have instead accumulated a plethora of low-cost, high-potential relievers. The organization has been extremely cognizant of MLB's luxury tax threshold after surpassing it in 2019 and wants to avoid becoming a repeat offender in 2020.

Kintzler becomes the second reliable reliever to depart the Cubs in free agency this winter, along with sidearmer Steve Cishek (White Sox). Pedro Strop is still a free agent, and while the Cubs have been connected to him, a recent report says the race to sign him is down to the Marlins and Rangers.

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