Cubs

Cardinals move on from Lackey, Heyward by signing pitcher Mike Leake

mikeleakesignswithcardinalsslidenew.png

Cardinals move on from Lackey, Heyward by signing pitcher Mike Leake

The Cubs not only bolstered areas of need on their own team by signing John Lackey and Jason Heyward this winter, but it was a combo punch in that it also took the best starting pitcher and position player away from the rival St. Louis Cardinals.

The offseason hasn't gone the way the Cardinals would have liked, but they're now moving forward by signing starting pitcher Mike Leake to a reported five-year, $80 million deal that could be worth up to $94 million with a mutual option.

[RELATED - Cardinals don't appreciate Jason Heyward's reason for signing with Cubs]

That's an average of $16 million a year for a pitcher with a 3.88 ERA and 1.271 WHIP over his career, further illustrating the price of pitching nowadays.

Leake, 28, is a solid pitcher, having made at least 30 starts in four straight seasons and posting a 36-30 record and 3.59 ERA over the last three seasons with the Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants. And the Cardinals have a knack for getting the most out of pitchers.

The Cardinals also needed help in their rotation with Lackey gone, Lance Lynn slated to miss the 2016 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery and veteran Adam Wainwright returning from an Achilles injury.

Wainwright pitched out of the bullpen toward the end of the 2015 season, but should be ready to resume his role atop the Cardinals rotation at the start of 2016. Beyond him, manager Mike Matheny can slot in Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia, with Leake filling out the rotation.

Young left-handers Tyler Lyons and Marco Gonzales provide rotation depth for the Cardinals.

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Leake has had success against the Cubs in his career, going 9-2 with a 3.15 ERA and 1.135 WHIP in 19 starts.

Cubs executive Jason McLeod reportedly linked to Giants' GM opening

jason_mcleod.jpg
USA TODAY

Cubs executive Jason McLeod reportedly linked to Giants' GM opening

Is this the offseason that Cubs executive Jason McLeod finally becomes an MLB general manager?

According to Bruce Levine, the Giants are reportedly interested in McLeod, the Cubs senior vice president of scouting and player development, for their vacant general manager position.

McLeod joined the Cubs' front office in 2011 alongside Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. Before the Cubs, he spent six years in the Red Sox front office and two in the Padres' (with Hoyer, who was San Diego's general manager from 2010-2011). 

Of course, the Giants' reported interest in McLeod doesn't necessarily mean that he will interview for the job. However, it's worth noting that McLeod interviewed for the Twins' general manager job in 2016; he also withdrew his name from consideration for the Padres' general manager job in 2014. 

In addition to the Giants, McLeod's name has been linked to the Mets' general manager vacancy. This is more speculation, but the point is that it seems to be only a matter of time before McLeod is hired as general manager elsewhere.

For what it's worth, though, McLeod is under contract through 2021 and has previously said that he is grateful to be with the Cubs. 

“I’m exceptionally grateful,” McLeod said. “All of us are. Look at where we are at this moment in time with this team," McLeod said in 2016. "I can’t imagine a better environment, a better culture to work at in baseball.

"We’ve been together a long time. We’re friends. We’re good. We embrace the fact that we are good. And we challenge ourselves to be even better.”

Cubs have new hitting coach in Anthony Iapoce

Cubs have new hitting coach in Anthony Iapoce

The Cubs are heading into a new season with a different hitting coach for the second straight winter, but the most recent choice is a familiar face.

Anthony Iapoce is set to join Joe Maddon's coaching staff this week after serving in the same capacity with the Texas Rangers for the last three seasons. The Cubs confirmed the move Monday afternoon shortly after the news broke out of the Rangers camp.

The Cubs fired Chili Davis last week after just one season as the team's hitting coach.

Entering the final week of the season, the Rangers fired manager Jeff Banister, leaving Iapoce and the rest of the Texas coaching staff in limbo.

As such, Iapoce is rejoining the Cubs, where he served as a special assistant to the General Manager from 2013-15 focusing on player development, particularly in the hitting department throughout the minor leagues.

Iapoce has familiarity with a bunch of the current star offensive players on the Cubs, from Willson Contreras to Kris Bryant. 

Both Bryant and Contreras endured tough 2018 seasons at the plate, which was a huge reason for the Cubs' underperforming lineup. Bryant's issue was more related to a left shoulder injured suffered in mid-May while Contreras' offensive woes remain a major question mark after the young catcher looked to be emerging as a legitimate superstar entering the campaign.

Getting Contreras back to the hitter that put up 21 homers and 74 RBI in only 117 games in 2017 will be one of the main goals for Iapoce, so the history between the two could be a key.

With the Rangers, Iapoce oversaw an offense that ranked 7th, 9th and 14th in MLB in runs scored over the last three seasons. The decline in offensive production is obviously not a great sign, but the Rangers as a team have fallen off greatly since notching the top seed in the AL playoffs in 2016 with 95 wins only to lose 95 games in 2018, resulting in the change at manager.

Iapoce has worked with an offense backed by Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Shin-Soo Choo, Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo the last few seasons.

Under Iapoce's tutelage, former top prospect Jurickson Profar shed any notion of a "bust" label and emerged as a budding star at age 25, collecting 61 extra-base hits with a .793 OPS in 2018.

When the Cubs let Davis go last week, they provided no update on assistant hitting coach Andy Haines, who just finished his first season in that role and is expected to remain with the team for 2019. The same offseason Iapoce left for the Rangers, Haines took over as the Cubs' minor league hitting instructor.