Cubs

Connecting the dots between Shane Victorino, Brett Jackson

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Connecting the dots between Shane Victorino, Brett Jackson

NASHVILLE, Tenn. What if the Cubs could do what they did on the pitching side and give an outfielder a pillow contract?

Thats what super-agent Scott Boras called the deal the Cubs made with first baseman Carlos Pena two years ago at the winter meetings: 10 million paid out over 13 months, a move to a big city and the chance to jump back into the market.

A new front office has now taken a similar approach with starting pitchers, already landing Scott Baker and Scott Feldman on one-year deals. There was a sense around the Cubs on Tuesday that they were one of several teams in the mix for Brandon McCarthy, though theyre not nearly as desperate for rotation help as they were a few weeks ago.

But a reality check seemed to come when word started spreading around the Gaylord Opryland that the Boston Red Sox were giving Shane Victorino a three-year contract worth around 39 million.

General manager Jed Hoyer wouldnt comment directly on the Victorino deal, but spoke broadly about the going rates as the Cubs shop for someone to play right or center field.

Sometimes you circle players and think: Hey, that guy might be a really good fit for us, Hoyer said. Someone else views them differently and thats why free agency can be difficult. Sometimes the guys you target another team is just a lot more aggressive on him and you lose him.

Thats why you have to value the player, put a number on him and be aggressive and go after him. But you also always have to have your walkaway point because some other team might have a totally different set of numbers.

Again, Hoyer wasnt talking specifically about Victorino or even acknowledging that the 32-year-old outfielder was a real target. Victorino won a Gold Glove and a World Series ring in 2008, and has been an All-Star twice since then. But hes also coming off a season in which he hit .255 with 11 homers and 55 RBI.

That gives you a sense of the market. The Cubs will certainly listen to offers for Alfonso Soriano and are said to be kicking the tires to see if there happens to be a match with a team that could convince him to waive his no-trade rights.

There also appears to be an opening for Brett Jackson at some point in 2013, which may color how the Cubs look at their outfield options.

Jackson recently visited the teams complex in Arizona to work with manager Dale Sveum and hitting coach James Rowson. Sveum said Jackson has made huge, huge strides and completely overhauled his a swing after striking out 217 times last season.

Nobody can sit here and predict anything, Sveum said. But I think hes got a good base to work with going the rest of the winter and in spring training, to understand the art of hitting, so to speak, that sometimes gets lost or sometimes gets taught the wrong way.

Jackson is already ticketed for Triple-A Iowa when the Cubs get to Opening Day. They want him to gain more experience, make the adjustments and come back to the big leagues a more complete player, the way Anthony Rizzo did last summer.

We havent soured on Brett at all, Hoyer said.

The Cubs pressed the issue last August and promoted Jackson, wanting him to see what it takes at the highest level and force him to make changes to his approach. Even though he struck out 59 times in 120 at-bats, he still has an intriguing blend of skills.

Theres no doubt that Brett Jackson could be part of the Cubs big-league team next year, Sveum said. Hell even tell you that it was a huge learning experience. Things obviously didnt go well, but he knows now that sometimes you have to hit that wall to understand: Wow, I really got to make some huge adjustments to play at this level.

The Cubs want to get faster and more athletic in the outfield and have seen Jackson make those highlight-reel catches. At these prices, sooner or later it will be time to give their 2009 first-round pick out of Cal-Berkeley a chance.

No regrets for Cubs' Javy Báez in not reaching extension deal before pandemic

No regrets for Cubs' Javy Báez in not reaching extension deal before pandemic

Cubs shortstop Javy Báez doesn’t know any more than anyone else where baseball’s economics and player salary markets are headed in the next year or two as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the two-time All-Star expressed no regret about not accepting a club offer during negotiations on a long-term extension over the winter and said he felt no “rush” to resume talks in the uncertain climate.

Báez, the 2018 MVP runner-up who is eligible for free agency after next season, had expressed optimism that talks were “progressing” in March before the pandemic shut down sports — and all extension talks.

“It’s been really difficult with all this happening right now,” said Báez, whose family all stayed healthy through baseball’s shutdown and who looks in good shape after working out during that time with brother-in-law Jose Berrios, the Twins pitcher.

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“We have really good communication and relationship between me and the owners and obviously my agent,” Báez added. “I think when this [is in the] past, I think we’re going to talk and stay in touch and see what happens from here on, and with the season.”

Teammate Kris Bryant, long considered a sure thing to test the open market after the 2021 season, said Monday the pandemic and first-time fatherhood has made him rethink things that are important to him — including, potentially, the Cubs and what it might take to stay with them.

But predicting where payroll budgets, industry revenues and consequently player markets will be even two or three years from now is all but impossible during a pandemic with no end in sight.

All of which could render many players and teams’ best intentions moot for now.

MORE: Why Cubs core's desire to sign extensions might not matter anymore

“This is without question the most difficult time we’ve ever had as far as projecting those things,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said this week.

Báez, who has a 2020 salary of $10 million (prorated for the shortened season), was the primary focus of the front office much of the winter as it tried to lock him up as a part of the next contending core it envisioned.

He said he has bigger things to worry about now as the team tries to stay disciplined and committed to pulling off a 60-game season.

“Obviously, everybody wants to get paid, but we’ve got to wait for the right time,” he said, “and both sides are going to see and know what’s right for each other. I’m not in a rush. I’m worried right now about getting back on the field and playing regular games and trying to win in this season that is going to be so weird.

“Obviously with this happening right now it’s going to change everything. It already changed 2020; it’s going to change the next two years I think.”

Báez said the decision to play was not really difficult and he didn’t consider opting out.

“I feel like everybody’s dealing with the same thing,” said Báez, who among other things keeps his free agency timeline intact by playing and being credited with a full season of service time for 2020. “Some of them have got contracts; some of them don’t.

“I’ve got one year [more] I’m going to be in arbitration. We’ll see. They know me. I’m pretty sure every team knows me and knows what I can do. I’m not in a rush. We’ll just see what happens this season and how it goes for me and with this 60 games and be ready for next season.

“We’ll see.”

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2021 MLB schedule: Cubs open at home against Pirates, play AL Central again

2021 MLB schedule: Cubs open at home against Pirates, play AL Central again

The 2020 Major League Baseball season hasn’t started yet and there’s no telling if the league will complete it in full due to COVID-19. In any case, the 2021 Cubs schedule was officially announced on Thursday.

The Cubs will open at home for the second straight season, taking on the Pirates at Wrigley Field on April 3. It’s the first time since 2011-12 the North Siders will open the season at Wrigley Field and third time in four seasons their home opener is against Pittsburgh.

2021 also marks the second consecutive year the Cubs will play the AL Central in interleague play. This includes six games against the White Sox (Aug. 6-8 at Wrigley; Aug. 27-29 at Guaranteed Rate Field). Their first interleague series is May 11-12 at Cleveland.

The Cubs travel to Minnesota (Aug. 31-Sept. 1) and host the Royals (Aug. 20-22) for the first time since 2015.

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Check out the full schedule:

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