Cubs

Cubs: Anthony Rizzo wants to be a complete player

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Cubs: Anthony Rizzo wants to be a complete player

Anthony Rizzo already has a long-term contract, an All-Star selection on his resume, a charitable foundation and so many off-the-field marketing opportunities.

The Cubs face-of-the-franchise first baseman wants to be a complete player.

Rizzo is 25 now and has the experience that comes with more than 1,900 plate appearances in The Show. He’s quietly raising his game while rookies Kris Bryant and Addison Russell get used to the Wrigley Field spotlight.

“I don’t ever want to be one-dimensional,” Rizzo said after Tuesday’s 6-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. “I don’t ever want to be just a hitter. I want to do it all. That’s how we lead this team by example. We go first-to-third. We break up the double play. We run out groundballs that we’re pissed at.

“If we (don’t) all do (it), no one’s going to do it. It’s just about doing everything – all the little things. Everyone wants to just put the emphasis on hitting and fielding, but it’s all the other little things, too, that go into being a complete player and a complete team.”

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Rizzo stole his sixth base this season, already matching his career-high (2013) by April 28. (Even if Dexter Fowler made a coattails motion by his locker after Rizzo pulled off the double steal against Pittsburgh’s Jeff Locke and Francisco Cervelli.)

It probably says more about the Cubs crunching the numbers, taking advantage of pitcher/catcher combinations and sensing opportunities than manager Joe Maddon waving some magic wand to be aggressive.

But coming off a 32-homer season, Rizzo is also hitting .323 with a .477 on-base percentage and looking like one of the few above-average defenders on a team that’s not particularly strong in that department.

After playing on Cubs teams that lost 286 games across the last three seasons, Rizzo will appreciate a 12-7 record in April a little bit more.

“No doubt,” Rizzo said. “Everyone’s more upbeat. We’re not 10 games under .500 going into May. We got a good group. We come to the ballpark and we enjoy each other. We pick up each other and we have fun.”

How the Strasburg-Nationals megadeal impacts Kris Bryant trade market

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USA TODAY

How the Strasburg-Nationals megadeal impacts Kris Bryant trade market

SAN DIEGO — Before the clock struck noon on the first day of Major League Baseball's Winter Meetings, we already had our first monster deal.

Stephen Strasburg is returning to the Washington Nationals on a seven-year, $245 million deal, per ESPN's Jeff Passan:

That's a huge domino to fall in the landscape of the MLB offseason, though it doesn't have any direct implications on the Cubs. However, it could indirectly impact how Theo Epstein's front office proceeds this winter.

The Cubs are in a bind financially again this offseason, so they haven't even been linked to Strasburg or any of the top free agent pitchers despite an opening in the rotation. Within the NL Central, the other four teams weren't expected to be in the bidding for Strasburg's services, either.

But the ripple effects from this move will be far-reaching. For starters, the defending-champion Nationals are confirmed to return the strongest top of the rotation in the league and this move assures they are not planning on taking a step back in 2020 or content to revel in their World Series hangover. Even though the Cubs are at a crossroads, they still expect to contend in 2020 and the Nationals will remain as a roadblock.

It also might mean a reunion with Anthony Rendon is unlikely in the nation's capital. With how much the Nationals just committed to Strasburg, it's hard to envision Mike Rizzo and Co. breaking the bank to bring back Rendon, as well. Sure, stranger things have happened, but it seems like the most likely scenario now is Rendon makes his home elsewhere next season.

That would bode well for the Cubs and their trade market for Kris Bryant. 

If the Nationals cannot afford to meet Rendon's asking price in free agency, they would still have a clear hole on the roster at third base that would need filling in a less expensive way. Bryant is projected to earn $18.5 million in arbitration next season and while that's a lofty salary, it should wind up far cheaper than what Rendon will be making. That might make a Cubs-Nationals trade pairing more likely.  

There are several other teams currently in the market for a high-end third baseman — Dodgers, Braves, Phillies, Rangers — and not all of them will sign Rendon or Josh Donaldson to fill that desire. For the teams that miss out on the top free agents at the hot corner (or those who don't want to commit that much money), the Cubs loom as an interesting fallback option with Bryant.

Of course, all of that is not necessarily good news for the Cubs fans who don't want to see Bryant traded, but if the team is going to deal him, they'd be better served having multiple teams in the bidding. That might be the only way some team actually meets the asking price for the former NL MVP. 

Positioning at least three teams — led by the Nationals — potentially interested in adding an impact third baseman via trade this winter should enhance the Bryant market. 

670 The Score's Bruce Levine reported Monday afternoon the Cubs have had talks with the Phillies about Bryant:

The service time grievance is still looming over Bryant and nobody is sure exactly when the resolution will come. If the arbiter rules in Bryant's favor, he would actually only have one season left of club control before free agency (though that's still not the expected outcome). 

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Cubs announce David Ross' 2020 coaching staff

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USA TODAY

Cubs announce David Ross' 2020 coaching staff

On Monday the Cubs announced their 2020 coaching staff under first-year manager David Ross. The group features several new faces (italicized) among the holdovers from last season.

-Andy Green — bench coach
-Tommy Hottovy — pitching coach
-Mike Borzello — associate pitching, catching and strategy coach
-Anthony Iapoce — hitting coach
-Terrmel Sledge — assistant hitting coach
-Craig Driver — first base/catching coach
-Will Venable — third base coach
-Mike Napoli — quality assurance coach
-Chris Young — bullpen coach
-Chad Noble — bullpen catcher
-Juan Cabreja — staff assistant
-Franklin Font — staff assistant

Some notes on the new guys:

-Green was the Padres manager from 2016-19 (274-366 record) and was the Diamondbacks third base coach in 2015 — his first season coaching in the big leagues. Green's experience will be vital as Ross gets accustomed to managing.

-Driver spent the last two seasons as the Phillies bullpen catcher/receiving coach and the prior two seasons as Yale's catching coach. He was a collegiate catcher at University of Puget Sound and graduated in 2011.

-Napoli played 12 big league seasons from 2006-17. He and Ross won the 2013 World Series with the Boston Red Sox. Napoli will offer an extra set of eyes in the dugout from someone who, like Ross, played catcher, a position which helps managers manage the game from the field.

-Young spent 2018-19 with the Phillies as associate pitching coach and pitching coach, respectively. He previously worked in the Padres (2010-14) and Astros (2015-17) scouting departments.

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