Cubs

Cubs believe they can prove doubters wrong

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Cubs believe they can prove doubters wrong

Walk around the locker rooms here at Fitch Park in Mesa, Ariz., and to a man, the Chicago Cubs will tell you that they love the position that they are in. Absolutely no one unconnected with the team believes they have a snowballs chance on a hot Chicago summer day of having a successful season.

However, this new edition of the Cubs really and truly believes that they have a team that can stun the baseball pundits because they are playing for each other. Gone are the distractions of the past few years from Carlos Zambrano to some of the bloated contracts that belonged to underperforming players who have now moved on to other teams.

Players who were "me-first" guys like Aramis Ramirez are no longer on the roster and while he takes with him a productive bat, he also takes with him an attitude of lazy play that would never be tolerated by the new administration.

We have a great group of guys in here that are all pulling on the same end of the rope," Reed Johnson told me this morning before workouts began. "We dont have a team that can wait on three-run home runs to happen so that means that we have to do the little things correctly to win baseball games."

Starter Ryan Dempster is looking to help lead a starting rotation that has greatly improved depth from a year ago despite a lack of impact, arms except for Matt Garza.

We know that we have those that doubt what we can accomplish but everyone is really trying hard to impress the new bosses and I really like the makeup of the team we have here in camp, said Dempster.

Camp is full of interesting stories about guys who are looking to bounce back from subpar performances such as third baseman Ian Stewart, who comes over from Colorado after a brutal 2011 campaign.

David DeJesus had an injury-plagued season in Oakland but is now 100 percent and is going to open the season as the leadoff hitter and right fielder. He, too, senses something special in the air in Cubs camp.

I love the attitude I am seeing from everybody here. We are taking everything in that manager Dale Sveum is saying and it is all business with him. Guys are playing hard and I am going to do all I can in the leadoff spot to set the table for our run producers, DeJesus said.

Everyone in here came to win a championship, said second baseman Jeff Baker. "We really believe in each other in here and the attention to detail and the emphasis on playing the game the right way has been stressed by Dale and his staff since Day 1. It is up to us to execute and to get the job done."

While the question marks on this rebuilding team are many, there are some bright spots early in camp. The starting pitching depth being one and the play of some guys with a lot to prove -- such as Bryan LaHair -- being another.

Add in the newly bulked up Darwin Barney -- who gained nearly 15 pounds of muscle to help him handle the rigors of a long season -- and the improvement expected from star shortstop Starlin Castro and the optimism is somewhat understandable for an improved season over 2011 when the Cubs lost 91 games.

However, while improvement is one thing, making a run to the postseason is quite another. Johnson, though, believes the impossible is within the Cubs reach.

We are working very hard here in spring training," he said. "If we play up to our abilities, we know what we can accomplish. The attitude in here is great. That is what makes it so exciting to be a part of this team."

Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich puts Nolan Arenado trade talks to bed

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USA TODAY

Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich puts Nolan Arenado trade talks to bed

Were you hoping the Cubs could pull off a miraculous deal for Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado? If so, at ease.

In an interview with Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post, Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich squashed any chance of Arenado getting dealt this winter.

“With the season coming up and spring training on the horizon, we are going to start focusing on that,” Bridich told Saunders. “We have listened to teams regarding Nolan and really nothing has come of it. We are going to move forward pretty much as we expected — with Nolan in the purple and black and as our third baseman.

“So, we can put this to bed and collectively look forward to the upcoming season and work toward that.”

There you have it.

The chances of the Cubs swinging an Arenado deal were always slim-to-none. The 28-year-old signed a lucrative contract extension with Colorado last February and is still owed $234 million through 2026. The Cubs have money coming off the books each of the next few seasons, but they would have had to clear payroll to acquire Arenado this offseason.

Furthermore, it’s questionable if the Cubs would have put together an enticing enough package for the Rockies. Chicago's farm system has grown barren through the years, and now that it’s slowly improving, it wouldn’t have made sense to trade prospects away.

Monday’s news isn’t completely bad for Cubs fans. The Cardinals were also reportedly interested in Arenado, and Bridich’s statement means St. Louis won’t be acquiring Arenado anytime soon, either.

Update: Things might just be getting started in Colorado...

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Reunion? Cubs interested in re-signing Pedro Strop, report says

Reunion? Cubs interested in re-signing Pedro Strop, report says

The Cubs haven't made many transactions this offseason, largely adding low-cost relievers to stockpile potential arms for the big-league bullpen. That trend could soon change, thanks to a familiar face.

According to Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith, the Cubs are one of four teams “believed to be” interested in signing Pedro Strop. Smith also reported Strop will likely make a decision in the next week or so.

Strop joined the Cubs in a midseason trade with the Orioles in 2013 and went on to become one of the best relievers in team history. In parts of seven seasons, the right-hander posted a 2.90 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 425 strikeouts in 373 innings. He ranks sixth in club history in appearances (411) and first in holds (120). 

For context, Strop’s ERA and WHIP (1.05) are both better than what Lee Smith (2.92, 1.25), a 2019 Hall of Fame inductee, did in eight seasons with the Cubs.

2019 was Strop’s worst season in a Cubs uniform (4.97 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 50 games), though he suffered a hamstring injury in spring training and another early in the season, impacting his performance. Something clicked for him in September; the 34-year-old sported a 2.00 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in nine innings, albeit largely in low-leverage spots.

Strop would add a veteran presence to the Cubs bullpen, which currently has few locks — Craig Kimbrel, Rowan Wick, Kyle Ryan and likely Brad Wieck. They’ve already lost veteran Steve Cishek (White Sox) in free agency, and Brandon Kintzler (2.68 ERA, 62 appearances in 2019) hasn’t been connected to the Cubs this offseason.

Strop expressed his desire to return to the Cubs at the end of 2019, calling the organization his home. It will come down to cost, as has been the case all offseason for the Cubs. But assuming Strop is healthy, he’d provide a veteran arm in a bullpen slated to include some less proven names.

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