Cubs

Cubs can stay out of PujolsFielder sweepstakes

598326.png

Cubs can stay out of PujolsFielder sweepstakes

DALLAS A pack of reporters trailed the Miami Marlins executives trying to get Albert Pujols to take his talents to South Beach.

Ozzie Guillen was just standing in the lobby on Tuesday when the bosses owner Jeffrey Loria and team presidents Larry Beinfest and David Samson moved through the Hilton Anatole.

Guillen wasnt sure what was going on and looked over both shoulders. Suddenly he was swept up in the group and on his way to a meeting. The doors to elevator No. 5 closed in the medias face.

At that moment, it seemed at least possible that the St. Louis Cardinals could lose their iconic player. At a reported cost of more than 200 million, Pujols could leave the National League Central.

That would be nice, Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. I had to witness it over the last six years what he could do and its pretty impressive. Hes definitely the best hitter in baseball right now. What he did in the playoffs speaks for itself. If hes not with us, you hope that hes in another division, no doubt about it.

That logic is seen as a compelling reason for why the Cubs spoke with Dan Lozano, the agent for Pujols (and Rodrigo Lopez), and could see what it would take to sign Prince Fielder (or at least make sure he doesnt return to the Milwaukee Brewers).

This could shift the balance of power in the division, but there is an industry perception that Cubs executives know how much work they have to do before signing a superstar like that.

Sveum is tight with Fielder after their time together in Milwaukee, but he hasnt been involved in a recruiting process yet.

You know there (are) rumors out there and all that, Sveum said, but I dont really see that weve started any talks or anything like that.

If the Cubs do jump in on Fielder, Sveum said, Id probably have a big phone bill to Florida. You got to think if it all came about, (youd) have to find yourself in a pretty decent role (because were very close).

Fielder will turn 28 next season, but hes considered a throwback player who hustles down the line and never wants to be left out of the lineup. Hes the left-handed bat the Cubs crave, and would be a unifying force in the clubhouse.

He should have played in the 1950s and 60s and 70s, Sveum said. They played as hard as they possibly could every single day. They cared about winning. They cared about their teammates and Prince is all of those things. Hes just one of those special guys that come around once in a lifetime.

The problem is matching up the sweet spot of Fielders prime years with a Cubs team that isnt ready to win right now. Even though hes averaged 37 homers and 106 RBI for every 162 games in his career, there would be concerns about how his body type might project.

You want to make sure youre paying for future (performance) and not for past, general manager Jed Hoyer said. Its pretty simple, but if youre going to talk about a long deal, it better be a great player, an elite talent. Otherwise, those are recipes for disaster.

The Cubs president of baseball operations certainly enjoys the perception that the Cubs could be in on everything. Hes content to sit up in his suite and keep everyone guessing.

I dont mind when that stuffs out there, Theo Epstein said, because maybe it hides the ball a little bit from what we really are doing. (I) encourage that type of circus atmosphere in the lobby. Its good to be a little unpredictable.

Behind a refined approach, Albert Almora Jr. is off to a hot start this spring

Behind a refined approach, Albert Almora Jr. is off to a hot start this spring

The Cubs have only played three spring training games, and it’s dangerous to use spring results to predict regular season successes/failures. Still, it’s okay to acknowledge Albert Almora Jr.’s hot start in camp.

In two games, Almora is 4-for-4 with a walk, double, home run, four RBIs, and four runs scored. That line is essentially equivalent to a single game in the regular season and could be turned upside down by the end of the week. But it’s a start for the 25-year-old who’s struggled immensely at the plate for the last season-and-a-half at the plate.

In his last 177 games (dating back to the second half of 2018), Almora holds a .235/.270/.347 slash line. The advanced stats paint an uglier picture: 58 wRC+, .261 wOBA and 52.2 percent groundball rate.

Last season was the most challenging of Almora’s young career. He hit .236/.271/.381 in 130 games with a 64 wRC+, .271 wOBA, -0.7 fWAR (all career worsts). On top of that, he was involved in a heartbreaking moment early in the season; an Almora foul ball struck a young girl at Minute Maid Park during a Cubs-Astros game in May.

Almora recently refused to blame his 2019 offensive woes on that incident, though it obviously played a part. He did admit he was in a bad place mentally and used this winter to decompress. Almora also used it to make some adjustments to his swing and the changes are clear as day:

Pre-2020:

2020:

As MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian notes, Almora is now more upright in the box and his stance is more closed. His leg kick is less defined, and he’s rotating his front leg far less than previous seasons. In short, he’s more direct to his swing and has more time to react in the box because he cut out a lot of his pre-swing movements.

Almora said Monday he’s far from where he wants to be, pointing out the MLB season is a 200-day marathon. It’s too early to tell whether his simplified approach leads to sustainable success.

Small sample size be damned, Almora’s made noticeable adjustments. That’s the first step in his mission to get back on track offensively.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Cubs easily on your device.

Two of the Cubs' best prospects made Keith Law's annual Top 100 list

brailynmarquezmilb.jpg
USA Today

Two of the Cubs' best prospects made Keith Law's annual Top 100 list

For those who follow such things, Keith Law's yearly Top 100 prospect rankings is always a highly anticipated read. What would baseball twitter even do with their time if they couldn't spend it vocally disagreeing with subjective lists? Having a handful of Top 100 guys is always a shot in the arm for franchises that maybe aren't doing a whole lot of winning at the major league level; when you know you're not winning a World Series, the debuts of these prospects are high points of the summer. 

There wasn't a whole lot of Cubs' representation this season, which isn't a surprise by any means. Only guys two made Law's list: Brennen Davis at 55, and Brailyn Marquez at 80.  

Law claims Davis has the highest upside of any Cubs' prospect, but isn't necessarily close to a debut: 

Davis is lanky and has barely begun to fill out, so there’s likely to be more power to come, while he’s already shown he can manage at-bats and use the middle of the field to get himself on base. Despite his 6′4″ frame he already has a very balanced swing, and the Cubs will just have to tighten up some mechanical things since he’s got such long levers. A former shortstop, he’s adapted quickly to center field; he projects to stay there and add value with his range. 

He also loves Marquez's stuff – comparing it to Aroldis Chapman's – and says it's the reason why he's team's best pitching prospect since Dylan Cease. You can see the entire rankings, which go pretty in-depth, right here.