Cubs

Cubs-Cardinals: Joe Maddon's had enough of St. Louis after 'second spring training'

Cubs-Cardinals: Joe Maddon's had enough of St. Louis after 'second spring training'

ST. LOUIS – Instead of trolling Cardinals fans with a Snake Plissken eye patch and an "Escape from St. Louis" dress-up theme, Joe Maddon wore sunglasses and a Cubs hoodie to his media briefing late Thursday morning.  

"We're concluding our second spring training," Maddon said, sitting in Busch Stadium's visiting dugout. "We got one in Arizona and we got one in Missouri."

Instead of giving the Cubs the courtesy of getting settled in Chicago — and rescheduling Wednesday's rainout for another mutual off-day — the Cardinals kept the defending World Series champs in St. Louis for a sixth straight night.      

"Yesterday concluded my week in the Four Seasons health spa," Maddon said. "I got a workout in every day. I got a steam in every day. I got a Jacuzzi in every day. And I got a nap in every day. So after going seven weeks of spring training with one day off, basically, you get three off in a week here in St. Louis. It's just the insanity of what we do."

Maddon apparently didn't find any inspiration on TripAdvisor. 

"Didn't really go out often," Maddon said. "We went out one night to Carmine's and I was considering The Hill last night, but could not motivate myself at all. So I went and ordered off the kids' menu – grilled cheese and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and club soda. So I had a big night."

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Maddon did notice the stretches of sunshine on Wednesday in St. Louis and how the rain stopped long enough for the Cubs and Cardinals to probably play Game 3.   
  
"It appears that way, yeah," Maddon said. "The information all indicated that it was going to rain heavily all day, and everybody made their best guess, which I appreciated, because the worst thing to do is hang around all day — game started, game stopped, game started, game stopped — and that's what it read like. 

"The intel we got was that it was going to pour all day. It's an imperfect science regarding weather prediction. Yeah, I'd rather have a day off in Chicago, no question. But that was the call and I'm good with it."
 
It only took two games — a walk-off loss and a one-run win — to show that the Cubs have the Cardinals' attention and the rivalry still creates drama and excitement.   

"They've been definitely intense games," Maddon said. "I'd like it to be, in essence, Game 163, 164, from the end of last season. I want us to always play the same game. I've talked about that from Day 1. So if you're feeling the same game, that's good. That's a good thing. I don't want to differentiate between games in April or August or September. 

"I've always been amused by the fact: ‘Well, it's early, it's April.' They don't count as point-five. They count as one-plus or one-minus. It's the same game. And I want our guys to be able to react in that way.

"There's only one variable right now – a week in a hotel in St. Louis. That's not easy. People have to understand you're totally out of your routine at that point."

Willson Contreras’ trade value just spiked, thanks to White Sox signing Yasmani Grandal

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USA TODAY

Willson Contreras’ trade value just spiked, thanks to White Sox signing Yasmani Grandal

This is the best thing the White Sox have done for the Cubs in years.

The White Sox made a big splash in free agency Thursday, signing catcher Yasmani Grandal to a four-year, $73 million contract. Grandal joins the South Siders from the Brewers, where he played an integral role in Milwaukee making a second-straight postseason appearance in 2019.

Grandal led qualified catchers in on-base percentage (.380) last season, also posting career highs in home runs (28) and RBIs (77). He’s also an excellent pitch framer, tying for fourth in RszC (runs saved by catcher framing) among all catchers with 9.

Milwaukee’s payroll reached a franchise-high $122.5 million in 2019 and their farm system (No. 29 in MLB, per Baseball America) is lacking. How they replace Grandal’s production is a major question mark, which in turn is a win for the Cubs this offseason.

But besides plucking him from the NL Central, the White Sox signing Grandal early in the offseason helps the Cubs, who have important decisions of their own to make.

Although Cubs president Theo Epstein said to take any trade rumors with a “mouthful of salt,” multiple teams believe catcher Willson Contreras is available for trade. The Cubs need to retool their roster and replenish a farm system that has been depleted in recent seasons from numerous “win now” trades.

The Cubs and White Sox made the notorious José Quintana trade in July 2017, but it’s unlikely the two would have matched up for a Contreras trade. The Cubs need young assets; trading away young assets is the last thing the White Sox want to do as their championship window opens.

So, Grandal landed with a team that was unlikely to be involved in any potential Contreras trade talks. Grandal was the best free agent catcher; Contreras is the best catcher that can be had in a trade.

Other teams interested in Grandal — such as the Reds — can no longer turn to him in free agency. The Rays have made addressing the catcher spot this winter a priority, but they have one of MLB’s lowest payrolls each season. Signing Grandal wasn’t going to happen, but Tampa Bay has the farm system (No. 2 in baseball, per MLB.com) to make a big trade.

Contreras is the best catcher available — for the right price, obviously — so the ball is in the Cubs' court. They don’t get better by dealing their two-time All-Star backstop, but Contreras’ trade value is high. With Grandal off the market, it just got even higher.

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Cubs add four players to 40-man roster ahead of Rule 5 Draft, including top prospect Miguel Amaya

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MiLB

Cubs add four players to 40-man roster ahead of Rule 5 Draft, including top prospect Miguel Amaya

In preparation for next month’s Rule 5 Draft, the Cubs have added four players to their 40-man roster. 

Wednesday, the Cubs selected the contracts of right-hander Tyson Miller and infielder Zack Short from Triple-A Iowa and right-hander Manuel Rodriguez and catcher Miguel Amaya from Single-A Myrtle Beach. The Cubs 40-man roster now stands at 36 players.

The Rule 5 Draft is Dec. 12 at the Winter Meetings. Teams can “draft” players from other organizations if that player is not on a 40-man roster and also matches one of the following criteria:

-If the player was signed when they were 19 or older, they must have at least four years of professional baseball experience

OR

-If the player was signed when they were 18, they must have at least five years of professional baseball experience.

Miller is a fourth-round draft pick from 2016. He went 7-8 with a 4.35 ERA in 26 starts between Double-A Tennessee and Iowa in 2019. The 24-year-old was much better with Tennessee (2.56 ERA, 15 starts) than with Iowa in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League (7.58 ERA, 11 starts).

The Cubs drafted Short, 24, in the 17th round in 2016; he can play shortstop, second base and third base. He gets on base at a decent clip (career .377 OBP) but hasn’t had much success offensively (.241 career average) in his four minor league seasons.

The Cubs signed Rodriguez, 23, to a minor league deal in July 2016. He posted a 3.45 ERA in 35 relief appearance with Myrtle Beach in 2019, faring much better than he did in 2018 with Single-A South Bend (7.59 ERA, 32 appearances).

Amaya is the Cubs' No. 2 prospect and No. 90 overall in MLB (per MLB Pipeline). The Cubs signed him during the international signing period in July 2015, giving him a $1.25 million signing bonus. The 20-year-old posted a .235/.351/.402 slash line in 99 games with Myrtle Beach in 2019. His OPS jumped from .714 in the first half to .790 in the second half.

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