Cubs cut Jason Hammel loose and begin working on team that will defend World Series title

Cubs cut Jason Hammel loose and begin working on team that will defend World Series title

Jason Hammel – a 15-game winner who couldn’t make a playoff roster on this loaded World Series team – will now become one of the best starting pitchers on the open market after the Cubs declined their $12 million option for next season.

Hammel will receive a $2 million buyout as the Cubs bet on lefty Mike Montgomery and their ability to find more creative pitching solutions. After a playoff run into early November, Theo Epstein’s front office is now focusing on 2017.

Even as fans lined up outside Wrigleyville Sports on Sunday morning to buy championship gear and wrote messages in chalk on Wrigley Field’s bricks walls facing Sheffield and Waveland (“We Did Not Suck 2016”).

Just before his “Saturday Night Live” appearance with Anthony Rizzo, David Ross and Bill Murray, the Major League Baseball Players Association sent out a press release adding Dexter Fowler to the list of free agents who are about to hit the open market. By Monday afternoon, the Cubs will have formally made Fowler the $17.2 million qualifying offer, the “he gone” ending for the “you go, we go” leadoff guy.

Ben Zobrist, Addison Russell and Javier Baez already went to Disney World. Even Epstein will have to slow down his bender with the general manager meetings taking place this week in Scottsdale, Arizona.

“We would not have been in a position to win the World Series without Jason’s terrific performance during the regular season,” Epstein said in a statement the team released Sunday. “While Jason is healthy and primed to have another effective season in 2017, we have decided to consider other internal and external options for our starting rotation next year.

“Our hope is that by giving a starting opportunity to some younger pitchers under multiple years of club control, we can unearth a starter who will help us not only in 2017 but also in 2018 and beyond.”

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If not Montgomery, who saved that Game 7 World Series win over the Cleveland Indians, the Cubs could take a longer look at Rob Zastryzny and hope he lives up to the left-handed Kyle Hendricks comparison one National League scout made this year. Or reinvest Hammel’s money elsewhere and lean on the pitching infrastructure that helped Hendricks win the ERA title and transform Jake Arrieta into a Cy Young Award winner.

Hammel more than lived up to his end of the bargain as a Cub (33-22, 3.59 ERA, 1.143 WHIP). He first delivered as a sign-and-flip guy packaged with Jeff Samardzija in the 2014 Fourth of July blockbuster trade that yielded a future All-Star shortstop (Russell) from the Oakland A’s.

Hammel took a discount to return and play where he felt he would be most successful. And for $20 million across the last two years, he made 61 starts and accounted for more than 335 innings, performing at an All-Star level in the first half of each season.

All those attributes could have made Hammel an attractive trade chip.

“When we agreed with Jason on this two-year contract back at the 2014 winter meetings,” Epstein said, “the option was included with the intent that it would be exercised if Jason was going to be a Cub in 2017. The intent was never to exercise the option and then trade Jason, so we will not consider that path.

“Instead, Jason will have the opportunity to enter free agency coming off an outstanding season and the ability to choose his next club. Meanwhile, the organization gains some flexibility and the opportunity to use a rotation spot to develop a younger, long-term starting pitcher.

“We would certainly be open to Jason rejoining the organization in the future. But even if that never happens, we will always consider him a Cub and be thankful for his role in delivering a World Series championship to the people of Chicago.”

There is no more “Wait Until Next Year” after the franchise won its first World Series in 108 years. It is time for Epstein’s group to finish building the team that will defend that title. 

Cubs reportedly interested in Troy Tulowitzki


Cubs reportedly interested in Troy Tulowitzki

According to MLB Insider Jon Heyman, the Cubs are one of the teams interested in free agent shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. The 5-time All-Star will be holding a workout soon, with Chicago being one of the six teams reported to have a scout present at his workout.

Heyman did mention that while the Cubs aren’t necessarily the favorites right now, we will know how good of a chance they will have soon. Tulowitzki and his team are reported to be narrowing down their list to (at least) 6 teams.

Last season Tulowitzki played 66 games for the Blue Jays, batting .249 with 7 home runs and 26 RBI. For his career he is a .290 hitter and is looking for a bounce-back season after dealing with complications from bone spur injuries in both heels over the years.

Toronto has to pay the $38 million left on Tulowitzki's contract, freeing up other teams to sign the veteran to a more reasonable deal. Since the Blue Jays went the route of cutting him, teams can offer Tulowitzki a league minimum salary.

For the Cubs, he represents-however small-a chance to extract great value from a veteran player, which would be a big bonus considering how the Yu Darvish signing backfired in year one.

Tulowitzki is likely to be searching for playing time on a legit title contender, so if he can provide any solid offensive production going forward, he and the Cubs could be a solid match.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Winter Meetings recap


Cubs Talk Podcast: Winter Meetings recap

When nothing happens in Vegas, it stays in Vegas. Luke, Kap and Tony talk about the Cubs lack of moves during the Winter Meetings.

In this episode of the Cubs Talk Podcast with Luke Stuckmeyer, David Kaplan and Tony Andracki:

00:10 - What happen in Vegas stays in Vegas and this year that means nothing. Luke, Kap & Tony talk Cubs lack of moves at Winter Meetings.

00:50 - Where the heck is all the money? This was supposed to be a wide-open window - we step on the accelerator.

01:25 - Cubs keep throwing money at the problem (Chatwood, Darvish) and it has become a cautionary tale.

02:50 - Are the Cubs playing at the shallow end of the kiddie pool?

03:50 - Tony talks about the volatility of the relief market.

05:15 - Where is the bullpen market? Brewers are making moves, but it's still "crickets" for the Cubs.

06:20 - Tony: Other than bullpen - Cubs have to address backup middle infielder most of all.

06:57 - Daniel Descalso rumors. Kap describes him as a grinder who fits the leadership mold.

07:47 - Luke is a little worried about Steve Cishek. He threw a career-high 70 innings last season.

09:34 - The guys talk about the possibility of a "second deadline" for the Winter Meetings to force clubs to make more moves.

11:06 - Luke: "I wanted to see Machado and Harper walking down the strip and making it rain!"

12:45 - Cubs still have so much to address. Some Cubs fans are starting to get a little itchy. Teams in the division are making moves. What about us?

14:45 - Question: Is Anthony Rizzo the third-best 1st baseman in the Central Division?

15:50 - Prediction time: What's biggest move the Cubs will make before opening day? Kap believes that Ian Happ will not be a Cub before the regular season starts.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Cubs Talk Podcast