Cubs

Cubs have big plans for Kyle Schwarber

7-22-kyle-schwarber-cubs.png

Cubs have big plans for Kyle Schwarber

CINCINNATI – The future is now for Kyle Schwarber. It’s getting harder and harder to see him ever going back to Triple-A Iowa, how the Cubs could afford to take his bat out of the lineup.

Manager Joe Maddon is already planning to use Schwarber in the outfield at some point, which wouldn’t mean the end of this catching experiment. The Cubs simply need Schwarber’s offensive production.

If Schwarber keeps hitting bombs – and shows enough improvement behind the plate – who cares if the defensive metrics don’t look so great right away on Baseball Prospectus?   

It could open up the possibility of moving Miguel Montero – who has a sprained left thumb and two years and $28 million left on his contract – to create some payroll flexibility and make a splash this winter.

[MORE: Bottom line - Cubs need more pitching by trade deadline]

It’s not crazy to wonder if Schwarber will be your Opening Day catcher in 2016.

“He’s definitely going to answer a lot of those questions now for next season,” Maddon said. “It definitely permits you then to plan. How do you plan? How do you acquire? How do you do – whatever – going into the next year? He’s off to a great start.”

Schwarber sat on the edge of his seat in between games of Wednesday’s day/night doubleheader at Great American Ball Park, his gray pants covered in dirt and a bottle of water in his hand.

The day after hitting the game-tying and game-winning home runs, Schwarber went 2-for-3 with a walk and drove in his team’s only run during a 9-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.

The Cubs catcher of the present/future huddled with David Ross and Mike Borzello. Ross is 38 years old and seen as a potential manager as soon as he retires. Borzello is the catching instructor who gets behind-the-scenes credit for doing a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to breaking down opponents.

[MORE CUBS: Kyle Schwarber is the big bat the Cubs absolutely need]

That clubhouse scene – Schwarber listening, paying attention and laughing with the guys – illustrated why the Cubs think he can be a long-term answer.

“He’s learning on the job at the highest level,” pitcher Jason Hammel said, “(without) much time in the minor leagues to really figure out how it works.

“It’s fun to work with a guy like that who really wants to get better. And you can see that. He’s all ears right now. He’s going to be good.”

Schwarber won’t always pass the eye test – or automatically get the benefit of the doubt – but Hammel quickly took the blame for one obvious miscommunication on Tuesday night. Schwarber called for a slider while Hammel wound up throwing a fastball.

“He and I were on the same page,” Hammel said. “When I shook, he went to what I wanted. That’s pretty good – to know what my Number 2 is behind my Number 1. It was pretty impressive that I didn’t really lose any rhythm. I actually crossed him up with one of the two pitches I threw to the backstop.

“I screwed up the signs (and) I felt bad, because he had been really good up until that point. And I think he felt like it was his fault, and it wasn’t – it was me.”

[NBC SHOP: Get your Cubs gear right here]

Maddon already had a picture in mind before he left the Tampa Bay Rays last October and signed that five-year, $25 million contract to come to Chicago. The Rays had discussed drafting Schwarber with their first-round pick in the 2014 draft.

The Cubs grabbed Schwarber at No. 4 overall – or 16 spots ahead of the Rays – and there was a perception Theo Epstein’s front office reached for the Indiana University catcher/outfielder.   

“I know the Rays wanted to draft him badly,” Maddon said. “I heard about him. I heard about what kind of a player, what kind of a hitter he was coming out of college. I just know that his name was prominent.

“The catching side of it with Schwarbs (became): When was that going to happen? I’ve been involved with two catchers in the recent past (who were in the) same boat: Johnny Jaso and Stephen Vogt, both pretty good offensive players.

“How well were they going to catch? Vogt made the All-Star team. And if Jaso had not been hurt a couple times, who knows where he would be at right now? There’s a lot of similarities among those three guys, and they’re all left-handed (hitters).”

Schwarber is hitting .429 (18-for-42) with three homers, 11 RBI and a 1.205 OPS through his first 12 games in The Show.

“Be careful what you wish for with Schwarbs,” Maddon said. “If we just wear his butt out by the end of the season, that bat will go away, I promise you.

“Let him play at his own pace. We’re going to work with him in the outfield, absolutely. I have ideas (and) we’ll just see how it goes. For right now, everybody’s euphoric about the game last night. We all are. And it was wonderful. But he’s a young man (who’s) still learning his craft.

“That’s what’s going to benefit us in September/October – not wearing people out right now, mentally and physically.”

Schwarber doesn’t want to look too far ahead, but he wants to stay at catcher and knows he can always play the outfield.

“Whatever happens, happens,” Schwarber said. “I’m going to keep working my butt off to get better defensively, and keep getting better offensively, too. My goal is to stay up here, so whatever it takes, I’m going to try to do it.”

Ben Zobrist provides a hilarious glimpse into how he's spending a free October

Ben Zobrist provides a hilarious glimpse into how he's spending a free October

Ben Zobrist won't win the Comeback Player of the Year award this winter, but maybe he can take home a Grammy for Best New Artist?

The Cubs veteran infielder/outfielder posted a hilarious video on his Instagram Wednesday night showcasing how he's been spending October after the Cubs were unceremoniously ousted from the playoffs after on the third day of the month.

It's a fantastic music video of Zobrist lip-syncing to Mumford & Sons' "I Will Wait" while he nearly knocks the TV off the wall of his home by swinging the bat indoors pretending to hit off Clayton Kershaw and frolicking around a field that looks shockingly similar to Hershel's farm from the second season of "The Walking Dead":

View this post on Instagram

It always takes me a few weeks to process the season and begin the offseason. Here are my thoughts.....along with a unique way of making light of the postseason that should have been......... (special thanks to @dimtillard for help with Video) Maybe you feel the way I do. It was a very quick and abrupt ending to a good season for us. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth. But let’s not forget all the good that happened. This game and this team gives us something to pass the time, to express our love and passion, to feel the joy of the wins and the pains of the losses, and it calls us to unity when we so easily can be divided about so many other things. Each game is a microcosm of life. The game itself is not Life, but it helps us deal with life in a way. I’m thankful for even the painful losses at the end. The game can be a great teacher. I felt privileged to play with this team and play for our fans all year. We were stretched and we grew in new ways as individuals and as a group and that is always a good thing. We strive to win championships, but more often the process is the goal. We will be stronger because of all that we went through this year. What will I do now? I will travel and watch my wife crush her book tour. I will be in and out of Chi-town. I just got back home to Franklin, TN. I will find joy in raising and watching my kids grow and continue becoming their own person. I will rest and begin preparing for next season. I will work hard in mind, body, and spirit. I will help other players with @patriotforward and @showandgo. I will focus on personal growth and charitable endeavors and become a better man, teammate, friend, and player. To Baseball and Fans: For the next 5 months until I play next year.... I will wait for you....

A post shared by Ben Zobrist (@benzobrist18) on

Zobrist also posted a lengthy caption on his perspective on the Cubs' disappointing end to the season:

It always takes me a few weeks to process the season and begin the offseason. Here are my thoughts.....along with a unique way of making light of the postseason that should have been......... (special thanks to @dimtillard for help with Video) 
Maybe you feel the way I do. It was a very quick and abrupt ending to a good season for us. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth. But let’s not forget all the good that happened. This game and this team gives us something to pass the time, to express our love and passion, to feel the joy of the wins and the pains of the losses, and it calls us to unity when we so easily can be divided about so many other things. Each game is a microcosm of life. The game itself is not
Life, but it helps us deal with life in a way. I’m thankful for even the painful losses at the end. The game can be a great teacher. 
I felt privileged to play with this team and play for our fans all year. We were stretched and we grew in new ways as individuals and as a group and that is always a good thing. We strive to win championships, but more often the process is the goal. We will be stronger because of all that we went through this year. 
What will I do now? I will travel and watch my wife crush her book tour. I will be in and out of Chi-town. I just got back home to Franklin, TN. I will find joy in raising and watching my kids grow and continue becoming their own person. I will rest and begin preparing for next season. I will work hard in mind, body, and spirit. I will help other players with @patriotforward and @showandgo. I will focus on personal growth and charitable endeavors and become a better man, teammate, friend, and player. 
To Baseball and Fans: For the next 5 months until I play next year....
I will wait for you....

Come for the Zobrist lip sync, but stay for the 37-year-old using a bat as a guitar while wearing a sleeveless shirt and rocking an old-timey top hat.

A year ago, Zobrist completely reshaped his offseason workout plan after three straight years of playing deep into October. It appears he's added another new trick to his winter workout — hopping over fences even though there is a clear opening just a foot away.

Hey, whatever works...

Cubs Talk Podcast: Manny Machado’s value and other Cubs offseason wish list items

1012_manny_machado.jpg
USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Manny Machado’s value and other Cubs offseason wish list items

Did Manny Machado’s value take a hit at all after he openly admitted hustling isn’t his “cup of tea”? Our Cubs team (David Kaplan, Kelly Crull, Tony Andracki, Jeff Nelson) debate that, plus the potential fit of Machado or Bryce Harper for the 2019 Cubs and beyond.

[MORE: The most underrated storyline of the Cubs offseason]

The crew also runs down the top items on the Cubs’ offseason wish list – ranging from bullpen help to infield depth to a set leadoff hitter – in what may be the most impactful winter in Theo Epstein’s tenure in Chicago.

Listen to the podcast here or via the embedded player below: