Cubs: Jason Heyward takes the high road in war of words with Cardinals


Cubs: Jason Heyward takes the high road in war of words with Cardinals

Jason Heyward doesn't want any part of a war of words with the St. Louis Cardinals.

At his first Cubs Convention at the Sheraton Grand Chicago, the Cubs' biggest free agent acquisition of the offseason took the high road when asked about the comments the Cardinals had last month.

After Heyward inked a $184 million deal with the Cubs in early December, the Cardinals took it as a personal slight and made public comments on the matter.

Heyward told Chicago reporters he chose the Cubs in large part because of the young core in place with players like Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.

St. Louis manager Mike Matheny didn't like that answer, saying he believed it wouldn't "ring too well with our club," and then continuing on by saying, "I don't blame him. But I don't like it."

[RELATED - Cardinals don't appreciate Jason Heyward's reason for signing with Cubs]

A couple days after that, Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright joined the onslaught on Heyward, saying the 26-year-old outfielder clearly didn't want to "The One" in St. Louis.

With his first chance to comment publicly on the matter, Heyward admitted he didn't necessarily expect that reaction from the Cardinals.

"I don't know about surprised. I didn't expect them to say anything one way or the other," Heyward said. "When it comes down to leaving a team, if they're happy to see me leave, then I didn't do my job right.

"I'm just kinda happy that somebody's gonna miss me when I'm gone."

Heyward admitted he didn't really get much of a reaction when he left the Atlanta Braves, though that was via trade to the Cardinals before the 2015 season, not a free agent decision.

[SHOP CUBS: Get your Cubs gear right here]

Regardless of what St. Louis fans Tweet at him or what the Cardinals say to the media, Heyward seems at peace with his decision.

"I gotta do my job right," he said. "On a team where we won 100 games, now it's time for me to choose for the first time in my life where I'm gonna be and I had to make the best decision for me."

Cubs executive Jason McLeod reportedly linked to Giants' GM opening


Cubs executive Jason McLeod reportedly linked to Giants' GM opening

Is this the offseason that Cubs executive Jason McLeod finally becomes an MLB general manager?

According to Bruce Levine, the Giants are reportedly interested in McLeod, the Cubs senior vice president of scouting and player development, for their vacant general manager position.

McLeod joined the Cubs' front office in 2011 alongside Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. Before the Cubs, he spent six years in the Red Sox front office and two in the Padres' (with Hoyer, who was San Diego's general manager from 2010-2011). 

Of course, the Giants' reported interest in McLeod doesn't necessarily mean that he will interview for the job. However, it's worth noting that McLeod interviewed for the Twins' general manager job in 2016; he also withdrew his name from consideration for the Padres' general manager job in 2014. 

In addition to the Giants, McLeod's name has been linked to the Mets' general manager vacancy. This is more speculation, but the point is that it seems to be only a matter of time before McLeod is hired as general manager elsewhere.

For what it's worth, though, McLeod is under contract through 2021 and has previously said that he is grateful to be with the Cubs. 

“I’m exceptionally grateful,” McLeod said. “All of us are. Look at where we are at this moment in time with this team," McLeod said in 2016. "I can’t imagine a better environment, a better culture to work at in baseball.

"We’ve been together a long time. We’re friends. We’re good. We embrace the fact that we are good. And we challenge ourselves to be even better.”

Cubs have new hitting coach in Anthony Iapoce

Cubs have new hitting coach in Anthony Iapoce

The Cubs are heading into a new season with a different hitting coach for the second straight winter, but the most recent choice is a familiar face.

Anthony Iapoce is set to join Joe Maddon's coaching staff this week after serving in the same capacity with the Texas Rangers for the last three seasons. The Cubs confirmed the move Monday afternoon shortly after the news broke out of the Rangers camp.

The Cubs fired Chili Davis last week after just one season as the team's hitting coach.

Entering the final week of the season, the Rangers fired manager Jeff Banister, leaving Iapoce and the rest of the Texas coaching staff in limbo.

As such, Iapoce is rejoining the Cubs, where he served as a special assistant to the General Manager from 2013-15 focusing on player development, particularly in the hitting department throughout the minor leagues.

Iapoce has familiarity with a bunch of the current star offensive players on the Cubs, from Willson Contreras to Kris Bryant. 

Both Bryant and Contreras endured tough 2018 seasons at the plate, which was a huge reason for the Cubs' underperforming lineup. Bryant's issue was more related to a left shoulder injured suffered in mid-May while Contreras' offensive woes remain a major question mark after the young catcher looked to be emerging as a legitimate superstar entering the campaign.

Getting Contreras back to the hitter that put up 21 homers and 74 RBI in only 117 games in 2017 will be one of the main goals for Iapoce, so the history between the two could be a key.

With the Rangers, Iapoce oversaw an offense that ranked 7th, 9th and 14th in MLB in runs scored over the last three seasons. The decline in offensive production is obviously not a great sign, but the Rangers as a team have fallen off greatly since notching the top seed in the AL playoffs in 2016 with 95 wins only to lose 95 games in 2018, resulting in the change at manager.

Iapoce has worked with an offense backed by Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Shin-Soo Choo, Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo the last few seasons.

Under Iapoce's tutelage, former top prospect Jurickson Profar shed any notion of a "bust" label and emerged as a budding star at age 25, collecting 61 extra-base hits with a .793 OPS in 2018.

When the Cubs let Davis go last week, they provided no update on assistant hitting coach Andy Haines, who just finished his first season in that role and is expected to remain with the team for 2019. The same offseason Iapoce left for the Rangers, Haines took over as the Cubs' minor league hitting instructor.