Cubs

Cubs: Javier Baez getting back in the swing of things in Triple-A

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Cubs: Javier Baez getting back in the swing of things in Triple-A

Javier Baez is back on a baseball diamond.

The Cubs' enigmatic young hitter made his season debut Thursday night with Triple-A Iowa, going 1-for-6 with a double and three strikeouts.

"I guess it went well," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "I didn't hear anything bad.

"I just heard everything was well, he's fine and we'll just keep moving it forward. But nothing spectacular one way or the other."

[RELATED - Why Cubs bet big on Jon Lester (and won’t look back)]

Baez spent some time away from the game with family after his sister, Noely, passed away at the age of 21 on April 8, the day before Iowa's first game.

Baez spent more than a week at the Cubs' complex in Arizona at the end of April, tuning up for game action.

"It's been pretty tough, but I learned to deal with stuff," Baez told the Des Moines Register. "No matter what happens, we've got to keep going."

Baez hit 76 home runs in the minor leagues before earning a promotion to in early August last season. He hit nine homers and drove in 20 runs in 52 games, but also struck out 95 times and batted just .169.

He then hit just .182 with one homer and one RBI in spring training before being sent back down to Triple-A.

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans]

Baez was a consensus Top 10 prospect last season and is still just 22 years old. There is more than enough time for him to turn things around and join a Cubs lineup that now has Kris Bryant and Addison Russell packed into it.

And that's exactly what Baez's goal is, according to his interview with the Des Moines Register.

"I'm just trying to make it to the big leagues again as soon as I can," he said.

Cubs agree to deal with free agent outfielder Steven Souza, per report

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USA TODAY

Cubs agree to deal with free agent outfielder Steven Souza, per report

The Cubs have made a roster move.

According to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, the Cubs and outfielder Steven Souza have agreed to a one-year, big-league deal. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal first reported Friday the two sides were nearing an agreement.

Souza, 30, missed the 2019 season after suffering a torn left ACL and LCL at the end of spring training. He also missed a chunk of 2018, playing 72 games while hitting the injured list on multiple occasions. The Diamondbacks non-tendered him last month.

Souza is a career .233/.323/.417 hitter with 70 home runs in five seasons. His best campaign came with the Rays in 2017: .239/.351/.459, 30 home runs, 78 RBIs and a 121 wRC+ — all career-bests, excluding his average. He sported a walk rate (13.6 percent) above league average (8.5) that season, though his strikeout rate (29 percent) was worse than average (23).

Signing Souza likely rules out a return of fan favorite outfielder Nicholas Castellanos. The Cubs have been linked to Castellanos throughout the offseason, but since they're looking to stay under MLB’s luxury tax threshold, re-signing Castellanos would require some financial maneuvering.

Souza has spent most of his career in right field (3,608 career innings) but has minimal experience playing center (33 1/3) and left (20). He’s above average in right (career 6 Defensive Runs Saved) and posted a career best 7 DRS in 2017.

The Cubs have a five-time Gold Glove right fielder in Jason Heyward, so Souza will see time at all three outfield spots. Heyward moved to center full-time last season after the Cubs acquired Castellanos and has played center at times throughout his career.

He's coming off a serious knee injury, but Souza is a low-risk, high-reward move for the Cubs. If he's healthy, he’ll add power to the middle of the order and add another bat to an outfield group with some question marks. Albert Almora Jr. and Ian Happ have each struggled offensively at times since 2018. Souza offers another option in case those two slump again, with room for a larger role.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Is Kris Bryant the new Curt Flood?

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Is Kris Bryant the new Curt Flood?

This has been the offseason of Kris Bryant rumors and with his grievance still unresolved Cubs fans can only speculate what will happen to the MVP. Is Kris Bryant trying to change the system like Curt Flood did? Host David Kaplan is joined by ESPN Chicago's Jesse Rogers to discuss Bryant's future as a Cub, and the lackluster offseason the Cubs have had.

(1:50) - Why the Cubs have not made any moves so far

(3:32) - Is Kris Bryant the new Curt Flood?

(6:26) - Cubs need upgrades, specifically in the bullpen

(9:10) - Will the Cubs make a big move before the season starts?

(11:30) - Does Javy Baez get the big extension?

(14:45) - Will the Cubs get to 86 wins this year?

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

Cubs Talk Podcast

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