Cubs

Cubs make minor leagues a family affair

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Cubs make minor leagues a family affair

The Cubs poured almost 12 million into the 2011 amateur draft, tossing lofty signing bonuses at their top picks.

They won't be able to do that anymore with the new CBA rules, but the organization already has something very rare.

In rounds 10 and 11 of the recent draft, the Cubs selected two legacies in Shawon Dunston, Jr. -- son of longtime Cub Shawon Dunston, Sr. -- and Daniel Lockhart -- son of Cubs scout and former Major Leaguer Keith Lockhart.

Add to that the Brenly connection -- father Bob is the popular TV analyst while son Michael is a Single-A catcher -- and the Cubs truly have something unique.

The 2012 Convention came to a close at the Hilton in Chicago with an hour-long session on the father-son connection within the organization.

"A father and son playing catch together is a longstanding tradition in baseball," host Wayne Messmer said. "It doesn't always turn out where either play pro ball. In this case, we have three cases where both played pro ball."

Bob is the more traveled of the fathers, having played nine seasons in the MLB with the Giants and Blue Jays before retiring and becoming a coach. His first year as a manager came in 2001 with the Arizona Diamondbacks, who topped the New York Yankees for the World Series title.

Michael was 15 at the time and served as the team's bat boy during that postseason.

"Obviously, being in the game of baseball, your ultimate goal is to win the World Series, either as a player or a coach, a scout, a manager," the elder Brenly said. "It was great for Michael to be able to be a part of that."

Bob used the opportunity as a teaching lesson for his teenage son.

"Michael was around for all seven games of the 2001 World Series," he said. "We went to his teachers a week before to get his homework assignments and he had to complete them all before the World Series started or he didn't get to be the bat boy.

"There's a price to pay to be around the Major League clubhouse. I've always felt it's a real privilege to put on a Major League uniform and walk into that clubhouse. If I didn't think that he had the proper respect and knew his place around the team, I probably wouldn't have let him."

Michael, who was drafted by the Cubs in the 36th round of the '08 draft, decided to follow in his father's footsteps in becoming a catcher, but the 25-year-old is not living in his dad's shadow.

"Anybody who has a 'famous' father or mother, there's certain expectations. For some people, that's a tall mountain to climb, even when the father is a .249 career hitter like me," Bob deadpanned.

"Michael has done very well for himself. I think he would be where he is if his name was Jones or Smith or whatever."

Keith didn't spend his playing career in Chicago, either, but he did play alongside a Cubs icon for several years. Just before the start of the 1997 season, Lockhart was traded from the Royals to Atlanta, where he joined the likes of Greg Maddux in the midst of the Braves' dynasty.

While the other two fathers had a hand in helping advance their son's careers, Keith was directly responsible for actually getting Daniel's professional career started. The Cubs scout was asked to write a report on his own son and the organization wound up selecting the young infielder in the 10th round. It was Keith's first-ever draft pick.

"It was really different," Keith said. "I was on both sides of the fence as a dad and a scout."

Shawon, Sr. is the only one of the three fathers to have been on the Cubs during their playing days and he was a fan favorite during his 11 years on the North Side.

The Cubs made the high-energy shortstop their first overall pick in the 1982 draft. It was because of that opportunity that his son signed with the organization almost three decades later.

The Dunstons had a choice after Shawon, Jr. was drafted -- either send him to college at Vanderbilt or release him into the world of professional baseball. A 1.275 million signing bonus helped sway the family.

Shawon, Sr. admitted the only two teams his son would have skipped college for were the Cubs and Giants, where the elder Dunston currently works as a special assistant.

"I'm very hard on my son," Shawon, Sr. said. "In high school, he had to maintain a 3.5 GPA. If he had a 3.4, he didn't play. He doesn't understand right now, but I tell him 'you'll hate me now, but you'll love me later.'"

If Shawon, Jr. makes good on his potential, that fatherly advice could go a long way.

No momentum yet on potential Cubs-Zobrist reunion

No momentum yet on potential Cubs-Zobrist reunion

SAN DIEGO — Theo Epstein's front office has a lot of difficult decisions to make this winter, but Ben Zobrist has yet to come up with his own tough answers.

The 2016 World Series MVP is currently a free agent after wrapping up his four-year deal with the Cubs. He played a major role on the team in September following a four-month absence to deal with a family matter. 

Zobrist, 38, said at the end of the season that he was unsure if he would call it quits after an impressive career or return for another season on the diamond. More than two months since he last put on a uniform, he still has not reached an answer:

If he does play another season, it would have to be in the right situation for his family. He's made enough money in his career and accomplished plenty — including hoisting a couple championship trophies — but he clearly still had the drive and desire to play, as he said in his September return.

The Cubs figure to be on the short list of teams that would make sense for Zobrist given the mutual familiarity, a home in Chicago and how the entire organization supported him as he stepped away from the team to address his personal life.

It would seem to fit from the Cubs' perspective as well, since they talked all season long about how they missed Zobrist's professional at-bats and his presence inside the clubhouse. 

But there is no traction on the reunion front at the moment.

"I haven't talked to him recently," Epstein said Monday. "I've talked to him since the season ended, but it was more just checking in on his family. As far as baseball, he hadn't made a decision at that point. He was gonna wait a while before deciding what to do. He left open the possibility, but that was it."

The Cubs have an avenue for playing time next season at second base and potentially in the outfield for Zobrist and they are currently searching for leadoff options. He proved he can still play at his advanced age by hitting .284/.388/.377 in September after months away from the game. He isn't an everyday guy anymore, but can still provide value as a role player.

If Zobrist decides to give it one more go, the price would have to be right for the financially-hamstrung Cubs, but a reunion would make a lot of sense for both sides.

Angels' search for catching help could lead them to Willson Contreras

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USA TODAY

Angels' search for catching help could lead them to Willson Contreras

Could we see a Willson Contreras-Joe Maddon reunion in Los Angeles?

According to Maria Torres of the Los Angeles Times, the Angels are “heavily engaged in the catcher market,” and are having “active conversations with two teams” regarding a trade for a catcher.

Torres didn’t specifically mention Contreras, but he’s one of several Cubs who have been linked to trade rumors this offseason. The Cubs aren’t looking to enter another all-out rebuild, but they’re keeping the future of the organization in mind following a disappointing 84-win season.

The Cubs farm system has grown barren of impact talent. They’ve struggled to develop big-league starting pitching under team president Theo Epstein. Their payroll is projected to exceed MLB’s luxury tax threshold for a second straight season, meaning they’d encounter a 30 percent luxury tax on their overages and see their draft position drop 10 spots, should they exceed the $208 million threshold by $40 million or more.

Trading Contreras — who’s projected to make $4.5 million via arbitration next season — won’t solve the financial problem. However, trading him could net the Cubs the type of blue-chip prospects they desperately need to replenish their farm system.

Contreras is also under team control through 2022, so there’s not a huge rush to deal the two-time All-Star. But if the Cubs sense he’s unlikely to sign a contract extension now or in the future, they must do their due diligence on him and see what they could acquire in a potential trade. The same is true for Javier Báez, Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber.

The Angels have one top 100 prospect, (outfielder Jo Adell — No. 5 overall), according to MLB Pipeline, so what Los Angeles could offer the Cubs is questionable. Epstein and Co. won’t trade their backstop for the sake of doing so, especially if they deem any offers to be unsatisfactory.  

Contreras hit .272/.355/.533 with 24 home runs and 64 RBIs last season. He’d be a major addition for the Angels, whose catchers posted a combined .221/.293/.344 slash line with 15 home runs and 61 RBIs. The 27-year-old also has a special bond with former Cubs/current Angels manager Joe Maddon.

Contreras posted a heartfelt good-bye to Maddon on Instagram after the Cubs announced they weren’t retaining the manager for 2020. Contreras later commissioned a painting of he and Maddon as a gift for his former skipper.

Monday, Maddon said it’s “weird” to hear Bryant and Contreras mentioned in trade rumors, adding that he likes both players. 

The Angels aren't definitively linked to Contreras and Epstein recently advised to take rumors with a "mouthful of salt." But considering the Angels are reportedly seeking a catching upgrade, it won't be a surprise to see that change soon.