Cubs

Cubs motor onto sweep of Cardinals thanks to 'The Ian Happ Game'

Cubs motor onto sweep of Cardinals thanks to 'The Ian Happ Game'

Before Sunday night's game, Joe Maddon had a simple message on Ian Happ:

"Let's see what happens tonight. He's gonna get hot again. That's just who he is. That's his DNA.

"If you're concerned about him, don't be."

The rookie backed up his manager's vote of confidence, leading the Cubs to a sweep of the Cardinals with a 7-6 victory that could go down as "The Ian Happ Game."

Happ gave the Cubs the lead with a homer just inside the foul pole in the third inning. After the Cardinals came right back with four runs of their own, Happ took matters into his own hands and gave the Cubs the lead again with his second homer in as many innings.

This one was a two-out shot into the right-field bleachers and sent the 39,868 fans at Wrigley Field into an absolute frenzy.

The only louder cheer than the response to Happ's second homer was when he was pushed out of the dugout by his teammates and responded to the crowd's demand for a curtain call.

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Happ stroked 842 feet worth of homers, averaging 109 mph off the bat between the two blasts.

"The guy's got tools, man," Maddon said. "He's got tools and he's got a good baseball mind. Yeah, he's gonna strike out and yeah he's gonna look bad sometimes, but man, when it all comes together, you're really gonna enjoy it."

Three of Happ's four big-league homers have come against the Cardinals and he raised his OPS nearly 100 points on the evening (from .748 to .839).

Jon Jay and Albert Almora Jr. chipped in off the bench with pinch-hit RBI knocks to account for the rest of the Happ-less (not hapless) Cubs offense.

The Cubs' sweep was their first of the Cardinals at Wrigley Field since April 2006.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Laying out a Báez extension and why Contreras' trade value spiked

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Laying out a Báez extension and why Contreras' trade value spiked

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, David Kaplan gives his thoughts on what a Javier Báez extention could look like. He also discusses how Yasmani Grandal signing with the White Sox increases Willson Contreras' trade value.

1:25 - Will Cubs and Javy Báez agree on a contract extension?

3:44 - If Báez doesn't want to commit long term, do Cubs trade him now?

6:15 - Kap gives his proposed deal that Báez could accept.

8:41 - Will Cubs lock up other key players with same type of mentality?

10:52 - Will Cubs be willing to trade Willson Contreras?

11:55 - With Grandal to the White Sox, teams might be more willing to part with their best prospects with Contreras in a deal.

Listen to the entire episode here or in the embedded player below.

Cubs Talk Podcast

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Cubs showing interest in Korean pitcher Kwang-hyun Kim, report says

Cubs showing interest in Korean pitcher Kwang-hyun Kim, report says

The Cubs are one of several teams interested in Korean left-handed starter Kwang-hyun Kim, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (subscription required).

Kim, 31, has pitched with SK Wyverns in the KBO League since 2007. The team posted him on Friday, meaning he’s free to negotiate with all 30 MLB clubs. Kim was also posted in 2014, but the system between MLB and KBO has changed since then.

When KBO teams posted their players prior to 2018, interested MLB teams submitted blind bids for the exclusive right to negotiate with the player. The highest bidding MLB team had 30 days to negotiate a contract with the player if the KBO team viewed the bid as reasonable.

If the KBO player agreed to a big-league contract, the KBO team pocketed the bid. If he and the MLB team didn’t come to terms, the MLB team received their bid back. The Padres submitted the highest bid for Kim in 2014 ($2 million) but the two sides didn’t agree to terms.

The new system —  introduced in July 2018 — is much simpler: if a posted KBO player signs with an MLB team, his KBO team receives a transfer fee based on the size of his MLB contract. As was the case with the old system, players have 30 days to negotiate an MLB deal.

Got all that?

In 12 KBO seasons, Kim holds a 3.27 ERA in 298 games (276 starts) with 1,456 strikeouts in 1,673 2/3 innings. According to Sung Min Kim of the Lotte Giants (also KBO) R&D department, Kim’s repertoire includes a low-to-mid-90s fastball, an upper 80s slider with a sharp break and a slow curveball averaging 69 mph.

The KBO is a lower level of competition than MLB, but Kim could fill a hole on the Cubs’ pitching staff as a starter, reliever or both.

The Cubs have an opening in their rotation after not tendering Cole Hamels a qualifying offer (a one-year deal worth $17.8 million). That would’ve been very enticing for Hamels, but the Cubs payroll is already projected to be $219.8 million in 2020, not including any potential offseason acquisitions.

Hamels could return to the Cubs in free agency at a cheaper salary, but Tyler Chatwood is already under contract for 2020 at $13 million. Chatwood enjoyed a resurgent 2019 season as a reliever/occasional spot starter and has earned the right to compete for the No. 5 rotation spot next season, should Hamels sign elsewhere.

But with or without Chatwood in the bullpen, the Cubs will need to address their relief corps this offseason. The bullpen struggled to pitch in high leverage spots in 2019, and Steve Cishek, Derek Holland, Brandon Kintzler, Brandon Morrow and Pedro Strop are all free agents. And as things currently stand, Kyle Ryan is the only lefty reliever penciled into the 2020 Opening Day bullpen.

Kwang is experienced and would fill at least one need on the Cubs roster. The Cubs doing their due diligence on him can't hurt.

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