Cubs planning to maximize Aroldis Chapman in October

Cubs planning to maximize Aroldis Chapman in October

Aroldis Chapman’s natural power met the force of Javier Baez’s vicious swing during Tuesday afternoon’s scrimmage at Wrigley Field, the baseball literally bursting at the seams on a foul tip.

From the Ricketts family seats, you could see Chapman’s slider dart and hear his fastball pop inside an empty ballpark as the Cubs tried to stay sharp before Friday night’s Game 1 against the National League’s wild-card winner.

The San Francisco Giants tried to trade for Chapman, but couldn’t put together the 4-for-1 deal the Cubs made with the New York Yankees in late July. The Giants now have to beat New York Mets ace Noah Syndergaard in a one-game playoff on Wednesday night at Citi Field, primarily because their bullpen led the majors with 30 blown saves.

The Cubs rationalized the superstar closer’s 30-game suspension to begin this season under Major League Baseball’s domestic-violence policy by figuring they would rather be with Chapman in October than facing his 100-mph default-setting fastball.

The Cubs now have a ninth-inning answer for Jeurys Familia, who finished all four games for the Mets during last year’s NL Championship Series. The day after getting swept, Theo Epstein’s front office brainstormed ways to improve a 97-win team, from signing a big-game pitcher (John Lackey) to diversifying the lineup (Ben Zobrist) to improving the outfield defense (Jason Heyward) to controlling the running game (Willson Contreras).

The finishing piece would be Chapman, an upcoming free agent who joined a team that already had a 98.8-percent chance to make the playoffs on the Baseball Prospectus odds report and a 56-1 record when leading entering the ninth inning.

“There are certain attributes that you do keep in mind, that maybe take on greater emphasis in the postseason,” Epstein said, hours before Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter didn't use Zach Britton in a 5-2, 11-inning loss to the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League wild-card game. “One obvious example is your closer pitches to a much greater percentage of hitters in the postseason than he does in the regular season, because with the off-days, he can pitch every game. You’re more likely to use him for more than just three outs. And it’s the end of the year and everything’s on the line, so you put the ball in the hands of your best pitcher.

“That played into our trade for Chapman a little bit, to get a guy who’s that dominant and have him on your side in the postseason in some really big situations. We were certainly mindful of the postseason when we made that move.”

[MORE CUBS: Cubs officially unveil NLDS rotation]

After taking all questions – and describing a direct phone conversation with Chapman that became a precondition for the deal – the Cubs didn’t seem nearly as prepared for his first press conference with the Chicago media, the closer coming across as disinterested and the team ultimately forced to hire a new translator.

“I don’t think too many people think about that now when he’s on the mound,” Epstein said.

Not sure about that, but Chapman has been as good as advertised, going 16-for-18 in save chances with a 1.01 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 26.2 innings for the Cubs, creating a moment of suspense before his velocity is shown on the Wrigley Field video board.

In the end, the Cubs traded for Chapman to get the final out of the World Series, and anything short of that will be an epic disappointment.

“Chapman’s been wonderful as a Cub,” Epstein said. “He’s fit in great in the clubhouse. The behavior’s been exactly what you had asked for since he’s been here. And he’s been outstanding on the mound. Guys love having him around. That’s certainly a trade that we’re glad that we made. Love having him as part of this team.”

Bold predictions for the Cubs' 2019-20 offseason


Bold predictions for the Cubs' 2019-20 offseason

The Cubs are just a couple of weeks away from a pivotal offseason that could see a lot of change coming to Chicago's North Side.

Then again, we thought the same thing a year ago and it turned out Theo Epstein's biggest move last winter was signing Daniel Descalso to a two-year deal.

But after missing the playoffs in 2019, the Cubs are now at a crossroads as an organization. 

The NBC Sports Chicago crew previewed the offseason on the latest CubsTalk Podcast with some bold predictions for the winter.

Listen here and check out the fearless calls below:

(Note: Rationale and more context on each bold prediction in the podcast.)

David Kaplan

1. Cubs are going to take a page out of the Yankees' book and retool on the fly rather than go all-in to contend in 2020.
2. Jose Quintana has thrown his last pitch as a Cub.
3. This will be the second-to-last offseason for Theo Epstein as the Cubs president of baseball operations.

Kelly Crull 

1. Cubs re-sign Nick Castellanos and trade away Kyle Schwarber.
2. Tyler Chatwood will be in the 2020 rotation.
3. John Lackey will be named quality assurance coach on David Ross's coaching staff. (Kidding, but only kind of...)

Tony Andracki

1. Before the Cubs play a Spring Training game, Javy Baez will sign an extension that will keep him in Chicago through at least 2023.
2. Willson Contreras will be traded this winter and the Cubs will get some much-needed pitching help in return.
3. Cubs sign Howie Kendrick this winter as the professional bat and lefty-masher they craved in 2019.
4. Ben Zobrist will return on a one-year deal and finish his playing career in a Cubs uniform.
5. David Bote, Albert Almora Jr. and Addison Russell will all be traded or non-tendered this winter as the Cubs remake their bench/depth.

Jeff Nelson

1. Willson Contreras will sign a contract extension.
2. Ben Zobrist will return as a player/coach.
3. Jose Quintana will be traded for minor league depth.
4. Terrance Gore will be signed to be the 26th man on the roster under the new rules.

Theo Epstein’s dog damages Arizona rental property with excessive urine

USA Today

Theo Epstein’s dog damages Arizona rental property with excessive urine

In the midst of an intensive hiring process for the new Cubs manager, Theo Epstein is being sued by an Arizona couple claiming Epstein’s dog, Winston, damaged their house. The cause of damage? Peeing excessively inside the property Epstein rented for spring training in 2015.

Yes, you read that right, Epstein’s dog peed so much he’s being sued.

The lawsuit was filed this Tuesday in Maricopa County, according to the Phoenix New Times, citing Epstein’s dog left “a terrible odor and urine-stained carpeting” in the Paradise Valley, Ariz., home where he and his family stayed.

Winston is a rescue mutt, weighing in at around ten pounds. He can’t pee that much, right?

The lawsuit states the dog "peed prolifically in the $1 million house, staining tile and stone flooring, wood door jams, cabinets, and furniture."

John and Mary Valentino referenced a 2017 quote by Epstein as proof that Winston had a peeing problem. When asked about being named the world’s greatest leader by Fortune magazine after the Cubs 2016 World Series win, Epstein said: “I can’t even get my dog to stop peeing in the house.”

Epstein left the rental property two weeks early due to a scorpion infestation later was shown a repair estimate of $51,405, according to the report.

Julian Green, the Cubs vice president of communications, told the New Times the lawsuit was “baseless.” He also said that an exterminator discovered 45 scorpions on the property that “put (Epstein’s) family at risk every time they put their children to sleep.” The Epsteins moved into a different house for the last two weeks of spring training.

The owners kept the $5,000 security deposit, and according to a source the Epsteins did not hear from them again for more than four years until the suit was filed Tuesday.

When asked about the lawsuit, Epstein replied, “As I said, we have no untouchables. Winston is definitely available in the right trade.”

We’ll be keeping tabs on this story as it unfolds. In the meantime, it’s good to see Epstein still has a sense of humor, even with a dog urine lawsuit and a Cubs managerial search on the line.

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