Cubs reinforce bullpen with Tommy Hunter, trading Junior Lake to Orioles


Cubs reinforce bullpen with Tommy Hunter, trading Junior Lake to Orioles

MILWAUKEE — The Cubs finished their dealing at the deadline on Friday by trading outfielder Junior Lake to the Baltimore Orioles for reliever Tommy Hunter.

Hunter should give manager Joe Maddon another option for high-leverage situations, strengthening a Cubs bullpen that’s been dominating, overworked and unpredictable.

Hunter emerged as a key piece for Buck Showalter’s bullpen in Baltimore, putting up a 2.97 ERA in 60 appearances and saving 11 games for a 96-win team last season. The year before, Hunter accounted for 86-plus innings, finishing with a 2.81 ERA and a 0.985 WHIP.

As president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said, the Cubs like to take pitchers from the American League and see how their talents translate in the National League. Like Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop, who played with Hunter in Baltimore and have thrived since that change-of-scenery trade two years ago.

[MORE: Cubs bolster rotation, trade for Dan Haren at deadline]   

Arrieta and Strop stood in front of their lockers before a game against the Milwaukee Brewers. While Arrieta chatted with reporters and raved about Hunter’s power curveball and strong cutter, Strop chimed in with: “He’s crazy, too.”

“He talks a lot,” Arrieta said. “He’s got a good personality. He’s like a big teddy bear.”

At which point another player in the visiting clubhouse said Hunter’s like a big teddy bear that wants to kick you in the face.

Hunter is 29 years old, right-handed and set to become a free agent after this season. He’s owed almost $1.7 million for the stretch run and will apparently give this team an edge.

The Texas Rangers initially drafted Hunter out of the University of Alabama with the No. 54 pick in 2007. He spent some time in the Texas rotation before getting packaged with slugger Chris Davis in the Koji Uehara trade on July 30, 2011.

At the age of 25, Lake needed the chance to play somewhere else and will go to Baltimore’s Triple-A affiliate. To add Hunter, the Cubs also designated reliever Ben Rowen for assignment.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Lake had been a bigger prospect than Starlin Castro coming out of the Dominican Republic. The two had been roommates on the same path — until Castro made the leap and blossomed into an All-Star shortstop.

Lake gave the Cubs a spark in 2013, hitting six homers with 16 doubles in 64 games. But he couldn’t nail down a big-league job last season, striking out 110 times in 308 at-bats. He’s still an interesting combination of power (.826 career OPS on the Triple-A level) and speed (128 stolen bases in the minors) for Baltimore. 

But the Cubs have already identified their core hitters for the future and need someone like Hunter to get big outs right now.

“He’s really going to help us,” Arrieta said. “He’s very attentive of the finer details, who’s coming up, who they have coming off the bench, what this guy likes to hit. He’s going to be a presence in the clubhouse and in our ‘pen.”

Cubs Talk Podcast: Covering the MLB All-Star Game from the media’s perspective


Cubs Talk Podcast: Covering the MLB All-Star Game from the media’s perspective

NBC Sports Chicago’s own Kelly Crull and videographer Scott Changnon recalled what All-Star week in the nations capitol was like from their point of view.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:


Cubs, Bears, Bulls among the top 25 wealthiest sports teams in the world


Cubs, Bears, Bulls among the top 25 wealthiest sports teams in the world

What Chicago sports team is worth the most money in 2018?

As reported by Kurt Badenhausen in a Forbes article about the 50 richest teams around the globe, the Cubs are the most valuable organization in the Windy City.

Chicago’s North Side baseball team ranks as the 16th wealthiest team in the world, valued at $2.9 billion, an 8 percent increase from 2017. The Cubs are the third-most affluent franchise in Major League Baseball, behind the New York Yankees ($4 billion) and the Los Angeles Dodgers ($3 billion).

This year, the baseball club owned by the Ricketts family surpassed the wealth of the Boston Red Sox ($2.8 billion), who the Cubs were ranked behind last season at $2.68 billion. In the span of a year, the North Siders gained two spots in the top 50 from 18 to 16 on the list.

What could be the reason for this increase?

Could it be that the Cubs are in first place in the NL Central? Or could it be the incredible performances from players like Jon Lester and Javy Baez?

Whatever the reason is for the Cubs’ prosperity, the team is doing something right.

The club also surpassed the Bears on the list this year. In 2017 the Bears (worth $2.7 billion last year) were tied with the Red Sox as the 16th most valuable sports team on Earth. The McCaskey-owned football team has fallen to a tie at 17 with the San Francisco Giants, both valued at $2.85 billion in 2018. The Bears even increased by 6 percent in the last year, making the Cubs’ jump seem greater.

The Bulls, owned by Jerry Reinsdorf, are the last team from Chicago to make the cut. They stand at 23 in the top 50, tied with the Denver Broncos. Both franchises are worth $2.6 billion. Chicago’s NBA team even fell a spot from 2017, but they still increased their value by 4 percent (worth $2.5 billion last year).

The Bears are the seventh richest team in the NFL, while the Bulls are fourth wealthiest in the NBA.