Cubs

Cubs send message in signing Edwin Jackson

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Cubs send message in signing Edwin Jackson

We interrupt all the drama surrounding the Bears at Halas Hall and Jabari Parkers episode of The Decision.
The Cubs have just sent a message to the citys skeptical press corps and fan base: Theyre willing to spend big on free agents again.
It just had to be the right player. Remaking their rotation, the Cubs signed Edwin Jackson and Carlos Villanueva on Thursday, according to sources familiar with the negotiations. Both deals are pending physicals, and neither contains a no-trade clause, per club policy.
In essence, Jackson represents the first big-time free agent to sign up for team president Theo Epsteins rebuilding project. But given the way the price of pitching has skyrocketed, the Cubs are no doubt hoping that Jacksons four-year, 52 million deal looks reasonable as more television money pours into the game.
This comes one week after Epstein and chairman Tom Ricketts met with Anibal Sanchez and his people in Miami before the Detroit Tigers finally realized the Cubs were actually serious and stepped up with a five-year, 80 million offer.
The Cubs werent crushed when they found out that Sanchez had decided to chase a World Series ring in Detroit. Its not unreasonable to think that Jackson who turned 29 in September could wind up being a better investment.
The career numbers arent off the charts (70-71 with a 4.40 ERA), but Jackson did develop into an All-Star with the Tigers in 2009 before earning a World Series ring with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011.
One game might sum up Jacksons mix of potential, strength and inconsistency: He managed to throw a no-hitter for the Arizona Diamondbacks on June 25, 2010 inside Tropicana Field, despite walking the Tampa Bay Rays eight times. He struck out six and pushed himself to 149 pitches.
A few weeks later, Arizona traded Jackson to the White Sox in the Daniel Hudson deal, so he knows the city, and how to adjust to a new environment.
Jacksons father, Edwin Sr., retired as a sergeant first class in the U.S. Army. The son was born in West Germany and went to high school in Columbus, Ga. The Los Angeles Dodgers actually took him as an outfielder in the sixth round of the 2001 draft before fully realizing whats in his right arm.
The Cubs appear to be betting that staying in one place will help, that manager Dale Sveum and pitching coach Chris Bosio can get Jackson to pitch to a game plan and tap into all that potential.
This is a power arm. Only seven pitchers in the majors averaged a higher velocity with their fastball than Jackson (93.5 mph) last season, according to the online database at Fangraphs: David Price; Jeff Samardzija; Matt Moore; Justin Verlander; Max Scherzer; Jordan Zimmerman; and Edinson Volquez.
People whove been around Jackson say hes a good clubhouse presence, suggesting that being traded six times doesnt mean hes a problem child. Its more that the stuff is so intriguing, and pitchers who can throw 200 innings dont come cheap.
The Cubs are willing to pay that price. Jackson accepted a one-year, 11 million pillow contract from the Washington Nationals last winter and parted ways with super-agent Scott Boras during the middle of a season in which he went 10-11 with a 4.03 ERA for a 98-win team.
The last time Jackson didnt make at least 31 starts was 2006. This is a sturdy piece to slide into the rotation alongside Samardzija.
The Cubs are hoping for full recoveries from Matt Garza (elbow) and Scott Baker (Tommy John surgery) by April. Arodys Vizcaino will take it slow in his Tommy John rehab, with projections putting him in the big leagues sometime in 2013. But they wont have to rush anyone with the depth provided by Villanueva, Scott Feldman and Travis Wood.
Sources indicated Villanueva has agreed to a two-year, 10 million contract. The 29-year-old right-hander has been a swingman with the Toronto Blue Jays and Milwaukee Brewers (33-35, 4.26 ERA). There were signs that the Cubs could just continue making those kinds of modest moves.
In what seemed to be turning into a running joke on Twitter, Garza had been burned welcoming Dan Haren and getting his hopes up for Sanchez when he thought those pitchers were coming to the North Side.
So Garza must have enjoyed posting this message on Thursday for his former teammate in Tampa Bay: Like I said last night, EJax is my boy! I heard it from a cubs horse last night!! That horse being EJax! Nice to have another in the stable!
This doesnt completely accelerate Epsteins timetable. The Sanchez deal was outlined with 2015 in mind. Jackson is still young enough that he can be a factor when the Cubs project theyll really start being contenders. But this at least makes the next two bridge years more interesting.
On a day where Simeons high school star announced hes going to Duke University, and it continued to be the Bears against the world, the Cubs made you pay attention.

As he decides what's next, it's clear Ben Zobrist has something left in the tank

As he decides what's next, it's clear Ben Zobrist has something left in the tank

When Ben Zobrist rejoined the Cubs active roster on Sept. 1, it was fair to wonder how much he could provide offensively. After all, he spent the previous four months on the restricted list while tending to a family matter, last playing a big-league game on May 6.

Zobrist did no baseball activities from May to mid-July, only working out to stay in shape. Although he eventually ramped things up, he played in just 12 minor league rehab games in August before returning to the Cubs, a small number compared to the length of his absence.

Even Zobrist admitted upon his big-league return that his timing at the plate wasn’t where he wanted it to be. And yet, what he did in September was nothing short of impressive. In 21 games, he posted a .284/.377/.388 slash line, performing at a level many couldn’t have expected, considering the circumstances.

Zobrist's impact on the Cubs' lineup goes beyond what you see in the box score, however. Not only is he a switch hitter with some pop, but he has a keen eye for the strike zone and frequently puts together professional at-bats.

On a Cubs team that tends to expand the zone, Zobrist’s presence mattered. In his second game back, for example, he went 3-for-3 with two walks, helping the Cubs beat the Brewers 10-5. After the game, Brewers starter Chase Anderson pointed out how different the Cubs' lineup looks with Zobrist in it.

"They play the matchups really well and Zobrist makes that team so much better," Anderson said on Sept. 5. "Just bringing his presence to the top of the lineup, it changes their dynamic a little bit."

Where Zobrist stands entering 2020, though, is currently unclear.

Zobrist is set to hit free agency after the World Series and will turn 39 next May. Therefore, it’s possible that he’s played his last game in the big leagues, as he has little, if anything, left to prove at this stage in his career.

Ahead of the Cubs’ season finale on Sept. 29, Zobrist told reporters in St. Louis that he hasn’t thought about how much time he’ll take before deciding what’s next for him. His family situation will obviously play a big role in his decision, but if September showed anything, it's that he still has something left in the tank.

“I’m 38 but I got that feeling all over again,” Zobrist said following the Cubs’ season finale, a 9-0 loss to the Cardinals in which he pitched a scoreless inning. “Just really fun, you know? It’s a fun game. Sometimes you don’t come out on the winning end, but you still gotta have fun with it and enjoy it. I enjoyed it today."

The Cubs roster is expected to undergo changes this offseason, with center field, second base and the leadoff spot being just a few areas the team will look to address. The latter two spots became revolving doors during Zobrist’s absence, as the Cubs struggled to replace what he brought offensively.

Zobrist is past the point in his career of being an everyday player. However, he still could be a useful asset for the Cubs in a supporting role, bringing his veteran approach to the lineup when he plays while still offering an experienced voice in the clubhouse.

“I take a lot of joy in that role, just being a supporting guy and being a part of winning clubs and part of winning atmospheres and cultures,” Zobrist said on Sept. 29. “The Chicago Cubs have been that since I’ve been around. This year we didn’t make the playoffs — we still have a winning record — (but) the kind of relationships that are built here and the culture that’s been built here is definitely a winning one.”

After the Cubs announced that they wouldn’t retain Joe Maddon for 2020, Zobrist acknowledged that more changes were likely coming in the offseason. Only time will tell what that means for the veteran utilityman — should he continue playing.

Whether he retires or joins a different team for 2020, though, Zobrist will look back on his four seasons with the Cubs fondly.

“(They’re) just the most passionate fans I’ve ever met,” he said of Cubs fans. “They’re very loyal, very passionate and it’s been such a pleasure to be a part of that team that beat the curse back in ’16, so I feel that still, when I see Cubs fans, there’s a lot of them that hug me and thank me for being a part of that.

“I’ll always look back at [my] time here — I don’t know what’s going to happen in the offseason — but look back at these four years and [be] very grateful to be able to be part of a group like this and be able to do what we did while I was here.”

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Cubs Talk Podcast: An ode to Joe Maddon and looking to the next era

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USA Today

Cubs Talk Podcast: An ode to Joe Maddon and looking to the next era

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, Tony Andracki, Kelly Crull, Scott Changnon and Jeff Nelson give us their memories of Joe Maddon's time with the Cubs and discuss David Ross and Joe Espada's candidacy to be the next manager.

01:30 Kelly's memories of Joe from the perspective of a reporter

06:00 Going back to Hazleton with Joe

07:45 Joe's legacy as manager of the Cubs

16:00 How Joe impacted Javy Baez' career

18:00 David Ross and Joe Espada may be the leaders to replace Joe Maddon.

Listen here or via the embedded player below:

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