Cubs

Cubs should keep their eyes on Jordan Zimmermann

5-25-jordan-zimmermann.png

Cubs should keep their eyes on Jordan Zimmermann

Denard Span walked toward Wrigley Field’s visiting dugout on Monday morning and noticed Jordan Zimmermann talking with two reporters.

“He’s not signing with the Cubs,” Span said, disappearing down into the tunnel and writing the lede even before his first-inning leadoff home run slammed off the right-field video board for the Washington Nationals, setting the tone in a 2-1 victory.

Unless something dramatically changes, Zimmermann also isn’t signing with the Nationals, at least not right now, not this close to hitting the open market, not with Washington having to make so many difficult decisions on its core players.

The Cubs have kept their eyes on Zimmermann for a long time, identifying him as a top target as they look for potential opportunities to upgrade as this window of contention begins to open.

The Cubs will get another up-close look at Zimmermann (4-2, 3.52 ERA) on Tuesday night, and it’s not too early to start daydreaming about the 29-year-old right-hander in a rotation that already features Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta.

“Obviously, they got a good ballclub full of young talent,” Zimmermann said. “I’m not looking forward to free agency quite yet. I’m focused on this year and trying to win a World Series with the Nats.”

[MORE CUBS: Bryce Harper takes aim at Wrigley Field]

The file goes back to at least Zimmermann’s time at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, when current Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio helped out the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh program and watched him dominate Division III hitters.

The Chicago Sun-Times jumped the gun during the general manager meetings last November, reporting the Cubs were in talks to acquire Zimmermann. A Cubs official immediately and unequivocally shot down that report.

Two agents at the Arizona Biltmore floated the theory the Nationals would try to smoke out interest in a Zimmermann trade and make a play for Max Scherzer, who would go to Washington on a seven-year, $210 million megadeal.

“It is what it is,” Zimmermann said. “You never know what’s going to happen in baseball. Obviously, when they signed Max, I figured I’d probably be getting traded someplace. But (Nationals GM) Mike Rizzo called me and said I’m staying put.

“That was a weight off my shoulders there. I didn’t have to worry about it and could get ready for spring training knowing I was going down to Florida.”

There were rumblings that Zimmermann’s camp would use Lester’s contract as a baseline and want to make a deal somewhere north of that reference point.

[MORE CUBS: Like Cubs, Bryce Harper would've stuck Kris Bryant in minors]

It’s unclear if the Cubs will really have the resources to go all-in again and top six years and $155 million for another frontline pitcher. There should also be several other options this winter (David Price, Jeff Samardzija, etc.).

But Theo Epstein’s front office has been creative while working within the franchise’s financial limitations. To get through October, the Cubs will have to buy or trade for pitching after assembling so many young hitters. 

Zimmermann also has strong roots in the Midwest, growing up in Auburndale, Wisconsin, which is about four hours northwest of Wrigley Field.

“I’m not going to get into that right now,” Zimmermann said. “I’m just focused on the year, and we’ll see what this offseason brings.”

In terms of mileage, Zimmermann has pitched less than 1,000 innings in the big leagues, recovering from Tommy John surgery in 2009. He won 19 games in 2013 and has been an All-Star and received Cy Young votes in each of the last two seasons.

The Nationals selected Zimmermann in the second round of the 2007 draft, and he’s helped them grow into one of the game’s premier franchises.

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

The Nationals viewed the Cubs as a trading partner because they needed middle-infield protection in case All-Star shortstop Ian Desmond leaves after this season. Span and right-hander Doug Fister are also in their walk years, giving Washington a sense of urgency.   

Zimmermann knows what’s at stake, but he insists it won’t be a distraction. The Cubs will be watching.

“I don’t think there’s any added pressure,” Zimmermann said. “We’re here to play baseball. It’s something we’ve been doing our whole lives. Just because free agency is a year away – for me, anyway – it doesn’t add any pressure.

“I still have to go out there and throw the baseball and pitch well and do my job. And everything else will take care of itself.”

Ben Zobrist provides a hilarious glimpse into how he's spending a free October

Ben Zobrist provides a hilarious glimpse into how he's spending a free October

Ben Zobrist won't win the Comeback Player of the Year award this winter, but maybe he can take home a Grammy for Best New Artist?

The Cubs veteran infielder/outfielder posted a hilarious video on his Instagram Wednesday night showcasing how he's been spending October after the Cubs were unceremoniously ousted from the playoffs after on the third day of the month.

It's a fantastic music video of Zobrist lip-syncing to Mumford & Sons' "I Will Wait" while he nearly knocks the TV off the wall of his home by swinging the bat indoors pretending to hit off Clayton Kershaw and frolicking around a field that looks shockingly similar to Hershel's farm from the second season of "The Walking Dead":

View this post on Instagram

It always takes me a few weeks to process the season and begin the offseason. Here are my thoughts.....along with a unique way of making light of the postseason that should have been......... (special thanks to @dimtillard for help with Video) Maybe you feel the way I do. It was a very quick and abrupt ending to a good season for us. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth. But let’s not forget all the good that happened. This game and this team gives us something to pass the time, to express our love and passion, to feel the joy of the wins and the pains of the losses, and it calls us to unity when we so easily can be divided about so many other things. Each game is a microcosm of life. The game itself is not Life, but it helps us deal with life in a way. I’m thankful for even the painful losses at the end. The game can be a great teacher. I felt privileged to play with this team and play for our fans all year. We were stretched and we grew in new ways as individuals and as a group and that is always a good thing. We strive to win championships, but more often the process is the goal. We will be stronger because of all that we went through this year. What will I do now? I will travel and watch my wife crush her book tour. I will be in and out of Chi-town. I just got back home to Franklin, TN. I will find joy in raising and watching my kids grow and continue becoming their own person. I will rest and begin preparing for next season. I will work hard in mind, body, and spirit. I will help other players with @patriotforward and @showandgo. I will focus on personal growth and charitable endeavors and become a better man, teammate, friend, and player. To Baseball and Fans: For the next 5 months until I play next year.... I will wait for you....

A post shared by Ben Zobrist (@benzobrist18) on

Zobrist also posted a lengthy caption on his perspective on the Cubs' disappointing end to the season:

It always takes me a few weeks to process the season and begin the offseason. Here are my thoughts.....along with a unique way of making light of the postseason that should have been......... (special thanks to @dimtillard for help with Video) 
Maybe you feel the way I do. It was a very quick and abrupt ending to a good season for us. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth. But let’s not forget all the good that happened. This game and this team gives us something to pass the time, to express our love and passion, to feel the joy of the wins and the pains of the losses, and it calls us to unity when we so easily can be divided about so many other things. Each game is a microcosm of life. The game itself is not
Life, but it helps us deal with life in a way. I’m thankful for even the painful losses at the end. The game can be a great teacher. 
I felt privileged to play with this team and play for our fans all year. We were stretched and we grew in new ways as individuals and as a group and that is always a good thing. We strive to win championships, but more often the process is the goal. We will be stronger because of all that we went through this year. 
What will I do now? I will travel and watch my wife crush her book tour. I will be in and out of Chi-town. I just got back home to Franklin, TN. I will find joy in raising and watching my kids grow and continue becoming their own person. I will rest and begin preparing for next season. I will work hard in mind, body, and spirit. I will help other players with @patriotforward and @showandgo. I will focus on personal growth and charitable endeavors and become a better man, teammate, friend, and player. 
To Baseball and Fans: For the next 5 months until I play next year....
I will wait for you....

Come for the Zobrist lip sync, but stay for the 37-year-old using a bat as a guitar while wearing a sleeveless shirt and rocking an old-timey top hat.

A year ago, Zobrist completely reshaped his offseason workout plan after three straight years of playing deep into October. It appears he's added another new trick to his winter workout — hopping over fences even though there is a clear opening just a foot away.

Hey, whatever works...

Cubs Talk Podcast: Manny Machado’s value and other Cubs offseason wish list items

1012_manny_machado.jpg
USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Manny Machado’s value and other Cubs offseason wish list items

Did Manny Machado’s value take a hit at all after he openly admitted hustling isn’t his “cup of tea”? Our Cubs team (David Kaplan, Kelly Crull, Tony Andracki, Jeff Nelson) debate that, plus the potential fit of Machado or Bryce Harper for the 2019 Cubs and beyond.

[MORE: The most underrated storyline of the Cubs offseason]

The crew also runs down the top items on the Cubs’ offseason wish list – ranging from bullpen help to infield depth to a set leadoff hitter – in what may be the most impactful winter in Theo Epstein’s tenure in Chicago.

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