Cubs should keep their eyes on Jordan Zimmermann


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.”

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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