Cubs

Cubs sign Ian Happ hoping he's the next big hitter on deck

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Cubs sign Ian Happ hoping he's the next big hitter on deck

The Cubs have Ian Happ on deck, hoping he will be another college hitter who moves rapidly through their farm system.

The Cubs reached an agreement with Happ, two sources confirmed Monday, giving the University of Cincinnati outfielder/second baseman a $3 million bonus and creating some financial flexibility to help sign other players from this year’s draft class.   

The below-slot deal – Major League Baseball assigned a value of $3.351 million to the No. 9 overall pick – will be formally announced once Happ passes a physical.

After a stop at the team’s Arizona complex, Happ will likely head to Eugene, the Class-A affiliate in Oregon that begins its short-season Northwest League schedule this week. 

[MORE: Jon Lester back on track - 'Tonight was back to being me']

Happ certainly fits a Cubs Way profile, getting on base around 46 percent of the time during his three seasons as a Bearcat and finishing his college career with more walks (128) than strikeouts (116).

Happ is a switch-hitter who climbed the draft board during a standout junior year, batting .369 with 18 doubles, 14 homers, 44 RBI and a 1.164 OPS.

The Cubs didn’t draft Happ for his glove and will figure out the defensive fit later, knowing manager Joe Maddon values versatility.

“I don’t think I have one position as my best right now,” Happ said last week on draft night. “I’m comfortable in the outfield. I’m comfortable at second base. I’m excited to play whatever position the Cubs want me to play. I can’t wait to see where they want me.”

The Cubs have now used first-round picks on college hitters in each of the last three drafts, trying to build a relentless lineup that could play in the American League.

Kris Bryant – the No. 2 overall pick in 2013 – is already in the National League Rookie of the Year conversation. Kyle Schwarber – the No. 4 overall pick last year – is on his way to Wrigley Field.

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

So there will be big expectations for Happ, who’s listed at 6-foot-0 and 205 pounds and could wind up being a super-utility guy.

“I don’t see him being Kris Bryant or Kyle Schwarber in terms of the home-run power,” said Jason McLeod, the Cubs executive who oversees scouting and player development. “But at the same time, this is a guy who’s pretty physical.

“We definitely feel that there is strength there, and that he is a guy that’s going to be able to run into 15 home runs-plus, hitting for a high average. As you know, we’re really big on guys that control the strike zone and show that plate discipline. We trust our process and our evaluation on hitters, especially with college hitters.

“(After) all the workup that we did on him, we really feel that he was one of the top – if not the best – college hitter in this year’s draft. We feel really confident with that, and especially confident with who he is as a person. We feel he’s going to fit right in, along the lines of Kris Bryant and Kyle and some of the other guys that we’ve taken.”

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 10th, 11th homers in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 10th, 11th homers in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa is heating up, but even a red-hot Sosa doesn't automatically equal wins for the Cubs.

Slammin' Sammy notched his first multi-homer game in 1998 in a 9-5 loss to Kevin Millwood and the Atlanta Braves. Sosa drove in 4 of the Cubs' 5 runs on a solo shot in the 4th inning and a three-run shot in the 8th. 

Sosa tallied 830 feet of homers in the game, with his first blast going 410 feet and the second shot measured at 420 feet.

The big game bumped Sosa's overall season slash line to .337/.411/.551 (.962 OPS) with 11 homers and 35 RBI.

Fun fact: Mickey Morandini hit second for the Cubs in this game and went 4-for-4, but somehow only scored one run despite hitting just in front of Sosa all game. That's because Morandini was caught stealing to end the 3rd inning, leaving Sosa to lead off the 4th inning with a solo blast.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: If Cubs somehow miss the playoffs will Joe Maddon's seat start heating up?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: If Cubs somehow miss the playoffs will Joe Maddon's seat start heating up?

David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Nick Friedell (ESPN.com) and Patrick Finley (Chicago Sun-Times) join David Kaplan on the panel.

The guys discuss Welington Castillo’s 80-game PED suspension, the Cubs struggles and if Joe Maddon could be on the hot seat if the Cubs somehow miss the playoffs in 2018.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: