Cubs

Cubs: Wade Davis' takeaways from trying to defend a World Series title

Cubs: Wade Davis' takeaways from trying to defend a World Series title

MESA, Ariz. — Wade Davis scanned the clubhouse in the spring-training complex and called the Cubs "a crazy talented group," saying there are 10 or 12 players who are among the best in all of Major League Baseball.

That's where Davis would set the baseline, looking ahead at a roster layered with high-end talent, youth, versatility and playoff experience. Not finding a deeper meaning in how the Kansas City Royals went from losing a World Series Game 7 in 2014 to winning the 2015 World Series to finishing last season at 81-81.

"I don't think I bought into that whole 'tired' or 'hangover' thing," Davis said. "I didn't think that was the case, because you get the whole winter to get rid of that and get after it."

It still might have caught up to Davis, who made 140 appearances and pitched in 20 more playoff games during those two pennant-winning seasons combined. A flexor strain in his right forearm twice put the All-Star closer on the disabled list last year, when the Royals sunk to third place in the American League Central.

"I don't think there was like a mentality that changed," Davis said. "We just didn't have all the pieces that we needed to have."

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Kansas City's season pivoted during a collision last May, when All-Star third baseman Mike Moustakas tore the ACL in his right knee and Gold Glove outfielder Alex Gordon broke his right wrist. The year after finishing third in the AL MVP voting, dynamic center fielder Lorenzo Cain stayed healthy enough to play in only 103 games. The pitching-and-defense formula didn't carry over for a team that put up a 4.67 rotation ERA and dropped from third to 17th in defensive efficiency.

Davis doesn't care about Cactus League stats (14.40 ERA) and gets the benefit of the doubt after being such a lights-out reliever in the postseason (0.84 ERA, 46 strikeouts in 32.1 innings). Manager Joe Maddon has insisted that Davis looks good in terms of velocity, movement and mechanics, suggesting the injury concerns are overblown.

But again staying healthy will be a huge issue for a Cubs team that won the National League pennant at a time when the Los Angeles Dodgers didn't seem to truly trust anyone on their pitching staff beyond Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill and Kenley Jansen. The Cleveland Indians somehow made it to the 10th inning of a World Series Game 7 without Carlos Carrasco or a full-strength Danny Salazar.

The dynamics of that entire playoff run might have changed if the ball Javier Baez hit off Johnny Cueto hadn't landed in the Wrigley Field basket for a 1-0 win over the San Francisco Giants in Game 1.

"There are definitely a lot of things that have to go your way in some situations," Davis said. "Sometimes, you just go out and beat the crap out of people. Sometimes, you need that flyball to drop or that ball to just go foul or whatever it might be. That's kind of the lucky part of the game."

Cardinals meet with Keuchel and Ryu as they look to fill out rotation, per report

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USA TODAY

Cardinals meet with Keuchel and Ryu as they look to fill out rotation, per report

The Cardinals met with the representatives of free agent starters Dallas Keuchel and Hyun-Jin Ryu at the Winter Meetings this week, according to MLB.com’s Jon Morosi.

St. Louis has an opening in their rotation, as longtime Cardinal Michael Wacha agreed to a one-year deal with the Mets Wednesday. They could address that vacancy internally, with candidates including Carlos Martinez, Alex Reyes, Austin Gomber and Daniel Ponce de Leon. Each comes with questions, however.

Martinez has dealt with shoulder problems the past two seasons and underwent a "small procedure" to address soreness in October. He moved to the bullpen in August 2018 as a result and was the Cardinals closer last season.

Reyes was once a top Cardinals prospect, but he’s pitched in just 17 games (six starts) since his 2016 — his rookie campaign. He underwent season-ending surgery in 2017 (Tommy John) and 2018 (torn lat).

Gomber posted a 4.26 ERA in 11 starts in 2018 while making 18 more appearances in relief. He didn’t pitch in the big leagues last season. Ponce de Leon started eight of his 13 appearances last season, posting a 4.15 ERA out of the rotation.

Keuchel or Ryu would be an upgrade over the uncertainty that comes with the four aforementioned candidates. Keuchel isn’t an annual Cy Young Award contender, but he holds a 3.77 ERA in 102 starts since winning the award with the Astros in 2015.

Ryu won the National League ERA title (2.32) with the Dodgers last season and holds a career 2.98 ERA in 126 games (125 starts). He’s dealt with a fair share of injuries in his career and underwent surgery on a torn left labrum in 2015. Teams will be wary of Ryu’s injury-riddled past, but he’s a frontline starter when healthy.

The Cardinals rotation is currently made up of Jack Flaherty, Miles Mikolas, Adam Wainwright and Dakota Hudson.

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Cubs Talk Podcast: Are the Cubs are starting from scratch?

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Are the Cubs are starting from scratch?

The crew wraps up the week for the Cubs on the final day of the Winter Meetings in San Diego

David Kaplan and Tony Andracki are joined by MLB Pipeline writer Jim Callis to discuss the Cubs trying to replenish the farm system that is barren (1:30).

They also talk about some potential deals the Cubs could make and the returns by trading catcher Wilson Contreras (7:20), or former MVP Kris Bryant (14:30).

Listen to the episode here or in the embedded player below.

Cubs Talk Podcast

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