Cubs

Cubs wave goodbye to Albert Pujols

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Cubs wave goodbye to Albert Pujols

DALLAS The other night Theo Epstein referred to Albert Pujols as The Big Kahuna.

Out of nowhere, the Los Angeles Angels emerged as the mystery team on Thursday morning, landing Pujols with a reported 10-year deal worth more than 250 million.

One day the Angels may wake up with a huge hangover, but they are now understandably giddy over the prospect of adding an iconic player to create must-see television and keep the turnstiles moving.

At this moment, the Cubs dont seem to have the appetite for that kind of megadeal. They were quiet at the winter meetings and left for the DallasFort Worth International Airport looking at incremental moves.

From a Cubs perspective, the Pujols decision could be looked at through two different prisms: Either the future Hall of Famer would leave the division, or force the St. Louis Cardinals to spend way beyond their means and cripple the payroll for years to come.

Epstein was asked about Pujols on Wednesday night, when the perception was that hed be returning to St. Louis and getting his statue outside Busch Stadium.

If he left, it would probably be a good thing for us in terms of developing young pitching, Epstein joked. You get a young pitcher up there and hes working on his third pitch and working on his fastball command. Youre telling him to get ahead, strike one, and then all of a sudden instead of a Triple-A hitter hes got Albert Pujols there.

(When) he can execute a pitch and it leaves the yard 420 to right-center field, its probably not good for his confidence.

Pujols hammered the Cubs over the years, generating 53 homers and 135 RBI in 174 games. In a surreal moment, Pujols created national news by hugging former general manager Jim Hendry behind the batting cage at Wrigley Field last season.

But it wouldnt have been a great fit on the North Side, where the Cubs are still trying to get out from under the huge contracts given to Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano.

Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto, who was hired only a few weeks ago, also handed out a five-year, 77.5 million contract to pitcher C.J. Wilson. Dipoto disputed the idea that Pujols is a player in decline.

I see Albert Pujols as the most consistent offensive player of his generation, Dipoto said. If a decline still places you in the top five MVP (vote, then go ahead). We understand that players will go through peaks and valleys. Albert has spent many years operating at the peaks. If you want to call a decline going from superhuman to just greatI dont think youve seen the last great days of Albert Pujols.

Pujols will turn 32 in January, but Dipoto wasnt worried about whispers that the slugger could actually be older than that.

Albert Pujols age, to me, is not a concern, Dipoto said. Hes an honorable man. I think hes a very respectful man and Im not a scientist. (I) can tell you he hits like hes 27.

The Cardinals have been a model of stability, but now Pujols is gone and Tony La Russa has retired. They got 11 great years out of Pujols, who became an institution in St. Louis. During that time, they finished under .500 only once, made the playoffs seven times and won two World Series titles.

The National League Central appears to be wide open, especially with Prince Fielder unlikely to return to the Milwaukee Brewers. Still, the Cubs arent expected to suddenly shift gears.

In this bizarro world, the Miami Marlins had reporters shadowing them while they walked through the Hilton Anatole toward the next possible blockbuster. In terms of buzz, the Cubs didnt exactly dominate the lobby.

At some point, the Cubs are going to need a bigger boat. But Epstein is committed to drafting well, signing international players and developing them in the system. That approach could eventually lead to a huge splash.

The most valuable commodity in the game these days is not dollars, Epstein said. Its prospects you project to be regulars or better, and good young players under control. Thats the swagger, because then the whole universe is open to you if you have those players to work with.

Potential Kris Bryant trade market becomes clearer after Anthony Rendon lands with Angels

Potential Kris Bryant trade market becomes clearer after Anthony Rendon lands with Angels

The first domino of this offseason’s third base market has fallen.

According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, free agent Anthony Rendon is set to sign a seven-year, $245 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels.

The Texas Rangers were also linked to Rendon in recent days, but they’ll now have to shift their focus elsewhere. Texas’ attention is now on the other superstar free agent third baseman — Josh Donaldson — as MLB.com’s TR Sullivan reported. The same can be said about Rendon’s former team, the Washington Nationals.

This leads us to the Cubs and Kris Bryant. With Rendon off the board and Donaldson soon to follow, a potential trade market for the Cubs third baseman is growing clearer.

Only one of the Rangers and Nationals can sign Donaldson, not to mention his most recent team — the Atlanta Braves. When Donaldson’s domino falls, two of these teams will be left empty-handed in their pursuit of a third baseman.

The Los Angeles Dodgers also were linked to Rendon, though they don’t necessarily need a third baseman with Justin Turner manning the hot corner. Their pursuit of Rendon points to how they’re willing to shift Turner off third base, however. Add them to the list of teams seeking third base help.

Add that all up, and you have four teams in the market for Donaldson. The Cubs aren’t guaranteed to trade Bryant, but they’ll soon find themselves with some leverage. For the three teams that don’t land Donaldson, the most logical move will be to inquire with the Cubs about trading for Bryant. The Nationals have already inquired about Bryant, according to MLB.com's Jon Morosi.

Bryant’s unresolved grievance case will be an issue in any potential negotiations. The difference between two years of control (if he loses) and one (if he wins) is big when it comes to his value. Even though they’ll have leverage over interested teams, the Cubs will yield stronger trade proposals for Bryant if he loses his case.

But, again, a trade is no certainty. What is certain is teams will be inquiring about Bryant in the not-so-distant future, once Donaldson chooses his free agent destination.

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Brewers reportedly sign pitcher Josh Lindblom to address rotation need

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USA TODAY

Brewers reportedly sign pitcher Josh Lindblom to address rotation need

The Brewers are looking overseas to address a rotation that has been one of their biggest weaknesses in recent seasons.

According to multiple reports, Milwaukee is signing 32-year-old Josh Lindblom to a three-year deal. It’s worth $9.125 million but can max out at more than $18 million, should Lindblom hit certain bonuses, according to ESPN's Jeff Passan.

The Cubs also had discussions with Lindblom, according to MLB.com's Jon Morosi, before he reached a deal with the Brewers.

Lindblom has pitched in parts of five big league seasons since 2011, most recently with the Pirates in 2017. The right-hander holds a career 4.10 ERA in 114 games (six starts) but he remade himself during a successful stint pitching in South Korea in recent seasons.

From 2018-19 with the Doosan Bears, Lindblom went 35-7 with a 2.68 ERA, striking out 346 batters in 363 1/3 innings. He was named MVP of the KBO in 2019. Some of Lindblom's success can be attributed to the splitter he featured in his repertoire.

Lindblom’s name doesn’t jump off the page, but he’s a low-cost addition for the Brewers and is returning stateside an improved pitcher. Milwaukee finished 14th in starting pitcher ERA in 2019, but that figure was a not-so-great 4.40. They traded mainstay Zach Davies — who had been a rotation mainstay since 2016 — to the Padres two weeks ago.

Lindblom joins a rotation featuring Brandon Woodruff, Adrian Houser and Eric Lauer (acquired in the Davies trade). The Brewers also have 25-year-old Corbin Burnes and 23-year-old Freddy Peralta as starting options. The duo struggled in 2019 (Burnes: 8.82 ERA, 32 games/four starts; Peralta: 5.29 ERA, 39 games/eight starts), so the guess here is the Brewers aren’t done shopping for pitching.