Cubs

Cubs: What the Jason Heyward deal means for Jorge Soler and Javier Baez

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Cubs: What the Jason Heyward deal means for Jorge Soler and Javier Baez

Jason Heyward opens up even more possibilities as the Cubs try to win the World Series in 2016 and still keep their window to contend open for years to come at Wrigley Field.

But while juggling so many balls in the air, the Cubs won’t be immediately flipping Jorge Soler or Javier Baez, sources said in the aftermath of Friday’s eight-year, $184 million commitment to Heyward.

There’s not another “multiple bank shot” lined up for team president Theo Epstein, the way the Cubs could only sign Ben Zobrist to a four-year, $56 million contract once the New York Yankees agreed to take on Starlin Castro’s money ($38 million guaranteed) and give up a valuable pitcher (Adam Warren).

[MORE: Jason Heyward megadeal reinforces World Series expectations for Cubs]

The prices for pitching keep soaring, and that’s one reason why the Cubs plan to hold onto their young hitters for now, beyond Baez and Soler’s untapped potential.

The demands from the Cleveland Indians (Danny Salazar, Carlos Carrasco) and San Diego Padres (Tyson Ross) aren’t going to suddenly drop when the Arizona Diamondbacks just paid a fortune in the Shelby Miller deal, sending the Atlanta Braves a No. 1 overall pick (Dansby Swanson), a highly regarded pitching prospect (Aaron Blair) and a big-league outfielder (Ender Inciarte).

The Cubs have been talking directly to those teams about offense-for-pitching trades since at least last summer. The cost of acquiring the young starter the Cubs would want in any Soler deal is seen as unreasonable with the Diamondbacks and Boston Red Sox driving up that market, too, by laying out $423 million for Zack Greinke and David Price.

In terms of depth, the Cubs have already diversified their pitching staff with swingmen like Warren, Trevor Cahill, Clayton Richard and Travis Wood.

Baez is now the insurance policy if shortstop Addison Russell has another hamstring injury and an antidote to day games at Wrigley Field, allowing Zobrist to recover during his age-35 season and third baseman Kris Bryant to get a mental break.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Zobrist is supposed to be more of an everyday second baseman now, but in a best-case scenario for 2016 the Cubs see Baez in the super-utility role once perfected with Joe Maddon’s Tampa Bay Rays teams.

Maybe the winter-ball experiment works in Puerto Rico and Baez could occasionally play center and move Heyward over to the right-field spot where he won three Gold Gloves.

“I think Javy has a chance to be a lot like Zobrist was in Tampa,” general manager Jed Hoyer said this week during the winter meetings. “He can play everywhere and play everywhere really well. If someone gets hurt, he can slot into that position and play there for a long time.

“But if we’re healthy, the ability to move around like that is really valuable. Joe being able to move Zobrist and Baez around gives him so much flexibility. It gives the roster so much flexibility. That’s kind of how we’re envisioning things right now.”

The Cubs could always do more with the pitching staff and add specific role players – and no one is untouchable – but Maddon now has the defensive versatility he craves and a monster lineup for October.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Schwarber, Baez on night to remember at the Home Run Derby

Cubs Talk Podcast: Schwarber, Baez on night to remember at the Home Run Derby

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, Kelly Crull spoke with Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber after an electric and entertaining Home Run Derby in Washington D.C.

Listen to the full Cubs Talk Podcast right here:

Who Knew? Cubs at the All-Star Break

Who Knew? Cubs at the All-Star Break

With a break in the action, let’s take a look at the season so far.

Today, I’ll focus on the first 57.4% of the Cubs’ 2018 season. Which is to say, the 93 games before the All-Star Break. Clearly more than “half.”

In all seasons with an All-Star Game (1933-present, minus 1945)

This is the fifth time the Cubs have had the National League’s best record at the All-Star Break.

Here is the entire list (note – 2016 is NOT on this list. They trailed the Giants by 3 games at the Break in 2016):

1937 44-25 +2.0
1969 61-37 +5.0
2001 51-35 +0.5
2008 57-38 +4.5
2018 55-38 +2.5

Which is incredible since:

• Anthony Rizzo has a wRC+ of 100, which is league average

(he was at 131 – 31% better than league average - through the All-Star break last season)

• Kris Bryant has missed 23 games and has only 10 home runs

• The Cubs as a team have 30 fewer Home Runs through 93 games than they did last season

(100 this season, 130 last season)

• The Cubs have had six pitchers make 8 or more starts this season and only one (Jon Lester – 2.58) has an ERA under 3.90

• Cubs pitching has an MLBhigh walk percentage of 11.0%

(Tyler Chatwood’s 9 starts with 5 or more walks is most in a season by a Cubs pitcher since Dick Drott’s 13 in 1957)

• Cubs have outscored their opponents by only one run in the first inning (5251)

This includes being outscored 18-13 in the first inning in Kyle Hendricks’ 19 starts

• Cubs are 57 against the Reds

(they were 27-11 against Cincinnati in 2016-17)

That being said, it's not so incredible since...

• The Cubs have scored at least 10 runs 15 times this season. No other team has done it more than 12 times.

• Jason Heyward has a wRC+ of 109 (he’s 9% better than league average)

This is notable because in 2016 he was at 71 (29% worse than league average) and 88 in 2017 (12% worse than league average).

• The Cubs have EIGHT qualified players with at least a .340 OnBase pct. (and Ian Happ, who is eight PA short of qualifying, is at .379)

The only qualified Cub with a SUB-.340 OBP is Javier Báez (.326 – a career-high). However…

• Javier Báez has 50 extrabase hits in 91 games. Last season he had 49 extra-base hits in 145 games.

Báez is the first player in Cubs history with 15 Doubles, 5 Triples, 15 HR and 15 Stolen Bases before the All-Star Break**.

Báez is the first player in MLB history with 18 Doubles, 6 Triples, 18 HR and 18 Stolen Bases before the All-Star Break**.

**seasons with an All-Star Game – 1933-present (minus 1945)