Cubs

Cubs: Why Jon Lester thinks Year 2 will be different for Jason Heyward

Cubs: Why Jon Lester thinks Year 2 will be different for Jason Heyward

MESA, Ariz. – Jon Lester has already noticed a difference in Jason Heyward. It’s not some magical swing adjustment or best-shape-of-his-life hype or simply the bounce from the Cubs finally winning the World Series.

Lester already experienced this, signing the biggest contract in franchise history and reporting to Arizona for Year 2 in a different state of mind. The Cubs hope that helps Heyward recover from the worst offensive season of his career and round out his Gold Glove defense, baseball IQ and clubhouse intangibles. 

“He’s a little bit more comfortable,” Lester said before Friday’s workout at the Sloan Park complex. “That’s just human nature. You come into a situation with everything else that you’re bringing along. You’re coming into a place where you don’t know a lot of guys. You’re trying to prove that you’re worth something.

“You’re trying to prove (it) to the city, to your teammates, to your family, to everybody else, all this stuff. So I think now it’s a matter of: He can just go out and play.”

A dead arm slowed down Lester during his first spring training in a Cubs uniform. The $155 million ace then got diagnosed with the yips in front of a national TV audience on Opening Day 2015. That April, the lefty went 0-2 with a 6.23 ERA in four starts before closing with double-digit wins, a 3.34 ERA and another 200-inning season for a playoff team.

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Lester had perhaps the greatest season of his life in 2016, going 19-5 with a 2.44 ERA, earning his fourth All-Star selection, finishing second in the Cy Young Award voting and becoming the National League Championship Series co-MVP.  

“That’s kind of how I felt coming into my second year,” Lester said. “OK, we got that one over with. We did some things that we weren’t expected to do. Now it’s time to take that next step.

“You just feel more comfortable. You feel like you can come in and kind of let your shoulders down and let your guard down and just worry about playing baseball and getting your work done.”

Like Lester, Heyward wanted to play at Wrigley Field and live in Chicago and didn’t necessarily grab the biggest offer when he signed his $184 million megadeal. Heyward had also grown up around winning teams and understood that number would follow him for the rest of his career. Both players got the benefit of the doubt by being good teammates, holding themselves accountable and not hiding from the media.

The Cubs will run through their first full-squad workout in Mesa on Saturday, but Heyward has been hitting at the facility throughout the offseason, trying to rediscover what once made him a 27-homer threat for the 2012 Atlanta Braves.

“It seems like he’s a little more relaxed,” Lester said. “People told me the same thing two years ago. But when you’re going through it, the 3-for-4 days or the days you pitch seven innings and give up two runs still aren’t good enough. You feel like you have to do more. That second year just feels like you get back to kind of being yourself.”

Here are the top trades in Cubs franchise history

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USA TODAY

Here are the top trades in Cubs franchise history

With the MLB season suspended indefinitely due to COVID-19, the 2020 schedule could be tightened or even shortened. Which got me thinking...

How will the July 31 trade deadline be affected?

If the season starts in May or June, does the regular season go deeper than September? Whether it does or doesn't, does the deadline get pushed back to whatever the midpoint of the season is? Does MLB get rid of the deadline in 2020 altogether?

I'm just thinking out loud here. Then, I went down a rabbit hole and starting thinking of the top trades the Cubs have made in their history.

From Kiki to Fergie to Arrieta, here are the top deals the Cubs have made all-time.

Top trades in Cubs franchise history

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Yu Darvish's GQ magazine history only makes Cubs' ace more likable

Yu Darvish's GQ magazine history only makes Cubs' ace more likable

Yu Darvish is the Cubs' ace, a social media wiz and fan favorite. After a disastrous debut season in Chicago, he put together an impressive 2019 second half that has people bullish on his 2020 prospects — whenever the season may comemence.

Here's a couple notes you may not have known about the veteran right-hander:

1. Darvish pitched for Japan in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Big league players don’t participate in the quadrennial event because it occurs in the thick of the MLB season. Darvish was able to compete because he was still pitching in Japan’s NPB league.

2. Darvish’s father, Farsad, is Iranian, and his mother, Ikuyo, is Japanese. They met at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla., where Farsad played soccer. Farsad encouraged him to play soccer, but Yu preferred baseball.

3. In 2007, Darvish established the “Darvish Yu Water Fund” in collaboration with the Japan Water Forum. The project’s mission is to provide clean water to developing countries.

4. In 2012, Darvish was named the GQ Man of the Year in Japan. The magazine also billed him as the “Elvis of Japan” in 2010. 

Ace, humanitarian and GQ cover model. What's not to like about this guy?

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