Cubs will go big-game hunting in free agency


Cubs will go big-game hunting in free agency

BOCA RATON, Fla. – The Cubs will go big-game hunting, planning to sit down with the agents for David Price, Zack Greinke and Jordan Zimmermann during this week’s general manager meetings in South Florida.

The Cubs are in information-gathering mode for essentially all the top pitchers in a deep class of free agents and scheduled to meet with Price’s agent, Bo McKinnis, on Wednesday at the Boca Raton Resort and Club.

The Cubs will gradually begin to find out how much Price really wants to come to Chicago, play for Joe Maddon and try to win the franchise’s first World Series since 1908.

President of baseball operations Theo Epstein already dismissed the idea of signing two players to nine-figure contracts this offseason. And Price figures to be using Max Scherzer’s seven-year, $210 million contract with the Washington Nationals as a reference point.

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Given those payroll restrictions, the uncertainty surrounding the next TV deal and Jon Lester being guaranteed at least $20 million on average across the next five seasons, you have to wonder if the Cubs are worried about having so much money tied up in two pitchers on the wrong side of 30.

“Our job is to deal with now – and then also deal with the future,” general manager Jed Hoyer said Tuesday. “We have a really bright future for a long time and we’re always thinking about how commitments for today will impact us down the road.

“There’s a natural inclination to sort of look at the top of the free-agent market – and there’s great players there – (but) we have to think about the entire market (and) ways to get better at every tier.

“Because, yeah, I do think there’s a risk of becoming inflexible.”

That’s where Greinke’s athleticism, repertoire and feel for pitching could come into play if the Cubs believe he’s a good long-term bet.

Greinke – who went 19-3 with a 1.66 ERA during his age-31 season with the Los Angeles Dodgers – recently opted out of a contract that would have guaranteed him $71 million across the next three years.

The Cubs have also touched base with Jeff Samardzija’s camp, trying to see if a reunion would make sense after Shark rejects the qualifying offer, knowing he will do exponentially better than a one-year, $15.8 million deal, even coming off such a disappointing season with the White Sox.

[MORE: Cubs keeping Montero in 2016 plans at the moment]

The Cubs got many looks at Johnny Cueto when he pitched for the Cincinnati Reds, but they don’t have the right-hander very high on their list after an inconsistent performance with the Kansas City Royals during their World Series run. 

The Cubs could also upgrade their rotation by trading from their surplus of hitters, adding more depth to the pitching staff and shortening the game with extra power arms out of the bullpen.       

“There are going to be guys who get top dollar,” Hoyer said. “But there’s also going to be places where you can be creative and find value. I think we’ve done that really well in the past. And now that we’re a competitive team, we don’t want to get away from that.

“The best teams continue to try to find value in different places and (get) creative in ways to round out their team. If you just get to a point of being competitive – and then rely on the free-agent market for everything – I think there’s a danger in that.”  

A series to forget: Facts and figures from Cubs' rough weekend in Cincinnati

A series to forget: Facts and figures from Cubs' rough weekend in Cincinnati

The Cubs and their fans may want to invent and use one of those Men In Black neuralyzers because the four-game series in Cincinnati was one to forget.

The Reds finished off a four-game sweep of the Cubs on Sunday with an 8-6 win. The way the Reds won the finale will be especially painful for the Cubs considering they led 6-1 after six innings. Mike Montgomery appeared to tire in the seventh inning and Pedro Strop got rocked out of the bullpen to lead to a seven-run seventh for the hosts.

The Reds have now won seven in a row and 10 of 12, but still sit 13 games under .500. Bizarrely, the Reds also swept the Dodgers, the Cubs’ next opponent, in a four-game series in May. Duane Underwood will start for the Cubs Monday against the Dodgers and make his major league debut.

Here are some other wild facts and figures from the series:

  • The last time the Reds swept the Cubs in a four-game series was back in 1983. That was the first week of the season and three weeks before the infamous Lee Elia rant.
  • One positive for the Cubs from the game was Montgomery’s start. Through six innings he allowed one run on three hits and two walks. However, he gave up a single, a double and a single in the seventh before Strop relieved him. Montgomery had gone six innings and allowed one run in each of his last four outings.
  • Strop was definitely a negative. On his first pitch, Strop gave up a home run to pinch-hitter Jesse Winker, the second home run for a Reds pinch-hitter in the game. Then Strop allowed a single, a walk, a single and a double before getting an out. Strop’s final line: 2/3 inning pitched, four runs, one strikeout, three walks, four hits.
  • The Cubs led in three of the four games this series, including two leads after five innings.
  • The Cubs were 5-for-23 (.217) with runners in scoring position in the series. On the season the Cubs are hitting .233 with RISP, which is 22nd in the majors and fourth-worst in the National League (but ahead of the division-rival Brewers and Cardinals).
  • The Reds outscored the Cubs 31-13 and scored at least six runs in every game. The Reds are now 6-3 against the Cubs this year after going a combined 17-40 against the Cubs from 2015-2017.

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 32nd homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 32nd homer 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 victimized the Tigers pitching staff again on the next night, taking Brian Moehler deep in the 7th inning for a 400-foot solo blast.

The homer tied the game at 3, but the Cubs blew the lead in the bottom of the 7th when the Terrys (Adams and Mulholland) gave up 3 runs. The Cubs wound up losing 6-4.

The Cubs were putting together a really nice season in 1998 that ended with a trip to October. They entered the series with the Tigers with a 42-34 record, yet lost both games to a Detroit team that entered the series with a 28-45 record. The Tigers finished the season 65-94; the Cubs finished 90-73.

Fun fact: Luis Gonzalez was the Tigers left fielder and No. 5 hitter for both games of the series. He spent part of the 1995 season and all of '96 on Chicago's North Side. 1998 was his only year in Detroit before he moved on to Arizona, where he hit 57 homers in 2001 and helped the Diamondbacks to a World Series championship with that famous broken-bat single in Game 7.

Fun fact  No. 2: Remember Pedro Valdes? He only had a cup of coffee with the Cubs (9 games in 1996 and 14 in '98), but started in left field on June 25, 1998. He walked and went 0-for-1 before being removed from the game for a pinch-hitter (Jose Hernandez).