Cubs

Cubs will have to pay the price for pitching

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Cubs will have to pay the price for pitching

Scott Baker missed the entire 2012 season and wont throw from a mound again until the middle of December at the earliest. He couldnt even showcase himself with a bullpen session.

The Cubs still acted fast on Tuesday, guaranteeing Baker 5.5 million with a one-year deal that contains incentives that could yield an extra 1.5 million. That speaks to his reputation with the Minnesota Twins (63-48, 4.15 ERA) before a right elbow injury, the advancements in Tommy John surgery and the rising cost of pitching across an industry juiced by television money.

Baker was too polite to name names or get into other contract offers left on the table. The Cubs are simply going to have to pay this price.

There was definitely some serious interest from some other ballclubs, Baker said. We all know pitching is at a premium and I think youre going to see its going to be a very active offseason for a lot of teams. Im just excited to be here. I think this is an unbelievable opportunity for me and my family.

The Cubs are hoping for more good news after Matt Garza undergoes another scan on his right elbow this week to see how the stress reaction is healing. They still need to sign at least one more starter they can plug into their Opening Day rotation alongside Garza, Baker, Jeff Samardzija and Travis Wood.

Whos on deck for another Wrigley Field news conference? It appears Theo Epsteins front office could go bigger with their next move.

Were pursuing pitchers across the spectrum, Epstein said, some guys who would be classified as buy-low, others that might even be buy-high guys, or hopefully buy-high and stay there. Some one-year deals, some multi-year deals, some trades were looking for pitchers who can step in and improve our rotation.

If there are sound investments out there, whether theyre big or small, well pursue them and try to sign them.

Medical concerns recently helped convince the Cubs to pull the plug on the Carlos Marmol-for-Dan Haren trade with the Los Angeles Angels. The reality is they will likely wind up with another flawed pitcher with upside potential, whether its a Brandon McCarthy, a Shaun Marcum or a Francisco Liriano.

Obviously, youd love to sign pitchers who are 100 percent healthy and have never been hurt, but those animals dont really exist, Epstein said. The medical assessment on every pitcher is important, and if you have to sign a pitcher whos coming off surgery, Tommy John is the one you want, (because) its a very predictable rehab with a very strong success rate upwards of 95 percent.

Baker grew up in Shreveport, La., and went to Oklahoma State University, where he overlapped during the 2001 season with future Boston Red Sox pitching coach (and current manager) John Farrell, at the time an assistant coachpitching and recruiting coordinator for the Cowboys.

The Los Angeles Dodgers just bid 25.7 million for the right to negotiate with South Korean left-hander Ryu Hyun-jin. Zack Greinke and Anibal Sanchez could wind up with nine-figure deals. By the time teams start throwing money around at next months winter meetings in Nashville, Tenn., this could seem even more reasonable.

The reality is its not exactly a buyers market for pitching out there right now, so you have to take your risks, Epstein said. Do you want to take a risk on the guy with bad makeup? Do you want to take a risk on the guy with bad command? Or do you want to take a risk on a guy you really believe in whos coming off Tommy John at an appropriate value point? Were very comfortable placing our bet on Scott Baker.

Albert Almora Jr. gave another example of his all-around game

Albert Almora Jr. gave another example of his all-around game

Albert Almora Jr. might be in the middle of a breakout season. The 24-year-old outfielder continues to show his impressive range in center field and is having his best year at the plate.

In Sunday's 8-3 win against the Giants, Almora had three hits and showed off his wheels in center to rob Evan Longoria of extra bases. The catch is visible in the video above.

"Defensively, right now he's playing as well as he possibly can," Maddon said.

On top of the defense he has become known for, he is hitting .326. That's good for fifth in the National League in batting.

"He's playing absolutely great," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "He's working good at-bats. His at-bats have gotten better vs. righties.

"The thing about it, is there's power there. The home runs are gonna start showing up, too."

There's also this stat, which implies Almora is having a growing significance on the Cubs as a whole:

There may be some correlation, but not causality in that. However, with Almora's center field play and growing accolades at the plate, the argument is becoming easier and easier that he is one of the most important players on the Cubs. That also goes for Almora's regular spot in the lineup, which has been up in the air with Maddon continuing to juggle the lineup.

Joe Maddon wants Cubs fans to cheer for Gleyber Torres and Eloy Jimenez

Joe Maddon wants Cubs fans to cheer for Gleyber Torres and Eloy Jimenez

Why can't a trade be looked at as a win-win? 

There doesn't always have to be a clear winner and loser.

Prior to Jose Quintana taking the ball for Saturday's game against the San Francisco Giants at Wrigley Field, Joe Maddon was asked about the players (Eloy Jimenez, Dylan Cease) the Cubs gave up to acquire Quintana as well as the deal with the Yankees for Aroldis Chapman in July 2016.

Gleyber Torres is absolutely killing it in New York, hitting .323 with a 1.014 OPS, 9 homers and 24 RBI in only 29 games. Six of those homers have come in the last week alone. 

With the White Sox, both Jimenez and Cease have found success in Double-A and Advanced Class-A, respectively.

Jimenez is hitting .331 with a .992 OPS, 9 homers and 35 RBI in 35 games. Cease is 6-2 with a 2.83 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 57 strikeouts in 47.2 innings.

As the Cubs work to get their offense settled into a consistent groove, some Cubs fans have been looking at what might've been with guys like Torres and Jimenez.

"You can't have it both ways, man," Maddon said. "I'm happy for Gleyber. When he left, we talked about it. And we talked about the kids that went to the White Sox. It's good stuff. 

"I'm really disappointed if anybody's disappointed in the fact we won the World Series in 2016 and the fact that the guy we're talking about that we had to give up Gleyber for was so instrumental in that happening. That's bad process if you're gonna get stuck on something like that. Be happy for Gleyber. Be happy for him."

Maddon has been a fan of Torres' since he saw him in spring training in 2015, Maddon's first year in the Cubs organization.

"This kid's 21, with high, high baseball intellect," Maddon said. "He's very similar to Javy on the field. I've had some great conversations with him in the past. 

"The first time I saw him in spring training, I thought this guy's for real. It was like one at-bat, line drive to RF, I said who is this guy? And then you have a conversation with him. He's solid."

Maddon's point is a great one — would Cubs fans prefer to still have Torres and NOT have the 2016 World Series championship? Because that title doesn't happen without Chapman, regardless of how you feel about him as a person or what the Cubs had to give up to acquire him.

"Don't play that game," Maddon said. "Be happy for [Torres]. I'm gonna be happy when Eloy and Dylan make it up here. All these dudes, I want them to get here and be really good. And the guys that we get, I want them to be really good. 

"I don't understand why somebody's gotta lose all the time. This is an absolute classic example of what was good for both teams."