Cubs will make starting pitching a priority at trade deadline


Cubs will make starting pitching a priority at trade deadline

ST. LOUIS — The questions about this rotation start with Jon Lester and won’t end even if the Cubs make a blockbuster trade at the July 31 deadline. That’s just the nature of pitching.

But the arms race will be the No. 1 priority for Theo Epstein’s front office with the Cubs not knowing right now what they’re going to get from their $155 million ace, Kyle Hendricks and Tsuyoshi Wada.

“You always want to make your pitching better,” manager Joe Maddon said Friday at Busch Stadium. “But I have a lot of faith in the guys that are out there, too.

“I’m not worried about Jon Lester at all. Jonny’s going to be fine. That is not my concern.”

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With Wada still dealing with a shoulder injury — the Cubs say it’s soreness around the left deltoid muscle and not a more serious structural issue — the next man up becomes Donn Roach.

Roach will face the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday and try to slow down the best team in baseball. The 25-year-old right-hander earned a look by going 7-1 with a 2.29 ERA in 14 starts at Triple-A Iowa.

But the issues run deeper when the Cubs are paying former starters Travis Wood and Edwin Jackson almost $17 million combined to pitch out of the bullpen. Maddon feels Wood is now too valuable as a left-handed reliever, and the Cubs don’t seem to trust Jackson in higher-leverage situations.

A farm system that has produced immediate-impact hitters like Kris Bryant hasn’t kept up on the pitching side, whether it’s injuries, ineffectiveness or simply a matter of how the Cubs have chosen to allocate their resources.

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The Cubs have used 80 draft picks on pitchers since the Epstein administration took over after the 2011 season and don’t have anyone close to becoming a frontline starter (though those are obviously long-term investments that can still pay off big in the future).

Roach made one start and 15 appearances out of the bullpen for the San Diego Padres last year before getting claimed off waivers. Roach grew up in Las Vegas and remembered playing against Bryant in high school. Bryan Harper — Bryce’s older brother — became a groomsman at Roach’s wedding. Roach doesn’t know if this will be one spot start or something more if Wada goes on the disabled list.

The Cubs obviously believe in Lester (4-6, 4.03 ERA) because he has such a long track record and won two World Series rings with the Boston Red Sox. But you still know Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer will be working the phones for the next five weeks.

“They’re always looking,” Maddon said. “Any time you leave spring training, I always thought you needed seven-slash-maybe eight good starters that you can count on.

“That’s what you’re always looking to do, because things happen any year. Any time you can augment your starting pitching, and keeping them stockpiled at Triple-A, that’s just going to make you stronger at the end of the season.”

Cubs Talk Podcast: Covering the MLB All-Star Game from the media’s perspective


Cubs Talk Podcast: Covering the MLB All-Star Game from the media’s perspective

NBC Sports Chicago’s own Kelly Crull and videographer Scott Changnon recalled what All-Star week in the nations capitol was like from their point of view.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:


Cubs, Bears, Bulls among the top 25 wealthiest sports teams in the world


Cubs, Bears, Bulls among the top 25 wealthiest sports teams in the world

What Chicago sports team is worth the most money in 2018?

As reported by Kurt Badenhausen in a Forbes article about the 50 richest teams around the globe, the Cubs are the most valuable organization in the Windy City.

Chicago’s North Side baseball team ranks as the 16th wealthiest team in the world, valued at $2.9 billion, an 8 percent increase from 2017. The Cubs are the third-most affluent franchise in Major League Baseball, behind the New York Yankees ($4 billion) and the Los Angeles Dodgers ($3 billion).

This year, the baseball club owned by the Ricketts family surpassed the wealth of the Boston Red Sox ($2.8 billion), who the Cubs were ranked behind last season at $2.68 billion. In the span of a year, the North Siders gained two spots in the top 50 from 18 to 16 on the list.

What could be the reason for this increase?

Could it be that the Cubs are in first place in the NL Central? Or could it be the incredible performances from players like Jon Lester and Javy Baez?

Whatever the reason is for the Cubs’ prosperity, the team is doing something right.

The club also surpassed the Bears on the list this year. In 2017 the Bears (worth $2.7 billion last year) were tied with the Red Sox as the 16th most valuable sports team on Earth. The McCaskey-owned football team has fallen to a tie at 17 with the San Francisco Giants, both valued at $2.85 billion in 2018. The Bears even increased by 6 percent in the last year, making the Cubs’ jump seem greater.

The Bulls, owned by Jerry Reinsdorf, are the last team from Chicago to make the cut. They stand at 23 in the top 50, tied with the Denver Broncos. Both franchises are worth $2.6 billion. Chicago’s NBA team even fell a spot from 2017, but they still increased their value by 4 percent (worth $2.5 billion last year).

The Bears are the seventh richest team in the NFL, while the Bulls are fourth wealthiest in the NBA.