Cubs

Cubs will ride out boom-and-bust cycles with Javier Baez because the upside is so great

Cubs will ride out boom-and-bust cycles with Javier Baez because the upside is so great

The Cubs will live with the boom-and-bust cycles for Javier Baez, because he can still be a game-changing presence with his swim moves and freakish sense for tagging, whether or not he looks out of control at home plate.

“Not so much,” manager Joe Maddon said Wednesday when asked if Baez is at that point in his career where he has to earn his at-bats. “I’m just trying to balance everything out right now, honestly. I even told him: ‘Go and strike out as often as you need to. Go ahead, I don’t care. I really don’t care.’

“I just want to see him play with that focus and passion. That’s all I want. I totally expect him to strike out. I totally expect him to swing at balls in the dirt and over his head, absolutely.

“I do eventually believe it’s going to go away. But the only way it’s going to go away is if he keeps getting a chance to do that.”

Baez boosted his batting average 66 points (up from .203) during the first two games of this week's series with the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field, drilling his second and third home runs this season and almost hitting for the cycle on Tuesday night.

Baez oozes style, but Maddon also loves the substance to his game. When hitting at the bottom of the lineup, Baez has made first-inning flip drills with assistant hitting coach Eric Hinske part of his routine. Baez also seems to be getting the message from the coaching staff and trying to reduce his leg kick.

[CUBS TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

Baez is no longer the all-or-nothing hitter who blasted nine homers and struck out 95 times during his 52-game audition with the Cubs in 2014. But this is also a player who has drawn comparisons to Gary Sheffield, Manny Ramirez and Giancarlo Stanton.

In terms of an offensive ceiling, Maddon said, “I don’t think it’s going to be revealed to us for another couple years.

“I think it’s very high, absolutely. You’re still going to see him go through these kinds of moments, up and down. The difference with him is that even during the down moments offensively he can still help you win with his defense and his baserunning.

“So I fully anticipate seeing those offensive swings in a sense — up and down — but the reward’s going to be great. When he really figures it out, the reward is going to show up and it’s going to be outstanding to watch.”

Starting Baez at second base over World Series MVP Ben Zobrist for all 17 playoff games last season is a clear indication of what Maddon is thinking. So is sticking with Baez through a slow start (.601 April OPS) and the Cubs listing him as their second baseman on the All-Star ballot.

“I think everybody knows how good I am,” Baez said. “I don’t have to show anybody anything. I control the things that I can control.

“I’m always going to play with passion and try to do my best out there, whether it’s on defense or on offense.”

The transition from part-time player and age-24 learning curve for Baez is emblematic of a team where leadoff guy Kyle Schwarber, catcher Willson Contreras and center fielder Albert Almora Jr. all own World Series rings but still haven’t completed a full season in The Show yet.

“It just happens everywhere,” Maddon said. “These guys are young and they’re learning on the fly on the major-league level with a lot of scrutiny going on, so just wait a couple years. This guy is going to really show you how good he is.”

Cubs reportedly interested in Troy Tulowitzki

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USA TODAY

Cubs reportedly interested in Troy Tulowitzki

According to MLB Insider Jon Heyman, the Cubs are one of the teams interested in free agent shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. The 5-time All-Star will be holding a workout soon, with Chicago being one of the six teams reported to have a scout present at his workout.

Heyman did mention that while the Cubs aren’t necessarily the favorites right now, we will know how good of a chance they will have soon. Tulowitzki and his team are reported to be narrowing down their list to (at least) 6 teams.

Last season Tulowitzki played 66 games for the Blue Jays, batting .249 with 7 home runs and 26 RBI. For his career he is a .290 hitter and is looking for a bounce-back season after dealing with complications from bone spur injuries in both heels over the years.

Toronto has to pay the $38 million left on Tulowitzki's contract, freeing up other teams to sign the veteran to a more reasonable deal. Since the Blue Jays went the route of cutting him, teams can offer Tulowitzki a league minimum salary.

For the Cubs, he represents-however small-a chance to extract great value from a veteran player, which would be a big bonus considering how the Yu Darvish signing backfired in year one.

Tulowitzki is likely to be searching for playing time on a legit title contender, so if he can provide any solid offensive production going forward, he and the Cubs could be a solid match.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Winter Meetings recap

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Winter Meetings recap

When nothing happens in Vegas, it stays in Vegas. Luke, Kap and Tony talk about the Cubs lack of moves during the Winter Meetings.

In this episode of the Cubs Talk Podcast with Luke Stuckmeyer, David Kaplan and Tony Andracki:

00:10 - What happen in Vegas stays in Vegas and this year that means nothing. Luke, Kap & Tony talk Cubs lack of moves at Winter Meetings.

00:50 - Where the heck is all the money? This was supposed to be a wide-open window - we step on the accelerator.

01:25 - Cubs keep throwing money at the problem (Chatwood, Darvish) and it has become a cautionary tale.

02:50 - Are the Cubs playing at the shallow end of the kiddie pool?

03:50 - Tony talks about the volatility of the relief market.

05:15 - Where is the bullpen market? Brewers are making moves, but it's still "crickets" for the Cubs.

06:20 - Tony: Other than bullpen - Cubs have to address backup middle infielder most of all.

06:57 - Daniel Descalso rumors. Kap describes him as a grinder who fits the leadership mold.

07:47 - Luke is a little worried about Steve Cishek. He threw a career-high 70 innings last season.

09:34 - The guys talk about the possibility of a "second deadline" for the Winter Meetings to force clubs to make more moves.

11:06 - Luke: "I wanted to see Machado and Harper walking down the strip and making it rain!"

12:45 - Cubs still have so much to address. Some Cubs fans are starting to get a little itchy. Teams in the division are making moves. What about us?

14:45 - Question: Is Anthony Rizzo the third-best 1st baseman in the Central Division?

15:50 - Prediction time: What's biggest move the Cubs will make before opening day? Kap believes that Ian Happ will not be a Cub before the regular season starts.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Cubs Talk Podcast

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