Cubs

Embrace The Target: Cubs manager Joe Maddon brushes off criticism from Aroldis Chapman and Miguel Montero

Embrace The Target: Cubs manager Joe Maddon brushes off criticism from Aroldis Chapman and Miguel Montero

President Barack Obama called Joe Maddon from Air Force One and invited the Cubs to the White House.

Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney dug the "Embrace The Target" and "Try Not To Suck" messaging so much that he asked the Cubs manager to shoot a video to show his team before beating Alabama in the national-championship rematch.

Maddon could retire tomorrow and start working on his Hall of Fame acceptance speech. Leading the Cubs to their first World Series title since 1908 will guarantee his Cooperstown plaque.

So at a time when his Q rating should be soaring, why is Maddon getting second-guessed by players like Aroldis Chapman and Miguel Montero and pestered about how he managed Game 7?

"Honestly, I find it humorous that people want to go there," Maddon said Wednesday during his "Thanksmas" dinner at The Salvation Army Freedom Center in West Humboldt Park. "After all, we won 103 games. We had to beat the Giants, Dodgers and Indians to win the World Series… and people want to focus on one moment where I totally disagree with them and I can't convince them of that.

"There's nothing I can do about perception and interpretation. That's in the brain and the mind and the heart of the beholder.

"I would prefer that everybody would understand the magnitude of running the gauntlet of the Giants and Dodgers and Indians and how difficult it was to get to Game 7."

You know it's going to come up at some point during this weekend's Cubs Convention at the Sheraton Grand Chicago. Set up a few microphones and pack enough Cubs fans into a hotel ballroom and there will be awkward moments during the Q&A sessions.

But the Chapman questions have been asked and answered. It's really not about the reactions on Twitter or managing from the press box anymore.

It's whether or not Maddon has to clear the air with any relievers who felt marginalized while Chapman threw 97 pitches in Games 5, 6 and 7 combined – or address any underlying issues that compelled Jason Heyward to call a players-only meeting in a Progressive Field weight room during that rain delay.

"I'm always open about conversations with anybody," Maddon said. "I don't really feel it's necessary to have any conversations. After all, we did win the World Series. And everybody did participate and everybody had a role.

"There were certain things said – whether it was Miggy or with Chappy at the end of the year – that really brought light to it. Otherwise, I think for me it turned out pretty well."

[MORE CUBS: Jake Arrieta's future and how Cubs plan to build their rotation for 2017 and beyond]

After the team's championship parade and Grant Park rally, Montero went on WMVP-AM 1000 and complained about the lack of communication while being stuck in a three-catcher rotation and wondered why Maddon leaned so hard on Chapman.

"I'm sure we'll talk," Maddon said. "Miggy likes to talk."

Maddon could laugh about Montero's brutal honesty and odd sense of timing, because the veteran blasted a grand slam in the National League Championship Series, caught the final two innings in the World Series and will be a part of the defending champs.

Chapman didn't show much appreciation for the way Maddon welcomed him after a midseason trade from the New York Yankees – and a 30-game suspension under Major League Baseball's domestic-violence policy.

During the conference call to formally announce his five-year, $86 million contract with the Yankees last month, Chapman said through a translator that Maddon misused him in the playoffs.

"It's too bad he had to say that," Maddon said. "There's really nothing to it, as far as I'm concerned. We had talked about his usage and he was all for it. I just know one thing – that we could not have won it without him.

"He was about as big a part of that run as anybody was, so I'm grateful for everything that he had done here, and I just wish him nothing but the best in the future. But everything that occurred in those last couple games was planned out in advance.

"And as it turned out, it turned out pretty well."

Maddon can publicly take the high road now – and flip up his World Series ring finger later.

"It's unfortunate that they felt they had to discuss it that way," Maddon said. "But from my perspective, I appreciate everything they've done."

Cubs Talk Podcast: Lee Smith Hall of Fame edition

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MLB NETWORK

Cubs Talk Podcast: Lee Smith Hall of Fame edition

Listen to Lee Smith's entire Hall of Fame induction speech in the embedded player below.

Cubs Talk Podcast

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Cubs trade rumors: Nick Castellanos drawing interest and could be the perfect fit

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USA TODAY

Cubs trade rumors: Nick Castellanos drawing interest and could be the perfect fit

Ever since infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist hit the restricted list for personal reasons on May 8, one of the biggest talking points around the Cubs has been the team’s need for a steady, veteran bat.

Enter Tigers outfielder Nick Castellanos.

Sunday, Chris McCosky of The Detroit News reported that the Cubs have emerged as a "serious suitor" for Castellanos, citing a source. 

McCosky’s report follows that of MLB Network’s Jon Morosi, who reported that the Cubs had a scout in attendance at Friday’s Tigers-Blue Jays game in Detroit.

It’s currently unclear what a trade package for Castellanos, 27, would look like, but his fit with the team is obvious. In Castellanos, the Cubs would acquire a veteran outfield bat, one that hits extremely well against left-handed pitching.

Castellanos, who is a free agent after this season, has mainly hit second and third for the Tigers and led the team with 23 home runs in 2018. He holds a .280/.339/.467 slashline, with 10 home runs and 35 RBIs this season. Those numbers are even better against left-handers — .377/.451/.639 — albeit in a small sample size of 61 at-bats. However, in his 6+ MLB seasons, he's hitting .302 with an .871 OPS against left-handed pitching. 

The Cubs have struggled against left-handed pitching in 2019, ranking 23rd in average (.243) and 28th in hits with 164. Castellanos would rank first among qualified Cubs hitters vs. left-handers in average and OBP and only trail Javier Baez’s .776 in slugging percentage.

While it's true that Castellanos hits left-handed pitching well, he'd instantly become an everyday player in the Cubs outfield. Thus, the Cubs depth chart would be hit with several ripple effects.

Albert Almora Jr.'s  playing time against right-handed starting pitching would be affected. Almora held a .282/.315/.369 slashline against right-handed pitching in 2018, but those numbers currently sit at .255/.291/.427.

Almora's numbers against lefites (.210/.247/.296) aren't better, but his 2018 slashline there (.295/.340/.402) leaves room for hope. Also, Kyle Schwarber is only hitting .224 against lefties, so adding Castellanos would likely mean Almora starts less against righties and Schwarber less against lefties. Almora does provide Gold Glove caliber defense, so the Cubs may be more inclined to let him work through his struggles at the plate.

Similarly, David Bote's playing time could also be affected by Castellanos. Without the latter, the Cubs have more of a need to play Kris Bryant in the outfield, meaning third base is open for Bote to play. Adding Castellanos might mean Bryant playing more third base and less outfield, so Bote would have to crack the starting lineup at second base, more likely than not. The same goes for Robel Garcia, though his bat is making it hard to keep him out of the starting lineup right now.

Between Almora and Schwarber's numbers and Zobrist’s absence, the Cubs have a glaring need for more outfield offense. Adding Castellanos could be exactly what the doctor ordered for the Cubs offensively.

Update: Our David Kaplan added that the Cubs have also had discussions for Tigers closer Shane Greene.

Greene, 30, is arbitration eligible this offseason. The right-hander has converted 22 of his 25 save chances this season and has 40 strikeouts compared to 11 walks. However, his 3.54 FIP is a far cry from his 1.25 ERA, and the overriding thought has been that the Cubs would seek left-handed relief help rather than right-handed.

Greene entered Sunday with a lower ERA against lefties (0.64) than righties (1.29), though lefties are hitting .222 against him compared to .097 by righties. If the Cubs were to acquire him, he obviously wouldn't slot into the Cubs closer role, as Craig Kimbrel has the position locked down. As Kaplan noted, the cost to get both Castellanos and Greene would be steep, especially with the latter being a top relief arm on the trade market.

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