Cubs

Family weighs heavily on Loopers mind

Family weighs heavily on Loopers mind

Sunday, March 13, 2011
Posted: 7:34 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Braden Looper has made it clear that theres only one team he wants to play for in 2011.

Its not like playing at Wrigley Field is some lifelong dream. Its just the reality of his wife and three children living in Chicagos south suburbs. The Cubs fit what Looper wants to be as a husband, father and a pitcher.

Its not about the money, because the 36-year-old Looper has made almost 25 million in his career, according to the Baseball-Reference.com salary database.

Its uncertain if the Cubs will ultimately have enough room on their pitching staff for Looper, but he made strides during Sundays 7-5 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks. He scattered five hits and allowed one run across 3.2 innings to earn the victory in front of 12,346 fans at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

Not bad for a guy who hadnt started a game since Oct. 2, 2009 and spent last summer coaching his kids Little League team.

He was on target, bench coach Pat Listach said. Its a nice competition for the fourth and fifth spots. Weve got a few guys involved and hes keeping himself right there in the running.

Looper already proved how serious he is about family by sitting out last season, when he didnt receive an offer he liked. He doesnt want to drag them all across the country.

Looper worked out this offseason but didnt really throw all winter. His agent knew it had to be the right situation, and a minor-league deal came together in late January.

Physically, Looper feels good, and he says his right arm is basically caught up to where it needs to be. Hes waiting for his kids to get out of school for spring break. He knows that while there are trade-offs being away from home this much, there are also perks in having your dad play in the big leagues.

Everybody where were at is either a Cubs fan or a Sox fan, so theyre real excited, Looper said. My sons excited to be able to come to Wrigley Field and run around. (But) well see what happens. We got a long ways to go. I think today was a good, positive step in the right direction. Hopefully we can make more positive steps.

Looper has made 30-plus starts and won at least 12 games in each of the last three seasons hes pitched, a wealth of experience that shouldnt be discounted. Hes willing to share, even with the younger pitchers hes competing directly against.

Whether Im talking to (Andrew Cashner) on the side about pitching or his routine between starts, Looper said, whether its whoever you can fill that name in with whoever you want Im always going to be that way.

If I cant play and be part of whats going on in other peoples lives and help them get better? Thats what its all about. Yeah, were here to win. Yeah, I want to start. But if you cant do the other stuff, its not worth doing it.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Manny Machado’s value and other Cubs offseason wish list items

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Manny Machado’s value and other Cubs offseason wish list items

Did Manny Machado’s value take a hit at all after he openly admitted hustling isn’t his “cup of tea”? Our Cubs team (David Kaplan, Kelly Crull, Tony Andracki, Jeff Nelson) debate that, plus the potential fit of Machado or Bryce Harper for the 2019 Cubs and beyond.

The crew also runs down the top items on the Cubs’ offseason wish list – ranging from bullpen help to infield depth to a set leadoff hitter – in what may be the most impactful winter in Theo Epstein’s tenure in Chicago.

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

The most underrated storyline of the Cubs offseason

The most underrated storyline of the Cubs offseason

There are plenty of intriguing Cubs storylines to monitor this offseason from their potential pursuit of the big free agents to any other changes that may come to the coaching staff or roster after a disappointing finish to the 2018 campaign.

But there's one question simmering under the radar in Cubs circles when it comes to this winter: How will the team solve the shortstop conundrum?

Just a few years ago, the Cubs had "too many" shortstops. Now, there are several different factors at play here that makes it a convoluted mess.

First: What will the Cubs do with Addison Russell? The embattled shortstop is in the midst of a suspension for domestic violence that will keep him off an MLB diamond for at least the first month of 2019.

Has Russell already played his last game with the Cubs? Will they trade him or send him packing in any other fashion this winter?

Theo Epstein mentioned several times he felt the organization needs to show support to the victim in the matter (Russell's ex-wife, Melisa) but also support for Russell. Does that mean they would keep him a part of the team at least through the early part of 2019?

Either way, Russell's days in Chicago are numbered and his play on the field took another big step back in 2018 as he fought through a hand injury and experienced a major dip in power. With his performance on the field and the off-field issues, it will be hard to justify a contract worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 million in his second year of arbitration (prorated, with a month's worth of pay taken out for the suspension).

Even if Russell is on the roster in 2019, Javy Baez is unquestionably the shortstop for at least the first month while Russell is on suspension. 

But what about beyond Baez if the Cubs want to give him a breather or disaster strikes and he's forced to miss time with an injury?

At the moment, there's nothing but question marks on the current Cubs shortstop depth chart throughout the entire organization and they're certainly going to need other options at the most important defensive position (outside of pitcher/catcher). 

There's David Bote, who subbed in for Baez at short once in September when Baez needed a break and Russell was on the disabled list. But while Bote's defense at third base and second base has opened eyes around the Cubs, he has only played 45 games at short across seven minor-league seasons, including 15 games in 2018. There's also the offensive question marks with the rookie, who hit just .176 with a .559 OPS and 40 strikeouts in 108 at-bats after that epic ultimate grand slam on Aug. 12.

The Cubs' other current shortstop options include Mike Freeman (a 31-year-old career minor-leaguer), Ben Zobrist (who will be 38 in 2019 and has played all of 13 innings at shortstop since 2014), Ryan Court (a 30-year-old career minor leaguer) and Chesny Young (a 26-year-old minor-leaguer who has posted a .616 OPS in 201 Triple-A games).

Maybe Joe Maddon would actually deploy Kris Bryant at shortstop in case of emergency like a Baez injury ("necessity is the mother of invention," as Maddon loves to say), but that seems a lot more like a fun talking point than a legit option at this current juncture.

So even if Russell sticks around, there's no way the Cubs can go into the first month of the season with just Baez and Bote as the only shortstop options on a team that with World Series or bust expectations.

The Cubs will need to acquire some shortstop depth this winter in some capacity, whether it's adding to the Triple-A Iowa roster or getting a veteran who can also back up other positions. Right now, the free agent pool of potential shortstops is pretty slim beyond Manny Machado.

Epstein always says he and his front office look to try to mitigate risk and analyze where things could go wrong to sink the Cubs' season and through that lense, shortstop is suddenly right up there behind adding more bullpen help this winter.