Cubs

Garza predicts Zambrano will be a Cy Young contender

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Garza predicts Zambrano will be a Cy Young contender

MESA, Ariz. As soon as the Cubs acquired Matt Garza from Tampa Bay last winter, there were questions about how he would control his emotions, fit into the clubhouse and handle a bigger market. There were suspicions that he could be Carlos Zambrano 2.0.

One year later, the Cubs are under new management and at least considering the possibility of signing Garza to a long-term extension. Zambrano has been shipped to the Miami Marlins, where he will be reunited with Ozzie Guillen, an old friend from Venezuela.

The Cubs kicked in roughly 15 million to get rid of Zambrano, and the comparisons to Garza didnt really prove to be accurate.

When this idea was mentioned minutes before the 2012 Cubs went through their first formal workout for pitchers and catchers on Sunday at Fitch Park Garza predicted big things for his former teammate.

Id love to get compared with Zambrano on the field, the way his numbers were, the way he threw the ball, Garza said. Hes one hell of a pitcher. But that guy I tell you what hes going to have one hell of a year. I kid you not hes going to go out there and go down to Miami and surprise a lot of people. His stuff is still electric. It still bottoms out.

I wouldnt be surprised to see him in the Cy Young race (this) year. I kid you not. Hes got (good enough) stuff and I think just playing with Ozzie, getting his own comfort zone, hes going to have one hell of a season. I wish nothing but the best for that guy.

To complete last months deal with the Marlins, Zambrano had to waive his no-trade clause and void a potential vesting option for 2013, which could have been triggered with a top-four finish in this seasons Cy Young vote.

Zambrano has never won 20 games in a season, and hasnt reached 200 innings since 2007. He went 9-7 with a 4.82 ERA last year before packing up his stuff and walking out on the team in a moment of frustration.

That night in Atlanta last August was the point of no return. The Cubs will pay almost all of Zambranos 18 million salary this season, minus the 2.655 million owed Chris Volstad, the intriguing 6-foot-8-inch right-hander they got back in the deal.

Volstad, who grew up in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., is still only 25 years old and a former first-round pick. The sense around camp is that he will benefit from a change of scenery and become a good bet to make the rotation.

Either way, it wont be nearly as entertaining or as potentially explosive as the reality show Ozzie and Big Z will put together in Miami.

Cubs executive Jason McLeod reportedly linked to Giants' GM opening

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USA TODAY

Cubs executive Jason McLeod reportedly linked to Giants' GM opening

Is this the offseason that Cubs executive Jason McLeod finally becomes an MLB general manager?

According to Bruce Levine, the Giants are reportedly interested in McLeod, the Cubs senior vice president of scouting and player development, for their vacant general manager position.

McLeod joined the Cubs' front office in 2011 alongside Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. Before the Cubs, he spent six years in the Red Sox front office and two in the Padres' (with Hoyer, who was San Diego's general manager from 2010-2011). 

Of course, the Giants' reported interest in McLeod doesn't necessarily mean that he will interview for the job. However, it's worth noting that McLeod interviewed for the Twins' general manager job in 2016; he also withdrew his name from consideration for the Padres' general manager job in 2014. 

In addition to the Giants, McLeod's name has been linked to the Mets' general manager vacancy. This is more speculation, but the point is that it seems to be only a matter of time before McLeod is hired as general manager elsewhere.

For what it's worth, though, McLeod is under contract through 2021 and has previously said that he is grateful to be with the Cubs. 

“I’m exceptionally grateful,” McLeod said. “All of us are. Look at where we are at this moment in time with this team," McLeod said in 2016. "I can’t imagine a better environment, a better culture to work at in baseball.

"We’ve been together a long time. We’re friends. We’re good. We embrace the fact that we are good. And we challenge ourselves to be even better.”

Cubs have new hitting coach in Anthony Iapoce

Cubs have new hitting coach in Anthony Iapoce

The Cubs are heading into a new season with a different hitting coach for the second straight winter, but the most recent choice is a familiar face.

Anthony Iapoce is set to join Joe Maddon's coaching staff this week after serving in the same capacity with the Texas Rangers for the last three seasons. The Cubs confirmed the move Monday afternoon shortly after the news broke out of the Rangers camp.

The Cubs fired Chili Davis last week after just one season as the team's hitting coach.

Entering the final week of the season, the Rangers fired manager Jeff Banister, leaving Iapoce and the rest of the Texas coaching staff in limbo.

As such, Iapoce is rejoining the Cubs, where he served as a special assistant to the General Manager from 2013-15 focusing on player development, particularly in the hitting department throughout the minor leagues.

Iapoce has familiarity with a bunch of the current star offensive players on the Cubs, from Willson Contreras to Kris Bryant. 

Both Bryant and Contreras endured tough 2018 seasons at the plate, which was a huge reason for the Cubs' underperforming lineup. Bryant's issue was more related to a left shoulder injured suffered in mid-May while Contreras' offensive woes remain a major question mark after the young catcher looked to be emerging as a legitimate superstar entering the campaign.

Getting Contreras back to the hitter that put up 21 homers and 74 RBI in only 117 games in 2017 will be one of the main goals for Iapoce, so the history between the two could be a key.

With the Rangers, Iapoce oversaw an offense that ranked 7th, 9th and 14th in MLB in runs scored over the last three seasons. The decline in offensive production is obviously not a great sign, but the Rangers as a team have fallen off greatly since notching the top seed in the AL playoffs in 2016 with 95 wins only to lose 95 games in 2018, resulting in the change at manager.

Iapoce has worked with an offense backed by Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Shin-Soo Choo, Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo the last few seasons.

Under Iapoce's tutelage, former top prospect Jurickson Profar shed any notion of a "bust" label and emerged as a budding star at age 25, collecting 61 extra-base hits with a .793 OPS in 2018.

When the Cubs let Davis go last week, they provided no update on assistant hitting coach Andy Haines, who just finished his first season in that role and is expected to remain with the team for 2019. The same offseason Iapoce left for the Rangers, Haines took over as the Cubs' minor league hitting instructor.