Cubs

Ignoring distractions, Wells focused on rotation

259288.jpg

Ignoring distractions, Wells focused on rotation

Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011Posted: 9:20 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. Randy Wells was never the hot prospect and he does not have a big contract. He can be his own worst critic. He would be perfectly content with not being noticed until his next start.

Wells is young, single and speaks his mind. He grew up in downstate Belleville, wears trucker hats and listens to country music. He got prescription glasses last year that kind of made him look like Ricky Wild Thing Vaughn from Major League.

Wells never wore them in a game and didnt find it nearly as amusing as the beat writers. He wants the focus to be on his game, which is why he considered shutting down his Twitter account. Instead he blocks his updates to a mass audience.

I just dont want it to be a distraction, Wells said. I dont want it to be like, Oh, I hear Wells Tweeted (this or that). For me to enjoy it personally is one thing and to have reporters ask me about it (is another). Its kind of like the glasses thing and the band thing and the songwriting thing last year. Its just like: How about you ask me about baseball?

Wells uses it to promote his favorite bands and read Chad Ochocinco. One list compiled by MLB.com has more than 100 major-league players with verified accounts.

Ryan Dempster uses it to promote his charitable foundation. Casey Coleman recently created one out of curiosity, but has backed off because he felt like too many people were trying to bait him into making a mistake.

Blue Jays manager John Farrell told Toronto reporters that ideally his players wouldnt use Twitter, though he wouldnt go so far as to ban it outright.

My own opinion is that for a player to get involved in that, they set themselves up for another distraction, Farrell was quoted as saying in the National Post. I cant mandate anything to them, but (would) probably advise them to just let it be.

Were not going to say they cant do it. But I think theyve got to be careful. If theyre going to engage in it, then they really need to be able to follow through on some of the things that might be put out there.

Farrells comments rippled through cyberspace this week. Thats just the way it works. Twitter unfairly made Jay Cutler and the Bears look bad, and it caused enough tension between Ozzie Guillen and the White Sox.

The Cubs will address this as part of their annual media-relations workshop with players. But theres no prohibition, just a reminder that you are representing the organization.

The Cubs have an official Twitter account with more than 11,000 followers. Several employees in the front office use the service to monitor the news.

In his first speech to the entire team last week, manager Mike Quade felt compelled to tell his players to look reporters in the eye and take the responsibility seriously because the medias a monster.

Wells feels like the media zoomed in on some of his struggles in the first inning and sometimes lost sight of his overall 2010 season.

Either way, the 28-year-old is trying to hang on to his spot in the rotation. Hell have to fend off 2008 first-round pick Andrew Cashner. And the Cubs are on the hook for 6 million of Carlos Silvas 11.5 million salary.

I like when you got to earn your keep, Wells said. Ive never been the kind of guy in my whole career thats had a spot to lose. Nobody goes into camp being like: Im going to be a starter at Triple-A.

Wells went 8-14 last season, but also made 32 starts and posted a respectable 4.26 ERA. It should not be discounted that he finished at 12-10 with a 3.05 ERA the year before, when he was the rookie success story.

The ending is unwritten. In a world of Twitter and Facebook, you can change the narrative very quickly.

When I say I lost a little focus last year, its nothing from a personal standpoint, Wells said. I meant that when things started tumbling, I didnt know how to step back and look inside myself and dig deeper.

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

No momentum yet on potential Cubs-Zobrist reunion

No momentum yet on potential Cubs-Zobrist reunion

SAN DIEGO — Theo Epstein's front office has a lot of difficult decisions to make this winter, but Ben Zobrist has yet to come up with his own tough answers.

The 2016 World Series MVP is currently a free agent after wrapping up his four-year deal with the Cubs. He played a major role on the team in September following a four-month absence to deal with a family matter. 

Zobrist, 38, said at the end of the season that he was unsure if he would call it quits after an impressive career or return for another season on the diamond. More than two months since he last put on a uniform, he still has not reached an answer:

If he does play another season, it would have to be in the right situation for his family. He's made enough money in his career and accomplished plenty — including hoisting a couple championship trophies — but he clearly still had the drive and desire to play, as he said in his September return.

The Cubs figure to be on the short list of teams that would make sense for Zobrist given the mutual familiarity, a home in Chicago and how the entire organization supported him as he stepped away from the team to address his personal life.

It would seem to fit from the Cubs' perspective as well, since they talked all season long about how they missed Zobrist's professional at-bats and his presence inside the clubhouse. 

But there is no traction on the reunion front at the moment.

"I haven't talked to him recently," Epstein said Monday. "I've talked to him since the season ended, but it was more just checking in on his family. As far as baseball, he hadn't made a decision at that point. He was gonna wait a while before deciding what to do. He left open the possibility, but that was it."

The Cubs have an avenue for playing time next season at second base and potentially in the outfield for Zobrist and they are currently searching for leadoff options. He proved he can still play at his advanced age by hitting .284/.388/.377 in September after months away from the game. He isn't an everyday guy anymore, but can still provide value as a role player.

If Zobrist decides to give it one more go, the price would have to be right for the financially-hamstrung Cubs, but a reunion would make a lot of sense for both sides.

Angels' search for catching help could lead them to Willson Contreras

maddon_contreras.jpg
USA TODAY

Angels' search for catching help could lead them to Willson Contreras

Could we see a Willson Contreras-Joe Maddon reunion in Los Angeles?

According to Maria Torres of the Los Angeles Times, the Angels are “heavily engaged in the catcher market,” and are having “active conversations with two teams” regarding a trade for a catcher.

Torres didn’t specifically mention Contreras, but he’s one of several Cubs who have been linked to trade rumors this offseason. The Cubs aren’t looking to enter another all-out rebuild, but they’re keeping the future of the organization in mind following a disappointing 84-win season.

The Cubs farm system has grown barren of impact talent. They’ve struggled to develop big-league starting pitching under team president Theo Epstein. Their payroll is projected to exceed MLB’s luxury tax threshold for a second straight season, meaning they’d encounter a 30 percent luxury tax on their overages and see their draft position drop 10 spots, should they exceed the $208 million threshold by $40 million or more.

Trading Contreras — who’s projected to make $4.5 million via arbitration next season — won’t solve the financial problem. However, trading him could net the Cubs the type of blue-chip prospects they desperately need to replenish their farm system.

Contreras is also under team control through 2022, so there’s not a huge rush to deal the two-time All-Star. But if the Cubs sense he’s unlikely to sign a contract extension now or in the future, they must do their due diligence on him and see what they could acquire in a potential trade. The same is true for Javier Báez, Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber.

The Angels have one top 100 prospect, (outfielder Jo Adell — No. 5 overall), according to MLB Pipeline, so what Los Angeles could offer the Cubs is questionable. Epstein and Co. won’t trade their backstop for the sake of doing so, especially if they deem any offers to be unsatisfactory.  

Contreras hit .272/.355/.533 with 24 home runs and 64 RBIs last season. He’d be a major addition for the Angels, whose catchers posted a combined .221/.293/.344 slash line with 15 home runs and 61 RBIs. The 27-year-old also has a special bond with former Cubs/current Angels manager Joe Maddon.

Contreras posted a heartfelt good-bye to Maddon on Instagram after the Cubs announced they weren’t retaining the manager for 2020. Contreras later commissioned a painting of he and Maddon as a gift for his former skipper.

Monday, Maddon said it’s “weird” to hear Bryant and Contreras mentioned in trade rumors, adding that he likes both players. 

The Angels aren't definitively linked to Contreras and Epstein recently advised to take rumors with a "mouthful of salt." But considering the Angels are reportedly seeking a catching upgrade, it won't be a surprise to see that change soon.