Cubs

Jake Arrieta makes $15 million-plus deal with Cubs and knows free agency is coming

Jake Arrieta makes $15 million-plus deal with Cubs and knows free agency is coming

Cubs Convention might be the beginning of the end for Jake Arrieta in Chicago. As generations of fans swarmed into a downtown hotel to relive the 2016 highlights and see the World Series trophy, the business side of the game didn't shut down.
 
Arrieta knows the score after agreeing to a one-year, $15.6375 million contract that avoided an arbitration hearing before Friday's filing deadline and moved the Scott Boras client even closer to testing the open market.
 
"The timeline is kind of coming to an end, as far as leading up to free agency," Arrieta said at the Sheraton Grand Chicago. "I'm going to enjoy every moment of it. If something happens where an extension is possible, then we'll address that when it happens. But as of now, we got one more season as a Cub, and I'm really happy about that."
 
Arrieta has exceeded all expectations since that franchise-altering trade with the Baltimore Orioles, the Cubs giving him the time and the space to rediscover his natural talent and blossom from an inconsistent Triple-A guy into an All-Star pitcher.

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"I'll always feel a part of this organization for the rest of my life," Arrieta said, "because I came over here in '13 and turned my career around, won a Cy Young, threw a couple no-hitters, won a World Series. So that's going to be hard to top wherever I go, if I leave. 
 
"I'll feel a part of this city and the organization for a long time."     
 
Before an Opening Night performance that set the tone for the 2016 season – Arrieta allowed two hits across seven innings in a 9-0 win at Angel Stadium of Anaheim – Boras said: "Every Cy Young Award winner I know got a seven-year contract."   
 
Arrieta – who will turn 31 in spring training – also noted that he beat the $15.525 million Boras client Max Scherzer got in his final year in the arbitration system before landing a $210 million megadeal with the Washington Nationals. 
 
"As a player, you're told where you're going to play your whole career until free agency," Arrieta said. "So that's a nice aspect of it – to be able to decide for once where you want to go. But this is a pretty good place to play. There are some great cities out there, some good teams. But I'm not worried about that now. 
 
"I'm trying to be a good teammate and perform to the best of my ability for these guys for another season. And then we'll go from there."

Cubs to reportedly conduct second interview with Joe Espada for managerial opening

Cubs to reportedly conduct second interview with Joe Espada for managerial opening

Astros bench coach Joe Espada has two days off before Houston hosts Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday, but it looks like some of that time will be spent in Chicago.

According to multiple reports, the Cubs will interview Espada a second time for their managerial opening. MLB Network's Jon Heyman reports that the interview is happening on Sunday.

Espada is one of the more sought after managerial candidates this offseason, as he's spent the last six seasons with two of baseball's leading franchises. The 44-year-old has been Astros bench coach since 2018, and prior to that, he spent four seasons with the Yankees — 2014 as a front office assistant, 2015-17 as third base coach.

David Ross was the presumed favorite for the Cubs' opening, when the process got underway. However, by landing a second interview, Espada has clearly given the team something to think about. In fact, NBC Sports Chicago's David Kaplan reported on Thursday the Cubs came away "exceptionally impressed" from Espada's first interview on Monday. 

MLB prefers teams not to make managerial announcements during the World Series. So, it might be a few more weeks before the Cubs announce their decision, unless they do so on Sunday or Monday.

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As he decides what's next, it's clear Ben Zobrist has something left in the tank

As he decides what's next, it's clear Ben Zobrist has something left in the tank

When Ben Zobrist rejoined the Cubs active roster on Sept. 1, it was fair to wonder how much he could provide offensively. After all, he spent the previous four months on the restricted list while tending to a family matter, last playing a big-league game on May 6.

Zobrist did no baseball activities from May to mid-July, only working out to stay in shape. Although he eventually ramped things up, he played in just 12 minor league rehab games in August before returning to the Cubs, a small number compared to the length of his absence.

Even Zobrist admitted upon his big-league return that his timing at the plate wasn’t where he wanted it to be. And yet, what he did in September was nothing short of impressive. In 21 games, he posted a .284/.377/.388 slash line, performing at a level many couldn’t have expected, considering the circumstances.

Zobrist's impact on the Cubs' lineup goes beyond what you see in the box score, however. Not only is he a switch hitter with some pop, but he has a keen eye for the strike zone and frequently puts together professional at-bats.

On a Cubs team that tends to expand the zone, Zobrist’s presence mattered. In his second game back, for example, he went 3-for-3 with two walks, helping the Cubs beat the Brewers 10-5. After the game, Brewers starter Chase Anderson pointed out how different the Cubs' lineup looks with Zobrist in it.

"They play the matchups really well and Zobrist makes that team so much better," Anderson said on Sept. 5. "Just bringing his presence to the top of the lineup, it changes their dynamic a little bit."

Where Zobrist stands entering 2020, though, is currently unclear.

Zobrist is set to hit free agency after the World Series and will turn 39 next May. Therefore, it’s possible that he’s played his last game in the big leagues, as he has little, if anything, left to prove at this stage in his career.

Ahead of the Cubs’ season finale on Sept. 29, Zobrist told reporters in St. Louis that he hasn’t thought about how much time he’ll take before deciding what’s next for him. His family situation will obviously play a big role in his decision, but if September showed anything, it's that he still has something left in the tank.

“I’m 38 but I got that feeling all over again,” Zobrist said following the Cubs’ season finale, a 9-0 loss to the Cardinals in which he pitched a scoreless inning. “Just really fun, you know? It’s a fun game. Sometimes you don’t come out on the winning end, but you still gotta have fun with it and enjoy it. I enjoyed it today."

The Cubs roster is expected to undergo changes this offseason, with center field, second base and the leadoff spot being just a few areas the team will look to address. The latter two spots became revolving doors during Zobrist’s absence, as the Cubs struggled to replace what he brought offensively.

Zobrist is past the point in his career of being an everyday player. However, he still could be a useful asset for the Cubs in a supporting role, bringing his veteran approach to the lineup when he plays while still offering an experienced voice in the clubhouse.

“I take a lot of joy in that role, just being a supporting guy and being a part of winning clubs and part of winning atmospheres and cultures,” Zobrist said on Sept. 29. “The Chicago Cubs have been that since I’ve been around. This year we didn’t make the playoffs — we still have a winning record — (but) the kind of relationships that are built here and the culture that’s been built here is definitely a winning one.”

After the Cubs announced that they wouldn’t retain Joe Maddon for 2020, Zobrist acknowledged that more changes were likely coming in the offseason. Only time will tell what that means for the veteran utilityman — should he continue playing.

Whether he retires or joins a different team for 2020, though, Zobrist will look back on his four seasons with the Cubs fondly.

“(They’re) just the most passionate fans I’ve ever met,” he said of Cubs fans. “They’re very loyal, very passionate and it’s been such a pleasure to be a part of that team that beat the curse back in ’16, so I feel that still, when I see Cubs fans, there’s a lot of them that hug me and thank me for being a part of that.

“I’ll always look back at [my] time here — I don’t know what’s going to happen in the offseason — but look back at these four years and [be] very grateful to be able to be part of a group like this and be able to do what we did while I was here.”

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