Cubs

Javier Baez showing Cubs why he can be a game-changer

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Javier Baez showing Cubs why he can be a game-changer

ST. LOUIS – This is why Joe Maddon wanted Javier Baez on the Opening Day roster. The Cubs manager saw the instinctual feel for the game, the natural athleticism and a rocket-launcher arm.

Let Baez figure out how to use that Gary Sheffield bat speed later. Maddon believed the kid could help the team win in so many different ways.

Baez still isn’t a finished product – and this season hasn’t gone according to plan – but here he is in September making a difference for a legitimate playoff contender against the hated St. Louis Cardinals.

[MORE CUBS: Jon Lester endorses Jake Arrieta for wild-card game]

“He falls out of bed and he can play defense,” Maddon said before Wednesday’s 4-3 loss at Busch Stadium. “It’s incredible to watch how smooth he is and how comfortable he is with all these different positions.

“He’s just different. I don’t know even know if I’ve ever had anybody quite that comfortable on the infield, especially at that age.”

Baez is 22 years old, but he can take charge defensively like a veteran player. Did you see that diving stop to his left and the throw from his knees to rob Jason Heyward of a base hit on Tuesday night? Or the way he charged Greg Garcia’s bunt to make a barehanded play look effortless?

Not bad for a natural shortstop playing third base. But right now the Cubs don’t have a shortstop controversy or any plans to replace Addison Russell – who also looked so good at second base – in late-game situations or with certain matchups.

[MORE CUBS: Bullpen meltdown leaves bad taste in Cubs mouth]

“I really like Addie at shortstop,” Maddon said. “I like Javy’s ability to move around like he is right now. I’d like him to give Addie a day off. But we have not spoken at all about doing anything differently.”

A National League scout who covers the Cubs called Baez the organization’s best defensive shortstop. Arm strength is one area where the Cubs hope Russell will improve over time, allowing him to throw with more authority and make plays deeper in the hole.

Baez also looks more under control at the plate, going 8-for-25 (.320) with six strikeouts since his September call-up from Triple-A Iowa. But he doesn’t have to swing away to make an impact.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up for the stretch run, Cubs fans!

Playing Baez at third base allows the Cubs to move Kris Bryant to the outfield. Playing Baez at second base tightens up the infield defense at a time when runs will be at a premium. There are so many possibilities for a manager who loves to go mix-and-match. 

“Javy is showing you that he’s capable of doing all that,” Maddon said. “I’m certain he could be a good outfielder, too. But when a guy can play that kind of game on the dirt, you want to keep him there.”

Ben Zobrist provides a hilarious glimpse into how he's spending a free October

Ben Zobrist provides a hilarious glimpse into how he's spending a free October

Ben Zobrist won't win the Comeback Player of the Year award this winter, but maybe he can take home a Grammy for Best New Artist?

The Cubs veteran infielder/outfielder posted a hilarious video on his Instagram Wednesday night showcasing how he's been spending October after the Cubs were unceremoniously ousted from the playoffs after on the third day of the month.

It's a fantastic music video of Zobrist lip-syncing to Mumford & Sons' "I Will Wait" while he nearly knocks the TV off the wall of his home by swinging the bat indoors pretending to hit off Clayton Kershaw and frolicking around a field that looks shockingly similar to Hershel's farm from the second season of "The Walking Dead":

View this post on Instagram

It always takes me a few weeks to process the season and begin the offseason. Here are my thoughts.....along with a unique way of making light of the postseason that should have been......... (special thanks to @dimtillard for help with Video) Maybe you feel the way I do. It was a very quick and abrupt ending to a good season for us. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth. But let’s not forget all the good that happened. This game and this team gives us something to pass the time, to express our love and passion, to feel the joy of the wins and the pains of the losses, and it calls us to unity when we so easily can be divided about so many other things. Each game is a microcosm of life. The game itself is not Life, but it helps us deal with life in a way. I’m thankful for even the painful losses at the end. The game can be a great teacher. I felt privileged to play with this team and play for our fans all year. We were stretched and we grew in new ways as individuals and as a group and that is always a good thing. We strive to win championships, but more often the process is the goal. We will be stronger because of all that we went through this year. What will I do now? I will travel and watch my wife crush her book tour. I will be in and out of Chi-town. I just got back home to Franklin, TN. I will find joy in raising and watching my kids grow and continue becoming their own person. I will rest and begin preparing for next season. I will work hard in mind, body, and spirit. I will help other players with @patriotforward and @showandgo. I will focus on personal growth and charitable endeavors and become a better man, teammate, friend, and player. To Baseball and Fans: For the next 5 months until I play next year.... I will wait for you....

A post shared by Ben Zobrist (@benzobrist18) on

Zobrist also posted a lengthy caption on his perspective on the Cubs' disappointing end to the season:

It always takes me a few weeks to process the season and begin the offseason. Here are my thoughts.....along with a unique way of making light of the postseason that should have been......... (special thanks to @dimtillard for help with Video) 
Maybe you feel the way I do. It was a very quick and abrupt ending to a good season for us. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth. But let’s not forget all the good that happened. This game and this team gives us something to pass the time, to express our love and passion, to feel the joy of the wins and the pains of the losses, and it calls us to unity when we so easily can be divided about so many other things. Each game is a microcosm of life. The game itself is not
Life, but it helps us deal with life in a way. I’m thankful for even the painful losses at the end. The game can be a great teacher. 
I felt privileged to play with this team and play for our fans all year. We were stretched and we grew in new ways as individuals and as a group and that is always a good thing. We strive to win championships, but more often the process is the goal. We will be stronger because of all that we went through this year. 
What will I do now? I will travel and watch my wife crush her book tour. I will be in and out of Chi-town. I just got back home to Franklin, TN. I will find joy in raising and watching my kids grow and continue becoming their own person. I will rest and begin preparing for next season. I will work hard in mind, body, and spirit. I will help other players with @patriotforward and @showandgo. I will focus on personal growth and charitable endeavors and become a better man, teammate, friend, and player. 
To Baseball and Fans: For the next 5 months until I play next year....
I will wait for you....

Come for the Zobrist lip sync, but stay for the 37-year-old using a bat as a guitar while wearing a sleeveless shirt and rocking an old-timey top hat.

A year ago, Zobrist completely reshaped his offseason workout plan after three straight years of playing deep into October. It appears he's added another new trick to his winter workout — hopping over fences even though there is a clear opening just a foot away.

Hey, whatever works...

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.

[MORE: The most underrated storyline of the Cubs offseason]

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: