Cubs

Joe Maddon expects Kris Bryant to be fine following scary outfield collision

Joe Maddon expects Kris Bryant to be fine following scary outfield collision

Exhale, Cubs Nation. Kris Bryant is going to be OK.

There was plenty of reason to worry when the National League’s home run leader collided with center fielder Albert Almora Jr. in left-center field during the fifth inning of Monday’s 10-4 win over the Cincinnati Reds. Bryant got up from that collision and remained in the game only briefly before exiting for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the inning, the Cubs announcing he had a “contusion on the lower portion of his left leg.”

It looked like a replay of the collision in early April in Arizona, when Kyle Schwarber and Dexter Fowler ran into each other in left-center, leading to Schwarber getting carted off the field with a season-ending injury.

Bryant didn’t suffer the same fate, with manager Joe Maddon saying Bryant should be fine come Tuesday.

“He should be fine tomorrow,” Maddon said. “I’m anticipating putting his name in the lineup tomorrow.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Maddon added that had the score been less one-sided, Bryant wouldn’t have exited Monday's game at all.

Bryant wasn’t around after the win to discuss the collision, but Almora faced the cameras, seeming both shaken and relieved at what happened to a guy he called his brother.

“We’re both trying to catch that ball,” Almora said. “As a center fielder, I feel like if it drops it’s on me. It’s a baseball play, it really is. We’re both trying to win. He was obviously right there under it, and I didn’t hear him. I should’ve probably looked. In that situation, we were winning the game, and that drop in could change the momentum and I just didn’t want it to happen.

“It was really unfortunate. Obviously I didn’t want to hurt my brother. He’s going to be one of my witnesses at my wedding in a couple weeks. I came in after the game, and I tried to find him. He’s doing all right. I gave like 15,000 hugs I think, and I apologized every time. He’s good, thank god.”

[MORE CUBS: No return date for Dexter Fowler, but Cubs can't wait to get him back]

Bryant added to his terrific first half of the season before he left Monday, clubbing his 24th home run of the year, a two-run shot, and scoring all three times he reached base. Had the Cubs lost him for any significant amount of time, it would’ve been a big problem, their hottest hitter joining Fowler on the disabled list.

Fortunately that didn’t happen, and Bryant should be ready to go not just for next week’s All-Star Game — in which he’s expected to be voted in as the National League’s starting third baseman — but for the remainder of this week’s games, as well.

But trust the look on Maddon’s face when the skipper said he doesn’t want anything like that to happen again in 2016.

“He did call it — inaudibly,” Maddon said of Bryant. “They couldn’t hear each other in the white noise of Wrigley Field.

“Albert’s just an aggressive center fielder, that’s why he’s so darn good. That’s just something to be talked about. You can’t just go out there and keep hitting fly balls. They know, they’ve got it. We just have to be more loud when you make that call.

“Sometimes they yell at the same time, and that’s the scariest part. Sometimes you’ve got to peek. And you have to have a lot of confidence in your abilities, but there should be a little bit of a peek involved, especially when you’re going like that. Center fielder always has the priority, don’t get me wrong, but when it’s that high and somebody’s camped (out under the ball), that’s another situation.

"It happens to every team throughout the course of the season, but for purposes I would like it not to happen again.”

Scott Boras' history lesson illustrates why Cubs are unlikely to trade Kris Bryant

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AP

Scott Boras' history lesson illustrates why Cubs are unlikely to trade Kris Bryant

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — As the Cubs move into a new era, the Kris Bryant Decision looms large over the entire organization.

Should they trade him now, two years out from free agency (or one year away if he actually wins his service time grievance)? Or is now the time for the Cubs to deliver a huge offer and lock him up long term?

Bryant's agent, Scott Boras, has been one of the most powerful men in baseball over the last couple decades and he's seen many teams go through the same dilemma the Cubs are currently weighing.

In encountering similar situations with players of Bryant's caliber (a former MVP and Rookie of the Year), Boras shed some light on how unlikely it is that the Cubs would actually wind up dealing him.

"Certainly every player I have that is at that level, they're always asking the question about, 'will they? Won't they? Will they trade him? Will they do it?'" Boras said. "And the answer to that is always: I can give you a percentage over a decade of how many of those players get traded and the answer is very low. If you think that much of him and to get something back for him with a limited period of time is always very hard."

He's got a strong point there. Bryant has a career .901 OPS and averages 32 homers, 92 RBI and 112 runs scored per 162 games over his five years in the big leagues. He proved that the lack of power and production in 2018 was injury related with a strong bounceback season this past year, finishing 14th in WAR in the National League while battling through a lingering knee issue. 

Bryant provides a ton of value to the Cubs and his presence on the roster increases the likelihood of winning another World Series over the next two seasons. In order to trade him, they would need a huge haul in return — a package of players that sets the franchise up for success the future without completely sacrificing the short-term and current window of contention. Will some team actually meet the Cubs' asking price?

The service time grievance is a major issue here, as the difference between one and two years of Bryant would be vast. Red Sox star Mookie Betts is a free agent a year from now and Boston is in a similar situation in that they're weighing a potential trade now rather than risk losing Betts to the open market and getting only draft pick compensation in return.

Boras pointed to how the Red Sox and Cubs both won World Series with Betts and Bryant earlier in their careers, leveraging the star players on cheaper deals to allow more resources to augment the roster around them. But now both guys are due a hefty sum of money in 2020 (MLB Trade Rumors estimates the arbitration figure to be $18.5 million for Bryant and $27.7 million for Betts) and it's time for each team to decide which path to go down.

The prevailing thought around the game is that Bryant won't win his grievance, which puts the Cubs in a different spot than the Red Sox in that they have two years of control left. That's key to either dangle in a trade or to allow more time for the two sides to reach an agreement on an extension.

"I've seen clubs take this decision on and it's often been a decision that they regret — whether they've kept him or whether they've traded him," Boras said. "Again, because they're great players, they're really key decisions."

If no team is able to — or decides to — meet the Cubs' price for Bryant in any trade talks, how likely is it the two sides would work out an extension that keeps him in Chicago beyond 2021?

Both sides waved off any notion that the service time grievance has done anything to damage the relationship between Bryant and the club, with Boras emphasizing that this was a "union matter" and was more about being an "advocate for the rights of players." Even if the arbiter rules against Bryant's grievance, it could still be a major step forward in changing the structure of free agency and service time for the next Collective Bargaining Agreement.

In the matter of extension talks, Bryant and Boras are all ears.

"Look, we're open to talking with them and we've always said that to them," Boras said. "It's always been Kris' philosophy with the team. 

"I would certainly keep the terms and conditions of the contract negotiations private with the Cubs, but obviously it's always a fairness standard. You want what's fair for him and where he stands in the industry and that's true of any player." 

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Cubs continue behind-the-scenes makeover by hiring new scouting director

Cubs continue behind-the-scenes makeover by hiring new scouting director

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - The Cubs are close to the point of the offseason where their sole focus will be on the roster.

As the final coaching staff comes together, the organization also announced their scouting director Wednesday, adding Dan Kantrovitz as the VP of scouting.

Kantrovitz, 41, spent the last five seasons as the assistant general manager to Billy Beane with the Oakland A's and previously served as the director of scouting for the St. Louis Cardinals for three seasons (2012-14). He is a Brown University graduate and also got his Master's Degree at Harvard.

Kantrovitz is a St. Louis native and was reportedly discussing a return to the Cardinals this winter before he took the job with the Cubs:

He was part of the Cardinals scouting department that drafted Jack Flaherty 34th overall in 2014, plus current Cubs reliever Rowan Wick in the ninth round (300th overall) in 2012 and has other successful high picks on his resume (Michael Wacha, Stephen Piscotty, Luke Weaver).

"We're really excited to be able to bring Danny Kantroviz on board," Theo Epstein said Wednesday at the MLB GM Meetings. "To be able to hire somebody to run our drafts who's already held that position and already run successful drafts in the past, it's a unique opportunity. Guys don't usually go back once they reach the assistant GM level. But in Dan's case, he has just discovered that his passion is running the draft.

"It really fits the exact profile we're looking for. He can scout - he goes out and sees 200 players a year when he's running the draft - and he can really relate very well to scouts and he's also got experience building advanced analytical models and combining both those worlds in a really effective manner. I think he fills a big void for us and look forward to working with him for years to come."

Epstein also called the Kantrovitz hire a "best case scenario" for the Cubs as they reshape their front office infrastructure. In September, Epstein moved Jason McLeod from head of scouting and player development (the position he held since coming over to the Cubs after the 2011 season) into a special assistant role in the big-league front office and shook up the player development department.

They wanted a fresh perspective and new insight into the draft and developing players given the organization's inability to produce homegrown pitchers in the eight years under Epstein's reign. Kantrovitz is the guy they've chosen to now lead the scouting department and the hope is he's able to find more success in the draft.

"Dan is as qualified as maybe anyone out there in baseball to do [balance all the information on draft day] since he has scouted extensively and is on the road the entire draft season seeing players and has done so for many years," Epstein said. "He also is one of the top quants [quantitative analyst] in the game as well. Builds his own models and understands it on a granular level - not just to the R & D department, but being a part of it and not just relating to scouts but being one. He brings a really unique skillset and set of experiences to the position."

That's another big hire to check off the list for the Cubs as the offseason starts to heat up. Epstein and Co. can now turn their attention to fine-tuning the roster to ensure the whole is greater than the sum of the parts in 2020. 

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