Cubs

Joe Maddon's "Step Brothers" moment led to wacky shift on Joey Votto

Joe Maddon's "Step Brothers" moment led to wacky shift on Joey Votto

Joe Maddon and Davey Martinez might have to start going by "Nighthawk" and "Dragon."

They already came as a package deal in the workforce, as Martinez joined Maddon in the trek from Tampa Bay to Chicago before the 2015 season.

When gameplanning for the Cincinnati Reds series, the celebrity manager and his bench coach had a "did we just become best friends??" moment.

The two had the same thought at the same time: Play four outfielders against red-hot Joey Votto.

"Davey and I were talking. It was almost like that scene in 'Step Brothers' — 'Did we just become best friends?'" Maddon said. "Thought the same thing at the same time — four outfielders! It was kinda like that.

"Sometimes it can be that extemporaneous. They're telling me all this stuff about how many days in a row he's been on base two times. That's crazy. You know he's gonna get on base, whether it's a walk or a single. 

"So go ahead. Just try something differently and see if it influences what he's thinking a little bit. But it obviously didn't [Monday]. Pulls the ball down the right-field line. That's the last thing you were looking for right there and it happened."

Maddon emphasized that part — just giving Votto a different look. At the very least, it may mess with his head a bit if not his swing.

The Cubs were only worried about the bunt or the popup down the left-field line with the wacky shift and alerted shortstop Javy Baez about that as third baseman Kris Bryant moved out to left-center.

There was also the added factor that Jose Quintana gives up more fly balls than grounders and Votto rarely hits the ball on the ground the opposite way.

"Why cover where the guy doesn't hit the ball?" Maddon asked. "Whereas you can cover more where he does. That's the essence of the shift.

"I wanted them to attempt to hit a groundball over there as opposed to driving the ball. ... You want to take them away from what they do best."

Nolan Arenado would ‘love’ to play for Cubs, should Rockies move him

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Nolan Arenado would ‘love’ to play for Cubs, should Rockies move him

The outcome of Kris Bryant’s service time grievance is in, with an MLB arbitrator ruling in favor of the Cubs. With Bryant losing the grievance, the club can move forward with potential trade talks, now knowing their star third baseman has two more years of club control and therefore more value.

One deal that has reportedly been discussed, at least in earnest, is a one-for-one that would send Bryant to Colorado in exchange for Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado.

Shortly after breaking the result of Bryant’s grievance, ESPN’s Jeff Passan appeared on NBC Sports Chicago’s David Kaplan’s radio show. Kaplan proposed a trade that would send Bryant, Jason Heyward, Willson Contreras and a prospect to the Rockies for superstar third baseman Nolan Arenado.

According to Passan, the Rockies would hang up the phone if the Cubs offered that package. However, he made one thing certain: Arenado would love to play for the Cubs.

“I don’t think they are at the top of the list right now, even though Nolan Arenado would love to come and play in Chicago,” Passan said of the Cubs. “And I mean he would love it.”

The difficulty of adding Arenado for Bryant straight up is it doesn’t shed any salary, one of the Cubs’ offseason objectives. Arenado is owed $234M through 2026 and $35 million annually through 2024. Bryant will make $18.6 million in 2020.

Kaplan’s proposal would shed salary, though as Passan said, Heyward’s $86 million — or even half of it — would be too much for Colorado. Passan said a more likely scenario is the same deal but including Tyler Chatwood ($13 million salary in 2020) rather than Heyward.

The financial gymnastics of a Bryant-Arenado swap will make a deal difficult to achieve. If Arenado grows increasingly disgruntled with the Rockies, perhaps a trade becomes more likely.

Trading Kris Bryant for Mookie Betts solves literally nothing but it absolutely needs to happen

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Trading Kris Bryant for Mookie Betts solves literally nothing but it absolutely needs to happen

Kris Bryant lost his grievance case this morning, which was a big win for the Cubs. Congrats on further alienating one of your best players! Any time you get the chance to ruin your relationship with the only player to ever win the Golden Spikes, Minor League Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, and MVP in consecutive years, you've just gotta. Take THAT, Scott Boras! 

So what happens next? Given the Cubs' track record this offseason, probably absolutely nothing – but that doesn't make for an interesting article. So here's my idea, and friends, it is dumb: 

The Cubs and the Red Sox are sort of in the same position regarding these two. Both front offices are sufficiently spooked by the idea of market value, which means both players have found themselves fully wrapped up in the trade rumor mill. So why not trade them for one another? (this is rhetorical please stop yelling) Cubs fans deserve something this offseason besides shrewd minor league contracts. 

Here's the Cubs' logic/common sense in general: Mookie Betts is probably the best position player in baseball not named Mike Trout. He's coming off a "down" year in which he posted a 135 wRC+, which was only the 23rd best mark in 2019. What value! He was roughly a 6-win (6.6 fWAR) player in 2019. To put that in perspective, Kyle Schwarber, Nick Castellanos, and Jason Heyward were worth 6.5 wins combined. All of Statcast's fancy numbers say that Betts was basically the same as Heyward in right field last year, too. So Betts, at least last year, was quite literally a combination of Jason Heyward's glove and Kris Bryant's bat (135 wRC+). They're clearly itching to stop paying both of them, a bill that'll end up costing them about $41 million this season; Betts will run the Sox $27 million. Getting the same amount of production for $14 million is quite literally the Ricketts' dream.

There are lots of problems. That move, in a vacuum, would get the Cubs under the luxury tax – but just barely. It'd require the Red Sox, who are ALSO looking to get under the luxury tax (being a big market team is just such a burden), to probably take on an albatross of a contract that prevents them from that. The Sox also have Rafael Devers at third, and just brought Mitch Moreland back to handle first base. Jackie Bradley Jr. and Andrew Benintendi are by no means blocking Bryant from those spots, but the organization specifically brought new GM Chaim Bloom on to avoid these types of deals. 

Both teams would want prospects, too. Neither farm systems are particularly flush with established talent at the moment, but there's actually a lowkey-fun fit there. The Red Sox system's Top-10 is RHP-heavy, which has been the bane of Chicago's existence. There's quietly more upside in the Cubs' minors than they get credit for, so maybe that's a starting point? The Cubs get some righties for The Pitch Lab, and the Sox get some high-ceiling guys that can help better fill out their Top-10. 

To be clear, this won't happen. Bryant-for-Betts doesn't make nearly as much sense as, say, Bryant-for-Arenado might, and trading for Betts would mean shedding even more salary than they already have. But it'd be FUN, and that's something that Cubs baseball could undoubtedly use. I told you guys this was dumb. There's a reason no one liked the Tweet.