Cubs

John Lackey has no interest in a David Ross-style retirement tour with Cubs: 'I just won't show up the next year'

John Lackey has no interest in a David Ross-style retirement tour with Cubs: 'I just won't show up the next year'

MESA, Ariz. — John Lackey didn't come here for a victory lap or a David Ross-style farewell from Cubs fans, the national media and Corporate America.

"Not a chance," Lackey said Thursday morning. "There will be no retirement tour. I just won't show up the next year."

Don't expect to see "Grandpa Lackey" trending on Twitter and all over Instagram, though he did seem amused by how his good friend and former catcher has appeared on "The Ellen Show," gotten a book deal, signed on with ESPN, joined Theo Epstein's front office as a special assistant and booked "Dancing with the Stars."

"He's doing everything possible," Lackey said. "I don't think that dude said 'no' to anything yet. He's enjoying himself, for sure."

At the age of 38, Lackey enjoys being an old-school enforcer on the mound, occasionally grumpy with reporters and oblivious to what's being written and said about him. He's in the second season of a two-year, $32 million contract and will get his third World Series ring in April.

"I feel great," Lackey said. "I'm just playing this year. See what happens at the end of the year. If I still feel good, keep playing."

Standing in front of his locker at the Sloan Park complex and looking back on his 2016 season as a whole, Lackey took a passive-aggressive shot at manager Joe Maddon during his first extended media session this spring.

"Until I had the little time on the DL, I was about as good as I've ever been, honestly," Lackey said. "I had to warm up a couple times in extra innings. Probably didn't help. That probably ended up getting me. Yeah, I wish that wouldn't have happened. Let's see where it might have gone."

[MORE CUBS: The Decision: Cubs name Jon Lester team's Opening Day starter]

Lackey went on the disabled list with right shoulder stiffness in the middle of August and finished at 11-8 with a 3.35 ERA and a 1.057 WHIP, just missing the 200-inning mark (188.1). The guy who didn't come here for a haircut got two no-decisions and a loss in his three playoff starts, becoming a four- or five-inning pitcher.

"He was going good last year until we attempted to bring him into a couple games by warming him up," Maddon said. "I believe there's a lot of good baseball left in him. I just think last year I screwed it up by permitting him to warm up.

"In the moment, it didn't (bother him). But I think it's a cumulative situation. It does come back and bite you in the arm. You're trying to win the game, here's this guy that says 'I can do it,' the days looked right regarding when he had pitched previously. But that is something I should not permit."

Lackey skipped going to Washington with his teammates for President Barack Obama's final official White House event: "I was at a charity event, honestly. Just had a prior deal." Lackey had visited the White House for ceremonies honoring the 2002 Anaheim Angels and 2013 Boston Red Sox and understands what the Cubs will face as defending World Series champs.

"It's hard to win one, much less two," Lackey said. "It's a tough thing to do, but I think this is unique, just with the youth in this room. We're going to have a lot of guys that are still young, still hungry and not tired, I guess."

With Lackey thinking about disappearing to Texas at some point, Jake Arrieta awaiting free agency and the fifth starter an open question, the Cubs could be looking at a one-year window before a dramatic overhaul.

"I don't think we think that far ahead," Lackey said. "I'm trying to be good my next start. Whatever happens next year is, kind of, who cares?"

Lackey's spring debut is supposed to be Tuesday in Mesa against Team Italy in a World Baseball Classic tune-up.

"We'll see," Lackey said. "We'll see if it fits into my golf schedule."

Cubs add reliever Daniel Winkler in another low-risk, high-reward move

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USA TODAY

Cubs add reliever Daniel Winkler in another low-risk, high-reward move

The Cubs have reportedly made another low-risk gamble on a bullpen arm.

According to MLB Insider Robert Murray, the Cubs have reached an agreement with right-hander Daniel Winkler on a one-year deal.

Winkler, an Effingham, Ill. native holds a career 3.68 ERA, 3.65 FIP, 1.176 WHIP and 10.3 K/9 in 117 games (100 1/3 innings). He spent 2015-19 with the Atlanta Braves, undergoing Tommy John surgery in June 2014 and another elbow surgery in April 2017. The Braves dealt him to the San Francisco Giants at the 2019 trade deadline for closer Mark Melancon.

Winkler posted a 4.98 ERA in 27 big league games last season and a 2.93 ERA in 30 minor league games. His best MLB season came with the Braves in 2018, as he made a career-high 69 appearances and posted a 3.43 ERA, striking out 69 batters in 60 1/3 innings.

The Cubs entered the offseason in search of bullpen upgrades following a rough 2019. That search includes finding pitchers who may not have long track records, but qualities demonstrating their ability to make an impact at the big-league level. In this case, Winkler possesses solid spin rates on his cutter, four-seamer and curveball, meaning he induces soft contact and swings and misses.

“We need to keep unearthing pitchers who we acquire for the right reasons, we work well with and have the physical and mental wherewithal to go out and miss a lot of bats,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said at his end-of-season press conference, “which is something we didn’t do a lot of — although we did increasingly in the second half with this pitching group — and find more guys who can go out and pitch in high-leverage spots."

The Cubs were successful in unearthing arms last season, acquiring Rowan Wick and Brad Wieck from the Padres in separate deals. They recently acquired Jharel Cotton from the Oakland A’s in a similar buy low move.

Not every pitcher will be as successful as the Wi(e)cks were last season, but the Cubs must continue making low-risk bullpen moves. At the best, they find a legitimate relief arms; at the worst, they move on from a low-cost investments.

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Cubs Talk Podcast: NL contenders making moves

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: NL contenders making moves

On this edition of the podcast, Tony Andracki, Nate Poppen and Tim Stebbins wonder: What are the Brewers doing this winter? The trio also discuss the latest moves by the Braves and Phillies and how the Cubs fit into the National League playoff race at the moment. Plus, they react to rumors regarding Willson Contreras and Nicholas Castellanos and weigh in on whether or not Nico Hoerner should be the Opening Day second baseman.

01:00 - What are the Milwaukee Brewers doing so far this winter? What does the Omar Narváez trade haul say for the market for Willson Contreras?

06:30 - Get ready for every Cubs trade rumor this winter to be linked to the Angels and Joe Maddon.

08:00 - Are the Brewers the 4th best team in the N.L. Central right now?

10:30 - After the Cole Hamels and Zack Wheeler signings, where do the Cubs stack up against the rest of the contenders in the National League?

13:00 - How will Cole Hamels be viewed by Cubs fans after spending just a season and a half at Wrigley Field.

14:40 - The Cubs are rumored to still be "interested" in Nicholas Castellanos. How would he fit in the outfield long term? What would signing Castellanos allow the Cubs to do with the rest of their roster?

18:45 - Should Nico Hoerner be on the Cubs roster out of Spring Training? What would Hoerner making the team mean for the construction of the roster and infield depth?

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below: