Cubs

Kaplan: Cubs to go through a complete rebuild

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Kaplan: Cubs to go through a complete rebuild

After speaking with several baseball sources over the past few days I am hearing that a complete and total rebuild of the Cubs is more likely than ever to take place during the remainder of the off-season. I have confirmed that Sean Marshall has been dealt to Cincinnati for Travis Wood and two minor leaguers, pending a physical.

However, Marshall along with several other players on the Cubs roster are all being shopped as Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and company look to maximize their value as they look to completely overhaul the team. In speaking with a current major league executive from outside Chicago who would only speak with me on the condition of anonymity he was brutally honest in evaluating where the Cubs are right now.

If you are completely honest about the current roster that Theo and Jed inherited I dont see more than a handful of pieces that a championship type team would want to have on their roster. Garza, Castro, Marshall, perhaps Marmol if they can get his wildness under control, and maybe another bullpen piece or two and thats about it, he told me.

As I questioned him further he told me that the talk around baseball when it comes to the Cubs is that they need a full scale house cleaning. There is no doubt that the Cubs need a major overhaul and with that comes a couple of seasons of teams that will have more than its share of struggles. However, if Theo and Jed can make astute deals for the few pieces that they do have the rebuild can get off to a very good start. In the addition, the farm system is not in good shape in terms of nearly major league ready starting pitching so if they can make some very solid deals they can reload in the minor leagues as well, he said.

A look at the current makeup of the Cubs roster shows a handful of big contracts that the Cubs are having trouble trying to move despite their willingness to eat significant portions of the remaining dollars. From Alfonso Soriano to Carlos Zambrano, to Ryan Dempster, the Cubs have approximately 50 million tied up in players who do not figure to be a part of their future when they are ready to win. Add in Marshall, Carlos Marmol and Marlon Byrd along with a handful of others who do not figure to be a part of the Cubs long term future and you have current 2012 salary commitments that total 72,850,000. Add in deals that would have to get done with Matt Garza, Geovany Soto, and others who are arbitration eligible and the Cubs 2012 payroll climbs into the 90 million dollar range.

Now with that much money already committed you have a 71 win team from 2011 that has lost one of its top power bats in Carlos Pena and has only added David DeJesus and Ian Stewart which cannot at this point be considered major additions to the roster. The starting pitching is still among baseballs worst and the everyday lineup has a number of holes in it. Question marks include first base, third base, left field, at least two if not three spots in the rotation and a couple of spots in the bullpen.

That doesnt include the question marks that occupy the other positions of the current team. Is Soto really worth the 4-5 million or so that he will earn in 2012 and is he the catcher of the future? Is Darwin Barney the long-term answer at 2nd base?

A look at the pitching staff shows more questions that need answers such as the closer role where Marmol has a world of talent but is coming off of a horrific 2011 when he blew 10 saves and saw his Ks per 9 innings drop by four strikeouts from his record-setting 2010 season. Is he the long-term answer in that role or could the Cubs get a solid return if they were to move him in a deal?

The Cubs roster is devoid of impact position players with the exception of Starlin Castro. So the question that must be asked is does it make sense for Epstein and Hoyer to spend significant dollars to try to patchwork a lineup that has virtually no chance of contending? Or should they use this one opportunity to truly tear the team down to its foundation and rebuild it the right way knowing that major on field success is a few years away?

One thing that Tom Ricketts has shown in his statements to the media and the fan base ever since he purchased the franchise is that he is in this for the long haul so from that perspective a complete rebuild makes a lot of sense. When Epstein spoke to the media before the winter meetings he gave this assessment of the potential for the Cubs to sign a free agent to a mega contract. Weve been consistent from Day 1 that our priorities are building this thing the right way, for the long haul, mainly through scouting and player development and through the acquisition of young players. The second priority is to take advantage of every opportunity to win that you have. But were not going to do anything to serve the second priority that disrupts the first. So any rumor that you hear, its probably worth your while to assess it through that lens. Not saying that were not going to make a move that might be unanticipated or catch people by surprise or might not on its face fit perfectly into that box. But generally thats our philosophy. Thats how were evaluating moves as we try to build this thing.

Two other sources confirmed to me today that the Cubs are not players in the Prince Fielder negotiations and are not preparing to make a major offer to land him. In fact, the same major league sources expect the Cubs to try to move most of their valuable assets before spring training and that a complete overhaul of the team will definitely happen. As one current NL executive told me it is about time that it happened. The Cubs have never had the guts to completely blow up their roster and build it the right way. They have to have a plan for sustained success instead of always trying to patchwork a roster for a surprising season. They should have done that when Andy MacPhail took over but for whatever reason they couldnt or wouldnt. By the time Jim Hendry became the GM they had some young starting pitching and a mandate from management in 2006-09 to try to buy their way to a championship. It never worked out so the rebuild is the right way to go, he said.

Cubs bench coach Mark Loretta reportedly interviews for Padres' manager job

Cubs bench coach Mark Loretta reportedly interviews for Padres' manager job

While David Ross is set to become the Cubs' next manager, a member of the team's 2019 coaching staff has reportedly interviewed for a managerial vacancy elsewhere.

Cubs bench coach Mark Loretta recently interviewed for the Padres' managerial opening, according to MLB Network's Jon Heyman. It's the second known managerial opening Loretta has interviewed for this offseason, as he also interviewed for the Cubs' before they chose Ross.

Like Ross and the Cubs, Loretta has several ties to the Padres. The 48-year-old played three seasons with San Diego (2003-05) during his 15-year big-league career. He also spent nine seasons as a special assistant in the Padres front office, working with general manager Jed Hoyer — who held the same position with the Padres from 2010-11.

Loretta isn't the only Cubs coach to interview for a managerial opening. First base coach Will Venable — who also was a candidate to replace Joe Maddon — reportedly interviewed for the Giants' vacancy last Friday. The 36-year-old joined the Cubs as a front office assistant in 2017 before being named first base coach in 2018.

What this means for Ross' coaching staff is to be determined. Loretta and Venable interviewing elsewhere doesn't mean they'll get hired, but Epstein and Co. handpicked them for Maddon's staff.

Thus, Ross may look to choose his own group as he embarks on year No. 1 as a big-league manager. Loretta and Venable could also seek seek other opportunities, though the latter told the Chicago Sun-Times that his interest is in the Cubs "organization in general."

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Kris Bryant's grievance that could change the entire landscape of the Cubs franchise and MLB

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AP

Kris Bryant's grievance that could change the entire landscape of the Cubs franchise and MLB

David Ross' hiring is not the only Cubs bombshell that dropped Wednesday morning.

NBC Sports' David Kaplan also reported the shocking news that Kris Bryant's future with the Cubs might be in doubt.

According to Kap, Bryant's grievance case with MLB Players Association over his service time from back in 2015 will be heard this week and next. If the arbiter sides in favor of Bryant, he would become a free agent after this next season (2020) rather than in two years, which is currently the course of action:

As you might recall, Bryant was called up to make his big-league debut on April 17, 2015 — just one day after the service time threshold. Had he been called up a day prior, Bryant would have received a full year of MLB service time in 2015 and thus would be a free agent after this coming season (2020).

Instead, the Cubs kept him in the minors long enough to control his 2021 season, as well — a move that proved to be exactly the right call from a team perspective. But that decision five years ago was not good for Bryant personally, as he'd be much better off hitting the free agent market next year as a 28-year-old and trying to secure a life-changing contract.

This hearing could have far-reaching implications that would change the landscape of the entire Cubs franchise and all of baseball. If Bryant wins, other players around the league could retroactively argue the same case and potentially earn free agency a year earlier.

For the Cubs, this arbiter could change the course of history for the organization. One year of Bryant vs. two might be the difference in whether or not Theo Epstein's front office decides to trade him this winter.

The Cubs have always viewed their window of contention to run through at least the 2021 season in large part because of the years of team control they held on Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javy Baez that currently expires after that season. But as the roster stands right now coming off an October of sitting on the couch instead of playing in the postseason, there are a lot of holes to fill and it wouldn't necessarily be prudent for Epstein and Co. to go all-in for 2020 at the expense of the future. If that's the case and Bryant wins this service time hearing, it might make the most sense for the Cubs to trade him away now rather than risk losing him to free agency next winter.

Of course, there's also the extension aspect of this whole situation. The Cubs are going to try to lock Bryant up long-term, but given he's a Scott Boras client, it seems more likely he would hit the open market than take any sort of discount to stay in his current home. But if the Cubs came to Bryant with a fair offer — something we discussed on the recent CubsTalk Podcast — that would have to be done with a lot more urgency if Bryant wins this case and now has only a year left before free agency.

Even though Bryant might have a strong case, it's still hard to see him winning here. The MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement states the rules for big-league service time and according to those rules, the Cubs did absolutely nothing wrong. What they did was smart from an organizational sense, even if it wasn't in the best interest of Bryant personally.

The timing of this all — Bryant being called up only one day after the service time threshold — is a bad look, of course, but the Cubs also framed it back then that Bryant needed to work on his defense in the minor leagues and was called up to the majors because their Opening Day third baseman, Mike Olt, had suffered a wrist injury.

Unless Bryant can prove the Cubs only kept him in the minors to gain an extra year of team control, he likely doesn't win this case. 

But it's still a very important wrinkle added to an already-interesting Cubs offseason.