Cubs

Kenley Jansen? Wade Davis? Cubs keeping an open mind for the ninth inning

Kenley Jansen? Wade Davis? Cubs keeping an open mind for the ninth inning

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – The San Francisco Giants had been three outs away from forcing an elimination game that Johnny Cueto would have started at Wrigley Field – and five different relievers couldn’t protect a three-run lead against a Cubs team that made a stunning comeback.

That October crash reverberated throughout the winter meetings as a $10 billion industry gathered outside Washington, D.C. The Giants bought peace of mind for the ninth inning on Monday and finalized a four-year, $62 million deal with Mark Melancon. For the moment, that will be the biggest contract ever for a closer, at least until Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman shatter that record.

The Cubs have been in contact with Jansen’s camp, sources said, monitoring his market to see if there might be a match as the World Series champs try to upgrade the bullpen this week at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center.

Theo Epstein’s front office doesn’t necessarily have a singular focus – believe the reports linking the Cubs to Kansas City Royals closer Wade Davis – or the appetite to win a Jansen bidding war that will include the Los Angeles Dodgers and Miami Marlins and perhaps the New York Yankees and Washington Nationals.

But after telling everyone that they did two offseasons in one last winter – and spending almost $290 million on free agents – this is where the Cubs could make a splash.

“It’s safe to say we’re kicking the tires on any pitching that’s available,” general manager Jed Hoyer said during his briefing with the Chicago media. “We’re not spending a lot of time on bats. We’re spending a lot of times on arms. Anyone that’s available, we’re going to sort of be in on and talking about.”

Cubs manager Joe Maddon watched Jansen’s cutter up close and gave this endorsement during the National League Championship Series: “He’s like a 100-pound heavier version of Mariano Rivera.”

Jansen, a homegrown Dodger, converted from catcher and developed into an elite closer, saving 189 games while putting up a 2.20 career ERA and 13.9 strikeouts per nine innings.

Jansen just turned 29 and already showed a willingness to pitch outside the ninth inning and go for more than three outs, something that didn’t come easily for Chapman in an October where former Yankee teammate Andrew Miller became an American League Championship Series MVP for the Cleveland Indians.

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“The postseason was reliever-centric,” Hoyer said. “Bullpens have always been really valuable, but I think the way they were used and talked about – really, not even this postseason, but the last two or three postseasons – people are definitely putting a lot of financial importance on having a good bullpen.”

Kansas City’s blueprint for winning back-to-back pennants and the 2015 World Series featured Davis, who posted a 0.94 ERA during that championship season. But Davis dealt with a strained right forearm this year and will make $10 million in his final season before free agency, at a time when the Royals can begin to see their window to contend closing.

The Cubs haven’t made Chapman a priority – and Epstein’s group has been philosophically opposed to the idea of investing big money in a closer – but they also know they probably don’t get that parade down Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Avenue without that blockbuster deal with the Yankees.

“We see the value of it,” Hoyer said. “Look, we traded a great young prospect in Gleyber Torres to get Chapman, because we felt like that was an area that we were a little bit short. We felt like in order to win the World Series, we had to have that kind of guy at the end of the game. It proved to be right.

“In order to get those really difficult final outs in the postseason, having an elite guy is certainly a huge advantage.”

So if the White Sox become the Chicago team that makes most of the headlines here – and in-house options like Hector Rondon, Carl Edwards Jr. and Pedro Strop disappoint – the Cubs can always reassess at the trade deadline.

“We’ll bolster our bullpen,” Hoyer said. “Whether you do that by adding just a number of good relievers – or whether we do it by adding a guy that’s sort of a known closer – I’m not sure. But we’ll definitely add to our bullpen.”

The best quips from the best leadoff hitter of all time, Anthony Rizzo

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USA TODAY

The best quips from the best leadoff hitter of all time, Anthony Rizzo

Anthony Rizzo was not only in tip top shape as he reported for the Cubs first full squad workout, but his one-liner game was on point day one, as well. 

Here are some of his best quips from the day.

"It was great. Really probably the best off season I've had, right?"
 
Yes, Anthony... your wedding day is always the BEST day ever and the first offseason with your wife should be the BEST one ever. Quick learner.

"I'm usually not excited to come back, because I hate leaving home. But it was, I can say my wife now, was like 'man, you're really excited to go back this year.' So, it's good to be back."
 
 Emily should be proud, Rizzo seems to really have this married thing/lingo down! And his child-like energy and enthusiasm was palpable. Cubs fans, your first baseman is chomping at the bit.

"That extra month, it's been awhile. The first time a lot of guys have had that extra month. Unfortunately, I know what it's like to have that extra month."
 
Spare Cubs fans the reminder, Anthony. 

"A lot of guys in here are used to going to the NLCS. So, to get knocked out it's like "Whoa, what is this? Barbecuing in October?"

First of all, only those who live in Florida can talk about barbecuing in October, but we get the point. Cubs want to save the brats for November.

"Yea, and also Bryce Harper is coming to the Cubs, right?"

Rizzo thinks that's as likely to happen as the team going 80-82 and finishing last in the NL Central this year.

“So this is what happened. I offered him half of my 12 (million) that I’m making this year. But he turned it down. Put that report out," Rizzo said to Paul Sullivan of the Tribune. 
 
Harper or Machado?

“Both, three million each. I split it in half."
 
https://twitter.com/PWSullivan/status/1097523429681426432
 
Thanks to Sully for catching this quip--Rizzo's plan for the Cubs to sign Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. Generous, don't you think?

"I've been here for like two hours, so...from what I've heard I've heard it's been amazing, the energy. But, I don't know, what is the date? The 18th? It's February 18th, so every clubhouse is this energetic right now." 

Dates and days of the week are hard during Groundhog's Day, I mean Spring Training. But, props to Rizzo for being honest and the vibe after two hours was pretty great.

"It's the first day, I picked out my outfit last night. I was off to school today." 
 
First day feels...

"Hi Tony! Hi Jon, love you."
 
Mid-response, Rizz wasn't going to leave his guy Lester hanging. The love is real.

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: The Cubs are out of funds

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: The Cubs are out of funds

David Haugh, Hub Arkush and Gabe Ramirez join Kap on the panel.

0:00 - Tom Ricketts meets the media as the Cubs' full squad reports to Mesa. The panel discusses his comments on his father's emails and not having any money to spend this offseason.

6:00 - Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki join Kap from Sloan Park in Mesa. They discuss Tom Ricketts' press conference, how the Cubs players are handling the off-the-field distractions and how Joe Maddon is handling this spring.

13:00 - Tom Ricketts says their no collusion among baseball owners. Meanwhile, the players' union fires off an angry statement. What will happen after another slow winter for free agents?

19:00 - Chuck Garfien and Vinnie Duber join Kap from Glendale with the latest on the White Sox. They discuss the latest on Manny Machado and Yoan Moncada being the Sox' opening day 3rd baseman.

25:00 - The panel discusses Manny Machado's neverending free agency. Is the price starting to get too high for the White Sox? And if potential free agents in 2020 start signing extensions, should the White Sox overpaid now to land a superstar?

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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