Cubs

Kris Bryant on ejection: 'I had to stick up for myself'

Kris Bryant on ejection: 'I had to stick up for myself'

There's always something wacky that occurs when the Cubs and White Sox get together for Crosstown.

The lasting image from the 2017 iteration of the rivalry may be Kris Bryant getting ejected for the first time in the big leagues and only the second time in his life.

Bryant - who was previously tossed from a Triple-A game in 2014 - was ejected in the fourth inning of Tuesday's 7-2 Cubs win after arguing a strike-three call by umpire Lance Barksdale at a ball that was pretty far off the plate.

The mild-mannered superstar is one of the nicest people in the game and rarely shows emotion of any kind.

"It's frustrating," Bryant said. "I know he's trying to do the best job he can. I'm doing the best job I can. Heat of the moment. I feel like I only want to say something when I know it for a fact. 

"Sometimes, there's borderline pitches that are really hard to call. That one, I knew for a fact. I had to do it. I had to stick up for myself. 

"I don't want to be the guy that gets thrown out of games. I try to be professional on the field. I have to stick up for myself sometimes."

After he was thrown out of the game, Bryant came back into the Cubs clubhouse and watched the replay and the rest of the contest on the TV.

Bryant wouldn't tell reporters exactly what he said to Barksdale, but he did admit he was surprised he was thrown out, especially considering he wasn't throwing his helmet or anything.

And no, Bryant did not cuss. Joe Maddon assured everybody of that.

"It was unusual for both parties," Maddon said. "Lance is normally very calm about things. I asked him what he said and he told me and I didn't think it was worth of ejection. I didn't think he'd say anything worth of ejection. That's almost like [Ben] Zobrist arguing with an umpire.

"...I asked, 'What did he say?' and I'm like 'Whoa, that's not harsh enough' I've clearly said a lot harsher than that. ... It was so awkwardly benign what he said that he would get kicked out for it. It was like, 'You gotta be kidding me.'"

Given that he wasn't swearing or throwing a visible tantrum beyond simply being upset with the strike call, it's almost humorous that Bryant - of all people - would get ejected for that.

He said he feels that if he said the same thing and reacted the same way at any other time, he would not expect to be thrown out for it.

"I've seen plenty of people get ejected before and some of their antics and what they say," Bryant said. "Sometimes, it's like, 'Wow, how are you getting away with that?' I didn't really say anything out of the ordinary.

"Like I said, you just gotta stick up for yourself in certain situations. I'm still pretty new to the league - young - but I have a pretty good understanding of the strike zone and that's all I did - just stood up for myself in that moment.

"I'm sure I'll get a chance to talk to him tomorrow. No terrible feelings. Everybody messes up and makes mistakes. I do all the time. But it just kinda stunk in that situation." 

Willson Contreras’ trade value just spiked, thanks to White Sox signing Yasmani Grandal

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USA TODAY

Willson Contreras’ trade value just spiked, thanks to White Sox signing Yasmani Grandal

This is the best thing the White Sox have done for the Cubs in years.

The White Sox made a big splash in free agency Thursday, signing catcher Yasmani Grandal to a four-year, $73 million contract. Grandal joins the South Siders from the Brewers, where he played an integral role in Milwaukee making a second-straight postseason appearance in 2019.

Grandal led qualified catchers in on-base percentage (.380) last season, also posting career highs in home runs (28) and RBIs (77). He’s also an excellent pitch framer, tying for fourth in RszC (runs saved by catcher framing) among all catchers with 9.

Milwaukee’s payroll reached a franchise-high $122.5 million in 2019 and their farm system (No. 29 in MLB, per Baseball America) is lacking. How they replace Grandal’s production is a major question mark, which in turn is a win for the Cubs this offseason.

But besides plucking him from the NL Central, the White Sox signing Grandal early in the offseason helps the Cubs, who have important decisions of their own to make.

Although Cubs president Theo Epstein said to take any trade rumors with a “mouthful of salt,” multiple teams believe catcher Willson Contreras is available for trade. The Cubs need to retool their roster and replenish a farm system that has been depleted in recent seasons from numerous “win now” trades.

The Cubs and White Sox made the notorious José Quintana trade in July 2017, but it’s unlikely the two would have matched up for a Contreras trade. The Cubs need young assets; trading away young assets is the last thing the White Sox want to do as their championship window opens.

So, Grandal landed with a team that was unlikely to be involved in any potential Contreras trade talks. Grandal was the best free agent catcher; Contreras is the best catcher that can be had in a trade.

Other teams interested in Grandal — such as the Reds — can no longer turn to him in free agency. The Rays have made addressing the catcher spot this winter a priority, but they have one of MLB’s lowest payrolls each season. Signing Grandal wasn’t going to happen, but Tampa Bay has the farm system (No. 2 in baseball, per MLB.com) to make a big trade.

Contreras is the best catcher available — for the right price, obviously — so the ball is in the Cubs' court. They don’t get better by dealing their two-time All-Star backstop, but Contreras’ trade value is high. With Grandal off the market, it just got even higher.

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Cubs add four players to 40-man roster ahead of Rule 5 Draft, including top prospect Miguel Amaya

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MiLB

Cubs add four players to 40-man roster ahead of Rule 5 Draft, including top prospect Miguel Amaya

In preparation for next month’s Rule 5 Draft, the Cubs have added four players to their 40-man roster. 

Wednesday, the Cubs selected the contracts of right-hander Tyson Miller and infielder Zack Short from Triple-A Iowa and right-hander Manuel Rodriguez and catcher Miguel Amaya from Single-A Myrtle Beach. The Cubs 40-man roster now stands at 36 players.

The Rule 5 Draft is Dec. 12 at the Winter Meetings. Teams can “draft” players from other organizations if that player is not on a 40-man roster and also matches one of the following criteria:

-If the player was signed when they were 19 or older, they must have at least four years of professional baseball experience

OR

-If the player was signed when they were 18, they must have at least five years of professional baseball experience.

Miller is a fourth-round draft pick from 2016. He went 7-8 with a 4.35 ERA in 26 starts between Double-A Tennessee and Iowa in 2019. The 24-year-old was much better with Tennessee (2.56 ERA, 15 starts) than with Iowa in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League (7.58 ERA, 11 starts).

The Cubs drafted Short, 24, in the 17th round in 2016; he can play shortstop, second base and third base. He gets on base at a decent clip (career .377 OBP) but hasn’t had much success offensively (.241 career average) in his four minor league seasons.

The Cubs signed Rodriguez, 23, to a minor league deal in July 2016. He posted a 3.45 ERA in 35 relief appearance with Myrtle Beach in 2019, faring much better than he did in 2018 with Single-A South Bend (7.59 ERA, 32 appearances).

Amaya is the Cubs' No. 2 prospect and No. 90 overall in MLB (per MLB Pipeline). The Cubs signed him during the international signing period in July 2015, giving him a $1.25 million signing bonus. The 20-year-old posted a .235/.351/.402 slash line in 99 games with Myrtle Beach in 2019. His OPS jumped from .714 in the first half to .790 in the second half.

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