Cubs

Life after Schwarber in 2016: 'Grieving period' over for Cubs

Life after Schwarber in 2016: 'Grieving period' over for Cubs

As the sellout crowd cheered through the frigid Chicago evening, Kyle Schwarber limped toward home plate at Wrigley Field one last time this season.

After the Cubs' coaching staff and roster was announced before Monday's home opener, Schwarber slowly crept out of the dugout and walked toward Joe Maddon at the end of the roster lined up alongside the third-base line, using a single crutch as support.

The Cubs showed a brief highlight reel of Schwarber's greatest moments - including the monster homer on top of the right-field scoreboard against the Cardinals in the NLDS last season - and announced the "Fast Hulk" last, giving him one more moment in the Wrigley spotlight before he misses the rest of the season with two torn ligaments in his knee.

Schwarber's teammates also paid homage to the slugger by blasting his walk-up song ("Thuggish Ruggish Bone") during batting practice.

The pregame tributes were something of symbolic moments for the rest of the Cubs who know they have to move beyond Schwarber's devastating injury.

"I still wake up every morning and for a few seconds, I'm not sure it really happened or it was a bad dream and then you realize it did [happen]," Theo Epstein said. "I think it's OK to admit - the team had to go through a little bit of a mourning or greiving period (not to minimize real grief and mourning; this is obviously something different.)

"And then you move on. We had our worst game [Friday] night, after we got the news and I don't think it was coincidence. Then the guys rallied and recovered and we moved forward with him.

"It's not like we're leaving him behind. He's going to be back next year. He's going to be around as much as he possibly can. I know I started to feel better after chatting with him and spent some time with him last night. That's the type of guy he is - raising other people's spirits. He's still right in the middle of it."

Epstein said immediately after the injury, Schwarber's focus was on the team and trying to keep the early good times rolling - a mindset the Cubs president of baseball operations hopes filters through the rest of the clubhouse.

Epstein's front office knows injuries are just a part of the game and added depth all over the field to help counteract potential back-breaking tenants to the team's disabled list. Imagine how much worse the Schwarber injury would look without Dexter Fowler's surprise re-arrival a week into spring training.

The St. Louis Cardinals have made it look like an art form to rise above serious injuries in recent years, winning 100 games last season despite major injuries to Adam Wainwright, Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina and Matt Adams, among others.

Joe Maddon hates the fact Schwarber won't suit up for the Cubs again in 2016, but he believes there's enough leadership and character in the clubhouse to rise above the loss - both from veterans and the mature young players.

"They've been around long enough to know we can survive this. They know that we realize people are going to have to pick each other up," Maddon said, mentioning the early contributions from underrated players like Tommy La Stella and Matt Szczur. "So when these other kids get an opportunity, I really believe you're gonna see a lot of guys [do well].

"It's gonna take more guys obviously before the season's over. They're gonna come up from the minor leagues and do equally as well and surprise a lot of people."

Potential Kris Bryant trade market becomes clearer after Anthony Rendon lands with Angels

Potential Kris Bryant trade market becomes clearer after Anthony Rendon lands with Angels

The first domino of this offseason’s third base market has fallen.

According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, free agent Anthony Rendon is set to sign a seven-year, $245 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels.

The Texas Rangers were also linked to Rendon in recent days, but they’ll now have to shift their focus elsewhere. Texas’ attention is now on the other superstar free agent third baseman — Josh Donaldson — as MLB.com’s TR Sullivan reported. The same can be said about Rendon’s former team, the Washington Nationals.

This leads us to the Cubs and Kris Bryant. With Rendon off the board and Donaldson soon to follow, a potential trade market for the Cubs third baseman is growing clearer.

Only one of the Rangers and Nationals can sign Donaldson, not to mention his most recent team — the Atlanta Braves. When Donaldson’s domino falls, two of these teams will be left empty-handed in their pursuit of a third baseman.

The Los Angeles Dodgers also were linked to Rendon, though they don’t necessarily need a third baseman with Justin Turner manning the hot corner. Their pursuit of Rendon points to how they’re willing to shift Turner off third base, however. Add them to the list of teams seeking third base help.

Add that all up, and you have four teams in the market for Donaldson. The Cubs aren’t guaranteed to trade Bryant, but they’ll soon find themselves with some leverage. For the three teams that don’t land Donaldson, the most logical move will be to inquire with the Cubs about trading for Bryant. The Nationals have already inquired about Bryant, according to MLB.com's Jon Morosi.

Bryant’s unresolved grievance case will be an issue in any potential negotiations. The difference between two years of control (if he loses) and one (if he wins) is big when it comes to his value. Even though they’ll have leverage over interested teams, the Cubs will yield stronger trade proposals for Bryant if he loses his case.

But, again, a trade is no certainty. What is certain is teams will be inquiring about Bryant in the not-so-distant future, once Donaldson chooses his free agent destination.

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Brewers reportedly sign pitcher Josh Lindblom to address rotation need

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USA TODAY

Brewers reportedly sign pitcher Josh Lindblom to address rotation need

The Brewers are looking overseas to address a rotation that has been one of their biggest weaknesses in recent seasons.

According to multiple reports, Milwaukee is signing 32-year-old Josh Lindblom to a three-year deal. It’s worth $9.125 million but can max out at more than $18 million, should Lindblom hit certain bonuses, according to ESPN's Jeff Passan.

The Cubs also had discussions with Lindblom, according to MLB.com's Jon Morosi, before he reached a deal with the Brewers.

Lindblom has pitched in parts of five big league seasons since 2011, most recently with the Pirates in 2017. The right-hander holds a career 4.10 ERA in 114 games (six starts) but he remade himself during a successful stint pitching in South Korea in recent seasons.

From 2018-19 with the Doosan Bears, Lindblom went 35-7 with a 2.68 ERA, striking out 346 batters in 363 1/3 innings. He was named MVP of the KBO in 2019. Some of Lindblom's success can be attributed to the splitter he featured in his repertoire.

Lindblom’s name doesn’t jump off the page, but he’s a low-cost addition for the Brewers and is returning stateside an improved pitcher. Milwaukee finished 14th in starting pitcher ERA in 2019, but that figure was a not-so-great 4.40. They traded mainstay Zach Davies — who had been a rotation mainstay since 2016 — to the Padres two weeks ago.

Lindblom joins a rotation featuring Brandon Woodruff, Adrian Houser and Eric Lauer (acquired in the Davies trade). The Brewers also have 25-year-old Corbin Burnes and 23-year-old Freddy Peralta as starting options. The duo struggled in 2019 (Burnes: 8.82 ERA, 32 games/four starts; Peralta: 5.29 ERA, 39 games/eight starts), so the guess here is the Brewers aren’t done shopping for pitching.