Cubs

Maddon trying to keep young Cubs loose through struggles

solerstruggles050315.jpg

Maddon trying to keep young Cubs loose through struggles

It's hard to stay negative in Joe Maddon's clubhouse.

The Cubs may have dropped two out of three to the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field over the weekend, but they left the stadium in style, sporting personalized Blackhawks sweaters for the trip to St. Louis.

That's just another way Maddon likes to keep things loose and fresh during the grind of a long season.

The Cubs scored just five runs in the series and have only six runs in the last four games after averaging 5.5 runs a game on a four-game winning streak from April 24-28.

Following the Cubs' 5-3 loss to the Brewers Sunday, Maddon said he felt the hitters' approaches were "OK."

"We had some opportunities, but we're not stringing [hits] together," Maddon said. "We're not really driving the ball like we can. We're definitely a team with more power than that.

"It's gonna come. As these young hitters get to understand what these other pitchers are trying to do against him and get their feet on the ground a little bit more, you're going to see them all become more consistent with their power.

"In the meantime, I love the fight. We didn't get it done today, but I'll take the effort."

[MORE: Cubs show support for Blackhawks with customized sweaters]

While Anthony Rizzo maintains his consistent production in the middle of the Cubs' lineup, a quartet of young players around him are enduring some struggles.

Addison Russell is on a modest six-game hitting streak and homered in Friday's win, but struck out five times in the series and is still hitting just .211 with a .599 OPS.

Kris Bryant remains homerless in his first 15 big-league games and apart from a gift double that popped out of the glove of Milwaukee second baseman Elian Herrera, Bryant was a non-factor in the series, going 0-for-9 with six strikeouts in his other at-bats against Brewers pitchers.

Jorge Soler entered the series in the midst of a 2-for-26 stretch, but showed signs of life against Milwaukee by going 5-for-12 with a double and a walk.

Starlin Castro may be in his sixth big-league season, but he's still just 25 and constantly refining his approach at the plate. He is mired in a 2-for-15 slump that has seen his average dip from .342 all the way to .309.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

This Cubs lineup has had a lot of success already this season and Maddon isn't stressing about the lack of success lately.

He wants to keep the pressure at bay, which is how things like the Blackhawks-themed road trip can wash away the negative feelings.

"From my perspective, I've been around stuff like this before," Maddon said. "With young hitters like these, you've got to be patient, just keep trying to give them the right information, keep them kinda loose, actually.

"That's the only way to do it. You can't be uptight on the major-league level. You have to go up there with a nice approach and a plan and we do. We have all that.

"But it'll come to fruition. Just one of those moments where some guys are struggling a bit right now, but it'll come back to us."

Reds are favorite to sign Cubs free agent outfielder Nick Castellanos, report says

castellanos_thumb.jpg
USA TODAY

Reds are favorite to sign Cubs free agent outfielder Nick Castellanos, report says

The odds of a Cubs-Nick Castellanos reunion happening have seemed slim all offseason. Although they've been connected to him at various points this winter, bringing back the fan favorite right fielder would require some serious financial gymnastics for the North Siders.

With the Cubs cognizant of the luxury tax, the division rival Reds have emerged as the favorite to sign Castellanos, according to MLB insider Jon Morosi.

The Reds have emerged as the frontrunner to sign free-agent outfielder Nicholas Castellanos, one source said Sunday, and there are indications the sides have made progress over the past several days. While Cincinnati is now the favorite to sign Castellanos, the Giants also have negotiated with the 27-year-old in recent weeks.

Because of their desire to stay under the luxury tax in 2020, the Cubs have only made low-cost acquisitions this winter. They were penalized $7.6 million for eclipsing the threshold in 2019; if they do so in 2020, they'll be taxed 30 percent on their overages —  and see their 2021 draft pick drop 10 spots, if they go over the figure by $40 million.

At this point, the only realistic scenario where the Cubs re-sign Castellanos is if they shed salary. However, they've reportedly signed outfielder Steven Souza to a one-year deal, giving them five outfielders (along with Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora, Ian Happ, Jason Heyward). That might be the biggest indicator of a reunion not being in the cards.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Cubs easily on your device.

Brandon Kintzler, Cubs most consistent reliever in 2019, signs with Marlins: report

kintzler.jpg
USA TODAY

Brandon Kintzler, Cubs most consistent reliever in 2019, signs with Marlins: report

Brandon Kintzler officially won't be back on the North Side in 2020.

Saturday, ESPN's Jesse Rogers reported Kintzler has agreed to a one-year, $3 million deal with the Marlins. The deal includes a $4 million option for 2021.

Kintzler was the Cubs' most consistent reliever in 2019, sporting a 2.68 ERA and 1.02 WHIP (both career highs) in 62 appearances. He was effective against both righties and lefties, the latter of which hit .163 against him.

The Cubs haven't been connected to Kintzler this offseason and have instead accumulated a plethora of low-cost, high-potential relievers. The organization has been extremely cognizant of MLB's luxury tax threshold after surpassing it in 2019 and wants to avoid becoming a repeat offender in 2020.

Kintzler becomes the second reliable reliever to depart the Cubs in free agency this winter, along with sidearmer Steve Cishek (White Sox). Pedro Strop is still a free agent, and while the Cubs have been connected to him, a recent report says the race to sign him is down to the Marlins and Rangers.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Cubs easily on your device.