Cubs

Marmol? Soriano? Cubs will have to listen to offers

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Marmol? Soriano? Cubs will have to listen to offers

NASHVILLE, Tenn. The Cubs already asked Carlos Marmol to waive his no-trade rights last month, when they thought they were closing in on a deal with the Los Angeles Angels for Dan Haren.

That fell apart, but Marmol already appeared to be on borrowed time with the Cubs, because hes entering the final year of his contract and the front office is looking for long-term assets. Signing Kyuji Fujikawa wont quiet the speculation inside the Gaylord Opryland during the winter meetings.

Team officials havent commented on the Japanese closer, who has to take a physical before his two-year, 9.5 million deal (plus an option) becomes official. Marmol is owed 9.8 million in 2013. But there still could be room for both at the back end of the Cubs bullpen.

Even if we add a setup-type reliever or somebody with closing experience, Carlos is our closer, team president Theo Epstein said Monday. He had a really good second half of the season. Were just trying to deepen the pen if we can and turn it from a weakness to a strength.

The Cubs arent looking to just give away Alfonso Soriano either. Theres still the 36 million left on his megadeal, plus his preferences about geography and playing for a contender.

But Sorianos trade value may never be higher after a season in which he generated 32 homers and 108 RBIs and changed the perception of who he is as a player.

For those of us who were new here, he really won us over right away with his work ethic and his preparation and the way he served as a bit of a veteran presence and a role model for some of the younger players, Epstein said. I had different expectations coming from the outside. Looking back on it, I dont even really know why. But he was an excellent clubhouse presence for us, so we value his contribution. We value what he does for the Cubs.

At the same time, we had dialogue with him throughout the course of the season because sometimes it makes sense to listen. He has no-trade rights, so well keep him informed if theres the right fit for the Cubs where we can get better over the long haul. And if its the right fit for Sori where its a place that he wants to go and feels like he might have a better chance to win the World Series next year. Then maybe it will make sense to pursue.

Across the next three days, there will be whispers about Soriano in the lobbies, and tweets about possible fits. But the Cubs are sticking to their talking points.

We really value what hes done here, Epstein said. And weve been open with him about the fact that: Hey, well listen if theres something that makes sense for everyone, well come to you.

Why Cubs core's desire to sign extensions might not matter anymore

Why Cubs core's desire to sign extensions might not matter anymore

The day after Kris Bryant suggested that first-time fatherhood and the dramatic reality of world events have changed how he looks at his future with the Cubs, general manager Jed Hoyer outlined why it might be all but moot.

Setting aside the fact that the Cubs aren’t focusing on contract extensions with anyone at this time of health and economic turmoil, the volatility and unpredictability of a raging COVID-19 pandemic in this country and its economic fallout have thrown even mid-range and long-term roster plans into chaos.

“This is without question the most difficult time we’ve ever had as far as projecting those things,” Hoyer said. “All season in projecting this year, you weren’t sure how many games we were going to get in. Projecting next season obviously has challenges, and who knows where the country’s going to be and the economy’s going to be.”

Bryant, a three-time All-Star and former MVP, is eligible for free agency after next season. He and the club have not engaged in extension talks for three years. And those gained little traction while it has looked increasingly likely since then that Bryant’s agent, Scott Boras, would eventually take his star client to market — making Bryant a widely circulated name in trade talks all winter.

MORE: Scott Boras: Why Kris Bryant's free agency won't be impacted by economic crisis

The Cubs instead focused last winter on talks with All-Star shortstop Javy Báez, making “good” or little progress depending on which side you talked to on a given day — until the pandemic shut down everything in March.

Báez, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber are both also eligible for free agency after next season, with All-Star catcher Willson Contreras right behind them a year later.

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None has a multiyear contract, and exactly what the Cubs are willing to do about that even if MLB pulls off its 60-game plan this year is hard for even the team’s front office executives to know without knowing how hard the pandemic will continue to hammer America’s health and financial well-being into the winter and next year.

Even with a vaccine and treatments by then, what will job markets look like? The economy at large? The economy of sports? Will anyone want to gather with 40,000 others in a stadium to watch a game anytime soon?

And even if anyone could answer all those questions, who can be sure how the domino effect will impact salary markets for athletes?

“There’s no doubt that forecasting going forward is now much more challenging from a financial standpoint,” Hoyer said. “But that’s league-wide. Anyone that says they have a feel for where the nation’s economy and where the pandemic is come next April is lying.”

The Cubs front office already was in a tenuous place financially, its payroll budget stretched past its limit and a threat to exceed MLB’s luxury tax threshold for a second consecutive season.

And after a quick playoff exit in 2018 followed by the disappointment of missing the playoffs in 2019, every player on the roster was in play for a possible trade over the winter — and even more so at this season’s trade deadline without a strong start to the season.

Now what?

For starters, forget about dumping short-term assets or big contracts for anything of value from somebody’s farm system. Even if baseball can get to this year’s Aug. 31 trade deadline with a league intact and playing, nobody is predicting more than small level trades at that point — certainly not anything close to a blockbuster.

After that, it may not get any clearer for the sport in general, much less the Cubs with their roster and contract dilemmas.

“We have a lot of conversations about it internally, both within the baseball side and then with the business side as well,” Hoyer said. “But it’s going to take a long time and probably some sort of macro things happening for us to really have a good feel for where we’re going to be in ’21 and beyond.”

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Cubs GM Jed Hoyer: Everyone in MLB has to take COVID-19 'equally' serious

Cubs GM Jed Hoyer: Everyone in MLB has to take COVID-19 'equally' serious

Veteran umpire Joe West made waves Tuesday downplaying the severity of COVID-19 in an interview with The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. 

“I don’t believe in my heart that all these deaths have been from the coronavirus," West said. "I believe it may have contributed to some of the deaths.”

As far as the Cubs are concerned, those comments don’t represent how to treat the virus. In fact, they’ve gone out of their way to ensure everyone treats it with equal severity.

“That’s one of the things we've really tried internally to instill in our players and our coaches,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said Tuesday, “[that] everyone here has to take it equally [serious].”

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Hoyer noted like the world, MLB isn’t immune to people having different viewpoints on the virus — those who show concern and those who don’t. This echoes comments made by manager David Ross earlier on Tuesday, and Hoyer said those he’s talked to with the Cubs don’t feel the same way as West.

The Cubs had an up close and personal look at pitching coach Tommy Hottovy’s battle with COVID-19 during baseball’s shutdown. It took the 38-year-old former big leaguer 30 harrowing days to test negative, and in the past week many Cubs have said watching him go through that hit home. 

“When you get a 38-year-old guy in wonderful health and he talks about his challenges with it,” Hoyer said, “I think that it takes away some of those different viewpoints.”

To ensure everyone stays safe and puts the league in the best position to complete a season, MLB needs strict adherence to its protocols.

“I think that's one of our goals and one of the things that we feel is vital is that we have to make sure everyone views this the same way, because we can't have a subset of people within our group that don't view it with the same severity,” Hoyer said.

“That’s not gonna work. We're not gonna be successful."

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