Cubs

Mooney: Looking out for Colvin's future

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Mooney: Looking out for Colvin's future

Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2011
4:31 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. Albert Pujols is baseballs biggest story. The Cubs are a big-market team that needs to fill seats and hundreds of hours of television programming. Inevitably the two will be caught in the crossfire of Internet rumors.

Already trying to shift the focus, Tony La Russa suggested Tuesday that the union will pressure Pujols to take the largest deal possible, a claim denied by the Major League Baseball Players Association. Wednesday looms as a self-imposed deadline to negotiate a contract extension.

Cubs fans can dream about stealing from the St. Louis Cardinals, but their team has more immediate issues at first base.

A serious injury to Carlos Pena would be devastating. And with Pena using Wrigley Field as a platform to launch himself back into the free-agent market, the Cubs dont have a long-term option either.

So Tyler Colvin is working out at a position that he hasnt really played since he was an undergraduate at Clemson University. Even that was in a backup role. Any hesitation manager Mike Quade may have had throwing Colvin out there near the end of last season is gone.

No backing off this year, Quade said. Youre going to see him at first base some this spring. We cant afford to get into a situation where, God forbid, something happens to Carlos. Well make sure that were protected.

Insurance policy

Quade meant to pull Colvin aside at Fitch Park on Sunday and tell him first about these plans, but couldnt locate him in time. The manager then accidentally let it slip during his media briefing, something he regretted immediately. It didnt matter.

I knew it was coming, Colvin said. Its a great idea.

The 25-year-old outfielder doesnt get caught up in any of the hype. Hed be the last person youd expect to lash out or publicly complain about a position switch. And this versatility could be good for his career, and the Cubs need to find out whether or not he can play there.

On Tuesday he patiently answered the same questions about the freak accident that ended his promising rookie season last September. Yes, Colvin will continue to use maple bats, the same kind that punctured his chest. No, he wont play scared.

Colvin is self-contained and typically keeps his comments serious and brief. But he did joke that the Cubs will put up a protective screen whenever he plays first base.

Im going to go about my business the same way I did last year and get ready, Colvin said. You cant ever be comfortable here. You always have to try to get better, but, yeah, I know the league a little better. (And) they know me, too.

Colvin 2.0

A first-round pedigree helped, but Colvin forced his way onto the team last spring by crushing Cactus League pitching. It became a billboard for everyone else in the organization. Brett Jackson, the 31st overall pick in the 2009 draft, certainly noticed.

He attacked (with) his work ethic and really made his strides getting to the big leagues and then making an impact, Jackson said. Colvin is a good example for us all. Thats the dream to come out to spring training and tear it up.

Jackson hit .297 with 12 homers, 66 RBI and 30 stolen bases during his first full professional season, 128 games split between Class-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee. MLB.com has ranked the 22-year-old outfielder as the games No. 46 prospect overall.

Cubs ownership is clearly more inclined to invest in the player-development system, and its uncertain how eager the Ricketts family would be to put together the type of contract it will take to lure someone like Pujols to the North Side.

The front office has visions of Jackson and Colvin forming an outfield built on speed and athleticism. Given those expectations, Jackson was asked about nerves, and he sounded like the Cal-Berkeley kid he is, and nothing like Colvin.

You just got to get goofy and have a good time, Jackson said.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Reviewing a positive road trip for Jose Quintana, Yu Darvish and Ian Happ

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Reviewing a positive road trip for Jose Quintana, Yu Darvish and Ian Happ

Luke Stuckmeyer, David Kaplan, and Doug Glanville break down a solid 4-2 road trip for the Cubs. Plus, who would you rather have long-term: Bryce Harper or Manny Machado?

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below. Apple Podcasts listeners can subscribe at the show page.

Cubs? White Sox? Manny Machado mum on Chicago possibilities as both sides of town dream of his World Series impact

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USA TODAY

Cubs? White Sox? Manny Machado mum on Chicago possibilities as both sides of town dream of his World Series impact

What’s Manny Machado’s favorite pizza place? What’s his favorite bar on Rush Street? Does he want to shoot the puck at the Blackhawks game? Maybe drive a Red Line train? Headline Lollapalooza?

Heck, is there anything that can get this guy to Chicago?

Sadly, Machado has no opinion on Chicago, at least no opinion he'd like to share. He talks as though he’s experienced nothing but the tarmac at O’Hare and the inside of the visitor’s clubhouse at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“To be honest, nothing,” Machado said when one of the multitude of media members asked him what he thought about the city ahead of his Baltimore Orioles’ game against the White Sox on Monday night. “I go from my (hotel) room to the ballpark to play baseball. I try to keep it simple, my life is simple. I don’t really do too much other than come here and play.”

Sorry, Cubs and White Sox fans. No inside info to better the offer.

Both sides of town are entranced by Machado Mania. The North Side wants him to arrive via trade and help deliver another World Series championship in 2018. The South Side wants him to ink a monster free-agent deal and deliver a whole bunch of World Series championships as the new face of the rebuild.

But no matter whether you want the MVP candidate in blue pinstripes or 1983 throwbacks, he made no indication he’s thinking about his next team when he spoke Monday.

“That’s out of my hands. I can’t control that,” he said. “I’ve got to go out and win some games, do as much as I can for my ball club.

“I’m here to play baseball. Obviously you’ve got to answer these questions, but at the end of the day none of that matters. I’m here to win some games with my ball club, win some here with the Orioles, and play well at the same time.

“I’m not getting distracted by any of this, and all this talk, it’s rumors. They’re all rumors and talks. At the end of the day, I’ve got to go out there and perform and win games for this ball club.”

For the Cubs, rumors of a Machado pursuit would come at a seemingly steep cost. With almost nothing to deal away from the farm system, an Orioles team looking to jumpstart a rebuilding effort of their own would likely require Addison Russell as a centerpiece of any trade offer. Would Theo Epstein’s front office be willing to part with Russell, who they always speak so highly of, who is still just 24 years old and who remains under team control through the 2021 season? Just for a few months of Machado, who is by no means a guarantee to stick around on a free-agent deal?

The Cubs’ title chase this season would figure to be better served by getting two of their recent pitching acquisitions to turn in more consistently good performances. If Jose Quintana and Yu Darvish can right their respective ships, the Cubs might not need to worry about blowing up their core to add an MVP candidate to an already menacing lineup featuring multiple All Stars. But there’s no doubt about it: Any team that adds Machado to the mix is going to improve its chances of hoisting a trophy this October.

Unlike a pursuit of a player during free agency, it’s the Orioles the Cubs need to convince to seal a deal, not Machado, and even with Russell as the main piece, the Cubs’ package might not be the best one out there. But Machado, despite his comments, has likely heard a little bit of what it’s like to play on the North Side from the guy he calls his cousin, Albert Almora Jr.

“As kids growing up we played together,” Machado said. “When we were playing in his backyard growing up, we always dreamed about playing together some day in the big leagues and putting on the same big league uniform and be on the same field, win a World Series together, that’s every kid’s dream.”

Meanwhile, the White Sox are, as they’re doing in every facet of their existence at the moment, playing a long game when it comes to Machado or any big-name free-agent-to-be. Reports dating back to last winter say they’re expected to be one of the many teams vying to sign Machado to what’s sure to be a gargantuan contract when he joins Bryce Harper, Josh Donaldson and a host of other superstars in free agency this winter.

Machado’s production has made him the object of White Sox fans’ affections for some time, and the dream of seeing him join all the young talent in this rebuilding effort and leading the South Siders in their next pursuit of a title is still alive and well in their minds. The White Sox will have the financial ability to pay the high price for Machado, if they choose — a price, it should be noted, that come winter will be only measured in money and not players, as a midseason trade during this campaign would be. Obviously the biggest selling point is their bright future, where he could anchor a lineup that also features Eloy Jimenez, Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert. Pair that with a boatload of cash, and maybe it’s enough to edge out the rest of what’s expected to be a very competitive market.

The White Sox, too, have an apparent void at third base (or shortstop, should they do some maneuvering on the left side of the infield) moving forward after Jake Burger, last year’s first-round pick, twice tore the same Achilles tendon this year. While there’s still time needed to tell where exactly the White Sox will have major league holes to fill, penciling names into a 2020 lineup leaves most pencilers with a question mark at third base. Machado would fit nicely there, and the apparent need could provide more drive for the White Sox to get something done this winter. There will be other options, of course, should they miss out on Machado. Donaldson this winter and Nolan Arenado the following are two other alluring names. Be it Machado, it would be the kind of statement signing that signals that the rebuilding effort is ready to transition into the contention phase, much like the Cubs did with Jon Lester.

And like the Cubs, the White Sox have their own Machado friend to make a convincing pitch. Nicky Delmonico played alongside Machado (and Harper, for that matter) on a Team USA squad back in 2009.

“It was really cool. I got to play with Harper for two years and Machado (for one),” Delmonico said last week. “Just to be around that type of talent, it was a lot of fun.

“It was pretty special. We had a lot of guys who are doing well at the big league level. It was like a big family.

“You’re with each other every day. It’s like what I compare to the minor leagues. You’re playing every day in that short amount of time. So you got to know that person pretty well. And to play with those guys, it was a lot of fun.”

And Welington Castillo, too, got to know Machado when they were teammates last year in Baltimore.

“He’s special, honestly,” Castillo said. “I had the opportunity to play with him last year in the (World Baseball Classic) and then for a year with the Orioles. It’s nice to play with him in the same lineup and spend time with him. He’s an awesome player and an awesome person. I think that’s why everybody is talking about him. Everybody sees because he’s been showing them every year, what he can do.

“Who wouldn’t want to have a guy like him?”

If Machado has received any PR training through this process, he put it to good use Monday. Nothing he said indicated any preference to join either of this city’s teams either this season or next. He didn’t say the word “Cubs” once, and judging by his response to the lone question asked specifically about the White Sox, it doesn’t sound like the South Side rebuild is the talk of the Orioles’ clubhouse.

That, though, will likely do nothing to dampen enthusiasm on either side of town that Machado could soon call this city home, nor does it mean Machado wouldn't be jazzed about joining a championship contender this season or a franchise with a bright future next season.

But until a deal is made this summer or this winter — or both — it’s all just speculation. Until then, Machado’s going to try to beat one of Chicago’s teams four times this week, either as a preview of what could be or a display of opportunity lost.