Cubs

No-brainer: Cubs rolling with Jon Lester again in World Series Game 1

No-brainer: Cubs rolling with Jon Lester again in World Series Game 1

CLEVELAND - The Cubs are undefeated in the 2016 postseason when Jon Lester takes the mound, including two Game 1 appearances.

So the Cubs are going to stick with what works.

The team announced Lester as the starter for Game 1 of the World Series at Progressive Field in downtown Cleveland Tuesday night.

"We win when he pitches," Anthony Rizzo said. "It's our mentality with all our pitchers but with him, it feels different."

Lester - the co-MVP of the National League Championship Series - is 2-0 this postseason with a 0.86 ERA and 0.76 WHIP in three starts spanning 21 innings. He has thrown at least six innings in each outing, including a gritty Game 5 performance against the Dodgers in the NLCS, allowing only one run in seven innings to send the series back to Chicago on a high note.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon believes Lester is cementing his name in franchise history with his playoff dominance.

"There is an incredible amount of calm that I'm seeing from the dugout when I'm watching him out there right now," Maddon said. "He's really, really in the moment. He's calm. Gosh, he's just eager to get out and pitch."

With his success this October, Lester now has a 2.50 ERA in 19 career postseason games (17 starts) and 119 innings. 

This is exactly what the Cubs signed up for when they handed the veteran southpaw a megadeal before the 2015 season - one of the best postseason pitchers of this generation.

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Lester has been asked several times over the last couple weeks what he can attribute his playoff dominance to and he always shrugs it off and deflects credit to the team.

"I had good fastball command. It wasn't erratic," he said. "It was missing to the side of the plate that I wanted to be on. I think when I'm able to do that, it makes the other pitches better.

"I guess that's kind of like your cooke-cutter answer, but I mean, for me, that's what it comes down to. ... The well-executed fastball in October is just the same as it is in June."

After Lester, Jake Arrieta said Monday he would be set to go in Game 2 in Cleveland.

That lines up Kyle Hendricks for Game 3 and another opportunity at Wrigley Field, where he has a 1.38 ERA and 0.85 WHIP in 111.2 innings (including three postseason starts).

During the regular season, the Cubs had the best starting rotation in the big leagues, in part because they kept feeding off each other and competed within the pitching staff.

"I can specifically remember several times when Kyle would have a nice outing and go six or seven and give up one or two and I'd be like, 'You can't be giving up two runs, man,'" Arrieta joked. "It'd be after I went out and pitched eight scoreless or something like that.

"We'd just mess with each other like that. It's a friendly competition that most rotations have. ... To have that, to feed off each other, to fire each other up, it's one of the reasons we've pitched so well and why we're here."

The Indians are starting ace Corey Kluber - the 2014 American League Cy Young winner - in Game 1 and will slot in some combination of Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin for Games 2 and 3.

The Indians also aren't ruling out utilizng Kluber on short rest in Game 4 Saturday in Chicago and possibly even Game 7 if the series gets that far.

Cubs free agent Nick Castellanos reportedly agrees to deal with Reds

Cubs free agent Nick Castellanos reportedly agrees to deal with Reds

Yesterday, it was reported that the Reds were the favorite to ink Cubs free agent right fielder Nick Castellanos. On Monday, it appears those two sides have reached an agreement on a multi-year deal, per The Athletic's C. Trent Rosencrans and Ken Rosenthal: 

Given the Cubs' desire to steer clear of the luxury tax in 2020, the odds of a reunion with Castellanos were always low. The club's recent signing of outfielder Steven Souza only furthered that belief.

To lose him to a divison rival, though, undoubtedly stings, especially considering the gumption with which the Reds have approached the offseason. Cincinnati has also notably added Mike Moustakas, Shogo Akiyama and Wade Miley this winter.

MLB Network's Jon Heyman reported the deal is for $64 million over four years and added that the deal includes at least one opt-out.

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

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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.

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