Cubs

No hard feelings: Cubs and Pedro Strop look to future with contract extension

No hard feelings: Cubs and Pedro Strop look to future with contract extension

MESA, Ariz. — Whatever frustrations Pedro Strop might have kept bottled up during the playoffs didn't change how he feels about his Cubs teammates or living in Chicago or the energy at Wrigley Field.

"I think if there were any hard feelings we wouldn't be doing this extension," general manager Jed Hoyer said Friday after announcing the deal that could keep Strop in a Cubs uniform through the 2019 season.

The Cubs framed Strop's fade into the postseason background as a matter of bad timing after he tore the meniscus in his left knee in August. Otherwise, manager Joe Maddon in theory wouldn't have felt the need to push Aroldis Chapman so hard during the World Series.

The Cubs backed up their story by avoiding an arbitration hearing with a $5.5 million settlement for 2017 before camp opened in Arizona. The two sides continued negotiating, agreeing to a one-year extension worth $5.85 million and a $6.25 million club option for 2019 with a $500,000 buyout. For that sense of comfort and security, Strop sacrificed the chance to sell himself as a possible closer next winter.

"I just feel happy that I know I'm going to be here," Strop said. "I don't care about the role or whatever.

"I like to win better than roles."

It's not just a talking point with Strop, who memorably high-stepped down the third-base line next to Kris Bryant in a walk-off win that became a 2015 Sports Illustrated cover and a blown-up image players see on the way from the Wrigley Field clubhouse out to the tunnel leading into the dugout.

"I have a lot of energy," Strop said. "Every time I walk into the clubhouse, I always come in positive, you know, waking people up when they're sleeping and just trying to have good moments and just play ball, play the game the right way."

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With Wade Davis and Koji Uehara positioned to become free agents after this season, the Cubs wanted to invest in their bullpen and clubhouse, where Strop is among the most popular players and a bilingual presence buzzing around the room.

"We don't want to be in a position of always having to rebuild the bullpen," Hoyer said. "Pedro's been a rock for us down there. His pitching is a big part of why we wanted to bring him back. But it's also who he is.

"He puts every person around him in a better mood every day. This guy's always beaming. He's always in a great mood. But under that huge smile, he's an awesome competitor, and this guy wants the ball in the biggest spots. We want more guys like that."

Since coming over in the franchise-altering Jake Arrieta trade with the Baltimore Orioles in the middle of the 2013 season, Strop has notched 84 holds, put up a 0.98 WHIP and a 2.68 ERA and accounted for 232 appearances. During that time, the right-hander leads all National League relievers with a .173 batting average against and ranks third in opponents' OPS (.530) and fourth in strikeouts per nine innings (10.82).

"We got these guys in our clubhouse that are just great to have (around) beyond being good," Maddon said. "He's at the top of the list. He's always upbeat. He's always ready. He's always there for somebody else. And then he's got one of the best sliders in all of baseball."

Maddon didn't show that same level of trust in Strop during the playoffs, but the force of his talent and personality — the crooked-hat look, chest-pounding celebrations and love for the game — helped change this team's identity and turn the Cubs into World Series champs.

"I felt for Pedro," Hoyer said. "I felt like he rushed as much as he could to get back on the field for the postseason, but he probably wasn't vintage Pedro Strop at any point down the stretch, just by nature of the timing. But when you look at the numbers he's put up over the last three years, he's been one of the best setup guys in the game."

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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