Cubs

For now at least, Cubs and Jake Arrieta breathing sigh of relief after hamstring injury

For now at least, Cubs and Jake Arrieta breathing sigh of relief after hamstring injury

PITTSBURGH — A Cubs team that has withstood a wave of injuries and surged back into first place just watched Jake Arrieta walk off the field, clearly in pain and looking for answers.

Could this have been Arrieta’s final start in a Cubs uniform? It’s way too early to assume the worst, or definitively say that the Cubs are in the clear. But walking into PNC Park’s visiting clubhouse after a 12-0 Labor Day loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates, it felt like the defending World Series champs were breathing a sigh of relief.

“As of now, I don’t foresee it being much of an issue,” Arrieta said, standing at his locker and explaining what he believes is a cramping issue and not a serious hamstring injury. “It’s unfortunate, but I think it’s going to be OK.”

Arrieta felt a grabbing sensation while throwing his 51st and final pitch, hopping up and down, grabbing his right leg and bending over in discomfort with one out in the third inning. The Pirates already led 3-0 as a group of Cubs personnel huddled around the mound, observing Arrieta as he stretched and tried to simulate his throwing motion.

Arrieta wound up and started his unique delivery before a grimace instantly formed on his face and he realized he needed to shut it down. The training staff worked on the back of his right leg during the game and a Pittsburgh doctor examined a pitcher who said he’s never dealt with hamstring problems before in his career.

The Cubs will reevaluate the situation on Tuesday morning and decide if Arrieta needs to get an MRI.

“Everything looks OK,” Arrieta said. “It’s kind of a foreign feeling. But, yeah, I think it could have been a lot worse. No pop or anything like that, so that’s a good sign.”

The stakes are extremely high for the Cubs and one of the best pitchers on this winter’s free-agent market, a Boras Corp. client who will use his big-game experience and track record of durability to make the case for a nine-figure megadeal.

Arrieta has already proven that he can carry a team during his 2015 Cy Young Award campaign, and he beat the Cleveland Indians twice on the road during last year’s World Series. His performance as the National League’s pitcher of the month – 4-1 with a 1.21 ERA in six starts – helped fuel an August where the Cubs spent every day in first place.

The Cubs have already stretched out lefty swingman Mike Montgomery in a temporary six-man rotation. But Arrieta says he expects to make his next start, which would put him in play for this weekend’s showdown against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field.

“Based on how I feel right now, I would think so,” Arrieta said.

It was still jarring to see a player known for his supreme confidence and fitness/strength-training regimen walk off the field with an athletic trainer and disappear into the dugout. This is someone manager Joe Maddon once compared to a male Jane Fonda.

“We’re just going to wait and see how it plays out,” Maddon said. “Even when he was apparently hurting a little bit, he was still going through all the stuff and looked good. Stuff I can’t do on my best day, he’s like putting his nose on his knees.

“I’m thinking: ‘OK, it might be a cramp.’ So maybe it was a cramp. We’ll find out more tomorrow and the next day.”

Arrieta didn’t feel any pain building up and wouldn’t connect the dots from his injury to the two home runs he allowed, with Josh Bell driving a ball into the right-field deck and Max Moroff clearing those seats with one that didn’t splash into the Allegheny River.

But a Cubs team that just reincorporated a $155 million ace (Jon Lester) – and is still waiting for an All-Star shortstop (Addison Russell) and a frontline catcher (Willson Contreras) to come off the disabled list – didn’t lose any ground to the second-place Brewers (3.5 games back) or realize their worst fears with Arrieta.

“We’ll deal with it,” Arrieta said. “We’ll manage it. We’ll get through it. Like I said, I don’t foresee it being a serious deal. But we’ll see how I feel in the morning.”

Potential Kris Bryant trade market becomes clearer after Anthony Rendon lands with Angels

Potential Kris Bryant trade market becomes clearer after Anthony Rendon lands with Angels

The first domino of this offseason’s third base market has fallen.

According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, free agent Anthony Rendon is set to sign a seven-year, $245 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels.

The Texas Rangers were also linked to Rendon in recent days, but they’ll now have to shift their focus elsewhere. Texas’ attention is now on the other superstar free agent third baseman — Josh Donaldson — as MLB.com’s TR Sullivan reported. The same can be said about Rendon’s former team, the Washington Nationals.

This leads us to the Cubs and Kris Bryant. With Rendon off the board and Donaldson soon to follow, a potential trade market for the Cubs third baseman is growing clearer.

Only one of the Rangers and Nationals can sign Donaldson, not to mention his most recent team — the Atlanta Braves. When Donaldson’s domino falls, two of these teams will be left empty-handed in their pursuit of a third baseman.

The Los Angeles Dodgers also were linked to Rendon, though they don’t necessarily need a third baseman with Justin Turner manning the hot corner. Their pursuit of Rendon points to how they’re willing to shift Turner off third base, however. Add them to the list of teams seeking third base help.

Add that all up, and you have four teams in the market for Donaldson. The Cubs aren’t guaranteed to trade Bryant, but they’ll soon find themselves with some leverage. For the three teams that don’t land Donaldson, the most logical move will be to inquire with the Cubs about trading for Bryant. The Nationals have already inquired about Bryant, according to MLB.com's Jon Morosi.

Bryant’s unresolved grievance case will be an issue in any potential negotiations. The difference between two years of control (if he loses) and one (if he wins) is big when it comes to his value. Even though they’ll have leverage over interested teams, the Cubs will yield stronger trade proposals for Bryant if he loses his case.

But, again, a trade is no certainty. What is certain is teams will be inquiring about Bryant in the not-so-distant future, once Donaldson chooses his free agent destination.

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Brewers reportedly sign pitcher Josh Lindblom to address rotation need

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USA TODAY

Brewers reportedly sign pitcher Josh Lindblom to address rotation need

The Brewers are looking overseas to address a rotation that has been one of their biggest weaknesses in recent seasons.

According to multiple reports, Milwaukee is signing 32-year-old Josh Lindblom to a three-year deal. It’s worth $9.125 million but can max out at more than $18 million, should Lindblom hit certain bonuses, according to ESPN's Jeff Passan.

The Cubs also had discussions with Lindblom, according to MLB.com's Jon Morosi, before he reached a deal with the Brewers.

Lindblom has pitched in parts of five big league seasons since 2011, most recently with the Pirates in 2017. The right-hander holds a career 4.10 ERA in 114 games (six starts) but he remade himself during a successful stint pitching in South Korea in recent seasons.

From 2018-19 with the Doosan Bears, Lindblom went 35-7 with a 2.68 ERA, striking out 346 batters in 363 1/3 innings. He was named MVP of the KBO in 2019. Some of Lindblom's success can be attributed to the splitter he featured in his repertoire.

Lindblom’s name doesn’t jump off the page, but he’s a low-cost addition for the Brewers and is returning stateside an improved pitcher. Milwaukee finished 14th in starting pitcher ERA in 2019, but that figure was a not-so-great 4.40. They traded mainstay Zach Davies — who had been a rotation mainstay since 2016 — to the Padres two weeks ago.

Lindblom joins a rotation featuring Brandon Woodruff, Adrian Houser and Eric Lauer (acquired in the Davies trade). The Brewers also have 25-year-old Corbin Burnes and 23-year-old Freddy Peralta as starting options. The duo struggled in 2019 (Burnes: 8.82 ERA, 32 games/four starts; Peralta: 5.29 ERA, 39 games/eight starts), so the guess here is the Brewers aren’t done shopping for pitching.