Cubs

With potential opening in CF, Kris Bryant’s versatility creates options for Cubs

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With potential opening in CF, Kris Bryant’s versatility creates options for Cubs

Super-agent Scott Boras will highlight the versatility if – when? – Kris Bryant becomes a free agent after the 2021 season, marketing him as the franchise player who can play almost anywhere. 

The Cubs gave Anthony Rizzo the night off and started Bryant at first base on Monday, moving him to center field, right field and third base across the 11 innings it took to beat the Kansas City Royals 1-0 at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs have a manager who values matchups and flexibility (Joe Maddon), multiple players who can play multiple positions and an obvious need for pitching. If Theo Epstein’s front office trades bats for arms this winter, Bryant’s versatility could be an X-factor. 

[MORE: Where Tom Ricketts sees Cubs payroll going from here]

Bryant will be right in the middle of that 2016 lineup, but even Maddon doesn’t know if the Cubs should build it out with him as the Opening Day third baseman.

“I think KB could do a lot of different things,” Maddon said. “I just feel good about him playing defense. He’s a good baseball player. He’s the best baserunner on the team, purely with instincts and speed.

“Defensively, I’m comfortable with him anywhere. I wanted to see him at first base. I just think that adds to his resume moving down the road. 

“I have no doubt that he could play shortstop. I don’t think I’d want to see him at second base – vulnerable to a guy sliding into him – but I would bet he could play shortstop, too. He’s done a great job everywhere.”

Bryant got exposure to the outfield at the University of San Diego, where he emerged as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 draft. Moving around hasn’t hurt the numbers – 26 homers, 99 RBI, .874 OPS – that will probably make him the National League’s Rookie of the Year.

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“It does not bother his offense whatsoever,” Maddon said. 

There’s probably too much long-term risk in permanently moving a potential 40-homer guy to center field. But what about as a short-term fix? 

The Cubs will give Dexter Fowler a qualifying offer and probably sink their resources into the rotation, creating an opening in center until a young outfielder like Albert Almora develops or an interesting trade presents itself.  

“I feel comfortable with (KB) anywhere,” Maddon said. “I could see him as a starting third baseman. (He can start at) any outfield position. And you would feel covered above-average defensively – and that you could win with this guy.” 

Report: Giants interested in Cubs first base coach Will Venable for manager opening

Report: Giants interested in Cubs first base coach Will Venable for manager opening

The Giants' search for a successor to now-retired manager Bruce Bochy has led them to the North Side.

According to NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic, the Giants are interested in Cubs first base coach Will Venable for their own managerial opening. San Francisco's interest is intriguing, as Venable went to high school just outside San Francisco in nearby San Rafael. His father — Max Venable — played for the Giants from 1979-83. 

Venable also interviewed for the Cubs' manager job earlier this month, telling the Chicago Sun-Times that his interest is in the "organization in general." He is one of several internal candidates for the Cubs' job, along with bench coach Mark Loretta and front office assistant David Ross.

The Cubs also interviewed Joe Girardi and are set to meet with Astros bench coach Joe Espada and former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler.

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Former Cub Mark Prior 'likely' to take over as Dodgers pitching coach in 2020

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USA TODAY

Former Cub Mark Prior 'likely' to take over as Dodgers pitching coach in 2020

Mark Prior's big-league playing career unfortunately fizzled out due to recurring injury woes, but he's making a name for himself in the coaching realm.

With Dodgers current pitching coach Rick Honeycutt transitioning into a new role, Prior is expected to takeover the position starting next season.

Cubs fans know the story of Prior's playing career all too well. The Cubs drafted him second overall in the 2001, with Prior making his MLB debut just a season later. He went on to dominate in 2003, posting an 18-6 record, 2.43 ERA and 245 strikeouts in 30 starts, a season in which he made the All-Star Game and finished third in the NL Cy Young Award voting.

However, Prior's season ended on a sour note, as he was on the mound during the Steve Bartman incident in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS. Prior exited the game with a 3-1 lead, but the Cubs surrendered seven more runs that inning, eventually falling to the Marlins 8-3 before losing Game 7 the next day. 

Prior struggled to stay healthy after 2003, eventually retiring in 2013 after multiple comeback attempts. While many blame his injury-riddled career on former Cubs manager Dusty Baker, Prior does not. 

While we can only wonder what could've been with Prior to the pitcher, it's good to see him still making an impact in baseball in some fashion.

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