Cubs

PujolsFielder megadeal will be Epsteins call

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PujolsFielder megadeal will be Epsteins call

Once Tom Ricketts finally took over a Cubs team that would be crippled by the wrong long-term investments, he promised that he would pour his money into player development.

When Theo Epstein left Boston for the chance to build something from the ground up, a segment of Red Sox Nation had very short memories, focusing on the expensive mistakes he made in free agency instead of the two World Series titles.

It will take close to an estimated 200 million and a commitment around eight years to sign Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder. So what happens if Epstein goes to ownership for approval of a megadeal?

Theres one person responsible for making those decisions, Ricketts said, and one person accountable for those results. So if he believes strongly thats whats in the best interests of the team, then hes got my support.

The chairman met with beat writers on Tuesday, hours after a FOXSports.com report surfaced that the Cubs have checked in on Pujols and Fielder. If you are representing those superstars, you would certainly want the perception that the Cubs are in on your clients to help drive the price higher.

When the entire industry gathers for the winter meetings next week in Dallas, the Cubs will focus on pitching and defense, and not look for the quick fix.

Pujols will be 32 years old next season, which definitely sounds like a post-prime free agent, and he has to consider a legacy that should include a Cardinals hat on his Hall of Fame plaque and a statue outside Busch Stadium.

People close to Fielder swear hes more athletic than he looks, and rave about his maximum effort every day, but you have to wonder about the body type and how it will play in 2017.

A new collective bargaining agreement will change the calculus. Its just a matter of how much more money the Cubs might funnel into major-league payroll. Everyone knew commissioner Bud Selig was going to target the draft in this round of negotiations.

But even Ricketts admitted that this new capped system which includes taxes and penalties for excessive signings in the draft and internationally is a big shift, a bigger shift than I expected.

It will be a strategic change for some teams who were planning to spend more than what their caps would be, Ricketts said, so you just have to kind of roll with the punches and see what the new strategy will be.

People knew that this was an issue that was going to be discussed in the CBA. I was personally surprised at just how far it went.

The Cubs came to regret big-ticket items like Carlos Zambrano. Publicly, Epstein has said that Zambrano can earn his way back if he meets certain conditions after walking out on his teammates, though privately both sides have acknowledged that a fresh start might be best for everyone.

Ricketts went on national television last summer and said that he would have a hard time picturing Zambrano pitching for the Cubs again, but hell defer to Epstein on this matter.

Hes willing to give Carlos a chance to earn his way back on the team, Ricketts said. Its his decision and I support it 100 percent.

The new president of baseball operations will have an overall budget close to 200 million, which is similar to last seasons financials. He has already committed to an expanded front office and will have to decide how much goes toward the major-league roster.

Ricketts had no problem with Epstein bypassing Ryne Sandberg as manager and believes there wont be any grudges: Hell always be part of the Cubs family.

Cubs executives continue to lobby politicians for help with renovating Wrigley Field, but Ricketts didnt have any updates on those plans: Nothing concrete at this point.

But there is a buzz at Clark and Addison, a new energy inside those walls. The Ricketts family has controlled the team for two seasons and watched two fifth-place finishes amid a sea of empty green seats. The chairman knew he had to make a game-changing hire.

The Cubs dont need to make headlines with a blockbuster signing this winter. Theyre already the big story again.

I really dont think of it in terms of Q ratings or honeymoons, Ricketts said. In the end, if we win, people will think we were good owners. And if we lose, we were bad owners. So as long as you focus on doing what you can to win, everything will fall into place.

Nationals 'love' Kris Bryant but potential holdup could stymie trade talks

Nationals 'love' Kris Bryant but potential holdup could stymie trade talks

With Anthony Rendon officially joining the Angels, the Nationals have a vacancy at third base.

Washington has options to replace Rendon; Josh Donaldson is still available in free agency, and Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant could potentially be had via trade.

The Nationals have reportedly inquired with the Cubs about Bryant, and while they “love” the 27-year-old, their focus is on Donaldson, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. The Cubs would likely seek center fielder Victor Robles in a deal, a holdup on Washington's end, Heyman said.

From the Cubs perspective, it would make all the sense in the world to ask for Robles. He’s 22 years old, plays excellent defense (22 DRS in 2019, No. 1 in MLB by center fielders) and is only scratching the surface as a big-leaguer. Robles is projected to be a star, but Bryant already is one. If the Nationals want Bryant badly enough, they’ll have to sacrifice talent in a deal.

On the other hand, it’s easy to understand why Washington would be unwilling to trade Robles, who's under team control through 2024. Bryant will hit free agency after 2021, but if he wins his ongoing grievance case, he'll hit the open market after next season.

Nonetheless, if the Nationals do engage in Bryant trade talks, you can bet the Cubs will at least ask for Robles in return. A trade could be worked out without him, but for a Cubs team searching for better center field production, you've got to wonder who could be more enticing than Robles.

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Willson Contreras and his boundless energy join Cubs All-Decade Team

Willson Contreras and his boundless energy join Cubs All-Decade Team

With the 2010s coming to a close, NBC Sports Chicago is unveiling its Cubs All-Decade Team, highlighting the players who made the biggest impacts on the organization from 2010-19.

It didn’t take long for Willson Contreras to introduce himself to Major League Baseball. On the first pitch he saw as a big-leaguer, the Cubs catcher cranked a two-run home run to center field — on Sunday Night Baseball, nonetheless.

That moment was a sign of things to come for Contreras, who has since established himself as one of the best catchers in baseball. The 27-year-old holds a career .267/.350/.470 line with a 117 wRC+ and 67 home runs in four seasons. He’s started back-to-back All-Star Games, the first Cubs catcher to do so since Gabby Hartnett (1937-38).

Contreras offers so much to the Cubs besides his bat. His cannon of an arm and athleticism behind the plate are integral to the Cubs controlling opposing run games. His pitch framing is a work in progress, and admittedly, he could improve in this area by throwing behind runners less, ensuring he gets strikes called.

However, back-picking is part of Contreras’ value. He may lose some strike calls by not sticking a frame, but there've been plenty of occasions where Contreras' arm has provided the Cubs with a spark. His boundless energy is unmeasurable, but its importance to the Cubs — who feed off of it — cannot be overstated.

There are areas where Contreras can improve, and that's a scary thought. But he's already is one of the best backstops in baseball and has earned the starting catcher spot on our Cubs All-Decade Team.

Also considered: Welington Castillo, Miguel Montero, David Ross, Geovany Soto