Cubs

Sappelt starring in Venezuelan Winter League

896451.png

Sappelt starring in Venezuelan Winter League

Dave Sappelt has enjoyed success this offseason in the Venezuelan Winter League.

The Cubs outfielder is currently playing for Bravos de Margarita (which sounds like a delicious drink, by the way) and is leading the team in average to date with a .336 mark. The Bravos boast several guys who have spent time in the MLB, including former first round pick Sean Burroughs, Twins infielder Brian Dozier, Rockies infielder Jonathan Herrera and good, ole Hank White (Henry Blanco), the former Cubs backup catcher.

Sappelt got the start in center and hit leadoff in the Bravos' last game Thursday, clubbing his fifth home run in the victory. He boasts a .378 OBP and .526 slugging percentage -- good for a .904 OPS -- with five doubles, 15 RBI, 23 runs and five steals in 30 games and 116 at-bats. The downside is the three errors in the outfield.

The diminutive outfielder -- he's listed as 5-foot-9, 195 pounds -- came over to the Cubs in the Sean Marshall deal last winter. He appeared in 26 games late in 2012, batting .275.351.449 with two homers and six doubles.

Sappelt, who turns 26 on Jan. 2, can play all three outfield positions and could open the season on the 25-man roster. With Nate Schierholtz signed to play right field, Sappelt could be in line for a platoon, getting the occasional start against a left-hander in place of Schierholtz or David DeJesus in center. Of course, there is still almost two months left in the offseason and the Cubs may still make a move to further bolster the outfield rotation.

Willson Contreras commissions heart-warming painting commemorating his relationship with Joe Maddon

usatsi_12702918.jpg
USA Today

Willson Contreras commissions heart-warming painting commemorating his relationship with Joe Maddon

Joe Maddon’s time with the Cubs may be over, but the memories made in his five years on the North Side will live on in Chicago sports lore forever. No matter how frustratingly his tenure may have ended, the outpouring of support and appreciation from management, fans and players alike throughout the process of Maddon’s departure are evidence of that.

“I love him like a dad,” Anthony Rizzo said

“I personally never could have imagined having such a wonderful partner,” Theo Epstein later added, standing beside Maddon as they delivered joint reflections on the end of the era.

Maddon touched the lives of so many within the organization and without in his time with the Cubs, but not many more so than catcher Willson Contreras, who burst onto the scene as one of the best young sluggers in baseball under Maddon’s guidance. Maddon — a catcher himself in his short time as a player — never shied away from criticizing Contreras in times he thought it earned, but it’s clear that the two forged a real bond over the last four years. 

Sunday afternoon, artist Austin Ploch revealed that Contreras reached out to him shortly after the end of the 2019 season to commission this heart-warming piece, commemorating the mutual respect and adoration between mentor and pupil:

The painting is derived from a photo of the two that Contreras posted to his Instagram account after it was officially announced that Maddon would not return as the Cubs manager:

Ploch has commissioned work for Contreras before, but now Willson will have a tangible memento to remember his first manager (along with his 2016 World Series ring). We’re not crying, you’re crying.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Cubs games easily on your device.

Cubs to reportedly conduct second interview with Joe Espada for managerial opening

Cubs to reportedly conduct second interview with Joe Espada for managerial opening

Astros bench coach Joe Espada has two days off before Houston hosts Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday, but it looks like some of that time will be spent in Chicago.

According to multiple reports, the Cubs will interview Espada a second time for their managerial opening. MLB Network's Jon Heyman reports that the interview is happening on Sunday.

Espada is one of the more sought after managerial candidates this offseason, as he's spent the last six seasons with two of baseball's leading franchises. The 44-year-old has been Astros bench coach since 2018, and prior to that, he spent four seasons with the Yankees — 2014 as a front office assistant, 2015-17 as third base coach.

David Ross was the presumed favorite for the Cubs' opening, when the process got underway. However, by landing a second interview, Espada has clearly given the team something to think about. In fact, NBC Sports Chicago's David Kaplan reported on Thursday the Cubs came away "exceptionally impressed" from Espada's first interview on Monday. 

MLB prefers teams not to make managerial announcements during the World Series. So, it might be a few more weeks before the Cubs announce their decision, unless they do so on Sunday or Monday.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Cubs games easily on your device.