Cubs

Scott Boras on Jake Arrieta's future, Cubs' 'budding garden of talent'

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Scott Boras on Jake Arrieta's future, Cubs' 'budding garden of talent'

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Are the Cubs serious about signing Jake Arrieta to a long-term contract this winter?

“I don’t really know,” agent Scott Boras said Wednesday. “All I know is that I would say it’s fair to say the Cubs are pleased with Jake. And I’m sure that Jake’s happy playing there. So we’ll have to see where it goes.”

Those extension talks will probably go nowhere, since Boras almost always pushes his clients onto the open market and keeps comparing Arrieta to Max Scherzer, who reportedly declined a six-year, $144 million offer from the Detroit Tigers and eventually scored a seven-year, $210 million megadeal with the Washington Nationals last winter.

There’s no rush, because the Cubs control Arrieta for two more seasons and have to prioritize during the general manager meetings at the Boca Raton Resort and Club, focusing on free agents and potential trades.

[MORE CUBS: Dave Martinez gets chance to make pitch for Dodgers job]

If anything, the Cubs are in South Florida trying to find a way to put another top-of-the-rotation starter next to their National League Cy Young Award finalist and $155 million lefty Jon Lester for this two-year window.

“They’ve put themselves in a position where they’ve got just a budding garden of talent,” Boras said. “Certainly, they want to get better. And good for them.”

The garden metaphor sounded pretty tame for a State of Boras Corp. address, at least compared to the “Meet the Parents” and “All-Day Sucker” zingers the agent has thrown at the Ricketts family during these media sessions at fancy hotels.

“Whenever you look at ownerships and you evaluate them,” Boras said, “it usually takes time, because a part of that garden isn’t only the players. A part of that garden is the ownership.

“When you’ve been in the garden a long time, you probably know a lot more about when to move — and when not to move — than someone who’s been in it a short time.”

[SHOP CUBS: Get your Cubs gear right here]

Boras has always been careful to direct his small-market criticisms away from president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, praising the scouting and player-development staffs for making his clients better.

After winning 22 games and putting up a 1.77 ERA as part of an organization-wide breakthrough, MLB Trade Rumors projected Arrieta will earn $10.6 million next year as an arbitration-eligible player.

It’s not just the free agents in the $100-million-plus neighborhood, which Epstein already says would be a creative stretch for the Cubs to pull off this winter.

It’s maintaining flexibility as Boras clients like All-Star third baseman Kris Bryant — a unanimous Rookie of the Year candidate — and shortstop Addison Russell enter the arbitration system and all this growing talent becomes more and more expensive.

It’s getting aggressive and chasing every win in a division that produced three playoff teams that won at least 97 games this year.

“This is a whole new phase for the Cub ownership,” Boras said. “It’s a championship phase. It’s not a rebuilding phase — it’s a championship phase.

“And how owners react to that and what they do to garner that is a completely different thought process.”

It looks like rough times are ahead for Brewers relief ace Josh Hader

It looks like rough times are ahead for Brewers relief ace Josh Hader

The Brewers' best pitcher is in some serious hot water before the second half of the MLB season gets underway.

As he was serving up a 3-run homer in the All-Star Game Tuesday night, Josh Hader's Tweets from 2011 were aired publicly and the result was...not good.

Hader's Tweets as a 17-year-old reflected racist and homophobic remarks, among other issues. (A summary of his Tweets can be found at Deadspin.)

After the All-Star Game, Hader was immediately put in front of reporters to respond to the Tweets and admitted he will accept any punishment that comes his way — including any possible suspension:

Regardless of whether or not he misses any game action for this (a suspension here would be rather unprecedented for MLB, but the world is certainly changing), this absolutely could affect Hader mentally moving forward. 

Case in point:

He can ask teammate Ryan Braun how to deal when fans turn on you, but it's going to be a lot more difficult for a 24-year-old in his first full big-league season to deal with any hate that comes down. 

Hader has been the Brewers' most valuable pitcher all season, going 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA, 0.79 WHIP and a ridiculous 16.7 K/9. 

But over the last month-plus, he's been...human.

Ever since Jason Heyward turned on a 98 mph Hader fastball to tie the game in Milwaukee on June 11, the Brewers' relief ace has a 2.84 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 13.5 K/9.

Still great numbers, to be sure, but not the Superman-esque line baseball fans came to expect from Hader after the first couple months of 2018. (Plus, the All-Star Game homer he served up to Jean Segura, but that obviously doesn't count for anything.)

With the Brewers already chasing the Cubs by 2.5 games in the division in the second half, they can't afford Hader's slump to worsen.

Though Cubs fans may be rooting for that...

It might have been just another dinger in homer-happy All-Star Game, but Willson Contreras will remember it forever

It might have been just another dinger in homer-happy All-Star Game, but Willson Contreras will remember it forever

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Willson Contreras’ third-inning home run might not have ended up standing out too much in an All-Star Game featuring a jaw-dropping and record-shattering 10 dingers.

But, obviously, it will always stand out to the guy who hit it.

“I enjoyed every single second that I spent out there.”

Remarkably, Contreras repeated his feat from two seasons ago, when he hit his first big league homer on the first big league pitch he ever saw. Ditto on Tuesday night at Nationals Park, when he launched the first pitch he saw as an All Star out over the wall in left field.

“When I hit the ball and thought it was gone, I went back to 2016, playing in Chicago. It was the same thing, first pitch for a homer,” Contreras, all smiles, said following the American League’s 8-6 victory. “I’m really blessed with these kinds of situations. Those moments, they’re going to be history and they’re going to be in my mind and my heart.”

Contreras’ long ball was the highlight of the evening for fans watching back home in Chicago. Javy Baez got a hit in his first All-Star at-bat but was outdone by his teammate. White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu was hitless in his two trips to the plate.

And while it will be a highlight on this night for Cubs fans, it will be a highlight forever for Contreras, who enjoyed the heck out of his first All-Star experience.

“‘I did it, I did it,’” he said when asked what was going through his head. “I knew it was something special. And I wasn’t trying to do too much because these guys are nasty, throwing 98 in the first inning. I just tried to get the hit out.”

The nasty guy he went deep against was Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Blake Snell, whose 2.27 ERA on the season made him a very worthy inclusion on the AL roster. But Contreras was more impressed with the guy who started the game for the National League, raving about Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer after the game.

“He was great, man. Great stuff, he gets so into the game,” Contreras said. “I would like to have him one day on my team or play with him for a few years. That guy is amazing.”

That’s not the current Nationals star Cubs fans are dreaming about, Willy, but point taken.

But it wasn’t Snell or Scherzer or even Baez or Jon Lester, also in the NL dugout, who Contreras was thinking about the most during his home run trot. Instead, Contreras was thinking about his grandfather, Ernesto, who passed away a few years ago.

“My grandpa, he died in 2015,” Contreras said. “I grew up with him.

“He didn’t play ball. But I feel like every time I go out there and step into the box, he’s at my back. It just feels amazing when you hit a homer or do something special, look at the sky and you know that he’s there smiling somewhere.”

It all made for a pretty incredible night for Contreras, who has officially and loudly taken his place among baseball’s best on the game’s biggest stage.

The only thing that was missing? The ball.

Yeah, Contreras didn’t get the ball, not that he really expected to. But if you’ve got it, he wants it.

“I don’t think they’re giving it back,” he said with a grin.

We’ll see. Social media’s a powerful tool. So reach out.