Cubs

Slow down: Cubs, Ramirez want green light to run

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Slow down: Cubs, Ramirez want green light to run

Sunday, March 6, 2011
3:14 p.m.
By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com
MESA, Ariz. Aramis Ramirez carried a sandwich and a Mountain Dew back to his locker on Sunday and saw five reporters approaching.

I thought I got traded or something, he joked.

They were curious about another idea that seems just as unlikely Ramirez telling manager Mike Quade that he wants the green light to run. Ramirez, who made his major-league debut in 1998, has 15 stolen bases in his career. He thinks he could get as many as 10 this year.

Hey, if you can sneak one here and there theyre not paying attention to me. I know that for a fact, Ramirez said. I dont think you have to be a fast runner to steal bases. I dont think (Albert) Pujols is fast. He steals 15 to 20 bags.

The Cubs do not have a prototypical leadoff hitter. The middle of their order Marlon Byrd, Ramirez, Carlos Pena and Alfonso Soriano will be at ages 34, 33, 33 and 35 by seasons end. Their lineup is built around power, not speed.

But as Byrd pointed out, new first-base coach Bob Dernier is pushing the Cubs to be more aggressive. Dernier stole 218 bases in his career and previously worked as the organizations minor-league base-running coordinator.

Oh yeah, we can run, Byrd said. Im sure 'Q' is going to let us run a little bit with all our athleticism that we do have on the team. We didnt show it last year. Now its time to pick it up.

The message from Quade on Sunday was slow down. Ryan Theriot, who was shipped out at last seasons trade deadline, led the team with 16 stolen bases in 2010. Overall the Cubs stole 55, which tied them for last in the majors.

I know Bobby is very interested in making sure that this label that we dont run gets eliminated, Quade said, but we need to run intelligently. (We) dont have a bunch of flyers on this club, but we want to take advantage when the situation presents itself. Were not selling out to quote-unquote run.

I always used to laugh (when guys say): I want to be aggressive and I want to run. I look at his roster and (they) got a bunch of heavy-legged home run hitters. Youre going to run yourself out of innings.

That sounds like a more accurate description of your 2011 Cubs. But Byrd, Kosuke Fukudome, Tyler Colvin and Fernando Perez if he makes the team as the fifth outfielder should pressure teams.

Ultimately, its not a question of running or not running. Its being smarter, more decisive and aware of your surroundings.

If you get a good jump, Ramirez said, you can steal some bases.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

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 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