Cubs

There is 'Nobody quitting or giving up' in Joe Maddon's clubhouse

There is 'Nobody quitting or giving up' in Joe Maddon's clubhouse

Approximately half of the Cubs 2017 campaign has been played and it can be perfectly encapsulated in a quote by pitcher Jon Lester Sunday night following their 14-3 loss, “It’s embarrassing.”

Yes, 14-3, you read that right and no that is not a Bears score. The veteran left-hander conceded 10 runs in the top of the first inning and was pulled after just 53 pitches and two outs. This made him the fourth pitcher in MLB history to allow 10 runs and fail to make it out of the first.

To put that astronomically bad performance into better perspective 10 runs is two more than Lester gave up in the months of August AND September during the 2016 run. Embarrassing.

Sitting at 43-45 the Cubs are certainly underperforming compared to their 2016 All-Star break record of 53–35, but that is not necessarily a fair metric to measure this year's team. The 2016 World Series champion Cubs had arguably one of the most impressive regular seasons that Wrigley Field has ever seen. We will likely never again experience something quite like that.

However, even the heroes of 2016 had their struggles. The Northsiders lost 15 of their last 21 games heading into the All-Star break. How quickly people forget.

The 2017 post All-Star break Cubs need one thing: a heavy dose of optimism. Skipper Joe Maddon said in an interview following Sunday's loss to the Pirates (42-47) that in the Cubs locker room there’s “nobody quitting or giving up.”

That type of morale is a great start to a strong second half. In addition to that, the boys in blue will hopefully get back their Ivy League stud, Kyle Hendricks. Hendricks, who finished third in 2016 Cy Young voting, has been dealing with a right hand injury for a good chunk of this season. He will certainly bring a boost to the mound where the Cubs are seemingly lacking this year.

Young talent like Ian Happ is grounds for optimism as well, hitting 12 home runs in this first half of the season at just 22 years old, Happ has made a name for himself.

Most importantly Cubs fans should remain optimistic that the second half of the season will awaken the sleeping giant from Middleton, Ohio. Kyle Schwarber, whose presence in the batter's box could help the Cubs offense and possibly spark something more as it did in the 2016 postseason.

If the Cubs aren’t “quitting or giving up,” then neither should Cubs fans. Let’s all take this four-day All-Star break to calm down, take a deep breath, and watch Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge trade-off launching baseballs into lunar orbit from Miami.

ESPN to broadcast two of Cubs first four games in 2020

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AP

ESPN to broadcast two of Cubs first four games in 2020

It won't be long before baseball fans get their first look at the Cubs under new manager David Ross.

ESPN announced Thursday they will broadcast two of the Cubs' first four games in 2020: March 29 against the Brewers in Milwaukee (Sunday Night Baseball) and March 30 against the Pirates (3 p.m. first pitch). The latter game is the Cubs' 2020 home opener.

Ross worked as a color analyst for ESPN from 2017-19 before the Cubs hired him as manager in October. So, not only will his club be in the national spotlight early in the season, but his former co-workers will be the ones analyzing him as his managerial career kicks off.

The Cubs open the season on March 26 against the Brewers.

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Willson Contreras’ trade value just spiked, thanks to White Sox signing Yasmani Grandal

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USA TODAY

Willson Contreras’ trade value just spiked, thanks to White Sox signing Yasmani Grandal

This is the best thing the White Sox have done for the Cubs in years.

The White Sox made a big splash in free agency Thursday, signing catcher Yasmani Grandal to a four-year, $73 million contract. Grandal joins the South Siders from the Brewers, where he played an integral role in Milwaukee making a second-straight postseason appearance in 2019.

Grandal led qualified catchers in on-base percentage (.380) last season, also posting career highs in home runs (28) and RBIs (77). He’s also an excellent pitch framer, tying for fourth in RszC (runs saved by catcher framing) among all catchers with 9.

Milwaukee’s payroll reached a franchise-high $122.5 million in 2019 and their farm system (No. 29 in MLB, per Baseball America) is lacking. How they replace Grandal’s production is a major question mark, which in turn is a win for the Cubs this offseason.

But besides plucking him from the NL Central, the White Sox signing Grandal early in the offseason helps the Cubs, who have important decisions of their own to make.

Although Cubs president Theo Epstein said to take any trade rumors with a “mouthful of salt,” multiple teams believe catcher Willson Contreras is available for trade. The Cubs need to retool their roster and replenish a farm system that has been depleted in recent seasons from numerous “win now” trades.

The Cubs and White Sox made the notorious José Quintana trade in July 2017, but it’s unlikely the two would have matched up for a Contreras trade. The Cubs need young assets; trading away young assets is the last thing the White Sox want to do as their championship window opens.

So, Grandal landed with a team that was unlikely to be involved in any potential Contreras trade talks. Grandal was the best free agent catcher; Contreras is the best catcher that can be had in a trade.

Other teams interested in Grandal — such as the Reds — can no longer turn to him in free agency. The Rays have made addressing the catcher spot this winter a priority, but they have one of MLB’s lowest payrolls each season. Signing Grandal wasn’t going to happen, but Tampa Bay has the farm system (No. 2 in baseball, per MLB.com) to make a big trade.

Contreras is the best catcher available — for the right price, obviously — so the ball is in the Cubs' court. They don’t get better by dealing their two-time All-Star backstop, but Contreras’ trade value is high. With Grandal off the market, it just got even higher.

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