The Theo Epstein compensation issue is still unresolved, but things may be getting close.
No, Jim Hendry going to the Yankees doesn't count, even if spurned Cubs fans believe that will make the Red Sox's most hated rival weaker.
Theo was in Boston Monday night for a Hot Stove Cool Music panel discussion at Fenway Park's State Street Pavilion along with Boston general manager Ben Cherington and field manager Bobby Valentine. Pirates GM Neal Huntington, Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson, MLB Network's Sean Casey and Peter Gammons were also in attendance.
Both Cherington and Theo discussed the compensation issue, though neither really divulged new information.
"Seems like it should be coming to an end sometime soon," Theo said, then added that "no one has really talked about it much."
Cherington explained he had nothing new to add but did touch on the gap between the two sides.
"It's hard to quantify," Cherington said. "It's just a disagreement. There was an expectation when Theo left that the Red Sox would receive significant compensation for allowing the Cubs to hire him and we haven't been able to agree on what 'significant compensation' means."
The Brewers are looking overseas to address a rotation that has been one of their biggest weaknesses in recent seasons.
According to multiple reports, Milwaukee is signing 32-year-old Josh Lindblom to a three-year deal. It’s worth $9.125 million but can max out at more than $18 million, should Lindblom hit certain bonuses, according to ESPN's Jeff Passan.
The Cubs also had discussions with Lindblom, according to MLB.com's Jon Morosi, before he reached a deal with the Brewers.
Lindblom has pitched in parts of five big league seasons since 2011, most recently with the Pirates in 2017. The right-hander holds a career 4.10 ERA in 114 games (six starts) but he remade himself during a successful stint pitching in South Korea in recent seasons.
From 2018-19 with the Doosan Bears, Lindblom went 35-7 with a 2.68 ERA, striking out 346 batters in 363 1/3 innings. He was named MVP of the KBO in 2019. Some of Lindblom's success can be attributed to the splitter he featured in his repertoire.
Lindblom’s name doesn’t jump off the page, but he’s a low-cost addition for the Brewers and is returning stateside an improved pitcher. Milwaukee finished 14th in starting pitcher ERA in 2019, but that figure was a not-so-great 4.40. They traded mainstay Zach Davies — who had been a rotation mainstay since 2016 — to the Padres two weeks ago.
Lindblom joins a rotation featuring Brandon Woodruff, Adrian Houser and Eric Lauer (acquired in the Davies trade). The Brewers also have 25-year-old Corbin Burnes and 23-year-old Freddy Peralta as starting options. The duo struggled in 2019 (Burnes: 8.82 ERA, 32 games/four starts; Peralta: 5.29 ERA, 39 games/eight starts), so the guess here is the Brewers aren’t done shopping for pitching.
The Cubs have met with Japanese free agent Shogo Akiyama, according to WSCR’s Bruce Levine.
Akiyama would help the Cubs address multiple needs: center field and the leadoff spot. The 31-year-old holds a career .376 on-base percentage in Japan’s highest level of baseball, Nippon Professional Baseball.
Eleven Cubs led off at least once last season, posting a .212 average and .294 OBP (both last in MLB). In 143 games with the Saitama Seibu Lions, Akiyama hit .303 with a .392 OBP and 20 home runs.
Five Cubs played center field in 2019, posting a combined .232/.305/.388 (.693 OPS) slash line. Those figures were second-worst among all Cubs positional groups, behind second base. League-wide, Cubs center fielders ranked 20th in both average and OPS.
Money aside, adding Akiyama would all but rule out Nicholas Castellanos returning to the Cubs next season. The former would slot into center field, moving Jason Heyward back over to right. Heyward became the team’s full-time center fielder after the Cubs acquired Castellanos at the trade deadline.
The Cubs prefer to play Heyward in right, where he’s won five Gold Glove Awards in his career. From left to right, a Kyle Schwarber-Heyward-Castellanos outfield is formidable offensively, but together they make up a below-average defensive trio.
Akiyama would likely not cost much on the open market, but as Levine notes, there are other suitors for him beside the Cubs.
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