Cubs

Who’s next? Cubs think Javier Baez is in a good place at Iowa

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Who’s next? Cubs think Javier Baez is in a good place at Iowa

The Cubs think Javier Baez is in a good place right now.

Of course, Baez would rather be in The Show than Triple-A Iowa. The guy has the Major League Baseball logo tattooed onto the back of his neck.

But Baez is a very important piece of the puzzle, either as a potential trade chip, so Theo Epstein’s front office can get a frontline pitcher, or a midseason shot of adrenaline for this team.

That’s why Baez still moves the needle at Wrigley Field, even on a Tuesday night where the Cubs beat the Washington Nationals 3-2 after Addison Russell’s walk-off double.

Baez is responding to the adversity after failing to make the team out of spring training, and taking an extended leave of absence to mourn the death of his younger sister.

“He’s having a really good run right now,” said Jason McLeod, the head of scouting and player development. “The mindset is there. He had to deal with a lot in the offseason from a professional level – and certainly personally with what took place with his family.

“(Farm director) Jaron Madison’s down there with him right now. And just talking with Jaron every day, you can see that sparkle there. He’s happy with how things are going.”

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Baez is hitting .311 with five homers, 17 RBI and a .911 OPS through 24 games at Iowa. He’s struck out 25 times and worked nine walks, trying to evolve as a hitter, make more contact and smooth out those extreme swing-and-miss issues.

Baez has also committed 11 errors. But manager Joe Maddon has repeatedly called Baez one of the finest young middle infielders he’s ever seen.

To stabilize a shaky defense, one scenario kicked around would have Kris Bryant shifting to left field and Baez taking over at third base. But McLeod said the Cubs aren’t looking to move Baez anywhere except shortstop and second base.

“No immediate plans for it right now,” McLeod said. “He does kid around sometimes and go take flyballs in the outfield. We might start having him do some of those types of things, but it wouldn’t be predicated on anything that’s happening up here, necessarily.”

The Cubs already have an All-Star shortstop (Starlin Castro) and an emerging second baseman (Russell). If Baez has such a great feel for the game, why not see what he can do in the outfield?

“Who knows?” McLeod said. “It wouldn’t be surprising if we did see him out there. No plans are in the works to do that. I want to make that clear.

“But because he does have the athleticism and the ability – like I said, he’s a baseball player – I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go out there and be pretty darn good if that’s the way we go.”

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Baez is also 22 years old and looked lost at times during last year’s 52-game audition (95 strikeouts). The Cubs don’t want to mess up his rhythm. He’s still only one phone call away.

“All we’re concerned about right now is him maintaining this,” McLeod said. “Certainly, he’s someone who wants to come up here and help the team win. And Joe, Theo, we’re all looking at that every single day. Those are conversations that take place internally every day.”

Texas Rangers hire Cubs' Shiraz Rehman to be assistant GM

Texas Rangers hire Cubs' Shiraz Rehman to be assistant GM

The changing of the guard continues for the Cubs this offseason. 

After the team hired a new hitting coach yesterday, it was reported today that they're losing a front office member: 

Rehman, who has been with the Cubs in the same position for the last seven years, will reportedly head up the Rangers' analytics department. According to the Chicago Tribune, Rehman's role was " evaluating existing systems, and recognizing and applying solutions in an effort to create competitive advantages for the organization." 

All reports indicate that he'll be doing similar analytic-based work with the Rangers. 

Chili Davis after being ousted by Cubs: 'There were multiple players in there I didn't connect with'

Chili Davis after being ousted by Cubs: 'There were multiple players in there I didn't connect with'

Chili Davis didn't go all scorched earth on the Cubs in a recent interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, but he had quite a lot to say after being ousted by the organization after just one year as the hitting coach.

The Cubs made Davis the scapegoat for an offense that faded down the stretch, struggling for the entire second half and scoring just 1 run in three of the final four games of the year.

When he was hired a year ago, Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon talked up Davis' impressive resume that includes a 19-year MLB career, two separate stints as a successful hitting coach with the Oakland A's and Boston Red Sox and a philosophy that they hoped would withstand the test of time in the game today, preaching more contact and using the opposite field.

Throughout the 2018 season, Maddon often commended Davis for his ability to communicate with players, particularly in the area of mental approach to each at-bat.

Now that the dust has settled a bit on his firing, Davis felt he had some issues getting through to some Cubs players.

I learned a lot this year," Davis told the Sun-Times' Gordon Wittenmyer. "I learned that the next situation I get in, before I say yes to a job, I need to make sure I know the personnel I'll be dealing with in the clubhouse. I hope the next guy connects better with the players, because I felt that there were multiple players there I didn't connect with. It wasn't that I didn't try; it just wasn't there.

The Cubs hired Anthony Iapoce as their new hitting coach Monday afternoon. Iapoce comes over from the Rangers and has a direct link to John Mallee, who was the Cubs' hitting coach for three seasons before being let go when Davis became available last winter. 

Iapoce also spent three seasons with the Cubs as a special assistant to the GM, overseeing the organization's minor-league hitting from 2013-15. Presumably, he found a way over those years to connect with the Cubs' top young hitting prospects — guys like Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber and Willson Contreras that are now leading the big-league lineup.

Hopefully he has better success at this than I did," Davis said of Iapoce in the Sun-Times article. "But regardless of who's there, certain players there are going to have to make some adjustments because the game's changed and pitchers are pitching them differently. They're not pitching to launch angles and fly balls and all that anymore. They're pitching away from that. They're going to have to make that adjustment whether I'm there or not.

Davis had a whole lot more to say on the matter and I encourage you to read the full interview with Wittenmyer over at ChicagoSunTimes.com.

A healthy Bryant very likely could've changed everything for Davis and the Cubs' 2018 lineup. Contreras hitting like he's capable of in the second half would've made a huge difference, as well.

But the end result is a finish to the 2018 campaign that was viewed universally as a disappointment — particularly in the offensive department — and the Cubs are left with their third different hitting coach in three seasons.