Cubs

Will Sveum hiring lead to Fielder signing?

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Will Sveum hiring lead to Fielder signing?

Dale Sveum has spent the last six seasons coaching from various positions on the Milwaukee Brewers staff.

Or to put it another way, he's seen all but 39 of Prince Fielder's 998 career games firsthand from the top step of the dugout.

Fielder made his MLB debut in 2005 as a 21-year-old, but earned just 62 plate appearances. Sveum was hired as the Brewers' third base coach before the '06 season, a position he held for one season.

Sveum, who was a first-round draft pick of the Brewers back in 1982, spent time as the bench coach the next season, then moved back to third base coach, spent a short time as interim manager and then moved to hitting coach, a position he has held the last three seasons.

That's just a long way of saying he and Fielder have spent almost every day together for the the past six seasons, the last three of which Sveum directly impacted Fielder's performance as part of his hitting coach duties.

The slugging first baseman is currently a free agent and interested in reaping the benefits of his offensive prowess to the tune of a huge payday. Huge like 200 million over nine years huge.

He doesn't turn 28 until five weeks into the 2012 season and is right in the heart of his prime. As new Cubs president Theo Epstein said, he is not interested in signing free agents who have left their best years behind them. Given his age and history, it's conceivable to think Fielder's best years are still ahead of him.

Fielder has never been shy about his appreciation for Sveum, claiming the 47-year-old is one of the best coaches he's ever had.

Does this all add up to Fielder signing the megadeal he seeks with the Cubs?

Just imagine how many times he'd hit the ball out onto Sheffield Ave. He'd have a fan club just waiting out on the street for a chance to nab a home run, much like Sammy Sosa did in his heyday.

Imagine Fielder spending 81 games hitting in cozy Wrigley Field. Imagine when the wind is actually blowing out. With his huge uppercut, there wouldn't be a pitcher in the league that would want to pitch to Fielder.

However, it appears those dreams may just have to stay in our imagination.

"It's an interesting theory, but the sense I'm getting is the Cubs aren't really looking for that guy that will cost 25 million and would an eight- or nine-year commitment," Cubs Insider Patrick Mooney told David Kaplan on CSN after Sveum was announced.

"Theo and Jed Hoyer said all along how committed they are to building from within, from the ground up and that's really what attracted Theo to this job. So I think they're going to put their money into pitching and defense and more volume of pitching than just one big-name stud pitcher."

Sigh. That would have been awesome.

Mooney has a point. While the Cubs are still under Alfonso Soriano's and Carlos Zambrano's nauseating contracts, it would be tough to imagine the new regime shelling out that kind of money for one player, even if it is a guy young enough and good enough to build around.

Who knows, maybe something will work out. Maybe Theo and Jed are just giving everybody the runaround right now, playing this one close to the vest.

Cubs fans can only hope.

Brewers reportedly sign pitcher Josh Lindblom to address rotation need

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USA TODAY

Brewers reportedly sign pitcher Josh Lindblom to address rotation need

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.

Cubs meet with Japanese free agent Shogo Akiyama, a potential solution to multiple needs

Cubs meet with Japanese free agent Shogo Akiyama, a potential solution to multiple needs

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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