Yankees becoming sellers? Cubs will believe it when they see it

Yankees becoming sellers? Cubs will believe it when they see it

WASHINGTON – The last time the New York Yankees finished with a losing record was 1992, or the year Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Jorge Soler were born.

Remember that the next time someone on Twitter tosses out the hypothetical return for Andrew Miller or Aroldis Chapman, trying to figure out which Cubs prospects are untouchable, and at what cost Theo Epstein’s front office should buy one of those flame-throwing relievers.

A franchise with 27 World Series banners would first have to raise the white flag at the trade deadline. Just ask Adam Warren, the homegrown Yankee the Cubs added to their pitching staff by trading Starlin Castro at the winter meetings.

“I don’t feel like it’s the Yankee DNA to say: ‘I give up,’” Warren said. “Knowing who the Yankees are, they expect to win the World Series every year. It’s hard with the expectations, not only from management, but also the fan base. It’s tough to sell.”

The Yankees woke up on Wednesday at 31-33, in fourth place and 6.5 games back in the American League East. Both the Cubs and Washington Nationals will be watching to see what happens in The Bronx and if the Yankees can stay within striking distance of the second wild card. The Nationals in particular could feel a heightened sense of urgency now that closer Jonathan Papelbon is on the disabled list with a strained intercostal muscle.

The Castro deal gives some insight into what the Yankees are thinking, trying to stay relevant while also building for the future. That’s an extremely difficult balancing act under this collective bargaining agreement, in an industry awash in new TV money and Big Data that somewhat levels the playing field.

The Yankees selected Warren in the fourth round of the 2009 draft out of the University of North Carolina, where he overlapped for a season with Miller. New York reluctantly gave up Warren, a valuable swingman with the guts to perform in a big market and the potential to eventually become a starter in the National League. But Warren will also turn 29 in August and can become a free agent after the 2018 season.

In Castro, the Yankees saw an up-the-middle everyday player who already earned three All-Star selections and hoped he would raise his game while wearing those pinstripes. The Yankees could also absorb the $38 million guaranteed through Castro’s age-26 to age-29 seasons.

“Just from observations over the last couple years, things are changing a little bit,” Warren said. “I do think they’re more focused on getting younger talent.

“So maybe they do see it as an opportunity to do that. I think they’re going to at least ride it out for a while and see where their team is at, because I don’t think they’re going to give up in June.

“If they were to do anything, it would be later. I don’t know. It’s hard for them with their expectations just to sell pieces and kind of give up on the season.”

New York almost built this year’s team backwards, going into scavenger mode after the Chapman trade between the Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Dodgers collapsed at the winter meetings, making a crass calculation with a player who would begin this season serving a 30-game suspension covered by Major League Baseball’s new domestic violence policy. Between Chapman, Miller and Dellin Betances, the Yankees would give manager Joe Girardi a dominant bullpen to shorten games and extinguish teams – and then reassess in July.

Jon Lester saw enough of the Yankees while pitching for the Boston Red Sox that he made a cameo appearance tipping his cap to Derek Jeter during that farewell Nike commercial. Lester and Miller also played together on the Red Sox team that won the 2013 World Series. Lester would vouch for Miller if the Cubs want to make a trade-deadline splash, but…

“I can’t remember the last time they (were sellers),” Lester said. “You know what, though, say they do trade an Andrew or a Chapman. I would say they would trade those two guys before they trade Betances, just because of the youth aspect of it. To me, that’s not giving up, because you still have two – unless you trade both. In that case, then you need the yard sale and start over.”

Jake Arrieta full of appreciation in return to Wrigley mound: ‘I’ll never forget this city’

Jake Arrieta full of appreciation in return to Wrigley mound: ‘I’ll never forget this city’

The last time Jake Arrieta pitched at Wrigley Field, his night ended with Cubs fans giving him a rousing standing ovation. The former Cubs right hander tossed 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball, leading the Cubs to victory in Game 4 of the 2017 NLCS—their only win against the Los Angeles Dodgers that series.

Arrieta returned to Wrigley Field as a visitor on Monday night, making his first start against the Cubs since joining the Philadelphia Phillies last season. Ironically, Arrieta’s counterpart for the night was Yu Darvish, who ultimately replaced Arrieta in the Cubs starting rotation.

Despite now donning Phillies red, Cubs fans once again showed their love for Arrieta, giving him a lengthy standing ovation ahead of his first plate appearance. Darvish even stepped off the mound in respect for the moment.

“I loved it, absolutely loved it,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said to reporters postgame. “[I’m] very happy that our fans would acknowledge him like that. Yu stepped away from the mound nicely. Jake deserved it.”

Arrieta tipped his helmet in appreciation for the crowd, taking in the moment for more than 30 seconds before stepping into the batter’s box. After the game, he told reporters that moment brought back memories of his time with the Cubs.

“That was something that really brought back great memories of getting that same sort of ovation pretty much on a nightly basis,” Arrieta said. “[I’m] very appreciative of that. I can’t say thank you enough to the city of Chicago, I really can’t.”

Arrieta took fans back to his Cubs tenure on Monday, throwing six innings of one run ball in the Phillies’ 5-4 10-inning win. Although the 33-year-old didn’t pick up the victory, he matched Darvish—who threw six innings of three-run ball—pitch by-pitch.

Phillies manager Gabe Kapler noted how well Arrieta handled his emotions throughout the night.

“I thought he handled the emotions really well. I thought he was in control of the game even when we were down,” Kapler said to reporters. “He always maintained his poise and he just got stronger as the outing went on and that’s why we were able to have him take down the sixth inning for us.”

It’s well-documented how Arrieta’s career improved for the better after the Cubs acquired him in a trade with the Baltimore Orioles in July 2013. When the Cubs acquired him, Arrieta held a career 5.46 ERA in 69 games (63 starts). He finished his Cubs career with a 2.73 ERA in 128 regular season starts. He also won five postseason games with the Cubs, including Games 2 and 6 of the 2016 World Series.

Despite moving on in free agency, Arrieta spoke highly of his time with the Cubs, their fans and the city of Chicago.

“Cubs fans all across the country, all across the world, they really respect and appreciate what guys are able to do here for them,” he said. “It means a lot, it really does.

"I’ll never forget this city, the fan base, the organization, everything that they did for me. It was 4 1/2 incredible years of my career.”

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Yu Darvish crashed Jake Arrieta's party, but Cubs bullpen falters

Yu Darvish crashed Jake Arrieta's party, but Cubs bullpen falters

Yu Darvish was one pitch away.

Holding onto a 1-0 lead with two outs in the sixth inning, Darvish threw Phillies catcher JT Realmuto a 2-2 cutter. It made sense - Darvish had been spotting that pitch well all night, and the Phillies were averaging a paltry 79.8 mph exit velocity against it.

With one strike standing between Darvish and a 6-inning shutout, Realmuto took Darvish’s cutter and sent it back up the middle for a game-tying RBI single. A 2-RBI triple from César Hernández followed. In the blink of an eye, what was shaping up to be one of Darvish’s finest moments in Chicago was instead reduced to yet another start spent searching for silver linings.

“Really good. He was outstanding tonight,” Joe Maddon said. “He pitched really well.

“He had really good stuff. He had command of his stuff, he had command of himself. I thought he was outstanding - even better than what he looked like in Cincinnati. I thought that was probably his best game for us to date.”

Darvish has continued to lean heavily on his cutter this season, more so than any year prior. After throwing it 13 percent of the time last season, he’s going to that pitch almost 25 percent of the time now. If that holds, it’d beat his previous career-high, set in 2013, by six percentage points.

All things considered, that pitch has actually been good for him this season. It’s his go-to offering when he needs to induce weak contact, and batters are hitting .125 against it so far. He gets batters to chase cutters 29.5 percent of the time, the most of any pitch he throws. While he has admitted in games past that he relies too heavily on his fastball, Maddon sees no issues with the new trend.

“I have no concerns with that whatsoever,” he said. “There’s different ways for pitchers to attack hitters, and if it's successful, I really would not change a whole lot.”

Though the night was dedicated to celebrating one of the franchises most beloved pitchers, it was one of their most maligned that continued to show signs of figuring it out. He’s put together back-to-back starts with three or less walks for the first time this season, and has allowed two or less runs in three of the last five.

The pitcher even stepped off the mound during Arrieta’s first at-bat, in order to let the standing ovation continue on.

“He’s is a legend in Chicago,” Darvish said after the game. “And I pitched against him and pitched pretty good, so it makes me confident.”

The bullpen again struggled on Monday night, as the trio of Mike Montgomery, Brad Brach, and Kyle Ryan allowed two runs on five hits, including the game-winning solo home run from Realmuto in the 10th. For a moment it looked like the Cubs had a win wrapped up when Brach got outfielder Andrew McCutchen to bite on a two-strike slider, but was (probably incorrectly) called a checked swing.  He would eventually draw a walk, leading to Jean Segura’s game-tying single.

“On the field, I thought for sure [that McCutchen swung],” Brach said. “Looking at the first base umpire, I was a little taken aback. That’s why I went off the mound - just to regather myself, because I didn’t want to let the emotion get to me there.

“It’s a 50-50 call, and unfortunately it didn’t go my way.”


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