Youkilis not looking like the answer for Cubs at third base


Youkilis not looking like the answer for Cubs at third base

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. Theo Epstein envisions the Cubs grinding out at-bats like those Boston Red Sox teams that stretched games past the four-hour mark and played deep into October.

The president of baseball operations has mentioned how the biggest negative surprise hes found in the organization since taking over almost 13 months ago was the embedded and institutionalized lack of plate discipline on the North Side.

But the player once hyped in Moneyball as The Greek God of Walks is not viewed as a match right now.

The Cubs are interested in Kevin Youkilis, but expect him to go beyond their price range and ultimately sign with a team much closer to contention, according to a source familiar with the organizations thinking.

Youkilis certainly noticed how the White Sox played second fiddle in Chicago, even as a team that hung onto first place well into September.

The Cubs sold almost three million tickets during a 101-loss season and wont have trouble filling up the bandwagon again if they can rebuild at Wrigley Field. They need some veteran leadership and have a huge hole at third base. But that doesnt make them unique among the teams huddled up on Wednesday at the Hyatt Regency resort in Indian Wells, Calif. The general manager meetings are about sorting through options and there arent many good ones at third base.

Its a challenging position to fill in this day and age, general manager Jed Hoyer said. We really are excited about our third-base depth in our system.

So the Cubs feel good about Josh Vitters, Junior Lake, Christian Villanueva, Jeimer Candelario and, maybe, Javier Baez if hes ultimately blocked by Starlin Castro at shortstop. But they need a short-term solution while waiting for one of those players to break through.

Casey McGehee who had his best season (23 homers, 104 RBI) in 2010 while working with Milwaukee Brewers hitting coachfuture Cubs manager Dale Sveum could be a buy-low free agent.

McGahee wasnt the same player last season, hitting .217 with nine home runs and 41 RBI in 114 games with the Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Yankees, but the Cubs are looking for guys who could have bounce-back seasons.

Hoyer said the Cubs could go with a platoon at third base, and Sveum is high on Luis Valbuenas overall game. They continue to gather more medical information on Ian Stewart, who hasnt started baseball activities yet after undergoing wrist surgery last summer. They likely wont make a decision until the Nov. 30 tender date, and its hard to imagine Stewart getting a guaranteed contract.

Youkilis is the biggest name out there among third baseman, and hes being marketed as someone who can also play first base, which doesnt do much for the Cubs with Anthony Rizzo stationed there for the next decade.

Youkilis wound up finishing with 19 homers and 60 RBI after a midseason trade from Boston to the South Side. He won two World Series rings with the Red Sox and knows how to handle playing in a big market.

Youkilis is said to be on good terms with Epstein after their time together at Fenway Park. But a contending team that sees Youkilis as a finishing piece will almost certainly be more aggressive than the Cubs this winter.

A season that began with Bobby Valentine questioning Youkilis physical and emotional investment in the game ended with the Red Sox manager getting fired. It will lead into an offseason where the third baseman should cash in and get the last laugh.

Cubs first round pick Nico Hoerner makes unexpected visit to Wrigley Field


Cubs first round pick Nico Hoerner makes unexpected visit to Wrigley Field

There is nothing quite like visiting Wrigley Field for the first time, and for Cubs 2018 first round draft pick Nico Hoerner, his first visit to his future home park was special despite the circumstances being less than ideal. 

The 21-year-old shortstop drafted out of Stanford will miss the rest of the season due to a left elbow injury, which was examined by Cubs team doctors Thursday morning. It was concluded Hoerner suffered an injury to a ligament in his left elbow, but would not require surgery. 

But after finding out his season was likely done, he figured he'd at least stick around for the Thursday night Cubs game against the Cardinals. 

"I had no idea this was going to happen today," Said Hoerner. "I flew in from the Quad Cities this morning, saw the doctor and said [to the Cubs] 'Hey can I come to the field?" 

Hoerner was able to spend time with the Cubs during batting practice this afternoon, mentioning the conversations he had with the players, in particular, Anthony Rizzo who made a lasting mark on the young Cub prospect. 

"Rizzo pulled me over and introduced me to the group. He actually clumped everyone into guys who were drafted in the first round and guys who weren't." 

Hoerner also got the chance to speak with Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis, who seemed to have struck a chord with the shortstop. Hoerner said the conversation was 'refreshing' and focused less about what he needed to do with his swing and more about competing with the pitcher. 

As for the future for Hoerner, he'll start rehabbing in Arizona and focus on getting right for the start of next season. It wasn't clear if the Cubs planned on trying to get their top pick back on the field in 2018, but Hoerner looked impressive during his short time in the Cubs minor leagues. 

Slashing 327/.450/.571 in 60 professional at-bats, Hoerner was showing he belonged in this league, having just recently being promoted to the Cubs Low-A South Bend Cubs.

But he only managed four games before injuring his left elbow making a diving stop to his left. But Hoerner seemed in good spirits, showing a resiliency that exemplifies his future ballclub. 

"It's always a work in progress. Just like everybody, I'm working to get better." 


Brandon Morrow and the state of the Cubs bullpen ahead of the trade deadline

Brandon Morrow and the state of the Cubs bullpen ahead of the trade deadline

Brandon Morrow is getting an extended All-Star Break.

For the second time in the last month, the Cubs closer is heading to the disabled list to get another break, this time with inflammation in his right biceps.

That leaves the Cubs without their best relief pitcher — a guy with a 1.47 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 22 saves in 24 chances — for the next week as the team hits the ground running in the second half with 12 games in 11 days against the Cardinals and Diamondbacks.

"It's been bothering him a bit, but we thought it was manageable," Joe Maddon said before the Cubs kicked off play Thursday evening. "But now it's not [manageable], so just have to take a little bit of a break. 

"We don't anticipate him being gone for a long time, but it seems to be prudent to go this course right now."

Maddon pointed to a bit lower velocity Morrow had in San Diego Sunday and believes now is "the right time to back off for the latter part of the season."

The Cubs do have Carl Edwards Jr. back from the paternity list and the 26-year-old flamethrower already got a "break" of his own earlier this season when he missed about 5 weeks with a shoulder issue.

The word "break" is key here because that's how Maddon and the Cubs characterize these little stints on the disabled list.

After all, they are "breaks," even if they're not built into a season like the All-Star Break.

The Cubs want both Morrow and Edwards to be healthy and dynamic in late September and throughout the postseason in October. They've been uber-cautious about the two pitchers throughout their respective Cubs careers and a stint on the disabled list serves to save bullets and wear and tear on their right arms in the dog days of the season.

After all, Morrow has already appeared in 35 games this season, which he's only done once since 2008 — last year, when he pitched in 45 games. Morrow has a long history of arm issues, so the Cubs have given him plenty of slack as they try to keep him healthy for the most important stretch of the season.

But that's also why the Cubs are looking to add some reinforcements to the bullpen before the trade deadline. They were linked to Brad Hand before the lefty was traded to the Cleveland Indians Thursday and they've also been linked to Orioles closer Zach Britton.

If Britton's healthy, he could serve as a perfect fit for the Cubs as a rental with closing experience and a guy from the left side to help fill both needs in the Chicago bullpen.

The Cubs currently have Justin Wilson, Randy Rosario and Brian Duensing as left-handed options in the bullpen, but all are at varying levels of confidence at the moment.

Wilson still has some issues with control, but otherwise has been very good of late. Rosario is a rookie and his outlying numbers indicate his 1.95 ERA is a bit of a mirage. Duensing just recently returned from the DL himself and currently boasts a 6.59 ERA and 1.83 WHIP on the season.

Then there's Mike Montgomery, who right now has a stranglehold on a spot in the Cubs rotation while Yu Darvish gets healthy. There is currently no update on Darvish, which means Montgomery won't be moving back to the bullpen anytime soon.

With less than 2 weeks left until the trade deadline, Maddon would be all for adding another arm or two to his pitching staff.

"Sure. All of the pitching, they're definitely going to want to look at it," Maddon said. "Our numbers are among the best in the NL both overall and as a bullpen and then even into the starters.

"But you're always looking to make it better. That's what GMs do. We'll see how it all plays out. We're hoping the [Morrow] thing is a shorter situation, which we believe it will be."