Cubs

Yu Darvish won't be a game-changer for Cubs

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Yu Darvish won't be a game-changer for Cubs

Yu Darvish could be the marketing departments dream, a network television star. He could also be the latest in a line of Japanese pitchers who failed to live up to the hype.

No one in the world knows for sure.

The Texas Rangers thought it was worth the risk and gambled 51.7 million upfront the posting fee first reported by Yahoo! Sports that Darvishs game will translate to the majors.

Major League Baseball announced late Monday night that it was the Rangers who put in the bid accepted by the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. The Rangers now have 30 days to negotiate a deal with the 25-year-old Darvish and his representatives.

The Cubs submitted a bid last week, though its hard to imagine they were anywhere near that aggressive. Theo Epstein has looked into just about everything during his first two months on the job. But so far the president of baseball operations has been patient and cautious.

Its understandable why the Cubs didnt go all-in for Darvish, who registered 276 strikeouts in 232 innings last season and has posted a 1.72 ERA the past five years in Japan.

Winning this bidding war would have meant spending around 52 million just to be able to talk to a mystery player with zero big-league experience.

On Epsteins watch, the Boston Red Sox once invested more than 100 million in Daisuke Matsuzaka. The move paid immediate dividends as the Red Sox won the World Series in 2007 and Matsuzaka won 18 games the next season.

But since then the enigmatic pitcher has mostly been injured or ineffective, and is now recovering from Tommy John surgery.

The Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays were said to have the most visible scouting presence on the days Darvish pitched last season. This development certainly wont motivate the Rangers to deal for Matt Garza.

The cost of pitching doesnt seem to be going down anytime soon. Combined this month Mark Buehrle (Miami Marlins) and C.J. Wilson (Los Angeles Angels) have signed for more than 135 million.

The San Diego Padres got four pieces back when they traded Mat Latos to the Cincinnati Reds over the weekend. The key difference between Latos and Garza is that Latos will be a free agent after the 2015 season, while Garza is under club control for two more years.

Teams that lost out on Darvish and Latos could pivot toward the Cubs. But its not exactly breaking news that teams like Garza and Sean Marshall. Epstein never mentioned them by name he didnt have to but heres what he acknowledged during the winter meetings.

Teams have called us more on the guys youd expect, Epstein said. We have a couple difference-making pitchers that have contracts that expire either in a year or two years, so its probably not a surprise that a lot of teams in baseball covet those guys.

But theyre also an important part of our pitching staff and theres a chance to possibly extend those pitchers and turn what looks like a short-term asset into a long-term asset.

Garza only fits on a team built to win now, or a large-market team that could afford to give him a contract extension. Perhaps the Blue Jays will enter the picture.

The Cubs could make a play for Padres first baseman Anthony Rizzo, a former Red Sox prospect who was included in the Adrian Gonzalez deal but might be blocked now. Still, Garza makes no sense for the Padres, unless they found a way to flip him to another team.

As Christmas approaches, look for the Cubs to go shopping for value. Pitchers like Paul Maholm, Joe Saunders and possibly Tim Wakefield would fit into their offseason profile more than Darvish.

The Cubs still havent made a splash, and might not all winter. They didnt land the pitcher who gets the rock-star treatment in Japan, and will likely go with guys whose names wont be put up in lights.

Darvish has been on big stages before, at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and the 2009 World Baseball Classic, but nothing quite like this. The whole world will be watching.

Cubs executive Jason McLeod reportedly linked to Giants' GM opening

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USA TODAY

Cubs executive Jason McLeod reportedly linked to Giants' GM opening

Is this the offseason that Cubs executive Jason McLeod finally becomes an MLB general manager?

According to Bruce Levine, the Giants are reportedly interested in McLeod, the Cubs senior vice president of scouting and player development, for their vacant general manager position.

McLeod joined the Cubs' front office in 2011 alongside Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. Before the Cubs, he spent six years in the Red Sox front office and two in the Padres' (with Hoyer, who was San Diego's general manager from 2010-2011). 

Of course, the Giants' reported interest in McLeod doesn't necessarily mean that he will interview for the job. However, it's worth noting that McLeod interviewed for the Twins' general manager job in 2016; he also withdrew his name from consideration for the Padres' general manager job in 2014. 

In addition to the Giants, McLeod's name has been linked to the Mets' general manager vacancy. This is more speculation, but the point is that it seems to be only a matter of time before McLeod is hired as general manager elsewhere.

For what it's worth, though, McLeod is under contract through 2021 and has previously said that he is grateful to be with the Cubs. 

“I’m exceptionally grateful,” McLeod said. “All of us are. Look at where we are at this moment in time with this team," McLeod said in 2016. "I can’t imagine a better environment, a better culture to work at in baseball.

"We’ve been together a long time. We’re friends. We’re good. We embrace the fact that we are good. And we challenge ourselves to be even better.”

Cubs have new hitting coach in Anthony Iapoce

Cubs have new hitting coach in Anthony Iapoce

The Cubs are heading into a new season with a different hitting coach for the second straight winter, but the most recent choice is a familiar face.

Anthony Iapoce is set to join Joe Maddon's coaching staff this week after serving in the same capacity with the Texas Rangers for the last three seasons. The Cubs confirmed the move Monday afternoon shortly after the news broke out of the Rangers camp.

The Cubs fired Chili Davis last week after just one season as the team's hitting coach.

Entering the final week of the season, the Rangers fired manager Jeff Banister, leaving Iapoce and the rest of the Texas coaching staff in limbo.

As such, Iapoce is rejoining the Cubs, where he served as a special assistant to the General Manager from 2013-15 focusing on player development, particularly in the hitting department throughout the minor leagues.

Iapoce has familiarity with a bunch of the current star offensive players on the Cubs, from Willson Contreras to Kris Bryant. 

Both Bryant and Contreras endured tough 2018 seasons at the plate, which was a huge reason for the Cubs' underperforming lineup. Bryant's issue was more related to a left shoulder injured suffered in mid-May while Contreras' offensive woes remain a major question mark after the young catcher looked to be emerging as a legitimate superstar entering the campaign.

Getting Contreras back to the hitter that put up 21 homers and 74 RBI in only 117 games in 2017 will be one of the main goals for Iapoce, so the history between the two could be a key.

With the Rangers, Iapoce oversaw an offense that ranked 7th, 9th and 14th in MLB in runs scored over the last three seasons. The decline in offensive production is obviously not a great sign, but the Rangers as a team have fallen off greatly since notching the top seed in the AL playoffs in 2016 with 95 wins only to lose 95 games in 2018, resulting in the change at manager.

Iapoce has worked with an offense backed by Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Shin-Soo Choo, Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo the last few seasons.

Under Iapoce's tutelage, former top prospect Jurickson Profar shed any notion of a "bust" label and emerged as a budding star at age 25, collecting 61 extra-base hits with a .793 OPS in 2018.

When the Cubs let Davis go last week, they provided no update on assistant hitting coach Andy Haines, who just finished his first season in that role and is expected to remain with the team for 2019. The same offseason Iapoce left for the Rangers, Haines took over as the Cubs' minor league hitting instructor.