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.

Brandon Kintzler, Cubs most consistent reliever in 2019, signs with Marlins: report

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USA TODAY

Brandon Kintzler, Cubs most consistent reliever in 2019, signs with Marlins: report

Brandon Kintzler officially won't be back on the North Side in 2020.

Saturday, ESPN's Jesse Rogers reported Kintzler has agreed to a one-year, $3 million deal with the Marlins. The deal includes a $4 million option for 2021.

Kintzler was the Cubs' most consistent reliever in 2019, sporting a 2.68 ERA and 1.02 WHIP (both career highs) in 62 appearances. He was effective against both righties and lefties, the latter of which hit .163 against him.

The Cubs haven't been connected to Kintzler this offseason and have instead accumulated a plethora of low-cost, high-potential relievers. The organization has been extremely cognizant of MLB's luxury tax threshold after surpassing it in 2019 and wants to avoid becoming a repeat offender in 2020.

Kintzler becomes the second reliable reliever to depart the Cubs in free agency this winter, along with sidearmer Steve Cishek (White Sox). Pedro Strop is still a free agent, and while the Cubs have been connected to him, a recent report says the race to sign him is down to the Marlins and Rangers.

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4 Cubs crack MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospects list

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MiLB

4 Cubs crack MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospects list

MLB Pipeline unveiled its annual top 100 prospects list on Saturday, and four Cubs minor leaguers made the cut.

Nico Hoerner (SS; No. 51), Brailyn Marquez (LHP; 68), Brennen Davis (OF; 78) and Miguel Amaya (C; 95) cracked the list for the North Siders. It’s the first time the Cubs have had four players on the list since 2016: Ian Happ (No. 21), Eloy Jimenez (23), Albert Almora Jr. (82) and Dylan Cease (98).

So yeah, it’s been a minute.

Cubs fans are most familiar with Hoerner; the 22-year-old made his big-league debut last September in an emergency spot after Javy Báez and Addison Russell got hurt. Hoerner hit .282/.305/.436 in 20 games and held his own defensively.

Hoerner is ranked as the No. 9 overall shortstop prospect, and he’ll get an opportunity to make the 2020 Opening Day roster. With Báez entrenched at shortstop, Hoerner will shift to second base and potentially play some center field, though he's still learning the latter.

Marquez, 20, is Pipeline’s No. 9 left-handed pitching prospect. The Cubs have struggled to develop homegrown starting pitching under Theo Epstein. In fact, Marquez is the first Cubs pitcher (LHP or RHP) to crack MLB Pipeline’s top 10 pitchers list during Epstein’s tenure on the North Side.

Marquez sported a 3.13 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in 22 starts between Single-A South Bend and advanced-A Myrtle Beach in 2019. The 20-year-old struck out 128 batters in 103 2/3 innings, walking 50.

Cubs senior director of player development Matt Dorey said the club has “really high expectations” for Marquez this season.

“Brailyn, his last half of last year in Myrtle was an epic run, just in terms of the raw stuff, the strikes, the breaking ball development,” Dorey said Sunday at Cubs Convention. “I think it’s a little early to decide where he’s going to start [the season], but I would guess Double-A.

“But I wanna see how he comes into camp — especially with our new pitching infrastructure — that we’re not missing anything with his delivery or anything from a pitch data perspective. We want to make sure that’s really tied before we send him out [for] a long, full season. It’s such a big year for him. But I think it would be foolish to put any cap on what he can do this year.”

Marquez allowed two earned runs or less in nine of his final 10 starts (he allowed three earned runs on Aug. 26 — the lone exception). The Cubs promoted him to Myrtle Beach on Aug. 6, where he posted a 1.71 ERA with 26 strikeouts and seven walks in five starts (26 1/3 innings).

The Cubs drafted Davis out of high school in 2018 (second round, No. 62 overall). The 20-year-old was more of a basketball player and had some Division I offers, but he ultimately signed with the Cubs and received a $1.1 million bonus.

Davis is considered to be a raw, athletic talent. He hit .305/.381/.525 with eight homers and a 160 wRC+ in 50 games with South Bend last season. He missed time after getting hit on the hand on two separate occasions.

Although Davis is listed as a center fielder (199 innings in 2019) he played left almost as frequently (193 2/3) in 2019. Pipeline projects him to make his big-league debut in 2022.

Amaya spent all of 2019 with Myrtle Beach, slashing .235/.351/.402 with a 122 wRC+ in 99 games. His defense has always been ahead of his bat, and he’s known to be an advanced catcher for his age.

The Cubs added Amaya to the 40-man roster in November in preparation for the Rule 5 Draft. However, he won’t make his big-league debut until 2021, at the earliest.

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