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Cubs send Kurcz to Red Sox as part of Epstein compensation

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Cubs send Kurcz to Red Sox as part of Epstein compensation

MESA, Ariz. All the top Cubs executives are here, with a Ricketts family board meeting on Thursdays agenda.

Theyve been watching games from an open-air box high above home plate. Chairman Tom Ricketts has been seen shaking hands and taking pictures with fans.

From ownership on down, theres said to be a new energy around the organization, and almost all of it can be traced back to the Theo Epstein hire. You probably cant put a price on that.

But the Cubs had to settle on compensation with the Boston Red Sox for getting Epstein out of the final year of his contract. The president of baseball operations got a bigger job and a better title.

Some five months later, the Red Sox got another prospect, 21-year-old right-hander Aaron Kurcz. A 10th-round pick in the 2010 draft, Kurcz spent last season mostly as a reliever at Class-A Daytona, where overall he went 5-4 with a 3.28 ERA and 91 strikeouts in 82.1 innings.

Chris Carpenter a 26-year-old reliever who can throw around 100 mph and made his big-league debut last season already became the answer to a trivia question as the first player sent to the Red Sox camp as compensation.

The final piece left to the Epstein compensation puzzle is the prospect the Red Sox will send to the Cubs. Major League Baseball procedure forced the Cubs to structure this as a trade and not just giving away two prospects for a general manager who helped build two World Series winners.

The compensation for general manager Jed Hoyer and senior vice president Jason McLeod the two executives Epstein lured to the North Side from the San Diego Padres is said to not have a resolution yet.

Sports Talk Live Podcast: How much will Trubisky improve in his 2nd preseason game?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: How much will Trubisky improve in his 2nd preseason game?

Mark Carman, Scott Merkin and Chris Bleck join Kap on the panel. Jon Lester looks to get back on track against the Pirates? Should he still be the Cubs Game 1 starter in the playoffs?  Len Kasper joins Kap to discuss.

 

How much will Mitch Trubisky improve in his 2nd preseason game? And will Carlos Rodon end up being the White Sox’ best starter?

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

A stellar Jon Lester outing gives the Cubs more than just a win

A stellar Jon Lester outing gives the Cubs more than just a win

It's been a tale of two halves for the Cubs veteran Jon Lester, who after a sparkling first half of baseball that saw him win 12 games with a 2.58 ERA, has looked nothing like a 2018 All-Star. Prior to Thursday's start, Lester had posted a 10.32 ERA, allowed 4 or more runs in 4 of his 5 most recent starts, and had yet to win a game in the second of the season. 

The 34-year-old veteran flipped the script Thursday night, throwing 6-shutout innings while striking out 8 Pirate batters in the Cubs 1-0 win in Pittsburgh. Lester surrendered only 5 hits and baffled the Pirates all-night, finally busting out of his slump and giving the Cubs his 2nd quality start since the All-Star break. 

Lester attacked the bottom portion of the strike zone all night with his fastball, which topped out at 93 mph, generating 4 whiffs with his heater. Over the last month, Lester has said he's felt he can't quite execute his "out" pitches, explaining that when he has a hitter set up for a strikeout he hasn't been able to throw the ball effectively in those moments. 

And while Lester walked off the mound after the 6th inning amassing 8 punch outs, the veteran starter never looked like he was trying to strike out batters. He just continued to dot the corners, occasionally raise the eye-level of the batter with an elevated heater, and threw his secondary pitches just enough to keep the Pittsburgh batters uncomfortable at the plate. 

The Cubs offense once again struggled, facing Ivan Nova who has won four his last five starts against the Cubs, but Ian Happ's solo shot in the 4th inning was enough run support for Lester to push the Cubs to 20 games over .500. But the biggest takeaway from Thursday night's win isn't that the Cubs came out on top, it's that Jon Lester returning to form gives this Chicago rotation something they've lacked seemingly this entire season. 

Stability at the front of the rotation. 

With Cole Hamels impressive three starts in a Cub uniform and Kyle Hendricks finally figuring out his issues on the mound, if Jon Lester can replicate Thursday's performance throughout the rest of the season, the Cubs rotation may finally turn into the strength many thought it could be before the season started. At the very least, Lester showed that whatever he's been working through over the last month of baseball is fixable. 

It's only one start in a string of poor outings for Lester, and while The Athletic's Sahadev Sharma did find some positives in his starts prior to Thursday's big win, Lester will have to show he can maintain this level of pitching through the remainder of this season. But I think our own Tony Andracki put it best tonight on Twitter. 

With the Cubs pitchers finally starting to perform to their expected level, and the return of Yu Darvish looking closer each day, it could be the Cubs starting pitching that carries through the rest of the season.