Cubs

After Kyle Ryan 'froze,' Cubs have his back

After Kyle Ryan 'froze,' Cubs have his back

Even before the ninth inning Monday, it was a strange night at Wrigley Field.

The temperature at first pitch was 33 degrees colder than it was the night before and early on, it looked like the Cubs were going to cruise to a victory as the hottest team in baseball jumped out to a 3-0 lead on the team with the worst record in baseball.

But it wound up being a night of missed opportunities — the Cubs couldn't build a bigger lead on the 10 walks they drew on the evening and then watched as the bullpen melted down in the top of the ninth.

Closer Pedro Strop allowed all four batters he faced to reach base, including walking in the tying run. Kyle Ryan — who has emerged as a go-to guy in the Cubs bullpen — was brought in to escape the jam and promptly gave up a hard grounder that drove in another run (though a David Bote diving stop prevented further damage).

The next play was the head-scratcher, as Ryan made a nice leaping snare of Martin Prado's ground ball, saw Neil Walker breaking for home from third base, stared at him, looked like he was going to make a throw to catcher Willson Contreras and then inexplicably went to first base, allowing the Marlins to plate an insurance run. 

The Cubs got out of the inning on that play after Anthony Rizzo fired over to third to get the other runner, but the damage was done. When Kris Bryant homered with one out in the bottom of the ninth, that only underscored the mental error.

"I froze," Ryan said bluntly as he stood at his locker and faced the music after the game. "I knew the whole situation and I just froze. Checked [the runner], saw him, ran through my mind and froze. 

"It was a double play, but still — run scored, KB hit a homer, could've been a tie game. So yeah, I was a little upset. Actually, I was very upset."

Give Ryan credit for how he owned the difficult moment, but the result was still the same: the Cubs' seven-game winning streak had come to an end and on a night where the Cardinals won, meaning St. Louis regains control of first place — a position the Cubs had for all of about 25 hours.

"As a competitor, of course you're gonna be pretty ticked off when you're not making the play you think you should make," Rizzo said. "We all have his back. He's been really good for us since he's been here and he's been a great teammate and a great guy in the clubhouse. I'm sure Joe [Maddon] will put him right back in there tomorrow and we have all the confidence in the world in him."

Look, you can't just sit there and say everything would've played out exactly like it did if Ryan had simply gone home. There's no guarantee the Cubs turn a double play, which means the run could've still scored somehow. There's also no guarantee Bryant comes up and hits a ball onto Waveland. 

But all of that obviously could've happened and anytime you give up a run on a mental mistake, it's understandably tough to swallow. 

That being said, this happened on May 6 and against the Miami Marlins. It's not like it cost the Cubs the season, even in a year where so much emphasis has been put on cashing in on every opportunity. 

"I think I've made my fair share of not getting outs where I think you can get the outs," said Cole Hamels, who started Monday night's game. "Sometimes the game can speed up on you a few times. We all do it. And I think this is great because this is a big lesson to sort of learn early in a season. 

"He's gonna be a big part of this team as we go forward and especially when it gets to September and obviously into October-type baseball, he's probably going to go back to that and revert and know that this was a good lesson for him. 

"I think he's going to be in a situation where he's going to be able to come through and that's what you do — you take the lessons that baseball gives you and you have to make the best of it."

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Christian Yelich to Yu Darvish on Twitter, 'Nobody needs help facing you'

Christian Yelich to Yu Darvish on Twitter, 'Nobody needs help facing you'

In the wake of the cheating allegations surrounding the Houston Astros, multiple parties have weighed in with their takes on the situation, and this includes Cubs starter Yu Darvish. He stated that this past season, he had noticed "weird behavior" from batters. Bleacher Nation then tweeted out a video showing Darvish stepping off the mound in a matchup against Christian Yelich and the Milwaukee Brewers, stating that he stepped off the mound because Yelich's "eyes move first...I'm not sure what he is trying to do."

Darvish then went on to elaborate that he wasn't trying to accuse the Brewers of stealing signs, rather that he was just stating what he had noticed in terms of batter behavior. Darvish made a minor grammar mistake, saying "your" instead of "you're" and when he responded to try to clarify that, it may have accidentally caused more confusion, as some mistakenly thought he was saying that Yelich indeed was stealing signs, but this was not the case.

That didn't stop Yelich from sounding off on Darvish with quite a harsh response, a response that was so harsh that some were shocked at the nature of it.

MLB free agent Josh Donaldson chimed in, humorously stating that he could definitely  use some help hitting off of Darvish and jokingly asked for what tips Yelich might have. 

Darvish then retweeted a few tweets that illustrated the point he was trying to make. 

Darvish also responded to Donaldson, saying that he doesn't think the third baseman needs any help hitting off of him either. 

At the end of the Darvish seems to be in a good place, and from his Twitter interactions, it is clear that he was not as upset or offended over the situation as Yelich was. 

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How the Cubs can get a Javier Báez deal done now

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USA TODAY

How the Cubs can get a Javier Báez deal done now

With the MLB GM Meetings now over, the Cubs will turn their attention to seeing how their fact-finding mission will influence their offseason makeover of the entire organization.

As Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reported on Friday, the Cubs and Báez’s camp have begun negotiating a long-term contract extension. While many have speculated that Báez could command a massive salary that would rank among the top of MLB in terms of the total value, the Cubs do have some leverage. Báez still has two more years of club control, which should help to suppress the contract’s total value.

Put yourself in Báez’s shoes. If the Cubs offered you a six-year deal, would you do it? If you say yes, you have lifetime security for you and generations of the Báez family. However, you could be leaving money on the table because you would never reach free agency in the prime of your career.

Rejecting an offer of that size means you would have to perform at a level among the best players in all of baseball for two more seasons, and you would have to avoid serious injury as well. Báez plays with a flair and a passion that also puts his body in harm’s way on a daily basis.

Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts, 27, is two months older than Báez and the highest paid shortstop in baseball at $20 million per season. He signed a six-year, $120 million contract in 2019, which runs through the 2026 season.

Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor — who was selected No. 8 overall in the 2011 MLB Draft, one spot before Báez — will also be a free agent after the 2021 season. He made $10.55 million in 2019 and is projected to make $16.7 million in 2020.

Báez is projected to make $9.3 million.

So, would Báez accept a deal that would protect him against injury and set him up with lifetime security, knowing that with two more seasons before free agency he would potentially leave significant money on the table?

There could be three elite shortstops on the free agent market after the 2021 season: Báez, Lindor and Trevor Story of the Rockies. This may affect what each guy could make on the open market and what they might be willing to accept in a deal now. 

Add in the fact that there will be a new MLB collective bargaining agreement by the time those three stars hit the market, and there should be some impetus for them to get a deal done now. Multiple MLB front office sources expect Lindor to be dealt before he reaches free agency and some of those same sources believe Story could be traded before then as well.

What about a deal that helps the Cubs achieve payroll flexibility in 2020 and 2021 and locks Báez in long-term?

A former high-ranking MLB executive suggested a deal structure that pays Báez $10 million in 2020, $16 million in 2021, plus six additional years at an average annual value of $23 million. That would bring the total value of the contract to $164 million.

Add in two club options for an additional two seasons at $30 million each and it allows Báez to have the largest contract of all active shortstops in MLB. Total value of the deal: $224 million; guaranteed value of the deal: $164 million.

A deal structured like that gives the Cubs certainty with one of their most talented and marketable players and protects Báez from serious injury for the rest of his career.

Would he sign a deal structured like that? I know I would. There is no greater feeling in the world than long-term financial security. A deal structured like this is a win-win for both sides.

If the Cubs won’t give Báez a deal in this ballpark, then they have to think about moving him now. You can’t allow a player of his magnitude to reach free agency and you absolutely cannot lose him to another team. He is on a potential Hall of Fame track and he is one of the most charismatic players in all of professional sports.

This deal has to get done.

If the Cubs can sign Báez for less than the aforementioned deal, then they should consider themselves very lucky.

Either way, get a deal done. Javy Báez has to be priority No. 1.

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