Cubs dealt another serious punch to the gut with Pedro Strop injury

Cubs dealt another serious punch to the gut with Pedro Strop injury

The Cubs may have won the battle Thursday in Washington D.C., but it came at a serious cost in their hopes of winning the "war" (aka another World Series).

Pedro Strop will miss at least a couple weeks after injuring his hamstring during Thursday's 4-3 Cubs win at Nationals Park.

Strop came into the game with one out in the eighth inning and then pitched the entire ninth. The Cubs took the lead in the top of the 10th and manager Joe Maddon opted to let Strop hit for himself with the bases loaded and one out, with an eye on at least facing the first batter in the bottom of the 10th.

Strop hit a groundball to Washington third baseman Anthony Rendon, who fired home to get the lead runner and catcher Matt Wieters relayed to first, where the Nationals got the Cubs pitcher by a hair. But Strop came up limping on the play, pointing to his left hamstring.

Randy Rosario came on to close out the victory and push the Cubs 1.5 games up in the division, but the reports on Strop were not good.

He'll be sidelined at least a couple weeks with the hamstring injury and will undergo an MRI Friday:

Strop has been a lifesaver for the Cubs this season, stepping in as closer with Brandon Morrow on the disabled list the entire second half of the season.

In that time, Strop has locked down the ninth inning, going 11-for-13 in save chances and he picked up his sixth win of the season Thursday.

The Cubs have already been against the ropes lately with an exhausted bullpen that has been short on reliable options for Maddon. Now they'll be without Strop for an indeterminate amount of time that very well could carry into the playoffs. The regular season ends two weeks from this Sunday.

Morrow is working toward a return, but even in a best case scenario, he wouldn't be back until next Friday (Sept. 21). There's also a question how effective he'll be as he is still not 100 percent after a bone bruise in his forearm.

Whenever Morrow returns, the Cubs will script his first few game appearances and have already said he will not regain the closer's role immediately.

As for who closes in Strop's place, Maddon said, "I have no idea. All of those guys are on fumes."

The Cubs do not have another off-day until next Thursday and have had to lean heavily on top relievers like Steve Cishek, Justin Wilson and Jesse Chavez lately as Carl Edwards Jr. tries to right the ship during a recent bout of struggles.

This is time of year where the bullpen becomes a central focus of every contending team as they battle down the stretch and into October.

If ever there was a time for the Cubs to put together some blowout wins to reduce the pressure and give guys a day or two of rest, it would be this weekend against the Reds at Wrigley Field.

Joe Maddon already has a new job, signs on with Angels

Joe Maddon already has a new job, signs on with Angels

Barring a Cubs-Angels World Series, the Wrigley Field faithful might not have much of an opportunity to welcome Joe Maddon back to The Friendly Confines.

It didn't take long for Maddon to find a job, as he reportedly agreed this week to join the Los Angeles Angels as their next manager. This was a widely speculated move after the Angels let go of manager Brad Ausmus just one year into a three-year contract immediately after the Cubs announced they were parting ways with Maddon. 

According to ESPN's Jesse Rogers, Maddon's deal will likely be for three years at $4-5 million a season:

Maddon came up as a coach in the Angels system, referencing his three decades there often during the course of his five years in Chicago.

Once the Cubs got rid of Maddon, it was obvious he would have plenty of suitors, as just about any team with a managerial vacancy would be interested in the future Hall of Famer. But instead of going to an up-and-coming team like the Padres or a squad on the cusp of the playoffs like the Phillies, Maddon opted to return to his baseball home.

That means he will most likely not face off against the Cubs over the next couple of seasons, as the Cubs hosted the Angels in 2019 and are not slated to play each other again until 2021 (which will take place in L.A.). Barring the aforementioned World Series meeting, Maddon and the Cubs likely won’t cross paths in Chicago for the next few seasons.

It also means Maddon will get to team up with the best player in the game (Mike Trout) and an exciting young two-way star (Shohei Ohtani) while inheriting a roster that otherwise has some major flaws. The Angels have struggled to build up a roster around Trout over his nine seasons, making the playoffs just once in 2014 and getting bounced from the ALDS by the Kansas City Royals that season.

But the Angels do have some intriguing prospects coming up the system — led by outfielder Jo Adell — and Maddon has experience taking a team and elevating them to contender status immediately. He also carries immediate clout that will help draw free agents to L.A., as he did in Chicago with Jon Lester.

Maddon will be reunited with former Cubs fan favorite Tommy La Stella, who was starring for the Angels earlier this season before a leg injury sent him to the shelf for several months.

In many ways, this is an ideal fit for Maddon, who will get to stay in a big market with a team willing to spend and a roster that at least has some incredible talent from Day 1. It would obviously be a difficult task to try to overtake the juggernaut Houston Astros in the AL West, but he accomplished a similar feat in Chicago when he led the Cubs past the Cardinals in Year 1 (and kept the Cards out of the playoffs for the next three years until their return to October baseball this fall).

The Cubs, meanwhile, have not yet announced a new manager, though David Ross still looms as the favorite to take over Maddon's former gig. Theo Epstein's front office interviewed Mark Loretta, Will Venable, Joe Girardi and Ross earlier this month and also planned to talk to Joe Espada and Gabe Kapler this week.

Epstein said the Cubs are "full speed ahead" to hire a new manager, so expect them to move quickly to finalize Maddon's heir.

Bold predictions for the Cubs' 2019-20 offseason


Bold predictions for the Cubs' 2019-20 offseason

The Cubs are just a couple of weeks away from a pivotal offseason that could see a lot of change coming to Chicago's North Side.

Then again, we thought the same thing a year ago and it turned out Theo Epstein's biggest move last winter was signing Daniel Descalso to a two-year deal.

But after missing the playoffs in 2019, the Cubs are now at a crossroads as an organization. 

The NBC Sports Chicago crew previewed the offseason on the latest CubsTalk Podcast with some bold predictions for the winter.

Listen here and check out the fearless calls below:

(Note: Rationale and more context on each bold prediction in the podcast.)

David Kaplan

1. Cubs are going to take a page out of the Yankees' book and retool on the fly rather than go all-in to contend in 2020.
2. Jose Quintana has thrown his last pitch as a Cub.
3. This will be the second-to-last offseason for Theo Epstein as the Cubs president of baseball operations.

Kelly Crull 

1. Cubs re-sign Nick Castellanos and trade away Kyle Schwarber.
2. Tyler Chatwood will be in the 2020 rotation.
3. John Lackey will be named quality assurance coach on David Ross's coaching staff. (Kidding, but only kind of...)

Tony Andracki

1. Before the Cubs play a Spring Training game, Javy Baez will sign an extension that will keep him in Chicago through at least 2023.
2. Willson Contreras will be traded this winter and the Cubs will get some much-needed pitching help in return.
3. Cubs sign Howie Kendrick this winter as the professional bat and lefty-masher they craved in 2019.
4. Ben Zobrist will return on a one-year deal and finish his playing career in a Cubs uniform.
5. David Bote, Albert Almora Jr. and Addison Russell will all be traded or non-tendered this winter as the Cubs remake their bench/depth.

Jeff Nelson

1. Willson Contreras will sign a contract extension.
2. Ben Zobrist will return as a player/coach.
3. Jose Quintana will be traded for minor league depth.
4. Terrance Gore will be signed to be the 26th man on the roster under the new rules.