Cubs decline 2020 options on four pitchers, including former closer Brandon Morrow

Cubs decline 2020 options on four pitchers, including former closer Brandon Morrow

The Cubs have declined the 2020 team options on four pitchers, the club announced on Monday.

Tony Barnette ($3 million), Kendall Graveman ($3 million), Brandon Morrow ($12 million vesting option) had minimal-to-no impacts on the field for the Cubs in 2019. Barnette started the season in Triple-A, joining the Cubs in June for two appearances before getting sent back to Iowa. He went on the restricted list soon thereafter to contemplate his future in baseball.

The Cubs signed Graveman last offseason, a move viewed as more for the 2020 season than 2019. The 28-year-old right-hander — who holds a career 4.38 ERA in 83 games (78 starts) — underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2018. He was expected to miss at least a chunk of the 2019 season, at least, and while he made one rehab start with Iowa, he has yet to throw a pitch with the Cubs.

Morrow was stellar for the Cubs when healthy (35 games, 1.47 ERA, 22-of-24 save chances in 2018), but he last pitched on July 15, 2018. He missed the entire 2018 second half due to right biceps inflammation, eventually undergoing a debridement procedure on his right elbow last November.

That procedure was expected to keep Morrow out for at least the first month of the 2019 season. However, he suffered two setbacks during his rehab (in April and August), the latter of which ended his season. The Cubs bullpen missed Morrow dearly, struggling in high-leverage spots all season while blowing 28 saves (tied for sixth-most in MLB). Craig Kimbrel was supposed to help address these issues, but he struggled to get into a groove after missing spring training and seeing his free agency last into June.

Although Morrow didn't make any appearances to come close to qualifying for the vesting option, the Cubs do owe him a $3 million buyout.

The Cubs also declined David Phelps’ 2020 option, which rose from $3 million to $5 million because he made 40 overall appearances in 2019. Phelps joined the Cubs in a trade deadline deal with the Blue Jays, posting a 3.18 ERA in 24 appearances on the North Side.

While it’s very unlikely Barnette and Morrow will return, it’s possible that the Cubs could re-sign Graveman and Phelps. The former would provide starting rotation depth in a 2020 group that has some question marks behind Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester. And depending on the number, Phelps could be a solid bullpen piece in a group that the Cubs surely will address this winter.

The Cubs have no decisions left regarding 2020 team options. Over the weekend, they declined lefty Derek Holland's ($6.5 million, $500,000 buyout) and picked up the options of José Quintana ($10.5 million) and Anthony Rizzo ($16.5 million).

The Cubs also added right-hander Colin Rea to the 40-man roster and outrighted Allen Webster to Iowa's roster. Rea went 14-4 with a 3.95 ERA with Iowa in 2019 and was named Pitcher of the Year in the Pacific Coast League. Rea presents the Cubs with more rotation depth for 2020.

Chicago's 40-man roster now stands at 32 players.

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Kris Bryant is ready for fatherhood '[I was] put on this earth to be a dad'


Kris Bryant is ready for fatherhood '[I was] put on this earth to be a dad'

Suffice to say Kris Bryant is budding with anticipation for becoming a father.

Bryant and his wife, Jessica, are expecting their first child — a baby boy due in April. During Friday night’s Cubs-Padres broadcast, the third baseman shared his excitement for fatherhood with reporter Taylor McGregor

“I think this is really what I’ve been put on this Earth to do, is be a dad,” Bryant said, laughing. “Obviously I play baseball pretty good, but I’m just so excited [for] this new journey with my wife and my family. Honestly, I think this is going to be one of the best years of my life.”

Bryant’s son is due shortly after Opening Day, but the Cubs will play two spring training games in Las Vegas — Bryant’s hometown — on March 7-8. He told McGregor one of Jessica’s last doctor’s appointments is around the same time, so Bryant will get one last visit in before Baby Bryant is born.

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How Dusty Baker inspired former Cub Adam Greenberg after scary head injury


How Dusty Baker inspired former Cub Adam Greenberg after scary head injury

Adam Greenberg’s baseball career was cut short by a scary head injury 15 years ago. But with the help of Dusty Baker, he found the motivation to transition to his post-baseball life.

Greenberg made his MLB debut with the Cubs on July 9, 2005, and Baker called upon the then 24-year-old to pinch-hit in the ninth inning against the Marlins. On the first pitch Greenberg saw in the big leagues, Marlins reliever Valerio De Los Santos hit him in the back of the head with a 92-mph fastball.

Greenberg was concussed from the incident, suffered from vertigo and vision problems, and battled depression. The Cubs released him in 2006 and he caught on in the minor leagues with the Royals and later the Dodgers in 2007 — which is when Baker reappears in the story. From’s Brian McTaggart:

A couple of years following the incident, in 2007, Baker got a letter from a fan requesting a baseball card be signed. In the letter, the person told Baker that Greenberg had been released by the Royals and his baseball career was in jeopardy. Baker tracked down Greenberg and left him the voice mail that served as his motivation for a post-baseball life.

“It was so genuine and from the heart,” Greenberg said. “It put me in tears the first time, but it was the motivation and inspiration I needed to get up and keep going. And since then, he’s been somebody that’s been near and dear to me."

It's unfortunate Greenberg couldn’t experience a long big-league career, but Baker inspired him and helped him move forward post-baseball. According to McTaggart, Greenberg started a nutrition company and sold it 10 years later. He also ran for state senate in Connecticut in 2019 and is currently a baseball analyst for the ACC Network.

Greenberg’s career effectively ended moments after it began, but 2005 wasn’t the last time he stepped in a big-league batters’ box. In 2012, fans started an online petition to get him one last at-bat — and his career came full circle. The Marlins signed him to a one-day contract on Oct. 2, 2012, and he pinch-hit that same day against the Mets.

Greenberg struck out on three pitches, but Baker’s voicemail left a mark on his life. Seeing him enjoy success outside of baseball is as heartwarming as it gets.