Cubs

Cubs free agent focus: Yasiel Puig

Cubs free agent focus: Yasiel Puig

With Hot Stove season underway, NBC Sports Chicago is taking a look at some of MLB’s top free agents and how they’d fit with the Cubs.

Yasiel Puig looked to be a superstar in the making as a rookie with the Dodgers in 2013. In 104 games, the Cuban right fielder posted a .319/.391/.534 slash line, a 159 OPS+ and hit 19 home runs.

That 2013 performance had folks debating if Puig was a better player than Angels superstar Mike Trout. The debate has obviously long been settled in Trout’s favor, thanks to his elite-level play year in and year out. But Puig’s performance in the ensuing years quickly helped shut down those gaudy comparisons.

Puig had a stellar 2014 season, slashing .296/.382/.480 with 16 homers and a 145 OPS+ in 148 games. But since 2015 he’s averaged a .264/.330/.462 line, 109 OPS+, 19 home runs and 122 games played. He was demoted to Triple-A for a month in 2016 and was a platoon player from 2017-18. The Dodgers ultimately shipped him to the Reds last offseason, the latter of whom dealt him to the Indians at the 2019 trade deadline.

Puig hasn’t lived up to the billing from his rookie season and has been involved in a number of on-field incidents during his career. This includes 2019’s infamous brawl between the Reds and Pirates, which occurred minutes after news broke that Cincinnati was trading Puig to Cleveland.

But with Puig’s notoriety comes a player full of energy, one who's flashed all five tools and has plenty of postseason experience (58 games in six seasons). That could come in handy for the Cubs, who may trade away a member of their championship core this offseason to shed payroll and retool the roster.

With Jason Heyward manning right field and Kyle Schwarber in left, the Cubs would have to rotate their alignment to fit Puig on the roster. Heyward is a five-time Gold Glove Award winner in right, but the Cubs were willing to move him to center in 2019 after acquiring Nicholas Castellanos. Whether they’re willing to do that for a full season is debatable.

Nonetheless, Puig is only 28 years old and won’t break the bank, key for a Cubs team conscious of their payroll. He comes with questions, but beyond that is a solid player who may have a higher level to take his game.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Cubs on your device.

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

kintzler.jpg
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.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Cubs easily on your device.

4 Cubs crack MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospects list

brailynmarquezmilb.jpg
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.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Cubs easily on your device.