Cubs trying to stay flexible amid slow-moving pitching market

Cubs trying to stay flexible amid slow-moving pitching market

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Even if the Cubs pack their bags and head back to Chicago with just a guy rehabbing from Tommy John surgery as their only haul from the MLB Winter Meetings, the week has not been in vain.

Technically, the Cubs also reached terms with Brandon Morrow on Tuesday night, but the report of the agreement between the two sides was released Sunday night before the Winter Meetings kicked off at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort.

Don't blame fans for being anxious with a slow-moving market. The Winter Meetings are later than normal this year, and many free agents prefer to know where they're going to end up before Christmas so their families can kick back and enjoy the holidays.

The Cubs are also in an enviable position where they don't have to do anything. They already reeled in their big fish before the meetings (Morrow and starter Tyler Chatwood, signed to a three-year deal last week). That allows Theo Epstein's front office to be selectively aggressive and not reactionary or desperate, which is right where they like to float.

The Cubs could be just fine heading into 2018 with Mike Montgomery as their leading candidate for the fifth starting spot (which would clearly make the southpaw swingman happy). But they would prefer to add another arm to help mitigate the usual wear and tear pitching staffs face throughout the year.

They also can slot Morrow in at closer and piece the bullpen together from there.

"We're not still looking (for a closer)," Epstein said Wednesday evening. "If we go in with the complete status quo, Morrow would be closing.

"There's a very small number of potential acquisitions that would cause us to restructure that. Wade Davis is certainly one of them."

The Cubs have made no secret they would love to have Davis back for the right price and Epstein confirmed Wednesday he has met with Davis' agent throughout the Winter Meetings.

The Cubs loved the veteran closer's impact on the field, and he was clearly their most trusted reliever from Day 1 of the 2017 season. MLB Network's Dan Plesac even classified Davis as the Cubs' MVP last year.

But the organization also loves Davis' quiet leadership and steady presence off the field, how he took control of the bullpen and helped make everybody around him better with his astute insight into pitching.

That being said, the Cubs are trying to stay nimble and don't want to get backed into a corner by locking up too much of their resources to a closer and not leaving enough bandwith to add more rotation depth.

Meanwhile, the rest of the league is gobbling up relievers in a hurry and everybody seems to be getting around $9 million per year, even if they're not closers.

"It goes fast," Epstein said. "Once some guys come off the board, there's momentum to it. The agents want to make sure their guy doesn't get left out in the cold, so it's — get in at that value point.

"And then the team starts seeing guys come off the board and get a little bit more proactive themselves. Part of our balancing act with the finite amount of payroll flexibility and multiple needs, we need to make sure we balance those accordingly.

"In other words — not sign a reliever just because they're going off the board now. That might preclude us from getting the starter we want later on and vice versa."

At the time Epstein spoke those words, the Cubs still had the largest free-agent deal in baseball, with the $38 million handed out to Chatwood last week.

Once that changes, that might help bring some clarity to the Cubs' pitching situation, though the team is also still talking to other organizations about any potential impact pitching trades.

Epstein said Wednesday evening he didn't think the Cubs would make another move before they packed up and headed back north for the winter, but, "things could change with one phone call."

Yu Darvish suffering another setback puts his 2018 season in jeopardy

Yu Darvish suffering another setback puts his 2018 season in jeopardy

Yu have to be kidding me (Sorry, couldn't resist). 

The Cubs were expecting Sunday's rehab start to be the beginning to an end of what has been an extremely disappointing 2018 season for their $126 million man Yu Darvish. Darvish was scheduled to start Sunday for the Cubs single-A affiliate in South Bend, IN, but after just one inning Darvish was checked on by the trainers and eventually pulled before the 2nd inning started. 

According to Steve Greenberg, Darvish asked for an MRI on Monday which likely closes the door on him returning to the Cubs in 2018.

The frustrating thing about Darvish's rehab is that in his two rehab starts, the 31-year-old pitcher has had excellent stuff, touching 95 mph in Sunday afternoon's game before being pulled. 

At this point in the season, it seems unlikely Darvish will be able to return to the Cubs rotation for the regular season. And it would be incredibly risky to roll with Darvish in the playoffs, who even when healthy hasn't shown he's deserving of a postseason roster spot. The Cubs do have options at starter in the minors like Duane Underwood or James Norwood, and despite his shortcomings, Tyler Chatwood is an option out of necessity now.  

Drew Smyly, who looked like a possibility as a late-season addition, is still not quite ready to come back and be an effective rotation piece at the moment. And with Mike Montgomery heading to the disabled list earlier this week, the Cubs were hopeful Darvish would be healthy by the time rosters expand in September. 

Luckily, Jon Lester, Cole Hamels, and Kyle Hendricks have all looked stellar recently and hopefully can continue their success on the mound as the Cubs continue to fight past injuries to maintain their grasp on the NL Central. 

But Theo Epstein said himself last week that if Darvish didn't perform well during his rehab stint, that was essentially his 2018 season. Don't expect to see Darvish returning to the mound until 2019, Cubs fans. 



Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 48th homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 48th homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa's 48th homer of the season came off of the St. Louis Cardinals on August 19, 1998, in a 6-8 loss.

With two-outs, Sosa sent a deep shot off of Kent Bottenfield.

The home run was even more special for Sosa, due to it coming against the Cardinals and Mark McGwire, his home run adversary for the year. 

In the game Sosa went 2-for-4 with two RBI, the exact same stat line McGwire finished with.