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Giancarlo Stanton reportedly heading to Yankees: What's it mean for the Cubs and the Bryce Harper sweepstakes in 2019?

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USA TODAY

Giancarlo Stanton reportedly heading to Yankees: What's it mean for the Cubs and the Bryce Harper sweepstakes in 2019?

Giancarlo Stanton is reportedly heading to the Big Apple.

According to multiple Saturday morning reports, the New York Yankees and Miami Marlins have agreed on a deal and Stanton is expected to approve it, sending the National League MVP to the Bronx.

The implications are many for baseball, with Stanton — who belted 59 home runs last season, the most since Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa hit 73 and 64 dingers, respectively, in 2001 — teaming with American League Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge — who smacked a rookie record 52 homers in 2017 — to create the most formidable middle of the order in the game. After coming close to reaching the World Series in 2017, losing to the eventual-champion Houston Astros in the AL Championship Series, the Yankees could be the presumed favorite heading into 2018.

But what's all this mean for the Cubs? The most obvious effect is that Stanton is out of the NL, making things easier for the North Siders, though the Marlins weren't much competition to begin with, finishing eight games below .500 last season. And Stanton rejected a trade to the Cubs' division rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals, on Friday, meaning they dodged a bullet not having Stanton slugging in the NL Central.

But the Cubs were one of four teams on Stanton's reported short list of clubs he'd approve a trade to. This could be viewed as the Cubs missing out on the offseason's two biggest targets in as many days, with Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani picking the Los Angeles Angels over the Cubs and five other finalists Friday. But just because Stanton said he'd like to play on the North Side doesn't mean the Cubs were ever actually showing any interest or talking with the Marlins about a deal.

Instead, the biggest effect of this trade from a Cubs standpoint figures to come a year from now, when Bryce Harper becomes one of the biggest and most sought-after free agents in baseball history. The Washington Nationals star has been on Cubs fans' wish list for a few years now as his impending free agency draws closer. There has been plenty of speculation that the Yankees would be a leading candidate for Harper's services, with their historically deep pockets and rapid rebuild that has them near the top of the baseball heap once again. But does the Stanton trade knock them out of the running? Stanton's contract is gargantuan, a massive 13-year deal when he signed it that still has as many as 10 years and $259 million remaining (he can opt out after the 2020 season). Plus, Stanton and Judge are both corner outfielders, the same position that Harper plays. With those corner outfield spots and a whole ton of money spoken for between Stanton and Judge, the Yankees might no longer make sense as a destination for Harper, arguably baseball's biggest star.

The Cubs, meanwhile, now don't have to promise long-term corner-outfield spots to either Stanton or Ohtani. The money will of course be tricky, with the team's young stars like Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Javy Baez, Kyle Schwarber, Kyle Hendricks and Willson Contreras all due big-time raises in the next few seasons. But the Cubs could move to the forefront of the Harper conversation — even if they already were in Chicago, where Harper's every move has seemingly been construed as a sign he wants to join fellow Las Vegas native Bryant in Cubbie Blue.

As for the present, the Cubs still have Schwarber and Jason Heyward patrolling the corner-outfield spots at Wrigley Field, with a host of interchangeable parts for Joe Maddon to play with. And the middle of the order, dominated by Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Contreras, is still a mighty strong one.

But there's a new souvenir company to compete with in New York.

Who knew? Statistical oddities from Ian Happ, Daniel Palka and others from the past week in Chicago baseball

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USA TODAY

Who knew? Statistical oddities from Ian Happ, Daniel Palka and others from the past week in Chicago baseball

This past weekend Ian Happ rocked Cincinnati harder than anyone since Dr. Johnny Fever, and the White Sox from last Sunday to yesterday posted a winning 4-3 record.

It’s Monday, so let’s examine the box scores from the previous seven days for another edition of Who Knew?

Leading off

Tim Anderson started this season 5-for-5 in plate appearances leading off games: double, single, single, home run, single.

He finally made a leadoff out on Sunday.

Déjà Vu

On Monday, Ozzie Albies hit a leadoff home run off José Quintana for the second time this season. 

It was rare enough that a batter had multiple leadoff home runs against the Cubs in the same season. The last batter to do that was Hall of Famer Craig Biggio in 2006 (one each off Greg Maddux and then-starter Carlos Marmol).

But multiple leadoff home runs against the same Cubs PITCHER in the same season? Quite rare. At first, I believed it to be the first such occurrence since at least the 1880’s, but there was one other time since that I initially missed.

Prior to Ozzie Albies (off Quintana), the last batter with multiple leadoff home runs against a single Cubs pitcher in a season was Heinie Sand of the Phillies, who led off two games in 1924 with home runs off Cubs right-hander Vic Keen.

Before Sand, you DO have to go back to the 1880s. Hall of Famer Buck Ewing hit two leadoff home runs off Fred Goldsmith (who claimed to have invented the curveball, but likely did not) in 1883.  It may have happened in 1884, but there are some missing details in the home run database and I can’t be certain. But it’s rare!

Saves without Strikeouts

Cubs closer Brandon Morrow has 10 saves this season. In half of them (including his latest save Tuesday), he did not record a strikeout.

Only Wade Davis, who closed out games for the Cubs last season, has more strikeout-less saves in 2018 (no punchouts in seven of his 16 saves). Davis, for the record, saved 32 games for the Cubs last season, but in only nine of those 32 did he not strike anyone out.

Meanwhile, up in the Pacific Northwest, Edwin Díaz of the Mariners has 15 saves this season and has at least one strikeout in all 15.

National Treasure

Leury García took Jameson Taillon deep Wednesday in Pittsburgh, giving him 13 career home runs, all in a White Sox uniform.

The thing is, seven of those 13 home runs have been against National League teams!  Check out his career splits with the Sox:

Versus NL 26 games .325/.373/.636 7 home runs
Versus AL 225 games .227/.267/.306 6 home runs

Uncanny!

Hit Bonanza

The Cubs started Friday’s game in Cincinnati like this:

Zobrist single, Bryant double, Rizzo single, Contreras single, Russell single.

It was the first time the Cubs started a game with five straight hits since Sept. 8, 2009 when they had EIGHT straight hits to start a game. They started that game as follows:

Ryan Theriot single, Milton Bradley single, Derrek Lee single, Aramis Ramírez single, Jeff Baker single, Geovany Soto double, Kosuke Fukudome double, Bobby Scales single. A Ryan Dempster sacrifice bunt snapped the streak, giving up an out in the first inning with a 6-0 lead.

Palka Dots

Sox slugger Daniel Palka has made an impact so far in the Majors. Half of his 16 hits have been of the extra-base variety.

In only 18 career games, Palka already has multiple doubles (three), triples (two) and home runs (three). Through 18 career games, Frank Thomas could check off two of those three boxes, although maybe not the two that you think.

The Big Hurt had six doubles and THREE TRIPLES in his initial dozen-and-a-half career games, but no home runs! The last White Sox player who had at least two of each type of extra-base hit through his first 18 career Major League contests?

Go back to Greg Walker, who collected two doubles, two triples and three home runs in an 11-game taste of the Majors in 1982 and his first seven games of 1983.

Ace of On-Base

Ian Happ returned to his old stomping grounds (kind of… he attended the University of Cincinnati) over the weekend and had quite a four-game series:

Friday 1 hit 3 walks
Saturday (Game 1) 3 hits 1 walk
Saturday (Game 2) 1 hit 2 walks
Sunday 0 hits 3 walks

Now granted, there aren’t as many four-game series as there used to be, but Happ was the first Cub to reach base at least three times in each game of a four-game series since Mark Grace during a four-game set versus Mets at Wrigley Field Aug. 9-12, 1991.Five hits and nine walks; Happ reached base at least three times in all four games!

Happ’s season slashline was boosted from .233/.301/.417 to .254/.361/.509 in those four games alone. His nine walks (five intentional, four unintentional) in the series is better than Javier Báez (six walks: four intentional, two unintentional) has for the entire season.

Happ on Friday became the first Cub to be walked three times intentionally in a game since Andre Dawson (FIVE times) on May 22, 1990. Back then, it actually required pitches to intentionally walk a batter.

Happ was also the first Cub to homer in both ends of a doubleheader since Chris Coghlan July 8, 2014 – also at Cincinnati. But Happ was able to do something Coghlan didn’t: in both games, Happ hit the lone Cubs home run! That’s something no Cub had done since Alfonso Soriano hit the lone Cubs' home run in each game of a doubleheader in St. Louis on Sept. 15, 2007.

Extra Extra!

José Abreu continues to produce. He doubled and homered Saturday night, making him the 23rd player in White Sox history to reach 300 career extra-base hits. He reached 300 extra-base hits in only 655 career Major League games, a number surpassed in White Sox history only by Frank Thomas (626). 

It was also Abreu’s 222nd career multi-hit game in a White Sox uniform, matching our “Beltin’” Bill Melton.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Reviewing a positive road trip for Jose Quintana, Yu Darvish and Ian Happ

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Reviewing a positive road trip for Jose Quintana, Yu Darvish and Ian Happ

Luke Stuckmeyer, David Kaplan, and Doug Glanville break down a solid 4-2 road trip for the Cubs. Plus, who would you rather have long-term: Bryce Harper or Manny Machado?

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below. Apple Podcasts listeners can subscribe at the show page.