Cubs

How the Ben Zobrist situation affects Cubs as trade deadline approaches

How the Ben Zobrist situation affects Cubs as trade deadline approaches

As the trade deadline approaches, it's apparent the Cubs could use another hitter — preferably a battle-tested veteran who can provide a consistent, advanced approach at the plate, especially against top-notch pitching.

Ideally, that hitter would be able to play second base or the outfield (or both) and be able to slide into the leadoff spot to help set the table for Javy Baez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. Oh, and it'd be great if he could hit left-handed and even better if he could switch-hit.

Sound like anybody you know?

In so many ways, Ben Zobrist is the perfect guy to add to this current roster to help take the edges off the Jekyll and Hyde style offense the Cubs have displayed for much of the year. 

Zobrist has indicated to the Cubs he would like to return this season after going on the restricted list with a personal issue in early May.

However, the Cubs can't necessarily count on Zobrist's return as a guaranteed boost to this lineup and team whenever he is able to make it back.

"At this point, it doesn't [have any affect on what we do ahead of the trade deadline]," Theo Epstein said Monday evening at Wrigley Field. "But if we have more of a definitive plan, it's something we wouldn't necessarily overly rely on, but I think we'd plan for his possible return at a later date. Some steps to go before we get to that point."

The trade deadline is just over two weeks away and unlike years past, there is no August waiver deadline this season. So the Cubs can't go out and add a guy like Daniel Murphy after July 31 this year to augment their lineup.

As for a timeline on Zobrist, Epstein said there is currently no target date set up and he still has to chat with the veteran about getting a plan in place. The two have been texting, but Epstein will speak to Zobrist soon to nail down a more specific plan of attack moving forward.

"We're still hopeful that he returns," Epstein said. "We need to make sure that can happen and then get a plan in place for exactly how we're gonna accomplish it for him and for the team."

Even if Zobrist and the Cubs had an exact return date in mind, he wouldn't be able to help this team immediately upon being activated off the restricted list. The 38-year-old veteran would need to go to Arizona and/or a minor-league rehab stint for at least a few weeks to get his timing back and ramp up to game shape after missing several months of the big-league season.

Even in a best-case scenario, Zobrist probably wouldn't return to Chicago until mid-to-late August and is probably more likely on course for roster expansion on Sept. 1.

As for how much the Cubs miss Zobrist and could use him in their lineup right now, listen to manager Joe Maddon talking about what his team needs before the trade deadline before Sunday afternoon's game at Wrigley Field:

"Overall, if you could maybe just add that element where one more consistent bat in there — a real pro at-bat," Maddon said. "Like, we're missing Zobrist. That's a perfect guy, but he's not here anytime soon. Zo fits into what we're doing so well. We miss that, I believe. 

"I mean, Zo, you could always rely on him for that pro at-bat at the beginning of the game, leading off in front of the other guys. What I mean by that is he normally would never expand the strike zone. Almost never. And you can see him just shut down — the ball would be right there and automatically, you could see it's gonna be a ball from the side, but he's already shutting [his swing] down. Not even a flinch. That's the one component at the top. 

"We have guys that work a good at-bat — I'm not saying we don't. Something like that can be very contagious."

Report: Giants interested in Cubs first base coach Will Venable for manager opening

Report: Giants interested in Cubs first base coach Will Venable for manager opening

The Giants' search for a successor to now-retired manager Bruce Bochy has led them to the North Side.

According to NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic, the Giants are interested in Cubs first base coach Will Venable for their own managerial opening. San Francisco's interest is intriguing, as Venable went to high school just outside San Francisco in nearby San Rafael. His father — Max Venable — played for the Giants from 1979-83. 

Venable also interviewed for the Cubs' manager job earlier this month, telling the Chicago Sun-Times that his interest is in the "organization in general." He is one of several internal candidates for the Cubs' job, along with bench coach Mark Loretta and front office assistant David Ross.

The Cubs also interviewed Joe Girardi and are set to meet with Astros bench coach Joe Espada and former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler.

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Former Cub Mark Prior likely to take over as Dodgers pitching coach in 2020

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USA TODAY

Former Cub Mark Prior likely to take over as Dodgers pitching coach in 2020

Mark Prior's big-league playing career unfortunately fizzled out due to recurring injury woes, but he's making a name for himself in the coaching realm.

With Dodgers current pitching coach Rick Honeycutt transitioning into a new role, Prior is expected to takeover the position starting next season.

Cubs fans know the story of Prior's playing career all too well. The Cubs drafted him second overall in the 2001, with Prior making his MLB debut just a season later. He went on to dominate in 2003, posting an 18-6 record, 2.43 ERA and 245 strikeouts in 30 starts, a season in which he made the All-Star Game and finished third in the NL Cy Young Award voting.

However, Prior's season ended on a sour note, as he was on the mound during the Steve Bartman incident in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS. Prior exited the game with a 3-1 lead, but the Cubs surrendered seven more runs that inning, eventually falling to the Marlins 8-3 before losing Game 7 the next day. 

Prior struggled to stay healthy after 2003, eventually retiring in 2013 after multiple comeback attempts. While many blame his injury-riddled career on former Cubs manager Dusty Baker, Prior does not. 

While we can only wonder what could've been with Prior to the pitcher, it's good to see him still making an impact in baseball in some fashion.

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