Cubs

Jesse Chavez is not coming back to Chicago, much to the dismay of Cubs fans

Jesse Chavez is not coming back to Chicago, much to the dismay of Cubs fans

Cubs fans dreaming of a Jesse Chavez reunion in Chicago are not happy.

The veteran swingman is in agreement to return to the Texas Rangers — the team the Cubs acquired him from in July — on a 2-year, $8 million deal:

That's a good get for the 35-year-old journeyman to capitalize on a career season. (For perspective, his career earnings sit at only a little over $14 million, according to Baseball Reference.)

When the Cubs traded for Chavez on July 19, the move was touted as a depth add, giving manager Joe Maddon a versatile option in the bullpen as a guy who could pitch to one batter, toss multiple innings or even make a spot start if need be.

Chavez wound up becoming so much more, earning the role as the Cubs' most trusted reliever by the final weekend of the season (when both Brandon Morrow and Pedro Strop were hurt) and endeared himself to the fanbase in the process.

In 39 innings with the Cubs across 32 appearances, Chavez posted a 1.15 ERA (which ranked second in baseball) with a sparkling 0.795 WHIP and 42 strikeouts. He also saved 4 games despite coming over to the Cubs with only 3 saves in his entire 11-year career prior.

Chavez obviously wouldn't post a 1.15 ERA forever, but he still could've been a great fit for the Cubs 2019 bullpen with his versatility and extreme strike-throwing approach.

Financial crunch or not, $8 million over 2 years was probably more than what Theo Epstein's front office was willing to hand out in a deal — especially to a 35-year-old — when reliever's performances are so fickle from year-to-year. But the Cubs are certainly still searching for ways to improve on their bullpen for the 2019 campaign, as they currently have Pedro Strop and Steve Cishek as trustworthy options plus Brandon Morrow (injury risk), Mike Montgomery (if he's not needed in the rotation), Carl Edwards Jr. (searching for a rebound from a late-season fade) and a pair of veterans aiming to prove 2018 was just a down year (Brandon Kintzler, Brian Duensing).

In the hours after the Cubs' 13-inning loss to the Colorado Rockies in the NL Wild-Card Game, Chavez reportedly told his teammates he badly wanted to return to Chicago:

Of course, that was an emotional moment and once the dust settles, money talks more than anything else for most free agents.

Cubs fans, however, were not happy with the news:

https://twitter.com/PaytonHavermann/status/1067491373996224515

Some were more reserved in their disappointment:

While some didn't hold back in the slightest:

https://twitter.com/halsey_gavin/status/1067494513260802048

SportsTalk Live Podcast: The possible return of Ben Zobrist?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: The possible return of Ben Zobrist?

SportsTalk Live is on location at Wrigley Field for Cubs Authentic Fan Night.

0:00- Doug Glanville and Teddy Greenstein join Luke Stuckmeyer to recap the Cubs' weekend sweep and the performance of the suddenly hard-hitting outfielders.

10:00- Tony Andracki and Jesse Rogers join Luke and Teddy to talk about Theo Epstein's pregame comments and the possible return of Ben Zobrist. Plus they discuss who could get the majority of the playing time at 2nd base for the rest of the season.

16:30- Robbie Gould signs a 4-year deal with the 49ers. So are the Bears ok with the kicker situation? Plus the guys discuss Mitch Trubisky only getting a 75 in the Madden '20 ratings.

25:30- Teddy previews the Open Championship and gives his picks on Money Monday presented by FanDuel.

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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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."