Cubs

Manny Machado to the...Cubs?

manny_machado.jpg
USA TODAY

Manny Machado to the...Cubs?

UPDATE: FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman reported Thursday, May 17, that the Cubs "will take a look at acquiring" Orioles' shortstop Manny Machado. The Orioles, who currently sit last in the AL East with a record of 13-29, could deal Machado this summer before he hits free agency this offseason.

Maybe Manny Machado is what the Cubs need to break out of their lackluster hitting performance this season.

With the team currently sitting in fourth place of the NL Central, the bat-popping (and Albert Almora’s childhood teammate) Machado is looking like the saving pick-me-up the team could need. In 2018, he’s currently batting .346, working with a 1.054 OPS and has 45 hits just in 34 games — racking up a 1.83 WAR.

According to a report from the Chicago Sun-Times, the Cubs' front office is looking to get “aggressive,” especially in their closing window of competition this roster has left in them. How aggressive? As aggressive as president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer want, the report says.

But is aggressively aggressive enough to pay Machado’s bill — something to the tune of an 8-year, $300 million contract?   
 
It makes sense for a Addison Russell to be the likely suitor offered in a potential trade. The 24-year-old infielder carries a reliable, flashy glove — earning regards as a Gold Glove nominee in 2016 — despite still being homerless and striking out 21 times in 31 games. Back in the offseason, manager Joe Maddon said this would be his season “to blossom.”
 
And it takes some time to immediately blossom on a new team, as Cubs have seen with Yu Darvish’s performance so far. With just recently making a six-year, $126 million commitment with the righty — in which Darvish has returned the favor with a 6.00 ERA and 31 hits in 30 innings pitched — the thought of splurging again on another expensive franchise player before the July 31 trade deadline is no guarantee.

No momentum yet on potential Cubs-Zobrist reunion

No momentum yet on potential Cubs-Zobrist reunion

SAN DIEGO — Theo Epstein's front office has a lot of difficult decisions to make this winter, but Ben Zobrist has yet to come up with his own tough answers.

The 2016 World Series MVP is currently a free agent after wrapping up his four-year deal with the Cubs. He played a major role on the team in September following a four-month absence to deal with a family matter. 

Zobrist, 38, said at the end of the season that he was unsure if he would call it quits after an impressive career or return for another season on the diamond. More than two months since he last put on a uniform, he still has not reached an answer:

If he does play another season, it would have to be in the right situation for his family. He's made enough money in his career and accomplished plenty — including hoisting a couple championship trophies — but he clearly still had the drive and desire to play, as he said in his September return.

The Cubs figure to be on the short list of teams that would make sense for Zobrist given the mutual familiarity, a home in Chicago and how the entire organization supported him as he stepped away from the team to address his personal life.

It would seem to fit from the Cubs' perspective as well, since they talked all season long about how they missed Zobrist's professional at-bats and his presence inside the clubhouse. 

But there is no traction on the reunion front at the moment.

"I haven't talked to him recently," Epstein said Monday. "I've talked to him since the season ended, but it was more just checking in on his family. As far as baseball, he hadn't made a decision at that point. He was gonna wait a while before deciding what to do. He left open the possibility, but that was it."

The Cubs have an avenue for playing time next season at second base and potentially in the outfield for Zobrist and they are currently searching for leadoff options. He proved he can still play at his advanced age by hitting .284/.388/.377 in September after months away from the game. He isn't an everyday guy anymore, but can still provide value as a role player.

If Zobrist decides to give it one more go, the price would have to be right for the financially-hamstrung Cubs, but a reunion would make a lot of sense for both sides.

Angels' search for catching help could lead them to Willson Contreras

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USA TODAY

Angels' search for catching help could lead them to Willson Contreras

Could we see a Willson Contreras-Joe Maddon reunion in Los Angeles?

According to Maria Torres of the Los Angeles Times, the Angels are “heavily engaged in the catcher market,” and are having “active conversations with two teams” regarding a trade for a catcher.

Torres didn’t specifically mention Contreras, but he’s one of several Cubs who have been linked to trade rumors this offseason. The Cubs aren’t looking to enter another all-out rebuild, but they’re keeping the future of the organization in mind following a disappointing 84-win season.

The Cubs farm system has grown barren of impact talent. They’ve struggled to develop big-league starting pitching under team president Theo Epstein. Their payroll is projected to exceed MLB’s luxury tax threshold for a second straight season, meaning they’d encounter a 30 percent luxury tax on their overages and see their draft position drop 10 spots, should they exceed the $208 million threshold by $40 million or more.

Trading Contreras — who’s projected to make $4.5 million via arbitration next season — won’t solve the financial problem. However, trading him could net the Cubs the type of blue-chip prospects they desperately need to replenish their farm system.

Contreras is also under team control through 2022, so there’s not a huge rush to deal the two-time All-Star. But if the Cubs sense he’s unlikely to sign a contract extension now or in the future, they must do their due diligence on him and see what they could acquire in a potential trade. The same is true for Javier Báez, Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber.

The Angels have one top 100 prospect, (outfielder Jo Adell — No. 5 overall), according to MLB Pipeline, so what Los Angeles could offer the Cubs is questionable. Epstein and Co. won’t trade their backstop for the sake of doing so, especially if they deem any offers to be unsatisfactory.  

Contreras hit .272/.355/.533 with 24 home runs and 64 RBIs last season. He’d be a major addition for the Angels, whose catchers posted a combined .221/.293/.344 slash line with 15 home runs and 61 RBIs. The 27-year-old also has a special bond with former Cubs/current Angels manager Joe Maddon.

Contreras posted a heartfelt good-bye to Maddon on Instagram after the Cubs announced they weren’t retaining the manager for 2020. Contreras later commissioned a painting of he and Maddon as a gift for his former skipper.

Monday, Maddon said it’s “weird” to hear Bryant and Contreras mentioned in trade rumors, adding that he likes both players. 

The Angels aren't definitively linked to Contreras and Epstein recently advised to take rumors with a "mouthful of salt." But considering the Angels are reportedly seeking a catching upgrade, it won't be a surprise to see that change soon.