Cubs

New report suggests Cubs likely to pursue Rays All-Star pitchers Chris Archer and Alex Colome

New report suggests Cubs likely to pursue Rays All-Star pitchers Chris Archer and Alex Colome

The Cubs might be looking to bring a little bit of Florida sunshine to the North Side this winter.

Already rumored to be interested in signing free-agent pitcher Alex Cobb — something that might be a tad less likely after signing starting pitcher Tyler Chatwood a few days ago — a new report Saturday indicated the Cubs are likely to pursue a trade with Cobb's old team, the Tampa Bay Rays, in an attempt to secure the pitching services of Chris Archer and Alex Colome.

There's always been plenty of "what if" surrounding Archer and the Cubs, who dealt the right-hander away back in 2011 as part of the deal that brought Matt Garza to Chicago. Archer has been on plenty of fan wish lists over the years, too, as he's had a great run in his six big league seasons with the Rays, making a pair of All-Star appearances, posting a career 3.63 ERA and making at least 32 starts in each of the last four seasons.

Archer's numbers have been slightly less appealing in the past two years, a combined 4.05 ERA in 2016 and 2017 after turning in a combined 3.28 ERA in 2014 and 2015. But he's still just 29 years old and considered one of the game's better arms.

Colome, meanwhile, led baseball with 47 saves last season and has saved a combined 84 games over the past two campaigns. He was an All Star in 2016, and he finished that season with a pencil-thin 1.91 ERA.

Archer is under team control through 2021, while Colome is under team control through 2020.

Certainly the Cubs are in the market for another starting pitcher and a closer thanks to the free-agent departures of Jake Arrieta, John Lackey and Wade Davis. Losing Arrieta and Lackey put a significant hole in the starting rotation, though the signing of Chatwood filled one of those two open spots. The Cubs are shorter on options when it comes to a ninth-inning man. They've been connected to free-agent relievers Brandon Morrow and Brandon Kintzler this offseason, and there's the potential option of bringing Davis back on a new contract, one that figures to be expensive after he converted 32 of 33 save opportunities in 2017.

Archer and Colome would knock two huge items off Theo Epstein's offseason to-do list. But as Rogers mentioned, it will likely take a big-time return package to net a couple of All-Star pitchers. The Cubs' minor league system has been seriously depleted in recent years as many of the organization's biggest names have either reached the big leagues — helping the team to that curse-smashing World Series win in 2016 — or been traded away in midseason deals for Aroldis Chapman and Jose Quintana in the last two years. That means it'd likely take multiple guys on the major league roster to acquire Archer and/or Colome. The same names that have been speculated about this offseason would once more figure to come into play in this discussion: Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ. But perhaps Javier Baez and others would be needed to swing a deal like this, too.

Of course, the Cubs would figure to have tremendous scouting reports on Archer and Colome — and Cobb, for that matter — with not only Joe Maddon's history in St. Petersburg, but also with Jim Hickey now on Maddon's staff as the Cubs' new pitching coach. Hickey came to Chicago this offseason after 11 seasons with Tampa Bay.

It remains to be seen if anything comes of this at the Winter Meetings, which begin Monday in Florida, or later on this offseason. Certainly starting pitcher and closer are two areas of need for the Cubs, but they might not have the assets to pull off a trade of such magnitude.

Cubs bolster pitching staff with minor trade, foreshadow more moves coming

Cubs bolster pitching staff with minor trade, foreshadow more moves coming

The Cubs didn't wait long to make Joe Maddon's words come true.

Roughly 5 hours after Maddon said the Cubs are definitely in the market for more pitching, the front office went out and acquired Jesse Chavez, a journeyman jack-of-all-trades type.

It's a minor move, not in the realm of Zach Britton or any of the other top relievers on the market.

But the Cubs only had to part with pitcher Class-A pitcher Tyler Thomas, their 7th-round draft pick from last summer who was pitching out of the South Bend rotation as a 22-year-old.

Chavez — who turns 35 in a month — brings over a vast array of big-league experience, with 799 innings under his belt. He's made 70 starts, 313 appearances as a reliever and even has 3 saves, including one this season for the Texas Rangers.

Chavez is currently 3-1 with a 3.51 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 50 strikeouts in 56.1 innings. He has a career 4.61 ERA and 1.38 WHIP while pitching for the Pirates, Braves, Royals, Blue Jays, A's, Dodgers, Angels and Rangers before coming to Chicago.

Of his 30 appearances this season, Chavez has worked multiple innings 18 times and can serve as a perfect right-handed swingman in the Cubs bullpen, filling the role previously occupied by Luke Farrell and Eddie Butler earlier in the season.

Chavez had a pretty solid run as a swingman in Oakland from 2013-15, making 47 starts and 50 appearances as a reliever, pitching to a 3.85 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 8.2 K/9 across 360.1 innings.

"Good arm, versatile, could start and relieve," Joe Maddon said Thursday after the trade. "I've watched him. I know he had some great runs with different teams. 

"The word that comes to mind is verstaility. You could either start him or put him in the bullpen and he's very good in both arenas."

It's not a flasy move, but a valuable piece to give the Cubs depth down the stretch.

There's no way the Cubs are done after this one trade with nearly two weeks left until the deadline. There are more moves coming from this front office, right?

"Oh yeah," Maddon said. "I don't think that's gonna be the end of it. They enjoy it too much."

Jason Heyward has become an offensive catalyst

Jason Heyward has become an offensive catalyst

Expecting Jason Heyward to carry a team offensively would be thought as foolish just a few short months ago. But here in the middle of July, Heyward has turned into the offensive firestarter the Cubs have been seemingly missing since Dexter Fowler left. 

Heyward walked away from Thursday night's 9-6 win over the Cardinals tallying three hits, two RBI, two runs scored and his first stolen base of the year, as the 28-year-old outfielder continued to poke holes in the Cardinals defense. 

Twice Heyward was able to slip a ball between the 1st and 2nd basemen that off the bat looked like neither had a chance to make it through the right field side. Later, Heyward would battle through a lengthy at-bat, finally being rewarded with an opposite-field hit that drove in the game-tying run. 

"It just happened," Heyward explained. " [Carlos Martinez] is not going to give you a whole lot to do damage on throughout the game. I was able to get one pitch there and get a guy home." 

Cubs manager Joe Maddon mentioned Heyward and his ability to move the ball around the field and how it's helped him become an effective piece to this Cubs offense. So effective Heyward's batting average crept up to .290 after today's three-hit performance. 

Heyward credits his quick hands as the major tool he's utilized to create so many successful at-bats lately, which has allowed him to take advantage of certain pitches and punch them through for hits.

He's certainly not driving the ball for consistent power, but the approach has put Heyward on pace to match the 160 hit total he amassed with the Cardinals in 2015. 

"I feel like Joe's mindset on moving the ball is putting the ball in play when you got guys on base," said Heyward. "It keeps the line moving, regardless of the result." 

It might be crazy to think that Heyward's incredible turnaround this season might simply be attributed to putting the ball in play. But even just taking a look at Heyward's contact rates shows he's increased his contact on pitches outside the zone by roughly three percent.

Not a massive difference, but if Heyward's hands are truly giving him an edge at the plate, making contact with pitches that may not be a strike but are hittable pitches could explain the increased offense we are seeing now. 

"That's kinda the biggest thing," said Heyward. "The more good swings you take, the more hits you have a chance to get." 

Shooters shoot, and Heyward continues to shoot his shot and keep the Cubs offense chugging along.