Cubs

No, the Cubs are not trading Kris Bryant

No, the Cubs are not trading Kris Bryant

Breathe easy Cubs fans - the Cubs are not trading Kris Bryant this winter.

ESPN's Buster Olney made waves Friday afternoon when he published a story entitled, "Cubs open to trading 3B Kris Bryant" and wrote: "the Cubs have indicated to other teams they are willing to discuss trade proposals for almost all of the players on their roster, including Bryant."

The 2016 NL MVP is under team control for another three years, but the Cubs' championship window is firmly open for each of those seasons and dealing away a player of Bryant's caliber would certainly not make the team better in the short term.

Apart from Olney's sources, the impetus behind the rumor Bryant may be on the market is Theo Epstein's quote from Wednesday evening at the GM Meetings this week.

The Cubs are expected to be active on the trade market this winter and the president of baseball operations was asked by a Chicago reporter if any of the players on the current roster are considered "untouchable."

"No, we've never operated with untouchables," Epstein said. "I just think it sends the wrong message. There are guys who - given what we're trying to accomplish - it would be virtually impossible to envision the deal that would make sense to move them.

"I just don't believe with operating with untouchables - because why limit yourself? There are players who are so important to us on the field and in the clubhouse that you'd be going backwards through whatever lens - narrow view, long view - by moving those guys. Players who have almost made themselves untouchable. It's semantics, but we don't talk that way."

So what does that mean?

It means guys like Bryant and Anthony Rizzo and Javy Baez and Willson Contreras are not "untouchable" but only in the true definition of the word. Essentially, those three guys are "untouchable" as they fit the second part of Epstein's explanation as players who are so important to the Cubs on and off the field.

The only reason Epstein doesn't use the word "untouchable" because if some team offered an absolutely ridiculous package for a guy like Bryant, the Cubs would be silly not to listen. But that would have to be a downright insane return for an MVP-caliber player who is also one of the faces of baseball, boasts impressive intangibles and can help the team win in so many ways beyond his bat - including defensive versatility unmatched by other superstar players around the game.

At the GM Meetings in Southern California, Epstein also admitted the Cubs front office has quietly tried to sign some of their young players to extensions, but have failed to do so. He declined to talk about any specific player, but it's fair to assume Bryant may have been one of those guys.

Bryant's agent is Scott Boras, who notoriously advises his clients to avoid signing extensions early and prefer to let his star players hit the open market and create a bidding war - like we're seeing right now with Bryce Harper.

The Cubs spent most of 2018 without a healthy and productive Bryant in their lineup and we saw how that worked out for the offense. Why would they willingly enter into that same situation for the next three years by dealing away Bryant?

The Cubs are not a rebuilding team. They're firmly in contention for a World Series in 2019 (you don't pick up a $20 million option on a starting pitcher like Cole Hamels if you're not aiming for the game's top prize) and it's near-impossible to see how trading away Bryant would get the Cubs another championship ring in 2019, 2020 or 2021.

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Kris Bryant jumping at thunder during a rain delay is pure comedy

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WGN

Kris Bryant jumping at thunder during a rain delay is pure comedy

The Cubs-Braves game on Wednesday got delayed due to a thunderstorm that blew through Chicago.

It made for a pretty scene with a pink and orange sky during sunset that made way to rain clouds, thunder and lightning. Fox Sports South captured the footage of the Wrigley sky and then caught Kris Bryant jumping and then running in the dugout at the sound of thunder.

Even former MVPs can be scared of thunder.

 

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Cubs will need more than Craig Kimbrel to completely change fortunes

Cubs will need more than Craig Kimbrel to completely change fortunes

Cubs fans are understandably excited Craig Kimbrel is ready to make his debut with the team later this week.

He's a future Hall of Fame closer who is still in the midst of his prime and could very well be a shutdown reliever for the entire second half of the season.

But while the bullpen was a clear weakness of this team during tough times earlier in the season, the Cubs haven't slogged out to a 12-13 record in June because their back-end relievers have been blowing late leads.

So how much of a direct impact will Kimbrel have on the team's success? We don't know for sure, but let's look back at every loss this month and see if he would've been able to change the outcome in any ballgame:

June 1 — Cardinals 7, Cubs 4

Kimbrel probably wouldn't have pitched in a game that featured a three-hour rain delay, as Tyler Chatwood gave up 3 runs in the sixth inning in relief of Jose Quintana and the Cubs never even tied the game again.

June 2 — Cardinals 2, Cubs 1 

This was at least a close game, but the Cubs actually trailed 2-0 heading to the top of the ninth inning, when they mounted a comeback against the St. Louis bullpen that fell just short. Either way, it's almost assuredly not a game Kimbrel would have even made it into.

June 6 — Rockies 3, Cubs 1

Quintana gave up all 3 runs before the seventh inning ended and the Cubs offense could do nothing against a rookie making his first MLB start (Peter Lambert).

June 10 — Rockies 6, Cubs 5

Here's one where having Kimbrel could've had an indirect impact. The Cubs never had a save situation, but they did lose the game because the bullpen gave up solo runs in the bottom of the seventh and eighth innings. If Kimbrel is in the 'pen, the trickle down effect comes into play, which means Joe Maddon has more options at his disposal — including Steve Cishek and Pedro Strop earlier in the game. However, it was Cishek that was saddled with the loss by allowing a run in the eighth inning. The only way it would've set up any differently with Kimbrel is if the Cubs used Cishek in the seventh inning and slotted Strop in for the eighth, and the result may have been different. So we'll say Kimbrel could've had an impact on this one, albeit indirectly.

June 11 — Rockies 10, Cubs 3

When you're losing 9-1 going into the seventh inning, what does it matter who your closer is?

June 13 — Dodgers 7, Cubs 3

This one was all about the Dodgers being good and Jon Lester struggling and had nothing to do with the bullpen. The Cubs mounted a 3-0 lead, but their ace gave it all back and then some — allowing 3 homers and 6 runs over 5 innings. The bullpen would not have done much in this game.

June 14 — Dodgers 5, Cubs 3

Rinse and repeat. The Cubs once again jumped out to an early lead, but starting pitching couldn't hold it as Kyle Hendricks was touched up for 5 runs in 4.1 innings in his final appearance before hitting the injured list. The Cubs bullpen actually pitched admirably in the contest, throwing 3.2 shutout innings against a very good lineup.

June 16 — Dodgers 3, Cubs 2

It's certainly possible this one would've been different if Kimbrel were around. With something of a limited bullpen and Brandon Kintzler already pitching earlier in the contest, Cishek was forced to throw multiple innings and gave up the winning run in the eighth — his second inning of work — to break a 2-2 tie. Again, Kimbrel likely would not have been pitching in that spot, but if he was around and available, maybe Maddon could've gone with Strop or somebody else instead of utilizing Cishek for a second inning.

June 18 — White Sox 3, Cubs 1

Ahh, the Eloy Game. Also a game that it's very possible we would've seen Kimbrel, but you can't really fault Maddon with how this one played out. Cubs had a fresh bullpen coming off a rare off-day and watched Cole Hamels throw a gem, allowing just 1 run in 7 innings. Kintzler pitched a scoreless eighth inning in a tie ballgame and then Maddon called on Strop to throw the ninth inning — when Eloy Jimenez had his signature moment. Maybe Maddon would've gone to Kimbrel to pitch the top of the ninth inning, but you can't really lament losing when one of your best relievers is pitching late in a tie game and it doesn't work out.

June 21 — Mets 5, Cubs 4

Cubs jumped out to a 4-3 lead on Addison Russell's 2-run homer, but Yu Darvish couldn't hold it, giving the lead right back the following inning. The Cubs then lost the game when embattled reliever Brad Brach came into a 4-4 tie and gave up a single that eventually came around to score the winning run. Maybe Kimbrel's presence would've changed that outcome, as it could've been another reliever in the game besides Brach, but the Cubs still didn't hit much (Darvish accounted for half their runs) and it was a couple of groundball basehits that led to the winning run scoring, so it's not like Brach and Mike Montgomery got lit up.

June 22 — Mets 10, Cubs 2

This was a clunker of a game that was over well before either team's bullpen figured into things.

June 25 — Braves 3, Cubs 2

Hard to win many games scoring only 2 runs. Maybe Montgomery would not have been pitching in the seventh inning with a 2-1 lead if Kimbrel were around, but the Cubs also needed/wanted some length after Adbert Alzolay's 4.2-inning start and Montgomery had retired five of the six batters he faced before allowing the game-winning homer. 

June 26 — Braves 5, Cubs 3

Well, Yu Darvish ended his no-decision streak before setting a new MLB record, but it ended with an "L" flag flying high over Wrigley Field. The right-hander put the Cubs in a 5-0 hole early — before the rain delay hit — and even though the bullpen pitched well, the lineup couldn't quite climb all the way back. But not for a lack of trying from Darvish's battery-mate Willson Contreras:

So in total, we're looking at maybe three games this month in which Kimbrel could've played a role and potentially changed the outcome for the Cubs. But even those three games are a stretch — who knows if they would've still lost each one of those contests anyways.

This serves as just another reminder that Kimbrel isn't the Cubs' savior. While he will be a very nice piece in the bullpen and help create a positive trickle down effect on the pitching staff, he can't do anything to impact the Cubs' offense or starting pitching and those are the biggest issues plaguing the team at the moment.