Cubs

Padres looking to add starting catcher and Willson Contreras could be a fit

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USA TODAY

Padres looking to add starting catcher and Willson Contreras could be a fit

If the Cubs decide to shop catcher Willson Contreras, a suitor for the two-time All-Star could emerge out west.

Sunday, Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported the Padres seek a starting catcher. Whether that leads them to Contreras is to be seen, but San Diego makes a ton of sense as a trade partner for the Cubs backstop.

Padres starter Austin Hedges (22 Defensive Runs Saved in 2019) is a superior defensive catcher to Contreras (-1), though the latter would be an offensive upgrade for San Diego. Contreras hit .272/.355/.533 with 24 homers and 64 RBIs last season, while Hedges hit .176/.252/.311 with 11 homers and 36 RBIs. Padres catchers combined to hit .212/.278/.349 with 18 homers and 53 RBIs.

The Padres hold one of the top farm systems in baseball, a group featuring five top 100 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline. The Cubs have two top 100 prospects — infielder Nico Hoerner (No. 47) and catcher Miguel Amaya (No. 90) — but they need to replenish their system after years of making win-now trades and struggling to develop homegrown talent the past few seasons.

At last month’s GM Meetings, Padres general manager A.J. Preller admitted the organization is open to trading its prospects to help build a championship-contending team. Preller defended that notion last week by sending infielder Xavier Edwards (MLB Pipeline’s No. 72 prospect) to the Rays to acquire outfielder Tommy Pham.

"You get tied to these players," Preller said in November. "And you should. You envision each of these guys playing with the Padres, and you have history with them. But you've got to understand at the end of the day, it's about building a championship-level team at the big-league level.

“If you do it the right way, you have multiples at different spots. Not everybody is going to be able to play for the Padres."

Lefty starter Mackenzie Gore is San Diego’s No. 1 prospect (No. 4 overall in MLB), but he’ll be off limits in any trade talks. Behind Gore, the other Padres prospects in MLB Pipeline’s top 100 list are:

-Outfielder Taylor Trammell (No. 28)
-Right-handed starter Luis Patino (No. 30)
-Shortstop CJ Abrams (No. 45)
-Catcher Luis Campusano (No. 86)

The Cubs are searching for a center field upgrade this offseason and have struggled to develop impact big-league starting pitching under Theo Epstein. After trading Edwards, the Padres may not want to deal more than one of the aforementioned four prospects in a single deal, but Trammell or Patino would be a major addition for the Cubs.

Trammell, 22, hit .234/.340/.349 in Double-A with the Reds and Padres in 2019. He projects as a corner outfielder but has the speed to play center. Patino posted a 2.57 ERA in 20 games (19 starts) in high-A and Double-A in 2019.

Adding any blue-chip prospects — regardless of position — should be the Cubs’ goal. Javier Báez is entrenched at shortstop, but if the Cubs were able to acquire Abrams, they can figure out how the 19-year-old fits defensively when the time comes. Abrams was the No. 6 overall draft pick last season and slashed .393/.436/.647 between rookie ball and low-A.

A Contreras trade could also include big league players. The Padres have 24-year-old catcher Francisco Mejía — .265/.316/.438, 8 homers, 22 RBIs, 0 DRS in 79 games last season — on their depth chart and he could be expendable in a Contreras trade.

The Cubs aren’t guaranteed to move Contreras. He’s under team control through 2022 and is only projected to make $4.5 million via arbitration in 2020. Plus. they don't get better in the immediate future by dealing him.

But if the Cubs look to move Contreras to replenish their farm system, the Padres make a ton of sense as trade partner.

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Andy Green ‘fired up’ to be with Cubs, help David Ross any way he can

Andy Green ‘fired up’ to be with Cubs, help David Ross any way he can

It’s quite fitting Andy Green’s introduction to Cubs Nation came at the team’s annual fan festival this weekend.

Green, whom the Cubs officially hired as bench coach in December, grew up a Reds fan in his native Lexington, Ky. It wasn’t long before his allegiances changed to one of Cincinnati’s geographic neighbors, however.

“I went to [former Reds ballpark Riverfront Stadium] as a kid at like 5, 6, 7, first time I saw big-league baseball,” Green told NBC Sports Chicago on Saturday. “But my mom took me up to Wrigley at 12 or 13. I was like ‘This is big-league baseball.’

“I switched over allegiances that time as a Cubs fan, watched Ryne Sandberg — Mark Grace was somebody who jumped off the page to me at that point in time. It was late 80s, early 90s.”

After four years managing the Padres, Green’s childhood fandom has come full circle. Now, he’s David Ross’ right-hand man, brought in to use his own experience managing to help the first-year manager adapt to his new position.

When Green took the helm in San Diego in 2016, the Padres were in the thick of a full-scale rebuild. He holds a 274-366 won-loss record, but that isn’t indicative of what he’s bringing to the Cubs dugout.

“Andy so far for me probably [has been] the biggest help for me in directing my thoughts, getting things organized, getting prepared,” Ross said Saturday at a coaching staff panel. “This guy has been through the season, the National League, knows the details of what it takes to lead.

“Obviously, his resume and what he’s done building a young group over in San Diego speaks for itself. Who he is as a person, Andy right off the bat probably [has] been the biggest help for me. Sends me text messages, emails about leading, about coaching. I can’t say enough about this guy, and I’m very blessed to have him next to me in every game. You guys are gonna see a great product, and a lot of my big decisions, I’ll have a great mind next to me helping me make those.”

Green said he’s spent the last few months learning what Ross’ vision is as a manager and how he intends to execute it going forward. Managing games and preparing for them are different beasts, but Green can already see the intangibles that could make Ross successful.

“He’s fun to work with, he’s hungry to win, he can hold people accountable and smile at the same time, which is an unbelievable skillset that I don’t have,” Green said of Ross. “People feel it when I come down on them. They feel love when he comes down on them. He just has that [relatability] that very few people do, and that’s incredibly impressive to me.”

Accountability has been the word of the offseason for the Cubs. After five seasons with Joe Maddon as manager, the club felt it was time for a new voice in the dugout. They hired Ross not only to try and make the team greater than the sum of its parts, but also hold players accountable, putting them in their place and using tough love when needed.

Ross will have a lot on his plate this season, so he'll rely on Green to lead in areas as needed and take a load off his plate.

“For [managers], there’s a large number of tasks that if you have a capable staff, you can just delegate and not even think about,” Green said. “I want to take that kind of stuff off his plate, stuff that doesn’t have to have the manager’s attention, because you can get some decision fatigue, because it’s amazing what comes at you in that seat.

“I know what that feels like, so every now and again, it’s nice to have somebody who doesn’t just have the answer but has the feelings that come with the answer. I’ve enjoyed it, and honestly, it’s a whatever he needs type thing. My vision on him is I’ve watched him do so much prep work this offseason getting ready for game decisions. He’s going to be great. He’s going to be great.”

It also helps that Green has four years of managing under his belt. Ross can learn from his successes in San Diego, but also learn from Green’s failures to ensure he doesn’t make the same mistakes common in new managers.

“It takes a little minute to know where the best answer is on the bench, and he’ll figure that out pretty quickly,” he said of Ross. “Executing the game decisions, you have to find out in time how he processes those things.

“I made a lot of mistakes. He can learn from my mistakes without having to make them himself. If you can share things in humility, a lot of times it keeps somebody else from repeating your mistakes. There’s things I messed up on, things I did well too. Kinda share those visions along the way and make certain the whole way that this is David Ross’ team and he’s leading this team and all I’m here to do is support and help him and help the players perform at their top level.”

Green spent four years with a losing club. He’s joining a Cubs team full of star players — which, as functioning infield coach on a team with Javier Báez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, excites him. He wants to win now and believes Ross is the man to lead the way.

And, again, the lure of being a Chicago Cub was strong.

“The fan base is one that you’re fired up to go to work for and bring a winner to,” he said. “Whatever part I can play in that, I’m fired up to do it.”

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Willson Contreras, expert at going viral, tells hilarious profanity-laced story from 2019

Willson Contreras, expert at going viral, tells hilarious profanity-laced story from 2019

Willson Contreras and viral moments at Cubs Convention go hand-in-hand.

At the team’s annual fan festival in 2018, Contreras stole the show with a story from the 2017 season. During a mound visit against the Cardinals, the Cubs catcher gave profanity-laced advice to Jon Lester, the Cubs starter who rarely throws pickoffs due to a serious case of the yips.

"I went out there and I said, 'Hey motherf--ker, throw the f--king ball to first,'” Contreras recalled in January 2018.

Contreras stole the show again Saturday, telling a story about a moment against the Cardinals — this time from the 2019 season.

“So last year, we were facing the Cardinals and I started talking to [Marcell] Ozuna,” Contreras said. “He told me ‘Just call a fastball right down the middle.’ [And I said] ‘Yeah okay, I will.’ Then I called the fastball and he took it.

“I told him ‘What the f— are you talking about? Just hit the ball, just hit it.’

“He asked me ‘Just call it again.’ And I did it. He took it. Swing the [bat]. I called a third pitch and it was a strikeout. And then next time it was like just ‘Shut up,” or something."

Warning: graphic language

How Contreras will top this at 2021 Cubs Convention is uncertain, but considering he now has two viral moments on his resume, we can be sure the next one will be just as amazing.

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