Cubs

Potential Cubs target Shogo Akiyama is reportedly in the U.S. during the winter meetings

Potential Cubs target Shogo Akiyama is reportedly in the U.S. during the winter meetings

The Cubs could use a leadoff hitter and a center fielder. One player who can fill both of those holes is available is looking to sign soon.

Japanese center fielder Shogo Akiyama is in the U.S. with his agent, according to Sports Nippon, while the winter meetings take place in San Diego.

Akiyama is a center field option when center field options are limited this offseason. Brett Gardner is a free agent, but the 36-year-old wouldn’t be easy to pry away from his only professional organization.

Akiyama is 31 and saw a dropoff in his numbers in Japan last season, but still had a .392 on-base percentage with 20 home runs in 143 games.

Albert Almora’s struggles last season left the Cubs with uncertainty in center going forward. That saw Jason Heyward spending some time in center with Kyle Schwarber and Nicholas Castellanos on the corners. That’s not a pretty defensive outfield. Meanwhile, Akiyama has two Golden Glove awards in Japan.

He would also bring on-base skills and speed to a Cubs lineup that has resorted to having power hitter Anthony Rizzo play leadoff at times.

Akiyama would also likely not be an expensive option, which is key for a Cubs team reportedly looking to get under the luxury tax this offseason.

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Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich puts Nolan Arenado trade talks to bed

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USA TODAY

Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich puts Nolan Arenado trade talks to bed

Were you hoping the Cubs could pull off a miraculous deal for Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado? If so, at ease.

In an interview with Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post, Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich squashed any chance of Arenado getting dealt this winter.

“With the season coming up and spring training on the horizon, we are going to start focusing on that,” Bridich told Saunders. “We have listened to teams regarding Nolan and really nothing has come of it. We are going to move forward pretty much as we expected — with Nolan in the purple and black and as our third baseman.

“So, we can put this to bed and collectively look forward to the upcoming season and work toward that.”

There you have it.

The chances of the Cubs swinging an Arenado deal were always slim-to-none. The 28-year-old signed a lucrative contract extension with Colorado last February and is still owed $234 million through 2026. The Cubs have money coming off the books each of the next few seasons, but they would have had to clear payroll to acquire Arenado this offseason.

Furthermore, it’s questionable if the Cubs would have put together an enticing enough package for the Rockies. Chicago's farm system has grown barren through the years, and now that it’s slowly improving, it wouldn’t have made sense to trade prospects away.

Monday’s news isn’t completely bad for Cubs fans. The Cardinals were also reportedly interested in Arenado, and Bridich’s statement means St. Louis won’t be acquiring Arenado anytime soon, either.

Update: Things might just be getting started in Colorado...

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Reunion? Cubs interested in re-signing Pedro Strop, report says

Reunion? Cubs interested in re-signing Pedro Strop, report says

The Cubs haven't made many transactions this offseason, largely adding low-cost relievers to stockpile potential arms for the big-league bullpen. That trend could soon change, thanks to a familiar face.

According to Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith, the Cubs are one of four teams “believed to be” interested in signing Pedro Strop. Smith also reported Strop will likely make a decision in the next week or so.

Strop joined the Cubs in a midseason trade with the Orioles in 2013 and went on to become one of the best relievers in team history. In parts of seven seasons, the right-hander posted a 2.90 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 425 strikeouts in 373 innings. He ranks sixth in club history in appearances (411) and first in holds (120). 

For context, Strop’s ERA and WHIP (1.05) are both better than what Lee Smith (2.92, 1.25), a 2019 Hall of Fame inductee, did in eight seasons with the Cubs.

2019 was Strop’s worst season in a Cubs uniform (4.97 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 50 games), though he suffered a hamstring injury in spring training and another early in the season, impacting his performance. Something clicked for him in September; the 34-year-old sported a 2.00 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in nine innings, albeit largely in low-leverage spots.

Strop would add a veteran presence to the Cubs bullpen, which currently has few locks — Craig Kimbrel, Rowan Wick, Kyle Ryan and likely Brad Wieck. They’ve already lost veteran Steve Cishek (White Sox) in free agency, and Brandon Kintzler (2.68 ERA, 62 appearances in 2019) hasn’t been connected to the Cubs this offseason.

Strop expressed his desire to return to the Cubs at the end of 2019, calling the organization his home. It will come down to cost, as has been the case all offseason for the Cubs. But assuming Strop is healthy, he’d provide a veteran arm in a bullpen slated to include some less proven names.

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