Cubs

Report says Giancarlo Stanton would approve trade to four teams — including the Cubs

1207-giancarlo-stanton.jpg
USA TODAY

Report says Giancarlo Stanton would approve trade to four teams — including the Cubs

Here’s an offseason bombshell no one saw coming: Giancarlo Stanton would approve a trade to the Cubs.

The National League MVP is believed to almost surely be traded away from the Miami Marlins in the coming weeks, with the Marlins’ new ownership group led by Derek Jeter looking to shed salary. But while much of the conversation around Stanton’s departure from South Florida has focused on the San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers, a Thursday night report suggested that the Cubs are one of four teams that Stanton, who has a full no-trade clause, would approve a trade to.

As you’ll notice, the aforementioned Giants and Cardinals aren’t on that list.

Now, none of this means that the Cubs have shown formal interest or even talked with the Marlins about a deal. In fact, earlier reports laid out that the Marlins had agreed to the frameworks of trades with the Cardinals and Giants and were awaiting Stanton’s approval. But this latest news would seem set to shake everything up, with neither of those teams on his list.

Stanton, a right fielder known for his incredible power, tore the cover off the ball in 2017. He smacked 59 homers, putting him in the top 10 all-time for long balls in a single season. It’s the most anyone’s hit in more than a decade and a half, when Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa hit 73 and 64 home runs, respectively, in 2001. Stanton also led baseball with 132 RBIs and led the NL with a .631 slugging percentage, edging Joey Votto for MVP honors in the Senior Circuit.

The 28-year-old Stanton is about to enter the fourth year of a massive 13-year contract that has him under team control through 2028. Of course, it comes with a hefty price tag. He’s set to make $25 million in 2018, and his annual salary peaks at $32 million a year from 2023 through 2025.

There’s a great argument to be made, though, that he’s well worth hit: Stanton’s already hit 267 homers in his eight big league seasons.

Now, with a depleted farm system after trades for Aroldis Chapman and Jose Quintana in each of the last two seasons, the Cubs wouldn’t figure to have the minor league assets a rebuilding team like the Marlins might desire. That could mean this is all just a Stanton wish list rather than a rumor with legs. But at the same time, the Cubs have several young, affordable position players at the major league level, guys like Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ, who have been involved in trade speculation this offseason.

Would that be enough to reel in a fish as big as Stanton, though?

While the Cubs have an already-crowded outfield — though in order to land Stanton, it’s a safe bet that one or multiple of those outfielders would have to go to Miami — being able to insert Stanton’s bat into the lineup obviously would mean making him the starting right fielder. That would likely mean Jason Heyward moving to center, a move that’s been suggested plenty this offseason independent of any Stanton news.

Cubs fans and observers have been laser-focused on the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes — of which the North Siders are one of seven finalists for the Japanese superstar who can pitch and hit — but this new information throws a brand-new wrench into the offseason: the prospect of one of baseball’s biggest bats wanting to call Wrigley Field home.

It's safe to say Kyle Hendricks has figured 'it' out

It's safe to say Kyle Hendricks has figured 'it' out

It was only a matter of time before Kyle Hendricks figured it all out. 

It appears Friday was that day. 

The 29-year-old right-hander was off to a slow start to the season, surrendering 24 hits and 8 earned runs in 13.1 innings across his first three starts, good for a 5.40 ERA and 2.18 WHIP. 

Things looked a little better last time out — only 2 earned runs allowed on 6 hits in 5 innings last Saturday against the Angels — but even after that start, Hendricks admitted he still feels like he's fighting himself and searching for his fastball command.

"You can't rush it," he said after that outing. "You can't rush the process. But it definitely gets frustrating. I need to do a better job and give the team a better chance to win when I'm out there regardless. And set a better tone — be more aggressive with my fastball and set a better tone for the game. You want it to come quick, but at least I'm seeing something, so I just gotta stick with what I'm doing."

Whatever he was seeing with his mechanics came to pass in Friday afternoon's 5-1 Cubs win, as he completely baffled the Diamondbacks in a brilliant performance — 7 shutout innings, permitting only 3 singles while striking out 11. It was his first double-digit strikeout game since he whiffed 12 Cardinals on Aug. 13, 2016 en route to his ERA title that season.

"Yeah, like I said, you kinda always want it to come, but I didn't think it was gonna come this quick," Hendricks admitted after Friday's game. "So to go out and make that many good pitches, yeah it helps the confidence a lot. It solidifies the things we've been working on, so I just told the guys this was just one good day, so tomorrow, gotta get right back at it with another good work day and hopefully get on a roll here."

It was also the Cubs' third straight appearance from a starting pitcher of 7 shutout innings, after Cole Hamels and Jose Quintana turned the trick in the final two games in Miami earlier in the week.

The one pitch Hendricks felt good about last time out — his changeup — was his bread and butter Friday, too. He threw it 30 times out of his 100 pitches and induced 8 swings and misses.

"That was kinda classic Kyle," Joe Maddon said. "Great changeup, again. A lot of called strikes, pitching on the edges. ... That first inning or so, still seeking and then once he found it, he got into a nice groove."

Part of the success of the changeup was due to Hendricks' command with his fastball, which he apparently figured out — for one start, at least. He threw 66 percent of his pitches for strikes throughout the game and 35 of his 56 fastballs went for strikes. 

"From the get-go, I just felt more comfortable in my mechanics, so it just freed everything up," Hendricks said. "From there, I just used my fastball a lot better — kinda like what I was talking about. Fastball command and just establishing it early. Everything else worked off that and it just had good action today. Kept it down, made a lot of good pitches, so it worked out."

Hendricks even saw 17 pitches at the plate despite an 0-for-4 performance, as the Cubs offense put 19 runners on base throughout the course of the afternoon.

However, his day was not without negatives. He took a 110 mph liner off the left leg in the seventh inning, but stayed in the game and finished off the last two hitters he faced.

He also snapped his fascinating personal streak, as he threw his first wild pitch since Sept. 5, 2016 — a span of 6,662 pitches:

"I had no idea; I came in the clubhouse and someone brought that to my attention," Hendricks said, laughing. "Time to start a new streak."

In all, Hendricks picked up his first win of 2019 and lowered his season ERA to 3.54 and WHIP to 1.67 with his performance. He also helped pitch his team back to the .500 level (9-9) for the first time since the opening weekend of the season.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Cubs easily on your device.

Joe Maddon weighs in on the bat-flip debate

maddon_bat-flip_debate_slide_photo.jpg
USA TODAY

Joe Maddon weighs in on the bat-flip debate

You won't be finding Joe Maddon among Tim Anderson's defenders, but he's also not using this week's incident as a teaching moment for his players.

Maddon is still under the belief that it's better not to create a list of rules in the clubhouse to govern the players, but he also isn't into the whole show of celebration, of which bat-flips are at the forefront.

When Anderson flipped his bat on a home run Wednesday against the Royals, Kansas City pitcher Brad Keller responded by drilling Anderson the next time up. That resulted in a benches — and bullpens — clearing incident and then on Friday afternoon, both Anderson and Keller were hit with suspensions (Anderson was suspended for using a racial slur in his response to Keller). 

This is just the latest — and maybe one of the most charged — examples of the whole bat-flip/unwritten rules ordeal. Baseball's long tradition of punishing players for "showing up" a pitcher is alive and strong, and that's true even in the younger generation (Keller is only 23 years old). 

At 65, Maddon has been in the game of baseball since decades before Keller was even born, but he subscribes to a similar line of thinking as the Royals right-hander.

"I know my first year [with Cubs in 2015], I got upset at Junior Lake down in Miami [for flipping his bat]," Maddon said. "At that time, my being upset was about trying to flip the culture here — being more professional-looking and act like you're gonna do it again. That was my whole point about that.

"For me, I would prefer our guys didn't do that. I would prefer that the younger group right now doesn't need to see demonstrations like that in order to feel like they can watch baseball or that baseball is more interesting because somebody bat-flips really well and I kinda dig it and if I watch, I might see a bat-flip. 

"I would prefer kids watch baseball because it's a very interesting game, it's intellectually stimulating and when it's played properly, it's never too long. I prefer kids learn that method as opposed to become enamored with our game based on histrionics. I really would prefer that, but it seems to be that we are catering to that a bit.

"...When somebody choose to [bat-flip] and somebody gets hit in the butt because of it, that's what you're looking at. Regardless if you're old or new school, if you're a pitcher, I think you're gonna be offended by that. Act like you're gonna do it again would be the method that I would prefer with our guys. I want to believe we're not gonna do that, but it may happen here, too. And then we're just gonna have to wait and see how the other team reacts."

Though Maddon is not a fan of bat-flips and excessive celebration for big moments, he has not coached his players into avoiding such moments. 

That's why you still see Javy Baez out there being his typical flashy self and David Bote with an epic bat-flip on his walk-off grand slam (though that was obviously a much bigger moment than a run-of-the-mill fourth-inning homer) and Pedro Strop nearly dislocating his shoulder with some aggressive fist-pumps after nailing down a big out late in games.

But if anything does get out of line, Maddon prefers the policing comes from the players within the Cubs clubhouse or from the other team. Think back to last year when Baez tossed his bat in frustration after a pop-out against the Pirates at Wrigley Field and Strop pulled Baez aside to let him know "we don't do that here."

"I think the tried-and-true method of policing the group — whether it's the team policing itself or the industry and players doing the same thing," Maddon said. "I'd be curious to see if [Anderson] ever does that again, based on the result the other day." 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Cubs easily on your device.