Cubs

Sounds like Bryce Harper hasn't closed the door on returning to Nationals in free agency

Sounds like Bryce Harper hasn't closed the door on returning to Nationals in free agency

Bryce Harper could be playing in his final week of games as a Washington National as the 25-year-old superstar as about to become a free agent for the first time in his young career. Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post was able to speak to Harper as he started to clean out his locker at Nationals Park wondering out loud whether or not this would be his last time in the Nationals' home locker room. 

 “If I walk into Nats Park as a visiting player?” Harper said Monday afternoon, sitting at that double locker in the prime spot, just off the entrance to the shower. “That’s weird. And who wants to see that? That’s really weird.”

The Bovada odds were released last week, as all signs point towards Harper leaving his current club to team up with fellow Las Vegas-native Kris Bryant and the Cubs this winter. And while the odds-makers are expecting Harper to bid farewell to Washington, Harper doesn't seem like he's quite ready to move on. 

“I think about other cities, but I love it here,” Harper said. “Am I in the plans, you know? I don’t know. It’s hard to think about because it’s all you know, and then you think about it, it’s like, ‘Well, it could all be over in a,’” and here, he snapped his fingers, “ ‘a second.’ It’s kind of crazy.”

Harper goes on to talk about how he grew up with the Nationals and how he's reluctant to leave something he knows. But, the Nationals are in one of the big markets in terms of baseball landscape, and can't quite offer the things the Cubs would that come along with playing in Chicago. And it sounds like the most important thing for Harper is being truly wanted. 

He kept saying he wants to be a part of the plan in Washington, but what he's leaving out is the price-tag that will come along with any team attempting to persuade the superstar outfielder to play for them. Washington likely won't be able to match some of the anticipated record-breaking deals expected to come Harper's way, which opens the door for teams like the Cubs. 

We're still about a month away from Bryce Harper and Manny Machado dominating the baseball conversations this off-season, but once the 2018 season comes to an end, expect the Cubs to make Harper a priority this winter. 

Are the Cubs still in on Bryce Harper sweepstakes?

Are the Cubs still in on Bryce Harper sweepstakes?

On Thursday’s edition of the  “At The Yard Podcast”, Philadelphia Insider Jim Salisbury stated that he still feels the Yankees, Cubs and Dodgers are the three teams that are all still in the Bryce Harper and/or Manny Machado sweepstakes.

He called all three franchises “very interested bystanders in one or both of these guys.”

Salisbury also mentioned that the St. Louis Cardinals could get in on the Manny Machado free agency if the figures for his alleged contract offer from the White Sox was correct, as reported this week.

This comes just days after Cubs skipper Joe Maddon said “not going to happen” in regards to the North Siders going after Harper. And at the Cubs Convention, Tom Ricketts said “we didn't have the flexibility this year to go sign a huge free agent and I'm not sure we would have anyway, to be honest.”

All signs—coming from the Cubs at least—point to them not being in on Harper with all of their current financial commitments, yet reports continue to pour out stating that the Cubs are still monitoring his situation closely. On time will tell, but it certainly seems foolish to count Chicago out at this point.

According to Salisbury, the Cubs have made it very clear to Harper’s representatives that after he receives all of his final offers from teams, he should make sure to “check back with us [the Cubs].”

Report: Theo Epstein faced pressure from Bryzzo to fire Chili Davis

Report: Theo Epstein faced pressure from Bryzzo to fire Chili Davis

It's been 99 days since the Cubs fired Chili Davis, but we're still hearing new reports on the reasoning behind the decision. 

The latest comes from SNY's John Harper, who explained why the New York Mets were so quick to hire Davis after he was fired from the Red Sox and Cubs in successive winters. 

The reasoning? According to Harper, Cubs president Theo Epstein was pressured to fire Davis by two of the team's most notable hitters — Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant:

Secondly, Cubs president Theo Epstein didn't really want to fire Davis, according to multiple sources, yet felt he had no choice but to give in to the wishes of at least a few of his star hitters, most notably Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.

"He caved," was the way one person close to the situation put it. "He's not happy about it. He thinks it's BS that the players complained about Chili, but he wasn't going to stick with his hitting coach just to make a point."

That is one strong quote on the matter by the "person close to the situation." 

While Davis himself admitted he didn't connect with a lot of the "millennial" players, it's tough to blame his departure solely on that drama.

The simple fact of the matter is Davis was brought in to limit the roller coaster nature of the Cubs lineup (by improving situational hitting, using the whole field, cutting down on strikeouts, etc.) yet the team still wound up leading baseball with 40 games of scoring 1 or fewer runs. It was the quiet offense that led to the Cubs' demise down the stretch in 2018 more than anything else.

Davis deserves credit for helping Javy Baez realize his potential and become an MVP candidate and the hitting coach also helped unlock a bit more offense out of Jason Heyward while overseeing a strong bounceback season from Ben Zobrist.

Rizzo got off to a very slow start to 2018, but he rebounded from May on and wound up having a season that looks very similar to the rest of his career. At this point, Rizzo is his own hitting coach in a lot of ways and he continues to fine-tune his approach at the plate regardless of who is in the position on the Cubs staff.

The Bryant inclusion here is interesting in that the main reason the former MVP had a down season was the shoulder injury that limited him to only 102 games and diminished his power. However, Bryant has always had a "launch angle" type approach instilled in him at a young age from his dad, and Davis wasn't exactly "anti-launch angle," but he prioritized contact over power at times.

In Davis' stead, the Cubs opted for Anthony Iapoce as the new hitting coach. He has a rapport with guys like Bryant, Baez and Willson Contreras dating back years to their time in the minor leagues, so it's a familiar face who already knows how to communicate effectively with the current roster.

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