Cubs

Theo Epstein shoots down rumors that he might return to Red Sox

Theo Epstein shoots down rumors that he might return to Red Sox

PITTSBURGH — We don't yet know what kind of changes will take place for the Cubs this winter, but Theo Epstein made one thing certain Wednesday evening — he's not going anywhere.

The Boston Globe's Alex Speier made headlines this week when he linked Epstein to his former team, the Red Sox, as a potential name to keep an eye on to fill the club's president of baseball operations role. The Red Sox fired Dave Dombrowski earlier this month, less than a year after a 108-win season and a World Series championship.

As he sat in the visiting dugout at PNC Park Wednesday evening and gave a little preview of his "State of the Cubs" address, Epstein was asked about the Red Sox link.

"Yeah, I saw that. There's nothing to that story," he said. "I'm here. We have a lot we need to work on to get back to the level we're accustomed to. I'm invested in that. That's what I'm focused on, so yeah, there's nothing to that. 

"I will say, I have really good relationships with a lot of people there. I certainly wish them the best. It's just, there's nothing to the story."

Epstein also said it's "still true" that Cubs GM Jed Hoyer and senior vice president Jason McLeod are also not packing up and heading back to Boston.

The three front office executives worked together with the Red Sox before Hoyer and McLeod left to go to the San Diego Padres. Epstein left Boston after the 2011 season to tackle a new challenge with the Cubs and is wrapping up his eighth season in Chicago.

Epstein did concede the final month of this 2019 season reminds him of the 2011 Red Sox, who held a nine-game division lead on Sept. 3 and wound up missing the playoffs altogether by going 6-18 down the stretch.

"They're different, but in terms of pain in September, yeah," Epstein said. "In my mind, I think there's some similarities as far as worst possible outcomes given where you were at a moment in time, sure."

Epstein pointed to the fact that the 2011 Red Sox were one of the best teams in baseball for most of that season, while the 2019 Cubs never really found their groove or built up any separation in the division.

Still, the expectations were sky-high for both clubs — World Series or bust.

"As far as what could've been and what was, yeah," Epstein said. "They were different teams, obviously, and this [Cubs] club had some real flaws I'm responsible for. But I do feel like we left a lot on the table. Depending on how the next few games go, we might be only the second 100-run differential team ever to not make the playoffs in this modern Wild-Card era.

"Run differential is not everything and there are well-documented reasons for why ours is potentially a little bit misleading, but it is the number that correlates best to wins out of any out there. You give me one number and ask how many games a team should win, I'll take run differential. I think it just shows what could've been. I think we're all beating ourselves up for that in some way."

Two of the Cubs' best prospects made Keith Law's annual Top 100 list

brailynmarquezmilb.jpg
USA Today

Two of the Cubs' best prospects made Keith Law's annual Top 100 list

For those who follow such things, Keith Law's yearly Top 100 prospect rankings is always a highly anticipated read. What would baseball twitter even do with their time if they couldn't spend it vocally disagreeing with subjective lists? Having a handful of Top 100 guys is always a shot in the arm for franchises that maybe aren't doing a whole lot of winning at the major league level; when you know you're not winning a World Series, the debuts of these prospects are high points of the summer. 

There wasn't a whole lot of Cubs' representation this season, which isn't a surprise by any means. Only guys two made Law's list: Brennen Davis at 55, and Brailyn Marquez at 80.  

Law claims Davis has the highest upside of any Cubs' prospect, but isn't necessarily close to a debut: 

Davis is lanky and has barely begun to fill out, so there’s likely to be more power to come, while he’s already shown he can manage at-bats and use the middle of the field to get himself on base. Despite his 6′4″ frame he already has a very balanced swing, and the Cubs will just have to tighten up some mechanical things since he’s got such long levers. A former shortstop, he’s adapted quickly to center field; he projects to stay there and add value with his range. 

He also loves Marquez's stuff – comparing it to Aroldis Chapman's – and says it's the reason why he's team's best pitching prospect since Dylan Cease. You can see the entire rankings, which go pretty in-depth, right here. 

Brandon Morrow sidelined with upper chest strain, no timetable for return

morrow_thumb.jpg
USA TODAY

Brandon Morrow sidelined with upper chest strain, no timetable for return

Brandon Morrow’s comeback attempt has hit a bump in the road.

Morrow, the Cubs reliever and former closer, has what the club is calling a “mild right upper chest strain,” according to MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. Bastian added Morrow felt the strain in his last bullpen session and there is no clear timeline for his return.

The strain is the latest ailment to sideline the oft-injured Morrow, who hasn't pitched since July 2018 due to a series of arm troubles. The 35-year-old has undergone two elbow surgeries since then (November 2018, September 2019) before becoming a free agent this winter. He rejoined the Cubs on a minor-league deal.

Morrow entered camp optimistic the latest procedure did the trick to get his elbow healthy. The Cubs have been easing him into action — the right-hander is throwing one bullpen every four days. Morrow said earlier this month he’s experienced some aches and pains but attributed those to being part of the rehab process.

Morrow is listed as day-to-day, according to Mark Gonzalez of the Chicago Tribune. But considering his injury history — and the fact he was already unlikely to crack the Opening Day roster —  the Cubs will proceed with extreme caution. There's no need to expedite his return, mild strain or not.

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