Cubs

Hester: 'I might never be a No. 1 receiver'

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Hester: 'I might never be a No. 1 receiver'

For the past handful of years, Devin Hester has carried a burden all his own. When Brandon Marshall became a Bear, the biggest part of that burden was lifted.

It was the curse of the No. 1 receiver, the fuzzy, loosely defined identifier that fans and media have tried to fit Hester with since he and the Bears agreed in 2008 to a contract extension that contained escalators that could have made the last two years of the deal worth 10 million per, based on hitting numbers befitting a No. 1 receiver.

That didnt happen. With Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, it probably wont. And Marshalls prediction that Hester will have an All-Pro season shortly won't come true.

And that is fine with Hester. More than fine, in fact.

I can just sit back and play now, Hester told CSNChicago.com. Everybody wanted me to be the No. 1 receiver. I might never be a No. 1 receiver. But Ill be Devin Hester. Thats it. Thats my mindset.

Hester wanted a shot at being an elite receiver and was willing to bet on himself with the escalators if he was as good as he, and the Bears hoped.

He worked through injuries in 2011 that contributed to his totaling just 26 receptions, one fewer than undrafted rookie free agent Dane Sanzenbacher and only slightly better than the 20 he had in 2007, the year before he became a full-time receiver.

Hes heard the criticisms: You get listed as that No. 1 receiver but youre not making 1,000-yard seasons, then red flags get thrown, Hester said. But Im capable of doing that.

The irony is that the single biggest potential drain on his potential opportunities Marshall is also the biggest believer in Hester outside of receivers coach Darryl Drake.

Marshall has not caught fewer than 81 passes in any of the last five seasons. Hester has never caught more than his 57 two years ago. Marshall has looked past the Hester numbers and it has meant a great deal to Hester.

When guys come in, like a Pro Bowl receiver Marshall, and see that you didnt have stats, some people would say, hes not really that good, Hester said, shaking his head.

But to come out and work with me every day and see what Im capable of, and be high on me -- that speaks for itself.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Not enough coronavirus testing for the Cubs

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Not enough coronavirus testing for the Cubs

David Kaplan, Gordon Wittenmyer and Maddie Lee discuss MLB's testing issue and what could it mean for the season. They also dive into the Cubs starting pitching with Jose Quintana being sidelined, and they make predictions on how many games the Cubs will win in the shortened season.

1:26) - How is baseball going to happen if there aren't enough tests for the players

(6:40) - Do the Cubs have enough on the roster to win this year

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Cubs news and analysis.

(12:45) - The pitching staff for the Cubs is light if Quintana can't play

(17:46) - How many games will the Cubs win this year?

(23:42) - Will Kris Bryant sign an extension with the Cubs?

Listen here or below.

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Why Cubs core's desire to sign extensions might not matter anymore

Why Cubs core's desire to sign extensions might not matter anymore

The day after Kris Bryant suggested that first-time fatherhood and the dramatic reality of world events have changed how he looks at his future with the Cubs, general manager Jed Hoyer outlined why it might be all but moot.

Setting aside the fact that the Cubs aren’t focusing on contract extensions with anyone at this time of health and economic turmoil, the volatility and unpredictability of a raging COVID-19 pandemic in this country and its economic fallout have thrown even mid-range and long-term roster plans into chaos.

“This is without question the most difficult time we’ve ever had as far as projecting those things,” Hoyer said. “All season in projecting this year, you weren’t sure how many games we were going to get in. Projecting next season obviously has challenges, and who knows where the country’s going to be and the economy’s going to be.”

Bryant, a three-time All-Star and former MVP, is eligible for free agency after next season. He and the club have not engaged in extension talks for three years. And those gained little traction while it has looked increasingly likely since then that Bryant’s agent, Scott Boras, would eventually take his star client to market — making Bryant a widely circulated name in trade talks all winter.

MORE: Scott Boras: Why Kris Bryant's free agency won't be impacted by economic crisis

The Cubs instead focused last winter on talks with All-Star shortstop Javy Báez, making “good” or little progress depending on which side you talked to on a given day — until the pandemic shut down everything in March.

Báez, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber are both also eligible for free agency after next season, with All-Star catcher Willson Contreras right behind them a year later.

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Cubs news and analysis.

None has a multiyear contract, and exactly what the Cubs are willing to do about that even if MLB pulls off its 60-game plan this year is hard for even the team’s front office executives to know without knowing how hard the pandemic will continue to hammer America’s health and financial well-being into the winter and next year.

Even with a vaccine and treatments by then, what will job markets look like? The economy at large? The economy of sports? Will anyone want to gather with 40,000 others in a stadium to watch a game anytime soon?

And even if anyone could answer all those questions, who can be sure how the domino effect will impact salary markets for athletes?

“There’s no doubt that forecasting going forward is now much more challenging from a financial standpoint,” Hoyer said. “But that’s league-wide. Anyone that says they have a feel for where the nation’s economy and where the pandemic is come next April is lying.”

The Cubs front office already was in a tenuous place financially, its payroll budget stretched past its limit and a threat to exceed MLB’s luxury tax threshold for a second consecutive season.

And after a quick playoff exit in 2018 followed by the disappointment of missing the playoffs in 2019, every player on the roster was in play for a possible trade over the winter — and even more so at this season’s trade deadline without a strong start to the season.

Now what?

For starters, forget about dumping short-term assets or big contracts for anything of value from somebody’s farm system. Even if baseball can get to this year’s Aug. 31 trade deadline with a league intact and playing, nobody is predicting more than small level trades at that point — certainly not anything close to a blockbuster.

After that, it may not get any clearer for the sport in general, much less the Cubs with their roster and contract dilemmas.

“We have a lot of conversations about it internally, both within the baseball side and then with the business side as well,” Hoyer said. “But it’s going to take a long time and probably some sort of macro things happening for us to really have a good feel for where we’re going to be in ’21 and beyond.”

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