Cubs

MLB team won't have best player for 4-8 weeks

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MLB team won't have best player for 4-8 weeks

From Comcast SportsNet
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- Evan Longoria took a right turn out of the Tampa Bay clubhouse and walked a few feet before stepping in front of a group of reporters huddled around a lineup board that will not list his name for the next four to eight weeks. The three-time All-Star was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a partially torn left hamstring Tuesday. Replacing his bat and glove won't be easy. Yet the Rays are confident they'll be OK without their best player, who's hitting .329 with four homers and 19 RBIs. "I've been in similar situations before and it's just one of those things where I'll stay positive," the third baseman said. "It's going to be tough to watch, but I can't really worry about it right now. I've just got to worry about getting healthy." The Rays received the test results before Tuesday night's game against the Seattle Mariners. Longoria was injured Monday while running to second base on an attempted steal. He slid into the bag and remained on the ground for a moment before climbing to his feet and walking to the dugout without assistance. Elliot Johnson replaced him following the third inning and eventually delivered a game-winning RBI single in the 12th inning of a 3-2 victory. The Rays have a knack for finding someone to step up when star players are struggling or hurt. That's one of the reasons they are confident they can withstand Longoria's absence. "We're still a really good team. We're going to have to be that much better defensively, that much better with our execution on the basepaths," executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. "Our pitching's going to be very good. We're going to score runs," he added. "So it's one of those things where it's definitely not ideal, but we do have a ton of talent around him that should still allow us to win a lot of games." The Rays have made the playoffs three of the past four seasons, including 2008 when they won the AL East and made an improbable run to the World Series. That year, nearly every starter spent time on the disabled list, including Longoria. Tampa Bay lost the slugger for 26 games early last year and recovered from a slow start to rally from a nine-game deficit in September to win the AL wild card on Longoria's game-ending homer on the final night of the regular season. "I don't have any doubts," that teammates will step up and help the Rays continue a strong start, Longoria said. "We've been down this road before," manager Joe Maddon said. "There's no crying in baseball. ... You just try to make the best decisions afterward and move forward. But you can't worry about it. You don't talk about it negatively because that can bring you down." The Rays purchased the contract of infielder Will Rhymes from Triple-A Durham. To make room on the 40-man roster for Rhymes, reliever Kyle Farnsworth was transferred from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day DL. Johnson was in the lineup again Tuesday night. Another utility infielder, Jeff Keppinger, may also get some starts at third while Longoria is out. "It's not clear yet how much time he'll miss. It will be a minimum of four weeks. Somewhere in the four to eight (range), depending on how he responds and how treatment goes," Friedman said. "He's always been a pretty good healer. He's had some hamstring issues in the past and has come back from them pretty quickly, relatively speaking, so we're not going to put a firm timeline on it." Longoria was sidelined by a strained left oblique muscle most of the opening month a year ago. He had a strong second half, finishing with 31 homers and 99 RBIs. He helped the Rays to a 15-8 record in April -- the second-best opening month in franchise history -- and thought he had left his problems with injuries behind him. "It's just one of those things. Driving home last night, I was thinking I can look in the mirror and say I've done everything that I can do to try to prevent these kind of things," Longoria said. "My hamstring just doesn't cooperate with me sometimes."

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.

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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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Cubs' GM Jed Hoyer: Everyone in MLB has to take COVID-19 'equally' serious

Cubs' GM Jed Hoyer: Everyone in MLB has to take COVID-19 'equally' serious

Veteran umpire Joe West made waves Tuesday downplaying the severity of COVID-19 in an interview with The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. 

“I don’t believe in my heart that all these deaths have been from the coronavirus," West said. "I believe it may have contributed to some of the deaths.”

As far as the Cubs are concerned, those comments don’t represent how to treat the virus. In fact, they’ve gone out of their way to ensure everyone treats it with equal severity.

“That’s one of the things we've really tried internally to instill in our players and our coaches,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said Tuesday, “[that] everyone here has to take it equally [serious].”

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Hoyer noted like the world, MLB isn’t immune to people having different viewpoints on the virus — those who show concern and those who don’t. This echoes comments made by manager David Ross earlier on Tuesday, and Hoyer said those he’s talked to with the Cubs don’t feel the same way as West.

The Cubs had an up close and personal look at pitching coach Tommy Hottovy’s battle with COVID-19 during baseball’s shutdown. It took the 38-year-old former big leaguer 30 harrowing days to test negative, and in the past week many Cubs have said watching him go through that hit home. 

“When you get a 38-year-old guy in wonderful health and he talks about his challenges with it,” Hoyer said, “I think that it takes away some of those different viewpoints.”

To ensure everyone stays safe and puts the league in the best position to complete a season, MLB needs strict adherence to its protocols.

“I think that's one of our goals and one of the things that we feel is vital is that we have to make sure everyone views this the same way, because we can't have a subset of people within our group that don't view it with the same severity,” Hoyer said.

“That’s not gonna work. We're not gonna be successful."

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