The Cubs and Cardinals continued taking jabs at one another Tuesday. And if the sparring the two long-time rivals have done this off-season is any indication, it’s going to be very interesting when the two teams square off next season.
Theo Epstein said last week, “The Cardinals are going to be a formidable opponent next year and for years to come. They are going to take the resources they didn’t commit to Jason Heyward and John Lackey and reallocate them to other players.”
“The approach I take with the Cardinals is the same one that I used to take with the Yankees when I worked in Boston,” Epstein said. “I don’t pay close attention to their moves in the off-season, and I kind of forget them, just focus on our own club and expect them to win their 95 to 100 games every year, and realize that’s a standard we have to set for ourselves if we want to win the division.”
The Cubs-Cardinals rivalry stepped it up several notches last season. After being dominated early in the year, the Cubs learned how to beat the Cardinals and likely would have caught them for the division crown if not for the big lead they built in the first half.
Joe Maddon added fuel to the fire after Anthony Rizzo was thrown at in retaliation for Matt Holliday being hit by Dan Haren. Maddon called out St. Louis for the ‘Cardinals Way’ and said what the rest of baseball has been thinking for years.
Jason Heyward’s comments during his introductory press conference last week did not sit too well with his former skipper. And Mike Matheny made sure to point out that what he said would not go over in the Cardinals’ clubhouse.
Peter Gammons got to the bottom of Heyward’s comments, but his report has yet to make the headlines. Heyward talked to his former teammates and explained to them why he was signing with the Cubs. And according to Heyward, they understood his decision.
Heyward even told Gammons he sees why Matheny reacted the way he did because of the way his comments were presented to him.
According to Buster Olney, the Cubs and Cardinals rivalry is going to be the second biggest storyline in baseball when the 2016 season gets underway.
The Cubs were 8-11 in the 19 games versus the Cardinals in the regular season before beating them in the NLDS.
The first series of the season between the Cubs and Cardinals is April 18-20 at Busch Stadium. The Cubs return to St. Louis in May (May 23-25) and the Cardinals first trip to Wrigley is in June (June 20-22).
The Cubs and Cardinals will put the gloves on 19 times next season. And the way it’s shaping up, each game is going to be like a heavyweight boxing match that lasts at least nine rounds.
The Cardinals introduced their new starting pitcher Tuesday. Mike Leake signed a five-year, $80 million contract with St. Louis to return to the NL Central. Leake received a full no-trade clause and a mutual option for a sixth year that could “increase the total value to $93-94 million range” according to Ken Rosenthal.
With Leake replacing Lance Lynn and a healthy Adam Wainwright taking the spot occupied by John Lackey at the end of the season, the Cardinals rotation is better, on paper, now than the one that wrapped up a 100-win campaign.
Mike Leake told the St. Louis media during his introductory press conference that he wouldn’t mind taking the Cubs down.
Leake has had quite a bit of success against the Cubs and at Wrigley Field, where he made his debut on April 11, 2010. Leake is 9-2 in 19 career starts versus the Cubs with a 3.15 ERA and 1.13 WHIP, and at Wrigley he is 3-2 in 10 starts with a 4.20 ERA and 1.15 WHIP.
The Dodgers are interested in Maeda and have maintained contact with his agent, according to Jon Paul Morosi.
There are concerns around the game if he can hold up physically to pitching every five days in the big leagues. Maeda reportedly has a ceiling of a No. 2 starter in the majors, but due to the work load he might fit better at the back of a rotation.
The Cubs are one of numerous teams that have been connected to free agent outfielder Denard Span, but he could be looking for a bigger contract than teams are willing to give him.
Span has scheduled a workout next month for interested teams to see he is fully healthy after missing a majority of last season with injuries. Span was believed to be looking for a one-year deal when the off-season started so he could rebuild his value and try to sign a long-term deal next winter.
According to a report from Mike Puma, Scott Boras “has been telling teams three years for Span.” The Mets shifted gears and signed Alejandro De Aza to platoon in center with Juan Lagares. Puma explained, “The Mets didn’t want to get involved” with Span on a three-year contract “and risk getting shutout.” The Mets also had concerns about Span’s health. Mike Puma also reported the Mets did not want to sign OF Gerardo Parra to a multi-year contract.
John Smoltz – FOX Sports
FOX Sports announced changes to its telecasts for the 2016 season. Hall of Famer John Smoltz will serve as lead analyst on FOX Sports’ Major League Baseball for the regular season and postseason.
Smoltz will join Joe Buck in the booth, replacing Harold Reynolds. FOX is apparently switching back to a two-announcer booth. Tom Verducci is not returning to the booth for the 2016 season.
According to the New York Daily News, Verducci and Reynolds could be part of FOX’s coverage and “could include studio work or other reporting. FOX is still considering various options for its broadcasts.”
News, Notes and Rumors
• Dexter Fowler saw his market reduced by one team Tuesday. The Mets were believed to be one of the teams interested in Fowler, along with the Giants, Marlins, Nationals and Padres. The Mets inked Alejandro De Aza to a one-year, $5.75 million contract that includes a $1.25 million incentives package. De Aza will reportedly platoon in center with Juan Lagares.
• According to David O’Brien, the Braves “have received considerable trade interest” in OF Ender Inciarte. O’Brien does not think the Braves will trade him.
• Ken Rosenthal reported Tuesday that the White Sox are showing interest in Alex Gordon. The Southsiders would like to upgrade their outfield and add a left handed bat. Gordon would fit what the Sox are looking for this winter and weaken the Royals at the same time. It’s believed the Royals would still like to re-sign Gordon, but the World Series Champs might not be able to afford him.
• Former Cubs’ RHP Marcos Mateo could be on his way to Japan. Mateo spent last year with the Padres organization after six seasons with the Cubs. Mateo took a physical Tuesday for the Hansin Tigers according to Dennis Lin. If he passes, Mateo will likely pitch in Japan next year.
• Padres’ GM A.J. Preller told Dennis Lin “his top priority remains finding a shortstop.” Preller said the “off-season is still young.”
• LHP Scott Kazmir could be getting close to signing with a team. According to Jon Heyman, the Nationals, Orioles and Royals are interested in the lefty. The Cardinals are no longer in the mix for Kazmir after signing Mike Leake. Jon Paul Morosi confirmed the Royals interest in Kazmir and reported Kansas City is “working hard to add a starting pitcher.”
• According to Jerry Crasnick, the Royals, Pirates, Orioles, Brewers and Rays “have checked in” on free agent RHP Mat Latos. Crasnick thinks Latos could be looking for a one-year deal to re-establish his value.
• The Indians signed LHP Ross Detwiler to a minor league contract.
• According to Bob Dutton, the Mariners are interested in signing former Cubs-reliever-for-a-minute RHP Ryan Cook.
This Day In Cubstory
2014 – Cubs signed free agent David Ross
2014 – Cubs signed free agent Chris Valaika
2014 – Cubs selected Mike Kickham off waivers from the Giants
2014 – Orioles selected Ryan Lavarnway off waivers from the Cubs
2014 – Brewers selected Shane Peterson off waivers from the Cubs
2013 – Cubs selected Brett Marshall off waivers from the Yankees
2013 – Orioles selected Liam Hendriks off waivers from the Cubs
2011 – Cubs acquired Travis Wood, Dave Sappelt and Ronald Torreyes from the Reds for Sean Marshall
2008 – Yankees announced two exhibition games against the Cubs would be the first ballgames played in new Yankee Stadium in April 2009. Bleacher seats for the exhibition games with the Cubs were cold for .25 cents and grandstand tickets for $1.10, the same cost of tickets when the original Yankee Stadium opened in 1923.
1997 – Cubs traded Doug Glanville to the Phillies for Mickey Morandini
1994 – Cubs granted free agency to Jose Bautista
1991 – Cubs signed free agent Chico Walker
1982 – Brad Nelson, born
1941 – Ken Hubbs, born
1941 – Milwaukee (American Association) purchased Johnny Hudson from the Cubs
1939 – Cubs released Carl Reynolds
1933 – Elder White, born
1900 – Danny Taylor, born
1880 – Doc Gessler, born