Joe Maddon is already fielding questions about his lineup for next season. The Cubs’ skipper will not sway far from what has worked for him. Maddon will play matchups and rely on scouting reports while using “whatever inspiration” he gets while riding his bike or listening to music according to Comcast SportsNet.
Maddon is going to talk to Jason Heyward to find “his comfort level regarding hitting leadoff.” Maddon is not saying that Heyward will bat at the top of his lineup but he wants “to know his comfort level leading off.”
Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist figure to hit ahead of Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber with the way the Cubs’ roster is currently constructed. Maddon told Patrick Mooney that Zobrist doesn’t care where he hits “he’s just out there to win.”
Maddon is thinking mainly about 1-4 in his lineup and would like to “keep a right-left, right-left kind of component.” Zobrist is a switch-hitter and will help with the mix. Maddon did say his catchers would “probably be more towards the bottom of the batting order.” The report did not say whether or not Maddon planned on batting his pitcher eighth again or not.
Heyward hit at the top of the Cardinals lineup just four times last season. Heyward was 0-for-4 in the only game he batted leadoff with a pair of strikeouts. For his career, Heyward has a .280/.354/.427 line in 126 games batting leadoff with a .782 OPS.
Joe Maddon said he’s written “a couple of things down” but right now “it’s really important” to talk to Heyward. For some players it matters where they hit in a lineup and Maddon said he really wants “to know how people feel.”
Javier Baez has gotten off to a slow start at the plate in Winter Ball. Baez has two hits in his last two games and he reached base three times Wednesday. Baez went 1-for-3 with two walks and no strikeouts.
While Baez is 4-for-23 in seven games, he has more walks (5) than strikeouts (4) in 23 at bats. Baez has a .174/.321/.304 line with a home run and a .626 OPS.
Baez is expected to play center field at some point for Santurce. Over his first seven games, Baez has played shortstop and second base.
Jake McGee and Jake Odorizzi
Two of the Rays’ pitchers the Cubs were connected to during the Winter Meetings were back in the news Thursday.
Jon Heyman reported Thursday the Dodgers were in talks with the Rays for Jake Odorizzi. And Jayson Stark added there was a lot of buzz about Andrew Friedman making a deal with his old team for pitching. Stark reported Odorizzi might be at the top of the list of pitchers the two organizations are discussing.
Marc Topkin reported last week the Rays and Odorizzi were working on a contract extension. Topkin questioned Thursday if Odorizzi rumored to be on the move meant talks between him and the Rays either stalled or broke off completely. Topkin spoke with Odorizzi’s camp and was told “nothing new today on either front.”
According to Topkin, the Dodgers and Rays might be discussing a deal but his sources indicated a trade was not imminent.
Jon Heyman reported later in the day that the Rays “continue to talk to teams about lefty reliever Jake McGee.” Heyman said he would fit the Dodgers “and others.” The Cubs are believed to be interested in acquiring McGee.
Updates were not provided on the talks between the Dodgers and Rays. According to Marc Topkin, the Rays are exploring a number of options with several teams.
And one of those teams could be the Rockies. Ken Rosenthal reported the Rockies talked to the Rays “about an outfielder for starting pitcher swap.” But with Kevin Kiermaier, Steven Souza, Desmond Jennings and Brandon Guyer, Tampa would likely want prospects in return for a starting pitcher.
Former Cubs in New Places
OF Ryan Sweeney, RHP Casey Coleman, OF/1B Mike Baker, RHP Blake Parker and OF Justin Ruggiano signed contracts with new organizations.
Ryan Sweeney did not play in 2015 after the Cubs released him in April but he will be in Spring Training with the Twins. Sweeney signed a minor league contract with Minnesota, a team that has been following him since his high school days in Cedar Rapids. In parts of two seasons (147 games) with the Cubs, Sweeney hit .258/.313/.391 with 22 doubles, two triples and nine home runs for a .704 OPS.
The Mariners inked three former Cubs players to minor deals with non-roster invites to big league camp. Casey Coleman (2008-13, 2010-12 in majors), Mike Baxter and Blake Parker will be in Peoria, Arizona with the Mariners during Spring Training.
Parker dealt with injuries last season and did not appear in the majors. Parker finished his Cubs’ career with a 2-3 record in 74 games in the majors with a 3.68 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. Parker pitched in only three games last season for the Iowa Cubs.
Justin Ruggiano received a Major League deal. Ruggiano inked a one-year, $1.65 million contract that includes an incentives package with the Rangers. Ruggiano was traded a year ago to the Mariners and finished the 2015 season with the Dodgers.
News, Notes and Rumors
• Jason Heyward says he owes Addison Russell after number swap according to a report from Comcast SportsNet.
• Scott Boras has informed teams interested in free agent outfielder Denard Span that “he will be available for workouts after New Year to show he’s healthy.” According to Jerry Crasnick, the Mets, Orioles, Royals, Giants and Padres are “among the clubs that could fit for Span if he’s recovered from September hip surgery.”
• Alex Pavlovic explained how the ‘nimble’ Giants moved quickly after losing Zack Greinke.
• The Brewers and Pirates made a trade Thursday night. The Pirates acquired 1B/3B/OF Jason Rogers for OF Keon Broxton and RHP Trey Supak.
• During an interview on WEEI in Boston, Theo Epstein said the Cubs were a distant third in the bidding for LHP David Price. The Cubs fell “roughly $50 million short of Boston’s offer.” The Red Sox inked Price to a seven-year, $217 million contract.
• The Indians finalized the one-year contract with OF Rajai Davis. And designed 3B Chris Johnson and the remainder of his contract ($17.5 million) for assignment to make room on the roster for Davis.
• Jerry Crasnick reported Shane Victorino is healthy for the first time in two years “and supremely motivated to show he’s not done at age 35.” The Indians are one of the teams, along with the Padres and Orioles that could be a fit for him. Cleveland was looking at him and Rajai Davis as back-up options if they could not trade for at least one outfielder. The Indians are looking for a power-hitting outfielder because their prospects need more time in the minors.
• The Mariners announced late Thursday they re-signed Hisashi Iwakuma to a one-year contract. His deal includes two vesting options for 2017 and 2018. The Dodgers backed out of the agreement with Iwakuma after he failed a physical. The Dodgers will end up rebounding from losing Iwakuma. But the Dodgers are viewed as a mess right now throughout the game.
And last, but not least, a photo from @WrigleyBlog on the status of the old ballyard.
This Day In Cubstory
2013 – Cubs signed free agent John Baker
2013 – Cubs signed free agent Tommy Hottovy
2013 – Cubs signed free agent Ryan Kalish
2009 – Cubs acquired Carlos Silva and cash from the Mariners for Milton Bradley
2008 – Cubs signed free agent Andres Blanco
2003 – Cubs signed free agent Todd Hollandsworth
2003 – Cubs signed free agent Jalal Leach
2000 – Cubs signed free agent Jason Bere
1997 – Cubs signed free agent Micah Franklin
1992 – Cubs signed free agent Tommy Shields
1992 – Cubs signed free agent Willie Wilson to a two-year contract
1992 – Cubs granted free agency to Doug Dascenzo, Doug Strange, Jerome Walton and Ken Patterson
1990 – Cubs released Bill Long
1987 – Rex Brothers, born