Buster Olney continued his rankings of the team units Wednesday. And the Cubs topped Olney’s list of the best infields in the game. Olney based the Cubs No. 1 ranking on input he received from evaluators and “for overall play, not just defense or offense.”
Anthony Rizzo finished fourth in voting for the NL MVP. Kris Bryant was the NL Rookie of the Year. Addison Russell showed how valuable he is to the team with his glove last year alone. And Olney called the addition of Ben Zobrist “the cherry on top of what appears to be the best and most well-rounded infield in the majors.”
Olney added, “Here’s another thing about this group: The players are all similar in personality and professionalism, and even if they weren’t the best group of infielders … which they are … they would have a great experience playing together.”
Buster Olney’s Top 10 infields in baseball: Cubs, Giants, Royals, Blue Jays, Rangers, Cardinals, Astros, Mariners, White Sox and Yankees. The best of the rest: The Red Sox, Dodgers, Braves and Nationals.
Jesse Rogers explained how the front office built the Cubs infield … two trades (Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell), two first round draft picks (Kris Bryant, Javier Baez) and one free agent signing (Ben Zobrist).
Theo Epstein has said countless times he is on the same page with Tom Ricketts and he is not worried or focused on his contract. Epstein reiterates every time he’s asked that he only time he thinks about his contract is when he’s asked about it.
Tom Ricketts has said multiple times this winter that he and Theo are on the same page. Ricketts was asked about Epstein’s extension Wednesday and he stuck to the same response … they talk every day and are on the same page, they just haven’t had a chance to sit down and work out the details.
Ricketts did say Wednesday an announcement about Epstein’s extension would not be made this weekend at the Convention.
Joe Maddon spoke with the beat writers Wednesday. And when asked if he thought the front office would make any more moves this off-season, Maddon said, “Honestly, there’s a lot of talk. But I’m working under the assumption … and I really mean this … that it’s going to look exactly like this when we go to camp. Do I anticipate anything? Not necessarily. I would imagine we’re pretty close to what we are going to look like when we get there and into the first part of the season. But if that’s the case, I have nothing to complain about.”
Maddon said last year prior to and during the Convention the Cubs were not close on making any moves. The front office traded for Dexter Fowler the Monday following the Convention.
The Sun-Times reported that Maddon acknowledged “the continuing efforts to add if possible.”
Notes from Cubs Caravan
Here are notes and a few tweets that hit the wire during Wednesday’s Caravan:
• Kyle Schwarber told ESPN Chicago, “I feel like we’re going to win the division. We showed what we can do when we’re all in it for the common goal.”
• Schwarber on the Schwarboard Home Run Ball from the Sun-Times, “If they don’t want to do anything with it I’ll take it. Definitely.” The Cubs removed the ball from atop of the Schwarboard after the post-season run was over.
• Kyle Schwarber has been working on his outfield defense and behind the plate this off-season. The Tribune said Mike Borzello “spent a few days with him in Tampa.” According to ESPN Chicago, Schwarber thinks he will be better defensively at both positions this season.
• Joe Maddon would not make any guarantees for the season according to the Sun-Times. Maddon thinks the Cubs “have a chance to replicate” what they did last year and hopefully win eight more games.
• Maddon told ESPN Chicago that Jason Heyward is “a top five player” and Ben Zobrist is “a top five human being.”
• The Cubs were one of 12 teams on hand Wednesday at Kieran Powell’s workout. According to Adam Berry, the Pirates, Rays, Reds, Rangers, Astros, Yankees, Padres, Cubs, Tigers, Mets and A’s are the 12 teams.
• Dennis Lin reported early Wednesday afternoon that he was told the Padres were out of the mix for Fernando Rodney … an hour later he heard the Padres are not out on Rodney and that the Padres “could offer him a chance to close.”
• The Braves are one of the teams that have shown interest in Yoenis Cespedes according to Jon Heyman. Mark Bowman does not think the Braves would sign Cespedes but he did confirm the team’s interest in him. Ken Rosenthal tweeted a reminder that he reported in September the Braves liked Cespedes “but that was before they put Hector Olivera in left field.” According to Rosenthal, the Braves would have to trade an outfielder in order to make room on the roster for Cespedes.
• Ender Inciarte was back in the news Wednesday. Several teams, including the Cubs, have talked to John Coppolella about his centerfielder. The Astros are the latest team to be linked to Inciarte. According to Jerry Crasnick, the Astros asked about him. But to have room, Crasnick thinks the Astros would have to trade Carlos Gomez.
• According to Mike Puma, the Mets “have been keeping tabs on Tommy Hunter.” The former Cubs and Orioles reliever is looking for a multi-year deal. The Mets are only willing to go one-year for relievers.
• Jon Heyman reported the Royals and Orioles are among the teams interested in RHP Yovani Gallardo. And the Royals and Astros are two of the teams in on RHP Ian Kennedy. Nick Cafardo linked the Cubs to Gallardo last Saturday and said the Orioles, Blue Jays, Pirates and Royals would be players for him on the right price. Ken Rosenthal confirmed the Royals are talking to both Gallardo and Kennedy.
• Phil Rogers thinks the Cubs and Rays matchup extremely well on multiple trades. “Nobody has more pitching to trade than the Rays, and no team seems as persistent in working to find a fit for that pitching than the Cubs.” Rogers posted five Cubs-Rays trades that he thinks makes sense, these “proposals” are his ideas and not actual rumors … 1) Jake McGee for Billy McKinney 2) Alex Cobb and Jake McGee for Chris Coghlan, Billy McKinney, Willson Contreras and Dan Vogelbach 3) Jake Odorizzi and Jake McGee for Javier Baez, Billy McKinney and Dan Vogelbach 4) Chris Archer and Jake McGee for Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, Billy McKinney and Dan Vogelbach 5) Chris Archer, Jake McGee and Kevin Kiermaier for Kyle Schwarber, Javier Baez, Billy McKinney and Gleyber Torres
News and Notes
• The Padres signed RHP Carlos Villanueva to a guaranteed one-year, $1.5 million contract according to Jeff Passan. Villanueva was 4-3 in 35 games with a 2.95 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 3.74 FIP for the Cardinals last season after spending the previous two years with the Cubs.
• Dexter Fowler’s ongoing free agency surprises Joe Maddon according to a report from the Tribune.
• According to Jon Heyman, Daniel Bard’s deal with the Pirates was completed Wednesday. Daniel Bard can make $1 million this season if he can pitch his way back to the majors.
• The Padres and Astros will play two Spring Training games at Fray Nano in Mexico City, Mexico on March 26-27.
• Jon Paul Morosi explained why this MLB off-season makes absolutely no sense in the outfield.
• The Pirates released former top prospect C Tony Sanchez.
• ESPN announced the new crew for Sunday Night Baseball. Jessica Mendoza and Aaron Boone will join Dan Shulman and Buster Olney to form the network’s new team on Sundays. Curt Schilling will be an analyst on Monday Night Baseball according to Adam Rubin and John Kruk returned to Baseball Tonight on a full-time basis.
This Day in Cubstory
2015 – Cubs signed free agent Francisley Bueno
2015 – Cubs traded Mike Kickham to the Mariners for Lars Huijer
2010 – Cubs signed free agent Mark Johnson. Johnson played only two games for Iowa in 2010 and joined the organization as the manager of the Boise Hawks in 2011. Johnson led the Kane County Cougars to the Midwest League Championship in 2014 and the Myrtle Beach Pelicans to the Carolina League Championship in 2015. Johnson will call the shots for Double-A Tennessee in 2016.
2010 – Cubs signed free agent Scott McClain
2005 – Cubs signed free agent Chad Fox
2002 – Cubs signed free agent Darren Lewis
2002 – Cubs released Phil Norton
2000 – Cubs signed free agent Jeff Huson
1987 – Billy Williams was elected to the Hall of Fame. Sweet Swingin’ Billy Williams played 16 of his 18 years in the big leagues with the Cubs where he punched his ticket to the Hall of Fame. Williams batted .296/.356/.503 with 402 doubles, 87 triples and 392 home runs for a .867 OPS. Williams walked (911) almost as many times as he struck out (934) while setting a NL record for consecutive games played (1,117).
1986 – Cubs selected Shawn Boskie in the first round, tenth overall pick, in January’s draft. Boskie signed with the Cubs on May 9, 1986.
1986 – Cubs selected Jerome Walton in the second round of January’s draft. Walton signed with the Cubs on May 12, 1986.
1986 – Cubs selected Ray Lankford in the third round of January’s draft. Lankford did not sign with the Cubs.
1986 – Cubs selected Derek Lee in the fifth round of January’s draft. Lee did not sign with the Cubs.
1986 – Cubs selected Ken Ramos in the sixth round of January’s draft. Ramos did not sign with the Cubs.
1983 – Cubs signed free agent Paul Moskau
1911 – Hank Gornicki, born