Two questions that have surfaced since the Cubs won The World Series earlier this month, where will Ben Zobrist and Javier Baez play next season? Zobrist and Baez are under contract and will not be traded. But with Zobrist playing left field throughout the postseason and Baez starting at second base, it has been assumed that Baez will be the Cubs’ everyday second baseman next season with Zobrist moving full-time to the outfield. And that’s not the case according to a report from Comcast SportsNet.
Theo Epstein told Patrick Mooney, “We’re going to continue to lean on the versatility of all the players involved and use that to get some rest for guys and continue to put a good lineup out there every day and try to tailor the offense for that day’s opposing starting pitcher, as well as the defense for our starting pitcher. We’ll continue to try to be thoughtful about it, but not commit to any one position for any one player, except for some of the obvious ones.”
When Zobrist signed last year, one of the reasons he picked the Cubs was the commitment the front office made to him to mainly play second base instead of moving around the field.
Joe Maddon would not commit to Zobrist not being the team’s second baseman down the road while the Cubs were trying to win The Series. Maddon could only focus on what was in front of him at the time. Maddon did say that Zobrist playing the outfield in the postseason “had nothing to do with next year.”
Patrick Mooney pointed out that Javier Baez is the Cubs insurance at shortstop, third base and first base and that “winning 103 games only reinforced the importance of depth and flexibility.”
Joe Maddon used the roster flexibility to the Cubs advantage last season. There is no reason to think at this point with the way the roster is currently constructed the Cubs will try to change the winning formula that produced a World Series Championship.
Baseball’s current CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) expires Thursday and the two sides spent Monday working on a new agreement.
Buster Olney reported “club officials understand that if sufficient progress isn’t made this week in CBA talks, teams won’t participate in Winter Meetings.”
As Keith Law pointed out, if the CBA negotiations impact the Winter Meetings it would be a huge mistake for the sport.
According to Ken Rosenthal, owners “backed off the new International draft as a requirement for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.” The owners backed off the International draft “from a desire to move the talks forward but has yet to achieve desired effect” according to Rosenthal.
Rosenthal also reported the two sides are “still far apart on luxury tax rules” but that is “often the last part of any deal.”
Cubs, Rays and Chris Archer
Jim Bowden reported last week on his MLB Network Radio Show that the conversations between the Cubs and Rays this off-season have included Chris Archer. Bowden indicated at the time that Jorge Soler and Ian Happ were part of the talks but did not provide any more information.
Bowden posted four trades he would like to see made before the Winter Meetings. And one of the deals, Chris Archer being traded to the Cubs in what would be a blockbuster deal.
Bowden would like to see the Cubs acquire RHP Chris Archer, CF Kevin Kiermaier and RHP Alex Colome for 2B/OF Ian Happ, OF Jorge Soler, OF Albert Almora Jr. and RHP Carl Edwards Jr.
The trade would save the Rays money and give them three big league players right now, plus Happ who projects as an everyday player at either second base or in the outfield.
Bowden’s reasons make sense but the trade he proposes seems light for the Rays and favors the Cubs. The Rays would seem to want more in return for just Chris Archer.
News, Notes and Rumors
• Cubs aim to build around nucleus at the Winter Meetings according to Carrie Muskat.
• Even with Theo Epstein, the Cubs won’t have an easy time building a dynasty according to John Perrotto.
• Jake Arrieta is the only starting pitcher that held both left-hander and right-handers to a batting average under .200 this past season according to Jayson Stark.
• According to Ken Rosenthal, the Diamondbacks “expect increased trade interest in young starting pitchers” with the addition of Taijuan Walker to the roster. The Cubs were one of the teams in heavily on Shelby Miller before he was traded from Atlanta to Arizona in the lopsided deal last year.
• The Braves acquired Alex Jackson and a PTBNL from the Mariners for RHP Rob Whalen and RHP Max Povse.
• Expanding roster would mean more relievers … and that’s terrible for baseball according to Tom Verducci.
• Ken Rosenthal reported Zack Greinke is “drawing minimal trade interest.”
• The Twins hired Michael Cuddyer, LaTroy Hawkins and Torii Hunter as special assistants to the baseball operations department. And according to Ken Rosenthal, the Twins plan on giving their minor league managers and coaches time off during the season.
• The White Sox are looking for a return in a deal for Chris Sale that is “through the roof” according to Ken Rosenthal and there are teams that doubt the Sox will be able to land the type of package it would take to acquire the left-hander. Rosenthal detailed six ‘can’t touch’ players on teams that are interested in trading for Sale. And the list has six of the biggest young players in baseball … Andrew Benintendi (Red Sox), Rougned Odor (Rangers), Julio Urias (Dodgers), Trea Turner (Nationals), Alex Bregman (Astros) and Dansby Swanson (Braves).
• Buster Olney reported Mike Rizzo’s track record says the Nationals could pull off a Chris Sale trade.
• According to Buster Olney, the Cubs have been told the White Sox will not trade Chris Sale to them.
• And the White Sox signed catcher Roberto Pena to a minor league contract.
• The Marlins parted ways with pro scouting director Dave Keller according to Jerry Crasnick.
• The Yankees released RHP Nathan Eovaldi. The 26-year old right hander is not expected to pitch at all during the 2017 season as he recovers from Tommy John and surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon. Eovaldi figures to garner a lot of attention even with spending the year rehabbing from surgery. The Cubs have had a lot of interest in Eovaldi for several years.
NL Central News and Rumors
• According to Ken Rosenthal, add Josh Harrison to the list of players, that already included Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates are open to trading.
• The Cardinals granted C Brayan Pena his unconditional release Monday.
• The Brewers decided to non-tender 1B Chris Carter. The power-hitting first baseman will become a free agent instead of the Brewers paying him $9-10 million in arbitration according to Bob Nightengale. Instead of trying to trade Carter before Friday’s deadline, the Brewers designated him for assignment. Carter could still be dealt but the likelihood of that happening is very slim at this point.
• The Brewers signed Eric Thames to a three-year contract that includes a club option for a fourth year to play first base. According to Jerry Crasnick, the deal guarantees Thames more than $15 million.
• And the Cardinals are interested in Justin Turner according to Jon Paul Morosi.
This Day in Cubstory
1982 – Cubs purchased Jay Loviglio from the White Sox
1979 – Francis Beltran, born
1971 – Cubs selected Clint Compton from the Angels in the Rule 5 Draft
1971 – Cubs traded Ken Holtzman to the A’s for Rick Monday
1966 – Giants selected Hal Haydel from the Cubs in the Rule 5 Draft
1966 – Phillies selected Roberto Pena from the Cubs in the Rule 5 Draft
1966 – Orioles selected Al Severinsen from the Cubs in the Rule 5 Draft
1966 – Cubs traded Chris Krug and Wayne Schurr to the Angels for Donald Furnald and Mike White
1965 – Cubs selected Ty Cline from the Braves in the Rule 5 Draft
1965 – Cubs selected Clarence Jones from the Dodgers in the minor league draft
1965 – Cubs selected John Upham from the Phillies in the minor league draft
1960 – Howard Johnson, born