Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are exploring ways to improve the roster of The World Series Champions. Epstein and Hoyer have spent the week in Scottsdale at the GM Meetings talking to teams and agents. And the Cubs focus this off-season is pitching, pitching and the outfield.
According to the Sun-Times, the Cubs are “expected to be in the middle of heavy traffic of winter trade talk.”
The Cubs are searching for “starting pitching depth, bullpen additions and a complementary piece in center field to use with second-year Albert Almora Jr.” Gordon Wittenmyer added the Cubs “don’t plan to deal from their young big league core.”
The Cubs could use Jorge Soler as a trade chip to acquire a starting pitcher according to multiple reports.
Albert Almora Jr. is a candidate for center field with Dexter Fowler likely leaving and signing a multi-year contract with another team. The Cardinals, Giants, Mets and Blue Jays are the teams that have been linked to Fowler over the last week.
The Cubs could look outside of the organization for a centerfielder to pair with Almora Jr. which would leave Jason Heyward in right field. Theo Epstein addressed Almora Jr. playing center field and the team’s plans for the position next season.
“I wouldn’t rule out the job being his, but I think it would be more likely that we would acquire someone to compliment him and allow him to grow into the job more gradually.”
The Cubs view Heyward as the team’s right fielder. Heyward won his third straight Gold Glove in right field. Heyward became the first position player in history to win a Gold Glove in three consecutive years for three different teams. And Joe Maddon has a comfort zone with Heyward in right field.
The Cubs are also looking for young, controllable starting pitching and relievers.
Jed Hoyer said, “Pitching is priority number one and will be for a long while. We have the position player group. I believe the fans will see these same players for a long time on the position-playing side. Our job now is to balance that out.”
“On the way to winning, you can take some really nice chances. You can give a guy like Arrieta an opportunity to progress. You can do some experiments to give young guys opportunities. Once teams win, there seems to be a tendency for teams not to take risks. There is a danger in that type of thinking. The minute you stop developing an Arrieta or a Hendricks, I think you are in trouble.”
“This look at adding on is something we are really focused on. We do not want to fall into that rut. We want to give guys opportunities. Sometimes you are going to fail doing that. Some may not succeed. We still must take that risk in order to continue to grow as an organization,” Hoyer said. “The tendency for successful teams sometimes is to get stale. We are going to try to avoid that trap as much as we can.”
Aroldis Chapman is believed to be looking for a $100 million contract which would double the record setting deal Jonathan Papelbon signed with the Phillies five years ago.
The Yankees have already reached out to Chapman’s agents. The Dodgers are reportedly very interested, so are the Nationals, and the Giants met with his agents Wednesday according to multiple reports.
According to Henry Schulman, the Giants “will meet with reps for every closer” and will talk with every team that has a closer available in trade.
Reports have suggested the Cubs are interested in re-signing Aroldis Chapman. Reliable sources have indicated otherwise. While it could be a possibility, the Cubs are not looking to spend what it would take to re-sign Chapman.
Mike Montgomery recorded the final out in Game 7 of The World Series eight days ago. Montgomery’s first professional save will never be forgotten.
The Cubs view Montgomery as a starting pitcher moving forward. And by declining Jason Hammel’s option, there is an opportunity for him next season in the Cubs rotation.
During an interview Wednesday on MLB Network, Montgomery said he is “coming into Spring Training as a starter.”
The Cubs would like to see Montgomery grab a spot in the rotation. Joe Maddon loves him and feels he can be very successful in a big league rotation if he trusts his stuff and listens to his coaches.
Montgomery was 1-1 in 17 games, five starts, with the Cubs after he was acquired in July with a 2.82 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. Montgomery allowed 15 runs on 30 hits with 20 walks and 38 strikeouts in 38 1/3 innings.
Montgomery was 1-1 with a 3.28 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in seven games as a starter (17 runs, 13 earned, 28 hits, 14 walks, 34 strikeouts, 35 2/3 innings). And he finished the season a combined 4-5 with a 2.52 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 3.79 FIP in 49 games, seven starts, with the Cubs and Mariners.
News, Notes and Rumors
• Theo Epstein said Jason Heyward has a plan in place “to work extreme hard this winter to rediscover the things that made him a good offensive player.” The Cubs are confident Heyward will bounce back from his struggles at the plate this past season in his second year with the team.
• The Cubs have not talked to Jake Arrieta’s agent about a long term contract.
• The Cubs are focused on acquiring young pitching in the off-season according to Bruce Levine.
• The Sun-Times reported Theo Epstein defends Joe Maddon over criticized pitching moves in World Series.
• Cubs’ blueprint for success is out there, but it’s difficult to replicate according to Bruce Levine.
• Joel Sherman reported the Cubs’ biggest off-season focus as (mostly) contented champs.
• The A’s are not looking to trade Sonny Gray coming off “a year that was unfortunate” according to Joel Sherman.
• The Pirates talked to the Nationals about a huge Andrew McCutchen trade at the deadline according to Ken Rosenthal. The Pirates are considering moving McCutchen to right field, according to Buster Olney, and going with an outfield of Gregory Polanco in left, Starling Marte in center and McCutchen in right.
• The Braves are looking to upgrade their rotation and would prefer to do so via free agency, according to Jon Paul Morosi. The Braves have the players to acquire either Chris Sale from the White Sox or Chris Archer from the Rays.
• Josh Collmenter avoided arbitration with the Braves and signed a one-year, $1.2 million contract for next season.
• And speaking of the Braves, it sounds like Ender Inciarte is available again this off-season … of course for the right price. The Orioles are looking for a left-handed bat and to upgrade their outfield defense. Jon Heyman reported Inciarte or Brett Gardner is the type of player the Orioles is looking for.
• The Nationals would “love” to have Mark Melancon back according to Jon Heyman.
• The Astros are interested in acquiring Brian McCann from the Yankees according to Jon Paul Morosi.
• Anthony Rizzo will be in Kris Bryant’s wedding in January.
• The Cubs are looking to make White House visit before President Obama leaves office according to Patrick Mooney. Theo Epstein said “there was a lot of interest from our players” in accepting the invitation President Obama made after the Cubs won The Series. Epstein added the team is looking into it. “There was some momentum for it. So we’ll see. Nothing has been finalized. But we’ll see where it goes. It would be nice given his Chicago ties.”
This Day in Cubstory
2010 – Cubs granted free agency to Brad Snyder
2008 – Geovany Soto won the National League Rookie of the Year Award
2006 – Cubs signed free agent Koyie Hill
2000 – Cubs signed free agent Brian Banks
1988 – Cubs released Jerry Mumphrey
1987 – Rick Sutcliffe finished two points behind Steve Bedrosian for the NL Cy Young Award (57-55) in the closest vote in Cy Young Award history.
1986 – Aaron Crow, born
1982 – Cubs granted free agency to Bump Wills
1974 – Micah Bowie, born
1964 – Keith Lockhart, born
1951 – Mike Vail, born
1948 – Cubs selected Lefty Sloat from the Brooklyn Dodgers in the Rule 5 Draft
1948 – Cardinals selected Ed Sauer from the Cubs in the Rule 5 Draft
1947 – Senators selected Len Okrie from the Cubs in the Rule 5 Draft
1947 – Red Sox selected Johnny Ostrowski from the Cubs in the Rule 5 Draft
1930 – Hippo Vaughn was reinstated by Commissioner Judge Landis after eight years of being out of the league. Vaughn pitched for the Cubs in 1922 but a salary dispute forced him to pitch for a semi-pro team. Vaughn went to Spring Training with the Cubs in 1931, but failed to make the team.