Cubs Close to Signing Brandon Morrow, Ex Dodger Reliever

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By Richard Kagan

The Chicago Cubs are reportedly near finalizing a deal with ex Dodger reliever Brandon Morrow, who starred in the Dodger’s post-season.

Morrow faced the Cubs in the 2017 NCLS and was virtually unhittable. He allowed one hit, and  7 strike-outs in 4 2/3 innings.  He mowed down Cubs hitting with a sizzling 97 mph fastball.

During the regular season, Morrow, 33, had an ERA of 2.06 and did not allow a home-run. Morrow was used as the set-up man to Kenley Jannsen, the closer for Los Angeles.

It is not known how Morrow would be used, but he is a quality reliever. The deal is reportedly for two years at approximately $11 million a year. It is believed that Morrow has to take and pass a physical before this deal can go through.

The Cubs are in the process of re-making the Bull pen. Closer Wade Davis is still out there, and it is thought the Cubs and his agent will be in talks during the Winter Meetings, which start today in Florida.

Morrow appears to be an excellent pick-up for the Cubs.  Chicago hope he can continue to be a force late in the game, as he was for LA.

The Winter meetings signal the real start of the Hot Stove League, the time during the off-season, when clubs add key players to their roster.  Giancarlo Stanton just signed a deal with the NY Yankees. Stanton, the former Marlins’ slugger now joins a team top heavy with hitters with Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez.

Morrow can only help the Cubs’ Bull pen which was inconsistent during the season and in the playoffs.

 

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Signing: It’s not Ohtani, it’s Tyler Chatwood, Pitcher

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By Richard Kagan

The Chicago Cubs signed free-agent Tyler Chatwood, 28 to the starting rotation.

Chatwood, who has been in the majors for seven years, does not possess impressive stats, yet the Cubs see an upside to him as he nears his prime. Last season he led the National League with 15 losses. His ERA in Coors Field was 5.17 and away from home, it was 3.76.

The Cubs have a three year 38 million deal with Chatwood. Someone in the front office saw something they liked. Chatwood is a ground ball pitcher and the Cubs have a good defense. So, here hopes the combination mixes well.  There is some gamble to this deal. Perhaps the next one won’t be done with one eye opened.

The Cubs need bodies and good pitchers in the rotation. I am sure more moves will be made. Theo Epstein made his pitch to Ohtani the other day. The Japanese pitcher was talking to five west coast team and the Texas Rangers. Did the Cubs make the final cut? We will soon see. This international rookie can throw high heat and supposedly bat like Babe Ruth.  It would be quite a get to lure Ohtani to the Windy City.

The rotation currently has Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana.  It is unlikely that Jake Arrieta would return.  He is looking for a mult-year deal that the Cubs don’t want to offer.

The Hot Stove League is heating up and Esptein and company are making their moves. This is their time to play “front office deal-making.” This is part of their job description.

Cubs fans hope it turns out great.

 

Calm Before The Roster Change

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By Richard Kagan

The Cubs front office went to the Winter meetings in Florida and are back from that confab. There, Scott Boras held court pontificating on all the money the Cubs had to spend, therefore, why not spend it on his client, Jake Arrieta, officially a free-agent.

It looks like it may be a high powered waiting game. Arrieta had great years with the Cubs and was big in the post-season. He won two world series games, especially that important game 6. The Cubs got to a game 7 and history was made.

If Arrieta goes, I will have fond memories. He pitched two no-hitters. One coming in Los Angeles against the Dodgers.  When I was a young fan, Sandy Koufax was no-hitting the Cubs. So, good one for Jake in Dodger Stadium. Then he threw another one in 2016 in Cincinnati when the Cubs won in a rout.

The Cubs are looking at pitcher Alex Cobb of Tampa Bay. He had a 12-10 record last year and is commanding the attention of teams interested in a pitcher who is coming off a major arm injury. Such is the world of baseball. Maybe Cobb is healthy now. He knows John Maddon and Jim Hickey, the new Cubs pitching coach. I heard him being interviewed and said he would be interested in talking to the Cubs. I am pretty sure the Cubs are interested in talking to him.

The Cubs need to finalize their Bull pen and one way in taking a long stride in doing that is resigning closer Wade Davis to another contract. Davis was great last season. He blew just one save all season. When it was time to lock the game down he was just about automatic. Even if you are close to automatic in that role, you’re doing something right.

It’s going to come down to dollars for Davis to come back. From my view, he is the best in the market. If the Cubs want a great pitcher, just re-sign the man.

The Cubs have moved to the land of contenders — that’s where Theo Epstein wants this team, to be in the mix in the playoffs.  The Cubs have been in the last three NLCS’s, Chicago fans are proud to point out. But only competitive in one of them, when they out-lasted the Dodgers in 2016. They were practically shut out by the Mets in 2015 and this past season, the bats again fell silent against the Dodgers.

One thing is for sure, the Cubs were never in the same conversation with the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Now, they are.  The Cub will make good moves because they have the best baseball operations man in the game in Epstein. It’s going to be a new season with some new faces in key spots. We just don’t know who they are.

We will find out soon enough.

Arrieta Being Shopped Around by Boras

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By Richard Kagan

Scott Boras, the super-agent for Jake Arrieta gave a 45 minute address at the site of the General Manager’s Winter Meetings and called Arrieta the type of pitcher who can bring a club to “playoffville.”

Arrieta has been great for the Cubs but he is expected to sign a free-agent deal with another club for more years than what the Cubs want to pay.  In other words, Jake is ready for his big pay-day.

Boras spoke of Arrieta is terms of Clayton Kershaw, and Justin Verlander, the top pitchers in playoff competition.  Arrieta has the numbers to prove it: (in playoffs): 52.2 IP, ERA: 3.08, SO: 66 BB:21, Opp Avg.: .189.  Arrieta won two World Series games in Cleveland and now has the ring to show for it. He’s pitched two no-hitters as a Cub. One in Los Angeles, the other in Cincinnati. He won the 2015 Cy Young Award as best pitcher in the National League. Note: Max  Scherzer was named this year’s winner of the Cy Young Award for the National League. Although Scherzer got roughed up in the thrilling game five in the series with the Nationals. The votes were compiled prior to the start of the playoffs.

Boras is shopping Arrieta around, to a team who wants to turn the corner to go deep in the playoffs. If the Mets or Yankees want to make a big splash, maybe they can afford him.

But his run with the Cubs is likely over. The only way he remains with the Cubs is that the asking price may be too high. If so, Boras may turn around and work out a deal with Theo Epstein for a shorter contract. That however, is wishful thinking.

He was a great pitcher and will go down in Cubs history.  Jake, sorry to see you go.

 

 

 

 

 

Cubs Hire New Coaches; More Change Is Coming

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By Richard Kagan

Manager Joe Maddon said in one press conference he thought all his coaches would be back. Meaning there would not be any changes in the near future. A few weeks later, The Cubs hired Jim Hickey from Tampa Bay to replace the recently departed Chris Bosio. Bosio was a surprise to leave the team because he had turned around Jake Arrieta from a young raw pitcher to a pitcher with new found everything that went on to win the 2015 Cy Young Award.  He also helped Kyle Hendricks become a top-line starter a few years after joining the starting rotation. The Cubs had too many walks in the playoffs.

John Mallee was let go as the batting coach for the widely respected Chili Davis. Davis had hit for power in his long career, won two Titles, and had been an All-Star three times as a player.  He had worked in Boston and oversaw the young hitters on that team. He was hired to help hitters in situational hitting situations. The Cubs became an offensive force as the summer progressed. And, drove in a slew of runs, as one of the top run producing teams in the League. But they left a lot of men on base. Davis was bought in to work on that phase.

Dave Martinez who had worked as a bench coach for ten years, but his tenure with the Cubs is coming to an end. He was hired to manage the Washington Nationals, who earlier had parted ways with Dusty Baker.  The announcement to be made official after the World Series finishes. Brian Butterfield was named as third base coach replacing Gary Jones.

There is a bench coach opening. Some say David Ross would be perfect. I think it is time to move on.

This team has gone through something in this playoff round in 2017.  They are just the second team in franchise history to make three post-season appearences since the team from the Teddy Roosevelt era, and that is quite a ways back. I think it is time to turn over a new leaf, (note the Fall metaphor). They can promote Henry Hyde who was the first base coach to bench manager. Or bring in another person.

What’s more important is that a Cubs Culture is being created. This team is a contender. It belongs with the good teams and if the Cubs are good enough, perhaps they can win another Championship.

Winning Titles doesn’t happen overnight. Cubs fans can attest to that. However, it doesn’t have to take 108 years to win one either. Say goodbye to the curses, the lost opportunities, and Billy Goat.

Theo Epstein has a plan and that is to fashion a good team that can play with the best in the Majors.

One has to be strategic, have a plan, and make bold decisions. Part of that plan, was to usher in new coaches. The team seems to be closing the book on 2017, learning the lessons from this past year, so it can be ready when the pre-season starts.

The Hot Stove League is warming up. The cold winter months are when the deals are made. It can be just as heated and competitive as the regular season.

Dodgers Rout Cubs 11-1 to Take NL Pennant

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By Richard Kagan

For Cubs fans, the suspense ended early. The Los Angeles Dodgers, with a 16 hit attack, took out the Chicago Cubs in a barrage of hits and long balls.  LA’s Kike Hernandez hit three home runs, including a grand slam blast to put an exclamation point in just the third inning.

By then the score was 7-0 Dodgers and starter Jose Quintana was headed to an early shower. The rest of the Cubs BP didn’t stem the tide, and the Dodgers coasted to the win. Clayton Kershaw give up just one run, a homer to Kris Bryant, and that’s all the scoring the Cubs could muster. The Cubs lost in a 11-1 rout. If it was a boxing match, it would have been called early. This game was one-sided and it showed in the team’s total bases: Dodgers 30, Cubs 7.

Justin Turner and Chris Taylor were named co-MVP’s for the series, which the Dodgers won in five games. Turner batted .333 and drove in 12 rbi’s. Taylor was all over this series, getting key hits and playing different positions. He batted .316 in five games. The Cubs, meanwhile hit .156 BA and had struck out 53 times. Anthony Rizzo, one of their hitting stars, batted .059.  Their eight runs scored on home runs, not one was driven in with a runner on a base. The Dodgers pitching was that dominant. The relief corps did not allow a Cub run to score in the late innings.  The Cubs managed just four hits off LA pitching in the clinching game.

Hernandez hit home runs in the 2nd, 3rd, and 9th innings and drove in 7 runs in the game. His three home runs was reminiscent of Reggie Jackson’s three home runs hit in the World Series against the Dodgers in Yankee Stadium in 1977.

The Dodgers were the better team and they will play the winner of the Houston-New York series that the upstart Yankees lead 3-2 in the best of seven series.

The Cubs won the Central Division for the second straight year. The club had the second best record since the All-star Break in the Majors behind Cleveland, who went on a 22 game winning streak during the summer. The Cubs had good starting pitching as Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks had strong second-halves. Arrieta is a free-agent and may be looking for a big payday, based upon his production with the Cubs. He won the Cy Young Award in 2015. Chicago has been the NLCS in three consecutive years.

However, it’s back to the drawing board for the Cubs. Their core players are young and talented with a World Series pedigree. They have the revenue to find the missing pieces they need. The team traded away blue-chip prospects in Dylan Cease and Eloy Jimenez to land Quintana, who was a boost to the Cubs.

The Cubs drew over 3 million fans to a ballpark that seats 41,000 people.  The Cubs will learn from this experience and it could help them to contend again in the upcoming seasons.

 

Cubs Win 3-2, Davis Shines in Relief; Force a Game 5 Tonight

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By Richard Kagan

The Chicago Cubs season continues for at least another game.

The Cubs, facing elimination if it lost vs. the Dodgers, beat them 3-2, in a nail-biting finish, to extend the series to a fifth game, Thursday night. The Cubs trot out Jose Quintana who will face ace Clayton Kershaw of LA.

The Cubs just don’t do anything easy in these playoffs. Chicago had a 3-1 lead heading into the 8th inning, when ace closer Wade Davis came into the 8th for a six-out save. Mgr. Joe Maddon saved Davis for this moment, to start a clean inning and try to shut down the vaunted Dodgers.

It almost didn’t work. Justin Turner hit a home run off Davis to cut the lead to 3-2 with no outs in the 8th inning. Davis labored hard, throwing almost 30 pitches, but did get out of the inning. But not before some controversy. LA’s Curtis Granderson swung and missed at a third strike, for an apparent out. But the Dodgers thought he had foul-tipped the ball. This play could not be reviewed. Although the replay played on the scoreboard, showed that Granderson did not hit the ball and should be called out.  Nevertheless, the umpires met as a group and decided that Granderson did foul-tip the ball and deserved to continue his at-bat.

Manager Joe Maddon popped out of the Cubs dug-out and protested animatedly. He eventually was ejected from the game. Granderson got another pitch which he missed for a third strike. The Wrigley crowd cheered loudly on that K.

Chicago scored all its runs on home runs by Willson Contreras who hit a ball off the video scoreboard in left-center field. It was a bomb and gave the Cubs the early 1-0 lead in the second inning.  Javy Baez hit two homers breaking out of his slump in an emphatic way.

Pitcher Jake Arrieta pitched 6 2/3 innings of 3 hit ball, allowing just one run, a home run, and he kept the Dodgers at bay while eating up innings. He threw 111 pitches and gave it his all. He departed to a standing ovation. It may have been Arrieta’s last performance as a Cub. He becomes a free-agent at the end of the season.

Javy Baez’s two home runs gave the Cubs  a 3-1 cushion that seemed more than it actually was. The Cubs had finally scored some runs. Now, it would be up to Wade Davis to close the deal.  He did, pitching 47 pitches in the final two innings. The last two outs came on a double play to end the game.  Cubs stepped up last night in Contreras, Baez, Arrieta, and Wade Davis. The Cubs trail the Dodgers 3-1 in the series, Thursday night is another elimination game. If LA wins, the series is over, if the Cubs win, it goes back to LA for game 6.

No one knows what is going to happen, because Chicago may be just getting started.