The Chicago Cubs remain a non-factor in the Bryce Harper sweepstakes.
Rumors began spreading across social media on Saturday that the Cubs quietly met with Harper on Friday, though even those rumors cautioned that no deal was anywhere near close. The rumors also turned out to be false, at least according to Patrick Mooney of The Athletic, with a Cubs source saying there was no truth to that story.
The Cubs have made clear over and over that Harper just isn’t on their radar. There is no reason to believe that stance is about to change, no matter what rumors pop up online.
While it was not exactly a secret, one of Bryce Harper’s closest friends in baseball made it pretty clear that the two wouldn’t be playing together next season.
Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant said Harper wouldn’t be signing with the Chicago Cubs this offseason despite some rumors during 2018 that such a union was on the table.
Bryant and Harper grew up in Las Vegas together and played on the same Little League team, sparking rumors that the two would like to pair up. That may be true, but Bryant would know if Harper was coming, and he’s ruled it out just as definitively as his manager has. Harper’s ultimate destination remains a mystery, but the Cubs appear to be completely out.
You can count the Chicago Cubs out of the Bryce Harper sweepstakes.
Prior to this offseason, there was a lot of talk about the Cubs being contenders to sign Harper. After all, there had been rumors about wanting to play with the franchise. Fast forward to this offseason, and the Cubs just gave out a big contract to Yu Darvish, which was a bust in the first year, and they don’t seem to be eager to make another major financial commitment.
That’s why manager Joe Maddon said at a charity event on Tuesday that the team is not going to sign Harper. The information was shared by ESPN’s Jesse Rogers.
Chicago probably feels like their offense will be more than set if their players get healthy and turn things around in 2019. Not only that, but they need to save money to pay some of their guys, namely Kris Bryant when he hits free agency. For now, it seems another NL team is a leading contender for Harper.
The MLB offseason is already underway, as proven by the New York Yankees’ major acquisition of James Paxton from the Seattle Mariners. Still, the largest dominoes have yet to fall, and it may be another week or two — if not more — before that begins happening.
Thus, teams are, in a sense, still positioning themselves for the offseason. Payrolls are being plotted and free agents are being explored, while the trade market begins to come to life as well. But some teams, for a variety of reasons, need to be more active than others given the places where their franchises are.
Here are ten teams who are facing very important offseasons for the future of their franchise.
10. San Francisco Giants
The Giants find themselves in a precarious position a year after an eventful offseason saw them go all-in to contend in 2018. They ended up losing 89 games thanks to injury and underperformance from some of their bigger names. Now, new president Farhan Zaidi is tasked with charting a path forward. How he handles this offseason could tell us a lot. The Giants can spend if they want to, but it seems unlikely that another free agent will put them over the top. Such a signing could ultimately hinder them in the long run. Alternately, they could try to dismantle some of their valuable pieces, but that would prove controversial. It’s a big decision that will have long-lasting impacts.
The Chicago Cubs announced on Tuesday that Jim Hickey has stepped down as the team’s pitching coach, citing personal reasons.
The Cubs shared the news in a statement and said they are already looking for a replacement.
The Cubs also parted ways with hitting coach Chili Davis after the season, so they will have a few new members of their coaching staff for 2019.
Theo Epstein was not happy with the team’s season, so it’s no surprise that they’ve begun making changes. Manager Joe Maddon is still signed through next season, but whether he will return beyond that likely depends on how next season goes.
The Chicago Cubs expected to win multiple championships with their current core when they finally broke a 108-year World Series drought back in 2016, but they are coming off back-to-back disappointing finishes. If things don’t start looking up next season, the man in charge of personnel decisions says there will be some major changes.
Speaking with reporters this week, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein called 2019 a “pivotal year” for the organization.
While the Cubs have aging veterans like rotation leader Jon Lester, their infield is loaded with under-30 stud players including Kris Bryant, Javy Baez and Anthony Rizzo. They should also at the very least kick the tires on Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, so it’s not as if their championship window is going to slam shut.
If anyone should take note of Epstein’s comments, it is probably Joe Maddon. The manager is entering the final season of his contract, and the Cubs are not planning to talk about an extension with him this winter. There were reports that he was on the hot seat heading into the playoffs, and Chicago lost to the Colorado Rockies in the NL Wild Card Game. Maddon probably needs a deep playoff run next season to keep his job.
The Chicago Cubs are not planning to address Joe Maddon’s contract status until late next year.
Maddon is entering the final year of his contract as the Cubs’ manager and set to make $6 million in 2019. Managers typically don’t like to enter the final year of a contract without an extension in place, but Maddon and his agent appear to understand the circumstances.
Cubs president Theo Epstein told the Chicago Sun-Times’ Gordon Wittenmyer that he wants to see how 2019 goes before addressing the situation.
Epstein called the 2019 season a “pivotal” one for the Cubs and said that they could be ready to make big changes if things don’t go well.
If the Cubs have a great season next year, it seems like they would be inclined to retain their core players and leadership, such as Maddon. If things don’t go well enough, they might want to bring in a different manager. And if the season becomes a disaster, who knows how many changes they could make.
A previous report suggested there is occasionally a tense relationship between Maddon and Epstein. Despite that, they have teamed for great success the past four years. The team has won the NL Central twice, won their first World Series in over a century, and reached the playoffs all four years. However, losing in the NL Wild Card Game is not a satisfactory result for Epstein, which is why he is not committing to Maddon beyond next season.
Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are the two biggest free agents on the market this offseason, and the Chicago Cubs are a big-market, successful team looking to improve. It would stand to reason that they might get involved in the bidding for either player, but that might not be the case.
The Chicago Sun-Times’ Gordon Wittenmyer wrote in a column on Friday that he believes the Cubs are signaling a potential “creatively financed, more constrained winter” this offseason.
The Cubs got below the luxury tax in 2018 and have reset the escalating penalty timeline, which some thought would free them for a pursuit of the big free agents. However, Wittenmyer points out that the team traded Drew Smyly to the Rangers in a salary dump to clear room to exercise their contract option on Cole Hamels. They’re projected to have a payroll of around $204 million next year once arbitration players are retained, which wouldn’t leave much room for high-priced free agents.
Plus, there was this comment from team president Theo Epstein after the Cubs’ season ended.
“We’ve spent a lot of money on players, and that’s not always the answer, to rush back out and spend more. Obviously, there are a lot of attractive players out there and some impact players out there, and we’ll get together and figure out what’s possible, what’s not possible and all the best approaches to this offseason.”
Those don’t sound like the words of a man who’s ready to go on a spending spree. Perhaps the Cubs feel that with a new hitting coach and having players like Kris Bryant and Yu Darvish healthy will give them a better shot at a deep postseason run.
All this may disappoint Harper, who has seemed to indicate an interest in playing for the Cubs.
The Chicago Cubs chose to part ways with Chili Davis last week after the hitting coach spent just one season with the team, and it sounds like he was not surprised by the move. In fact, we might even venture to say Davis feels relieved.
While reflecting on his brief tenure with the Cubs, Davis said Monday that he felt his message was lost on “millennial players” from the start.
“I guess I need to make some adjustments in the way I deliver my message to the millennial players now,” he said, via Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. “I need to make those adjustments for the next job I get, if there is one.”
Davis added that he “learned a lot” in his one year in Chicago, but he said he needs to be sure he can connect with a team’s players before he accepts another position.
“I hope that the next guy connects better with the players, because I felt that there were multiple players there I didn’t connect with,” Davis admitted. “It wasn’t that I didn’t try. It just wasn’t there.”
There was an obvious difference in philosophy between Davis and the Cubs’ front office. Davis wanted hitters to focus on driving the ball to the opposite field, which they were successful with over the second half of the season. However, Chicago’s power numbers and overall offense tanked, and Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said he wanted Davis to emphasize power and launch angle more.
According to Davis, that approach no longer works.
“But regardless of who’s (the hitting coach in Chicago next year), certain players there are going to have to make some adjustments, because the game’s changed, and pitchers are pitching them differently,” Davis said Monday. “They’re not pitching to launch angles and fly balls and all that anymore. They’re pitching away from that.”
Davis enjoyed success as the hitting coach with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland A’s before he arrived in Chicago, but the reports we have heard since his dismissal make it clear there were players who did not enjoy working with him. It will be interesting to see if that costs him future job opportunities.
The Chicago Cubs on Thursday made the unsurprising decision to fire hitting coach Chili Davis.
The Cubs’ offense tanked in the second half of the season, and the approach Davis was preaching ran counter to what the front office wanted to see. On top of that, The Score in Chicago’s Dan Bernstein reports that the feedback about Davis from the players was negative. Players reportedly felt their swings or approaches had been negatively altered.
The firing seemed to be the cumulative product of feedback from players as well as statistical evidence.
Davis wanted players to hit to the opposite field, which they were successful in doing. But the approach may have cost them in the power department, as the players did not put the ball in the air as much and the team’s slugging percentage dropped.
Having Kris Bryant healthy for a full season, plus a potential big free agent added to the lineup, should do wonders for the team’s offense next year.