DeJesus reflects on first season in Chicago

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DeJesus reflects on first season in Chicago

When Theo Epstein and the rebuilt front office entered free agency last November, David DeJesus was exactly the type of player they were targeting.

The veteran outfielder didn't earn a 100 million contract, but he brought solid defense, an ability to work the count and a professional approach to the 2012 Cubs.

DeJesus's deal -- 4.25 million a year for two seasons with a 6.5 million option or a 1.5 million buyout -- has provided the framework for free agents during Epstein's second offseason.

The Cubs don't plan on making a splash this winter and kicked free agency off with a one-year deal worth 5.5 million (with 1.5 million in incentives) with right-handed pitcher Scott Baker Tuesday morning.

Baker began his career in the American League Central, where DeJesus played for the Royals from 2003-10.

"He's a quality guy," DeJesus said before appearing on Chicago Tribune Live Wednesday evening. "I faced him a lot in Minnesota. He's one of those guys that's gonna throw strikes and be able to move the ball around the plate. I'm excited to see what he does."

DeJesus didn't exactly "own" Baker over the years, but he collected seven hits in 24 at-bats against Baker with three extra-base hits and a pair of walks.

DeJesus entered free agency last season coming off his worst year in the big leagues, hitting just .240 in 506 plate appearances. He turned things around in 2012, boasting a .350 on-base percentage while playing all three outfield spots and spending most of the year in the leadoff spot in the lineup.

But the Cubs still endured their first 100-loss season since 1966 and the roster was turned upside down as Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer determined which players were pieces for the future.

Still, DeJesus, who has a house in Wheaton, Ill., enjoyed his first season in Chicago.

"It's been awesome being able to live in my offseason home," he said. "It's great to call this my home town. The fans have been great. We had a tough year on the ball field, but everything else has been great.

"I've been through a couple 100-loss seasons already, but we're professionals. We have to take every game for what it is. You don't want to be a part of a season like that, but we were and we're just going to keep moving forward and not looking back."

By the end of the season, the Cubs' roster featured a heap of players getting their first taste of major-league action and DeJesus -- who will turn 33 next month -- said he tried to lead by example.

"I just try to be the guy so the young players understand that he's going to prepare himself the same every day," DeJesus said. "It doesn't matter if we're losing on the field. It doesn't matter if we're super high or super low. Our job is to go out there and be professionals. Prepare ourselves mentally and physically everyday for the next day."

Brett Jackson entered 2012 as the Cubs' top outfield prospect and made his MLB debut late in the season, striking out 59 times in 120 at-bats.

"He has to do a little work in the offseason," DeJesus said. "I talked to him a lot. He just has to get his confidence up and he has so many tools out there. I think he's going to be a good player."

DeJesus knows the Cubs are still a ways off from contention, but with almost the entire winter left, the 10-year veteran is staying positive.

"I'm hoping Theo does his thing," he said. "We need some pitching. Everybody knows that. Guys that are going to throw strikes and can eat up innings. That's really what our focus should be right now."

Cubs reportedly set to trade Jorge Soler to Royals for Wade Davis

Cubs reportedly set to trade Jorge Soler to Royals for Wade Davis

It appears as if the Cubs have answered two big questions surrounding Joe Maddon's team this winter.

With so many solid options in the fold to play everyday in the lineup, the Cubs now reportedly have one less guy to worry about in the outfield and one more pitcher to add into the late-inning mix.

USAToday's Bob Nightengale reported late Tuesday night the Cubs and Kansas City Royals had a deal in place with pitcher Wade Davis coming to Chicago and Jorge Soler acting as the return piece, though the deal was not official yet as of Wednesday morning.

[RELATED - Wade Davis trade would give Cubs a proven October closer]

As Nightengale also said, the Cubs gave up a lot for Davis, who will become a free agent after the 2017 season and was limited to only 43.1 innings in 2016 due to forearm issues:

Soler has struggled to stay healthy and cash in on his enormous potential during his two-plus years in the big leagues with the Cubs, but he is still young (he'll turn 25 in February) and won't become a free agent until after the 2020 season.

The main question with Soler entering 2017 was going to be where he would play — and how often — given Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward, Jon Jay and Albert Almora were already in the outfield mix and the anticipation Ben Zobrist would also see some time in the outfield with Javy Baez locking down second base.

It's no surprise to see Soler dealt this winter, but as David Kaplan said on Tuesday's CubsTalk podcast, Theo Epstein's front office is all about years of control, but if the deal goes through, they will have traded four years of control of a guy who was their top trade chip for only a year of control on a relief pitcher who has averaged only 61 innings per season the last three years.

However, if the 31-year-old Davis is truly the only return, he helps give the Cubs a boost in 2017.

[SHOP CUBS: Get your Cubs gear right here]

Davis — who spent the first four years of his big-league career pitching for Maddon in Tampa Bay — has emerged as one of the premier relief pitchers in baseball over the last three years.

In that span, Davis tallied a 19-4 record with 47 saves in 54 chances, a 1.18 ERA and sparkling 0.892 WHIP. He also struck out 234 batters in 182.2 innings while giving up just three homers. 

As the Cubs look to defend their first World Series title in more than a century, Davis would help shore up the bullpen and given his past experience, would figure to be able to pitch more than just the ninth inning come playoff time (if healthy). Davis would add another elite option alongside Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. in Maddon's remodeled bullpen.

Soler should benefit from a clear path to consistent playing time with the Royals, especially moving to the American League where he can slot in at designated hitter which may ultimately be his best position.
 

Hawks Talk Podcast: Marian Hossa keeps producing as Blackhawks find chemistry

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: Marian Hossa keeps producing as Blackhawks find chemistry

In the latest episode of the Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle is joined by Steve Konroyd and Tracey Myers following the Blackhawks 4-0 shutout win over the Coyotes.

The crew breaks down how the Blackhawks keep finding ways to win, how Marian Hossa has remained a top-six forward and how the team seems to have finally found some chemistry without Jonathan Toews and Corey Crawford.

Listen to the latest episode below: