Cubs believe they can prove doubters wrong

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Cubs believe they can prove doubters wrong

Walk around the locker rooms here at Fitch Park in Mesa, Ariz., and to a man, the Chicago Cubs will tell you that they love the position that they are in. Absolutely no one unconnected with the team believes they have a snowballs chance on a hot Chicago summer day of having a successful season.

However, this new edition of the Cubs really and truly believes that they have a team that can stun the baseball pundits because they are playing for each other. Gone are the distractions of the past few years from Carlos Zambrano to some of the bloated contracts that belonged to underperforming players who have now moved on to other teams.

Players who were "me-first" guys like Aramis Ramirez are no longer on the roster and while he takes with him a productive bat, he also takes with him an attitude of lazy play that would never be tolerated by the new administration.

We have a great group of guys in here that are all pulling on the same end of the rope," Reed Johnson told me this morning before workouts began. "We dont have a team that can wait on three-run home runs to happen so that means that we have to do the little things correctly to win baseball games."

Starter Ryan Dempster is looking to help lead a starting rotation that has greatly improved depth from a year ago despite a lack of impact, arms except for Matt Garza.

We know that we have those that doubt what we can accomplish but everyone is really trying hard to impress the new bosses and I really like the makeup of the team we have here in camp, said Dempster.

Camp is full of interesting stories about guys who are looking to bounce back from subpar performances such as third baseman Ian Stewart, who comes over from Colorado after a brutal 2011 campaign.

David DeJesus had an injury-plagued season in Oakland but is now 100 percent and is going to open the season as the leadoff hitter and right fielder. He, too, senses something special in the air in Cubs camp.

I love the attitude I am seeing from everybody here. We are taking everything in that manager Dale Sveum is saying and it is all business with him. Guys are playing hard and I am going to do all I can in the leadoff spot to set the table for our run producers, DeJesus said.

Everyone in here came to win a championship, said second baseman Jeff Baker. "We really believe in each other in here and the attention to detail and the emphasis on playing the game the right way has been stressed by Dale and his staff since Day 1. It is up to us to execute and to get the job done."

While the question marks on this rebuilding team are many, there are some bright spots early in camp. The starting pitching depth being one and the play of some guys with a lot to prove -- such as Bryan LaHair -- being another.

Add in the newly bulked up Darwin Barney -- who gained nearly 15 pounds of muscle to help him handle the rigors of a long season -- and the improvement expected from star shortstop Starlin Castro and the optimism is somewhat understandable for an improved season over 2011 when the Cubs lost 91 games.

However, while improvement is one thing, making a run to the postseason is quite another. Johnson, though, believes the impossible is within the Cubs reach.

We are working very hard here in spring training," he said. "If we play up to our abilities, we know what we can accomplish. The attitude in here is great. That is what makes it so exciting to be a part of this team."

MLB releases postseason shares for Cubs

MLB releases postseason shares for Cubs

The Cubs' postseason shares were released Tuesday afternoon amid the craziness of the White Sox-Red Sox Chris Sale deal.

Fresh off a World Series win, the Cubs handed out 66 full playoff shares, worth $368,871.59 each. The organization also dealt 8.7 partial shares and four cash awards.

As champs, the Cubs received a share of $27,586,017.75 of the players' pool, which is formed from 50 percent of the gate receipts from the American League and National League wild card games and then 60 percent of the gate receipts from the first three games of the Division Series, the first four contests of the League Championship Series and first four games of the World Series.

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The 2016 players' pool set a new record at $76,627,827.09, up from the 2015 total of just under $70 million.

2015 champion Kansas City Royals received share amounts of just over $370,000 last season, split into 58 shares.

The Cleveland Indians received more than $18 million from the 2016 players pool.

The Los Angeles Dodgers and Toronto Blue Jays — runners up in the LCS — tallied more than $9 million from the players' pool.

Why Greg Holland would make sense as next Cubs closer

Why Greg Holland would make sense as next Cubs closer

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – Why would the Cubs give up young talent to get Wade Davis when they could just sign the other closer who helped transform the Kansas City Royals into World Series champions?

That question frames how the Cubs are looking at their closer situation during the winter meetings, with industry sources saying Greg Holland remains a free-agent target and on track to be ready for Opening Day 2017.

At that point, Holland will be 18 months out from Tommy John surgery, an injury that allowed Davis to take over as closer during Kansas City’s playoff run in 2015. Davis maximized that opportunity, putting up a 0.00 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 10.2 postseason innings. Davis earned his second All-Star selection this year while Holland rehabbed his right elbow.

But the Royals can see their window to contend closing, with Davis, first baseman Eric Hosmer, third baseman Mike Moustakas, shortstop Alcides Escobar, outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson and left-hander Danny Duffy all positioned to become free agents after the 2017 season.

Holland had been a big part of that core, a homegrown Royal who saved 145 games between 2011 and 2015, made two All-Star teams and showed up twice in the American League MVP voting.

When Kansas City made it all the way to Game 7 of the 2014 World Series, Holland notched seven saves and posted a 0.82 ERA during those four playoff rounds.

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The Boston Red Sox are no longer in the mix for Holland, a team source said after filling that late-inning need with Tuesday’s Tyler Thornburg trade with the Milwaukee Brewers, a deal that got blown away by the Chris Sale blockbuster

Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer predicted the White Sox would be the Chicago team making the big headlines here at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center outside Washington, D.C., downplaying the possibility of making a huge splash.

The Cubs have checked in with Kenley Jansen’s camp, industry sources said, and signaled that they have no interest in bringing back Aroldis Chapman. The Los Angeles Dodgers – and essentially all of the teams involved in the Jansen/Chapman discussions – are also particularly intrigued by Holland, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network and FanRag Sports.

The San Francisco Giants already handed Mark Melancon the biggest contract ever for a closer, though Jansen and Chapman could both get deals longer than four years and will shatter that $62 million record.

If Davis will cost, say, Jorge Soler plus $10 million in salary, then the Cubs could decide to invest in Holland’s upside and use the Cuban outfielder in a different trade for pitching.

Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop almost disappeared during the playoffs, but the Cubs think that can be largely written off as late-season injuries and issues of timing and sharpness. The Cubs believe in Carl Edwards Jr., but still had to carefully manage his innings and appearances during his rookie season.   

Whether or not Holland is the ultimate answer, the Cubs plan to give manager Joe Maddon some shiny new toys for the bullpen.