Cubs send Carpenter as Theo compensation

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Cubs send Carpenter as Theo compensation

The Theo Epstein compensation drama is finally over.

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Patrick MooneyChris Carpenter and a player to be named later going to Red Sox as compensation for Theo and another player.
Feb 21 via Twitter for iPhone Favorite Retweet Reply

Reports surfaced early this morning that the decision would come today.

Carpenter was rated as the Cubs' 14th best prospect according to BaseballProspectus and MinorLeagueBall.com.

Carpenter was the Cubs' third-round pick in the 2008 draft and made his major-league debut last season, boasting a 2.79 ERA in 9.2 innings. However, he clearly got a little lucky, as he allowed seven walks and had a WHIP at 1.97.

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound righty just turned 26 in December and can dial his fastball up to triple digits. He has struggled with walks in his career and was converted to a reliever in 2011 after kicking off his career as a starter.

The interesting thing is that each side will get a player to be named later. Meaning this drama just will not end completely.

Cubs.com's Carrie Muskat tweeted the players to be named later will be finalized by Apr. 15 and don't forget the compensation for Jed Hoyer has yet to be worked out:

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Carrie Muskat Players to be named later to be done by April 15. Comp for Hoyer to get done soon. Cubs Padres
Feb 21 via web Favorite Retweet Reply

Muskat also says the Cubs and Red Sox finalized the Theo compensation and MLB commissioner Bud Selig did not make the call.

5 things we learned about the Cubs in June

5 things we learned about the Cubs in June

As the Cubs get ready to open up a four-game series against the New York Mets on Thursday night, don't expect a magician in Citi Field’s visiting clubhouse, despite a few obvious parallels to last season.

The Cubs were also in New York on the final day of June in 2015, coming off arguably their worst stretch of the season (when they lost five straight to the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals). This summer, the Cubs have responded to their biggest speed bump – losing six of seven games to the Cardinals and Miami Marlins last week – by sweeping the Cincinnati Reds out of Great American Ball Park in a wildly eventful three-game series.

It's a little bit of deja vu for the Mets, too, as they are searching for an offensive identity for the second straight summer, just as the Cubs come into town. The Cubs will enter July with at least 51 wins and a share of the best record in baseball, now just a few percentage points separating them and the red-hot Texas Rangers.

Let's take a look at five things we learned about the Cubs in June:

1. They're not unstoppable.

Joe Maddon claims he doesn't believe in June swoons, but the Cubs just fought through their worst month of the season. But with a win Thursday, they will be 17-11 in June – only one game off May's pace (18-10 record).

The run differential (plus-170) is still almost double the next-closest team (Cleveland Indians at plus-91). Of course, the run differential soars while playing the Reds. The Cubs have scored 87 runs in those 10 games, or 21.1 percent of their runs for the season (412).

Also worth noting, this losing stretch coincided with a slew of injuries that included leadoff guy Dexter Fowler, role player Tommy La Stella and Jorge Soler, who had just started heating up before landing on the disabled list.

2. Kris Bryant is a superstar.

Bryant was already enjoying a pretty solid sophomore campaign before the series in Cincinnati, but he exploded for the best offensive game in franchise history on Monday night, and then added three more hits, two walks, an RBI and a pair of runs scored in the final two games at Great American Ball Park.

For June, Bryant enters play Thursday with a 1.058 OPS and is now on pace for 44 homers, 122 RBI and 128 runs scored with a .931 season OPS. 

Oh yeah, and over the past calendar year, he's leading the National League in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) – and ranking fourth in Major League Baseball – ahead of even 2015 NL MVP Bryce Harper.

There's no sophomore slump for Bryant, and at the age of 24, he continues to get better. With only 225 big-league games under his belt, he's already one of the best players in the league.

3. They absolutely need more bullpen help.

After a 2.72 bullpen ERA in April, Cubs relievers have posted ERAs of 3.80 and 3.93 in May and June, respectively.

Even elite closer Hector Rondon has struggled, blowing all three of his saves on the season over the last two weeks and allowing three of the five earned runs he's given up in 2016 in June.

Justin Grimm has a 5.79 ERA on the season and Adam Warren had allowed 13 runs over his last 17.2 innings before going down to the minor leagues to stretch out as a starter.

The Cubs are still searching for another left-handed arm in the bullpen. (Travis Wood is effective against both righties and lefties and serves as one of the long men in the bullpen.) The Cubs would also like another potentially dominant reliever to help take some of the load off Pedro Strop and Rondon at the back end of the bullpen.

4. This really is a great situation for young players.

The Cubs promoted two of their top prospects in June, and Willson Contreras and Albert Almora both hit the ground running.

Contreras has played three different positions and has posted a 1.067 OPS and 10 RBI in 12 games, while Almora is hitting .286 with a .776 OPS and hit his first big-league home run on Wednesday in Cincinnati.

The two rookies joined a list that includes Bryant, Addison Russell and Kyle Schwarber as young players who came up to the big-league level and flourished amid a contending squad.

Maddon and his coaching staff help create an environment where every player can feel comfortable.

5. The starting rotation couldn't keep that up forever. 

While Jon Lester continues to roll, Jake Arrieta has looked human in June with a 3.54 ERA and 1.36 WHIP. John Lackey carried a hot streak into the month before allowing 10 earned runs in 10.1 innings against the Cardinals and Marlins.

The Cubs still lead baseball by a wide margin with a 2.54 rotation ERA (almost a full run better than the Mets' 3.30 mark), but there's a different look about this pitching staff when Arrieta is struggling with his command and the bullpen is searching for consistency.

To be clear, those are still excellent numbers. Just not the video-game stats the pitching staff was putting up in the first two months of the season.

Cubs' Dexter Fowler hit in leg with bat by power-swinging toddler

Cubs' Dexter Fowler hit in leg with bat by power-swinging toddler

On this edition of Chicago's Funniest Home Videos, Cubs outfielder Dexter Fowler is all smiles after being hit in the leg by a power-swinging toddler.

Fowler, who is currently on the disabled list with a right hamstring injury, posted the video of an impromptu batting practice that broke out with his neighbors and a young left-handed prospect named Kellen.

Take a look for yourself and insert your own Bob Saget play-by-play voice.

Hilarious!

For those hardcore fans who are concerned with Fowler's health, it's all good, the 30-year-old was lightly struck in the left leg by a soft NERF bat and did not appear to be in any serious pain.

Although Kellen missed on his initial swing in the video, we're certain his swing will continue to develop over time. A few more training sessions with Fowler, who currently leads all National League outfielders in MLB All-Star votes, should only enhance his potential of becoming a real home run threat down the road. And who knows, maybe we'll see the young fellow suiting up for the Cubbies one day.

Setting the 'Panic City' scene for Cubs vs. Mets: Is this it for the defending NL champs?

Setting the 'Panic City' scene for Cubs vs. Mets: Is this it for the defending NL champs?

The tabloids are already asking the questions, even before the Fourth of July traffic starts, two weeks out from the All-Star Game. It’s on the New York Post’s website: “Is there anything else that can go wrong for the Mets?” And there’s this Daily News headline: “Will this week be the downfall of the 2016 Mets?”

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson delivered his “Panic City” line to the New York media last summer, right around the time Cubs manager Joe Maddon green-lit “Simon the Magician” for a performance inside Citi Field’s visiting clubhouse.

At the time, this looked like a potential National League Championship Series matchup, a made-for-TV, big-market battle between power pitchers and power hitters…maybe in 2017.

On July 2 last year, the Cubs finished off a three-game sweep in New York, giving them a 7-0 regular-season record against the Mets, who dropped to 40-40 before heading out to the West Coast to face Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke at Dodger Stadium and the defending World Series champs in San Francisco.   

The Cubs responded to getting swept by the Mets in the NLCS with a spending spree in free agency that approached $290 million, fueling World Series-or-bust, Embrace-The-Target expectations, moving to 25 games over .500 with a 9-2 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday at Great American Ball Park.

The Cubs (51-26) and Mets (40-37) will now play seven times between Thursday night in Queens and July 20 at Wrigley Field, which should give us a better idea of whether or not Alderson can pull another rabbit out of his hat at the trade deadline, if Maddon should be pressing the panic button on his bullpen phone and how realistic an October rematch might be. Setting the scene for this four-game series at Citi Field:

• The “Panic City” state of mind returned with this week’s revelations that Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard have been pitching through bone spurs in their elbows, showing how fragile New York’s championship hopes might be. This is why the Cubs have been so focused on building with young hitters, the idea that it’s too unpredictable to plan around elbows and shoulders and when pitchers might feel healthy.

The presence of Cubs coaches Chris Bosio, Mike Borzello and Lester Strode has almost created a cavalier attitude toward pitching and an extremely optimistic view of change-of-scenery guys and bounce-back candidates. And the Cubs understood Jon Lester had a bone chip in his left elbow when they signed him to a six-year, $155 million megadeal after the 2014 season.

But the Cubs have prioritized spending so much capital on their lineup – first-round picks, trade chips, free-agency dollars – because Theo Epstein’s regime sees hitters as more robust investments.

• The Mets saw what Ben Zobrist did for the Kansas City Royals in the World Series last October, toured him around the affluent suburbs in Westchester County and Connecticut during the offseason and even offered him a four-year contract that came with more guaranteed money ($60 million) than the deal the Cubs put together ($56 million).

Zobrist has cooled off in June (.672 OPS) after a red-hot May (1.137 OPS), but is in position to be the NL’s starting All-Star second baseman. The Mets quickly shifted gears at the winter meetings, trading a spare pitcher (Jon Niese) to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Neil Walker, who’s already hit 14 homers in his final season before free agency. The balance of power in the NL East, however, might have shifted when Daniel Murphy (.349 average, .964 OPS) – the Mr. October who crushed the Cubs in the playoffs – signed a three-year, $37.5 million deal with the Washington Nationals (who just swept a three-game series against the Mets).

• A full season of Yoenis Cespedes (18 homers, 45 RBI through 70 games this year) hasn’t dramatically changed New York’s offensive profile. The Mets entered Wednesday ranking 13th out of the NL’s 15 teams in runs scored (274, or 129 less than the Cubs). Corner infielders David Wright (neck surgery) and Lucas Duda (stress fracture in his lower back) are on the disabled list while catcher Travis d’Arnaud missed almost two months with a strained rotator cuff.

• The owners of professional sports franchises and the executives running those teams always talk about doing things the right way – and then act out of self-interest. It will be that way if the New York Yankees actually sell and the Cubs put a second-chance spin on closer Aroldis Chapman, who began this season serving a 30-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s new domestic violence policy.

The Mets already felt desperate enough to bring back Jose Reyes on a minor-league deal after he was arrested on domestic violence charges, served a 52-game suspension and got released by the Colorado Rockies. Reyes – a homegrown Met who turned 33 this month and is five years removed from his last All-Star selection – could join the team this weekend in New York.

• As a polished, left-handed college hitter, Michael Conforto certainly fit the profile as the Cubs weighed their options with the fourth overall pick in the 2014 draft. But the Cubs wanted Kyle Schwarber, with Epstein in particular developing a man crush on the Indiana University catcher/outfielder. The Mets grabbed Conforto with the No. 10 pick and watched the fast-track outfielder from Oregon State University become a catalyst for last year’s World Series surge. 

Well, the Mets just demoted Conforto to Triple-A Las Vegas over the weekend, another reminder to appreciate how many young players the Cubs have graduated to the big-league level, without taking it for granted (see Schwarber’s recovery from season-ending knee surgery).

“This year, I think we have a little more confidence, a little more swagger,” said Kris Bryant, the Rookie of the Year/All-Star third baseman who has lived up to the hype. “But the Mets are going to be a really good team for a long time, especially with that staff.”