Recent SP trades could bode well for Cubs

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Recent SP trades could bode well for Cubs

The Cubs may be in rebuilding mode at just the right time.

On Saturday, the Reds dealt four prospects to the San Diego Padres for Mat Latos. Thursday, the Nationals did the same for Gio Gonzalez.

That has to make the Cubs feel good about what they might get for Matt Garza.

Garza is two years older than Gonzalez and four years older than Latos. It's possible the two younger guns have more upside, but neither are as accomplished as Garza as it stands right now.

The Cubs' ace has shown an ability to pitch in big games against big lineups and in a big division. He is still under team control for two more seasons and will be relatively cheap in arbitration, by some standards.

Could the Cubs fetch something close to the same kind of haul Latos and Gonzalez commanded?

The Rangers don't need another starting pitcher now. But with these two young guys off the board, teams like the Red Sox and Blue Jays could be hitting the market hard.

Maybe they'll be calling Jed Hoyer's number.

The Cubs would love to get at least a top catching and first base prospect like Hoyer's former team received for Latos.

After all, Garza has an extra "T" in his first name, so he's got to be worth more than Latos, right?

World Series Avenue: This rap from a Cubs minor leaguer is the freshest thing you'll hear all day

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World Series Avenue: This rap from a Cubs minor leaguer is the freshest thing you'll hear all day

Cubs fans aren't the only ones living and dying with every pitch.

John Williamson - a pitcher for the Cubs' Class-A affiliate in South Bend - created a rap about the big-league club and it's pretty incredible:

South Bend pregame freestyle. Go check out my guy @johnny_beisbol #SBCubs #whenithappens #embracetheflow

A video posted by Darnell McDonald (@macdime54) on

Here's an excerpt of that rap, posted by Darnell McDonald, the Cubs' mental skills program coordinator:

"'Bout to win 100 games,
J-Hey 'bout to make a play, 
Lester get the K, 
We feelin' fresh today, 
Got the 'dub' yesterday. 
New team with the World Series attitude. 
Road to the 'ship: That's the World Series avenue. 
I'm feelin' like the baddest dude, 
Fowler on the bases, 
Yeah, we winnin' pennant races, 
That's the Wrigley renovation."

Killin' it, dude.

This isn't new for Williamson, the Cubs' 23rd-round pick in the 2015 MLB Draft.

The left-handed pitcher is actually a rapper, too, by the name of Swilson (formerly J Willy).

His album hit iTunes and Spotify in February. 

Check out some of his stuff on his YouTube page.

Here's to more Cubs raps as the year goes on, Swilson.

Next? Cubs sweep Pirates out of PNC Park

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Next? Cubs sweep Pirates out of PNC Park

PITTSBURGH – Next? The Cubs just dominated a Pittsburgh Pirates team that’s won 280 games and made three playoff appearances across the last three seasons, showing they’re so much more than a good-looking team on paper and baseball’s goofiest clubhouse.

Joe Maddon’s “Minimalist Zany” road trip ended with Wednesday afternoon’s 6-2 win at PNC Park, the Cubs finishing off the three-game sweep before changing into the leopard pants, plaid coats and Stars and Stripes outfits required for the flight back home to Chicago and a showdown against the Washington Nationals.

The Cubs spent close to $290 million on free agents after beating the Pirates in last year’s National League wild-card game, budgeting for the natural improvement from their young players and the experience gained during that playoff run.

The Cubs outscored Pittsburgh 20-5 during what was supposed to be three tension-filled games, bumping their run differential to plus-93 for the season. Did the Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals do enough to keep up in the Central? Is this really the game’s toughest division? Still see you in October?

The Cubs are getting contributions from all over their roster. Ben Zobrist – who took over right field while Jason Heyward rested his sore right wrist – blasted a three-run homer off Juan Nicasio in the third inning. Javier Baez went 3-for-5 with two RBI and put on a defensive clinic during this series. If not for Jake Arrieta’s historic run and Cy Young Award encore performance, more people would be talking about Jon Lester’s fast start, improving to 3-1 with a 1.58 ERA after 5.2 scoreless innings. 

At 20-6, the Cubs have the best record in baseball, a six-game lead over the Pirates in the division and a four-game series against the Nationals that begins Thursday night at Wrigley Field. Maybe that will create some buzz.

It means the return of Dusty Baker – no manager has pushed the Cubs farther or closer to the World Series since 1945 – and side-by-side comparisons of Boras Corp. clients Max Scherzer ($210 million guaranteed) and Arrieta (the meter is still running).   

Plus the friendly rivalry between Bryce Harper and Kris Bryant, the league’s reigning MVP and Rookie of the Year who grew up together in Las Vegas playing with and against each other.

And Jonathan Papelbon, the eccentric closer the Cubs tried to trade for last summer before the Nationals flexed their financial muscle (only to watch it sabotage their clubhouse without the buffer zone of ex-Boston Red Sox players the Cubs could have created).

“It’s just so much fun to play good teams,” Maddon said. “You get them on the field and then you look out there from the dugout: How do we stack up? What does this thing feel like? You look on TV, you read different things, but you got to actually see it.”

The rest of the baseball world is just beginning to see what this sleeping-giant franchise could become. 

Cubs vs. Nationals: Joe Maddon digs Bryce Harper’s style

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Cubs vs. Nationals: Joe Maddon digs Bryce Harper’s style

PITTSBURGH – Joe Maddon and Bryce Harper are on the same side of baseball’s culture war, even as the Cubs and Washington Nationals appear to be on a collision course toward October.   

The National League’s two best teams so far will face off on Thursday night at Wrigley Field, where Harper will be a focus throughout a four-game series overflowing with storylines.

That’s how Harper wants it, and that’s what Major League Baseball needs now, larger-than-life personalities who aren’t afraid to show some emotions and say what they actually think and try to wake up such a “tired sport.”

Harper’s line to ESPN The Magazine went viral in spring training, and it echoes when Maddon brainstorms another wacky themed road trip, trolls the St. Louis Cardinals and invites zoo animals to Wrigleyville.

So if Harper blasts a home run onto Sheffield Avenue and flips his bat in celebration, Maddon won’t have an issue with the league’s reigning MVP. The smirking Cubs manager knows it when he sees it. 

“It depends on who’s doing the bat-flipping,” Maddon said. “If you’ve played for like two weeks and you’re flipping bats, that’s how you’re going to get yourself hurt.”

Maddon rarely criticizes his own players in front of the media, but he called it a “punk move” last year when Junior Lake almost started a bench-clearing brawl at Marlins Park, flipping his bat, admiring his shot from home plate and shushing Miami’s dugout while rounding third base.   

“I just think when you’re brand new – just understand your place a little bit,” Maddon said. “That’s why I got on Junior that time. There are a lot of things that don’t bother me, (but) that was so obvious to me. He did it right in front of our dugout and he had not been playing that much. That’s why it bummed me out.

“But for the most part, I have no problem with most anything. As long as the guy plays hard, works hard, is sincere about his effort, I’m OK.”

By all accounts, that’s Harper, who’s still only 23 years old and gets similarity scores comparable to these players on his Baseball-Reference page: Frank Robinson; Mickey Mantle; Miguel Cabrera; Mike Trout; Hank Aaron; and Ken Griffey Jr.

“When he first came up, I remember watching him and he stole home on a double steal,” Maddon said. “He just ran the bases really well and hard – that was my first impression of him. I know he can hit. I know he’s got power. I know he’s got all that stuff. But I just liked the way he played.

“I have no problem with a guy enjoying playing the game. He’s got a lot of respect for the game and his place in the game. But any time a guy plays it hard, you always appreciate that. And that’s what I see with him.”

Maddon flashed back to the way Dennis Eckersley used to pump his fist after getting a big out – and his own personal history as a baby boomer raised in the 1960s and 1970s and listening to loud music and partying at his old Lafayette College fraternity house.

That’s what makes Maddon able to relate to Harper’s individual expressions, even though “Baseball’s Chosen One” was born in 1992.

“That’s the thing that we forget,” Maddon said. “That’s what’s so disappointing sometimes, growing up in the era that I did, and then you see people that are quote-unquote ‘in charge,’ and they forgot what it was like when we were a bunch of…goofballs, for lack of a better term.

“You’d like to believe that there’s a certain evolution of thinking as it moves forward. The long hair back in the day, the high stirrups, the tight uniforms, everybody has their own little shtick. So what? So what? It’s just a tendency to forget what it was like when we were growing up sometimes. I promise you I’ve not forgotten.”