Replacing Marshall wont be easy for Cubs

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Replacing Marshall wont be easy for Cubs

MESA, Ariz. Sean Marshall had the perfect temperament to play at Wrigley Field.

Nothing seemed to bother Marshall, who never complained when the Cubs moved him in and out of the rotation. That sense of calm surrounded him while he evolved into perhaps the best left-handed reliever in the game.

Once the initial shock wore off, Marshall knew why Theo Epsteins front office engineered a four-player trade with the Cincinnati Reds just before Christmas.

I understood the moves they were making, Marshall said. I know its a business and Ive been lucky to be on the same team. I see lefties move all over the league each year, so I was lucky for my time in Chicago. From a business aspect, thats just the way it goes.

Marshall is reunited with Dusty Baker his manager when he broke into the big leagues in 2006 on a team built to win now. He threw one scoreless inning in an 8-6 loss to the Cubs on Monday at HoHoKam Stadium, and the Cubs werent going to find him enough high-leverage situations.

The 29-year-old Marshall who could have become a free agent after making 3.1 million this season decided against testing the market. He recently agreed to a three-year, 16.5 million extension with the Reds, closing the door on a return to the Cubs.

It was something that we thought was a good idea for my family, Marshall said. I understand Ive been very lucky to be in a Cubs uniform for nine seasons. There are a lot of players that get traded every couple years. (I) was always thankful for all my days at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs shipped out Marshall because they think Travis Wood, 25, could be in the rotation for years, and they also got useful pieces in outfielder Dave Sappelt and infield prospect Ronald Torreyes. Marshall could have been gone in months (though even now he still plans to keep his house in the Chicago area).

This could leave a huge hole in the bullpen.

Combined Marshall appeared in 158 games across the last two seasons. He finished last year with a 2.26 ERA and can get left-handed and right-handed hitters out. He would have been an option if closer Carlos Marmol who on Monday walked two and gave up three runs in one inning doesnt return to form.

The Cubs need to identify a second setup man to go along with Kerry Wood. Lefty James Russell who sought out Marshall on the field before Mondays game would like the job.

I know hes been looking forward to the opportunity, Marshall said. I think hes more than capable of doing what I did.

Russell became one of several young pitchers who gravitated toward Marshall over the years. Whether it was leading the relievers out for their pregame routine or at his locker showing them new electronic gadgets, teammates wanted to be around him.

Consistency, really, what else is there to say about Sean? Jeff Samardzija said. Im not just talking about on the field. Sean was great off the field, too. He came in every day and did his work and showed the younger guys how youre supposed to do it. He meant a lot to us.

Marshall saw so much in a Cubs uniform. He pitched for Baker and Lou Piniella. He played with Greg Maddux and Mark Prior, Milton Bradley and Carlos Zambrano. He finished in first place and last. Win or lose, you could find him at his locker.

I loved every moment I spent there, Marshall said. Im kind of the enemy now, but I loved being a Cub. I wouldnt change it for the world.

Wade Davis trade would give Cubs a proven October closer

Wade Davis trade would give Cubs a proven October closer

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Cubs are reportedly moving closer toward acquiring Wade Davis — an All-Star closer who’s already notched the final out of the World Series — in a deal with the Kansas City Royals that would involve outfielder Jorge Soler.

The Cubs are making pitching their top priority this week at the winter meetings as they build out the team that will defend the franchise’s first World Series title in 108 years. If healthy, Davis would provide exactly the kind of late-game force the Cubs were looking for when they checked into the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center outside Washington, D.C.

At a time when Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen are looking to smash the record contract the San Francisco Giants just gave Mark Melancon (four years, $62 million), the Cubs could stay flexible for the future and mitigate risk with Davis, who will make $10 million in 2017 and can become a free agent after that season.

“We’re still talking about a lot of things,” manager Joe Maddon said before the Davis reports surfaced late Tuesday night. “We’re always looking to augment bullpens. Bullpens are so different on an annual basis. And I think every organization — especially after this (postseason) — is looking to reinvent their bullpens in different ways.”

The Royals had been at the forefront of that movement, using Davis as part of a deep, powerful bullpen that helped them shorten games and win back-to-back American League pennants and the 2015 World Series.

Maddon’s Tampa Bay Rays teams originally groomed Davis as a starter before flipping him to the Royals as part of the blockbuster James Shields/Wil Myers deal in December 2012.

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Davis blossomed in Kansas City, putting up ridiculous numbers as a setup guy/closer. He allowed zero homers in 2014 (1.00 ERA) and 2016 (1.87 ERA) and gave up only three in 2015 (0.94 ERA). During that time, he piled up 234 strikeouts against 59 walks in 182 2/3 innings. He has a 0.84 ERA in 32 1/3 career postseason innings.

Davis, 31, dealt with a strained right forearm this year, but injuries have been a recurring issue for Soler, who would be getting squeezed for playing time even when healthy at Wrigley Field.

The Cuban outfielder has shown flashes of his enormous potential since signing a $30 million contract in the summer of 2012. But Soler (.762 career OPS) looks more like a designated hitter who might benefit from a change of scenery to help unlock some of those physical gifts.

Soler still hasn’t turned 25 yet — or come close to playing a full season in the big leagues — but this is why the Cubs stockpiled so many hitters and prepared to make trades for pitching.

Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop almost disappeared during the playoffs, though 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.

This wouldn’t necessarily stop with Davis, either. The Cubs plan to give Maddon some shiny new toys in the bullpen.

The second-guessing follows Joe Maddon from World Series to winter meetings

The second-guessing follows Joe Maddon from World Series to winter meetings

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — At least 10 cameras lined up in a cramped corner of a huge hotel ballroom to capture Joe Maddon’s media session late Tuesday afternoon. For almost six minutes, reporters fired off Game 7 questions as the Cubs manager explained his thinking during the World Series.

And then a beat writer abruptly switched topics and asked who would hit leadoff once Dexter Fowler is gone.

“I don’t know, that’s a really good question,” Maddon said. “We’ve talked. There are some brilliant people standing around me right now.”

For a moment, Maddon sounded a little annoyed and defensive during Day 2 of the winter meetings. But the guy who designed “The Process is Fearless” T-shirts will point to the results from that instant classic against the Cleveland Indians.

“It’s fascinating to me regarding the second-guessing, because the only reality I know is that we won,” Maddon said at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center outside Washington, D.C.

“We have oftentimes in the past talked about ‘outcome bias.’ Or if people would anticipate, had you done something differently, would it have turned out better?

“But better than winning — I don’t know what that is.”

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There won’t be enough space on Maddon’s Hall of Fame plaque to bullet-point all the twists and turns during those 10 innings in Cleveland, how he pulled Cy Young Award finalist Kyle Hendricks in the fifth and brought $155 million reliever Jon Lester into the game with a runner on base, a situation the Cubs wanted to avoid, in case that triggered the yips.

Maddon wrote off Aroldis Chapman giving up a game-tying, two-run homer to Rajai Davis in the eighth inning as a matter of location — not velocity — even though the closer wound up throwing 97 pitches in Games 5, 6 and 7 combined.

If anything, Maddon might have to do more of the convincing within his own clubhouse. Jason Heyward watched from third base as the manager ordered Javier Baez to bunt on a 3-2 count in the ninth inning and felt compelled to call a players-only meeting inside a Progressive Field weight room during the 17-minute rain delay.

“You can’t control the narrative when the game is in progress,” Maddon said. “I’ve talked about the barroom banter. And I definitely know that I was able to fill up — based on my decision-making in that game — a lot of barroom banter throughout the Chicago area, or nationally, internationally.

“But the point is, when you work a game like that, there’s not an eighth game. There’s only a seventh game. Everything that you saw us do that night, I planned out before the game ever began and felt really strongly about it — and still do.

“Just take away one hit by Davis, it worked out pretty darn well. But then you have to give our guys credit for the way we withstood the onslaught and eventually won the game.”

Ultimately, an 8-7 victory ended the 108-year drought, meaning Maddon should someday have his own spot in Cooperstown.

Instead of taking a public victory lap — the way his players have celebrated on “Saturday Night Live” and the talk-show circuit — Maddon went into decompression mode. Maddon bought a Dodge Challenger Hellcat muscle car, saw “Hamilton” on Broadway and partied at the Zeta Psi fraternity house for the Lafayette-Lehigh football game at his old stomping grounds in Pennsylvania.

Without Maddon, the Cubs don’t win 97 games and two playoff rounds last year, which opened the floodgates for nearly $290 million to spend on free agents. But after “Embrace The Target,” Maddon will have to come up with a new message for the 2017 Cubs, a group that might find some of his tactics a little old.

“You still want to ‘Try Not To Suck,’ but you can’t wear that out,” Maddon said. “I really feel confident. I like our group a lot. If you look at our core group and what we did last year — the youth, the inexperience turning into experience, the authenticity of our players — I want to believe (in) the humility of our players.

“All those things (are) what I’m going to rely on. That’s going to permit us — beyond our skill abilities — (to) be good for a period of time.”