Cubs keep hunting with Keppinger off the board

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Cubs keep hunting with Keppinger off the board

NASHVILLE, Tenn. The Cubs have been locked inside their suite here at the Opryland Hotel. They arent going to do anything for show or on someone elses timeline.

As general manager Jed Hoyer said Wednesday: I dont think you have to walk out of here with deer antlers.

This was the day after manager Dale Sveum shrugged off his Dick Cheney Moment quail hunting with Robin Yount in Arizona and hours after the Cubs lost out on Jeff Keppinger and Eric Chavez. Even if neither player was a huge trophy, theyre still looking for a third baseman.

Keppinger has bounced around six teams the past nine years and is recovering from a broken right fibula after falling down the stairs at his house. The Cubs still had confidence that he would be ready to go by spring training. He wound up taking a three-year, 12 million offer from the White Sox.

Chavez who was more of a secondary target grabbed a one-year, 3 million deal from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Its unclear where the Cubs will go from here. Kevin Youkilis isnt a fit. Yunel Escobar didnt want to move from shortstop to third base. There doesnt appear to be interest in Casey McGehee or Yuniesky Betancourt.

Its a super-charged market in a lot of different areas, Hoyer said. Were still on the lookout. We have a number of irons still in the fire when it comes to third base and were confident well land someone we feel good about. But its certainly a position of scarcity. Theres no question.

The Cubs flew into Nashville, Tenn., having already signed two starting pitchers Scott Baker and Scott Feldman and a potential closer in Kyuji Fujikawa, who could be introduced later this week. They have offers out to other free agents and are waiting for answers. Nate Schierholtz agreed to a one-year deal on Wednesday night and looks like your new rightfielder.

The Cubs have roughly 60 million committed to 10 players for next season, plus arbitration figures for Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija, which still leaves a lot of open space in the budget.

Were certainly going to spend all the money we have to spend, Hoyer said. If we cant find wise ways to spend money, well hold it, and find wise ways in the next 12 months. I thought the Dodgers were a really good example of that in some ways. They had their offseason in August. Were not going to go on a binge just because we have money to spend.

The Cubs remain in contact with Ian Stewart, who was non-tendered last week and is exploring his options as a free agent. The third baseman fell off the radar after undergoing wrist surgery last summer and stayed away from the team while doing his rehab. That shouldnt be an issue now.

We feel like we have a good relationship with him at this point, Hoyer said. He went through a tough time with his wrist and I can understand that. We have no issues with how he comported himself.

Theres been a lot of talk this week about recruiting free agents to Chicago, whether or not they want to be part of rebuilding a 101-loss team. The city, the stadium, the restaurants, the nightlife thats all nice. But the bottom line is almost always years and dollars.

You try to be patient, Hoyer said. Its not a sexy thing to talk about being patient but Ill feel a lot better about that than I will about making a big splash on someone (youre not sure) about. Youre probably going to regret that move more than you will keeping your powder dry a little bit and maybe finding a more prudent way to spend it.

A surreal offseason puts world champion Cubs in the White House spotlight

A surreal offseason puts world champion Cubs in the White House spotlight

Three days before Election Day, Alec Baldwin walked into a dressing room on the eighth floor of 30 Rockefeller Plaza to meet the Cubs in New York. Dressed in a full Donald Trump costume – but still talking in his normal voice – Baldwin chatted with Anthony Rizzo, Dexter Fowler and David Ross while they rehearsed with Bill Murray before "Saturday Night Live."     

That scene sums up the surreal nature of two seismic events colliding, the joyous victory tour that saw Kris Bryant appear on the "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" set with a goat and a bitter presidential election that pitted sides of the Ricketts family against each other.

President Barack Obama called Cubs manager Joe Maddon from Air Force One after the team ended the 108-year drought in early November, winning the franchise's first World Series title since the Theodore Roosevelt administration. Obama amplified the message he posted on Twitter: "Want to come to the White House before I leave?"

This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity will happen on Monday after about two months of scheduling and discussions, with chairman Tom Ricketts downplaying the idea that the Cubs might have stalled for his brothers Todd (Trump's pick for deputy commerce secretary) and Pete (Nebraska's Republican governor). 

This is part of the family business. Laura – their sister and another Cubs board member – has clout in Democratic circles as a superdelegate/fundraiser for Hillary Clinton. The patriarch is Joe, the billionaire TD Ameritrade founder who's heavily involved in right-wing politics. 

"There's no big conspiracy here," said team president Theo Epstein, who attended Obama's farewell address at McCormick Place last week. "Tom is a very reasonable guy. And in the end, the president invited us, and then they followed up with a real invitation. Once there was a real invitation, we figured out if we could make it work. We could, and we were happy to go."

Cubs Convention – where last year Todd made headlines by describing New York Mets fans as "really, really obnoxious" and dismissing All-Star pitcher Matt Harvey as a wannabe "tough guy" – would be the only logical offseason staging ground.

Todd did not participate in this weekend's ownership Q&A session with fans at the Sheraton Grand Chicago. The Cubs will also be in Washington this summer for a four-game series at Nationals Park, not far from Todd's nominated Cabinet position. 

Epstein paused four seconds after hearing the question: Would you have gone to the White House in June?

"Uh…" Epstein said. "Yeah, if the whole team was going, I probably would have gone.

"I'm not going to tell you what I would have been wearing. But I would have gone." 

Epstein campaigned for John Kerry in New Hampshire after the Boston Red Sox won the 2004 World Series and then shook hands with George W. Bush during that White House visit. Epstein missed the ceremonial trip with Boston's 2007 World Series team because his young son had been hospitalized and recovering from an illness at the time: "People took it as a protest, but it wasn't."

[MORE CUBS: Cubs benched Jorge Soler several times in 2016 for lack of hustle]

Jake Arrieta doesn't want to be misinterpreted, either. The Cy Young Award winner explained his anticipated absence on Monday has nothing to do with his post-election "#beatit" tweet.  

Arrieta – who is dealing with family medical issues back home in Texas – said his "#illhelpyoupack" message wasn't an explicit endorsement of Trump's agenda. Arrieta said he didn't vote and aimed the tweet at Hollywood celebrities who talked about leaving the country if Trump won. 

"People view us as athletes as being Republican and only caring about lower taxes, which isn't the case," Arrieta said. "If paying higher taxes is going to benefit the majority of society, I'm fine with that. 

"It's tough when people start talking politics. But I'll be open and honest: I just want somebody to lead our country and do a good job. Whether it's Obama – whether it's Trump or Hillary – I just want to see somebody do a good job for the benefit of everybody."

Fowler will be there on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to meet the nation's first African-American president and reconnect with his old teammates after signing a five-year, $82.5 million contract with the St. Louis Cardinals. 

The Cubs had waited so long for this – winning their last National League pennant two years before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947 – that Fowler became the franchise's first African-American player in the World Series.

"I'm most happy for our players," Epstein said. "It's just a really special part of winning the World Series. You feel like you've finally made it. You're in the most precious building in the country, really, and you get to strut around as world champs and meet the president. 

"It doesn't get any better than that. It's very fitting that we're seeing a Chicagoan, and in his last week in office makes it even more special."

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Maddon met Obama while managing the 2009 American League All-Star team at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, where the president wore a White Sox jacket while throwing out the first pitch. 

Maddon already went to the White House for a ceremony honoring the 2002 Anaheim Angels. Maddon and his wife, Jaye, also attended a small group dinner Bush's staff organized during the final days of his presidency in January 2009.  

"No matter your politics, you get invited to the White House, you go," said Jason McLeod, the senior vice president of scouting and player development. "I'm like giddy to be able to get invited on the trip." 

The Cubs are also expected to tour the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland. Rizzo hopes to present the nation's 44th president with his No. 44 jersey. It will be a day in the life of the 2016 Cubs. 

"It's going to be amazing," Rizzo said. "I think everyone except the true diehard White Sox fans have a little spot for the North Side in their hearts, just because of how long it's taken to get to where we've been."

Cubs Talk Podcast: Recapping the Cubs Convention

Cubs Talk Podcast: Recapping the Cubs Convention

On the latest edition of the Cubs Talk Podcast, Cubs Double A broadcaster Mick Gillispie and CSN's Tony Andracki recap the 2017 Cubs Convention and how the World Series championship changed everything about the Opening Ceremonies, the panels and the overall buzz and positivity surrounding CubsCon.

Gillispie also provides a unique perspective on some of the young, homegrown heroes that helped lead the Cubs to glory as well as his experience watching the Cubs' run while making his way through the SEC with Alabama football, including turning a bar into "Wrigley South."

Listen to the Cubs Talk Podcast below.