Cubs ownership could be open to Pujols deal

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Cubs ownership could be open to Pujols deal

Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011
Posted 11:39 a.m. Updated 6:53 p.m.
By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. More than 2,000 miles away, Albert Pujols casts his shadow over this entire camp. It is the baseball story that will not go away until he signs his next contract.

The Cubs hadnt gone through their first full-squad workout yet and wont play a meaningful game for another six weeks but there was chairman Tom Ricketts on Saturday morning at Fitch Park, deflecting questions about the best player of this generation.

All I know is what I read in the paper," Ricketts said before addressing the team. "I guess it just has to sit until the end of the season.

Pujols broke off extension talks this week as soon as he reported to Cardinals camp in Jupiter, Fla. Though his representation has said that theyll revisit negotiations once the season ends, it looks increasingly likely that he will hit free agency.

Ricketts once again voiced confidence in general manager Jim Hendry, but theres a belief that approval for the type of deal Pujols seeks would have to come from the ownership level. The Cubs chairman has also specifically mentioned that he would like the front office to become smarter in how it structures contracts.

Im not sure there are parameters that are officially set, Ricketts said. But well be open-minded to what we think is best for the team when that comes up.

In listening to Ricketts across the 16 months since his family purchased the team from Tribune Co., its clear that he believes in statistical analysis and the player-development system. The philosophy isnt unique to Ricketts, but he believes a contracts length is more troubling than its average annual value.

Anyone in baseball would say the length of the deal is often a bigger problem than the amount of dollars, Ricketts said. You have to be very careful if youre going to sign one of those longer deals. If youre going to take a guy on for seven, eight, nine years, you better make sure thats the guy you want.

The Cardinals reportedly discussed a Pujols deal that would be around 200 million for eight years and include a potential ownership stake in the club.

After this season, the Cubs will be shedding several big contracts worth approximately 40 million. First baseman Carlos Pena is using this as a platform year to launch himself back into the free-agent market. The noise wont be turned down any time soon.

How many major-leaguers are there? Like 300? Aramis Ramirez said. If you ask all of them, everybody wants Pujols on their team. But at the same time you got to respect we got Carlos Pena here.

Pujols could retire tomorrow and still be a certain Hall of Famer. But he will be 32 next season and its fair to wonder how his body will hold up through 2020. One freak injury could be crippling to a franchise.

This is just all just speculation. It will be a guessing game right to the moment Pujols holds up his jersey at a press conference in November or December, announcing what might be the biggest deal in baseball history.

Theres going to be a little more financial flexibility at the end of the season than weve had in years past, Ricketts said. Well have to assess the situation when we get there and see whats available.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Cubs closing in on Aroldis Chapman deal with Yankees

Cubs closing in on Aroldis Chapman deal with Yankees

MILWAUKEE – The Cubs are in the final stages of a blockbuster deal that could bring superstar closer Aroldis Chapman to Chicago and would involve sending elite shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres to the New York Yankees, a source familiar with the situation said Sunday night.

The exact details aren’t clear, but the talks reached a point where the Cubs pulled Torres from the lineup at advanced Class-A Myrtle Beach, at least sensing the strong possibility of a trade that would add a 105-mph closer to a first-place team that entered the year as World Series favorites.

Chapman began this season serving a 30-game suspension covered by Major League Baseball’s new domestic violence policy after a dispute with his girlfriend in South Florida last fall. In absorbing a supremely talented player with real baggage, the Cubs would have to believe in manager Joe Maddon’s personality and a strong clubhouse culture, figuring it might only be a two-month-plus rental before Chapman cashes in as a free agent. 

That incident scared the Cubs away during the offseason, when a Chapman trade between the Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Dodgers collapsed at the winter meetings as those police reports surfaced. The Yankees waited for the price to drop and acquired the flame-throwing closer at a discount. Chapman didn’t mind the spotlight in New York, converting 20-of-21 save opportunities and striking out 44 batters in 31-plus innings.

Torres is only 19 years old and a consensus top prospect, showing up in the midseason rankings on ESPN (No. 26), Baseball America (No. 27) and Baseball Prospectus (No. 34). The Cubs had signed Torres out of Venezuela during the summer of 2013, giving him a $1.7 million bonus and trying to stockpile enough assets to build a perennial contender. It sounds like it’s almost time to cash in one of those huge trade chips. 

Cubs score five runs in seventh to power past Brewers

Cubs score five runs in seventh to power past Brewers

MILWAUKEE – The franchise sensitive to being the other team in town is catching the Cubs at the worst possible time, another you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up story coming out of the White Sox clubhouse.

While Chris Sale serves a five-game suspension for playing with scissors, the Cubs will start Jake Arrieta, the National League’s reigning Cy Young Award winner, on Monday night at U.S. Cellular Field.

The perception will be hot-seat manager Robin Ventura has lost control over this White Sox season, while Manager of the Year Joe Maddon actually answered a question this weekend about how the Cubs might align their playoff rotation.

One week out from the Aug. 1 trade deadline, the debates will be which players White Sox executives Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn should sell off, and which Cubs prospects Theo Epstein’s front office should put down to buy the big-ticket item for a World Series run.

Optics, marketing and promotional throwback jerseys aside, the Cubs also appear to be hitting their stride again after a much-needed vacation, winning their third straight series out of the All-Star break with Sunday afternoon’s 6-5 win over the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.  

The Cubs did it with their $155 million ace (Jon Lester) throwing only four innings, getting charged with four runs and giving up five walks and five stolen bases. The Cubs could also absorb one quarter of their All-Star infield (Addison Russell) leaving in the middle of the game with a left heel contusion.

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The Cubs stormed back with five runs in the seventh inning as MVP candidate Anthony Rizzo delivered the biggest swing, a bases-loaded, three-run double into right-center field off lefty reliever Will Smith. 

Three sellout crowds here over the weekend watched the Cubs welcome back All-Star leadoff guy Dexter Fowler to the top of the order, give the ball to six-time All-Star closer Joe Nathan in his return from a second Tommy John surgery and keep the St. Louis Cardinals seven games out of first place heading into Sunday night and what should be a gut check for the entire White Sox organization.

“I anticipate that same wonderful crosstown rivalry kind of atmosphere, which I love,” Maddon said. “It’s great for the city. It’s great for the sport. I don’t think fans really care much about records at that particular moment. They just care about your team winning.”

Cubs: Joe Maddon trolls White Sox and explains why trade rumors would bother Chris Sale

Cubs: Joe Maddon trolls White Sox and explains why trade rumors would bother Chris Sale

MILWAUKEE – The Cubs won’t walk onto U.S. Cellular Field on Monday night wearing black “Try Not To Cut” T-shirts with a scissors image replacing the manager’s iconic glasses. But Joe Maddon still couldn’t resist trolling the White Sox after Chris Sale’s temper tantrum.

With an AWOL pitcher, a manager on the hot seat and a front office under siege, the Cubs will see what they used to be in a rivalry that sometimes brought out the worst in them.

This is Carlos Zambrano-level bizarre on the South Side, the White Sox suspending Sale for five days after their franchise player cut up 1976 throwback jerseys, creating a feeding frenzy in the middle of trade-deadline-rumor season. That speculation apparently bothered Sale, who got sent home before Saturday’s scheduled start against the Detroit Tigers, leaving the bullpen to cover for his unprofessionalism.

“It’s not easy,” Maddon said before Sunday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. “Obviously, it’s only going to occur if your team’s struggling a bit.

“If you’re doing well, that doesn’t happen. So you have the struggle of the group, and then a really good player being mentioned as a trade piece. From the manager’s perspective, it’s not as difficult as the player himself and then the inter-politics of the clubhouse. That’s where it becomes more difficult.

“You don’t even know what those conversations sound like and how that cuts at the fabric of what you’re attempting to do. No pun intended.”

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Maddon’s presence as the team’s smirking ringmaster helps a rivalry that missed larger-than-life personalities like Lou Piniella and Ozzie Guillen. The Cubs won’t see Sale until Thursday night at Wrigley Field in this season’s fourth and final crosstown game between two franchises heading in opposite directions.

Maddon remembered the end of an era with the Tampa Bay Rays, when superstar pitcher David Price got traded to the Detroit Tigers in a three-team deal at the 2014 deadline. Within the next three months, Rays executive Andrew Friedman jumped for a president’s job with the Los Angeles Dodgers, triggering an escape clause in Maddon’s contract and giving Cubs fans a new costume for that Halloween.

“It was hard for David,” Maddon said. “It really was difficult, especially if it’s your first organization. I think if you bounced a little bit, it’s not so difficult. But if it’s your first time being included in trade conversations, it’s hard for the guy.

“Regardless of knowing that you could end up in a good spot, or you’re going to be wanted, (because) there’s really actually a lot of positives attached to it. It’s still the negative – you might really like where you’re at, it’s your first organization, you have a lot of friendships.

“Awkward. It’s an awkward feeling. You adjust. Everybody does. But there’s still all this unknown stuff that is unsettling.”

Like what the media circus and the fan atmospherics will be like during those two first two games at U.S. Cellular Field. Or if Buyers vs. Sellers plays out this week and the Cubs and White Sox start making big deals. So much for the White Sox bonding after Adam LaRoche’s retirement in the middle of spring training and using that money to reinvest at the trade deadline. Or Sale smoothing everything over after torching executive vice president Kenny Williams for the way he handled Drake LaRoche’s clubhouse access.

“I’m sure it will be entertaining,” Maddon said. “The South Siders have a wonderful sense of humor that we can definitely all appreciate.”