Cubs reportedly ramp up pursuit of Jorge Soler

660274.png

Cubs reportedly ramp up pursuit of Jorge Soler

With Yoenis Cespedes being strongly considered by almost every team in the league -- most notably the Miami Marlins, whom he visited last week -- the Cubs have seemingly turned their attention to 19-year-old Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler:

embedly_twitter_44813818background:url(http:a0.twimg.comimagesthemestheme1bg.png) 9ae4e8; padding:20px; embedly_twitter_44813818 pbackground:fff;padding:10px 12px 0px 12px;margin:0;min-height:48px;color:000;font-size:18px;line-height:22px;-moz-border-radius:5px;-webkit-border-radius:5px embedly_twitter_44813818 .embedly_tweet_contentbackground:fff;padding:10px 12px 10px 12px;margin:0;min-height:48px;color:000;font-size:18px !important;line-height:22px;-moz-border-radius:5px;-webkit-border-radius:5px embedly_twitter_44813818 p span.metadatadisplay:block;width:100;clear:both;margin-top:0px;height:40px; padding-bottom: 12px; embedly_twitter_44813818 p span.metadata span.authorline-height:15px;color:999;font-size:14px embedly_twitter_44813818 p span.metadata span.author aline-height:15px;font-size:20px;vertical-align:middle embedly_twitter_44813818 p span.metadata span.author imgfloat:left;margin:0 10px 0 0px;width:48px;height:48px embedly_twitter_44813818 p a color: 0000ff; text-decoration:none; embedly_twitter_44813818 p a:hovertext-decoration:underline embedly_twitter_44813818 .embedly_timestampfont-size:13px;display:inline-block;margin-top: 5px; embedly_twitter_44813818 .components-above span.embedly_timestampfont-size:10px;margin-top: 1px;line-height:12px embedly_twitter_44813818 a color: 0000ff; text-decoration:none; embedly_twitter_44813818 a:hovertext-decoration:underline embedly_twitter_44813818 .tweet-screen-name font-size: 14px; font-weight: bold; embedly_twitter_44813818 .tweet-full-name padding-left: 4px; color: 999; font-size: 12px; embedly_twitter_44813818 .tweet-actionsmargin-left: 10px;font-size:13px;display:inline-block;width:250px embedly_twitter_44813818 .components-above span.tweet-actionsfont-size:10px embedly_twitter_44813818 .controlsline-height:12px!important embedly_twitter_44813818 .tweet-actions a margin-left:5px embedly_twitter_44813818 .tweet-actions a bfont-weight:normal embedly_twitter_44813818 .components-above span.tweet-actions a bvertical-align:baseline;line-height:12px embedly_twitter_44813818 .components-above .tweet-textfont-size:13px;vertical-align:baseline embedly_twitter_44813818 .tweet-image float: left; width: 40px; embedly_twitter_44813818 .tweet-user-block-image float: left; width: 48px; height: 48px embedly_twitter_44813818 .tweet-row margin-left: 40px; margin-top: 3px;line-height: 17px; embedly_twitter_44813818 .tweet-user-block margin-left: -40px; embedly_twitter_44813818 .stream-item padding-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 12px; embedly_twitter_44813818 .simple-tweet-image img margin-top: 4px; embedly_twitter_44813818 .simple-tweet-content margin: 0 0 13px 0px; font-size: 14px; min-height:48px; embedly_twitter_44813818 .in-reply-to-border border-color: EBEBEB; border-style: solid; border-width: 1px 0 0; embedly_twitter_44813818 .in-reply-to-text margin-left: 4px; padding-left: 8px; padding-right: 10px; color: 999; font-size: 12px; embedly_twitter_44813818 .tweet-actions i background: transparent url(http:a2.twimg.coma1306889658phoeniximgsprite-icons.png) no-repeat;width:15px;height:15px;margin:0 4px -3px 3px;outline: none; text-indent:-99999px;vertical-align:baseline;display:inline-block;position:relative; embedly_twitter_44813818 .tweet-actions a.retweet-action i background-position:-192px 0; embedly_twitter_44813818 .tweet-actions a.reply-action i background-position:0 0; embedly_twitter_44813818 .tweet-actions a.favorite-action i background-position:-32px 0; @Kevin_Goldstein
Kevin GoldsteinRumors out of the DR today that the Cubs are making a very very big play for Jorge Soler.
Feb 12 via Twitter for iPad Favorite Retweet Reply

This is not all that surprising. Given his age, he is seven years younger than Cespedes and will come at a much cheaper price. He fits in much better with Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer's future plans, as he is likely still a couple years away from having an impact in the majors.

Goldstein, of Baseball Prospectus, appeared on MLB Network Radio after the Cubs signed 18-year-old pitcher Gerardo Concepcion and discussed Soler in a little bit more detail.

"He has some paperwork issues just like Cespedes does," Goldstein said. "He profiles as a very classic right-field profile on a scouting level. He's a big, athletic kid. He ran well for scouts. He ran a 6.7 60 for them the other week, which is above average. At his age and his size, that's not going to last. He just doesn't look like a guy that's going to stay fast.

"What he's going to be is a right fielder who's gonna hit for power. He's gonna throw well, hit home runs. That's going to be his job. Big, big kid. Broad shoulders, tons of raw power. He's a very exciting player...I think it's important -- and same with Concepcion -- to talk about how they are different from Cespedes.

"I think for Soler, his most logical assignment, based on his youth experience and talent, would be Low-A ball...Soler and Concepcion are not guys who are going to help you this year. These are not guys who are going to help you in 2013 and probably not 2014. These are long-term players. These are guys who you hope can turn into impact players, but they're not even close to that yet."

This would be a really big signing for the Cubs and has the potential to be a great move for the future. Stay tuned, as if Goldstein's sources are right, more will come on this story shortly.

Cubs: Ben Zobrist's path back to October and a possible three-peat

Cubs: Ben Zobrist's path back to October and a possible three-peat

MESA, Ariz. – Ben Zobrist is focused on a personal three-peat, not worrying about a changing of the guard or any awkward moments with Javier Baez. Cubs manager Joe Maddon has repeatedly said that Zobrist will be the primary second baseman and another "Javy Being Javy" highlight reel from the World Baseball Classic won't change that thinking right now.

Zobrist sees the big picture better than almost anyone else in the clubhouse after going undrafted out of Eureka High School in downstate Illinois, perfecting the super-utility role Maddon envisioned with the Tampa Bay Rays and helping transform the 2015 Kansas City Royals into World Series champions.

While Baez started all 17 playoff games at second base last year, bursting onto the scene as the National League Championship co-MVP, Zobrist became the World Series MVP with his clutch hitting and still has three seasons left on his $56 million contract.

Maddon didn't spare anyone's feelings during the playoffs, turning $184 million outfielder Jason Heyward into a part-time player, giving a quick hook to major-league ERA leader Kyle Hendricks and shunning relievers not named Aroldis Chapman.

"We haven't had an extended conversation about it," Zobrist said. "But at the beginning of spring, we talked about it. I think his words were: ‘I really think rest is the next improvement in player performance.' Learning what rest means, what good rest is for players and what kind of rest certain players need versus others.

"That doesn't necessarily mean just because you're 35. It could mean you're 25 and you still got to take care of yourself and make sure you're getting the proper rest. Because we have such a deep team, he's able to do that at any given point in time and still feel confident about the team we have on the field.

"It's a good problem to have when you have really good players not playing and sitting on the bench. We had that all last year and we had guys accept their role and just buy into the team concept.

"The makeup of this team is the same, basically. We've got a few new guys and they've got the same mindset, so I anticipate more of the same."

Injuries are one variable that prevents Maddon from getting too stressed out about dividing the playing time over 162 games while the NCAA tournament is still going. Zobrist's stiff neck felt good enough to hit leadoff and play right field in Tuesday afternoon's 10-7 loss to the San Francisco Giants, seeing his first Cactus League action since March 19.

Zobrist plans to play again on Wednesday in Mesa and catch up with more at-bats on the minor-league side of the complex. Assuming Zobrist and All-Star shortstop Addison Russell (stiff back) are ready for Opening Night, Baez will be an NLCS MVP, all-WBC talent waiting for the right matchup or break in the schedule or to sub in as a defensive replacement.

"It's pretty impressive, looking around at the young talent in this clubhouse," Zobrist said. "All throughout spring training, we've seen there's definitely other talent coming, so this team is poised to have a good, long run of success. If everybody stays healthy and we stay together, this is a very good team.

"The biggest thing that I go into the season with this year is we have to be healthy and we have to make sure that we don't relax too much. That's the temptation for teams that just won, to go: OK, well, we're tired, because we had a long season last year and you kind of just assume things are going to go as well as they did.

"You can't assume anything. No matter how good this team is, we have to still go out and execute and perform – and that's going to determine where we are in the standings."

In real time, as the Cubs experienced their lowest moments during last year's regular season, Zobrist correctly pointed out the exhaustion factor while the team played 24 days in a row, losing 15 of their last 21 games before the All-Star break.

What looks like overwhelming depth on paper should help the 2017 Cubs survive and advance into October.

"It's huge," Zobrist said. "It's up and down the lineup on offense. It's all throughout the pitching staff and on the defensive side. It's so deep that you can absorb a little bit of injury here and there.

"With that being said, there are certain guys that you just don't want to lose. So we got to protect everybody. We got to protect our horses – both on the mound and in the lineup – and just make sure that we have our key cogs in there. And if we do, we're as good, if not better, than anybody out there."

Cubs return Rule 5 lefty Caleb Smith to Yankees as roster comes into focus

Cubs return Rule 5 lefty Caleb Smith to Yankees as roster comes into focus

MESA, Ariz. - Matt Szczur vs. Tommy La Stella - and a combination of right/left, outfield/infield and contractual considerations - appears to be the final decision as the Cubs shape their Opening Night roster.

The Cubs returned Rule 5 lefty Caleb Smith to the New York Yankees on Tuesday and assigned injured non-roster players Jemile Weeks and Chris Dominguez to minor-league camp. That left 27 players still technically in the mix, though depth catcher Carlos Corporan isn't really part of that conversation.

The projected eight-man bullpen would look like this: Wade Davis; Koji Uehara; Pedro Strop; Hector Rondon; Carl Edwards Jr.; Justin Grimm; and lefties Mike Montgomery and Brian Duensing.

Szczur, who is out of minor-league options, could be a good fourth outfielder on a team that didn't have so much depth and World Series expectations, making him a potential trade chip for pitching. La Stella offers infield insurance and a left-handed bat off the bench.