Cubs TV: Search for Brenly's replacement coming into focus

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Cubs TV: Search for Brenly's replacement coming into focus

The search for Bob Brenlys replacement is coming into focus. Their next television analyst might have more name recognition and staying power than any free agent the Cubs will sign this offseason.

With interviews scheduled to begin this week, sources have identified five contenders for the job: Dan Plesac; Rick Sutcliffe; Eric Karros; Todd Hollandsworth; and Gary Matthews.

Plesac was considered a frontrunner from the moment Brenly announced he was returning to the Arizona Diamondbacks to work a reduced schedule on Fox Sports Arizona and national games for Fox Sports.

Before joining the launch of MLB Network, Plesac made a favorable impression as a pre- and postgame analyst for Cubs broadcasts on Comcast SportsNet. He also played with future Cubs manager Dale Sveum before spending two seasons on the North Side (1993 and 1994).

The issue is that Plesac recently signed an extension with MLB Network, though the Northwest Indiana native could be interested in returning home.

Sutcliffe is a big personality who recently told the Chicago Tribune that hes under contract with ESPN for one more year. Hes viewed as a real long shot, because the sense is that he would have to do more work and travel for less money after making national appearances on ESPN.

Sutcliffe the National Leagues Cy Young Award winner in 1984 also enjoys going to Cubs camp in Arizona as an instructor for spring training.

While working the World Series, Karros told the Chicago Sun-Times that hes not blocked contractually, and revealed that he was once approached about replacing the late Ron Santo on WGN Radio after No. 10s death in December 2010.

Karros wasnt interested in the job that went to Keith Moreland, but this is a different story. Karros only spent one season on the North Side, but 2003 was an unforgettable year, and hes still remembered as a go-to guy for the media in that clubhouse.

Karros went to UCLA and does television work around the Los Angeles Dodgers and national games on Fox.

Hollandsworth the pre- and postgame analyst on Comcast SportsNet has kept up his profile nationally with MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM. Hollandsworth has filled in for Brenly before, around the All-Star break, when Brenly would go watch his son Michael play for a Cubs affiliate in the minor-league system.

As a color commentator for the Philadelphia Phillies, Matthews already knows the day-to-day demands of the job. Sarge played for the Cubs (1984-1987), and coached on Dusty Bakers staff (2003-2006), so he also understands the market.

Brenly was a WGN employee and drew praise for the way he mixed in music, pop culture, in-game strategy and pointed criticism while developing a real chemistry with play-by-play man Len Kasper across the last eight seasons.

WGN is expected to take the lead in this round of negotiations, with the Cubs having their say and Comcast SportsNet giving input.

The Cubs will be looking to cash in once their television contract with WGN expires after the 2014 season. Last year that didnt prevent Kasper from getting an extension through 2016, and they would presumably want to build their broadcasting team for whatever shape their next television deal takes.

For Cubs, winter meetings will be all about the hunt for pitching 

For Cubs, winter meetings will be all about the hunt for pitching 

As the Cubs prepare for the winter meetings outside Washington, D.C., their messaging might as well be: It’s the pitching, stupid.

This is an arms race that will never end, the Cubs trying to defend their first World Series title in 108 years, build out a bullpen that looked pretty thin by November and target the kind of young starter who could help anchor their rotation for years to come, ensuring Wrigleyville remains baseball’s biggest party.

Major League Baseball’s owners and the players’ union avoided a foolish labor war by crafting a new five-year collective bargaining agreement that should spur some action next week. As executives, scouts, agents and reporters begin to flood into National Harbor on Sunday, the Cubs will intensify their search for pitching, everything from headliners to insurance policies to prospects.

“That’s been the significant bulk of our efforts,” general manager Jed Hoyer said, “trying to identify those kind of starting pitchers and those kind of relief pitchers and how to match up with them. It’s definitely not going to be through lack of trying on our part to make that kind of deal. That’s now. That’s at the deadline.”  

That’s all-consuming. The Cubs are preparing for Opening Day 2018, when Jake Arrieta will probably be in a different uniform after signing his megadeal, John Lackey might be kicking back in Texas and enjoying retirement and Jon Lester will be 34 years old with maybe 2,300 innings on his odometer. 

The Cubs have unwavering faith in their pitching infrastructure at the major-league level, from the scouting and analytic perspectives that identified the right sign-and-flip deals during the rebuilding years to the coaching staff that helped mold Kyle Hendricks into a Cy Young Award finalist and a World Series Game 7 starter.

Mike Montgomery notched the final out against the Cleveland Indians and the Cubs see him as their next big project. The lefty checks so many of their boxes, from age (27) to size (6-foot-5) to pedigree (former first-round pick/top prospect) to the change-of-scenery confidence boost/mental reset.

Forget about the White Sox trading Chris Sale to the North Side and don’t just think about obvious names or trade partners. Maybe it’s making a deal for a guy you never heard of before and sifting through the non-tender bin. 

Remember how team president Theo Epstein framed the Montgomery trade with the Seattle Mariners this summer – comparing him to All-Star reliever Andrew Miller – and that gives you an idea of how they can address their pitching deficit this winter. 

“If your scouts do a good job of identifying the guys who are trending in the right direction – and you’re willing to take a shot – sometimes there’s a big payoff at the end,” Epstein said.   

While the Cubs did Jason Hammel a favor by cutting him loose and allowing him to explore the market as one of the best pitchers in an extremely weak class of free agents, Montgomery has only 23 big-league starts on his resume. 

[SHOP CUBS: Get your World Series champions gear right here]

The Cubs had five starters make at least 29 starts this year, while four starters accounted for 30-plus starts in 2015, a remarkable run that led to 200 wins.

“As we’ve talked about so many times,” Hoyer said, “we do have an imbalance in our organization – hitting vs. pitching – and we’re trying to make sure we can accumulate as much pitching depth as possible. 

“We were very healthy this year, which was wonderful and a big part of why we won the World Series. I don’t think you can always count on that kind of health every single year. Building up a reservoir of depth – preferably guys you can option (to the minors) – is something (we’re trying) to accomplish.”  

The Cubs have Jorge Soler stuck in a crowded outfield plus the types of interesting prospects who appear to be blocked – catcher Victor Caratini, third baseman Jeimer Candelario, infielder/outfielder Ian Happ – to make relatively painless trades for pitching (if not the kind of blockbuster deal that dominates coverage of the winter meetings).

The Cubs figure to add a lefty reliever, someone like Boone Logan or Jerry Blevins. The New York Post reported the Cubs were among the teams in pursuit of Brett Cecil, who got a four-year, $30.5 million deal and no-trade protection from the St. Louis Cardinals, another sign of how shallow this free-agent pool is for starting pitchers and a reflection of a postseason where the bullpen became a major storyline. 

The idea of Kenley Jansen intrigues the Cubs – and Aroldis Chapman made a favorable impression during his three-plus months with the team – but Epstein’s front office already made the major upgrades for 2017 by spending nearly $290 million on free agents after the 2015 playoff run. Philosophically, the Cubs also see smarter long-term investments than trying to win a bidding war for a guy who might throw 70 innings a year. 

With that in mind, the Cubs could get creative and have looked at free agent Greg Holland, a two-time All-Star closer with the Kansas City Royals who didn’t pitch this year after having Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.  

Remember that Chapman left the New York Yankees and joined a team that had a 56-1 record when leading entering the ninth inning. If Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. can’t handle the late shifts, then the Cubs could always go out and trade for another closer in the middle of a pennant race.    

The Cubs have the luxuries of time, zero pressure from ownership, their fan base or the Chicago media and a stacked, American League-style lineup. 

“Right now, we could go play from an offensive standpoint and feel very good about our group,” Hoyer said. “We’re going to still continue to look to improve the depth in our bullpen, improve the depth in our starting rotation. Those are things that probably never go away. You probably never stop trying to build that depth.” 

What will LeBron James wear to pay up on Cubs World Series bet with Dwyane Wade?

What will LeBron James wear to pay up on Cubs World Series bet with Dwyane Wade?

LeBron James is coming to town, and he will be all decked out in Cubs gear.

The Cavs are in Chicago to take on the Bulls Friday night at the United Center and it's time for LeBron to pay up on his World Series bet with Dwyane Wade.

The two former teammates made the wager during the World Series as LeBron's hometown Indians took on Wade's hometown Cubs, with the loser wearing the winning baseball team's gear when they showed up in the opposing city. This is LeBron's first trip to Chicago this season.

Wade and LeBron already acknowledged they're having fun with this and have a whole spectacle planned with a national TV audience.

LeBron told the Akron Beacon Journal he's not going to try to take the easy way out and just toss on a Cubs jersey. He is planning socks, hat, pants and possibly more. But he won't wear cleats or bring a glove with him.

[SHOP CUBS: Get your World Series champions gear right here]

When the Cubs won it all a month ago Friday, Wade posted an Instagram photo of LeBron wearing a Cubs uniform:

And ESPN had a cutout of LeBron sporting a No. 23 Cubs road gray jersey outside the United Center Friday morning:

CSN Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill wonders whether LeBron will don signature Joe Maddon glasses, too.

This is gonna be fun, you guys.