Cubs wave goodbye to Albert Pujols

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Cubs wave goodbye to Albert Pujols

DALLAS The other night Theo Epstein referred to Albert Pujols as The Big Kahuna.

Out of nowhere, the Los Angeles Angels emerged as the mystery team on Thursday morning, landing Pujols with a reported 10-year deal worth more than 250 million.

One day the Angels may wake up with a huge hangover, but they are now understandably giddy over the prospect of adding an iconic player to create must-see television and keep the turnstiles moving.

At this moment, the Cubs dont seem to have the appetite for that kind of megadeal. They were quiet at the winter meetings and left for the DallasFort Worth International Airport looking at incremental moves.

From a Cubs perspective, the Pujols decision could be looked at through two different prisms: Either the future Hall of Famer would leave the division, or force the St. Louis Cardinals to spend way beyond their means and cripple the payroll for years to come.

Epstein was asked about Pujols on Wednesday night, when the perception was that hed be returning to St. Louis and getting his statue outside Busch Stadium.

If he left, it would probably be a good thing for us in terms of developing young pitching, Epstein joked. You get a young pitcher up there and hes working on his third pitch and working on his fastball command. Youre telling him to get ahead, strike one, and then all of a sudden instead of a Triple-A hitter hes got Albert Pujols there.

(When) he can execute a pitch and it leaves the yard 420 to right-center field, its probably not good for his confidence.

Pujols hammered the Cubs over the years, generating 53 homers and 135 RBI in 174 games. In a surreal moment, Pujols created national news by hugging former general manager Jim Hendry behind the batting cage at Wrigley Field last season.

But it wouldnt have been a great fit on the North Side, where the Cubs are still trying to get out from under the huge contracts given to Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano.

Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto, who was hired only a few weeks ago, also handed out a five-year, 77.5 million contract to pitcher C.J. Wilson. Dipoto disputed the idea that Pujols is a player in decline.

I see Albert Pujols as the most consistent offensive player of his generation, Dipoto said. If a decline still places you in the top five MVP (vote, then go ahead). We understand that players will go through peaks and valleys. Albert has spent many years operating at the peaks. If you want to call a decline going from superhuman to just greatI dont think youve seen the last great days of Albert Pujols.

Pujols will turn 32 in January, but Dipoto wasnt worried about whispers that the slugger could actually be older than that.

Albert Pujols age, to me, is not a concern, Dipoto said. Hes an honorable man. I think hes a very respectful man and Im not a scientist. (I) can tell you he hits like hes 27.

The Cardinals have been a model of stability, but now Pujols is gone and Tony La Russa has retired. They got 11 great years out of Pujols, who became an institution in St. Louis. During that time, they finished under .500 only once, made the playoffs seven times and won two World Series titles.

The National League Central appears to be wide open, especially with Prince Fielder unlikely to return to the Milwaukee Brewers. Still, the Cubs arent expected to suddenly shift gears.

In this bizarro world, the Miami Marlins had reporters shadowing them while they walked through the Hilton Anatole toward the next possible blockbuster. In terms of buzz, the Cubs didnt exactly dominate the lobby.

At some point, the Cubs are going to need a bigger boat. But Epstein is committed to drafting well, signing international players and developing them in the system. That approach could eventually lead to a huge splash.

The most valuable commodity in the game these days is not dollars, Epstein said. Its prospects you project to be regulars or better, and good young players under control. Thats the swagger, because then the whole universe is open to you if you have those players to work with.

Looking at the Brett Anderson deal and what the future holds for Cubs' pitching

Looking at the Brett Anderson deal and what the future holds for Cubs' pitching

The Cubs already have a clear vision for their 2021 Opening Day lineup, when the images of superstars like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant can be plastered next to the iconic marquee at a fully renovated Wrigley Field. 
 
But the Cubs don't really have a five-year window for pitching, given all the medical risks, the weaker spots in their farm system and a team built around big-name hitters. It's more survival mode, getting through a spring training lengthened by the World Baseball Classic, past the All-Star break and into October.
 
A blurry picture is coming into focus for 2017 – an industry source confirmed that Brett Anderson was in Chicago on Tuesday to undergo a physical – yet this uncertainty is still the fastest way to derail the next championship parade down Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Avenue.
 
If healthy, Anderson would be a relatively low-risk, high-reward gamble for the defending World Series champs. Yahoo! Sports reported that the $3.5 million agreement includes incentives that could boost the deal's overall value to $10 million. 
 
The Cubs need a sixth starter as a hedge against Mike Montgomery stalling during his first full season in a big-league rotation, or John Lackey feeling his age this year (38) or the stress from throwing almost 3,000 innings in The Show.  
 
The Cubs know the history of nine-figure contracts for pitchers is littered with bad investments, and Jon Lester's left arm has already made it through 14 playoff rounds and accounted for nine straight seasons with at least 190 innings. Kyle Hendricks is a cerebral Cy Young Award finalist who doesn't have that much margin for error and will need to keep making adjustments and being unpredictable. 
 
As much as Jake Arrieta tries to meditate and stay in the moment, every pitch he fires this year can be viewed through the prism of his looming free agency. 
 
"We love Jake," team president Theo Epstein said after the Cubs settled on Arrieta's one-year, $15.6375 million contract, avoiding an arbitration hearing with the Scott Boras client. "We'd love for him to be around for a long time. But it's not the first time a talented core player has gone into the last year of his deal. It won't be the last time. It doesn't always mean the player's leaving. 
 
"I'm sure at the appropriate time we'll have confidential conversations and see if now is the time to get something done, or we put it off until later. He knows how we feel about him. Years and dollars are always complicated. But I'm sure we'll take a stab at it."
 
The bottom line is the Cubs could be looking to replace 60 percent of their rotation next winter. Maybe Tyson Ross recovers from surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome, returns to his All-Star form at some point during a one-year pillow contract with the Texas Rangers and proves worthy of a long-term commitment. 
 
Perhaps the Cubs again target the star pitchers they once tried to lure out of Japan, with Yu Darvish positioned to become a free agent after this season and Masahiro Tanaka able to opt out of the final three years ($67 million) of his megadeal with the New York Yankees.       
 
All along, the Cubs planned to flip young hitters for pitching. The same aggressive mentality that pushed Epstein's front office to send an elite prospect (Gleyber Torres) to the Yankees for rental closer Aroldis Chapman – and secure one season of Wade Davis without worrying about Jorge Soler living up to his enormous potential for the Kansas City Royals – will be in play if the team needs a rotation upgrade at the trade deadline this summer. 
 
"We were in that phase for three-plus years where we were really single-minded about acquiring young talent," Epstein said during Cubs Convention in mid-January. "I remember at this very panel we'd talk about that and some of the questions were: Why are you trading all these players that we've heard of for guys we've never heard of?
 
"That was tough in one way, but those trades are a little bit easier for us to quote-unquote ‘win' those deals, because you're trading players who are at the end of their contracts. You're getting young prospects. We went out of our way to work really hard to make sure we hit on those trades – and luckily we did. 
 
"But now we're in a phase where we have such a good team, when we have holes – and we're going to have holes, last year to get Chapman midseason, going forward we really have to address starting pitching – we're going to be on the other end of some of those trades.       
 
"We're going to aggressively try to get really talented major-league players. It's always extremely painful for us to make some of those trades where we send prospects for established players. Those trades are hard to win. You're more likely to quote-unquote ‘lose' those trades. 
 
"But the bottom line is we're not up here to pad our resume and make trades that we can look back on and say that we ‘won' those trades. We're up here to win World Series. And if those deals help us win World Series, that's what it's all about."
 
Maybe Anderson helps the Cubs get back to the postseason for the third straight season, something this franchise hasn't done since the 1907 and 1908 teams won back-to-back World Series titles.    
 
Anderson will turn 29 on Feb. 1 and led the majors with a 66.3 groundball percentage in 2015, when he went 10-9 with a 3.69 ERA in 31 starts and still accepted the one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Los Angeles Dodgers.  
 
Anderson's medical file includes: Tommy John surgery on his left elbow (2011); a strained right oblique (2012); disabled-list stints for a stress fracture in his right foot (2013) and a broken left index finger (2014); plus surgical procedures on his back (2014 and last March).    
 
Anderson also has perspective as someone who grew up around the game. His father, Frank, is the University of Houston pitching coach and former head coach at Oklahoma State University.  
 
Whether or not Anderson stays healthy, the Cubs are at a point where they will have to keep thinking bigger and bigger.
 
"We're always going to be committed to young players," Epstein said. "It's in our DNA to trust young players, to grow with young payers. But as painful as it is…you sometimes have to move those guys to make sure your major-league team has a legitimate chance to win the World Series.
 
"We're not doing it recklessly. It's not something that we want to do. But when you have a team that's really good – and you have a chance to win the whole thing – we think it's our obligation to make those deals from time to time."

Kris Bryant releases epic teaser for wedding video

Kris Bryant releases epic teaser for wedding video

The latest installment in Kris Bryant's fairy tale year is now on video.

After breaking the curse and winning the World Series with the Cubs and earning the National League MVP, Bryant married his longtime girlfriend Jessica in early January and took his "honeymoon" in Chicago at Cubs Convention.

Monday night, Bryant sent out a preview video of his wedding on Instagram and it's pretty epic:

Little wedding video teaser! Can't wait for the whole thing! 📽: @newflyfilms

A video posted by Kris Bryant (@kris_bryant17) on

You can catch part of Bryant's wedding vows and a clip of Cubs teammates like Kyle Schwarber as the video camera pans down the aisle.

Now the question becomes: Will the Bryants make the entire video available to the public when it's done?