Cubs will keep shopping after signing Feldman


Cubs will keep shopping after signing Feldman

In an industry flooded with new money, the Cubs continue to make smaller, safer bets on the free-agent market.

The Cubs are taking a shot with right-hander Scott Feldman, who on Tuesday agreed to a one-year deal worth 6 million, plus 1 million in possible incentives, and they arent done shopping yet.

The Cubs think Feldman can throw strikes, follow the game plan and get groundballs for a potential Gold Glove infield. They expect him to pitch with confidence after switching back and forth between the bullpen and the rotation with the Texas Rangers. They hope he will benefit from getting out of the American League and the Ballpark in Arlington.

The Cubs were like a dream scenario for me, Feldman said, getting to play for an organization with that type of history, in a city like Chicago with the great fans.

Two weeks ago, the Cubs made a similar investment in Scott Baker, who didnt even throw a pitch last season for the Minnesota Twins. Building his strength back up from Tommy John surgery, Baker will get 5.5 million, with built-in incentives that could be worth an additional 1.5 million.

The Cubs knew heading into this offseason they would need to add at least two legitimate pieces to their rotation. With two already signed before agents and executives even check into the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, Tenn., for next weeks winter meetings are they just looking to add depth, or are they prepared to make bigger guaranteed commitments?

Its so early in the offseason, its hard to really assess that kind of question, general manager Jed Hoyer said. Two of the main guys we targeted going into the winter were Baker and Feldman. We felt like both guys were very similar in that we thought they could benefit coming to the National League. We thought they both have some upside left. Theyre both still young. They were the two guys we really focused on (with) one-year deals.

Whether we would add a guy on a multiyear commitment, I think that depends on the player and the opportunity for us.

Stay tuned to see whether Shaun Marcum or Brandon McCarthy or someone non-tendered by Friday becomes the right player at the right price. But the stress reaction in Matt Garzas right elbow is still healing. Baker and Arodys Vizcaino are recovering from Tommy John procedures. And there will be attrition. All together now: You cant have too much pitching.

Were still going to continue to look for talent, Hoyer said. If that talent is in the rotation, then we wouldnt consider ourselves done. We would certainly add someone else. But were excited about the two guys weve added so far and we think theyll provide a lot of quality innings for us.

As far as where the rotation stands right now, were still looking to get better, still looking to add talent all over the team.

Feldman will be 30 years old next season and to this point had spent his entire career in the Rangers organization, going 39-44 with a 4.81 ERA in 204 games (101 starts). He went 6-11 with a 5.09 ERA in 29 games (21 starts) last season.

Feldman won 17 games for the Rangers in 2009, and earned the Opening Day start in 2010. But he hasnt come close to that level since, in part because knee surgery wiped out part of his 2011 season. Team president Nolan Ryan and pitching coach Mike Maddux also developed a surplus of elite arms.

(Feldman) did sort of have one foot in, one foot out, Hoyer said. I think he felt like he was looking over his shoulder a lot. If he made a bad start, he might not necessarily make another one or might be in the bullpen. We certainly gave him the reassurance here: Youre going to be a starting pitcher. Youre going to be in the rotation.

(That) means a lot. Its hard to perform when youre always constantly worried about (your) job.

Six minutes into his introductory conference call with the Chicago media, Feldman was asked about the possibility of being flipped at the trade deadline. Five days after Thanksgiving, his response sounded like this was the middle of July.

Thats out of my control, Feldman said. I hope that I can pitch here this year and do well and stay here for a long time. But that kind of stuffs out of my control. Theyre going to do whats best for the team, not only this year, but for the long-term. Im just glad that Im here and consider myself lucky to be a part of this organization.

The question was legitimate because people are skeptical about the front offices motives for 2013. After losing 101 games, Hoyer was asked how you sell these signings to Cubs fans.

Were certainly not done with our offseason, Hoyer said. Whether were coming off a 101-loss season or coming off a 90-plus-win season, youre always trying to find value on the free-agent market, and we feel like both Baker and Feldman provide (that). Our approach is not going to change based on the previous year. Youre always looking to find guys that you feel can outperform their contract.

The new Cubs are out to write their own history

The new Cubs are out to write their own history

The Cubs felt so nervous just before a 7:09 first pitch on Saturday night that Javier Baez found the camera looking into the home dugout, waved with a big smile and started pumping his fist, hamming it up for the video board as Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion” blasted through the Wrigley Field sound system.

The Cubs then ran out onto the field and systematically destroyed the Los Angeles Dodgers, ending this National League Championship Series in six games with a 5-0 win that featured almost no tension or suspense, obliterating for now the narrative around this franchise.

The old stadium still kept shaking, from Kris Bryant’s RBI single in the first inning to the clapping to Anthony Rizzo’s “Intoxicated” walk-up music to a standing ovation for Kyle Hendricks, who outpitched the supposed best pitcher on the planet in Clayton Kershaw.

“We don’t care about history,” Bryant said. “This is a completely different team, different people all around. It doesn’t matter. This is a new Chicago Cubs team. And we are certainly a very confident group.”

Sure, 1908 will hover over the entire World Series, which begins Tuesday night against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. But this is the new normal for Bryant, who within two years has won 200 games, four playoff rounds, a Rookie of the Year award and probably MVP hardware.

This team isn’t going away, either. With a chance to win the pennant for the first time since the Truman administration, the Cubs started two rookies who began this season at Triple-A Iowa – catcher Willson Contreras and outfielder Albert Almora Jr. – in a lineup that featured Bryant (24), Rizzo (27), Baez (23), Addison Russell (22) and Hendricks (26).

Contreras caught a shutout and posed for a moment at home plate watching his line-drive homer off Kershaw fly into the left-field bleachers in the fourth inning. Rizzo – who had looked overmatched earlier in the playoffs – became the first left-handed hitter to homer off Kershaw during this calendar year.

And when Rizzo tried to wave off Baez for the ball Josh Reddick popped up to the right side of the infield in the fifth inning, Baez cut right in front of Rizzo to catch it, continuing a long-running gag among the Cubs infielders.

“I don’t think they’re oblivious, because that’s sort of insulting in some ways,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “They know the history. I just don’t think they care. They think they’re a good team and they love to play. And we have some guys that definitely shine on the big stage.”

Baez – a September call-up last year who couldn’t get an everyday spot during the regular season – showed off his bat speed and unbelievable defensive instincts and emerged as the NLCS co-MVP along with big-game pitcher Jon Lester. Sold on the idea of all this young talent someday coming together, Lester joined a last-place team after the 2014 season, taking a leap of faith, even at $155 million.

“I don’t feel like there’s pressure at all in our clubhouse,” said Almora, the first player Theo Epstein’s front office drafted here in 2012. “There’s just hunger and excitement and desire to win.

“None of us were around in 1945…so we just got to write our own history.”

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]

This is what the Cubs have been talking about since the New York Mets swept them out of last year’s NLCS, since the Ricketts family invested almost $290 million more in free agents, since unconventional manager Joe Maddon made “Embrace The Target” the theme of spring training.

Whatever your preconceived notions of the old Cubs are, know that this group has an amazing sense of balance. They are youthful and experienced. They play as a team and with individual flair. They have style and get dirty. They are analytical and sort of oblivious. They are loose and intense. And the ending hasn’t been written yet.

“We still got a long ways to go,” Lester said. “We’ll enjoy tonight – don’t get me wrong – we’ll have a celebration. We’ll have a good time. We’ll smile, we’ll hug each other, probably get drunk a little bit…but we got some work to do.”

Kyle Hendricks outduels Clayton Kershaw and delivers legendary performance that puts Cubs in World Series

Kyle Hendricks outduels Clayton Kershaw and delivers legendary performance that puts Cubs in World Series

John Hendricks sent a text message to his son at 11:24 a.m. on Saturday: “Good luck tonight!! Remember, great mechanics and preparation will prevail. Just let it go!!” It ended with three emoji: a smiley face with sunglasses, the thumbs-up sign and a flexed biceps.

The Cubs have bonded fathers and sons for generations, and Hendricks immediately understood what it meant for his boy when the Cubs traded Ryan Dempster to the Texas Rangers minutes before the deadline on July 31, 2012, telling Kyle: “You win in this city, you will be a legend. There is no doubt about it. This is the greatest sports town in the United States.”

This is the intoxicating lure of the Cubs. It didn’t matter that Kyle had been an eighth-round pick out of Dartmouth College, and hadn’t yet finished his first full season in professional baseball, and would be joining an organization enduring a 101-loss season, the third of five straight fifth-place finishes.

Kyle’s low-key personality will never get him confused with an ’85 Bear, but he delivered a legendary performance in Game 6, outpitching Clayton Kershaw at the end of this National League Championship Series and leading the Cubs to the World Series for the first time in 71 years.

Five outs away from the pennant, a raucous crowd of 42,386 at Wrigley Field actually booed star manager Joe Maddon when he walked out to the mound to take the ball from Kyle and bring in closer Aroldis Chapman. Kyle, the silent assassin, did briefly raise his hand to acknowledge the standing ovation before descending the dugout steps. 

After a 5-0 win, Kyle stood in roughly the same spot with Nike goggles on his head and finally looked a little rattled, his body shivering and teeth chattering in the cold, his Cubs gear soaked from the champagne-and-beer celebration.

“It’s always been an uphill climb for me, honestly,” Kyle said. “But that really has nothing to do with getting guys out. My focus from Day 1 – even when I was young, high school, college, all the way up until now – all it’s been is trying to make good pitches. 

“And as we moved up, you just saw that good pitches get good hitters out.” 

At a time when the game is obsessed with velocity and showing off for the radar gun, Kyle knows how to pitch, putting the ball where he wants when he wants, avoiding the hot zones that lead to trouble, mixing his changeups, fastballs and curveball in an unpredictable way that takes advantage of the team’s intricate scouting system and keeps hitters completely off-balance.

“Kyle didn’t even give them any air or any hope,” general manager Jed Hoyer said.

Amid the celebration, scouting/player-development chief Jason McLeod spotted Kyle’s dad and yelled at John: “You f------ called it!” John – who once worked in the Angels ticket office and as a golf pro in Southern California – had moved to Chicago two years ago to work for his good friend’s limo company and watch his son pitch at Wrigley Field. John had told McLeod that Kyle would one day help the Cubs win a championship.

“That was one of the best pitching performances I’ve ever seen,” McLeod said. “Ever.”

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities] 

The media framed Kyle as The Other Pitcher, even though he won the ERA title this season, with all the pregame buzz surrounding Kershaw, the three-time Cy Young Award winner and 2014 NL MVP. Except Kershaw gave up five runs and got knocked out after five innings, while Kyle only gave up two singles to the 23 batters he faced, finishing with six strikeouts against zero walks and looking like he had even more left in the tank at 88 pitches.

“It was incredible,” Ben Zobrist said. “That was the easiest postseason game we’ve had yet and it was the clincher to go to the World Series. 

“He’s just so good, so mature for his age. He just has a knack to put the ball where he needs to. He’s smart and he’s clutch. He deserves to win the Cy Young this year.”

Where Kershaw’s presence loomed over the entire playoffs, Kyle has always been underestimated, coming into this season as a fourth or fifth starter with something to prove, and even he didn’t see all this coming. But big-game pitchers can come in all shapes and sizes and don’t have to throw 97 mph. 

“He wants the ball,” John said. “Every big game – I don’t care if it was Little League or wherever – he wants the ball. Plain and simple, (he’ll) get the job done.”