Cubs will look at other options while waiting on Brett Jackson


Cubs will look at other options while waiting on Brett Jackson

The front office is building the 2013 Opening Day roster without Brett Jackson, while the marketing department is putting him front and center promoting the Cubs Convention.

That push-pull dynamic will be fascinating to watch as Theo Epstein builds The Foundation For Sustained Success (even the president of baseball operations seems tired of using that phrase) while the business side tries to sell the actual product on the field.

The media still snickers at the Three Cs campaign that once featured Tyler Colvin, Andrew Cashner and Starlin Castro. And the explosion of information on the Internet makes people fall in and out of love with prospects all the time. But Jackson doesnt have to be rushed, and he doesnt need to be hyped.

The Cubs can start negotiating with free agents at 11:01 p.m. Friday, and they are going to be in the market for outfield help this winter, perhaps a short-term bridge to Jackson. They dont feel hell be ready after striking out 59 times in 120 at-bats. They saw this coming before they called him up from Triple-A Iowa in early August.

Brett Jackson was promoted for specific reasons, Epstein said. We sat in (manager) Dale (Sveums) office (and) we all said: Right now, his swing is not ready to compete up here. He does a lot of other things very well, but we dont think hes necessarily ready to succeed up here.

But there were other reasons to get him up here. Dale wanted to see it firsthand. We wanted Dale and (hitting coach James Rowson) to have a chance to work with him. We wanted to show Brett certain things, certain adjustments that he needed to make to ultimately have success at the big-league level.

Hes going to have a much more productive offseason because of what he was exposed to (rather) than if he had stayed at Triple-A in what was generally, for him, somewhat of a disappointing season.

Jackson wouldnt argue that point. On the final day of the season, he was philosophical while packing up his stuff inside the Wrigley Field clubhouse before heading home to the Bay Area.

Youd like to bounce back from a below-average year, Jackson said. Im not proud of my numbers. That being said, Im proud of how far Ive come and whats been learned. Its not necessarily on paper sometimes the value of an experience.

Jackson is again ticketed for Des Moines after a season in which he struck out 217 times. But he still walked 22 times in 44 games with the Cubs and saw 4.24 pitches per plate appearance in the big leagues.

Jackson was smart enough to go to Cal-Berkeley, so there are reasons to believe that he can figure it out. He was fast enough to steal 27 bases at Iowa and cover a lot of ground in center field. He showed his fearless nature by almost blowing out his knee while making a spectacular catch at the PNC Park wall in September.

So even if no single part of Jacksons game is spectacular, hes still the kind of well-rounded player Epstein likes to build around.

Remember that at this time last year there were also questions about Anthony Rizzo, who fixed his swing, crushed Triple-A pitching for almost three months and firmly established himself as a core player on the North Side.

As Jackson said: Rizzos a good example of somebody who took an experience, learned from it, made adjustments in the offseason and came out this year and did some damage.

Epstein would love to see Jackson force the issue.

The ball jumps off Jacksons bat when he does make contact. He still managed to post an .817 OPS at Iowa and generate four homers, six doubles and a triple with the Cubs. The staff believes theres enough to work with here.

Id like to see him completely revamp his swing and lower half, Sveum said. (But) theyre not things (where) youre asking somebody to stand on their head. There have been players in this game that have made drastic, drastic adjustments (which) have propelled some of them to Hall of Fame stature (and) long careers in the big leagues.

Ill go to my grave saying if you dont make any adjustments in this game, youre not going to stay here very long.

Lets not overlook the obvious: Jackson is still here, unlike Colvin (Colorado Rockies) and Cashner (San Diego Padres), two other first-round picks traded away by the Epstein administration.

Jackson showed up at the last Cubs Convention and had a money quote about the new bosses, saying how people are raving about the new bosses being rock stars, so everyones excited to see what kind of show they put on here.

I feel very fortunate to be a part of it, Jackson said. I believe in them. I think they believe in me. Im motivated to work hard to be that player for them to be someone that can help this team win. Theyve proved themselves. Theyre good at what they do. (Its) going to be up to us the guys on the team to put it all together.

Report: Aroldis Chapman returns to Yankees on five-year deal

Report: Aroldis Chapman returns to Yankees on five-year deal

After helping bring a World Series title back to the North Side, Aroldis Chapman is headed back to New York.

The former Cubs closer signed a five-year, $86 million deal with the Yankees, according to FOX's Ken Rosenthal.

He was acquired by the Cubs in July in exchange for pitcher Adam Warren and prospects Rashad Crawford, Billy McKinney and Gleyber Torres.

Chapman notched 36 saves and owned a 1.01 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and recorded 90 strikeouts across 26 2/3 innings with the Cubs during the regular season.

He appeared in 13 postseason contests, where he registered a 3.45 ERA,1.09 WHIP and 21 strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings. 

Why Cubs felt like they had to trade Jorge Soler now

Why Cubs felt like they had to trade Jorge Soler now

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – Before making the blockbuster Aroldis Chapman trade with the New York Yankees, the Cubs checked in with the Kansas City Royals about Wade Davis and found the asking price to be Kyle Schwarber. 

The psychology and the supply-and-demand dynamics are different in July. Schwarber had been damaged goods, still recovering from major knee surgery and months away from his dramatic return in the World Series. Davis also could have impacted two pennants races for his new team instead of one.
By the time a $10 billion industry reconvened this week outside Washington, D.C., for the winter meetings, the small-market Royals could compromise with Jorge Soler, betting on his long-term upside and facing the reality that their World Series closer could have been part of a mass exodus of free agents after the 2017 season.

The Cubs also checked into the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center knowing that Soler is a diminishing asset for a loaded team at a time when his best attribute – right-handed power – could be found on the free-agent market in sluggers like Edwin Encarnacion and Mark Trumbo.  
“I think there’s some great baseball ahead for him,” team president Theo Epstein said Wednesday night after the Cubs finalized the Soler-for-Davis trade. “I think it’s more likely that he reaches his ceiling now than it was 24 hours ago, because he’s got a chance to play every day.” 

Soler became a top priority within the first weeks of the Epstein administration as Cubs officials scouted the Cuban defector in the Dominican Republic before Thanksgiving 2011, picturing him as a building block for future playoff teams at a renovated Wrigley Field. 

Even chairman Tom Ricketts met with Soler’s camp during a trip to the Dominican Republic before the Cubs won the bidding war and the prospect signed a nine-year, $30 million major-league contract in the summer of 2012. 

Years later, manager Joe Maddon would describe Soler as Vladimir Guerrero with plate discipline, the kind of talent who would be drafted No. 1 overall if he had been born in South Florida. 

Soler showed flashes of superstar potential. He absolutely crushed the St. Louis Cardinals during the 2015 playoffs (2.341 OPS) and will get a well-deserved World Series ring. But he didn’t look like a complete player or an athlete the Cubs could count on to stay healthy, profiling more like a designated hitter in the American League.

“When George was playing sporadically, he became a little bit more of an all-or-nothing power threat,” Epstein said, “because it’s hard to get into a good rhythm and you’re not seeing pitches as much. You’re not recognizing spin the same way. 

“When he’s locked in, he can work really good at-bats. And he’s a hitter – not just a power hitter. So I think it’s more likely now that his potential gets unleashed at some point. We’re rooting for him.”

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Maybe Soler – who still hasn’t turned 25 yet – can avoid some of the leg injuries as a part-time DH and put it all together in Kansas City as the Royals try to balance the present, the future and their financial realities. But the Cubs are a win-now team that believes Davis could get them the final out of the 2017 World Series. 

An October legend (Schwarber) and a $184 million Gold Glove defender (Jason Heyward) would keep blocking Soler at the corner spots in Wrigley Field, where a National League MVP (Kris Bryant) and a World Series MVP (Ben Zobrist) can move away from the infield. Javier Baez is another versatile, well-rounded player who would continue to marginalize Soler. 

“It became tough for us,” Epstein said, “with Schwarber looking like he’s destined to play quite a bit of left field. Not ruling catching out as an option to some extent, but he’s going to play a lot of left field. 

“And with Javy’s emergence – and what that means for Zobrist’s possible role in the outfield as well at times – it just became tougher and tougher to see George getting regular at-bats with us. 

“We felt like he needed to play – and it would have been a tough fit.”

It would have been even tougher to trade a spare outfielder during his fourth season in the big leagues. Stashing Soler – who has 27 career homers in less than 700 big-league at-bats – at Triple-A Iowa wouldn’t have been the answer. 

The Cubs saw this day coming. Schwarber wrecked his knee in early April and Soler injured his hamstring two months later and wound up missing two months.

“He just couldn’t quite stay healthy enough,” Epstein said, “and kind of slumped at the wrong time and started to get hot right before he got hurt.

“That was kind of how we envisioned it: ‘Hey, if there’s an opportunity, this guy can take the job and run with it – and then we have an even more valuable trade chip – or we’ve got an everyday leftfielder/middle-of the-order bat.’ It just didn’t quite come together. 

“But I think this trade – despite that – recouped a lot of his value. It made sense for him, for us and for the Royals.”