Following in Rynos footsteps, Barney wins Gold Glove

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Following in Rynos footsteps, Barney wins Gold Glove

Darwin Barney has entertained teammates by doing backflips like Ozzie Smith, a trick he learned as a kid in gymnastics.

Barney was smart enough to start out on a pre-dental track at Oregon State University before he realized he should major in baseball and helped the Beavers win back-to-back College World Series titles.

Barney had pretty much played shortstop his entire life until he saw Starlin Castro make the leap over him in May 2010, directly from Double-A Tennessee to The Show.

So Barney went to work at second base at Triple-A Iowa with Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, the last Cub to win a Gold Glove at that position (nine straight between 1983 and 1991). Barney may not be at the beginning of that kind of run, but he has forced his way into the potential team picture for 2015, or whenever the Cubs are good again.

Winning a Gold Glove on Tuesday only reinforced the belief that Barney should be a core player in Theo Epsteins future plans.

Ryno meant a lot when Starlin got called up, Barney said. Ryno was really one of the guys that kept me confident in my ability and the fact that theres a spot for me in the big leagues some day.

Barneys mix of athleticism, intelligence and intangibles proved to be a good match for Dale Sveums program. The managers stronger emphasis on breaking down video and analyzing spray charts helped put Barney in position to win this award.

By going 141 consecutive games at second base without an error, Barney tied the major-league, single-season record held by Placido Polanco. Barney probably needed a big number like that to grab the attention of National League managers and coaches.

Brandon Phillips thinks hes the best defensive second baseman in the game just ask him and had won the past two Gold Gloves, and three within the previous four seasons.

Barney beat out finalists Phillips (Cincinnati Reds) and Aaron Hill (Arizona Diamondbacks). The Fielding Bible had already recognized Barney for saving 28 runs the most by a major-league second baseman by a wide margin which shows you can be a game-changer defensively.

Barney isnt one to beat his chest. He downplayed the Phillips question, showing the diplomatic skills that should make him a clubhouse leader in the years to come.

You dont expect to pass a guy like Brandon Phillips, Barney said. Hes exceptional at what he does. I cant sit here and say that Im better than him or anything like that. I dont think it has anything to do with that. I had a good season, and I think either one of us could have won it.

Barney led all second basemen in the majors with a .997 fielding percentage, committing only two errors in 731 total chances covering 1,270.1 innings. His 3.6 defensive win above replacement rating led all players in the National League.

I felt like the transition would happen eventually, (but) I didnt think it would be as smooth as it was, Barney said. You always hope that its not the last (Gold Glove, that its) the first of some or many. But for me, Im just going to enjoy this, because you never know if it will happen again.

At the end of the season, while the Philadelphia Phillies promoted Sandberg to their coaching staff for 2013, the Cubs didnt renew Pat Listachs contract. The third-base coach had been responsible for studying video, going over scouting reports and positioning infielders before each pitch, but Sveum had his own ideas.

I wouldnt say bittersweet, Barney said. Theres a place for Pat at the big-league level somewhere, and its going to happen real soon. Im not worried about him at all.

Generously listed at 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, Barney knew that a job wouldnt be handed to him. He understood that he would have to fight for it. With Castro at his side, Barney thinks the Cubs could one day have the best middle infield around.

Its been a long path, Barney said. (But) you cant be satisfied. Winning a Gold Glove doesnt necessarily satisfy me for the future, (but it) makes me hungry to try and get another one some day.

Tyson Ross could be one of the final pieces for Cubs’ offseason puzzle

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AP

Tyson Ross could be one of the final pieces for Cubs’ offseason puzzle

Tyson Ross could be one of the final pieces of the offseason puzzle as the Cubs try to defend their World Series title while still planning for the future.

The Cubs left this week’s winter meetings in Maryland still involved in the Ross talks, sources said, monitoring an intriguing pitcher they had targeted before the 2015 trade deadline.

The San Diego Padres didn’t really buy or sell during that pennant race and made another curious decision last week when they didn’t offer Ross a contract for 2017. MLB Trade Rumors projected Ross would have made $9.6 million during his final year in the arbitration system.

After issues involving his right shoulder wiped out almost his entire season, Ross underwent surgery in October to address thoracic outlet syndrome.

Ross was San Diego’s Opening Day starter during a 15-0 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, but didn’t pitch again, clouding a future that once had him looking like a trade-deadline chip and one of the best pitchers in the free-agent class after the 2017 season.

That’s when Jake Arrieta will be looking for his megadeal and John Lackey might be in retirement and Jon Lester will be turning 34. That’s why the Cubs are so focused on pitching this winter and trying to balance out an organization tilted toward hitters.

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Kyle Hendricks proved he will be a pitcher to build around – and the Cubs believe Mike Montgomery can evolve from a swingman into a fifth starter and maybe something far more valuable – but depth is a real issue.

Ross made 30-plus starts in 2014 and 2015, when he earned an All-Star selection and accounted for almost 400 innings combined. He will turn 30 in April and is seen as a positive force within the clubhouse. He has a 6-foot-6 frame, a second-round-pick pedigree and a Cal-Berkeley education.

Reports have already linked the Texas Rangers and Pittsburgh Pirates to Ross and not completely ruled out a return to San Diego. During an offseason where the free-agent market is essentially devoid of reliable frontline starters, there could be sticker shock, even with a rehabbing pitcher.

Trading for Wade Davis meant the Cubs were out of the bidding for Greg Holland, another All-Star closer who helped turn the Kansas City Royals into World Series champions. Holland spent this year recovering from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, but he will still be in position to capitalize after Mark Melancon, Aroldis Chapman and eventually Kenley Jansen reset the market for closers.

With Ross, the Cubs will have to get a better sense of the medical picture and the price for all that upside.

Beyond a winning culture, the Cubs can sell the pitching infrastructure that helped turn Arrieta into a Cy Young Award winner and transform Hendricks into an ERA leader and keep the rotation remarkably healthy.

“Those really talented pitchers are going to be in demand, even those that are coming off an injury,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said this week at National Harbor. “We’ll stay engaged on some of those guys, but they’ll have to be just the right talent.

“We’ll have to feel good about the medical and the return to play. And the fit on the club would have to be right, too. But the true elite guys have a real market, even if they’re coming off down seasons.”

Cubs' MVP Kris Bryant signs multi-year extension with Adidas

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USA TODAY

Cubs' MVP Kris Bryant signs multi-year extension with Adidas

Kris Bryant just keeps on winning in 2016.

Two months after leading the Cubs to their first World Series title in 108 years, Bryant signed a multi-year extension with Adidas.

"It's a phenomenal time to be partnered with Adidas with all the energy and momentum that the brand has right now," Bryant said via a press release. "Adidas embraced me as part of the family from the start."

Bryant was named National League MVP after hitting .292 with 39 homers and 102 RBIs. He hit .308 with three homers and 8 RBIs in the postseason.

Bryant first signed with Adidas in 2014 after the Cubs made him the No. 2 pick in the 2013 MLB Draft.