Kaplan: Are Cubs finally catching some 'breaks'?

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Kaplan: Are Cubs finally catching some 'breaks'?

Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011
11:35 a.m.

By David Kaplan
CSNChicago.com

With the news that the Cardinals may have lost star pitcher Adam Wainwright for the season comes a thought that maybe this years Cubs could be starting to experience some of the breaks going their way.

Lets examine some of the evidence. In December, amid a very sad time in the Cubs' world, at the funeral of legendary Cubs player and broadcaster Ron Santo came word that Kerry Wood was interested in returning to the team. During a team sponsored reception at Harry Carays restaurant Wood reconnected with Cubs general manager Jim Hendry. Later that evening at an event for the Ryan Dempster Family Foundation, Wood let Hendry know that money would not stand in the way of his signing to pitch for the team he had starred for during most of his career.

Hendry set up a meeting for Wood with team chairman Tom Ricketts three days later and by the end of that next week Wood was back in Cubbie blue. He had spurned much larger offers to play for the one team that was in his heart. He signed a one-year deal for 1.5 million, an unheard of gesture in todays times and appears destined to finish his career as a Chicago Cub.

READ: Reasons for optimism from Cubs camp

The Cubs' chief rivals are the St. Louis Cardinals who are dealing with the fallout of losing their best starter it appears for the entire 2011 season. However, the much larger story is what will happen with Albert Pujols who becomes a free agent at the end of the 2011 season.

While I fully expect the Cardinals to re-sign Pujols there is no denying the fact that the whole Pujols sideshow will most definitely weigh on the Cardinals as a team and especially on their rabid fan base. That is another break that is going the Cubs way. Add in the fact that the Cubs were able to add Carlos Pena, Wood and Matt Garza for the total cost of 17 million and you see another example of things working in the Cubs favor.

At the end of this season the Cubs will be clearing significant salary off of the books as Aramis Ramirez (14 million), Carlos Silva (12.5 million), Kosuke Fukudome (14.5 million) John Grabow (5.5 million), and Jeff Samardizija (3.5 million) all will be at the end of their contracts. Add in the fact that Pena is a free agent and after factoring in deferred money the Cubs should have in excess of 40 million coming off of their payroll.

It takes a great team to win a World Series and for far too long the Cubs havent been a great team. However, it also takes a ton of breaks for a team to make a run at a championship and early in 2011 several of them seem to be trending the Cubs way. The big question is will it continue?

David Kaplan is the host of Chicago Tribune Live on Comcast SportsNet. Follow him on Twitter @thekapman.

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

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USA TODAY

Cubs' MVP Kris Bryant signs multi-year deal 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.

With Dexter Fowler in St. Louis, Cubs see Kyle Schwarber as a potential leadoff answer

With Dexter Fowler in St. Louis, Cubs see Kyle Schwarber as a potential leadoff answer

Dexter Fowler buttoned up a white No. 25 Cardinals jersey and put on a red St. Louis hat, posing for the cameras during Friday morning’s press conference at Busch Stadium.

Fowler stood in between Mike Matheny, the St. Louis manager who now has a new leadoff guy at the top of his lineup card, and John Mozeliak, the general manager who helped structure a five-year, $82.5 million contract that goes against The Cardinal Way.

That visual might be disorienting for Cubs fans who just watched what will probably be the best two seasons of Fowler’s career. But Theo Epstein’s front office understandably wanted to get younger, upgrade defensively and preserve some financial flexibility for the future, planning to go with Albert Almora Jr. and ex-Cardinal Jon Jay in a center-field timeshare.

“I’ll be forever grateful that I was a Cub,” Fowler said. “We made history, won a World Series. But I guess that door is closed, and, you know, I’m a Cardinal now. And we’re trying to make history over here as well.”

Let’s not get carried away with all the talk about Fowler being such a great leader and magnetic clubhouse personality. There were enough questions about him that the draft-pick compensation dragged down his market to the point where he accepted a $13 million guarantee in spring training. But he is a switch-hitter who sees pitches and works at-bats (.366 career on-base percentage) and can ignite an offense when healthy.

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Cubs manager Joe Maddon might not go with a traditional leadoff hitter in 2017. But this lineup should still score 800-plus runs again, factoring in a full season of Kyle Schwarber, projected growth from MVP Kris Bryant and All Stars Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell and an anticipated bounce-back year from Jason Heyward after the $184 million outfielder had been one of the least productive hitters in the majors.

 “Schwarber is not a bad name, Kyle is not a bad name at all,” Maddon said when asked about his leadoff hitter during this week’s winter meetings at National Harbor in Maryland. “(Ben) Zobrist isn’t a bad name. There are different guys to consider right there.

“Actually, a couple years ago, (when) Kyle came up and Dexter was still there, I considered leading Kyle off and putting Dexter second. But I had all the dudes do all the work — all our nerds did all the work — and they really liked Fowler 1 and they liked Schwarber 2, just based on our data.

“So I went with that, and it worked out really, really well. So now all of a sudden, Dexter is not there anymore. It’s not impossible to consider Kyle in that spot, Zobrist in that spot.

“I don’t know if we’re going to do anything differently during the course of this offseason that might cause me to think differently, but there’s not a whole lot of other candidates.”

Fowler bet on himself after the Baltimore Orioles dragged out negotiations over a reported three-year deal in the $30 million range, shocking the baseball world when he showed up in Arizona in late February. It paid off with a staggering contract that will add another level of intrigue to a rivalry that has already seen Heyward and pitcher John Lackey switch sides.

Fowler will be in Cardinal red on Opening Night 2017 when the Cubs begin their World Series title defense at Busch Stadium.

“It’s bittersweet,” Fowler said. “Now they’re the rival. But you still got some boys over there. We’ll always be boys. We won a championship together. But when you get on the field, it’s ‘go time.’ Now we’re playing against each other.”