Rizzo feels more comfortable this offseason

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Rizzo feels more comfortable this offseason

After his performance last season, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo is almost certain he will stay put this offseason.

Rizzo, who hit .285 with 15 homers and 48 RBIs in 87 games, had the type of season that should lend the youngster a bunch of confidence. But since he has been traded in each of the past two offseasons, Rizzo wont allow himself to get too comfortable, even if management is high on his abilities.

Youve still got to work hard and put in the time, Rizzo said before Saturdays National Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame in Rosemont. But I feel good. I know Im not going to get traded, hopefully at least. I just feel good and confident.

Rizzo should take some solace in the fact Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer and assistant GM Jason McLeod have twice acquired him.

The second of those acquisitions was January 6 when the Cubs dealt Andrew Cashner to the San Diego Padres in exchange for Rizzo.

It was Hoyer and McLeod who also brought Rizzo to the Padres as part of a four-player package that sent Adrian Gonzalez to the Boston Red Sox in December 2010. Though Rizzo wasnt considered the centerpiece of the Gonzalez trade -- Red Sox No. 1 prospect Casey Kelly was also included -- Hoyer and McLeod were clearly excited about the first baseman. The Padres promoted Rizzo to the majors in June 2011 after he tore up Triple-A pitching and believed him to be the franchises first baseman of the future.

But Rizzo hit only .141 in 153 plate appearances with the Padres and after Hoyer and McLeod joined Theo Epstein with the Cubs, Rizzos job status appeared to be in doubt. The Padres new brass made their feelings even more clear when they acquired top prospect and first baseman Yonder Alonso from the Cincinnati Reds last December, which led to Rizzo feeling more uncertain about his future with the Padres.

Less than three weeks later, Rizzo was headed to Chicago.

I had no idea what they were going to do, Rizzo said. Its one of those things that is uncontrollable. I think it worked out for the best. Once (the Alonso trade) happened, I hoped it would be here because Jed and Theo and Jason all came over here. So I was hoping they believed in me and they brought me over and I have an opportunity and have got to keep going with it.

Perhaps it was the belief held by Hoyer, McLeod and Epstein that allowed Rizzo to overcome a slight confidence problem brought on by his struggles in 2011. Unlike the previous season, Rizzo didnt endure long slumps with the Cubs. He reduced his strikeouts from once every 2.78 at-bats in 2011 to once every 5.44 at-bats. He also hit 14 more homers and never gave the Cubs reason to remove him from the lineup.

(My confidence) did waver definitely (in 2011), but it didnt get me down because I knew that it was all mental, Rizzo said. I just got out of it and had some success last year and just want to keep building. Next season, spring training, I just cant wait to get out there and get going.

He hopes with the Cubs.

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.