Soriano, Zambrano help Cubs halt losing streak

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Soriano, Zambrano help Cubs halt losing streak

Friday, April 29, 2011
Posted: 11:38 p.m.

Associated Press

PHOENIX (AP) Alfonso Soriano hit a pair of leadoff homers and Carlos Zambrano bounced back from his first loss in 18 starts, lifting the Chicago Cubs to a 4-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night.Soriano led off the fifth and seventh innings with homers against Armando Galarraga (3-2), and Geovany Soto hit a solo shot of his own to help Chicago end a four-game losing streak.Zambrano (3-1) was sharp after his 10-game winning streak ended against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday, settling in after giving up a long two-run homer to Justin Upton in the first inning to win his ninth straight road start.Carlos Marmol worked a perfect ninth for his sixth save in eight chances.Arizona took a step toward erasing its first-inning woes this season against the Cubs in the series opener on Thursday, scoring seven runs - four on Stephen Drew's grand slam - off Ryan Dempster on the way to an 11-2 win. The Diamondbacks had been outscored 26-9 in the opening frame the previous 23 games.Arizona did it again against Zambrano, though not as emphatically, getting two runs in the first on a homer by Upton that almost landed in the restaurant at the back of the second deck in left. The shot, estimated at 455 feet, was one of three hits for Upton.Zambrano shook off the early drive and settled into a bit of a rhythm, stranding runners over the next four innings before pitching a perfect sixth. He was lifted for a pinch-hitter the next inning after allowing two runs on four hits and walking three.Chicago went up 4-2 in the eighth when Aramis Ramirez squibbed a fielder's choice against Esmerling Vasquez.Galarraga was solid through the first four innings, scattering three singles, including two that didn't get out of the infield.He found trouble to start the fifth, when Soriano dug out a 1-2 breaking ball from just above the dirt and lined it over the wall in left-center. Soto followed with a no-doubt shot in the same vicinity, giving Chicago back-to-back homers for the first time this season.Soriano did it again in the seventh, hitting Galarraga's first pitch just over the wall in right-center for his ninth of the season to put the Cubs up 3-2.Galarraga was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the seventh after allowing three runs and six hits. Decent, but Zambrano was just a little better.NOTES: Chicago 1B Carlos Pena, stuck in a 2-for-25 slump, was held out of the lineup and entered the game as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning. ... Soriano has 27 career multihomer games. ... Arizona had scored 21 runs in 21 innings for Galarraga in his first four starts.Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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.”