Sveum isn't buying into the CubsFielder hype

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Sveum isn't buying into the CubsFielder hype

Dale Sveum doesnt have to walk into the living room of Prince Fielders Florida home and sell him on the future.

This isnt big-time college football recruiting. This is a dance between the highest levels of the Cubs organization and the Boras Corporation.

There are several market forces at work here, but it sounds like the personal relationship between the Cubs manager and the big free agent hasnt come into play yet. The rumors about Fielder coming to Wrigley Field wont stop until theres a press conference somewhere.

At this point, I think its a lot of media talking more than us doing anything, Sveum said Friday. We havent had any talks with Prince and I havent had any conversations with him. So I think its more of the media and other people bringing this to the table than what were doing right now. We havent initiated any kind of contact at all.

This certainly doesnt rule out Theo Epstein continuing a dialogue with Scott Boras, the games most powerful agent. But Fielder was the question to ask on a teleconference after the Cubs officially announced their 2012 coaching staff.

Sveum doesnt have the same clout as Lou Piniella or Terry Francona, but he will be consulted on player personnel. Sveum may not be a dynamic media presence, but he has a reputation of being straightforward and telling it like it is. This was about as good as it gets within the cone of silence.

Sveums six seasons as a Milwaukee Brewers coach coincided with Fielders first six full seasons in the big leagues. So Sveum can tell Epstein all about how Fielder was a great teammate and played every day with maximum effort.

More than one person has described Epsteins approach to the big-tickets items like this: What would it take? How could this work? General manager Jed Hoyer has used this talking point: A major-market team will look into every possibility.

There is no denying that at the age of 27 Fielder can seriously think about the possibility of Cooperstown. This left-handed bat would be a perfect fit at Wrigley Field.

But there is a clear disconnect between what the national media perceives and what the beat writers have turned into the narrative incremental moves with a focus on pitching and defense. There is enough gray area to stake out almost any position.

Outside of Chicago, there has been talk that Epstein wants a signature move as the new president of baseball operations. They think the Cubs need star power and a box-office attraction. (Conversely, the teams finances have also been called into question on Twitter.)

Those whove watched Alfonso Soriano play every day and seen what age and injuries have done to his game doubt the organization is eager to make a huge long-term commitment right now.

The Cubs have been waiting for years to get the Carlos Zambrano, Aramis Ramirez and Kosuke Fukudome contracts off the books. Theyre finally getting some flexibility. Epstein has said he has zero interest in making a splash.

Looking more broadly at the industry as a whole, there is a new collective bargaining agreement that will limit how much a team can spend on amateur talent, as well as begin a new era of testing, and who knows how that will impact front offices.

Brewers star Ryan Braun could be facing a 50-game suspension to start the season after a reported positive test that will be appealed.

It took everybody by surprise, Sveum said. Its just an unfortunate thing thats come about. Hopefully, he gets exonerated and there was some kind of mix-up.

A National League Central without (possibly) Braun and Fielder and Albert Pujols shouldnt dramatically change the thinking at Clark and Addison.

The New York tabloids and the Boston media love playing the Yankees and Red Sox against each other, but the Cubs wont be making reactionary moves in this division. Epstein knows how much ground the Cubs have to cover before they get back into contention.

Are the Cubs in or out on Fielder? It sounds like theyre content to be around. Its almost impossible to see them doing a Pujols deal (254 million over 10 years). But they can let the game come to them.

Realistically, what other options are out there? The Seattle Mariners? The Texas Rangers? The Miami Marlins? A mystery team?

Remember that negotiations are fluid. No one really saw the Los Angeles Angels coming and then everything changed during a 48-hour window at the winter meetings.

But the Cubs dont have to compete with the Dodgers for market share and chairman Tom Ricketts likely wont make the aggressive push Angels owner Arte Moreno did for Pujols. And thats not a knock on Ricketts, whos vowed to be hands-off and leave the baseball decisions to Epstein.

Last week at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, Epstein sat in his suite and described the feeling when the new free agent holds up the jersey at the press conference.

With the flashbulbs popping, part of you thinks that this could be a great moment in franchise history. The louder voice in the back of your head says this could be a huge regret for the next six years.

Until that moment approaches, Sveum isnt buying into the Fielder hype: Thats just a lot of the media bringing that out right now.

For Cubs, winter meetings will be all about the hunt for pitching 

For Cubs, winter meetings will be all about the hunt for pitching 

As the Cubs prepare for the winter meetings outside Washington, D.C., their messaging might as well be: It’s the pitching, stupid.

This is an arms race that will never end, the Cubs trying to defend their first World Series title in 108 years, build out a bullpen that looked pretty thin by November and target the kind of young starter who could help anchor their rotation for years to come, ensuring Wrigleyville remains baseball’s biggest party.

The Cubs signed Brian Duensing to a one-year, $2 million contract on Friday, placing a small bet on a lefty specialist who spent parts of last season on the Triple-A level but made a good enough impression during his 13-plus innings with the Baltimore Orioles.

As executives, scouts, agents and reporters begin to flood into National Harbor on Sunday, the Cubs will intensify their search for pitching, everything from headliners to insurance policies to prospects.

“That’s been the significant bulk of our efforts,” general manager Jed Hoyer said, “It’s definitely not going to be through lack of trying on our part to make that kind of deal. That’s now. That’s at the deadline.”  

The Cubs are preparing for Opening Day 2018, when Jake Arrieta will probably be in a different uniform after signing his megadeal, John Lackey might be kicking back in Texas and enjoying retirement and Jon Lester will be 34 years old with maybe 2,300 innings on his odometer. 

The Cubs have unwavering faith in their pitching infrastructure at the major-league level, from the scouting and analytic perspectives that identified the right sign-and-flip deals during the rebuilding years to the coaching staff that helped mold Kyle Hendricks into a Cy Young Award finalist and a World Series Game 7 starter.

Mike Montgomery notched the final out against the Cleveland Indians and the Cubs see him as their next big project. The lefty checks so many of their boxes, from age (27) to size (6-foot-5) to pedigree (former first-round pick/top prospect) to the change-of-scenery confidence boost/mental reset.

Forget about the White Sox trading Chris Sale to the North Side and don’t just think about obvious names or trade partners. Maybe it’s making a deal for a guy you never heard of before and sifting through the non-tender bin. (As expected, the Cubs offered contracts to arbitration-eligible pitchers Arrieta, Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop and Justin Grimm before Friday’s deadline. Their 40-man roster stands at 35 after non-tendering lefties Gerardo Concepcion and Zac Rosscup, right-hander Conor Mullee and infielder Christian Villanueva.)

Remember how team president Theo Epstein framed the Montgomery trade with the Seattle Mariners this summer – comparing him to All-Star reliever Andrew Miller – and that gives you an idea of how they can address their pitching deficit this winter. 

“If your scouts do a good job of identifying the guys who are trending in the right direction – and you’re willing to take a shot – sometimes there’s a big payoff at the end,” Epstein said.   

While the Cubs did Jason Hammel a favor by cutting him loose and allowing him to explore the market as one of the best pitchers in an extremely weak class of free agents, Montgomery has only 23 big-league starts on his resume. 

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The Cubs had five starters make at least 29 starts this year, while four starters accounted for 30-plus starts in 2015, a remarkable run that led to 200 wins.

“As we’ve talked about so many times,” Hoyer said, “we do have an imbalance in our organization – hitting vs. pitching – and we’re trying to make sure we can accumulate as much pitching depth as possible. 

“We were very healthy this year, which was wonderful and a big part of why we won the World Series. I don’t think you can always count on that kind of health every single year. Building up a reservoir of depth – preferably guys you can option (to the minors) – is something (we’re trying) to accomplish.”  

The Cubs have Jorge Soler stuck in a crowded outfield plus the types of interesting prospects who appear to be blocked – catcher Victor Caratini, third baseman Jeimer Candelario, infielder/outfielder Ian Happ – to make relatively painless trades for pitching (if not the kind of blockbuster deal that dominates coverage of the winter meetings).

Lefty reliever Brett Cecil getting a four-year, $30.5 million deal and no-trade protection from the St. Louis Cardinals became another sign of how shallow this free-agent pool is for starting pitchers and a reflection of a postseason where the bullpen became a major storyline.

The idea of Kenley Jansen intrigues the Cubs – and Aroldis Chapman made a favorable impression during his three-plus months with the team – but Epstein’s front office already made the major upgrades for 2017 by spending nearly $290 million on free agents after the 2015 playoff run. Philosophically, the Cubs also see smarter long-term investments than trying to win a bidding war for a guy who might throw 70 innings a year. 

With that in mind, the Cubs could get creative and have looked at free agent Greg Holland, a two-time All-Star closer with the Kansas City Royals who didn’t pitch this year after having Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.  

Remember that Chapman left the New York Yankees and joined a team that had a 56-1 record when leading entering the ninth inning. If Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. can’t handle the late shifts, then the Cubs could always go out and trade for another closer in the middle of a pennant race.    

The Cubs have the luxuries of time, zero pressure from ownership, their fan base or the Chicago media and a stacked, American League-style lineup. 

“Right now, we could go play from an offensive standpoint and feel very good about our group,” Hoyer said. “We’re going to still continue to look to improve the depth in our bullpen, improve the depth in our starting rotation. Those are things that probably never go away. You probably never stop trying to build that depth.” 

What will LeBron James wear to pay up on Cubs World Series bet with Dwyane Wade?

What will LeBron James wear to pay up on Cubs World Series bet with Dwyane Wade?

LeBron James is coming to town, and he will be all decked out in Cubs gear.

The Cavs are in Chicago to take on the Bulls Friday night at the United Center and it's time for LeBron to pay up on his World Series bet with Dwyane Wade.

The two former teammates made the wager during the World Series as LeBron's hometown Indians took on Wade's hometown Cubs, with the loser wearing the winning baseball team's gear when they showed up in the opposing city. This is LeBron's first trip to Chicago this season.

Wade and LeBron already acknowledged they're having fun with this and have a whole spectacle planned with a national TV audience.

LeBron told the Akron Beacon Journal he's not going to try to take the easy way out and just toss on a Cubs jersey. He is planning socks, hat, pants and possibly more. But he won't wear cleats or bring a glove with him.

[SHOP CUBS: Get your World Series champions gear right here]

When the Cubs won it all a month ago Friday, Wade posted an Instagram photo of LeBron wearing a Cubs uniform:

And ESPN had a cutout of LeBron sporting a No. 23 Cubs road gray jersey outside the United Center Friday morning:

CSN Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill wonders whether LeBron will don signature Joe Maddon glasses, too.

This is gonna be fun, you guys.