Theo doesnt expect blockbuster trade

906891.png

Theo doesnt expect blockbuster trade

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- The names are going to be passed around the Hyatt Regency lobby, hallways and hotel bar and blasted out from here onto Twitter.

Justin Upton? Chase Headley? Felix Hernandez? Dont look for the Cubs to be a Mystery Team.

As expected, Day 1 of the general manager meetings brought way more speculation than actual news. But as the trade rumors heat up, the Cubs will probably be sitting on the sidelines.

The Cubs arent looking to package prospects to get a difference-maker, like they once did for Matt Garza. They missed an opportunity when the Carlos Marmol-for-Dan Haren deal with the Los Angeles Angels collapsed late last week. They dont have a surplus of talent in one particular area. They dont expect to be part of any blockbusters.

Kaplan: Medical concerns killed Marmol-Haren deal with Angels

Well try to identify possible trade fits, team president Theo Epstein said Wednesday. But I dont think its the type of offseason where we have potential fits with 25 of the 29 other clubs. Well pursue everything, but realistically I think our fits might be narrower this year. Well try to use that as a strength, turn it into an advantage and focus on the free-agent market.

Were going to have a pretty well-defined trade market really quickly, because we dont have unlimited assets to deal. We dont necessarily have redundancies at positions in the big leagues or at the upper levels.

The Cubs could have interest again in Haren if he somehow fell to them at their price, but they are looking at other options to fill the two spots in their rotation.

Trying to stamp out the injury speculation, Harens agent, Greg Landry, told reporters that his client is healthy after going on the disabled list for the first time in his career with a back issue last season. Haren felt good enough to make 30 starts for the Angels, who bought him out for 3.5 million rather than pick up a 15.5 million option.

To close the Haren deal, the Cubs were said to be ready to chip in around 3-plus million, or less than half of Marmols 9.8 million salary in the final year of his contract. They viewed Haren as a more attractive trade chip if the 2013 season goes south.

Marmol has limited no-trade protection and told at least one outlet back home in the Dominican Republic that he had agreed to go to Anaheim. That caught fire on Twitter while the Angels faced last Fridays deadline to make a decision on Haren.

We never had a done deal, general manager Jed Hoyer said. To me, thats every part of the deal is done -- you send out a press release and obviously we never got to that point.

With Carlos, we got to the point where we were close enough and we needed to go to him and ask if hed waive his no-trade to the Angels. Once we involved the player, it leaked out and then everyone ran with it like it was a done deal. It was unfortunate. It was a miscommunication.

Carlos just ran with it that he had been traded, even though the deal wasnt complete. I guess thats one of the negatives of no-trade clauses. You start involving external entities when youre trying to finalize a trade and thats not the best thing in the world for keeping stuff quiet.

The Cubs have spoken with Marmol and will be better prepared the next time they bring something to their closer.

I think if I had to word it (again), it would be a little different, Hoyer said. Some of that blame might be ours, that we should have made it more clear to him: Hey, listen, hold tight, this is a theoretical. Would you do this? As opposed to: Its a done deal. So maybe we deserve some blame for that.

Thats what sort of started The Frenzy.

Marmol has shown signs of being a dominant closer again (1.52 ERA, 12-for-13 in save chances after the All-Star break). He regained a feel for his slider and trusted his fastball, which ticked back up to 94 mph.

But Marmol is still a short-term asset on a team looking at roughly a five-year window. So is Garza, though the Cubs wouldnt even consider trading him until he proves his right elbow is healthy.

Look for the Cubs to load up on some mid-range free agents, signing two starting pitchers and reconstructing their bullpen, trying to put a decent product on the field and avoid becoming big sellers again at the next trade deadline.

Willson Contreras is playing his butt off right now for first-place Cubs

Willson Contreras is playing his butt off right now for first-place Cubs

This really is becoming Willson Contreras' team.

The dude is absolutely on fire right now and has almost singlehandedly lifted the Cubs back into first place.

Since the All-Star Break, Contreras has crushed four homers and three doubles while driving in 11 runs in just eight games. 

The Cubs have won seven of those games, including Sunday night when Contreras' two-run shot in the sixth inning turned out to be the game-winner that pushed the Cubs into a first-place tie with the Milwaukee Brewers. (The Cubs also won the only game Contreras hasn't started since the Break.)

In the span of nine games, the Cubs have already erased the 5.5 game deficit they had in the National League Central entering the midseason break.

"He's just playing his butt off, literally, right now," Joe Maddon said. "Everything he's doing is pretty darn good. He plays with enthusiasm, also. You gotta feel that in the stands.

"There's some times he might get over-enthusiastic. I prefer toning people down as opposed to pumping them up all the time. He's doing everything. He's hitting fourth, he's catching, he's handling a really good pitching staff, he's throwing people out, he's blocking the ball really well and he's hitting homers, so God bless him."

Contreras' offense has been amazing, but Maddon credits the young catcher's block on a Wade Davis pitch in the dirt last week in Atlanta with helping to save the season. That play helped ensure a victory by not permitting the tying run to score from third base as the Cubs rattled off six straight wins to start the second half of 2017.

It's at the point now where Maddon cannot rationally find ways to get Contreras out of the lineup, even though the veteran manager is a huge proponent of rest and wants nothing more than to keep his players healthy and playing at a high level late in the season and into the playoffs.

Contreras is like the Energizer Bunny out there, hopping all around behind the plate to block balls, throwing guys out, pumping his chest, screaming obscenities at his first base coach after home runs. He even plays long toss (from the warning track in left-centerfield to about the spot the second baseman normally plays) before games with catching coach Mike Borzello.

The 25-year-old just does not turn down for anything when he's at the ballpark.

So does he ever get weary?

"I do get tired, but when I get home," he said. "When I'm here, I'm never tired. This is my job, this is what I love and you're gonna see me like that all throughout my career."

Contreras credits the Cubs coaching staff with helping him make the mental adjustments that has him in the conversation as one of the best catchers in baseball.

"He's growing up," Anthony Rizzo said. "He's really taking control behind the plate, which is nice. His at-bats just keep getting better and better and it's really fun to watch."

Contreras is on pace for 25 homers and 87 RBI, second only to Kansas City's Salvador Perez in both categories among catchers.

"He definitely has the abilities to be one of the elite catchers," Maddon said. "You gotta consider him one of the elite catchers in the National League already. Because he just does everything so well.

"The biggest next hurdle is just — without pulling him in too much — controlling his emotions a tad more without losing that enthusiasm that he has. Really understanding the game and calling the game and working his pitchers. 

"Mike Borzello does a great job with him. He started out this year and wasn't so good — missing his pitches, missing fastballs, fouling stuff off. But he stayed with it and now you see what he's capable of doing. He is really good right now and he's gonna get better."

Jose Quintana reveling in first place vibes after 'overexcited' home Cubs debut

Jose Quintana reveling in first place vibes after 'overexcited' home Cubs debut

Jose Quintana is grateful for his defense and offense picking him up.

That's not something he's used to feeling after years of borderline-laughable run support from the White Sox in games he started.

But as he made his Wrigley Field debut in a Cubs uniform Sunday night, Quintana served up three rockets in a row to the heart of the Cardinals order and all three wound up as outs.

First it was a lineout to Jason Heyward in right field where the Gold Glover leapt in the air and did something of a karate kick while catching the ball.

Another hard liner at Heyward followed before Jedd Gyorko laced a double into the left-centerfield gap. But Kyle Schwarber retrieved it quickly, made a perfect throw to Addison Russell who spun and made a quick throw to Willson Contreras at the plate to nab Matt Carpenter by a mile.

Thus endeth the first top of the first inning for Quintana at "The Friendly Confines."

"At the beginning of the game, he might've been a little overexcited," Joe Maddon said. "He was too quick with all of his actions. The pitches weren't going where he wanted them to go.

"And then I thought he settled in very well. He wasn't as sharp as in Baltimore, but he was good. He was very good."

Quintana allowed three runs on five hits and a pair of walks in six innings, recording the bare minimum requirements for a quality start. He also picked up his second win in as many outings with the Cubs when batterymate Willson Contreras hit a game-winning two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth.

Quintana agreed with Maddon that he was a little over-exuberant in this one.

"Too many emotions for me," he said. "It was one I enjoyed a lot. I was just trying to focus on inning by inning."

This is the first time Quintana has been on a team in the playoff hunt since his rookie season in 2012 when the Sox went 85-77 and missed the playoffs.

With Sunday's win, the Cubs have moved back into a share of first place and Quintana is all about the success.

"That's awesome," he said. "First time. To come into a team like this one and get to first place, that's amazing. I want to keep doing my job."

Now Quintana will have four days to sit back, relax, strap it down and watch the Crosstown Series knowing he won't have to go in and face a bunch of guys who he called teammates just two weeks ago. 

Quintana's next start will come Friday in Milwaukee.

"He's as advertised," Anthony Rizzo said. "Really didn't enjoy facing him. When we played the White Sox, he was the guy I always hoped to miss. To have him here and his demeanor on the mound is awesome."