Theo doesnt expect blockbuster trade

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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.

Kris Bryant: Major League Baseball could be going down ‘slippery slope’ with rules changes

Kris Bryant: Major League Baseball could be going down ‘slippery slope’ with rules changes

MESA, Ariz. – Kris Bryant has led a charmed baseball life – Golden Spikes Award winner, Arizona Fall League MVP, consensus minor league player of the year, two-time All-Star, Hank Aaron Award winner, National League Rookie of the Year and MVP and World Series champion – all before his 25th birthday last month.

So, no, the Cubs superstar doesn’t see the need for any dramatic overhaul to a sport that’s desperately trying to connect with Bryant’s demographic and keep up at a time when iPhones are killing everyone’s attention spans and the entertainment options are endless.            

“I love the way it is,” Bryant before Wednesday’s workout at the Sloan Park complex.

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred essentially fired a warning shot during Tuesday’s Cactus League media event at the Arizona Biltmore, threatening to unilaterally impose pace-of-play changes – think pitch clock, limited mound visits, new strike zone – for the 2018 season if the players’ union doesn’t cooperate.

The first reported difference is the traditional four-pitch intentional walk turning into a dugout signal, which seems to be more of a cosmetic change than an actual efficiency measure.

“You’re in the box, you want to force someone to make a pitch,” said Bryant, who remembered Anthony Rizzo’s 10th-inning matchup against Cleveland Indians reliever Bryan Shaw. “Just the World Series, for example, when ‘Rizz’ got intentionally walked. There were a couple that were low. What if the ball got away? That’s huge. Especially in that type of situation – Game 7 of the World Series – you want to put pressure on the pitcher any way you can.

“It seems like it’s not stressful at all, but any time you’re not throwing at full effort for a pitcher, it seems like there’s a chance that we could do damage on that.”

That’s actually Manfred’s agenda in an age of grinding at-bats, specialized bullpens and defensive shifts – trying to create more action and eliminating some of the dead air more than simply cutting the length of games by a few minutes.

“The game’s been the same to me since I was young, so I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it,” Bryant said. “I think that’s what makes our game great. It is a long game and we play 162 games a year and there’s more strategy involved with it. I think it could be a slippery slope once you start changing all these things. 

“The people you really need to ask are the fans. The diehard fans are going to be the ones who oppose more changes. They’re the ones who pay to watch us play. Those are the opinions that you need.”

In using this power in the new collective bargaining agreement as leverage, Manfred is looking at the future of a $10 billion industry, insisting the game isn’t broken when more than 75 million people visited major-league stadiums last season.

But even Cubs manager Joe Maddon – who’s usually open-minded and in tune with these kind of big-picture ideas – doesn’t get the pace-of-play focus.

“I’m not privy to all the reasons why it’s so important,” Maddon said. “It just appears to be important for the people in New York. My job is not to make those decisions. My job is to ultimately make the Cubs play well again, etc., so there are certain things that I don’t quite understand.

“If I had more interior information maybe you could be more supportive of it. On the surface – I’ve talked about it in the past – I don’t really understand the pace-of-game issues because I don’t really pay attention to that. I’m just locked into managing the game. The nine innings go 2 hours and 15 minutes, or 3 hours and 20, as long as you win, I don’t care.

“That’s where I come from, but there’s something obviously larger than that that’s really causing a lot of these discussions. Again, from my office, I don’t necessarily know what that is. But I do know new normals may occur.”  

Why Joe Maddon won’t tone down the stunts at Cubs camp

Why Joe Maddon won’t tone down the stunts at Cubs camp

MESA, Ariz. – Joe Maddon teased reporters when pitchers and catchers reported to Arizona one week ago, promising the Cubs wouldn't tone down the gimmicks now that they're World Series champions: "We already have something planned for the first day that you might not want to miss."

A weekend of rain in Mesa postposed the first full-scale full-squad workout until Monday, and the wet grass meant the big reveal had to wait until Tuesday morning, when gonzo strength and conditioning coordinator Tim Buss drove a white Ferrari onto the field for the team's stretching session.

The bearded man they call "Bussy" rocked sunglasses, a gold chain around his neck, brown dress shoes and the same navy blue windowpane suit he wore to the White House. The overarching message as Buss blew kisses and Cypress Hill's "(Rock) Superstar" and Jay Z's "Big Pimpin'" blasted from the sound system: Humility.

"I hope everyone gets the sarcasm involved," Maddon said.

So, uh, no, the Cubs aren't going to dial it back or turn the zoo animals away or worry about the target they proudly wore on their chest last year.

"I don't know if the mime's coming back or not," Maddon said during the welcome-to-camp press conference. "Could you do a mime two years in a row? I don't know if that's permissible under MLB rules somewhere. I don't think you can bring a mime back two years in a row.

"Magicians are OK. You can anticipate a lot of the same, absolutely."

Before rolling your eyes at a star manager who loves the spotlight, it's important to note that the stunts are largely Buss productions.

"A lot of times, I'm not even aware," Maddon said. "He just knows he's got my blessings. He knows he does not have to clear it with me, unless it's absolutely insane. It works pretty well this way."

While every Maddon dress-up theme trip doesn't get universal love in the clubhouse, Buss has a unique way of getting millionaires to pay attention, almost tricking them into doing work.

"He's got several well-endowed players on the team that support his histrionics," Maddon said.

[MORE CUBS: MLB commissioner Rob Manfred open to idea of Cubs hosting All-Star Game at renovated Wrigley Field]

Since taking over this job in 2001, Buss has survived multiple ownership structures (Tribune Co., Sam Zell, Ricketts family) and the Andy MacPhail/Jim Hendry/Theo Epstein transitions in the front office, working for managers Don Baylor, Rene Lachemann (interim), Bruce Kimm (interim), Dusty Baker, Lou Piniella, Mike Quade, Dale Sveum and Rick Renteria.

"He must have some good photographs, right?" Maddon said. "He's a different cat. He's a weapon."

Buss can clearly get along with almost any kind of personality. But it took Maddon – and the explosion of social media – to give him this kind of platform.

"No, nothing's changed, man," Maddon said. "It's all the same in regards to 'the same,' meaning the methods, the process. I just got aired out by one of our geek guys for not using the word ‘process.’ It’s true. Last year, I used the word ‘process’ often. I’m going to continue to use it a lot again this year.

"Why were we able to withstand the word 'pressure' and 'expectations' as well as we did last year? Because we weren't outcome-oriented. We were more oriented towards the process. Anybody in your job and your business – if you want to be outcome-oriented – you're going to find yourself in a lot of trouble just focusing on that word.

"It's all about the process. Our process shall remain the same, absolutely it shall. Hopefully, we're going to add or augment it in some ways that can be even more interesting and entertaining."

The irony is that the Cubs have repeatedly used outcome-based thinking in defending Maddon's decisions during the World Series. But the manager obviously deserves so much credit for creating an environment where this team could play loose and relaxed and not collapse under the weight of franchise history.

"Our guys are pretty much in charge of the whole thing," Maddon said. "I love the empowerment of the players. I love that they feel the freedom to be themselves. If they didn't, maybe Jason (Heyward) would not have gotten the guys together in a weight room in Cleveland after a bad moment.

"All those things matter. And you can't understand exactly which is more important than the other. So you just continue to attempt to do a lot of the same things. Process is important, man, and we're going to continue along that path."