Will Sveum hiring lead to Fielder signing?

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Will Sveum hiring lead to Fielder signing?

Dale Sveum has spent the last six seasons coaching from various positions on the Milwaukee Brewers staff.

Or to put it another way, he's seen all but 39 of Prince Fielder's 998 career games firsthand from the top step of the dugout.

Fielder made his MLB debut in 2005 as a 21-year-old, but earned just 62 plate appearances. Sveum was hired as the Brewers' third base coach before the '06 season, a position he held for one season.

Sveum, who was a first-round draft pick of the Brewers back in 1982, spent time as the bench coach the next season, then moved back to third base coach, spent a short time as interim manager and then moved to hitting coach, a position he has held the last three seasons.

That's just a long way of saying he and Fielder have spent almost every day together for the the past six seasons, the last three of which Sveum directly impacted Fielder's performance as part of his hitting coach duties.

The slugging first baseman is currently a free agent and interested in reaping the benefits of his offensive prowess to the tune of a huge payday. Huge like 200 million over nine years huge.

He doesn't turn 28 until five weeks into the 2012 season and is right in the heart of his prime. As new Cubs president Theo Epstein said, he is not interested in signing free agents who have left their best years behind them. Given his age and history, it's conceivable to think Fielder's best years are still ahead of him.

Fielder has never been shy about his appreciation for Sveum, claiming the 47-year-old is one of the best coaches he's ever had.

Does this all add up to Fielder signing the megadeal he seeks with the Cubs?

Just imagine how many times he'd hit the ball out onto Sheffield Ave. He'd have a fan club just waiting out on the street for a chance to nab a home run, much like Sammy Sosa did in his heyday.

Imagine Fielder spending 81 games hitting in cozy Wrigley Field. Imagine when the wind is actually blowing out. With his huge uppercut, there wouldn't be a pitcher in the league that would want to pitch to Fielder.

However, it appears those dreams may just have to stay in our imagination.

"It's an interesting theory, but the sense I'm getting is the Cubs aren't really looking for that guy that will cost 25 million and would an eight- or nine-year commitment," Cubs Insider Patrick Mooney told David Kaplan on CSN after Sveum was announced.

"Theo and Jed Hoyer said all along how committed they are to building from within, from the ground up and that's really what attracted Theo to this job. So I think they're going to put their money into pitching and defense and more volume of pitching than just one big-name stud pitcher."

Sigh. That would have been awesome.

Mooney has a point. While the Cubs are still under Alfonso Soriano's and Carlos Zambrano's nauseating contracts, it would be tough to imagine the new regime shelling out that kind of money for one player, even if it is a guy young enough and good enough to build around.

Who knows, maybe something will work out. Maybe Theo and Jed are just giving everybody the runaround right now, playing this one close to the vest.

Cubs fans can only hope.

Brett Anderson’s personality mixing well with Cubs: ‘I don’t hate anybody yet’

Brett Anderson’s personality mixing well with Cubs: ‘I don’t hate anybody yet’

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Joe Maddon's T-shirt slogans can get a little old at times, but the Cubs manager found a new audience in Brett Anderson, who liked the idea of "Be Uncomfortable" after signing a one-year, prove-it deal with the defending champs.

"It's been awesome so far," Anderson said. "That's my running joke – we're a month into it now or whatever it is – and I don't hate anybody yet.

"That's a testament to the group as a whole – and maybe me evolving as a person."

Yes, Anderson's sarcasm, social-media presence and groundball style fits in with a team built around short-term pitching and Gold Glove defense. The if-healthy lefty finished his Cactus League tour on Saturday afternoon by throwing four innings (one unearned run) during a 7-4 loss to the Colorado Rockies in front of 13,565 at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

Anderson will open the season as the No. 4 starter after a camp that has been remarkably low-key and drama-free.

"I'm kind of cynical by nature, but it's a fun group to be a part of," Anderson said, "(with) young guys that are exciting and happy to be here. And then obviously the mix of veterans, too, that are here with intentions of winning another World Series."

To make that happen, the pitching staff will have to again stay unbelievably healthy. Anderson rolled with a general question about how he physically feels now compared to where he's usually at by this time of year.

"Obviously better than last year, because I was walking with a gimp and all that stuff," said Anderson, who underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a bulging disk in his lower back last March. "No, my body feels good, my arm feels good and you're getting into the dog days of spring training where you're itching to get to the real thing."

Joe Maddon breaks down the Matt Szczur vs. Tommy La Stella decision for Cubs

Joe Maddon breaks down the Matt Szczur vs. Tommy La Stella decision for Cubs

MESA, Ariz. – Matt Szczur vs. Tommy La Stella appears to be the final decision as the Cubs shape their Opening Night roster.

That's assuming good health – manager Joe Maddon sounded unconcerned about Ben Zobrist (stiff neck), Addison Russell (stiff back) and Albert Almora Jr. (stiff neck) – and the Cubs carrying an eight-man bullpen.

Maddon appeared to eliminate one variable, confirming that La Stella has signaled a willingness to go to Triple-A Iowa if necessary, which would normally be an obvious statement, except for last summer's "Where's Tommy?" episode.

"I haven't even thought about it," Maddon said during Saturday's media session at the Sloan Park complex. "It's not an issue. I thought we handled it pretty openly last year and there's been no blowback whatsoever from the players."

Beyond this – La Stella initially refused to report to the minors last July, moved back home to New Jersey and talked briefly about retirement – an American League scout and a National League scout tracking the Cubs in Arizona both agreed that Szczur looks like the superior player.

Plus Szczur – and not La Stella – is out of minor-league options now.

"When you get this kind of a talent, depth-wise, it's a wonderful problem to have," Maddon said. "And then, of course, the rules start creeping in. The rules in this situation would benefit Matt, which is a good thing, because he's a big-league guy that's been riding the shuttle. He's done it in a very stoic manner, and he's been great for us."

La Stella has allies in the clubhouse – Jake Arrieta got a Coastal Carolina tattoo on his right butt cheek after losing a College World Series bet – and goes about his routine in a quiet, diligent manner.

La Stella is not a distraction at all and can hit left-handed and play the infield – two attributes that Szczur can't bring to Maddon's bench.

"Matt Szczur, to me, is a Major League Baseball player," Maddon said. "You're seeing what Tommy can do from the left side of the plate right now. And then it's just a matter of balancing things out. We've already mentioned that some guys on the infield can play the outfield within this group, thus it presents differently regarding what you need."

[MORE CUBS: Javier Baez won’t change his style around Cubs after World Baseball Classic: ‘We’re not showing anybody up’]

Szczur is hitting .361 with a .994 OPS through 14 Cactus League games and can play all over the outfield. But that skill is diminished when the Cubs already have four established outfielders plus Zobrist and Kris Bryant able to shift from the infield.

Then again, defensive wizard Javier Baez should have the Cubs covered all across the infield in case of an emergency. With the defending World Series champs a week out from facing the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium, we're about to find out if Maddon made his recommendation or had a possible trade scenario or disabled-list situation in mind.

"I love Matt Szczur," Maddon said. "This guy as a teammate – you're not going to get a better one. Nobody's going to get a better one on any team for any reason.

"We haven't decided everything or anything yet. Stuff happens in a very short period of time. He is a major-league baseball player. So we'll just wait a couple more days, see how it plays out. But he's a benefit to any group that has him."