Youkilis not looking like the answer for Cubs at third base

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Youkilis not looking like the answer for Cubs at third base

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. Theo Epstein envisions the Cubs grinding out at-bats like those Boston Red Sox teams that stretched games past the four-hour mark and played deep into October.

The president of baseball operations has mentioned how the biggest negative surprise hes found in the organization since taking over almost 13 months ago was the embedded and institutionalized lack of plate discipline on the North Side.

But the player once hyped in Moneyball as The Greek God of Walks is not viewed as a match right now.

The Cubs are interested in Kevin Youkilis, but expect him to go beyond their price range and ultimately sign with a team much closer to contention, according to a source familiar with the organizations thinking.

Youkilis certainly noticed how the White Sox played second fiddle in Chicago, even as a team that hung onto first place well into September.

The Cubs sold almost three million tickets during a 101-loss season and wont have trouble filling up the bandwagon again if they can rebuild at Wrigley Field. They need some veteran leadership and have a huge hole at third base. But that doesnt make them unique among the teams huddled up on Wednesday at the Hyatt Regency resort in Indian Wells, Calif. The general manager meetings are about sorting through options and there arent many good ones at third base.

Its a challenging position to fill in this day and age, general manager Jed Hoyer said. We really are excited about our third-base depth in our system.

So the Cubs feel good about Josh Vitters, Junior Lake, Christian Villanueva, Jeimer Candelario and, maybe, Javier Baez if hes ultimately blocked by Starlin Castro at shortstop. But they need a short-term solution while waiting for one of those players to break through.

Casey McGehee who had his best season (23 homers, 104 RBI) in 2010 while working with Milwaukee Brewers hitting coachfuture Cubs manager Dale Sveum could be a buy-low free agent.

McGahee wasnt the same player last season, hitting .217 with nine home runs and 41 RBI in 114 games with the Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Yankees, but the Cubs are looking for guys who could have bounce-back seasons.

Hoyer said the Cubs could go with a platoon at third base, and Sveum is high on Luis Valbuenas overall game. They continue to gather more medical information on Ian Stewart, who hasnt started baseball activities yet after undergoing wrist surgery last summer. They likely wont make a decision until the Nov. 30 tender date, and its hard to imagine Stewart getting a guaranteed contract.

Youkilis is the biggest name out there among third baseman, and hes being marketed as someone who can also play first base, which doesnt do much for the Cubs with Anthony Rizzo stationed there for the next decade.

Youkilis wound up finishing with 19 homers and 60 RBI after a midseason trade from Boston to the South Side. He won two World Series rings with the Red Sox and knows how to handle playing in a big market.

Youkilis is said to be on good terms with Epstein after their time together at Fenway Park. But a contending team that sees Youkilis as a finishing piece will almost certainly be more aggressive than the Cubs this winter.

A season that began with Bobby Valentine questioning Youkilis physical and emotional investment in the game ended with the Red Sox manager getting fired. It will lead into an offseason where the third baseman should cash in and get the last laugh.

With Ben Zobrist sidelined by sore wrist, Cubs move Ian Happ to second base

With Ben Zobrist sidelined by sore wrist, Cubs move Ian Happ to second base

LOS ANGELES – The Cubs drafted and developed Ian Happ with the idea of turning him into a Ben Zobrist-type player who would move quickly through the farm system and surface as a versatile big-league contributor and/or legitimate trade chip.

With Zobrist sidelined because of a sore left wrist, the Cubs got their first look at Happ playing second base in The Show during Saturday’s 5-0 loss at Dodger Stadium. That kind of depth – plugging in a 2015 first-round pick while a World Series MVP rests – should ultimately propel the Cubs over the course of a 162-game season.

Even as the Cubs stutter-step through a 25-23 start, there are enough choices for the best defensive second baseman on the team and a National League Championship Series co-MVP (Javier Baez) to sit on the bench.

“We know that the talent’s there,” Zobrist said. “It’s not like having any one or two guys out of the lineup is a big drop-off for us because of the talent that’s there. And we know that just because we have a lot of young players doesn’t mean that they’re not extremely capable of doing the job as well.”

Zobrist – who’s reached base in 23 straight games and emerged as a new leadoff option with Kyle Schwarber struggling – felt something on an awkward swing in the first inning of Friday’s 4-0 loss to the Dodgers. Zobrist played through it that night and called it a “day-to-day thing” that didn’t require an MRI.

[MORE: Is Joe Maddon turning Kyle Schwarber into a platoon player?

Facing Clayton Kershaw on Sunday after back-to-back shutouts will be a game-time decision.

“It’s tough,” Zobrist said. “We just haven’t strung together enough quality at-bats to score runs the last two games. It’s not just because of us. They’ve pitched well. Their pitchers are pretty hot right now. They’ve spotted up. They’ve gotten early strikes where they needed to and then gone to work pretty well on us.

“The task doesn’t get any easier tomorrow with Kershaw. We just got to keep trying to chip away.”

Preview: Cubs look to avoid getting swept by Dodgers today on CSN

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Preview: Cubs look to avoid getting swept by Dodgers today on CSN

The Cubs take on the Los Angeles Dodgers today, and you can catch all the action on CSN and live streaming on CSNChicago.com and the NBC Sports App.

Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 2:30 p.m. Then catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Ryan Dempster. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Jon Lester (3-2, 3.19 ERA) vs. Clayton Kershaw (7-2, 2.01 ERA)

Click here for more stats to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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