Your complete Cubs wrap-up from Monday's news

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Your complete Cubs wrap-up from Monday's news

So we know today got cray here for you all trying to keep track of everything from the MLB Winter Meetings in Dallas. (For those of you not hip, the word "cray" is short for "crazy." That's how the cool kids abbreviate it now.)

To make things convenient, we've decided at CubsTalk here to aggregate all the content into one big post. You know, just 'cause we're nice and cool like that.

The first news of the day was the best, by far. Longtime Cubs legend Ron Santo finally earned his bid into the baseball Hall of Fame. In a way, it's too little, too late, coming just 367 days after the beloved icon's death, but we still cherished the news and reminisced on our favorite Ronnie moments. Even Blackhawks president John McDonough got in on the action, saying he was "thrilled" for Santo's induction.

Another Cubs icon and Hall of Famer earned an accolade Monday as well, as Ryne Sandberg was named the Minor League Manager of the Year by Baseball America.

As far as moves being made, it was a rather quiet day around the MLB, especially for the Cubs. Theo Epstein's new crew didn't do anything specific, but they did meet with Albert Pujols' agent, only to let the word out later that it was because Dan Lozano also represents veteran Rodrigo Lopez, whom the Cubs are interested in bringing back next season.

Pujols got more attention Monday, but his slugging free agent counterpart Prince Fielder was anything but silent in the rumor mill, including word the Brewers may have dropped out of the sweepstakes for the big first baseman.

If the Cubs don't wind up with either Fielder or Pujols (something that seems increasingly more likely as time goes on), they could still bring back Carlos Pena if they sign him to a multi-year deal, or they could move on with an in-house replacement in Bryan LaHair.

Jed Hoyer and Theo keep stressing run prevention and they admit the starting rotation needs a lot of work. Word came out Monday that the Cubs reached out to C.J. Wilson's representation to gauge the market on the top free agent pitcher this offseason. Nothing serious at all, but an interesting move nonetheless.

Meanwhile, the Cubs' top free agent to hit the market, Aramis Ramirez, may get his wish if he wants to play for a contender. The Phillies, who have been anything but in "wait" mode so far this offseason, are reportedly in on the veteran third baseman.

Nothing too cray (there's that cool, hip word again), but it's just day one. As Theo says, it could take 100 conversations to make just one move.

Stay tuned to see what tomorrow brings.

Kyle Schwarber goes ‘Star Trek,’ launching home run out of Wrigley Field and onto Sheffield Avenue

Kyle Schwarber goes ‘Star Trek,’ launching home run out of Wrigley Field and onto Sheffield Avenue

Where the Cubs needed a Javier Baez basket shot to beat Johnny Cueto last October – the swing that might have changed the entire direction of their World Series run – Kyle Schwarber left no doubt with this one.

Schwarber launched Cueto’s 91-mph fastball out of Wrigley Field and onto Sheffield Avenue on Tuesday night, setting the tone in the first inning of a 4-1 win over the San Francisco Giants with a mammoth home run that Statcast measured at 470 feet.

“Whoa, it got small fast,” manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s almost like when you used to watch ‘Star Trek’ when it came on and the Enterprise would just fly by the screen and get really small. It kind of had that Enterprise-esque look to it. It was there – and then it was gone.”
 
Cueto, the funky right-hander with the dreadlocks, rocker steps and quick pitches, is now dealing with blisters on his middle and index fingers, which may partially explain his 4.64 ERA and San Francisco’s 20-27 record.  

Jason Heyward and Anthony Rizzo jumped Cueto first pitches in the second and fourth innings, with balls landing in the right-field basket and right-field bleachers as the Cubs (23-21) played perhaps their most complete game this season.

Schwarber’s batting average will read .186 on the big video board the next time he steps into the box at Wrigley Field. But Ben Zobrist’s production as a leadoff hitter could make Schwarber more comfortable and settled in the No. 2 spot. And teams still have to account for Schwarber’s thunderous left-handed power (seven homers) and overall patience (25 walks and 4.22 pitches per plate appearance).

“It’s a continuous process,” Schwarber said. “I’m still going to work every day and trying to figure this thing out. I’m going to go up there every day and be confident.”

Joe Maddon explains his ‘defensive foot fetish’ and what Cubs need to see from Ian Happ in center field

Joe Maddon explains his ‘defensive foot fetish’ and what Cubs need to see from Ian Happ in center field

Joe Maddon went Full Larry David while trying to explain what the Cubs need to see from Ian Happ in center field.

“I’m into feet, man,” Maddon said. “I just like good feet. I don’t have a foot fetish, other than defense. I have a defensive foot fetish. I admit to it.” 

And with that, Maddon got up from his chair and walked out of the Wrigley Field interview room after Tuesday night’s 4-1 win over the San Francisco Giants, saying: “You can’t top that.” The only thing missing for the Cubs manager in that moment was the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” theme music.

Maddon gave credit to bench coach Dave Martinez and the team’s scouting reports for Happ’s sliding catch, which took a leadoff hit away from Brandon Belt in the seventh inning of Jon Lester’s complete-game masterpiece.     

“The guy’s really confident,” Maddon said. “Now I’ve seen some things we need to work on fundamentally out there. And I’ve already talked to Davey about it. And I know Happer’s going to work on that to make it even better. But he was positioned well, I thought, by our guys. He was in the right spots.”

If Happ needs work on reading swings and running routes, remember that the Cubs drafted and developed him as an infielder/outfielder with Maddon’s versatility ideals in mind. Actually, the Cubs went offense first with the ninth overall pick in 2015, fast-tracking a switch-hitter who needed only 26 games with Triple-A Iowa.       

While Happ didn’t exactly appreciate or fully understand where the knocks on his defensive game came from out of the University of Cincinnati, he will be in the lineup when he puts up a .323 average and a 1.126 OPS through his first nine games with the Cubs.    

“Just saw a couple little things I would like to see him address and get better with,” Maddon said. “Again, I’m being nitpicky right now, because I want him to be really good at this. His arm’s fabulous. He throws really well. Yeah, I mean, he could be really good out there.”