Steve Stone's Mailbag: Cubs Need Run Producer

Steve Stone's Mailbag: Cubs Need Run Producer

Friday, October 9th
CSNChicago.com

Steve Stone dives into his mailbag to answer some of your questions about Alex Rios, Geovany Soto, Derrek Lee, and his picks for ALNL CY Young Awards.

Question from Sacramento, Chicago, IL: Hello Steve, what do u think Greg Walker will try to do with Alex Rios this off season? I've heard his stance is really horrible for a guy his size. I really feel bad for the guy, it seems like he is really trying out there. What can be done to fix his swing this off season?

Steve Stone: I dont think Greg Walker is going to do anything with Rios this off season. I think he will go back home to Puerto Rico. I think whatever work there is to be done will be done in spring training. The swing itself seems to be okay, but perhaps a little tweaking of the stance or the hand position as he moves down into his swing is something that Greg might want to deal with this spring. I think he will bounce back in 2010 but when he has had success with a batting style, it's hard to ask to change it. I believe in some minor tweaking instead a major overhaul will probably work the best.

Question from Bruce, Walkerton, Indiana: Hi Steve, to become more athletic and faster for next year, would someone like Nate McLouth be an answer to a Quentin, McLouth, Rios outfield? Then re-sign Podsednik as DH?

Steve Stone: Nate would certainly be a nice addition to the team but I dont think Atlanta will give him up after trading for him with the Pirates. When the White Sox inquired about him, Pittsburgh didnt want anything to do with him, which knowing the talent in the White Sox system makes me wonder about the wisdom of Neil Huntington, their new GM. As far as signing Podsednik for the DH, possibly but Ozzie said he will rotate DH's for next year. I dont think a one year contract for Podsednik would be a bad idea especially if it is incentive laden to guard against the injuries that he has suffered in the past. I think from a hitting standpoint, he had a remarkable three quarters of the season for the White Sox. When you factor in base running and defense, the total picture isnt quite as good but as a designated hitter as part of his job description, especially with a lack of a leadoff hitter that the Sox currently have, it seems like a reasonable thing to do.

Question from Charlie, Scottsdale, AZ: Geovany Soto had a tough year, but seemed to turn it around late. Do you see him as the Cubs starting catcher next season?

Steve Stone: Charlie from Scottsdale, Geovany Soto did have a rough year; as far as turning it around late, when you are hitting in the two teens, it's hard to say you turned it around. Yes I do see him as a starting catcher next year, however the Cubs have a decision to make. Either get Soto in terrific shape this offseason so he comes back and enjoys a kind of year like he did his rookie year, or let him gain as much as he wants to, suggest he hit his weight and then hope for a remarkable season. I prefer the former to the latter. The Cubs have said however that Soto didnt gain a lot of weight coming into this year which surprises me because everybody seems to believe that he looked a little more rotund after his stay at the World Baseball Classic. Im not saying that marijuana and brownies go hand in hand but I heard that sometimes, thats what happens.
Question from Lee, Chicago, IL: Derrek Lee has to be the Cubs team MVP right?

Steve Stone: Lee from Chicago, when the team doesnt go to the playoffs, there really is no reason to have a team MVP. Could they have not made it to the playoffs without Derrek Lee? I think so. Just like you could take anybody off the team and they still would not have made it to the playoffs. I believe he had a wonderful year especially when you factor in that much of the time he didnt have a lot of offensive support around him. But understand, dont assume he will have the same kind of year. Take Derrek back to his average year and you will realize like the Cubs do, you have to add one more solid run producing bat. Where have I heard that before? Oh, thats right, I heard that last year and so they added Milton Bradley and Aaron Miles for a combined total of 35 million dollars. That 35 million dollar obligation netted them for one full season; 45 runs batted in. So I suggest this year when they go out on the market to find a run producer, they actually find one who has averaged more than 50.7 runs batted in his entire career. I know this will surprise you, but Milton Bradley coming into last year averaged 50.7 runs batted in per season. He drove in 40 this year. What in the world made Jim Hendry believe that he was going to be a run producer seeing as the previous nine years he had never been one before. The irony is that when they signed Milton Bradley, less than one year ago, and I said that exact same thing, everybody said I was anti-Cub. I was a bitter former employee; that I was evaluating them for all the wrong reasons. I think it has born out over the course of the year that that particular assessment turned out to be fairly accurate. I hope Milton has a lot of luck with whatever team has the courage to take him on along with his 21 million dollars remaining in the two years he has left on his contract.
Question from Allen, Chicago, IL: Who do you think will win the ALNL Cy Young Award? Im going with Zack Greinke.

Steve Stone: Allen in Chicago I am thinking Chris Carpenter and Zach Greinke. The question is who do you have for MVP? I am thinking a tight race between Joe Mauer, Mark Teixiera and Derek Jeter. My vote would go to Derek Jeter however Joe Mauer will probably win it. In the National League, its Albert Puljos and nobodys in second place. Manager of the year, National League, Jim Tracy, Colorado Rockies. American League, Joe Girardi, New York Yankees although Ron Gardiner will probably win it. I also believe that Mike Scioscia should be in line for kudos and might sneak in there because what he had to deal with, all the injuries, the death of Adenheart and all the challenges. But in a four team division, when the other teams arent that good, it's not that difficult to win. I just think that Mike is one of the best around. Executive of the year, National League Mozeliak. St. Louis Cardinals, looking eye to eye with the Chicago Cubs, Mozeliak added Matt Halladay, Mark DeRosa, and Julio Lugo. Jim Hendry added John Grebo, Jeff Baker and Tom Gorzelanny. Enough said. American league Executive of the year its easy when you have an open checkbook and you can spend 429 million dollars but you still have to respect Bryan Cashman for the addition of CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett and Mark Teixiera. It is one thing to talk about it, as so many other teams did, its another thing to get them. Couple that with the trade for Nick Swisher, turning out to be a very good one and Brian Cashman becomes the American League executive of the year. Rookie of the year in the National League I would say Tommy Hanson of the Atlanta Braves although I am probably leaving out many good candidates but I am partial to pitchers and though I would love to say Gordon Beckham, I would say Rick Porcello of the Tigers will probably win rookie of the year. At 20 years old, what he did was absolutely remarkable.

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Wade Davis' impact on Cubs goes far beyond his eye-popping numbers

Wade Davis' impact on Cubs goes far beyond his eye-popping numbers

Wade Davis may not light up the radar gun like Aroldis Chapman, but the veteran closer has still had a similar impact shortening games for the Cubs.

Davis is 10-for-10 in save opportunities in his first year in Chicago, providing Joe Maddon and the Cubs with peace of mind as an anchor in a bullpen that has thrown the eighth-most innings in baseball (and ranks No. 8 in ERA with a 3.45 mark).

Davis just surrendered his first runs of the season Wednesday night on a Mac Williamson homer that snuck into the right-field basket.

Yet Davis still wound up preserving the victory by buckling down and turning away the Giants in the ninth. It was the first homer he's allowed since Sept. 24, 2015 and only the fourth longball he's given up since the start of the 2014 campaign, a span of 201 innings.

Even with Wednesday's outing, Davis boasts a microscopic 0.98 ERA and has allowed just 14 baserunners in 18.1 innings.

With 24 whiffs on the season, Davis is striking out 34.8 percent of the batters he's faced in a Cubs uniform, which would be the second-highest mark of his career (he struck out 39.1 percent of batters in 2014 as the Kansas City Royals setup man).

The 31-year-old nine-year MLB veteran is showing no ill effects from the forearm issue that limited him to only 43.1 innings last season.

[RELATED: How Wade Davis transformed into an elite pitcher by simply not caring]

But his impact isn't restricted to just on-the-field dominance. In spring training, Justin Grimm said he spent as much time as he could around Davis in an attempt to soak up all the knowledge he could.

"It's the stuff that you see — obviously he's really good," Maddon said. "He knows how to pitch, he's a very good closer, he's very successful. But he's a really good mentor to the other guys.

"Oftentimes, I'll walk through the video room and he'll be sitting there with a young relief pitcher or a catcher. There's a lot of respect. A lot of guys come to me and say, 'Listen, Wade's really great to be around.'"

Maddon was the manager with the Tampa Bay Rays when Davis first made his big-league debut in 2009 and the now-Cubs skipper credits the Rays organization with teaching Davis the right habits.

Davis also began his career as a starter before moving to the bullpen full-time in 2014 and reinventing himself as one of the best pitchers on the planet.

"He's grown into this," Maddon said. "He was raised properly. He comes from the organization with the Rays — really good pitching, really good pitching health regarding coaching. And then some of the veteran players that were around him to begin with.

"He's passing it along. The obvious is that he's got a great cutter, slider, fastball, curveball, whatever. He's very good with everybody else around him."

Davis needed 34 pitches to work around a couple jams and get the save Wednesday night. That's his highest pitch count in an outing since June 2, 2015.

Wednesday was also Davis' first time working in a week as the Cubs have not had a save situation in that span.

Maddon said he sees no link between the week off and Davis' struggles in Wednesday's outing and the Cubs manager also has no hesitance going to his closer for more than three outs.

However, Maddon doesn't see a need to extend Davis at this point in the season and would prefer to keep the Cubs' best reliever fresh for the stretch run and what the organization hopes is another shot at a World Series title.

Bears' makeover continues with salsa dancing ex-Giants WR Victor Cruz

Bears' makeover continues with salsa dancing ex-Giants WR Victor Cruz

The 2017 veteran makeover of the Bears’ wide-receiver position group continued on Thursday with the signing of former New York Giants wideout Victor Cruz to a one-year deal, a fourth move this offseason fitting an intriguing pattern in Bears roster construction.

Cruz “announced” the move on his Instagram account, declaring, “The Giants will forever be family,” Cruz wrote. “But for now, Bear down!!!” He becomes the fourth free-agent wide receiver signed by Bears and coming in with no fewer than four seasons of NFL experience.

The Bears have been about the business of shoring up their receiver group virtually since the 2016 season ended, adding depth in addition to filling in the vacancies created by Alshon Jeffery leaving for the Philadelphia Eagles via free agency, and the subsequent release of veteran Eddie Royal.

In their places, the Bears have added Cruz, Rueben Randle (Jan. 10), Markus Wheaton (Mar. 10) and Kendall Wright (Mar. 11), in addition to having Joshua Bellamy, Daniel Braverman, Cameron Meredith, Deonte Thompson and Kevin White in place.

Cruz, whose trademark Salsa dance to celebrate touchdowns has been an NFL staple over his six seasons with the Giants, for whom he started 53 of 70 career games after signing with the Giants as an undrafted free agent out of Massachusetts in 2010. Cruz has caught 303 career passes for 4,549 yards and 25 touchdowns, earning a Super Bowl ring with the Giants and earning selection to the 2012 Pro Bowl.

Cruz has not played a full 16-game season since 2012, when he caught a career-best 86 passes for 1,092 yards and 10 touchdowns. He missed all of 2015 after rehabbing from a torn patellar tendon in the 2014 season and then suffering a calf injury that eventually required surgery. The Giants released Cruz in early February this year.