The Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years last season, but they did it without any major contributions at the plate from outfielder Jason Heyward. After signing an eight-year, $184MM deal with the Cubs last winter, the normally above-average hitter posted the worst offensive season of his career with a .230/.306/.325 line and seven home runs in 592 plate appearances. As a result, the 27-year-old has been working to restore his swing with Cubs hitting coach John Mallee and assistant hitting coach Eric Hinske this offseason, as Jesse Rogers of ESPN.com details. “It’s easier said than done trying to do it in season,” said Heyward. “The offseason allows you to slow things down and focus on all the little things.” Ideally, Heyward would like to return to the form he displayed in 2012 during a 27-homer campaign with the Braves. “He’s trying to mirror the swing he had then,” Mallee said. “Right now the path is not the same it was then. It’s not making a change. It’s getting him back to who he was.”
More from around the majors:
- While Tigers general manager Al Avila is not under orders to decrease payroll, one major league executive told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that the franchise is nonetheless aiming to do that. “The Tigers are a willing trade partner because they’re trying to get rid of payroll,” the executive commented. It’s possible Detroit’s alleged motivation to cut spending will lead to a trade involving second baseman Ian Kinsler, whom the Dodgers could target. “Kinsler is still a top player and he only has two years remaining on his deal,” observed the exec. The 34-year-old is due $11MM next season and, barring a $5MM buyout, another $10MM by way of a club option in 2018.
- The 2016 season ended prematurely for Angels right-hander Matt Shoemaker, who exited a Sept. 4 start after taking a line drive to the head and didn’t pitch again. The damage from that liner, which came off Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager’s bat at 105 mph, forced Shoemaker to undergo surgery to repair a small skull fracture and stop the bleeding on his brain. Fortunately, Shoemaker hasn’t felt any ill effects this offseason, he told Jason Beck of MLB.com. “The nice thing is mentally, I think I’m in a good state where I don’t think about it,” Shoemaker said. “It’s like it’s just something that happened. I’m thankful the recovery has been great, able to be back and ready to go.” To help guard against another potentially disastrous injury in the future, Shoemaker is considering wearing protective headgear in 2017. “I know a lot of stuff is being developed. For me, everybody cares about how they look a little bit, but I don’t really care how the look is as much as the feel and the comfort,” he stated. “Like, when I’m pitching, I don’t want to think about it. So if that can be achieved with something, if something works, I’m willing to try it.”
- Former major league hurlers Ryan Dempster and Eric Gagne are planning on pitching for their native Canada in this year’s World Baseball Classic, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet (Twitter links). “I was putting up some really good numbers in beer-league softball,” quipped the 39-year-old Dempster, who pitched to a 4.35 ERA in 579 appearances and 351 starts from 1998-2013. Gagne, 41, has been off the radar for much longer, as his last majors action came in 2008 with the Brewers. Of course, the ex-closer is best known for his work as a member of the Dodgers, with whom he converted a record 84 straight saves from 2002-04 and won the National League Cy Young in 2003.