There has been speculation about the Cubs pursuing Orioles shortstop Manny Machado in a deal that could cost the North Siders their current shortstop, Addison Russell. But Russell told Patrick Mooney of The Athletic (subscription required) and other reporters Saturday that he’s not sweating those rumors. “As far as the trade rumors, if it happens, it happens. But I really don’t pay them any attention,” he said. “The only time I really even hear about them is the media bringing it up to me.” Unsurprisingly, the 24-year-old Russell also made clear that he’d like to remain with the Cubs, who originally acquired him from the Athletics in a 2014 blockbuster with the Athletics. Russell has since emerged as a solid starter, not a superstar like Machado, but trading him to acquire the latter would mean surrendering his three-plus years of control for a few months of control over Machado. Of course, it would also boost the Cubs’ World Series chances for this season, thus creating a conundrum for Chicago’s brass if it actually does discuss a Machado-Russell trade with Baltimore.
- Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward won’t come off the seven-day concussion DL on Monday, Carrie Muskat of MLB.com relays. It’s unclear when Heyward will be ready to go, as manager Joe Maddon said Sunday that there’s no timetable for his return. In better news for the Cubs, right-hander Yu Darvish will take the ball against the Braves on Tuesday, per Muskat. Darvish will end up missing the minimum, then, after going on the 10-day DL retroactive to May 4 with flu-like symptoms.
The Cubs have selected the contract of righty Justin Hancock, per a club announcement. He’ll be making his way onto an MLB roster for the first time.
It’s obviously a big day for Hancock, who was originally selected by the Padres in the ninth round of the 2011 draft out of Lincoln Trail College in southern Illinois. At that time, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer was at the helm in San Diego.
Hancock has worked exclusively out of the bullpen since landing in the Cubs organization in the deal that sent Matt Szczur to the Friars. He continued to struggle with command last year but seems to have righted the ship thus far in 2018, with 14 1/3 innings of 3.77 ERA ball over which he has recorded 19 strikeouts against just four walks.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today provides an interesting look at the post-playing career of Hall-of-Famer Andre Dawson, the slugging outfielder best remembered for his time with the Cubs and Expos. The Hawk now operates a funeral home with his wife in the Miami area, a surprising turn for a legendary ballplayer. Fans of the former great will certainly want to read the entire piece, which paints a compelling picture of Dawson and his new line of work.
- The summer trade picture is only just starting to take shape, but Manny Machado obviously represents a key component. As MLBTR’s Steve Adams wrote recently, it is hard to imagine the Orioles won’t end up trading him before he reaches free agency at season’s end. And the Cubs are shaping up to be an interesting fit, as Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. Indeed, per the report, the Chicago organization has plans to discuss Machado with the O’s once the trade window begins to open. Of course, that’s hardly surprising and hardly suggests that the Cubs are a favorite. As Wittenmyer notes, the club has a relatively diminished upper-level talent pool to draw from in making a deal; while indications are that ownership is willing to green-light an aggressive approach, it’ll still be tough to pull off a deal. And the Cubs surely won’t be alone in pursuing Machado, who could be seen as a difference-maker for numerous rosters around the game.
- The Cubs announced today that outfielder Jason Heyward has been placed on the 7-day concussion DL. Infielder David Bote is back up from Triple-A to take his spot on the active roster for the time being. Heyward collided with the right-field wall over the weekend when attempting to rob former teammate Dexter Fowler of what wound up being a walk-off home run in the 14th inning of Sunday’s game against the Cardinals (video link). Interestingly, manager Joe Maddon tells reporters that Kris Bryant could see some time in right field while Heyward is sidelined (Twitter link via MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat).
The Cubs have placed righty Yu Darvish on the 10-day DL, per a club announcement. He is dealing with the flu.
Without knowing more, it would rate as a surprise if the treatment for this common illness mandates anything other than a brief respite. At this point, though, there’s not much of an indication of what kind of an absence the club expects.
Of course, there’s a broader slate of concerns surrounding Darvish, who joined the Cubs on a six-year, $126MM contract over the winter. He has allowed twenty runs in thirty frames over his first six starts with his new team. Perhaps, then, this DL placement will also allow the veteran hurler a chance at a more general re-set.
Darvish has carried a strikeout rate of 11.1 K/9, right at his typical level. But he’s getting swinging strikes on just 9.4% of his offerings, which is well off his career average, while doling out an uncharacteristic 4.8 free passes per nine. Plus, Darvish has been rather prone to the long ball (1.80 HR/9, 20.0% HR/FB).
It’s hard to know just what has gone wrong for Darvish thus far. Arm speed isn’t the problem, as he’s throwing both his four and two-seam fastballs harder than ever. His typically excellent slider has not been clicking, and he has seemingly experimented with throwing the pitch harder — but with less movement — over the course of the year. (See here, here, and here.) Darvish is also fiddling with his pitch mix, without yet finding the answer.
Clearly, getting Darvish back to full health is only a part of the puzzle now facing the Cubs. It’s also unclear just what the club will do to replace him in the rotation. A corresponding move has not yet been made.
- Phillies hitting coach John Mallee “was totally surprised” at being replaced as the Cubs’ hitting coach after last season, he tells Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. Though manager Joe Maddon praised Mallee’s work, the Cubs’ decision to part ways with Mallee and hire Chili Davis seemed due (as Maddon and Theo Epstein explain) to an organizational preference for more of a well-rounded hitting attack, as opposed to Mallee’s more launch angle-based philosophy. It seems like there could be a bit of a learning curve to the new approach for Cubs hitters, as the team’s offensive numbers are down over the first six weeks of the season.
- While many Cards fans were skeptical of the team’s two-year, $15.5MM deal with righty Miles Mikolas this offseason, but the 29-year-old has gone a long way toward proving his doubters wrong with a 2.70 ERA and a 31-to-2 K/BB ratio through his first 40 innings back in the Majors. Mikolas chatted with the Post-Dispatch’s Derrick Goold about the Cardinals’ offseason pursuit of him, revealing that the division-rival Cubs were also in pursuit of his services before they “cooled of” and eventually struck up a deal with Tyler Chatwood. “I guess they didn’t want me that bad,” said Mikolas of the Cubs. “I guess they thought it would be more fun facing me than having me on their staff. They figured they’d take their chances.”
The Cubs have reached agreement on a minor-league deal with outfielder Lane Adams, according to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (via Twitter). He had recently elected free agency after being removed from the Braves’ 40-man roster.
The 28-year-old Adams will provide some outfield depth to a Chicago organization that has struggled to produce runs of late. But it does not appear as if he’ll be an immediate factor at the MLB level.
Adams has been a productive hitter in limited action since landing with the Braves in advance of the 2017 season. He slashed .270/.345/.460 with six home runs in 143 plate appearances in Atlanta. That’s the most extensive MLB time the former Royals farmhand has received in his career, though clearly he did not receive much time while he was on the active roster.
Despite Ian Happ’s alarming struggles at the plate — he’s hitting .233/.282/.384 with a mammoth 46.2 percent strikeout rate through 78 plate appearances — Cubs skipper Joe Maddon says the team is not discussing the possibility of optioning the young switch-hitter to Triple-A Iowa (link via Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times). Per Maddon, the 23-year-old is frustrated by his lack of contact but handling the struggles quite well. Maddon acknowledges that it’s difficult to get all of his young hitters into the lineup but maintains that the best place for Happ to right the ship at the plate is with the big league club for the time being.