Chicago Cubs: Chicago Cubs

Anthony Rizzo (back) out of lineup again

August, 28, 2014
Aug 28
9:44
AM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo is not in the starting lineup for the second straight game against the Cincinnati Reds after leaving the series opener on Tuesday with lower back tightness.

Rizzo
Rizzo didn’t play in Wednesday’s 7-5 loss to the Reds and gets another day of rest on Thursday. Cubs officials don’t believe the injury is serious. Chris Valaika will get his second straight start at first base and bat seventh.

Outfielder Jorge Soler is back in the lineup on Thursday, batting fifth and playing right field again after homering in his first at-bat in his major league debut on Wednesday night.

According to ESPN Stats and Information, the Cubs became the first team in history to have two players, each 22 or younger, hit a home run in their first major league games in the same season. Second baseman Javier Baez (21) also homered in his first game earlier this month in Colorado. Soler went 2-for-4 with 2 RBIs in the loss.

Here’s the Cubs lineup against the Reds:

1. Chris Coghlan LF
2. Baez 2B
3. Starlin Castro, SS
4. Luis Valbuena, 3B
5. Soler, RF
6. Arismendy Alcantara, CF
7. Valaika, 1B
8. John Baker, C
9. Jake Arrieta, P

Epstein: Time was right for Jorge Soler

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
4:25
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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Declaring it is the "right time to bring him up here," Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein says outfield prospect Jorge Soler needs the playing time after an injury-plagued start to his 2014 season.

[+] EnlargeJorge Solar
Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY SportsJorge Soler will bat fifth in his debut with the Cubs on Wednesday.
"We've been certain in our minds for a while he was going to be a September call-up," Epstein said Wednesday. "The key to the decision to bring up Soler is he was going to be a call-up for us mainly because he needs the at-bats."

The Iowa Cubs aren't looking like a playoff team, and their regular season ends Monday, so Soler will get the extra at-bats in the majors. He'll make his debut batting fifth and playing right field Wednesday against the Cincinnati Reds.

Soler hurt both his hamstrings earlier this season, forcing him to miss all of April and most of May. When he finally got healthy -- thanks in part to some dramatic work by the training staff -- Soler vowed to impress.

"The turning point for Jorge was how he handled the second hamstring injury," Epstein said. "Instead of getting really down on himself and pouting, he really embraced that adversity as an opportunity to get better. At the same time, he was watching what Javier [Baez] and Kris Bryant were doing. We got the sense he wanted to catch up a little bit, as well.

"He communicated he was on a mission."

Soler caught up quickly. He hit .340 with 15 home runs and 57 RBIs in 62 games in the minors, putting himself in a position for the promotion. His plate discipline continues to be his strength, as his walk totals are more in line with a veteran hitter. His on-base percentage this season is .432. That's partly what makes him unique. That, and his physical presence.

"He was born with a very advanced approach at the plate," Epstein said. "The first things fans will notice is how impressive he is physically. He's put together like an NFL player."

A 6-foot-4, 215-pound, 22-year-old power hitter who can handle the strike zone doesn't come along very often. It's one reason the Cubs extended a nine-year, $30 million contract to him back in 2012.

"All things being equal, we prefer our higher profile prospects to break in on the road where they can just play and keep distractions to a minimum," Epstein said. "He's made tremendous strides with his swing mechanics and swing path. ... His ground balls have become line drives. His line drives have become fly balls. His fly balls tend to leave the ballpark."

Soler's promotion would never have happened without him getting healthy. After his second hamstring injury, the Cubs grew concerned there might be something chronic going on. They did a full body work-up.

"He had a disproportionate amount of his muscle mass located on the front of his body, and that was creating some inequalities and putting extra strain on his hamstrings when he made some athletic movements," Epstein said. "The training staff has tried to redistribute some of that muscle mass, make him more balanced between his anterior and posterior sides."

That's when Soler put it on himself to show the world why the Cubs had invested so much in him. Now he'll join former Iowa Cubs such as Baez and Arismendy Alcantara for a 4 ½-week learning experience.

"This is the right time to bring him up here," Epstein said.

Rapid Reaction: Cubs 3, Reds 0

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
10:09
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive

The Chicago Cubs beat the Cincinnati Reds 3-0 on Tuesday night. Here’s a quick look at the game.

How it happened: Before a short rain delay in the first inning, Anthony Rizzo took Johnny Cueto deep to right for his 30th home run of the season. Arismendy Alcantara also went out to right with a man on in the seventh inning to extend the Chicago lead. Travis Wood kept the Reds off balance all night and gave up just two hits and a walk over six innings. He struck out five. Three relievers shut down the Reds the rest of the way, and Hector Rondon earned his 22nd save.

What it means: The Cubs have been pitching lights out, and they followed up a one-hit effort on Sunday by giving up just three Tuesday. It was one of Wood’s best starts of the season; a strong final month for him can’t hurt going into next season. The Cubs' team ERA in August is a sparkling 2.96. That’s second best in the National League this month.

Baez whiffs: Javier Baez struck out four times. It was his fourth four-strikeout game this season. According to ESPN Stats and Information, Baez became the first player in more than 100 years to reach that mark in his first 21 career games.

Rizzo leaves: Rizzo became just the sixth player in baseball to reach 30 home runs this season, a feat he achieved for the first time in his young career. Not only has he increased his power this season, he’s done it while bringing up his batting average, which was a point of criticism last year. He left the game after batting in the seventh inning; replays showed him wincing after his swing and a jog to first base. Cubs broadcaster Len Kasper said Rizzo left with lower back tightness. Outfielder Ryan Sweeney also left the game with a reported hamstring strain.

Castro’s return: Starlin Castro played for the first time in a week after he was activated from the bereavement list. He had two hits in his first game since Aug. 19.

What’s next: Game 2 of the series takes place on Wednesday night at 6:10 CT when Jacob Turner (4-7, 5.77 ERA) makes his first start as a Cub. He’ll face Mat Latos (4-3, 2.99). Outfield prospect Jorge Soler is expected to make his major league debut.

Series preview: Cubs at Reds

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
4:35
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
The Chicago Cubs open a three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday night.

Tuesday: Travis Wood (7-11, 4.91 ERA) vs. Johnny Cueto (15-7, 2.20), 6:10 p.m.
Wednesday: Jacob Turner (4-7, 5.77) vs. Mat Latos (4-3, 2.99), 6:10 p.m.
Thursday: Jake Arrieta (7-4, 2.53) vs. Dylan Axelrod (0-0, 3.00), 11:35 a.m.

Castro returns: Shortstop Starlin Castro is back after missing the last five games due to a family tragedy in the Dominican Republic. A car accident claimed the lives of several friends and a relative. Castro had played in all 125 games this season for the Cubs, making his third All-Star team, before leaving the team last Wednesday.

Soler debuts: He's not in the lineup Tuesday but he 22-year-old outfielder Jorge Soler should be on Wednesday for his major league debut. Soler signed a nine-year contract in 2012 but was plagued by injuries the past two seasons. Once healthy, he took off for Triple-A Iowa, hitting three home runs over his final four games, including one on Monday night before being pulled from the game and getting promoted.

Who's Hot/Who's Not: Arismendy Alcantara has gotten hot again. He was 8-for-23 (.348) on the most recent home stand, including a go-ahead home run in the series finale sweep of the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday. ... Although he hit two home runs on the home stand, Javier Baez was just 3-for-22 (.136).

Cubs' Russell, Edwards to play in AFL

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
4:02
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Pitcher C.J. Edwards and shortstop Addison Russell are among seven players the Chicago Cubs will send to participate in the Arizona Fall League, MLB announced on Tuesday.

Both players were limited this summer due to injuries.

Russell, 20, is the third-best prospect in baseball, according to ESPN Insider Keith Law. He participated in fall ball last season while a member of the Oakland Athletics after being drafted 11th overall in 2012. Russell was sidelined at the beginning of this season with a hamstring injury. He was traded to the Cubs for pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel shortly after returning to action. He's currently at Double-A Tennessee.

Edwards, rated 67th, also missed time this season with shoulder soreness. Also at Double-A Tennessee, Edwards is 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA in nine starts. He was acquired in 2013 as part of a trade with Texas which sent Matt Garza to the Rangers.

Other Cubs participating in the Arizona Fall League are pitchers Zach Cates, Gerardo Concepcion and Ivan Pineyero. First baseman Dan Vogelbach is on the roster as is outfielder Jacob Hannemann, who was named to the taxi-squad.

Absent from fall participation is 2014 first-round pick Kyle Schwarber. He signed with the Cubs and started playing for the organization shortly after being drafted this summer so a need for more at-bats and playing time probably wasn't a high priority. Last summer, first-round pick Kris Bryant was a late signing so the extra time during the fall made sense. He won the Fall League MVP in 2013.

The Arizona Fall League consists of six teams made up of Double-A and Triple-A prospects from around baseball. Each major league organization provides seven players subject to certain eligibility requirements. The Cubs will play for the Mesa Solar Sox.

Chat alert: Jesse Rogers at noon CT

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
10:27
AM CT
By Staff
ESPNChicago.com
ESPNChicago.com's Jesse Rogers takes your Cubs questions during a live chat at noon CT Tuesday. Click here to submit your questions.

Plate discipline helps Soler's rapid rise

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
9:40
AM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
After only about a season's worth of at-bats in his entire minor league career, Chicago Cubs outfield prospect Jorge Soler is headed for the major leagues. He'll most likely debut in Cincinnati this week, according to sources familiar with the situation.

[+] EnlargeJorge Soler
Tony Farlow/Four Seam Images/AP PhotoJorge Soler had a .494 on-base percentage in 22 games at Double-A Tennessee before being promoted to Triple-A Iowa.
Soler, 22, was injured last year and earlier this season, so he hasn't played a full season yet in the minors. But in compiling 15 home runs and 57 RBIs to go along with a .340 batting average in Double-A and Triple-A this season, the Cubs deemed him ready for prime time.

Listed at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, teammates say he's a "freakish" athlete who has the potential to be a five-tool player, although he wasn't a stolen base threat in the minor leagues. But that potential is one reason the Cubs signed the Cuban native to a nine-year, $30 million deal in 2012.

Since recovering from two different hamstring injuries, Soler has been on fire in Double-A and then Triple-A. He batted .415 -- with a .494 on-base percentage -- with six home runs and 22 RBIs in 22 games at Double-A Tennessee before his promotion to Triple-A Iowa, where his slash line is .282 AVG/.378 OBP/.618 SLG with eight home runs and 29 RBIs in 32 games.

Of all the Cubs prospects, Soler is being fast-tracked to the major leagues for two likely reasons: He has already signed a long-term major league contract, and he might have the best plate discipline of them all. The Cubs have always been up front about the fact that strikeouts and walks are a big factor in determining promotions at all levels. Since he signed with the Cubs, Soler has been on the right side of that equation.

In three minor league seasons, he has struck out a total of 105 times against 66 walks. This year he has 41 strikeouts and 29 walks split between Double-A and Triple-A. That's a 1.41 ratio. For comparison, Javier Baez had a 3.82 strikeout-to-walk ratio before being called up. Top prospect Kris Bryant has a 1.83 ratio this year, meaning he's close, as well. Considering Soler's age and experience, he has proved that he has the plate discipline of a more seasoned veteran.

On-base percentage is still a major concern for the Cubs, who rank second to last in the National League (.298) this season. Soler should help in that department as his .432 on-base percentage in the minors this season is off the charts. Bryant has that ability, too. When the Cubs start to reach base more often, their transformation on offense will be complete.

For now, Soler gets the same chance that fellow called-up prospects Baez and Arismendy Alcantara are getting: a head-start on 2015.

And fans get to see another piece to the puzzle debut.

Castro to return vs. Reds Tuesday

August, 24, 2014
Aug 24
6:04
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro will rejoin the team in Cincinnati when they open a series there on Tuesday night, the team announced on Sunday afternoon.

Castro has been on the bereavement list since a car accident in the Dominican Republic earlier this week claimed the lives of several people, including one of his relatives.

Castro has missed the last five games after playing in all of the Cubs’ first 125 contests. He’s hitting .284 with 13 home runs and 64 RBIs this season. To make room for Castro, the Cubs optioned infielder Logan Watkins to Triple-A Iowa.

Time to welcome Sosa back to Wrigley

August, 19, 2014
Aug 19
12:18
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- It's time to bring Sammy Sosa back to Wrigley Field.

[+] EnlargeSammy Sosa
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesSammy Sosa shouldn't be ignored by the Cubs any longer.
Sosa's isolated status with the Chicago Cubs has been debated for years by fans and the media. But with the Cubs saluting the '90s during the homestand that opens Tuesday as part of their season-long celebration of the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field, it's time to welcome back the franchise's most iconic player from that decade.

The 20th anniversary of the 1994 labor strike that wiped out a memorable season passed last week, a reminder of how frustrating it was that I couldn't watch my favorite team on a daily basis. And I'm reminded how happy I was in the following years to be able to watch Sosa knock homers out of the park every day when I got out of school and flipped on WGN. The post-'94 strike era in baseball will be forever defined by the performance-enhancing drugs that permeated the game. Twenty years later, the game is still tainted because of the decisions of players like Sosa to allegedly use illegal substances.

A New York Times story reported that Sosa was on the 2003 list of players who flunked tests for PEDs.

I don't think fans should suddenly forget about the decisions Sosa, Mark McGwire and others made in regard to PEDs, and I don't think the Cubs should forget the way he treated people within the organization as his star rose -- and ultimately fell -- in Chicago. But enough time has passed to at least recognize Sosa for what he accomplished in a Cubs uniform.

He gave fans huge doses of the one thing that has been missing from Wrigley the last few years: joy.

He made the games interesting, and he made people happy. I thought it was a joke that the organization didn't invite him back to Wrigley for the 100-year anniversary in April.

"There are some things Sammy needs to look at and consider prior to having an engagement with the team," Cubs spokesman Julian Green said at the time.

As my colleague Jesse Rogers noted in April, "Sources indicate one thing Sosa has to do is make amends with some former teammates for his actions at the end of his Cubs career."

What?

I've heard enough stories in the last few years to know that Sosa, who told ESPN Deportes in April that he is willing to make amends with the Cubs, wasn't always the nicest guy to teammates, coaches, media, etc. But the organization's stance doesn't make sense to me as someone who watched many games in large part due to Sosa and his ability to lift the team.

For an ownership looking for any way to monetize various aspects of its team, wouldn't a Sosa day at Wrigley be worth it? The stands would be packed, and the people at Cubs Authentics could have a field day selling an assortment of Sosa paraphernalia. More than that, it would bridge a gap between the old franchise and one of its most important players.

I wish that Sosa hadn't allegedly used PEDs to lift his game to new levels, and I wish that he had been a much better teammate at times during his tenure. I don't think he's ever getting into the Hall of Fame, and I don't think his 66-homer season should count in the record books because I don't think it was earned without the help of those PEDs.

But as somebody who has lived and died with the Cubs for 30 years, I believe Sosa is owed an olive branch from the team that has turned its back on him. The numbers may be washed away over time, but the memories never will be. It's time for Sosa to get at least one day to be honored by the people who used to adore him. I don't feel the same way about him as I used to, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't stand and cheer when he returns.

Sosa is a flawed character, but everybody is in some regard. He's paid a price to the game and will continue to do so because of his link to PEDs and the way he handled his business on the way out. But it's time to forgive him for those past transgressions and remember the happiness he brought to people for years on a daily basis.

6th spot doesn't suit 'veteran' CF Alcantara

August, 19, 2014
Aug 19
11:02
AM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- He was the first to come up among the top Chicago Cubs prospects, so maybe it makes sense that Arismendy Alcantara is the first to experience an extended slump, as his batting average (.208) and on-base percentage (.277) have taken a nosedive.

[+] EnlargeArismendy Alcantara
Brian D. Kersey/Getty ImagesArismendy Alcantara has batted just .159 in 12 games in the sixth spot in the order.
The good news is his defense in center field has been good, especially considering the former infielder's lack of playing time in the outfield before a few months ago.

"He looks like a veteran out there," a National League scout said recently. "I saw Junior Lake [another former infielder] when he first came up, and Alcantara is much further along."

Alcantara is especially good at getting quick jumps and reading balls correctly, which can be easier to learn in center than in right or left. But the ball hit right at the center fielder is the toughest one, and Alcantara hasn't looked like a rookie handling those. He has made a few questionable throws allowing runners to advance a base, but that's a fixable mistake.

Now comes the bad news. His slump coincided with being moved from the top of the order to No. 6.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, in 12 games batting sixth in the order -- before returning to the leadoff spot on Monday -- Alcantara hit .159. His walk percentage was cut in half and his line-drive percentage went from 19.4 to 6.3. Was this due to being dropped in the order, the league getting a scouting report on him or simply a slump with a small sample size? It's probably a little bit of everything, but a further look inside the numbers might indicate a player experiencing some anxiousness.

For one thing, he's chasing more pitches outside the strike zone: 26 percent batting first or second, compared with 33 percent batting sixth. Even more interesting is that he used to foul off those pitches more. His foul percentage on pitches outside the zone was 41 percent batting No. 1 or 2, and that's dropped to 22 percent hitting sixth.

Additionally, while batting sixth he is 1-for-23 (.043) with 13 strikeouts when the count gets to two strikes. Hitting first or second, Alcantara is hitting a respectable .150 with two strikes. For a rookie, that's not bad considering the league average is .177.

The bottom line is Alcantara simply had more success hitting at the top of the order, although he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in his return to the leadoff spot Monday against the New York Mets.

But he did draw a walk, just his fourth of the month. It's unclear what manager Rick Renteria is thinking moving into the final six weeks of the season, as Monday's leadoff role could have been a one-day thing to give Chris Coghlan a breather, or it could be a sign that Alcantara will get more time at the top.

But there's no doubt it's the spot where he's had the most success in his short career.

Kris Bryant returns to I-Cubs lineup

August, 19, 2014
Aug 19
9:47
AM CT
By Staff
ESPNChicago.com
Chicago Cubs top prospect Kris Bryant is back in the lineup for the Iowa Cubs after not starting the past two games with a left foot contusion.

Bryant
Bryant left Saturday's game early after suffering the injury and missed Sunday's game. He was used as a pinch-hitter on Monday, drawing a walk before being lifted for a pinch-runner. He will bat third and play third base against Salt Lake in the 12:05 p.m. CT game Tuesday.

Bryant, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 draft, has 40 home runs and 103 RBIs split between Double-A and Triple-A this season. There was speculation he might get called up to the major leagues in September when rosters expand, but the Cubs say that won't be the case in his first full professional year.

Chat alert: Jesse Rogers at noon CT

August, 19, 2014
Aug 19
9:30
AM CT
By Staff
ESPNChicago.com
ESPNChicago.com's Jesse Rogers takes your Cubs questions during a live chat at noon CT Tuesday. Click here to submit your questions.

6 things we'd like to see in final 6 weeks

August, 18, 2014
Aug 18
11:15
AM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Jorge SolerMichael Spomer/Cal Sport Media/AP ImagesTriple-A Iowa outfielder Jorge Soler is in a 2-for-24 slump through Sunday's games.
The Chicago Cubs begin the final six weeks of the season on Monday and, at 53-70 going into their game against the New York Mets, it's all about getting ready for next season. They might play spoiler along the way, but that's secondary to finding out more about them heading into 2015.

Here are six things we'd like to see in the final six weeks:

1. Call up Soler: The Cubs have more than intimated that 22-year-old outfielder Jorge Soler will likely make it to the majors before season's end. The only question is when? At the time of outfielder Matt Szczur's call-up on Saturday in New York, Soler was in an 0-for-15 skid, so maybe that has delayed things. Just as likely was allowing the hard-working Szczur to make his debut not far from where he grew up in New Jersey and later became a two-sport star at Villanova. Soler is batting .329 with 12 home runs and 47 RBIs -- to go along with 28 walks -- in just 55 games this season in the minors. Arguably the most disciplined hitter of all the top prospects, Soler should get more than just a cursory look in September. The more at-bats he gets now, the better he'll be next season. He's one guy who will take a walk. Let's see if that carries over to the majors.

2. Adjust the lineup: Manager Rick Renteria admittedly isn't putting guys in their long-term spots in the order. That's been all right considering the batting order might be the most over-argued notion in baseball. General manager Jed Hoyer often paraphrases statistician Bill James when it comes to the lineup: Put your good hitters near the top and everyone else near the bottom. Pretty simple. In the Cubs' case, it's just a reworking at the top that would be interesting to watch over the final six weeks. On Monday, Renteria had Arismendy Alcantara back batting leadoff. Good. Leave him there. Alcantara slumped when moved to the No. 6 hole. He just doesn't feel right there. He had an on-base percentage of .314 batting in the 1 or 2 spot when he first came up. It dipped to .196 hitting sixth. And it's time to move Starlin Castro out of the cleanup spot. Let's see Alcantara and Castro hitting first and second the rest of the season. Anthony Rizzo is fine at No. 3, then try Javier Baez at No. 4 and Soler at No. 5. If the Cubs wanted to debut Soler in the No. 2 hole, that would also make sense. They slotted Alcantara and Baez there when they arrived.

[+] EnlargeJacob Turner
David Banks/Getty ImagesThe Cubs should find out what they have in 23-year-old Jacob Turner.
3. Start Turner: Jacob Turner looked good in his first relief stint for the Cubs since being acquired from the Miami Marlins, so let's see him in the rotation for a turn or two. Turner could step in if the Cubs could finally banish Edwin Jackson to the bullpen. Or they could just add a sixth starter as they just did in giving Dan Straily a turn. Turner's results won't matter as much as seeing his stuff. Pitching coach Chris Bosio needs a full offseason and spring training to get the most out of him, but a quick look wouldn't hurt the process.

4. Let others close: The Cubs allowed Pedro Strop to close out a few games last season to see what he could do, so why not do the same this year with some other relievers? It has nothing to do with the job Hector Rondon (17 saves in 22 opportunities, 3.23 ERA) has done. He's been nothing short of fantastic considering his place in baseball entering this season, but it doesn't hurt to know who might have the mental makeup for the job other than Rondon. Neil Ramirez, who has three saves already, is an obvious choice to get a few more chances. Blake Parker has been the main closer at Triple-A Iowa, but the Cubs know what they have in him. Some might want to see how Armando Rivero would react or flamethrower Arodys Vizcaino. But the latter has struggled (6.06 ERA) since being promoted to Iowa, while Rivero has thrived (1.78). Either way, expect Rivero to be in a Cubs uniform soon.

5. Give Olt another shot: With third base still lacking an everyday starter, there is no reason not to bring Mike Olt back up as the calendar turns to September, then play him every day. Olt has been tearing up Triple-A pitching. Maybe that's all he'll ever do, but he deserves another chance with no one standing in his way, at least over the next six weeks. Olt is batting .313 with a .361 on-base percentage, seven home runs and 24 RBIs in 26 games at Iowa. Maybe he's found his stroke again.

6. Leave Bryant at Iowa: Bryant's misfortune could be Olt's gain because the Cubs say he's not coming up to the big leagues this season. Plus, he just hurt his toe, so he'll miss some time anyway. If you didn't know by now, leaving Bryant in the minors until at least mid-April next year would set him up to become a free agent after the 2021 season. Any earlier and free agency would come a year sooner. At this rate, it's better to accept that fate than lose sleep over it. Undoubtedly, he'll be named the minor league player of the year, which would add to an already stocked trophy case: He was collegiate player of the year in 2013, then won the MVP of the Arizona Fall League, won the home run derby title in Double-A this year and would top it off with his monster year in the minors, which has already produced 40 home runs and over 100 RBIs. Leave him where he is.

Cubs' Wada making a pitch for 2015 rotation

August, 15, 2014
Aug 15
11:55
AM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- While the Chicago Cubs will search for pitching this offseason, they may have found a couple of hurlers for their starting staff already. Rookie right-hander Kyle Hendricks is garnering most of the headlines -- as he should be -- but 34-year-old lefty Tsuyoshi Wada is carving out a nice second half run himself.

[+] EnlargeTsuyoshi Wada
Brian Kersey/Getty ImagesTsuyoshi Wada has posted a 3.15 ERA in six starts with the Cubs this season.
He's 2-1 with a 3.15 ERA in six starts since being called up from Triple-A Iowa, including a gem Wednesday against the talented right-handed lineup of the Milwaukee Brewers. Wada gave up two solo home runs in his final inning of work en route to a 4-2 win. What's working for him?

"Executing," his catcher John Baker said. "Everything that he's throwing. He puts the ball where he wants to put the ball. And he's not shaking me off. Maybe twice [Wednesday]. So I can take the pressure and he can just pitch."

Wada signed with the Baltimore Orioles at 31 years old after coming over from Japan in 2012. After undergoing Tommy John surgery, he pitched in Triple-A last season but the Orioles let him go after his two-year deal was up and the Cubs grabbed him.

His major league debut was anything but assured after a rough spring training, giving up 14 hits and eight walks in 9 2/3 innings with an 8.38 ERA. He was actually released and then re-signed to a minor league deal but it included an option for 2015.

"It was my first spring training in Arizona so at first I was kind of struggling to grip the ball and the command of it," Wada said through an interpreter. "After a while I got a better handle of it."

It's well known spring training in Arizona isn't always kind to pitchers. The ball flies. Still, Wada knew something was up.

"There are guys that still put up the numbers," he said. "I was thinking, 'What's the best solution to get the results that I want.' As time went by I was able to figure it out."

There was concern from others as they watched him in the spring. He simply couldn't get anyone out.

"His velocity was down too," Baker said. "He was throwing 83-84 mph on his fastball; it's pretty easy for guys to hit the ball. When he tops out at 92 mph it looks even faster. He built up the arm strength, I guess."

There's some deception to Wada's delivery, which has thrown hitters off balance. Manager Rick Renteria saw it right away but also saw reason for concern.

"The only thing I was concerned with when he was pitching was his arm side command," Renteria said. "It was about his command. You could see he had some sneaky life, but it was a matter of if he was going to get it into a zone."

As soon as Triple-A Iowa's season started Wada found what he was looking for. As good as Hendricks has been in the majors, that's how dominating Wada was in the minors this season, going 10-6 with a 2.77 ERA in 18 starts. Now he's finding his groove with the Cubs.

"He has that pause in that windup that's thrown off their timing just a little," Baker said. "But it's not all about the deception. It's deception plus command."

Which brings us to next year. The Cubs may be on a search for more pitching, but they're still going to need bodies like Wada. At this point there's no reason they wouldn't pick up the option on 2015 as just about nothing else is for certain with the Cubs on the mound.

"I don't want to characterize it as No. 1 quality or whatever but we know we have to add pitching," general manager Jed Hoyer said recently of the upcoming search. "We know we have an imbalance [of hitting prospects vs. pitching in the minors] and I think that will be a main area of focus in the offseason and probably several offseasons."

The Cubs aren't yet in that add-at-all-costs mode. They'll search and probably sign a bigger name but they'll definitely bring in some more arms for depth. Wada is already here and despite his age, he's the perfect stopgap for another year -- unless of course the Cubs end up competing next season. Then he might become even more valuable.

"He's been around," Renteria said. "This isn't a young kid."

As rebuilds go, a rotation of Jake Arrieta, Hendricks, Travis Wood, Wada and Edwin Jackson -- if he's still around -- could be what the Cubs go to spring training with. There's also 25-year-old Dan Straily, acquired from the Oakland Athletics in the Jeff Samardzija trade, who will make his Cubs debut Saturday, and the recently acquired Jacob Turner, who was sharp in relief Thursday.

More than likely they'll add a top-of-the-rotation hurler moving everyone down one. It still could mean Wada is throwing every fifth day.

"I'm not thinking about that," he said. "I'm just trying to finish strong."

Cubs trade OF Jackson for RHP Cooper

August, 14, 2014
Aug 14
11:49
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs traded former first-round pick Brett Jackson to the Arizona Diamondbacks for right-handed pitcher Blake Cooper, the team announced Thursday night.

Cooper, 26, was a 12th-round pick of South Carolina in 2010. He was 4-2 with a 3.57 ERA working out of the bullpen in Double- and Triple-A this season.

Jackson, 26, was the 31st pick in the 2009 amateur draft and made his major league debut for the Cubs in 2012. He struggled making contact, striking out 59 times in 120 at-bats.

He hit .175 with four home runs that season but has been in the minors the past two years. He was hitting .201 with five home runs and 20 RBIs for Triple-A Iowa this season.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Starlin Castro
BA HR RBI R
.289 14 65 56
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Rizzo 30
RBIA. Rizzo 71
RA. Rizzo 81
OPSA. Rizzo .889
WT. Wood 8
ERAT. Wood 4.81
SOJ. Arrieta 135