Chicago Sports: 2015 Year in Review

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Just like that, we’ve made it through 2015 and are about to enter 2016. I have to say that 2015 was a pretty great year looking back on it both for me personally, and from a Chicago sports perspective (at least for the most part). This is the first time I have done this, but I’m looking forward to recapping the past year of Chicago sports. Enjoy.

Bears

6cphie5heyvfwn6lbzfowe61h2015 had a bit of a rough beginning for the Bears. They missed last year’s playoffs and began their offseason by firing general manager Phil Emery, head coach Marc Trestman, and most of the coaching staff. Ryan Pace was brought in to turn things around as the new GM, and one of his first moves was making former Broncos head coach, John Fox, the Bears’ new head man. Adam Gase and Vic Fangio both left San Francisco to be the Bears’ new offensive and defensive coordinators, respectively, giving the Bears one of the league’s best coaching staffs.

Kevin White was selected as the Bears’ number one pick in the 2015 NFL draft with the hopes of building a formidable receiving core between him and Alshon Jeffery, but White missed the entire 2015 season due to injury. Following White’s lead, the Bears could not stay healthy this season. This forced lineman to switch positions and backup players to become starters. Not that there was much optimism surrounding the Bears’ heading into 2015 season, but the injuries they suffered kept them from finishing with a better record. As it stands right now, the Bears are 6-9.

Looking ahead to 2016, it may be reasonable to expect a better Bears team than the one we saw this season, but the playoffs should still be out of the picture. However, I look at Ryan Pace as an up and coming Theo Epstein-type GM, and I have confidence that he’ll turn this thing around sooner than later.

Blackhawks

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-Tampa Bay Lightning at Chicago BlackhawksThe Blackhawks solidified themselves as a modern day dynasty in the NHL by winning their third Stanley Cup in six seasons in 2015. Things were not looking so bright, however, when Patrick Kane suffered a broken clavicle near the end of February that required surgery. He was ruled out for possibly twelve weeks.

What the Kane injury did that some people overlooked at the time was open up $6.5 million in salary cap space for the Blackhawks. By placing Kane on long-term injured reserve, his cap hit vanished. Stan Bowman took advantage of this and went ahead and traded for the likes of Antoine Vermette, Andrew Desjardins, and Kimmo Timonen. Obviously the Hawks went on to make the playoffs, and as a surprise to everyone, Patrick Kane was in the lineup for Game 1 of Round 1 against the Nashville Predators; about a month or so ahead of schedule.

The Blackhawks would go on to defeat the Predators in six games, sweep the Minnesota Wild, and knock out the Anaheim Ducks in seven to win the Western Conference and advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

In the Cup Final, the Hawks took games 1, 4, 5, and 6 to win their third Cup in six years, but it was the first time since 1938 that they won it on home ice. Duncan Keith won the Conn Smythe as the playoff MVP by unanimous vote. Andrew Desjardins and Antoine Vermette both played pivotal roles for the Hawks throughout the postseason, and without them it could be argued that they would not have won the Cup.

So far in this 2015-16 season and following some significant roster changes over the summer, the Blackhawks sit third in the Central Division with 46 points through 38 games played. Patrick Kane leads the NHL with 53 points and set the Blackhawks’ and American-born record with 26 consecutive games with at least one point, a streak that ended just a couple of weeks ago.

Moving forward, there is no question that the Hawks could use an addition on the blue line as well as at the left wing position. If they can somehow upgrade in those areas, we could be looking at another deep playoff run in a few months.

Bulls

The Bulls ended their 2014-15 season with a 50-32 record, which was good for third in the Eastern Conference. In the playoffs they beat the Milwaukee Bucks in six games before getting knocked out in six games by Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Following the end to their season, the Bulls’ front office decided it was time to let head coach Tom Thibodeau go. The two sides never seemed to be on the same page during Thib’s time in Chicago despite his .647 win percentage in five seasons with the Bulls. As a replacement, Fred Hoiberg was lured away from Iowa State to become the new Bulls head coach.

In the NBA draft, the Bulls took Arkansas forward Bobby Portis with their top pick, and he has been a pleasant surprise so far this season. The Bulls as a team are 18-12 through 30 games this year, which isn’t bad, but their 130107_gq_trout_aapparent off-the-court problems seem to be overshadowing what is taking place on the court. To make it simple, the Bulls are a dysfunctional group of players. Derrick Rose has gradually been losing his place as the face of the team to Jimmy Butler, and the two of them are rumored to have issues with one another.

As the season progresses into 2016, there is a chance we see Pau Gasol get traded away has he has already stated he would like to explore free agency in the summer. Whether or not that happens, the Bulls will still be in the playoffs come April, but won’t get too far as long as Cleveland remains intact. The future is not as bright for the Bulls as it has been in recent years.

Cubs

Next to the Blackhawks winning the 2015 Stanley Cup, the Cubs were the best sports story in Chicago this year. After finishing the 2014 season with a record of 73-89, manager Joe Maddon and starting pitcher Jon Lester were brought in during the fall of 2014. Instantly, Maddon instilled playoff expectations in his team and a completely new vibe.

The Cubs started their 2015 season with four of their top prospects (Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Javier Baez, and Kyle Schwarber) all in the minor leagues, but soon brought up both Bryant and Russell by the end of April. As the spring gave way to summer, the Cubs took off and just about steamrolled their way through the remainder of the regular season.

Kris Bryant wound up hitting .275 with 26 home runs and 99 runs batted in, and took home Rookie of the Year honors this past fall. Anthony Rizzo led the team with 31 homers and 101 runs batted. Kyle Schwarber was called-up a little over mid-way through the season and ended up with 16 dingers and 43 RBI in just 69 games.

On the other side of things, Jake Arrieta put together the best second half to a season by a starting pitcher in MLB history, and ended the regular season with a 1.77 earned run average while leading the MLB with 22 victories (and just 6 losses). He threw his first career no-hitter on August 30th, and won the National League Cy Young Award.

130107_gq_trout_aThe Cubs finished the season with 97 wins, good for third best in baseball, and beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL Wild Card game. In the National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Cubs took games 2, 3, and 4 to win the series and advance to the National League Championship Series for the first time since 2003. They would end up getting swept by the Mets, but that is beside the point. The Cubs showed the baseball world that they are the real deal by winning 97 games and moving on to the NLCS behind their young bats and top of the rotation.

So far this offseason the Cubs have only gotten better. They have, to this point, signed John Lackey, Ben Zobrist, and Jason Heyward, giving them one of the best starting rotations in the National League and arguably the best lineup in baseball.

Expectations have not been this high for the Cubs in a long, long time, and 2016 is shaping up to be an unbelievably exciting year on the North Side.

White Sox
The Sox brought in Jeff Samardzija, David Robertson, and Adam LaRoche heading into the 2015 season with the hopes of making a surprise run in the AL Central. Unfortunately for them, things did not go as planned.

The team went 76-86 on the season and finished
second to last in their division. Jeff Samardzija was a major disappointment as he ended the year with a league-worst earned run average of 4.96. Chris Sale, who got off to a great start to the year, did not have a great finish, but still wound up with a respectable 3.41 ERA and the third most strikeouts in the Major Leagues.

On the offensive side, Jose Abreu put together another stellar year with a MLB: Chicago White Sox at Cleveland Indians.290 average, 30 home runs, and 101 runs batted in. Much like Samardzija, Adam LaRoche was extremely underwhelming with a .207 average and just 12 home runs and 44 RBI.

So far this offseason, the White Sox seem to be working towards competing in 2016 instead of rebuilding. They recently acquired Todd Frazier from the Reds in a three-team deal, and Frazier will no doubt be a huge upgrade at the hot corner for the Sox and in the middle of their order. As of now, the Sox are being linked to Yoenis Cespedes as a possible landing spot for the free agent outfielder. If they can sign him, they’ll all of a sudden have a threatening lineup.

The White Sox still need another quality starting pitcher to be considered a real threat in the Central. As things stand at this moment, they shouldn’t be considered a playoff threat. That could change with a couple of good signings though.

So there you have it. Chicago sports in 2015. Overall, it was a pretty good year for the city with three of their five teams making the playoffs and one walking away as a champion. Not every sports town can make the same claim as often as Chicago can.

2016 in Chicago looks to be an intriguing year sports-wise. Given the current rosters of each team, here are my predictions for the upcoming year (these are subject to change if more roster moves are made):

Bears: 8-8; third in NFC North; miss playoffs

Blackhawks: 101 points; third place in Central Division; advance to second round of playoffs

Bulls: 48-34; third place in Central Division; advance to second round of playoffs

Cubs: 102-60; NL Central Division Champions; (I refuse to predict a playoff outcome)

White Sox: 80-82; fourth in AL Central; miss playoffs

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Trade possibility for the Blackhawks?

Mikkel BoedkerThe Blackhawks are a good team. They are not great and nor are they bad, but just good. Unfortunately for them being good is not enough to accomplish much in today’s NHL. To do something like win the conference or win the Stanley Cup, you need to be an elite team, which is nothing the Blackhawks are unfamiliar with. The tough part for them is that they are so tight against the salary cap due to big contracts for players like Kane and Toews that it is nearly impossible to be elite year after year. The cap will not allow it.

Without question one of the single biggest reasons why the Blackhawks have won three of the last six Stanley Cups is because of the depth that they had on those three rosters. Look no further than last year’s team.

Their third line for much of the postseason, including the Stanley Cup Final, was Sharp-Vermette-Teravainen. That would be a lot of teams’ first or second line. The Hawks’ fourth line for last year’s Cup run was Shaw-Kruger-Desjardins, and while that may not seem great on paper, those three created incredible chemistry and played a huge role in winning the Cup. My point being, if you cannot role four effective lines in today’s NHL, you will not win much.

Today’s Blackhawks cannot effectively role four lines, or at least not consistently, thanks to the league salary cap. And truthfully, this is nothing we should not have expected after the roster changes that needed to be made over the summer. However, there may be a sliver of hope developing that the Hawks can upgrade their roster between now and the trade deadline in late February.

Marcus Kruger was recently placed in Injured Reserve for a wrist injury. David Rundblad was just placed on waivers and is off the NHL roster. That gives the Hawks about $1 million in cap space as of right now. If they were to hypothetically send someone like Rob Scuderi down to Rockford in the future, they would then have right around $3 million in salary cap space. That kind leeway with the salary cap can be extremely valuable come the trade deadline, much like we saw last year when the Hawks acquired Vermette, Timonen, and Desjardins after Kane went on LTIR.

Now I’m not saying that Stan Bowman and the front office will for sure make a trade, but it is definitely possible. If the Hawks were to put Kruger on LTIR, making him done for the regular season, they could replicate what they did last year with the Kane injury situation and trade for a player or two, maximize their cap, and have Kruger return for the playoffs without his cap hit having an affect on the team cap heading into the postseason. It worked perfectly last year with Vermette and company, and if they Hawks can pull it off again this year, it may put them back into Cup contention.

So let’s say that everything I said regarding Kruger going on LTIR, Scuderi being sent to Rockford, and so on does happen. Who might the Hawks target via trades?

One name that I am seeing tossed around on Twitter and various other locations is Mikkel Boedker of the Coyotes. Boedker’s cap hit is $3.75 million this year, and he becomes a free agent in the summer. The sniper leads the Coyotes with 29 points so far this season, is fast, and plays left wing. What is one of the Blackhawks’ biggest problems right now? Finding a first line left winger to play alongside Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa.

As it stands at the moment, Andrew Shaw is the one filling that role on the top line with Toews and Hossa. Shaw is by no means a first line player and instead belongs on the fourth line like he was during last year’s playoffs. Acquiring Boedker would create an absolutely lethal top line, and it would allow Quenneville to place Shaw on the correct line, whether that is the third or fourth. That right there adds some valuable depth to the Hawks’ group of forwards.

Getting Boedker would require a valuable asset going the other way, and maybe even a player from the NHL roster, but it would be worth it. You also have to consider that Arizona currently sits second in the Pacific division, and they may be unwilling to trade away their top point producer while occupying a playoff position.

Acquiring Boedker alone would not solve the Hawks, however. They could still use another defenseman and maybe even another third line center or wing. Actually being able to pull that off will not be easy and likely would not happen, but it is something I am sure Bowman will look into.

Keep in mind this is all an idea at the moment based off of some rumors and conversations I have read online. At the same time though, it is realistic to think a deal like the one for Boedker could take place due to the Hawks’ ability to open up cap space with roster moves.

Seeing as how Kruger was placed on IR and Rundblad was waived all within the past 24 hours, we may (or may not) see a trade take place sooner than later.

Pete Rose belongs in the Hall

130107_gq_trout_aOn Monday, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred decided to uphold Pete Rose’s banishment from Major League Baseball. Rose has been banned from the league since 1989 due to gambling on MLB games while still playing and managing. In recent years, the argument to reinstate Rose has gained steam, leading to Rose formally appealing his suspension to the new baseball commissioner.

Manfred cited Rose’s lack of effort to get away from gambling as one of the main reasons for upholding his ban. He currently still (legally) bets on games and lives in Las Vegas where he signs autographs for money to maintain an income.

Due to Manfred’s decision, Rose will remain on the active list of players banned from Major League Baseball, a list that the Baseball Hall of Fame also recognizes.

What some do not realize is that the Baseball Hall of Fame has a Board of Directors who can determine who is and is not eligible for the Hall of Fame regardless of a player’s affiliation with Major League Baseball. Therefore, the Board of Directors has the right to allow Rose eligibility for the Hall of Fame. However, in 1991 the Board voted to ban anyone on MLB’s permanently ineligible list from being allowed to appear on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot. As long as Rose is banned from the Major Leagues, he will remain banned from the Hall of Fame barring a rule change.

While I am not about to defend Rose’s actions that led to his punishment, I will argue that he should be eligible for the Hall of Fame. Here’s why.

We are currently seeing players such as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire, and multiple others appear on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot. Some of these players, like Clemens, Palmerio, and McGwire have either admitted to or were caught using performance enhancing drugs, while the others remain suspect. These guys CHEATED to become better at baseball, but are still eligible for the Hall of Fame and continue to receive votes.

Pete Rose never took PED’s or cheated to become a better baseball player. He simply worked as hard as anyone and hustled as much as anyone to be the best player he could be. He finished his career as the all time hits leader in MLB history.

Betting on games that you play in or manage is wrong in every aspect and deserves severe punishment. However, when you look at the big picture and compare what Rose did to what guys like Clemens, Palmeiro and McGwire did, how can those guys remain eligible for Hall of Fame status and Rose cannot? They flat out cheated their way through baseball by using drugs that directly affected their performance on the field. Rose did not do anything close to that.

The Baseball Hall of Fame Board of Directors has the ability to give Pete Rose the chance to get voted into the HOF. It’s time that they allow baseball’s all time hits leader and one of the greatest players ever the chance to finally end up where he belongs simply for what he did on the field every game. As long as Pete Rose is left out of the Hall of Fame and PED users remain eligible for it, the Hall is not a legitimate club as far as I am concerned.

Blackhawks send Daley to Pittsburgh, acquire Scuderi

130107_gq_trout_aMonday night the Blackhawks traded Trevor Daley to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for fellow defenseman Rob Scuderi. Daley was acquired by the Hawks over the summer in the Patrick Sharp trade that sent him and Stephen Johns to Dallas. The hope was that Daley, an offensive defenseman, would be able to adapt to the Hawks’ defense-first style, but still be effective in the puck moving, fast-paced game that the Blackhawks like to play. Unfortunately for both sides, this was never a good fit.

Keep in mind that prior to joining the Blackhawks, Daley had spent his entire ten year career with the Stars and in a system that never put much emphasis on being a defensive d-man. He was used to being offensive-minded, and asking him to change his ways on a dime after years of playing one specific style proved to be too big of a challenge.

As anyone knows who follows the Blackhawks closely, Joel Quenneville does not tolerate players who are a liability on the defensive end. Hence the reason why he has been relatively reluctant to play rookies big minutes over the years. In the case of Trevor Daley, he was one of the weaker defensemen on the roster and simply was not gelling well with the Blackhawks’ style of play. In other words, a nightmare scenario for Daley, thus the reason for his trade.

What is confusing about all of this, however, is the fact that the Blackhawks knew what they were getting when they traded for Daley. They knew he was an offense-first kind of player who had never played in a system like the one Quenneville runs here in Chicago, yet they still brought him in via the Sharp trade. Maybe the hope was that he could learn the Blackhawks’ style while still incorporating his offensive instincts when appropriate. Whatever the case was, it did not work out as planned.

In return for Daley, Stan Bowman got Rob Scuderi from the Penguins. Scuderi is almost 37 years old and has spent most of his career with the Penguins. He won the 2009 Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh and the 2012 Cup with Los Angeles before returning to the Penguins for the 2013-14 season.

To make this simple, we will just say that Scuderi is not good. He seemed almost like an untradeable player until Monday night because of the fact that no one would seemingly want him. He is slow, he’s not a puck-moving defenseman, and he is one of the worst defensemen in the league in terms of puck possession. He has always been more of a defense-first player, which is good for the Hawks, but that only means something if you can actually execute that style of play in an effective manner.

So why then did the Hawks get him in return for Daley? Well, likely because the Penguins agreed to hang onto one-third of Scuderi’s salary. Because of that, the Blackhawks are opening up about $1 million in cap space, which may not seem like a lot, but actually can be when needing to make a transaction later in the season.

Scuderi still has one year left on his contract, and it would be flat out wrong for the Hawks keep him in their plans for a whole new season after this one. What they choose to do with him both now and next year remains to be seen. In terms of the right here and now, they may plug him into the third d-pairing with Michal Rozsival and let him play there until they feel one of the young guns like Gustafsson, Pokka, or Svedberg can handle a full-time defensive role at the NHL level. If a guy like Gustafsson can develop a bit more in Rockford and proceed to return to the NHL during the second half of the season, in time for the playoffs, that would be the ideal scenario for the Hawks. They could then waive Scuderi and place him in the AHL.

It is also not out of the question that Bowman could take advantage of the extra cap space cleared in this trade and try to acquire another defenseman at the trade deadline.

One thing is for certain here, and that’s that no one should expect much of anything from Rob Scuderi other than a good locker room and veteran presence. The Hawks actually got a bit worse on Monday, and hopefully it won’t last too long.

Cubs sign Zobrist, trade Castro

130107_gq_trout_aWell as is generally the case, where there is smoke, there’s fire. And on Tuesday, there was a lot of smoke rising up above the city of Nashville where the MLB Winter Meetings are taking place. Lots of rumors began popping up involving the Cubs in multiple capacities, and sure enough they made the headlines by the end of the day.

The Cubs had been linked to Jason Heyward throughout most of Tuesday, and they still are (we’ll get to that later), but Tuesday evening the focus shifted to Ben Zobrist. Zobrist, one of the game’s best, if not the best, utility men was reportedly nearing a final decision as to where he would ultimately sign. Recent reports all indicated that the Mets were the heavy front-runners, however the Cubs made a late push and signed Zobrist to a four year deal worth $56 million. It is worth noting that of all players Cubs manager Joe Maddon has ever managed at the big league level, no player has played more games for him than Ben Zobrist. Also add in the fact that Zobrist was born in Illinois and still has family in the area, and you begin to understand why he chose the Cubs (aside from the obvious reason of them being a contending team).

What Zobrist brings to the Cubs is versatility. He wants to play second base, and he will, but the fact that he can literally play any other position outside of catcher and pitcher gives Joe Maddon extreme flexibility with his lineup decisions. He is also great at getting on base, with a career .355 on base percentage, and bats from both sides of the plate. If the Cubs don’t end up signing an obvious leadoff hitter, you might want to pencil Zobrist into that spot in the lineup.

Aside from his physical abilities, Zobrist is a winner and a leader. He has played in two World Series now, having won one last year with the Royals, and is generally looked up to by younger teammates. The Cubs, a team with relatively little postseason experience in the field, will definitely benefit from having Zobrist in the lineup come crunch time next season.

So while signing Zobrist was a big move, it may not have even been the biggest news to come from the Cubs on Tuesday. Shortly after agreeing to a deal with Zobrist, the Cubs dealt Starlin Castro to the Yankees in exchange for 28 year old pitcher Adam Warren and veteran infielder Brendan Ryan. The Yankees will take on the remainder of Castro’s contract.

Warren, the main piece coming back to the Cubs in the trade, started 17 games for the Yankees last year and posted a 7-7 record with a solid 3.29 earned run average. He figures to be a number 5-6 starter and/or long reliever. This now gives the Cubs four pitchers who can pitch in relief and make spot starts when needed. Their bullpen depth, which was problematic at times last year, is quickly turning into a strength of the team.

Getting back to Castro, his departure was one that we were all somewhat anticipating for quite some time now. Despite getting off to a horrendous start in 2015, he became a completely new player once being moved to second base, which is where the Yankees plan to start him. While his bat and clubhouse presence will be missed, it was a move the Cubs had to make for two reasons. One, they needed to open up the second base position in order to sign Zobrist. Two, they needed to dump some salary to sign Zobrist. As Theo Epstein said Tuesday night, consider the Cubs’ transactions as a “Castro for Warren and Zobrist trade.”

Looking ahead now, the Cubs are still heavily linked to Jason Heyward as well as Denard Span and, if all else fails, Gerrardo Parra. All three are either center fielders or are capable of playing the position. If the Cubs could have it their way, the belief is they would sign Heyward today.

The Cubs had also shown interest in dealing for Shelby Miller, but the Braves reportedly had too high of an asking price. Tuesday night, the Braves and Diamondbacks agreed to a trade that sent Miller to Arizona, and Dansby Swanson (number one draft pick in 2015 MLB draft) and Ender Inciarte (among a couple other prospects) to Atlanta. Given what Atlanta got in return for Miller, it is clear now why no deal was made with the Cubs. The Braves got an almost unbelievable return in that trade. It’s likely their asking price was for something much more significant than Jorge Soler.

While the Cubs are definitely in the hunt for an outfielder, rumors of their pursuit of a good, young starter have died down a bit. It is unclear if the acquisition of Warren put a halt to that or not, so those rumors could potentially pick up again at some point.

A lot more could happen today and as we approach the weekend, and it should be fun.

Rumors heating up around the Cubs

St Louis Cardinals v Chicago CubsReports have surfaced today that the Cubs are zeroing in on the top free agent outfielder, Jason Heyward. After not signing David Price or Jordan Zimmerman, it appears that the Cubs are using the money they saved to try and lure Heyward into joining the North Side. We have already talked about why Heyward would be a great addition for the Cubs, but now it appears as though the Cubs are actively pursuing him.

Along with the reports of the Cubs chasing Heyward came the numbers 8 and 200 million, and yes, those are in reference to the type of contract he is reportedly seeking. Whether or not the Cubs are actually willing to pay him $200 million over eight years remains to be seen, but it gives us an indicator as to what Heyward is looking for. However, should the Cubs spend that kind of money on Heyward?

The answer is no. And honestly, no team should. Heyward has been a solid MLB player in his six seasons in the league, winning three Gold Gloves during that timeframe, but his offensive numbers are not worthy of $25 million per year. A more realistic contract would look something like six years and $108-$120 million, which if he would agree to, the Cubs should definitely sign him. In Heyward’s defense though, he is entering his prime years as he is just 26 years old, but $25 million per year is an awful lot of money for a guy who puts up just “decent” offensive numbers. The most logical reason for him supposedly asking for a contract worth $200 million is because there are lots of teams who would like to have him in their lineup. Look at it as a low supply, high demand situation.

In other Cubs news, Ken Rosenthal has reported that at least for the time being, the Cubs don’t appear to be in the Shelby Miller discussion. They are definitely interested in him, but it sounds more like the Braves are saying no to whatever the Cubs and multiple other teams are offering. At the same time, however, other reports indicate that Miller could be dealt soon, but no specific team has been definitively mentioned. This is without question a situation to keep an eye on.

Other than kicking the tires on Shelby Miller, rumors have the Cubs inquiring on a handful of other young pitchers. Carlos Carrasco (CLE), Danny Salazar (CLE), Alex Cobb (TB), and Matt Moore (TB) have all been mentioned as possible trade targets of the Cubs. All of the above are young and have loads of potential, but both Moore and Cobb have already had Tommy John surgery, which may or may not lower their appeal.

Simply put, things are heating up with the Cubs right now. With the Winter Meetings now well underway, it seems like only a matter of time before the Cubs strike a deal with another team and/or a big free agent, like Heyward.

Stay tuned.

Cubs Ink Lackey; Not Done Yet

130107_gq_trout_aFriday evening it was announced that the Cubs and John Lackey had agreed to a two-year contract worth $32 million. This was a move that had been rumored to be gaining steam in the twelve hours leading up to the official announcement, and it’s one that instantly makes the Cubs a better team.

The Cubs’ starting rotation is now Arrieta, Lester, Lackey, Hendricks, and Hammel. Signing Lackey gives them that third starter that the team so badly missed during this year’s playoff run, and it gives them more postseason experience. Lackey is 8-5 in 20 career postseason starts with a 3.11 era. He started three games for the Red Sox during the 2013 postseason, and posted a 2.57 era while helping Boston win the World Series. Three players from that 2013 Red Sox team are now on the Cubs.

David Ross, Jon Lester, and John Lackey are all fairly good friends going back to their days in Boston, which apparently played a significant role in Lackey deciding to join the Cubs. He’s one of the more intense, hard-nosed pitchers in the league and will inevitably bring even more of an “edge” to this Cubs team.

While we shouldn’t expect Lackey to put up equivalent numbers this year to the ones he posted this past regular season, it’s not out of the question to expect an earned run average under 3.40 with at least 10 victories. If he can deliver with numbers somewhere along those lines, that would be very ideal given his age.

Despite the Lackey signing, I would be surprised if the Cubs are totally satisfied with their rotation. That is why I am still anticipating some serious discussions to take place between the Cubs and Braves revolving around Shelby Miller. As I stated in a previous article, Miller would be a great fit for the Cubs given his age and potential, however acquiring him would mean Jorge Soler likely going the other way.

If that deal were to take place, it would not be out of the question for the Cubs to sign Jason Heyward and Denard Span. Trading Soler would open up right field for the Cubs, which is Heyward’s natural position, and Span could then play center with Dexter Fowler all but for sure gone.

While all of that is possible, the odds of it happening just like that are not great.

In other news around Major League Baseball, the Arizona Diamondbacks came out of nowhere Friday night and snagged Zack Greinke away from the grips of both the Dodgers and Giants. Greinke’s deal with the D-Backs is for six years worth $206 million, or a little over $34 million per year, which is a new record. Arizona definitely needed to upgrade their starting rotation, and while adding Greinke surely helps them accomplish that, they are still another starter or two away from becoming real contenders in the NL West.

Speaking of the West, the Giants came to an agreement with Jeff Samardzija today on a five-year, $90 million deal. Rumor had it that Samardzija was looking to sign a contract worth over $100 million, but I don’t think there was any team in baseball who was going to give him that.

So there you have it with the latest big news regarding the Cubs and the rest of the league. Continue to keep an eye on the Cubs in the coming days as the Winter Meetings are set to kick off on December 6th.