Chicago Cubs retaining choices open with season on the horizon

CHICAGO (AP) — Relating to Kris Bryant, or some other Chicago Cubs star on the precipice of free company, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein is hoping for the perfect.

He is also engaged on the choice.

That’s about all he can say in the meanwhile.

Protecting his playing cards near his chest, maybe greater than ever earlier than, Epstein stated Friday the crew is “extra lively on the telephone this January” than it had been in earlier years. He additionally declared Chicago may carry again largely the identical group after failing to make the playoffs final 12 months for the primary time since 2014.

“Typically you’re just one telephone name away from signing a man to a long-term contract. Typically you’re one incoming name away from a deal,” Epstein stated on the primary day of the crew’s annual fan conference. “What’s more than likely is established order.

“It’s exhausting to get long-term extensions completed. It’s exhausting to get trades completed, and we have now what we really feel is a reasonably good membership. We’re attempting to compete this 12 months and we’re not within the place the place we have now to do something.”

Epstein is also answerable for a membership that has slipped from World Collection champions in 2016 all the way in which to 3rd within the NL Central final 12 months, behind the Cardinals and Brewers. He has a few large stars that might grow to be free brokers within the subsequent few years, together with Bryant, shortstop Javier Báez, catcher Willson Contreras and first baseman Anthony Rizzo.

Chicago is also attempting to keep away from the stretch of shedding seasons that has plagued some groups within the wake of prolonged durations of competition.

“We’re ready the place it is smart to hear on even our greatest gamers as a result of we’re attempting to compete now,” Epstein stated, “and in addition we’re extra conscious now than we’ve been the previous couple of years of attempting to make sure a wholesome future and a clean transition away from this group, which is inevitable in some unspecified time in the future.”

It stays to be seen if that future contains Bryant, who has been the topic of commerce rumors all winter lengthy. The All-Star third baseman, who hit .282 with 31 homers final season, may assist Washington make up for the lack of Anthony Rendon, or he may plug the opening in Atlanta’s lineup that was created by the departure of Josh Donaldson in free company.

Any try to maneuver Bryant is difficult by his ongoing grievance that might make him a free agent after subsequent season as an alternative of two years from now. Bryant, who debuted on April 17, 2015, contends he was held within the minors in a deliberate effort to delay his free-agent eligibility and that delay violated baseball’s collective bargaining settlement.

Epstein stated he doesn’t know when the arbitrator will make a ruling.

“It’s past our management, so I feel it’s necessary to respect the method,” he stated. “It’s a big case for the trade. There’s so much driving on it.”

The scenario with Bryant has contributed to an unusually quiet winter for Chicago, which has made no main strikes in free company or through commerce. Epstein stated he understands the frustration for a number of the followers over the shortage of exercise.

“There are days we get up annoyed or go dwelling on the finish of a protracted day annoyed,” he stated.

Bryant, who turned 28 on Jan. 4, skipped the Cubs’ media session Friday due to the flu. However he obtained a giant ovation when he was launched with the remainder of the crew on the conference’s opening ceremony.

Whereas Epstein seems at his choices, Bryant’s teammates are also taking part in the ready recreation.

“We’ll see what occurs,” Báez stated. “If (a commerce) occurs, who’s coming, who’s not. Hopefully we hold Kris right here his complete profession. … I don’t know what’s going to occur so I can’t actually say something about it.”

Báez, who hit .281 with 29 homers and 85 RBIs final season, is beneath contractual management for 2 extra years and could possibly be a goal for a long-term deal. He broke his left thumb Sept. 1 however stated he has been understanding and hitting and it hasn’t bothered him.

Requested if there have been any substantive discussions this winter about an extension, Báez stated he’s pondering extra about getting the crew again into the playoffs.

“If it occurs, I’d be grateful to be a Cub for my complete profession,” he stated. “So hopefully it occurs and if not, I’m clearly pleased with all the things that occurred right here.”

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