Sport Paul Sullivan: Don't be surprised if Cubs pull off a winter surprise

19:03  11 january  2018
19:03  11 january  2018 Source:   Tribune News Service

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I've definitely been surprised at the lack of rewatchability* -.

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a close up of a man throwing a baseball: Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta works against the Los Angeles Dodgers during Game 4 of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field in Chicago on October 18, 2017.© Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta works against the Los Angeles Dodgers during Game 4 of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field in Chicago on October 18, 2017.

CHICAGO - Whether baseball finally has come to its senses or front-office executives simply are engaged in a protracted staredown with agents makes no difference at this point.

The fact is we can't really handicap the 2018 season without knowing where the top free agents are going to wind up, and almost all the big names on the market still are waiting for their big paydays, including starter Jake Arrieta.

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That means the Cubs still can pull off a winter surprise and bring Arrieta back into the fold, a move that would turn a meh offseason into a terrific one in the blink of an eye.

Starter Tyler Chatwood and new closer Brandon Morrow may be key additions to the 2018 edition, but the Cubs are still down one ace with time ticking away until camp opens in Mesa, Ariz.

The arrival of the Cubs Convention this weekend should serve as a referendum on the Arrieta question.

Bring him back? Sign Yu Darvish instead? Trade for someone like Chris Archer?

President Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer will be on stage Saturday at the Sheraton Grand Chicago for their annual question-and-answer session, and unless the Cubs make a move before then, the topic of Arrieta's availability is certain to come up.

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It could be a virtual rerun of the 2004 convention, when fans begged general manager Jim Hendry to bring back the prodigal Cub, Greg Maddux, whom the Braves hadn't re-signed.

Maddux, like Arrieta, was a client of uber-agent Scott Boras, but he already had gotten his mega-deal and simply was looking to play for a team he was comfortable with and a chance to win another World Series before ending his Hall of Fame career.

Arrieta wants his money and some security, and this figures to be his best shot. In 2016, when Stephen Strasburg signed a seven-year, $175 million extension with the Nationals, Arrieta hinted he was worth at least as much.

"I'll let you judge that," he said. "Just look at the numbers."

Hendry ultimately waited until the start of spring training to get a two-year, $15 million deal done with Maddux. Though Maddux had a decent season, the Cubs collapsed down the stretch in epic fashion, blowing a wild-card lead in the final week.

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Whether Arrieta still can get a Strasburg-like deal this late in the offseason is debatable, but he will be rewarded well regardless.

So why not the Cubs?

We already know Epstein and Hoyer enjoy a good, old-fashioned surprise to shock fans. In 2012 they sneaked Kerry Wood into the Cubs Convention and announced he had signed a one-year deal.

In a staged moment of suspense, Wood was the last player introduced at the opening ceremony, about a half-hour after Epstein downplayed the idea of re-signing the fan favorite.

"If you start making baseball decisions based on PR, you're losing," Epstein famously said.

Wood got a standing ovation as he walked out on the balcony after the deal was announced, and though he opted to retire early in the 2012 season, at least he was granted his wish to end his career as a Cub.

Two years ago we saw an even bigger surprise when Dexter Fowler strolled into Cubs camp one afternoon and Epstein announced he had re-signed the popular center fielder to a one-year deal. When Fowler and Epstein walked toward one of the back fields, the players turned around, figured out what was happening and began to applaud en masse.

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"Theo got us all," David Ross said afterward. "Theo pulled one over."

It would be difficult for Epstein to pull that one off again, and certainly Arrieta wouldn't come back on a one-year "pillow" contract, as Fowler did that offseason.

A more delicious scenario would have Arrieta showing up without a contract at all and pulling an "Andre Dawson" on the Cubs.

In the winter of 1987, before the internet made every move public, Dawson and his agent, Dick Moss, showed up unannounced at Cubs camp with an offer the club could not refuse. Moss handed out a two-page memo to the media saying Dawson was "willing to sign a one-year contract with the Chicago Cubs on whatever terms Mr. (John) Madigan (executive vice president of Tribune Co.) and (Cub President) Dallas Green think is appropriate."

Green called it a "dog-and-pony" show, adding, "In my heart I don't feel that we need Andre Dawson."

But, of course, Green wound up filling in the blank check for $500,000, severely underpaying the eventual National League MVP but satiating Cubs fans who dreamed of Dawson in blue pinstripes.

It's obviously going to take quite a bit more to get Arrieta back, but don't be surprised if they somehow find a way to get it done.

The Cubs do love their happy endings.

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MLB Insider Believes Four Teams Are More Likely to Sign Bryce Harper Than Cubs .
​While this MLB offseason has provided some huge moves (amid extended periods of inactivity), the 2019 free agent class is loaded with stars, including Bryce Harper. Although there are ​several signs pointing towards Harper going to the Cubs, there will definitely be a ton of teams trying to obtain his services. Cubs fans might not want to hear this, but MLB Insider Jon Heyman believes there are four teams more likely to sign Bryce Harper in 2019: Nationals, Dodgers, Yankees, and Phillies. here are some teams more likely to land bryce https://t.

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