Joe Maddon Likes His Cubs Despite Few Additions

"We just have to extrapolate more out of the boys who are there," Maddon says.

Bruce Levine
January 17, 2019 - 8:02 pm
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(670 The Score) -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon hosted his annual Thanksmas on Thursday evening, a pre-Cubs Convention event in which he feeds the homeless. 

As usual, he took a moment to discuss his team as well, one that has had a quiet offseason. Despite utility infielder Daniel Descalso being the only addition to the 25-man roster, Maddon remains confident with how this winter has unfolded.

"Every team in our division looks like it has done a lot of good work, including us," Maddon said. "Everybody is promoting the fact we have not done much, but I like our names. That is a big part of why we are going through the offseason in this matter. We just have to extrapolate more out of the boys who are there -- which we shall. The Cardinals and Cincinnati did some nice things. I like our group. We just had some really good meetings over at Wrigley. We went over each guy individually to see how to get the best out of them. I am kind of excited."

The Cubs were eliminated by the Rockies in the National League wild-card game on Oct. 2. Maddon believes the extra time off has made his staff and players hungry to get off to a quick start in 2019, and that attitude will start in spring training.

"It can't be an oil painting every year," Maddon said. "We have to go deeper (in the playoffs this season). We now are getting that adrenaline thing going on as we get ready for spring training."

Maddon again brushed aside a question about his lame-duck status as he's operating in the final year of his contract. He knows he'll be asked about it often as the season moves along.

"We are all lame ducks," Maddon quipped. "I have been on one-year contracts many years. I am actually this time on the last year of a five-year contract. I don't worry about it. I don't think about it unless I am asked about it. I am pretty self-confident about what we have done and where we are going in the future. It is something you just don't focus on, and I don't. I am just focused on us winning. We want a championship as much as anybody."

Part if Maddon's confidence stems from his belief that right-hander Yu Darvish is primed to have a turnaround season. The Cubs' prized free-agent signing last offseason, Darvish posted a 4.95 ERA in just eight starts in 2018 as he dealt with myriad injuries, which included elbow surgery as a remedy in September. 

Darvish is expected to be ready for the start of spring training.

"That could be a real difference-maker right there," Maddon said. "We know how good he is. Being a part of the five starters could make a huge difference for us. That would permit us to rearrange the bullpen in other ways. I am hearing nothing but good things about Yu. We will see what he can do when he gets to camp and we see him on a more consistent basis. This guy is a difference-maker. If we can get him out there with any kind of regularity, heads up."

A player who the Cubs won't have in April is shortstop Addison Russell, who will continue serving his 40-game suspension for violating the league's joint domestic abuse policy. Russell is under contract for 2019, though his future with the team is contingent on his rehabilitation and taking the right steps to become a better person, as several Cubs players and officials have termed it.

"There are a lot of ifs involved in this situation," Maddon said. "One of the big ifs is that Addison does everything to get back here in the first place. If he does that and everybody is satisfied with that progress, him and us, then you give him the opportunity to be the shortstop again. Right now, our focus is for him to become the best human being he can possibly become. When all those boxes are checked and satisfied, then you give him the chance to be a shortstop again. I have spoken to him a bit. He seems to be in a good place trying to move in the right direction. The 'if' word is still attached to this entire scenario. We will wait and see."

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine​.