The Cubs are "kicking the tires" on Heath Bell

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Whatever that means. It’s Phil Rogers’ phrase. Maybe they’re talking to the Padres about him, maybe they’re just talking about talking.

Either way, if the Cubs snagged Bell off the Padres, they’d go into their second straight season with someone who will likely push Carlos Marmol into a setup roll.  Granted, Bell (42 saves; 79Ks in 69 IP, 2.71 ERA) is a hell of a lot better than Kevin Gregg was, but Marmol didn’t take well to being the setup man last season, hitting guys and walking guys like crazy until Gregg got demoted and Marmol turned his season around. There were suggestions that he was erratic because his ego was bruised over losing a closer’s job he thought was his. Could it happen again if they brought in Gregg?

Ultimately, though, I’d rather have as many good arms as I could find and let Piniella figure it all out as opposed to anointing someone closer and calling it a day.

President Obama Welcomes the Cubs to the White House

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As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.

Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.

Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.

Royals sign Danny Duffy to a five-year, $65 million contract extension

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 02:  Starting pitcher Danny Duffy #41 of the Kansas City Royals pitches during the game against the Detroit Tigers at Kauffman Stadium on September 2, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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The Kansas City Royals have signed starter Danny Duffy to a five-year, $65 million contract extension.

Duffy was arbitration eligible this offseason and would’ve been a free agent next winter if he hadn’t signed the deal. Given his stuff he might’ve made a mint as a free agent, but he’s also been inconsistent at times and any pitcher is an injury away from losing a payday, making this a nice, lucrative bet for the lefty.

Duffy, 28, posted a 3.51 ERA and a 188/42 K/BB ratio across 179.2 innings in 2016.