What does Michael Bourn do now?

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It’s safe to say the Twins won’t be getting a Christmas card from Michael Bourn, not after they filled the center field needs of two of his most likely suitors this winter.

With Denard Span in D.C., Ben Revere in Philadelphia, B.J. Upton in Atlanta and Angel Pagan in San Francisco, the market for Bourn is a complete mystery at this point. The Mariners like him, but Josh Hamilton is their top priority and it’s very hard to imagine them signing both. The Phillies won’t be paying Revere much more than the minimum, so theoretically, they could still sign Bourn for center and play Revere in left. However, they’re certainly much more interested in pitching after trading fourth starter Vance Worley for Revere.

The Cubs could be a fallback, as they have plenty of money to spend as they continue their rebuilding efforts. Still, it’d make a lot more sense for them to stay the course and groom Brett Jackson for center than commit $70 million or more to a 30-year-old who will likely be on the decline by the time they’re ready to contend.

Others? The Red Sox could consider a run if they trade Jacoby Ellsbury, but that seems like quite a long shot. The Indians came up with $11 million per year to offer Shane Victorino, but $15 million per year for Bourn would be a taller order. The Mets have the need, but not the money. Same goes for the Reds.

Bourn’s best hope for a big deal right now is for Hamilton to re-sign with the Rangers, leaving the Mariners to pursue their fallback option. Barring that, he might be best off taking a one-year deal and then going back on the market next winter.

The Cubs are in desperate need of relief

Associated Press
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Tonight in Chicago Yu Darvish of the Dodgers will face off against Kyle Hendricks of the Cubs. If this were Game 1, we’d have a lot to say about the Dodgers’ trade deadline pickup and the Cubs’ budding ace. If this series continues on the way it’s been going, however, each of them will be footnotes because it has been all about the bullpens.

The Cubs, you may have heard, are having tremendous problems with relief pitching. Both their own and with the opposition’s. Cubs relievers have a 7.03 ERA this postseason, and have allowed six runs on eight hits and have walked six batters in seven innings of work. And no, the relief struggles aren’t just a matter of Joe Maddon pushing the wrong buttons (even though, yeah, he has pushed the wrong buttons).

Maddon pushed Wade Davis for 44 pitches in Game 5 of the NLDS, limiting his availability in Games 1 and 2. That pushing is a result of a lack of relief depth on the Cubs. Brian Duensing, Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. all have talent and all have had their moments, but none of them are the sort of relievers we have come to see in the past few postseasons. The guys who, when your starter tosses 80 pitches in four innings like Jon Lester did the other night, can be relied upon to shut down the opposition for three and a half more until your lights-out closer can get the four-out save.

In contrast, the Dodgers bullpen has been dominant, tossing eight scoreless innings. Indeed, Dodgers relievers have tossed eight almost perfect innings, allowing zero hits and zero walks while striking out nine Cubs batters. The only imperfection came when Kenley Jansen hit Anthony Rizzo in Game 2. That’s it. Compare this to the past couple of postseasons where the only truly reliable arm down there was Jansen, and in which Dodgers managers have had to rely on Clayton Kershaw to come on in relief. That has not been a temptation at all as the revamped L.A. pen, featuring newcomers Brandon Morrow and Tony Watson. Suffice it to say, Joe Blanton is not missed.

Which brings us back to Kyle Hendricks. He has pitched twice this postseason, pitching seven shutout innings in Game 1 of the NLDS but getting touched for four runs on nine hits while allowing a couple of dingers in Game 5. If the good Hendricks shows up, Maddon will be able to ride him until late in the game in which a now-rested Davis and maybe either Strop or Edwards can close things out in conventional fashion, returning this series to competitiveness. If the bad Hendricks does, he’ll have to do what he did in that NLDS Game 5, using multiple relievers and, perhaps, a repurposed starter in relief while grinding Davis into dust again. That was lucky to work there and doing it without Davis didn’t work in Game 2 on Sunday night.

So it all falls to Hendricks. The Dodgers have shown how soft the underbelly of the Cubs pen truly is. If they get to Hendricks early and get into that pen, you have to like L.A’s chances, not just in this game, but for the rest of the series, as bullpen wear-and-tear builds up quickly. It’s pretty simple: Hendricks has to give the Cubs some innings tonight. There is no other option available.

Just ask Joe Maddon. He’s tried.