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Inbox: What's the Cubs' closer situation?

Beat reporter Carrie Muskat answers questions from fans
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

I know Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein does not like to spend long-term money on closers. Given the concern with Brandon Morrow staying healthy for a full season, do you think the Cubs will look for another closer in the offseason?
-- Michael T., Chicago

Morrow is projected as the Cubs' closer in 2019. The club may be a little more careful in how it uses him, and again, it wants to make sure there are other options. That doesn't mean the Cubs will look specifically for a closer, but they would like relievers with experience in those situations. They did have pitchers who fit that description this season in Brandon Kintzler, Justin Wilson, Steve Cishek and Pedro Strop.

I know Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein does not like to spend long-term money on closers. Given the concern with Brandon Morrow staying healthy for a full season, do you think the Cubs will look for another closer in the offseason?
-- Michael T., Chicago

Morrow is projected as the Cubs' closer in 2019. The club may be a little more careful in how it uses him, and again, it wants to make sure there are other options. That doesn't mean the Cubs will look specifically for a closer, but they would like relievers with experience in those situations. They did have pitchers who fit that description this season in Brandon Kintzler, Justin Wilson, Steve Cishek and Pedro Strop.

:: Submit a question to the Cubs Inbox ::

"I think we're very comfortable with Morrow as part of a deep and talented 'pen," Epstein said at the end of the season wrapup. "We have to recommit to him in a very structured role, and stick with it to do our best to keep him healthy and set some rules and adhere to them and build the pen around that."

What helps is that the Cubs have had experience with Morrow's injury -- a bone bruise that was diagnosed after he had right forearm discomfort -- which Alec Mills has recovered from.

I was blessed to be able to travel from Puerto Rico with my son and dad to see Game 162 and were even treated to Game 163. With the concern about the Cubs' hitting this year, I wanted to know what was the process in selecting a new hitting coach. I thought someone like Carlos Beltran or similiar would be someone the players could respect and relate to. He could connect with both players from the U.S. and Latino players. Why was the process of selecting a hitting coach done so quickly?
-- Rafael P., Arecibo, Puerto Rico

The Cubs most likely moved fast to hire Anthony Iapoce because he became available after the Rangers dismissed manager Jeff Banister, and they didn't want him picked up by another team. One of the strong points in bringing Iapoce back is that he knows quite a few of the young Cubs players in his previous job as the team's Minor League hitting coordinator. Iapoce said he learned a lot after three seasons with the Rangers and working with players such as Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Nomar Mazara and Mike Napoli.

The Cubs seemed to hit a brick wall offensively after the All-Star break. What was their batting average, batting average with runners in scoring position and runs scored before and after the break? What do you think caused this?
-- Chris C., Rock Island, Ill.

The Cubs batted .265 before the All-Star break, tops in the National League, and .249 in the second half (eighth in the NL). They batted .250 with runners in scoring position in the first half and .242 after the break. They led the NL in runs scored in the first half with 476 and totaled 285 in the second half, which ranked eighth in the NL.

What caused the drop? Epstein and Co. are trying to figure it out. That was one of the topics during the exit interviews with players.

"We hit more ground balls in the second half than any other team by a huge margin," Epstein said. "Something happened in our offense in the second half. We stopped walking, we stopped hitting home runs, we stopped hitting the ball in the air and we stopped being productive."

What are the Cubs' plans to address the leadoff position in the batting order? It did not seem that there was a consistent table-setter in 2018.
-- Randy P., Omaha

It's on the list of things to do, but Epstein says it's not No. 1. Just guessing that one of the reasons fans keep clamoring for one is because of how well the Cubs functioned with Dexter Fowler at the top in 2016. This past season, the Cubs used 10 leadoff men (they had 11 in 2017). Here are the records for each one:

Albert Almora Jr.: 46 games (27-19)
Anthony Rizzo: 31 games (18-13)
Daniel Murphy: 30 games (20-10)
Ben Zobrist: 27 games (16-11)
Ian Happ: 13 games (7-6)
Kris Bryant: seven games (4-3)
Javier Baez: four games (3-1)
Tommy La Stella: three games (0-3)
Willson Contreras: one game (0-1)
Kyle Schwarber: one game (0-1)

I was at the last Cubs-Cardinals game, and I was surprised to see that Carl Edwards Jr.'s velocity was down quite a bit. His fastball was consistently registering 90-91 mph. What's going on with him.?
-- Diana H., Chicago

Edwards apparently was trying to pitch despite some soreness in his right forearm. He was not included on the Wild Card roster because of that.

Dakota Mekkes keeps impressing with his stats. His only plus pitch is his average fastball with "80 grade deception." Will he ever make it to the Cubs?
-- John D., Grand Rapids, Mich.

Mekkes, 23, did have impressive numbers this season, compiling a 0.81 ERA over 22 1/3 innings in 16 games at Double-A Tennessee and a 1.44 ERA over 31 1/3 innings in 25 games at Triple-A Iowa. Also worth noting is that he struck out 71 over 53 2/3 innings while walking 29. He needs to develop his other pitches. For those who don't know, he was the Cubs' 10th-round pick in the 2016 Draft.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs

Hoerner triples, homers, drives in 3 in AFL win

MLB.com

Here's a team-by-team breakdown of how all 30 teams' prospects fared in Arizona Fall League action on Saturday:

Gameday: Peoria 6, Salt River 5 | Scottsdale 9, Surprise 7 (11) | Mesa 11, Glendale 8

Here's a team-by-team breakdown of how all 30 teams' prospects fared in Arizona Fall League action on Saturday:

Gameday: Peoria 6, Salt River 5 | Scottsdale 9, Surprise 7 (11) | Mesa 11, Glendale 8

AL East

Blue Jays (Surprise)
Santiago Espinal, Blue Jays No. 22 prospect, hit a triple and scored two runs as part of a 2-for-5 showing for the Saguaros. Jackson McClelland struck out a pair in 1 2/3 hitless frames out of the bullpen. The right-hander has now allowed a hit in 5 2/3 innings (three appearances) this fall.

Orioles (Glendale)
Baltimore's No. 12 prospect, center fielder Ryan McKenna, went 2-for-5 with two triples, two RBIs and two runs scored out of the leadoff spot. He's slashing .318/.423/.638 for a 1.059 OPS in AFL play. Right-hander Tanner Chleborad gave up a run on four hits over two relief innings, striking out one.

Rays (Peoria)
Rays No. 9 prospect Lucius Fox went 1-for-3 with two walks, two runs and an RBI out of the leadoff spot. He also stole a base, his sixth in eight games, during which he's hit .412 with 14 hits and 11 runs scored. Javelinas starter Matt Krook earned the win after allowing one earned run on one hit over three innings. He issued two walks, struck out three and recorded five ground-ball outs.

Red Sox (Mesa)
Second baseman Esteban Quiroz was 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts, dropping his AFL average to .188. Left-hander Josh Taylor came out off the bullpen to throw a scoreless seventh inning.

Yankees (Glendale)
Shortstop Thairo Estrada, the Yankees' No. 16 prospect, was 1-for-4 with a single. First baseman Steven Sensley was 2-for-5 with a pair of singles to up his AFL average to .242. On the pitching side of the ledger, right-hander Jordan Foley started and surrendered five runs on four hits over two innings, walking one and getting strikeouts on five of the six outs he recorded. Righty Kyle Zurak was hit hard as well, giving up four runs (two earned) over a third of an inning out of the bullpen, giving up three hits and walking two.

AL Central

Indians (Glendale)
Third baseman Yu Chang, Cleveland's No. 6 prospect, turned in an impressive 3-for-4 performance, with a double, RBI and run scored. Right fielder Connor Marabell was 1-for-5 with a single and an RBI. And left-hander Rob Kaminsky was the final pitcher out of the bullpen for Glendale, tossing a scoreless eighth inning, allowing a hit and fanning two.

Royals (Surprise)
Meibris Viloria walked and struck out twice as he finished 0-for-3, while speedster Nick Heath tallied a single in four at-bats and was walked. On the mound, Scott Blewett allowed one earned run on three hits in his second AFL start. Tossing 3 1/3 frames, the Royals' No. 26 prospect issued three walks and struck out a pair.

Tigers (Mesa)
Daz Cameron, Detroit's No. 8 prospect, played center field and had a big night at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a double, RBI and three runs scored. No. 12 prospect Jake Rogers went 1-for-3 with a double and two runs scored. Right-hander Sandy Baez, the Tigers' No. 26 prospect, surrendered three runs on three hits in the ninth inning. Right-hander Eduardo Jimenez tossed two scoreless innings of relief, yielding three hits and striking out two. And right-hander John Schreiber came on in relief to pitch a scoreless eighth with a strikeout.

Twins (Salt River)
Twins No. 18 prospect Travis Blankenhorn drove in a pair of runs, doubled and went 1-for-4 out of the leadoff spot for the Rafters.

White Sox (Glendale)
Chicago's No. 9 prospect, outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe, had two singles and an RBI as part of a 2-for-4 effort, upping his AFL average to .278. No. 28 prospect Lax Rivera started at second base and went 1-for-4 with a single and an RBI. Right-hander Danny Dopico tossed 1 2/3 scoreless frames out off the bullpen, walking one and fanning two.

AL West

A's (Mesa)
Oakland's No. 30 prospect, outfielder Skye Bolt, went 1-for-4 with a triple and a walk and is hitting .333 so far in AFL play.

Angels (Mesa)
After striking out five in three shutout frames in his first Fall League start, 23-year-old right-hander Jesus Castillo got roughed up on Saturday, giving up five runs (all earned) on seven hits and walk over three innings while striking out just one. On the offensive end, however, a trio of Angels contributed to Mesa's 11-8 win. The team's No. 4 prospect, Jahmai Jones, notched his second straight multihit game, and third in seven games, going 2-for-5 with three RBIs out of the DH spot. Infielders David MacKinnon and Roberto Baldoquin each went 1-for-4 with a run scored, with Baldoquin also driving in a run. MacKinnon's hit was his first of the AFL season, after starting 0-for-10. Baldoquin's hit was his second. He entered the game with one hit in 13 at-bats.

Astros (Scottsdale)
Ronnie Dawson was a game-changer on the basepaths as he swiped four bags in as many chances. He also went 2-for-3 with an RBI and two walks, giving the outfielder a .296 average and seven steals in the AFL. Abraham Toro-Hernandez was 2-for-5, and Erasmo Pinales contributed with a scoreless frame out of the bullpen.

Mariners (Peoria)
Mariners No. 9 prospect Wyatt Mills lowered his ERA to 1.59 with a perfect inning out of the bullpen. David McKay added a scoreless frame, pitching around a hit. Ian Miller (No. 20) came up empty in four trips to the plate from the bottom of the lineup.

Rangers (Surprise)
Yanio Perez plated a run with a sacrifice fly but went 0-for-3 as the Saguaros' designated hitter. Demarcus Evans was sharp out of the bullpen as he recorded four of his five outs via strikeout while tossing 1 2/3 hitless innings. Rangers No. 15 prospect C.D. Pelham was tagged for two earned runs on three hits in 1 1/3 frames.

NL East

Braves (Peoria)
After entering in relief in the fifth inning, Braves No. 12 prospect Kyle Muller delivered two one-hit frames with three strikeouts and two walks. At the plate, Braxton Davidson went 0-for-2 but walked three times.

Marlins (Salt River)
Marlins No. 11 prospect Brian Miller scored two runs, going 1-for-3, and reached with a walk. He also swiped a bag, his second in 10 games after racking up 40 steals across two levels during the regular season. Kyle Keller, Tommy Eveld and Chad Smith combined for four scoreless frames out of the Rafters 'pen.

Mets (Scottsdale)
Mets No. 2 prospect Peter Alonso (No. 58 overall) connected on his third AFL home run, as his tape-measure two-run shot in the ninth helped the Scorpions force extra innings. The homer was Alonso's lone hit in six at-bats. Mets No. 1 prospect Andres Gimenez (No. 55 overall) went 0-for-4 with a walk from the bottom of the lineup.

Nationals (Salt River)
Nationals No. 2 prospect Carter Kieboom (No. 37 overall) went 1-for-4 with a walk, his first Fall League RBI and stolen base. Daniel Johnson (No. 7) doubled and scored a run as part of a 1-for-3 showing, while Jake Noll struck out twice in four trips to the plate.

Phillies (Scottsdale)
Darick Hall put the Scorpions on the board against Surprise with a solo shot to lead off the fourth inning. It was the second AFL homer for Hall, who went deep 26 times across two levels during the regular season. Outfielder Austin Listi went 3-for-6 with an RBI and two runs scored. On the mound, Luke Leftwich (BB) and Jonathan Hennigan (2 K) each posted a scoreless frame, with the latter earning the save.

NL Central

Brewers (Peoria)
Brewers top prospect Keston Hiura (No. 30 overall) has multiple hits in four of eight games in the AFL after his second two-hit showing in as many days. He finished 2-for-4 with an RBI double that pushed his AFL-leading RBI total to 17. Trent Grisham (Brewers' No. 19) and Weston Wilson both had RBI singles.

Cardinals (Surprise)
Saguaros leadoff man Tommy Edman went 1-for-4 with his first AFL double and also picked up his fourth steal. Second baseman Andy Young delivered a solo shot in the sixth inning for his first Fall League homer and finished 1-for-3 with two walks. The Cardinals middle-infield tandem is hitting .333 and .381, respectively, this fall. Lane Thomas drove in a run with a sacrifice fly but was 0-for-4.

Cubs (Mesa)
Chicago's No. 6 prospect, second baseman Nico Hoerner, bounced back from an 0-for-4 line on Friday by going 2-for-3 with a triple, homer and three RBIs. Left fielder D.J. Wilson, the Cubs' No. 16 prospect, went 1-for-4 with a single and two runs scored. And right-hander Bailey Clark pitched a scoreless sixth inning, giving up one hit.

Pirates (Surprise)
Pirates No. 5 prospect Cole Tucker started the scoring for Surprise with a two-out, two-run double in the first inning, and then helped force extra innings with a single in the bottom of the ninth. He finished the game 2-for-5 with three RBIs. Will Craig (No. 16) was 0-for-5 with three strikeouts. Relievers Matt Eckelman (IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 ER) and Geoff Hartlieb (2 IP,4 H, 3 R, 1 ER) both scuffled.

Reds (Scottsdale)
Reds No. 3 prospect Taylor Trammell (No. 17 overall) drove home the game-winning run in the 11th inning to cap a 4-for-6, two-RBI performance. Shed Long (No. 8) walked twice and scored two runs out of the leadoff spot.

NL West

D-backs (Salt River)
D-backs No. 5 prospect Daulton Varsho upped his Fall League average to .353 with a 2-for-4 performance. Drew Ellis (No. 9) plated two runs with a double in the fourth inning. Bo Takahashi struck out two of the three batters he faced during a perfect inning in relief.

Dodgers (Glendale)
Dodgers No. 2 prospect (No. 39 prospect overall) Keibert Ruiz went 1-for-4 with a single, walk and two runs scored. Cody Thomas was Glendale's designated hitter, going 1-for-5 with a single, RBI and run scored. And right-hander Andre Scrubb pitched a scoreless fifth inning to lower his AFL ERA to 4.15.

Giants (Scottsdale)
Matt Winn reached base twice via a walk and scored a run before finishing 0-for-3. Chase Johnson struck out a pair during a scoreless inning in relief, while Giants No. 19 prospect Melvin Adon bumped triple digits during his appearance later in the game. Sam Wolff earned the win despite permitting an unearned run in the 10th inning.

Padres (Peoria)
Padres No. 25 prospect Austin Allen produced exit velocities of 106.9 mph (double to right field) and 112.5 mph (lineout to center). Hudson Potts (No. 23) also hit a double, as both players finished 2-for-4. Buddy Reed (No. 13) reached on a walk, stole a base and scored a run. Relievers Travis Radke and Dauris Valdez each allowed two earned runs in one inning.

Rockies (Salt River)
Rockies No. 11 prospect Tyler Nevin went 1-for-4, while Sam Hilliard (No. 9) finished 0-for-5. Starter Ryan Castellani (No. 10) could not complete two innings, as he was chased after he allowed five earned runs on four hits and four walks in 1 2/3 frames. Jesus Tincoco (No. 20) allowed a run on three hits with three strikeouts over 1 1/3 innings, and Justin Lawrence (No. 17) added a scoreless frame later in the game.

Players choose their favorite playoff moments

MLB.com @castrovince

As the years pass, we forget so much of the postseason experience. We forget the debates over who should be the 25th man on a particular roster. We forget the name of the umpire who called that borderline pitch a ball in a big spot. We forget which form of snack food we consumed while stress-eating in the late innings. We forget the final scores and, heck, some of us even forget actual series outcomes.

World Series presented by YouTube TV, Game 1: Tuesday, 8:09 p.m. ET/5:09 PT on FOX

As the years pass, we forget so much of the postseason experience. We forget the debates over who should be the 25th man on a particular roster. We forget the name of the umpire who called that borderline pitch a ball in a big spot. We forget which form of snack food we consumed while stress-eating in the late innings. We forget the final scores and, heck, some of us even forget actual series outcomes.

World Series presented by YouTube TV, Game 1: Tuesday, 8:09 p.m. ET/5:09 PT on FOX

What we're more likely to remember are single, signature moments -- huge hits, dramatic dingers, dazzling defensive gems that make us jump or fall out of our chair -- or vague-but-vivid tableaus from the overall experience.

That's the stuff that survives.

So just before the start of another enthralling October, we asked a bunch of active Major Leaguers -- 85 in all, from a wide variety of teams -- for their favorite postseason moment of their lifetime. We got a lot of different answers, from commonly cited moments like the Derek Jeter "Flip Play" for the Yankees against the A's in the 2001 ALDS ("Such a weird, instinctual play," Rockies shortstop Trevor Story said) to not-so-commonly-cited ones like Carlos Guillen's walk-off push bunt to advance the Mariners past the White Sox in the 2000 ALDS ("That one I remember, because I was there with my dad, top deck, right behind the foul pole, with our backs against the glass at Safeco," Tigers pitcher Matthew Boyd said) to more general takes on title runs ("Every single night growing up, we were tuned into Channel 23, TBS, to watch the Braves, so it was sick seeing them win it [in '95]," Red Sox pitcher David Price said).

:: World Series schedule and results ::

We can't list every single answer here, so we picked out 10 that elicited either the most or the best responses.

2011 World Series, Game 6: The David Freese Game

No surprise that Freese's elimination-game glory has a special place in the hearts and minds of many current players, though it is a little jarring to note how long ago -- in baseball years, at least -- this night really was.

"I was in high school in Venezuela," said Marlins right-hander Pablo Lopez, emphasizing that point.

Texas was up, 7-5, one strike away from its first World Series title with two aboard and Freese at the plate. But when Freese lifted a fly ball over the head of a leaping Nelson Cruz in right field to bring home both runners, it was a brand-new ballgame.

"I remember I had a big test the next day," Lopez continued. "I said I was going to go to bed early, but I was like, 'I'm going to watch the ninth inning.' Then it was a tie game, and I stayed up like two extra hours, because I couldn't stop watching that game. To me, that game was just, like, mind-blowing."

With sleep-deprived fans watching every second, Josh Hamilton's two-run homer in the 10th put the Rangers back ahead, but the Cardinals came roaring back again with Lance Berkman's two-out, two-strike, game-tying single in the bottom of the inning. And in the 11th, Freese permanently cemented his place in postseason lore with the leadoff, walk-off winner off Mark Lowe to set up Game 7.

Video: Freese's walk-off homer sends Series to Game 7

"He's pretty humble about it," said Pirates starter Jameson Taillon, who was a Minor Leaguer at the time but later became teammates with Freese. "But that type of moment can change your life. We were in St. Louis [recently], and they were interviewing people at the Ballpark Village across the street, asking, 'What's your favorite postseason moment?' Every person from age 20 to 80 said David Freese's home run. That's cool."

Nine players we surveyed picked Freese's heroics as their favorite postseason memory, so it "won" this poll.

Although, in the interest of full disclosure, one of those players was Freese himself.

"I'll tell you what," he said, "I enjoyed the triple more. People always talk about the homer, but that triple was sweet. Down to the last strike, last out, got it done. More importantly, the Game 7 finish to cap it off. Game 6 isn't as cool if we don't get it done."

2001 World Series, Game 7: The Luis Gonzalez Game-Winner

At a time when America needed a healthy diversion and distraction most, the World Series certainly delivered, with the D-backs and Yankees going the distance.

"There was a lot of stuff wrapped up in post-9/11 playoff baseball that year," said Nats reliever Sean Doolittle, one of three players to pick this moment. "So, I feel like the whole country was super invested in the playoffs and World Series, because the Yankees were in it and all of the storylines and everything. It was just such an emotional World Series, emotional playoffs."

And it all came down to the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7, with the score knotted at 2, the bases loaded, one out and arguably the greatest closer in history -- Mariano Rivera -- on the mound. Luis Gonzalez swung at Rivera's 0-1 offering and hit the flare that found the outfield grass.

Video: Must C Classic: Gonzalez walks off, wins World Series

"Infield pulled in, Luis Gonzalez blooper base hit," Tigers catcher James McCann said. "I remember that one pretty vividly."

2004 ALCS: The Red Sox Comeback

Think about the gift this Sox team gave not just to Bostonians desperate to end an 86-year World Series title drought, but to a generation of ballplayers who now know nothing on the postseason stage is impossible. Because if a long-cursed club can come back from a 3-0 hole in a best-of-seven series against the juggernaut Yankees, why should anybody roll over?

That's why five players surveyed picked not just any one moment of this comeback (such as Johnny Damon's Game 7 grand slam), but the comeback itself.

"It was just so historic in that rivalry," Padres catcher Austin Hedges said. "I always loved the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, and that comeback, I've watched the [ESPN '30 for 30' documentary] on it like five times."

Video: ALCS Gm7: Damon extends the lead with a grand slam

Added Angels pitcher Justin Anderson: "If it's on TV, I'll always stop to watch it."

For Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill, a Boston native, that series was personal both then and now.

"Red Sox winning, with our manager [Dave Roberts] stealing second base," Hill said.

2005 National League Championship Series, Game 5: The Albert Pujols Homer

Back in that prehistoric era in which the Astros were still in the NL Central, they played two epic NLCS rounds against the Cardinals in 2004 and '05. The Cards prevailed in a seven-game thriller in '04 that, with the Red Sox and Yankees doing their aforementioned thing over in the AL, didn't get the eyes it deserved. In '05, the Astros got their revenge, but not before Pujols hit a home run bigger than the great state of Texas.

It was 4-2 Astros in the top of the ninth, two on, two out, with Brad Lidge on the hill and Pujols at the plate. Lidge got ahead 0-1, and then "The Machine" flipped on. Pujols hit the ball -- or what was left of it -- to the train tracks at Minute Maid Park to give the Cards the go-ahead run in a 5-4 win.

Video: NLCS Gm5: Pujols jacks a mammoth three-run shot

"People that were there say you could hear a pin drop, that it was dead silence," Brewers first baseman Eric Thames said. "Lidge was the most dominant closer in the game at that time."

That the Astros went on to win Game 6 feels almost trivial here, because, for a couple of surveyed players, the memories of the homer have somehow exceeded the memories of the ultimate series result.

"The swing," Thames said. "Bam! Smell ya! I can imagine being a player on that [Astros] team, and it was like your heart was ripped out."

Taillon -- who, yes, was already quoted earlier in this piece, but couldn't limit himself to just one memory -- was watching on TV from his Houston-area home and can attest to that feeling.

"I was, like, a fan fan, bigtime Astros fan," he said. "That one hurt."

2002 World Series, Game 2: The Barry Bonds Homer

The Giants lost this game. The Giants lost this Series. The "Rally Monkey" and his cohorts on the Angels would have the last laugh.

But when the game's most feared slugger hits a ball an estimated 485 foot for a solo shot in the ninth inning off one of the game's best closers in Troy Percival, people remember.

Video: 2002 WS Gm2: Bonds hits a monster shot to right field

Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez remembered.

"It disappeared in the sky," he said of Bonds' blast.

Actually, it went through a tunnel halfway up the right-field bleachers at Angel Stadium, bouncing off a concession stand.

"That was so impressive," Gonzalez continued. "The Giants are down in the ninth inning, and the guy just silenced the entire stadium when he hit that homer. That's a homer that I'll always remember."

2006 NLCS, Game 7: The Endy Chavez Catch

Back in the days before catch probabilities, the eye test was all we had to evaluate the difficulty of an outfield defensive gem. But we're pretty sure, all these years later, that our eyes did not deceive us on the night of Oct. 19, 2006.

What we thought then is still true now: Chavez's catch, which robbed Scott Rolen of a two-run home run in a 1-1 tie in the sixth, was incredible.

Video: NLCS Gm 7: Chavez makes a spectacular catch

Even though the Mets went on to lose that game after Yadier Molina's uncatchable homer in the ninth, Mets fans will always appreciate Chavez's great glovework and his throw to double up Jim Edmonds at first. And nobody in Shea Stadium that night was more appreciative than the man on the mound, Oliver Perez.

"You ask anybody, and they say it's one of the best moments in baseball," a present-day Perez said. "The way he jumped to the ball, that was amazing, because he's a shorter guy [5-foot-11]. To get that ball and get the double play was amazing."

2013 NL Wild Card Game: The Pittsburgh Crowd

When the Pirates advanced to the postseason for the first time in 21 years, it was an occasion fit for a party. But the sold-out crowd at PNC Park was dressed for a funeral, with all-black attire as the go-to garb. Between that intimidating attire and the sheer sound of a crowd expunging two decades of sub-.500 finishes from their memory, it was an atmosphere, from the introductions onward, that those who were on hand won't soon forget.

"Andrew McCutchen kind of led that team to the playoffs," then-Pirates reliever Jared Hughes said. "That moment when they called his name and he tipped his hat to the crowd and they went nuts is what I remember most."

Johnny Cueto had the unfortunate assignment as the starter for the visiting Reds, who never had an answer for the Pirates or the crowd in a 6-2 loss.

Video: NL WC: Pirates fans cause Cueto to drop the ball

"The crowd was electric," then-Pirates catcher Russell Martin remembered. "They were chanting Cueto's name, and Cueto ended up fumbling the ball on the mound and kind of started laughing. The next pitch, I hit a home run to extend our lead, 2-0. … The energy and the sound of the crowd as I was rounding the bases? I'll never forget that. It felt like the ground was shaking beneath me."

2015 ALDS, Game 5: The Jose Bautista Bat Flip

The Blue Jays and Rangers had staged a scintillating series, and it was 2-2 in the top of the seventh of the Game 5 finale, when the Rangers took the lead in the weirdest way imaginable (or, really, unimaginable). Martin, at catcher, was throwing the ball back to pitcher Aaron Sanchez, and the ball hit Shin-Soo Choo's bat and rolled toward third. Rougned Odor hustled home from third, and, after an 18-minute review of the situation, the umpires ruled it was, indeed, a live ball and the run counted.

"Just to think about the way they scored the go-ahead run," said Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar. "I had never felt lower on a baseball field."

But in the bottom of the inning, Bautista hit the three-run home run that they'll be talking about in Toronto for an eternity, with a bat flip that would both cause future fracases and cement his legend up north.

Video: Must C Clutch: Bautista's blast puts Blue Jays ahead

"Then, I had never been higher," Pillar added.

Heck, even at least one member of the losing team still gets goosebumps over this one.

"You felt the crowd, and it was special," then-rookie Ranger Nomar Mazara said. "We lost, but I had a great time."

2010 NLDS, Game 1: The Roy Halladay No-Hitter

Sometimes the thing that's not supposed to happen happens. Lineups that advance to October are, by default, good, and they have ample time to prepare for an opposing pitcher or, at the least, adjust to what he's doing in-game. It was one thing when Don Larsen, of all people, was perfect in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series. But given the increasingly sophisticated video and statistical scrutiny of the opposition in the modern day and the overall decline of the complete game itself, an October no-hitter in more modern times just felt pretty impossible.

Until Roy Halladay did it on Oct. 6, 2010.

Video: CIN@PHI Gm 1: Halladay's historic 27 up and 27 down

"I was watching that game, and that was, like, unbelievable," Marlins third baseman Brian Anderson said. "I was watching that one all the way, watching how he attacked each hitter. I think that was really special to watch."

Halladay's gem has taken on added gravity in the wake of his tragic death last winter.

"I just remember him being part of so many underperforming teams and never being able to shine in the spotlight," Mets reliever Jerry Blevins said. "Then he gets a chance in the postseason and really proves what type of pitcher he is and on what level he is."

2016 World Series, Game 7: The Rajai Davis Homer, and the Cubs' Curse-Breaking 10th

Take a World Series matchup that features both 108-year and 68-year championship droughts, add a Game 7 that goes to extra innings, sprinkle in a little recency bias and it's no surprise that what happened at Progressive Field on the night of Nov. 2, 2016, garnered eight votes in our survey, including a few votes even from players who had nothing to do with it.

"I was in San Diego, sitting outside, and it was like 75 degrees," Pirates pitcher Steven Brault said. "Sitting outside on my parents' patio with a group of my family and a few of my friends watching the game, then the game was just incredible."

No moment from that game was more incredible than Davis' game-tying, did-that-really-just-happen dinger off Aroldis Chapman in the bottom of the eighth. End result aside, that's still the moment that best defines the insanity of that evening.

Video: WS2016 Gm7: Davis ties game with clutch two-run homer

"That was a good pitch, 100 [mph] down and in, and he turned on it for a homer," White Sox pitcher Jace Fry said.

Added Twins catcher Chris Gimenez, who was with the Tribe then: "Everyone in the dugout blacked out. Nobody remembers it. I mean, we remember it, but next thing you know, we were on the field celebrating like we won the World Series."

In a true "fish in a barrel" situation, we asked Davis for his favorite postseason moment of all-time.

"That's my best one," he said with a smile. "I'm not being biased. It's just my favorite moment. If I told you how many times I've watched it, it wouldn't look good for me."

Knowing Davis' homer was bound to be the pick of every Indians player who was around in 2016, we thought we might get a little variety by posing our question to rookie pitcher Shane Bieber, who was still in the Minors back then.

Nope.

"Raj's home run," he said, beaming. "I was losing my mind that game. I was in San Jose at my buddy's house. I was just absolutely losing my mind between that homer and then the back and forth and the rain delay. The whole thing was crazy."

And of course, we surveyed a few Cubs, too. So… care to guess which moment 2016 World Series MVP Ben Zobrist went with as his postseason pick?

Video: WS2016 Gm7: Zobrist grinds out hit for go-ahead run

"Getting that hit down the line [to score the go-ahead run in the 10th]," Zobrist said. "They play it at Wrigley on the video before we run out on the field, and, every time I see it, I still get chills from that moment. It still reminds me of rounding first and getting to second and not being able to contain yourself, feeling the elation. I always think of that when I see it."

That's why we watch. And that's why we remember.

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.

Giambrone blasts first Fall League homer

MLB.com

Here's a team-by-team breakdown of how all 30 teams' prospects fared in Arizona Fall League action on Friday:

Gameday: Glendale 1, Salt River 0 | Peoria 3, Scottsdale 1 | Surprise 3, Mesa 1

Here's a team-by-team breakdown of how all 30 teams' prospects fared in Arizona Fall League action on Friday:

Gameday: Glendale 1, Salt River 0 | Peoria 3, Scottsdale 1 | Surprise 3, Mesa 1

AL East

Blue Jays (Surprise)
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., baseball's No. 1 prospect, went 1-for-3 with a single and a walk, batting .517 so far in AFL play. Meanwhile, Blue Jays No. 9 prospect Cavan Biggio went 2-for-3 with a pair of singles and an RBI. Shortstop Santiago Espinal, Toronto's No. 23 prospect, went 1-for-4 with a single, his first AFL hit for the season. Left-hander Shawn Morimando started and tossed 2 2/3 innings, giving up a run on two hits, walking two and striking out three. And right-hander Zach Jackson added two scoreless innings in relief, striking out two.

Orioles (Glendale)
Ryan McKenna, Baltimore's No. 12 prospect, was 2-for-3 and is now hitting .313. Second baseman Steve Wilkerson struck out twice, as did catcher Martin Cervenka.

Rays (Peoria)
Lucius Fox (Rays No. 9 prospect) boosted his average to .419 with a couple of hits, finishing 2-for-4 with a run scored. Joe McCarthy (No. 17) drove in a pair of runs, bringing his Fall League total to four. Ryan Boldt (No. 25) went 1-for-4. Phoenix Sanders gave up just one hit in two innings, but it was enough to bring home a run.

2018 Arizona Fall League rosters

Red Sox (Mesa)
Bobby Dalbec, Boston's No. 6 prospect, played first base and went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, and DH Josh Ockimey -- the Red Sox No. 10 prospect -- didn't fare better, also going 0-for-4 with a strikeout in the contest.

Yankees (Glendale)
First baseman Steven Sensely provided most of the excitement in the game that gave the Glendale Desert Dogs their first win of this Fall League season. He doubled on a sharp ground ball to center fielder Brian Miller, going 1-for-3 with one RBI and hitting .214. Estevan Florial, the No. 45 overall prospect and New York's No. 2 prospect, struck out twice and walked.

AL Central

Indians (Glendale)
Yu Chang, Cleveland's No. 6 prospect, accounted for the game's only run with a single in the bottom of the fifth inning. Chang went 2-for-3 and is hitting .261.

Royals (Surprise)
Kansas City's No. 2 prospect, center fielder Khalil Lee, went 0-for-4 but did drive in an insurance run in the ninth inning with an RBI groundout. And right fielder Nick Heath went 0-for-3 with a walk and a run scored out of the leadoff spot.

Tigers (Mesa)
Daz Cameron, Detroit's No. 8 prospect, played right field and had a quiet game at the plate, going 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts. Third baseman Daniel Pinero was 0-for-4.

Twins (Salt River)
Twins No. 18 prospect Travis Blankenhorn went 1-for-3. Left fielder Jaylin Davis went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. Griffin Jax allowed a run and three hits.

White Sox (Glendale)
White Sox No. 28 prospect Laz Rivera helped the Desert Dogs get their first win of the season, going 1-for-3. Rivera is hitting .222. Left-hander Tanner Banks pitched four innings and allowed only three hits.

AL West


A's (Mesa)
Left fielder Luis Barrera went 1-for-3 with a walk, and a trio of right-handers combined for three innings out of the bullpen. Sam Sheehan pitched in the fourth and gave up a run on two walks. Angel Duno walked one and gave up a run in the eighth, and Calvin Coker gave up an unearned run in the ninth, allowing a hit while walking one and striking out one.

Angels (Mesa)
A pair of right-handers in the Angels system pitched out of the bullpen, with Daniel Procopio tossing a scoreless fifth and sixth innings (one hit, one strikeout), and Brett Hanewich adding a scoreless seventh (one hit).

Astros (Scottsdale)
Drew Ferguson went 1-for-3.

Mariners (Peoria)
Anthony Misiewicz (Mariners No. 27 prospect) bounced back from a rough Fall League debut with a scoreless start for the Javelinas. The lefty cruised through four innings, yielding just one hit. Evan White (No. 2) went 0-for-4. Joe DeCarlo was 2-for-4 with an RBI to bring his average up to .308. Chris Mariscal went 1-for-3.

Rangers (Surprise)
Texas' No. 2 prospect and the No. 56 prospect overall, Juan Pablo Martinez served as the designated hitter and went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts. First baseman Yanio Perez was 0-for-4, but did score a run.

NL East

Braves (Peoria)
Thomas Burrows, Braves No. 19 prospect, fired two scoreless frames in relief, lowering his Fall League ERA to 3.38. Adam McCreery picked up the save as he retired the side in order in the ninth. Izzy Wilson went 0-for-3 and drew a walk.

Marlins (Salt River)
Monte Harrison, MLB's No. 76 overall prospect and Marlins No. 1 prospect, went 1-for-3, striking out twice. Marlins No. 11 prospect Brian Miller went 0-for-4 and is hitting .182. Bryson Brigman, the Marlins' No. 26 prospect, went 0-for-3.

Mets (Scottsdale)
Mets No. 2 prospect Peter Alonso saw his Fall League average drop to .333 as he went 0-for-4, his second straight hitless game. Andres Gimenez (No. 1) also had a rough go of it and continues to struggle in Arizona. After going 0-for-4, he's hitting just .154. Desmond Lindsay (No. 11) was also 0-for-3 at the plate. Gerson Bautista pitched 1 2/3 innings and gave up one run on two hits. However, Joe Zanghi didn't have the same success on the mound as he gave up two runs on three hits. Matt Blackham finished the game and gave up a hit in a scoreless ninth.

Nationals (Salt River)
Washington No. 15 prospect Tres Barrera was 0-for-3.

Phillies (Scottsdale)
Tyler Viza put together his second strong start of the AFL. After throwing three scoreless in his first outing, Viza upped the ante with four innings of one-hit ball this time around. Seth McGarry followed Viza on the mound and was equally effective. The right-hander did give up three hits, but he also struck out three in 1 1/3 innings. Arquimedes Gamboa (No. 11) extended his hitting streak to five games with a 1-for-2 game. Taylor Listi came into the game as a defensive replacement but didn't get an at-bat.

NL Central

Brewers (Peoria)
Brewers top prospect Keston Hiura put together his third multihit game of the Fall League and is hitting .333 after the 2-for-4 performance. Trent Grisham (No. 19) went 0-for-2 but reached base via a walk.

Cardinals (Surprise)
Right-hander Connor Greene, the Cardinals' No. 27 prospect, pitched 2 1/3 scoreless frames of relief, yielding one hit while walking two and fanning three. Left fielder Lane Thomas turned in a 1-for-2 performance with a single, walk and RBI. Catcher Jeremy Martinez also singled and walked while going 1-for-3.

Cubs (Mesa)
Chicago's No. 6 prospect, second baseman Nico Hoerner, had a rough game at the plate, going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. Center field D.J. Wilson, the Cubs' No. 16 prospect, led off and went 1-for-3 with a single and a walk. No. 29 prospect Trent Giambrone started at shortstop and homered as part of a 2-for-3 performance. Catcher Johnny Pereda was 0-for-2 with a walk, and right-hander Erick Leal started and turned in three scoreless innings, allowing two hits and fanning two.

Pirates (Surprise)

Left-hander Blake Weiman picked up a six-out save for Surprise, entering in the eighth inning and yielding one hit while striking out two over two scoreless frames.

Reds (Scottsdale)
Reds No. 3 prospect Taylor Trammell tripled and scored, but that was it as he finished 1-for-4. Alfredo Rodriguez (No. 23) went 0-for-4 and Mark Kolozsvary went 1-for-3.

NL West

D-backs (Salt River)
Pavin Smith, the No. 6 overall first base prospect and Diamondbacks No. 4 prospect, went 1-for-4. Arizona's No. 9 prospect Drew Ellis went 1-for-3 and is hitting .250.

Dodgers (Glendale)
Keibert Ruiz, the Dodgers' No. 2 prospect and No. 39 overall, went 0-for-3. Left fielder Cody Thomas was 0-for-3.

Giants (Scottsdale)
C.J. Hinojosa, the Giants No. 28 prospect, went 0-for-3 and is hitting .111 through four games.

Rockies (Salt River)
First baseman Josh Fuentes, the 2018 Triple-A All-Star Game MVP, made several nice defensive plays and went 1-for-4.

Former Cubs voice Flanagan up for Frick Award

MLB.com @mattkellyMLB

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum announced the ballot finalists for the 2019 Ford C. Frick Award, baseball's highest honor for broadcasters.

Pulling from the "Broadcasting Beginnings" category -- one of three eras considered in a year-to-year rotation -- the Hall of Fame announced the following eight finalists Monday: Connie Desmond, Pat Flanagan, Jack Graney, Harry Heilmann, Al Helfer, Waite Hoyt, Rosey Rowswell and Ty Tyson.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum announced the ballot finalists for the 2019 Ford C. Frick Award, baseball's highest honor for broadcasters.

Pulling from the "Broadcasting Beginnings" category -- one of three eras considered in a year-to-year rotation -- the Hall of Fame announced the following eight finalists Monday: Connie Desmond, Pat Flanagan, Jack Graney, Harry Heilmann, Al Helfer, Waite Hoyt, Rosey Rowswell and Ty Tyson.

Final voting on these candidates will be conducted by an electorate comprised of the 11 living Frick Award recipients (Marty Brennaman, Bob Costas, Jaime Jarrin, Tony Kubek, Denny Matthews, Tim McCarver, Jon Miller, Eric Nadel, Vin Scully, Bob Uecker and Dave Van Horne) plus four baseball historians and columnists: David Halberstram, Barry Horn, Ted Patterson and Curt Smith. The winner will be announced Dec. 12 at the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, and will be honored at next summer's Hall of Fame Awards Ceremony on July 20 as part of Induction Weekend in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Desmond called games for each of New York's three Major League teams from 1942-56. Flanagan was among the first to re-create road games from a ticker for Cubs broadcasts, and called the first MLB All-Star Game in 1933. Graney was the voice of the Indians for 21 seasons following his playing career in Cleveland. Heilmann, already in the Hall of Fame as a player, called Tigers games for 17 seasons from 1934-50. Helfer toured the Majors as a voice for eight different teams, and called a total of 14 no-hitters. Hoyt, a Hall of Fame pitcher, parlayed his career as a Yankee into successful broadcast work for the Reds. Rowswell was known to Pirates fans for 19 seasons. Tyson spent 22 in the Tigers' booth, and was one of baseball's first radio voices beginning in 1927.

Costas, now an MLB Network personality, is the most recent winner of the Frick Award, and was honored in Cooperstown this past July.

Video: Costas excited to be going into the Hall of Fame

Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.

Zobrist mourns season in Instagram music video

MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- If Cubs fans are having a tough time adjusting to life without baseball after the team's abrupt ending in the National League Wild Card Game, they should know the players also are struggling to cope. Ben Zobrist expressed his frustrations in a clever music video that included a note to fans.

"It always takes me a few weeks to process the season and begin the offseason," Zobrist said in an Instagram post. "Here are my thoughts ... along with a unique way of making light of the postseason that should have been ..."

CHICAGO -- If Cubs fans are having a tough time adjusting to life without baseball after the team's abrupt ending in the National League Wild Card Game, they should know the players also are struggling to cope. Ben Zobrist expressed his frustrations in a clever music video that included a note to fans.

"It always takes me a few weeks to process the season and begin the offseason," Zobrist said in an Instagram post. "Here are my thoughts ... along with a unique way of making light of the postseason that should have been ..."

With the help of pitcher, filmmaker and good friend Tim Dillard, Zobrist's post is accompanied by a video in which the veteran infielder lipsyncs to Mumford and Sons, "I Will Wait for You."

Instagram from @benzobrist18: It always takes me a few weeks to process the season and begin the offseason. Here are my thoughts.....along with a unique way of making light of the postseason that should have been......... (special thanks to @dimtillard for help with Video) Maybe you feel the way I do. It was a very quick and abrupt ending to a good season for us. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth. But let's not forget all the good that happened. This game and this team gives us something to pass the time, to express our love and passion, to feel the joy of the wins and the pains of the losses, and it calls us to unity when we so easily can be divided about so many other things. Each game is a microcosm of life. The game itself is notLife, but it helps us deal with life in a way. I'm thankful for even the painful losses at the end. The game can be a great teacher. I felt privileged to play with this team and play for our fans all year. We were stretched and we grew in new ways as individuals and as a group and that is always a good thing. We strive to win championships, but more often the process is the goal. We will be stronger because of all that we went through this year. What will I do now? I will travel and watch my wife crush her book tour. I will be in and out of Chi-town. I just got back home to Franklin, TN. I will find joy in raising and watching my kids grow and continue becoming their own person. I will rest and begin preparing for next season. I will work hard in mind, body, and spirit. I will help other players with @patriotforward and @showandgo. I will focus on personal growth and charitable endeavors and become a better man, teammate, friend, and player. To Baseball and Fans: For the next 5 months until I play next year....I will wait for you....

Zobrist, 37, is shown watching the Brewers and Dodgers play Game 5 of the NL Championship Series on Wednesday and taking swings in his living room against Los Angeles starter Clayton Kershaw.

He's also shown sadly holding his glove. It's obvious. Zobrist just wants to be playing.

He wrote a long note to his followers as well.

"Maybe you feel the way I do," Zobrist said in his post. "It was a very quick and abrupt ending to a good season for us. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth. But let's not forget all the good that happened. This game and this team gives us something to pass the time, to express our love and passion, to feel the joy of the wins and the pains of the losses, and it calls us to unity when we so easily can be divided about so many other things. Each game is a microcosm of life.

"The game itself is not Life, but it helps us deal with life in a way. I'm thankful for even the painful losses at the end. The game can be a great teacher. I felt privileged to play with this team and play for our fans all year. We were stretched and we great in new ways as individuals and as a group and that is always a good thing. We strive to win championships, but more often, the process is the goal. We will be stronger because of all that we went through this year.

"What will I do now? I will travel and watch my wife crush her book tour. I will be in and out of Chi-town. I just got back home to Franklin, TN. I will find joy in raising and watching my kids grow and continue becoming their own person. I will rest and begin preparing for next season. I will work hard in mind, body, and spirit. I will help other players with @patriotforward and @showandgo. I will focus on personal growth and charitable endeavors, and become a better man, teammate, friend and player.

"To Baseball and Fans: For the next 5 months until I play next year ...

"I will wait for you."

The "Show and Go" reference is a podcast that Zobrist, Dillard, a baseball coach and a personal trainer have combined on which is aimed at young ballplayers interested in learning the game behind the game. Zobrist's wife, Julianna, has a new book called "Pull It Off: Removing Your Fears and Putting on Confidence."

As for Zobrist himself, he's coming off an impressive comeback season in which he batted .305. He'll just have to wait until next year to play.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs, Ben Zobrist

Healthy Hoerner highlights Cubs' AFL contingent

MLB.com @JimCallisMLB

Nico Hoerner's first foray into pro ball hasn't gone exactly as planned. The Cubs shortstop didn't expect to see his debut end after 14 games and he didn't count on playing in the Arizona Fall League.

Those two developments are related. The 24th overall pick in June and the lone hitter from the 2018 Draft in the Fall League, Hoerner joined the Mesa Solar Sox to make up for lost at-bats and defensive reps after straining ligaments in his left elbow while diving for a ball in mid-July.

Nico Hoerner's first foray into pro ball hasn't gone exactly as planned. The Cubs shortstop didn't expect to see his debut end after 14 games and he didn't count on playing in the Arizona Fall League.

Those two developments are related. The 24th overall pick in June and the lone hitter from the 2018 Draft in the Fall League, Hoerner joined the Mesa Solar Sox to make up for lost at-bats and defensive reps after straining ligaments in his left elbow while diving for a ball in mid-July.

Arizona Fall League overviews for all 30 teams

"When I entered the summer, it definitely wasn't where I pictured being right now but it's a great place to be," the Cubs No. 6 prospect said. "It's the best competition I'll ever have played, so it's definitely a place to develop and make the most of the offseason.

"It made sense to me, just to have a chance to really push my limits and see where I'm at right now. They were quick to move me through the first couple levels, so if it goes well, it goes well. If not, then I have a lot to work on going into the rest of the offseason, either way, so I think it's a good spot to be."

Hoerner was moving swiftly through the Cubs system when he got hurt. He spent three games in the Rookie-level Arizona League and a week at Class A Short Season Eugene before advancing to Class A South Bend. He finished his pro debut with a .327/.450/.571 line with two homers and six steals in 14 games.

Chicago fared well by spending first-round picks on college bats Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ in 2013-15 and went back to that demographic with Hoerner, a Stanford product. Known for his outstanding hand-eye coordination and disciplined approach, he also has strong hands and has begun to unlock his deceptive power after homering just three times in 167 college games.

While scouts have little doubt that Hoerner will hit, there are more questions about his ultimate defensive home. Some evaluators think he can stick at shortstop, though others think his actions and his average arm will fit better at second base, where he played as a Cardinal freshman. He's also quick and athletic enough to handle the outfield.

Hoerner said he isn't worried about where he ends up and knows the Cubs value versatility.

"I've only played shortstop so far in my brief stints, but if you look at the Cubs' big league roster, you'd be crazy to think you'd probably only play one position your whole time," he said. "You see Kris Bryant all over the place playing, so whatever is need be, I'll do it. I can play outfield, play second, whatever ... hit, got to do that.

"Playing second base, if I end up doing that, you got to have an arm to play there. I think a lot of what I've learned at shortstop is going to translate to wherever I'm at on the diamond, so I'm going to do that for as long as I can. Wherever it takes me, it takes me."

Cubs hitters in the Fall League

Trent Giambrone, 2B/SS -- Giambrone's ability to make hard contact, sneaky power and grinder makeup remind the Cubs of David Bote. A 25th-rounder from Delta State (Miss.) in 2016, he batted .251/.333/.440 with 17 homers and 26 steals in Double-A this year.

P.J. Higgins, C/3B -- Primarily a second and third baseman at Old Dominion, Higgins became a full-time catcher a year after turning pro as a 12th-rounder in 2015. Athletic behind the plate and possessing some of the best plate discipline in the system, he hit .271/.353/.366 between Class A Advanced and Double-A.

Jhonny Pereda, C -- Signed out of Venezuela in 2013, Pereda stands out most with a strong arm but has a chance to contribute both offensively and defensively. He batted .272/.347/.363 with eight homers in Class A Advanced and threw out 38 percent of the basestealers who tested him.

D.J. Wilson, OF -- Wilson has some of the best speed and all-around athleticism among Cubs farmhands but has had difficulty staying healthy and producing consistently at the plate. Signed for a well over-slot $1.3 million as a 2015 fourth-rounder from an Ohio high school, he hit .219/.315/.287 with 10 steals in 64 games in Class A Advanced.

Cubs pitchers in the Fall League

Bailey Clark, RHP -- Clark can't always keep his delivery in sync, but when he does he can unleash mid-90s fastballs with movement and overpowering sliders. A 2016 fifth-rounder from Duke, he posted a 2.45 ERA with 36 strikeouts in 36 2/3 innings between three lower-level stops this season.

Erick Leal, RHP -- Leal compiled outstanding numbers in Class A Advanced, with a 1.41 ERA, .156 opponent average and 61 strikeouts in 63 2/3 innings. His best pitch is a tumbling changeup, which he sets up with a low-90s sinker.

Manuel Rondon, LHP -- A Venezuelan originally signed by the Angels in 2012, Rondon came to Cubs in a July 2015 trade for Rafael Lopez. Working with a 92-96 mph fastball and solid curveball, he compiled a 2.65 ERA with 62 strikeouts in 51 innings between two Class A assignments.

Justin Steele, LHP -- Signed for an above-slot $1 million as a Mississippi prepster taken in 2014's fifth round, Steele was just starting to blossom when he blew out his elbow in August 2017. He returned 11 months later after Tommy John surgery, running his fastball up to 97 mph and missing bats with his curveball while logging a 2.31 ERA, .176 opponent average and 53 strikeouts in 46 2/3 innings between three clubs.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Cubs prospects dominate in 18-run day in AFL

MLB.com

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- A quartet of Cubs prospects shined for the Mesa Solar Sox in an 18-2 rout over the Surprise Saguaros in Arizona Fall League action Thursday.

Cubs' No. 8 prospect Justin Steele set the tone early with three no-hit innings for the Solar Sox.

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- A quartet of Cubs prospects shined for the Mesa Solar Sox in an 18-2 rout over the Surprise Saguaros in Arizona Fall League action Thursday.

Cubs' No. 8 prospect Justin Steele set the tone early with three no-hit innings for the Solar Sox.

Gameday

Thursday was Steele's second start of the Fall League season. After giving up four earned runs n just 1 2/3 innings against Peoria last Thursday, Steele settled in with his scoreless performance.

"I was probably a little too amped up for my first start in the Fall League," Steele said. "Nerves were a little calmer today and I had my stuff so I felt good."

Steele was a fifth-round pick in 2014 out of George County High School in Mississippi. After struggling in his first two full professional seasons, Steele was finding his groove with Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach before tearing his UCL in 2017.

Coming off Tommy John surgery, Steele returned to the mound in early July. He got 11 starts across three levels in the Cubs' organization, and it feels like the Fall League innings are crucial.

"Whatever I do here is probably gonna have a direct impact on what I do next year as far as innings and where I start at and all that." Steele said. "I worked really hard all offseason rehabbing from Tommy John, so I'm very glad to be here."

His battery mate was P.J. Higgins, who had a breakout performance offensively. A 12th-rounder in 2015, Higgins finished the day 2-for-5 with a three-run homer and two runs scored.

Higgins and Steele, who are roommates, have known each other for years and have rose through the ranks together. As both continue to progress, they know the chemistry can be big going forward.

"We've got a good a relationship. I've known him since South Bend." Higgins said. "We work well together and it's always enjoyable."

Higgins had been held hitless until Thursday, but credits film for helping him bust out of the skid.

D.J. Wilson, a fourth-round pick and the Cubs' No. 16 prospect, led off for the Solar Sox and proved to be a table setter for his team. Wilson finished 1-for-3 with three walks and four runs.

The Cubs' No. 6 prospect, shortstop Nico Hoerner, drove in the first two runs on a single.

Andre Simms is a senior journalism student at Arizona State University. This story is part of a partnership between MLB.com and ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Chicago Cubs

Each team's most exciting postseason win

MLB.com @williamfleitch

I don't know about you, but I'm still shaking from Game 4 of the American League Championship Series between the Red Sox and Astros on Wednesday night -- an epic game with constant twists and turns, controversies and an unforgettable ending. That's the reason postseason baseball is so electrifying, and we'll be lucky to have another game even close to it this October.

But the crazy question is this even among the five most memorable Red Sox postseason victories? They've had a lot.

I don't know about you, but I'm still shaking from Game 4 of the American League Championship Series between the Red Sox and Astros on Wednesday night -- an epic game with constant twists and turns, controversies and an unforgettable ending. That's the reason postseason baseball is so electrifying, and we'll be lucky to have another game even close to it this October.

But the crazy question is this even among the five most memorable Red Sox postseason victories? They've had a lot.

Thus, today at The Thirty, inspired by that game, we're taking a look at the most exciting postseason win of the divisional era (since 1969) for each MLB team. This isn't necessarily the biggest win or most important win. It's just the most viscerally exciting one. Every team's got at least one. Some have plenty.

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

Blue Jays: 1993 World Series, Game 6: Blue Jays 8, Phillies 6
There's actually a temptation here to go with Game 4 of this series, when the Blue Jays scored six runs in the eighth inning to take a 15-14 lead that would become the final score … but come on, a ninth-inning comeback that ends in a World Series title has to be the pick.

Video: '93 WS, Gm 6 PHI@TOR: Carter's walk-off WS homer

Orioles: 1969 ALCS, Game 2: Orioles 1, Twins 0 (11 innings)
How different was baseball 50 years ago? Orioles pitcher Dave McNally threw an 11-inning shutout in the first-ever ALCS. The Orioles won on a walkoff single by Curt Motton, who had 89 career RBIs over eight seasons. He got the hit off Ron Perranoski, the game's first reliever, who came in with two outs in the 11th.

Rays: 2008 ALCS, Game 2: Rays 9, Red Sox 8 (11 innings)
After losing Game 1 at home to the defending champs, the Rays fell behind 2-0 and 3-2, blew leads of 5-3 and 8-6, yet somehow hung in through 11 innings -- thanks in part to secret weapon rookie David Price -- before winning on Melvin Upton Jr.'s sacrifice fly with the bases loaded. The Rays would take a 3-1 series lead before finally eking out the series in Game 7.

Red Sox: 2004 ALCS, Game 4: Red Sox 6, Yankees 4 (12 innings)
It's not like the Game 5 14-inning marathon wasn't a stunner either, but the Dave Roberts steal is going to live longer than all of us.

Video: 2004 ALCS Gm 4: Roberts sets up, scores tying run

Yankees: 2001 World Series, Game 5: Yankees 3, D-backs 2 (12 innings)
So many games this series to pick from, but this is the one that had Yankee Stadium roaring the loudest.

Video: 2001WS Gm5: Brosius ties the game in the 9th

AL CENTRAL

Indians: 1995 World Series, Game 3: Indians 7, Braves 6 (11 innings)
It ended with Eddie Murray's walk-off single in the 11th, but it was wild long before that, with the Braves scoring three in the eighth to take their first lead of the game and the Indians tying it right back up in the next inning.

Royals: 2014 AL Wild Card Game: Royals 9, A's 8 (12 innings)
No Denkinger Game here. The Royals were toast in this game, trailing 7-3 headed into the bottom of the eighth. They scored three that inning, followed by the vroom-vroom Jarrod Dyson steal in the ninth that helped score the tying run. The A's then took the lead again in the top of the 12th, but the Royals won it in bottom half on Salvador Perez's single. They would win their next seven postseason games en route to the World Series.

Video: AL WC: Royals advance to ALDS on Perez's walk-off hit

Tigers: 1972 ALCS, Game 4: Tigers 4, A's 3 (10 innings)
No one remembers this game, mainly because the Tigers ended up losing the series, but the A's scored two in the top of the 10th to take a 3-1 lead. Detroit came back, largely because of an error by second baseman Gene Tenace, and won it on a walkoff single from Jim Northrup. This wild 10-inning postseason game still finished in three hours, four minutes, by the way.

Twins: 1991 World Series, Game 7: Twins 1, Braves 0 (10 innings)
Obviously.

White Sox: 2005 World Series, Game 3: White Sox 7, Astros 5 (14 innings)
Every game in this series was great -- it's the closest four-game sweep you'll ever see -- but this was the epic 14-inning game with Geoff Blum's homer in the top of the 14th that barely hung on. Forty-three players were used in this game.

AL WEST

Angels: 2002 World Series, Game 6: Angels 6, Giants 5
The Russ Ortiz keep-the-ball game, the Angels were down 5-0 and facing elimination heading into the bottom of the seventh. Two three-run innings later, they forced a Game 7 and won their first (and only) title.

Astros: 2017 World Series, Game 5: Astros 13, Dodgers 12 (10 innings)
We still can't believe this game happened.

Video: WS2017 Gm5: Astros come together to steal Game 5

Athletics: 1973 World Series, Game 3: A's 3, Mets 2 (11 innings)
It can be tough to pick one game when a team has lost 11 of its last 12 postseason series, so we'll go back to the 1970s, when the A's came back from a 2-0 deficit to win in the 11th inning in a game that featured Reggie Jackson, Tom Seaver, Catfish Hunter, Rollie Fingers, Sal Bando, Rusty Staub, Bud Harrelson and Willie Mays.

Mariners: 1995 ALDS, Game 5: Mariners 6, Yankees 5 (11 innings)
We all just remember the walk-off now, but this game had five lead changes leading up to the final wild play.

Rangers: 2011 ALCS, Game 2: Rangers 7, Tigers 3 (11 innings)
This series, strangely, had two different extra-inning games that the Rangers won by four runs. This was the most thrilling one, ending on Nelson Cruz's grand slam off poor Ryan Perry.

Video: ALCS Gm2: Cruz wins it with a walk-off slam in 11th

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

Braves: 1992 National League Championship Series, Game 7: Braves 3, Pirates 2
Honestly, Pirates fans, I'm sorry to even bring this up.

Marlins: 2003 NLCS, Game 6: Marlins 8, Cubs 3
Sure, to Cubs fans this is a nightmare, but from the Marlins' perspective, this is one of the most amazing postseason comebacks of all time. (Sure, the answer here is probably Game 7 of the 1997 World Series, but that'd be too easy.

Mets: 1986 World Series, Game 6: Mets 6, Red Sox 5 (10 innings)
Authors have written novels specifically about this game.

Nationals: 2012 NLDS, Game 4: Nationals 2, Cardinals 1
A taut, well-pitched game that ended in Jayson Werth's big blast, which everyone thought would send the Nationals to the NLCS the next night (it didn't).

Phillies: 2008 NLCS, Game 4: Phillies 7, Dodgers 5
If you needed to explain the appeal of baseball to an alien, showing them the Matt Stairs homer in the eighth inning of this game would be a great place to start.

Video: NLCS Gm4: Stairs wallops a two-run homer to right

NL CENTRAL

Brewers: 1982 ALCS, Game 5: Brewers 4, Angels 3
The first World Series trip was clinched by Cecil Cooper's staggering single in the seventh inning of a decisive game.

Cardinals: 2011 World Series, Game 6: Cardinals 10, Rangers 9 (11 innings)
The second-easiest call on this entire list.

Cubs: 2016 World Series, Game 7: Cubs 8, Indians 7 (10 innings)
The easiest call on this entire list.

Video: Must C Championship: Cubs win the 2016 World Series

Pirates: 1979 NLCS, Game 2: Pirates 3, Reds 2 (10 innings)
The day after an extra-inning game, the Pirates played another one -- a back-and-forth battle in which the Pirates took the lead on Dave Parker's RBI single in the 10th and held on with Don Robinson in the bottom half.

Reds: 1975 World Series, Game 7: Reds 4, Red Sox 3
The dirty secret is that this game was just as exciting as Game 6, but nobody talks about it nearly as much, because more people are from the Boston area than the Cincinnati area.

NL WEST

D-backs: 2001 World Series, Game 7: D-backs 3, Yankees 2
There are a shocking number of blown saves by Mariano Rivera on this list.

Video: Must C Classic: Gonzalez walks off, wins World Series

Dodgers: 1977 NLCS, Game 3: Dodgers 6, Phillies 5
The Kirk Gibson moment is the great moment, but this one, which featured a wild three-run comeback in the top of the ninth with two outs, may have been even more of a nail-biter.

Giants: 2014 NLDS, Game 2: Giants 2, Nationals 1 (18 innings)
It seems impossible that a postseason game could go 18 innings. The hero of this game remains Yusmiero Petit, who sneaked in a one-hitter over six innings before the Giants won it in the 18th.

Padres: 1984 NLCS, Game 5: Padres 6, Cubs 3
The Cubs had a 3-0 lead headed into the bottom of the sixth, but Leon Durham's error opened the floodgates, and the Padres were off to their first World Series.

Rockies: 2007 NL West Tiebreaker Game: Rockies 9, Padres 8 (13 innings)
Not technically a postseason game, but it doesn't matter, because Matt Holliday didn't touch the plate, and it didn't matter.

Video: Holliday scores the game-winning run

Will Leitch is a columnist for MLB.com.

Former Cubs orthopedic consultant dies at 76

MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- Dr. Michael Schafer, who was the Cubs' orthopedic consultant for more than 30 years, passed away Wednesday night. He was 76.

Among the many Cubs players Schafer treated were Andre Dawson, Ryne Sandberg and Rick Sutcliffe, who shared his memories of Schafer on Twitter.

CHICAGO -- Dr. Michael Schafer, who was the Cubs' orthopedic consultant for more than 30 years, passed away Wednesday night. He was 76.

Among the many Cubs players Schafer treated were Andre Dawson, Ryne Sandberg and Rick Sutcliffe, who shared his memories of Schafer on Twitter.

Tweet from @Sut_ESPN: So sad to hear. Doc rebuilt my shoulder in 1990 but the thing I���ll never forget was coming home from an event to find our 2yr old daughter holding her arm crying. Babysitter said she fell. I called Doc. He met us at the hospital and fixed her as well! Great Man!! https://t.co/BMnqAZ11Br

Schafer specialized in the treatment of spinal disorders and sports injuries. He earned his medical degree from the University of Iowa in 1967 and was the chairman of the department of orthopedics at Northwestern Memorial Hospital for 35 years.

During the 2000 Winter Meetings, Schafer was honored by the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS) with a 20-year physician's award for his contributions to baseball medicine.

Visitation will be Sunday from 2-8 p.m. CT at Donnellan Family Funeral Home, 10045 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, Ill. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made to the Michael F. Schafer, M.D. Research and Education Endowment at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, 420 East Superior Street, Rubloff Building, Ninth Floor, Chicago, IL 60611.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs

Inbox: Did 'extreme' flexibility hurt the Cubs?

Beat reporter Carrie Muskat answers questions from fans
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

While the extreme flexibility in the Cubs' lineup is pretty impressive -- from players like Kris Bryant (third base, left field, right field) and Javier Baez (second base, shortstop, third base) being slotted into multiple positions on the field and in the batting order -- do you think not having a relatively settled lineup or batting order is a contributing factor to the team's lack of consistency? -- Joe S., Henderson, Nev.

During exit interviews, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said some players did express some frustration over the constantly changing lineups. However, Epstein added that the players understood why manager Joe Maddon changed things up.

While the extreme flexibility in the Cubs' lineup is pretty impressive -- from players like Kris Bryant (third base, left field, right field) and Javier Baez (second base, shortstop, third base) being slotted into multiple positions on the field and in the batting order -- do you think not having a relatively settled lineup or batting order is a contributing factor to the team's lack of consistency? -- Joe S., Henderson, Nev.

During exit interviews, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said some players did express some frustration over the constantly changing lineups. However, Epstein added that the players understood why manager Joe Maddon changed things up.

Submit a question to the Cubs Inbox

"They look around and see the talent here," Epstein said. "That's how players talk about it -- it's like, 'Hey, we have so many talented players who deserve to play, and that's what makes us great and really good. But here's how sometimes it makes me feel and here's how if we could communicate about it, it could make things easier.'"

According to Baseball Reference, the Cubs used 152 different batting orders. By comparison, the Brewers used 137 different batting orders and the Dodgers used 155.

In case you were wondering what the most common batting order for the Cubs was: Albert Almora Jr., Baez, Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Willson Contreras, Kyle Schwarber, Addison Russell, Jason Heyward and the starting pitcher

Maddon used that lineup for five games.

What's the possibility that Kris Bryant will need shoulder surgery this winter? -- Wayne C., South Bend, Ind.

Not likely. At the end of the season, both Bryant and Epstein said the third baseman did not need surgery on his left shoulder.

Once Kris Bryant returned from his second DL stint, he started to keep two hands on the bat, and it appeared he was not "staying through" the baseball as well as he did not trying to keep two hands on the bat. Does Kris plan to swing natural next year or work with keeping two hands on the bat? -- Tyler B., Gilbert, Ariz.

Bryant used the two-handed approach during batting practice and when he was hitting in the cage to avoid putting more stress on his left shoulder. You may have felt he wasn't "staying through" his swing, but Bryant seemed to like the switch and compared it to a golf swing.

"It feels -- and I feel -- a lot more powerful. I feel like I'm hitting the ball further," Bryant said in late August.

He'll most likely experiment this offseason.

I've been wondering the whole season whether David Bote might have a permanent position on the active roster rather than bouncing back and forth from Triple-A to the big leagues. -- Denise M., Yorkville, Ill.

Bote did shuttle back and forth early, but was stayed with the big league team from July 26 through the end of the year. His versatility on defense and .455 batting average as a pinch-hitter certainly make him an attractive player to have on the active roster. It will depend on the roster makeup next year, but he definitely opened some eyes.

Tyler Chatwood can't pitch. To even suggest including him as a starter for 2019 is ludicrous. The upper management must own up to the fact that they spent money on him and figure out a way to get rid of him. -- Judi M., Barrington, Ill.

Chatwood did finish the season as the Major League leader in walks. He also held right-handed hitters to a .150 average and .219 slugging percentage. Let's see what happens after an offseason to reboot. When the Cubs signed Chatwood last December, I heard from more than one scout that it was a great pickup. I'm optimistic that he can get back on track.

Is there any concern regarding the Cubs batting with runners in scoring position? I heard many comments that we had such a low average for that during the season. -- Haley S., Vero Beach, Fla.

The Cubs finished 10th in the National League with a .247 batting average with runners in scoring position. By comparison, they also ranked 10th in 2016 with a .252 batting average with RISP and 11th in 2017 at .253. It's something the Cubs would like to improve on, which will likely be a hot topic for the new hitting coach.

What is the current number of players (past and present) with any connection (Major or Minor Leagues) to the Texas Rangers? (Asked by a Texas Cubs fan who went to the same high school as Kerry Wood and currently lives four miles away from where the Rangers play) -- Stanley K., Grand Prairie, Texas

According to Baseball Reference, 68 pitchers pitched and 141 players played for both the Cubs and Rangers. I'm not going to list them all (not enough room here), but the list does include a variety, including Don Zimmer (who played and managed the Cubs and also managed the Rangers from 1981-82).

Players on the 2018 Cubs with ties to both included Anthony Bass, Eddie Butler, Jesse Chavez, Yu Darvish, Chris Gimenez, Cole Hamels, and Pedro Strop. Kyle Hendricks was drafted by the Rangers in 2008, and Carl Edwards Jr. was drafted in '11.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs

Cubs bring back Iapoce to be their hitting coach

MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- Once word got out that Anthony Iapoce was returning to the Cubs organization as the hitting coach, his phone started to buzz with text messages. By late Monday, a half dozen players had reached out to Iapoce to congratulate him and welcome him back.

That familiarity made the job attractive. But Iapoce is quick to point out that even though he knows several of the Cubs players in his former job as the team's Minor League hitting coordinator, he can't snap his fingers and fix an offense that struggled in the second half this season.

CHICAGO -- Once word got out that Anthony Iapoce was returning to the Cubs organization as the hitting coach, his phone started to buzz with text messages. By late Monday, a half dozen players had reached out to Iapoce to congratulate him and welcome him back.

That familiarity made the job attractive. But Iapoce is quick to point out that even though he knows several of the Cubs players in his former job as the team's Minor League hitting coordinator, he can't snap his fingers and fix an offense that struggled in the second half this season.

"Just because you know the players doesn't mean it'll bring instant success right away," Iapoce said Monday night. "There are plenty of places that hire people because they're familiar with certain players and it doesn't work out. You feel pretty good going into it knowing the players and what they've been through in the Minor Leagues."

The Cubs are hoping Iapoce's background with the team will help. He was named the hitting coach on Monday, replacing Chili Davis, who was dismissed last week after one season. Iapoce, 45, just completed his third season as the Rangers' hitting coach and third season on a big league coaching staff.

"It was a good feeling to be wanted, not only by the Rangers but by the Cubs," Iapoce said by phone from his New York home. "It's the first job where I will go back to something familiar which is a big deal to me. I've never had that."

He began his coaching career in the Marlins' system from 2006-09 and spent three seasons as the Blue Jays' roving hitting coordinator from 2010-12.

"You're always starting new and you're always trying to lay down the groundwork and the foundation of what you're trying to accomplish as a team," Iapoce said of his previous jobs. "Now, going back to somewhere that you're familiar with as far as players, coaches, front office, yourself, you can go in right away and be yourself and not be too concerned about looking over your shoulder coaching. You can coach right away."

He was a special assistant to the general manager/player development with the Cubs from 2013-15 and oversaw the Minor League hitting program, working with young players such as Kris Bryant, Albert Almora Jr. and Kyle Schwarber.

The Cubs did finish the 2018 season leading the National League in batting average but had a disappointing second half, and Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein vowed to make changes. The Cubs led the NL in runs (476) and on-base percentage (.345) in the first half but dropped to eighth in runs scored (285) and ninth in OBP (.316) after the All-Star break. In the first half, they hit 100 home runs, but hit only 67 in the second half.

"It's a young team and sometimes you forget that because of the 2016 World Series, but they're still growing up," Iapoce said. "Your first year [as a player] is always the toughest -- you're surviving, but then they start to figure you out and and you have to make adjustments and the opposition makes adjustments. We dealt with that in Texas. We were really young and guys were trying to find their way.

"It's just a matter of guys getting comfortable and what they can do to help the Cubs win the ultimate goal, which is the World Series," he said.

The first step for Iapoce will be to reach out to players to re-introduce himself and talk about their offseason plans.

An announcement regarding the entire 2019 Cubs coaching staff will come at a later date. One of the reasons for the delay is that bench coach Brandon Hyde is interviewing for some of the managerial openings in the Major Leagues.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs

Key 2018-19 free agents for all 30 MLB teams

MLB.com

An impressive collection of talent will hit the open market when free agency gets underway this offseason, and players are eligible to sign with a new team five days after the conclusion of the World Series. Here is a division-by-division breakdown of the key free agents for all 30 Major League clubs.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

An impressive collection of talent will hit the open market when free agency gets underway this offseason, and players are eligible to sign with a new team five days after the conclusion of the World Series. Here is a division-by-division breakdown of the key free agents for all 30 Major League clubs.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

Atlanta Braves
Key free agents: RHP Brad Brach, 1B Lucas Duda, 3B Ryan Flaherty, OF Nick Markakis, C Rene Rivera, RHP Anibal Sanchez, C Kurt Suzuki, LHP Jonny Venters

Markakis was a valuable member of a youthful Braves club in 2018, providing veteran leadership and making the All-Star team for the first time in his career. Atlanta has a stellar farm system that is loaded with pitching prospects, which is one of the reasons why Sanchez is unlikely to be back after his impressive rebound campaign. But without an obvious replacement for Markakis in right field, the door remains open for the soon-to-be 35-year-old to return. Suzuki has formed a productive catching tandem with Tyler Flowers over the past two seasons, but the 35-year-old may be too expensive to bring back for a part-time role.

Miami Marlins
Key free agents: None

The Marlins' roster is replete with players who are at the early stages of their big league careers, putting them years away from free agency. After trading multiple big-name players last offseason, Miami will likely now look to deal veterans Starlin Castro and Martin Prado, as they are owed nearly $27 million combined in 2019.

New York Mets
Key free agents: LHP Jerry Blevins, OF Austin Jackson, C Devin Mesoraco, RHP AJ Ramos, INF Jose Reyes

There's a chance the Mets won't bring back any of these players after they combined for -1.7 Wins Above Replacement in 2018, per FanGraphs. With Travis d'Arnaud, T.J. Rivera and Juan Lagares returning from injuries, the Mets have obvious replacements for Mesoraco, Reyes and Jackson next year. Blevins is more likely to be back than Ramos, whose recovery from right shoulder surgery is expected to extend into next June and possibly longer.

Philadelphia Phillies
Key free agents: 3B/OF Jose Bautista, INF Asdrubal Cabrera, LHP Aaron Loup, C Wilson Ramos

All four players on Philadelphia's list were acquired late in the 2018 campaign as the Phillies made a playoff push that ultimately fell short. Instead of bringing back Ramos, who is sure to fetch a sizable multi-year deal, the Phils may give 25-year-old Jorge Alfaro another chance to show he can handle starting duties behind the plate. Cabrera could be a fallback option if the Phillies are unable to land Manny Machado in free agency.

Washington Nationals
Key free agents: OF Bryce Harper, RHP Jeremy Hellickson, RHP Kelvin Herrera, RHP Greg Holland, 1B Mark Reynolds, C Matt Wieters

Harper will be one of the top free agents available this offseason, and the Nats will likely make a major push to keep him in Washington. The club might also be interested in bringing back Holland and Hellickson, but the two righties are sure to draw interest from other clubs after boosting their value with the Nats. Washington is expected to try to upgrade at the catcher spot, which could leave Wieters looking for a new home.

NL CENTRAL

Chicago Cubs
Key free agents: RHP Jesse Chavez, LHP Jorge De La Rosa, LHP Jaime Garcia (club option), LHP Cole Hamels (club option), OF Jason Heyward (can opt out of his contract), RHP Brandon Kintzler (club and player options), 2B Daniel Murphy, RHP Pedro Strop (club option), LHP Justin Wilson

The Cubs have many decisions to make this offseason, most notably regarding the $20 million club option for Hamels, who was acquired from the Rangers at the non-waiver Trade Deadline and recorded a terrific 2.36 ERA over 12 starts. They also have a bevy of bullpen arms that are set to depart or have club options. The Cubs could try to retain Chavez and Strop, and Murphy could also be back (particularly given Addison Russell's suspension), as president of baseball operations Theo Epstein spoke highly of the second baseman's contributions after his acquisition from the Nationals.

Cincinnati Reds
Key free agents: RHP Matt Harvey

Cincinnati elected to keep Harvey at the non-waiver Trade Deadline instead of flipping him to a contender, and now face a decision about the right-hander, given that he has expressed openness to returning and the Reds will be seeking starting pitching depth this offseason. Outside of Harvey, the Reds don't have any key departures or options to worry about this winter, though Scooter Gennett and Billy Hamilton are due for free agency following the 2019 season.

Milwaukee Brewers
Key free agents: LHP Gio Gonzalez, OF Curtis Granderson, RHP Jeremy Jeffress (club option), LHP Dan Jennings, C Erik Kratz, RHPJordan Lyles (club option), LHP Wade Miley, 3B Mike Moustakas (mutual option), IF Eric Sogard, RHP Joakim Soria (club option)

The Brewers have most of their pitching depth locked up beyond this season, with Gonzalez, an in-season acquisition, and Miley, who was initially signed to a Minor League contract before the season, the only two starters set for free agency this offseason. Soria, a key piece of the Brewers' bullpen in their playoff run, has a $10 million team option for 2019, while closing option Jeffress has a much cheaper $3.175 million team option. The 38-year-old Kratz and 37-year-old Granderson are also bound for free agency. Given their security all over the roster, the Brewers are set to contend again in 2019 even if they don't make a big offseason splash.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Key free agents: IF/OF Josh Harrison (club option), IF Jung Ho Kang (club option), SS Jordy Mercer

After making a splash by trading for Chris Archer in 2018, the Pirates appear to be mostly set with their pitching staff but will be looking for a bat in the offseason, likely at shortstop, especially if they don't end up bringing Kang back after his late-season cameo. Even if they don't make a Manny Machado-sized splash at shortstop, the market is deep this offseason, with Jose Iglesias, Freddy Galvis and Adeiny Hechavarria among the names that will be in play. It seems unlikely that the Pirates will pick up Harrison's $10.5 million option.

St. Louis Cardinals
Key free agents: 1B Matt Adams, RHP Bud Norris, C Francisco Pena, RHP Tyson Ross

Adam Wainwright already avoided free agency by agreeing to a one-year deal to return for his 15th season with the Cardinals. Improving the bullpen to build around Jordan Hicks will be a priority for the Cardinals, especially with the departure of Norris, who provided stability at closer for much of the season. Though Adams likely won't be on the Cardinals' radar again, St. Louis is thought to be looking for an impact left-handed hitter, with needs at outfield and third base.

NL WEST

Arizona Diamondbacks
Key free agents: RHP Clay Buchholz, LHP Patrick Corbin, RHP Randall Delgado, 2B Daniel Descalso, LHP Jake Diekman, 1B Paul Goldschmidt (club option), OF Jon Jay, C Jeff Mathis, OF A.J. Pollock, C Chris Stewart, OF Yasmany Tomas (player option)

The D-backs could lose two key contributors this winter, with Corbin and Pollock likely to exceed Arizona's price range, but Buchholz, Descalso and Mathis are strong candidates to return. Neither Goldschmidt nor Tomas is expected to hit the open market. The D-backs are sure to pick up Goldschmidt's $14.5 million club option for 2019, and Tomas will undoubtedly exercise his player options for '19-20, valued at $15.5 million next year and $17 million in '20, after spending all of '18 in the Minors.

Colorado Rockies
Key free agents: C Drew Butera, OF Carlos Gonzalez, OF Matt Holliday, 2B DJ LeMahieu, RHP Seunghwan Oh (club option), RHP Adam Ottavino, OF Gerardo Parra

The Rockies will have to decide whether they want to compete for LeMahieu this winter or if they're ready to turn the reins at second base over to one of their middle-infield prospects, Garrett Hampson and Brendan Rodgers. They also face decisions in the outfield, where Gonzalez, Parra and Holliday are impending free agents, and in the bullpen with Ottavino and Oh, who has a $2.5 million option for 2019 with a $250,000 buyout.

Los Angeles Dodgers
Key free agents: RHP John Axford, 2B Brian Dozier, C Yasmani Grandal, RHP Daniel Hudson, LHP Clayton Kershaw (opt out), SS Manny Machado, RHP Ryan Madson, LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu

Machado is among the headliners in this year's star-studded free agent class, and longtime Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw could add his name to the mix if he opts out of his contract. The Dodgers will try to retain Machado, whom they acquired from the Orioles at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, but they'll have stiff competition as he's likely to cash in for a big payday. The oft-injured Ryu posted a 1.97 ERA through 15 regular season starts in 2018 and pitched well in the playoffs to improve his stock heading into free agency.

San Diego Padres
Key free agents: C A.J. Ellis, SS Freddy Galvis

The Padres' 2018 roster will remain mostly intact with only Galvis and Ellis entering free agency, and both are candidates to return. Ellis is less likely to be re-signed, however, with young catchers Austin Hedges and Francisco Mejia in the mix. San Diego may also let Galvis walk if he wants a multi-year deal, with Fernando Tatis Jr. (San Diego's No. 1 prospect, per MLB Pipeline) nearing big league readiness and Luis Urias (San Diego's No. 4 prospect) likely to take over as the club's starting second baseman in 2019.

San Francisco Giants
Key free agents: OF Gregor Blanco, RHP Madison Bumgarner (club option), LHP Derek Holland, C Nick Hundley, RHP Mark Melancon (can opt out of his contract), OF Hunter Pence, 3B Pablo Sandoval

The Giants are expected to pick up Bumgarner's $12 million option, and Melancon is almost certainly staying put for the final two years of his four-year, $62 million deal, but the club will likely part ways with veterans Pence and Blanco. The Giants may try bring back Holland, who enjoyed a bounceback campaign and anchored an injury-riddled Giants rotation in 2018, and Hundley, who capably backed up Buster Posey.

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

Baltimore Orioles
Key free agents: OF Adam Jones

The O's list has just one man on it, as they traded nearly every player on an expiring contract, including Manny Machado, Zach Britton and Brad Brach, during their 2018 roster purge. Baltimore would have dealt Jones as well, but he was unwilling to waive his 10-and-5 rights. Jones may be interested in returning, but he would likely need to accept a significantly reduced role as the Orioles look to the future.

Boston Red Sox
Key free agents: RHP Nathan Eovaldi, RHP Joe Kelly, RHP Craig Kimbrel, 2B Ian Kinsler, IF Eduardo Nunez (player option), 1B/OF Steve Pearce, 2B Brandon Phillips, LHP Drew Pomeranz, LHP David Price (can opt out of his contract), LHP Chris Sale (club option)

Even if the Red Sox pick up Chris Sale's $15 million club option for 2019, which they likely will, and David Price doesn't opt out of the four years and $127 million remaining on his contract, they still have a number of important players hitting free agency. Kimbrel is the biggest name among them, though it's unclear if Boston will be willing to hand out a big contract for a player who regressed some from '17 to '18 and was shaky in the playoffs. The Red Sox will probably look to re-sign Eovaldi, who excelled after joining the club in a July trade (3.33 ERA, 2.88 FIP).

New York Yankees
Key free agents: LHP Zach Britton, OF Brett Gardner (club option), LHP J.A. Happ, SS Adeiny Hechavarria, RHP Lance Lynn, OF Andrew McCutchen, RHP David Robertson, LHP CC Sabathia, 2B/OF Neil Walker

The Yankees have a busy offseason ahead of them, especially on the pitching side of the ledger. Even if prospect Justus Sheffield is ready to claim a rotation spot behind Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka, that still leaves two open starting jobs. Meanwhile, the Yankees' vaunted bullpen could lose two key pieces in Robertson and Britton. Gardner was New York's longest-tenured player in 2018, but the club may pass on his $12.5 million club option ($2 million buyout) after the veteran outfielder posted a .690 OPS this past season.

Tampa Bay Rays
Key free agents: OF Carlos Gomez, RHP Sergio Romo

Romo was an integral member of the Rays' pitching staff for much of the 2018 season, racking up 25 saves and making five appearances as an "opener." However, he recorded a 10.00 ERA in September and will be 36 years old on Opening Day in '19. The cost-conscious Rays may opt to move on and give an opportunity to a younger alternative. As for Gomez, the veteran outfielder is unlikely to be back after posting a .634 OPS over 118 games in 2018.

Toronto Blue Jays
Key free agents: RHP Tyler Clippard, RHP Marco Estrada, 1B Justin Smoak (club option), INF Yangervis Solarte (club option)

Much like Baltimore, Toronto dealt many impending free agents during the 2018 season, including Josh Donaldson, J.A. Happ, Steve Pearce, Curtis Granderson and John Axford. With Rowdy Tellez looking ready for an expanded role at first base, the Jays could pick up Smoak's reasonable $8 million club option and then trade the veteran this offseason. Estrada is likely gone after recording a 5.27 ERA with a 4.97 FIP in 61 starts over the past two years, as the Blue Jays can likely get similar production from a younger and cheaper pitcher.

AL CENTRAL

Chicago White Sox
Key free agents: RHP Jeanmar Gomez, RHP Miguel Gonzalez, RHP Nate Jones (club option), LHP Hector Santiago, RHP James Shields (club option)

The White Sox are close to emerging from their rebuild, and the club could look for more pitching help this offseason, since Michael Kopech is now sidelined for 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. They have a $4.65 million option for Jones that they could exercise, but it seems unlikely that they'd exercise Shields' $16 million club option.

Cleveland Indians
Key free agents: RHP Cody Allen, OF Michael Brantley, OF Melky Cabrera, RHP Carlos Carrasco (club option), OF Lonnie Chisenhall, OF Rajai Davis, 3B Josh Donaldson, OF Brandon Guyer (club option), LHP Andrew Miller, LHP Oliver Perez, IF Adam Rosales, RHP Josh Tomlin

Miller headlines a productive crop of prospective free agents departing Cleveland this season, with outfield and the bullpen being the two areas that stand to be hit hardest by the departures. Allen, Brantley and Miller are eligible for the $17.9 million qualifying offer. The Indians do have some security in the bullpen with midseason acquisitions Brad Hand and Adam Cimber both controllable for several more seasons, but bolstering the relief corps will be an offseason priority for the Tribe, who got subpar seasons from both Allen and Miller in 2018. Outfield is also an area of need, especially if Brantley departs, with no clear-cut starter at any of the three spots entering the offseason.

Detroit Tigers
Key free agents: SS Jose Iglesias, LHP Francisco Liriano, C Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Iglesias, Liriano and the retiring Victor Martinez are the key departures for the rebuilding Tigers, who also dealt impending free agent Mike Fiers to the A's in August. The Tigers will likely be in the market for a shortstop, as they don't have an immediate heir lined up in the event of Iglesias' departure, and will likely look to add to the rotation.

Kansas City Royals
Key free agents: SS Alcides Escobar, RHP Jason Hammel (mutual option), RHP Wily Peralta (club option)

After trading Jon Jay, Lucas Duda, Kelvin Herrera and Mike Moustakas this season, the Royals figure to let Escobar walk, as Adalberto Mondesi is now their starting shortstop. The Royals will almost certainly pay a $2 million buyout to get Hammel off the books instead of exercising his $12 million mutual option for 2019, but they could bring back Peralta, their closer, on a cheaper $3 million team option, especially since they'll likely be looking for bullpen help this offseason.

Minnesota Twins
Key free agents: RHP Matt Belisle, 2B Logan Forsythe, C Chris Gimenez, 1B/DH Joe Mauer, 1B/DH Logan Morrison (club option), RHP Ervin Santana (club option)

The most pressing offseason question for the Twins will be at first base with the possible departure of Mauer to either free agency or retirement and Morrison's disappointing performance in 2018, after which the Twins are not expected to pick up his $8 million option for 2019. The departures of Forsythe, Brian Dozier (traded to Dodgers) and Eduardo Escobar (traded to D-backs) also leave openings in the middle infield for the Twins. The Twins need lots of help in the bullpen and could always use more starting depth, with Santana's option unlikely to be picked up.

AL WEST
Los Angeles Angels
Key free agents: RHP Jim Johnson, RHP Garrett Richards, RHP Junichi Tazawa, OF Chris Young, OF Eric Young Jr., RHP Blake Wood

The Angels will retain much of their core. Johnson will likely draw interest on the open market for clubs in need of dependable bullpen arms. Richards pitched well in 16 starts this season, but will be out of action until 2020 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Young also suffered a season-ending injury (labral tears in both hips) but is expected to be ready for Spring Training.

Houston Astros
Key free agents: DH Evan Gattis, UTIL Marwin Gonzalez, LHP Dallas Keuchel, C Martin Maldonado, RHP Charlie Morton, LHP Tony Sipp

Keuchel figures to be one of the most sought-after starting pitchers on the market this winter. The 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner has spent his entire career with the Astros, but could anchor another team's staff in 2019. Morton also figures to draw considerable interest coming off his first All-Star season at age 34. Maldonado will be part of a deep class of veteran backstops.

Oakland A's
Key free agents: LHP Brett Anderson, RHP Trevor Cahill, RHP Jeurys Familia, RHP Edwin Jackson, OF Matt Joyce, 2B Jed Lowrie, C Jonathan Lucroy

The A's looming free agents are headlined by a pair of veterans in Lucroy and Lowrie. Lucroy is more likely to return with Franklin Barreto ready to take over as Oakland's everyday second baseman. Joyce is likely the odd man out in a crowded A's outfield. It's unclear if the A's will try to retain any of their veteran starting pitchers.

Seattle Mariners
Key free agents: 2B Gordon Beckham, DH Nelson Cruz, LHP Zach Duke, RHP Hisashi Iwakuma, OF Cameron Maybin, RHP David Phelps, UTIL Andrew Romine, OF Denard Span (mutual option), RHP Adam Warren

Cruz represents the biggest free agent choice for the Mariners this winter. Both sides have expressed interest in a reunion, but Seattle must decide whether it wants to commit to a multi-year deal with the 38-year-old slugger or utilize that money elsewhere, with needs on the pitching staff and in center field. Span has a $12 million mutual option with a $4 million buyout. Iwakuma left the Mariners in September to pursue pitching opportunities in Japan.

Texas Rangers
Key free agents: SS Elvis Andrus (can opt out of his contract), 3B Adrian Beltre, C Robinson Chirinos (club option), RHP Bartolo Colon, RHP Doug Fister (club option), RHP Yovani Gallardo, LHP Matt Moore (club option), LHP Martin Perez (club option)

The Rangers are awaiting Beltre's decision on his baseball future, and if the third baseman opts to continue playing, they could re-sign him. Andrus could opt out of his contract, leaving four years and $58 million on the table, but is more likely to stay put. The Rangers will likely pick up Chirinos' option, and decline their options on Moore and Fister. Perez's option is for $7.5 million and it remains to be seen what Texas will do with the left-hander coming off a down year. Colon and Gallardo aren't expected to return.

Thomas Harrigan is an editor for MLB.com.

Do-Hyoung Park is a reporter for MLB.com based in the Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark.

Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.