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luis valbuena featureMorning baseball later today, with the Cubs and Marlins concluding their series before noon Central Time.

  • Jason Hammel, whom the Cubs signed to a one-year, $6 million deal in the offseason, tells Cubs.com that he’s still able to ignore the absurd swirl of trade rumors. And he says something sad but true: “I knew about it coming in. It came with the territory and I understand that. I wouldn’t sign here if I wasn’t capable of dealing with it.” Hammel is no dope – just as it was easy for all of the media and fan world to see Hammel as a commodity brought in to be traded mid-season, Hammel came into things with his eyes wide open.
  • I really do love Carlos Villanueva. From the thoughtful quotes to the occasional stache to the swing ability, I just like the guy. He recently declined to comment about that swinging ability when asked by the Tribune – no, not because he doesn’t want to talk about rumors or because he doesn’t like relieving … it’s because he didn’t want to jinx the bullpen’s recent success by talking about it. Like Carlos Pena before him, I’m going to miss reading about Villanueva when he’s gone, setting aside the baseball stuff. And, on the baseball stuff: despite the early struggles, he’s got a 3.75 FIP and a 2.82 K/BB on the year. Really not all that bad. (Insert trade speculation on the impending free agent, who makes just $5 million this year.)
  • I didn’t give appropriate love here for the catch Ryan Sweeney made in center field the other night, mostly because I was so distracted by that crazy Giancarlo Stanton homer. But here’s Sweeney’s Willie Mays impression:

  • The catch was so smooth that Adeiny Hechavarria (who’s been killing it this series, hasn’t he?) didn’t believe that Sweeney caught the ball. Sweeney’s numbers are still down after an ugly start to the year, and then that hamstring injury (but a 23% line drive rate and .213 BABIP suggest he’s been very unlucky), but he remains, in my mind, one of the better fourth outfielders in baseball. The Cubs have him under team control through 2016 at a pretty reasonable rate, and I’m happy about that.
  • Speaking of guys about whom I’m glad the Cubs still have two years of control, Luis Valbuena continues to do silly good things. I wrote about his awesomeness last week, but the guy just keeps raking. Since May 13 (ok, ok, arbitrary endpoint), he’s posting a .367/.436/.592 line, a 10.9% BB rate, a 19.1% K rate, a .446(!) wOBA, and a 184 wRC+. Obviously his .446 BABIP is inflating things, but he does have a huge 25.3% line drive rate over that span. Couple that with excellent defense at third and solid defense at second, and even if he regresses at the plate, he’s just such a valuable player. Valbuena won’t be an All-Star, but he’s absolutely having an All-Star season.
  • Also, this:

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