Finally. After a wild winter of major off field, and on field, news surrounding major league baseball, camp has finally gotten under way. Yesterday pitchers and catchers needed to report to Cubs spring training in Mesa, AZ, and by all reports everybody that was supposed to show up, did. Always a good way to start the season.
With everything that was going on surrounding free agents, cheating, new rules, and a crazy playoff proposal, it seemed like the Cubs had nothing much going on themselves, but it was actually a busier winter then you might think.
The biggest news came early when the Cubs parted ways with world series winning manager Joe Maddon, and replaced him with former catcher David Ross. I think David Ross made a great broadcaster, but I'm withholding an opinion on his mangerial prowess until we are at least into April. I want to give him a chance and not rush to judgement.
As for the real news, seventeen players on last years 40 man roster are no longer a part of team Theo. I'm not going to name them all, but if you need to know who they are, you can go to the Cubs website, ( https://www.mlb.com/cubs/ ) and click on roster, transactions, and go month by month from October to February and see who left.
The key losses include, Nicholas Castellanos, Pedro Strop, Steve Cishek, Addison Russell, and Cole Hamels. Ben Zobrist has apparently retired and gone into the witness protection system as he has disappeared from view. The Cubs also signed Travis Lakins and then ten days later released him outright.
Key signings, of which the full list can be found at the same place as above, included Jharel Cotton who they traded Oakland with for cash, Jason Kipnis, Danny Hultzen, Steven Souza, Jr., and Jeremy Jeffress. They also resigned Brandon Morrow for some reason. Believe me, of the eighteen signings, these were the "names". I know I feel good going into 2020.
The biggest Cubs story all winter was the mediation of Kris Bryant's service time complaint that was finally decided, after it was too late for the Cubs to trade him, in favor of the Cubs. This decision was a shock to no one except Bryant's agent Scott Boras, and about 500 people on social media who call themselves baseball fans but apparently don't understand the rules. This was never in doubt, it is one of the tenets in the collective bargaining agreement, and anyone in baseball knew he would never win this.
Next came the reports that he was livid and was demanding the Cubs trade him. I'm not sure where this came from because he has maintained, whenever asked, that he would like to be a Cub for life. Immediately and daily, there have been reports of him being traded to Colorado for, supposedly likewise upset, Nolan Arenado. Not going to happen. Other trades are to the Nats, to the Braves, to Texas, and to several other teams. all of them are not going to happen anytime soon. If the Cubs are 30 games out by the trade deadline, start the rumors then.
(BREAKING NEWS - According to several sources this trade possibility is still alive. Read the story from CSN Chicago here - https://www.nbcsports.com/chicago/cubs/cubs-are-absolutely-motivated-acquire-nolan-arenado-colorado-rockies )
Additionally, Jose Quintana, Javier Baez, Ian Happ, Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora, and Willson Contreras are all being shopped by the Cubs, according to "sources". Some of these guys may go by the end of camp, but it would need to be for a significant trade deal that the Cubs cannot pass up, and I don't see it happening.
So with all the comings and goings, who will be playing where and where is the competition going to be this spring?
Unless there is an injury the starting rotation is 4/5 set. Jon Lester, Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks, and Jose Quintana are locks for the first four slots. The fifth slot will be fought out by Tyler Chatwood, Alec Mills, Jharel Cotton, and Adbert Alzolay. Chatwood and Mills are the frontrunners right now but this remains an open question until further notice.
You can lock in Bryant at third, Baez at short, Contreras behind the plate, and Rizzo at first. Second base will likely go to either Kipnis, or David Bote, and if either of them start the season like Daniel Descalso did last year, look for Nico Hoerner to get recalled fast. So the infield is pretty well set. Again, baring trades or injuries.
The outfield is still a mess. Jason Heyward is likely going to be the right fielder unless someone begs the Cubs to trade him, which they would L-O-V-E. Kyle Schwarber or Steven Souza will be in left field, again, unless someone begs the Cubs for Schwarber, which they also would L-O-V-E. Centerfield looks like a competition between Ian Happ and Albert Almora, to start, and then anyone they can pick-up as cuts happen will join the fray. Whichever of the two don't start look for them to be released or traded by camps end.
The bullpen would take an hour to recap so we'll wait until later in camp to see who is left standing here. There are no locks right now for the bullpen.
Time to dust off your baseball gear and mindset my friends. Next time I will break down the Cubs off field news, including the Marquee Network. I will also update you on changes in MLB, cheating, and any other new stories around baseball that happen. Finally we will look at the rest of the division and what to expect from them.