Cubs Renew Contracts of 21 Players and Other News Bits

The Cubs announced Monday that they reached agreement on contracts for all of their 21 pre-arbitration eligible players (0-3 men, automatic renewal) for the upcoming season. Five of the 21 players will receive more than the Major League minimum of $490,000 for the 2013 season.

Travis Wood ($537,000), Anthony Rizzo ($498,000), Darwin Barney ($562,000), Welington Castillo ($503,000) and Michael Bowden ($509,500) will be paid more than the big league minimum while Brooks Raley, Chris Rusin, Alberto Cabrera, Rafael Dolis, Trey McNutt, Hector Rondon, Arodys Vizcaino, Robert Whitenack, Junior Lake, Christian Villanueva, Josh Vitters, Logan Watkins, Brett Jackson, Dave Sappelt, Matt Szczur and Steve Clevenger will receive $490,000 if they are in the majors.

Dale Sveum said on Monday that the first round of spring roster cuts will likely be made on Friday. The Cubs spring roster currently stands at 62 players.

Justin Piper

The team announced Monday that they hired Justin Piper as General Manager, Mesa Spring Training Operations. Piper will report to Mark McGuire, executive vice president of Business Operations.

According to the press release, Piper will oversee all business activity at the Cubs new Spring Training Facility, including sales, marking, facility operations and community affairs.

Piper was with the Reno Aces, Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, prior to taking the job with the Cubs.

The Cubs new facility is scheduled to open in November.

CubsSpringTrainingFacility

Brett Jackson

Keith Law broke down Brett Jackson’s new swing. Law is not sure if the change will help Brett Jackson make contact and cut down on the strikeouts.

Keith Law from ESPN.com

“Jackson used to have a very short stride without much of a load, and his hands, which have always been quick, would always seem to start forward from a different position. Now, he’s definitely more consistent, starting from a consistent spot with a slightly deeper load, but his stride is very long, leaving him with a wide base before he even gets his hands started, and producing a swing that looks unnaturally long for him. The stride doesn’t get his weight transfer started early enough, and he tends to roll that front foot over through contact. Everything we liked about Jackson before, from the speed to the athleticism to the bat speed to the arm, is still present, but I wish I could tell you I thought this new swing would solve his contact problems.”

Starlin Castro

The Cubs are being very careful with Starlin Castro. While multiple reports have stated that Castro’s injury would not be keeping him out of games if this was the regular season, the Cubs announced on Monday that Castro will not play in another Cactus League game until the weekend, or possibly Monday.

Dale Sveum reiterated that nothing is wrong with Castro and pointed out that he took full batting practice on Monday. Sveum said with all of the games left on the Cactus League schedule (28 remain on the schedule after Monday) that there is plenty of time for Castro to prepare for Opening Day.

Cubs News Bits

Jeff Samardzija will not make the trip to Surprise on Wednesday to face the Texas Rangers. Samardzija will stay in Mesa instead and make his scheduled start in a minor league game at Fitch Park. Hisanori Takahashi will start Wednesday’s game, in what appears to be a scheduled bullpen day.

According to the Tribune, the Cubs are looking to stretch out Hisanori Takahashi. The veteran lefty has a good shot of making the team out of camp and the team thinks he could be used as a long reliever.

Terry Francona believes Theo Epstein hired the right guy in Dale Sveum.

According to the Sun-Times, keep an eye on Brian Bogusevic. Bogusevic is off to a hot start this spring and is still flying under the radar.

Carlos Villanueva is ready to start according to a report from Carrie Muskat.

FanGraphs asked … Is Jorge Soler baseball’s next big prospect?

Scott Baker threw his third live BP session on Monday. The next step in Baker’s rehab is a simulated game. If all goes well with the simulated game this week, the next step for Baker would be pitching in a Cactus League game. Reports have suggested that Baker could make his Cubs’ debut in mid-April.

As it stands now with Matt Garza and Scott Baker expected to begin the year on DL, Drew Carpenter is the Cubs’ sixth starter according to a report from Comcast SportsNet. Alberto Cabrera will begin the year in Iowa’s rotation along with Brooks Raley and possibly Chris Rusin.

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