The Platoon Advantage and Other Cubs News on the Eve of Opening Day

The front office has constructed a balanced roster for Rick Renteria to start the season. The Cubs will begin the year with six left-handed bats, six right-handed bats and a switch hitter. And look for Renteria to mix and match his lineup often this season.

Jed Hoyer addressed the platoon advantage on Saturday morning during an interview on Inside the Clubhouse (670 The Score).

“I certainly think we will use a lot more platoons than we have in the past,” Hoyer said. “We felt like in the past we got pretty right-handed. I think last year we had about 55 percent of our plate appearances for the year were with the platoon advantage. That’s kinda middle of the road in baseball. I think the best was around 65 percent. It is certainly our hope is that we can move a little bit higher on that list and get to the point where we do have a platoon advantage in a lot more at bats. There are some guys that will play every day; certainly there are probably some positions where guys will have the ability to earn more every day play if they play really well in the platoon role.”

“I do think we can really benefit from being able to throw out a really left handed lineup against a good sinkerball guy or a very right-handed lineup against a good lefty,” Hoyer said. “I think that’s something we haven’t been able to do in the past. I think Ricky can do that this year and then also have the ability later in the game to go to his bench when the other team changes pitchers.”

The days of teams having a consistent everyday lineup appear to be a thing of the past. And in the National League, even players not in that day’s starting lineup seem to receive playing time on a daily basis.

Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo figure to be in the lineup every day and Mike Olt could be added to the list once he shows he can produce at the big league level against right handers and southpaws. Welington Castillo should also see a majority of the playing time as the front office is committed to him being the every day catcher, plus he hit .282/.353/.405 with 18 doubles and six home runs against righties last season.

With a few exceptions, Rick Renteria should run players in and out of his lineup on a daily basis. The lineup construction, and all of the different combinations, should be rather interesting to follow throughout the season, especially as veteran players are traded and prospects are promoted.

The Roster

The Cubs finalized their Opening Day roster and first 40-man roster for the season prior to Sunday’s deadline. Jake Arrieta and Kyuji Fujikawa were placed on the 15-day DL retroactive to March 21 and James McDonald was placed on the 60-day DL, retroactive to Feb. 13, to create space on the 40-man roster.

The team officially purchased the contracts of John Baker, Emilio Bonifacio, Ryan Kalish and Brian Schlitter from Triple-A Iowa, optioned Chris Rusin to Iowa and DFA’d Alberto Cabrera.

Jeff Samardzija

The Cubs and Jeff Samardzija have not made any progress on a contract extension. And according to Bruce Levine, the two sides have not discussed a possible long-term deal since December. Jeff Samardzija is scheduled to make his second straight Opening Day start on Monday.

Jeff Samardzija does not like the ‘R-word’ and has stated repeatedly this off-season that he is tired of losing and it is time for the team to win … and win now.

Teams like the Blue Jays, Braves, Diamondbacks and Nationals are thought to still be interested in trading for Samardzija. Patrick Mooney reported the Yankees don’t have the prospects to trade for Samardzija, the Nationals are not interested and the Rangers “won’t be so eager to jump into another short-term trade with the Cubs.”

If he stays healthy, it is almost a certainty that Samardzija will be traded by July, regardless of what the front office is saying. The Cubs have to be hoping Samardzija pitches the first two-plus months the way he has over the last two years when he has faced the better teams in the league and stepped up his game. Maximizing Samardzija on the trade market will speed up the building process despite what the front office has said publicly that the Cubs need more Jeff Samardzijas, not less.

Jed Hoyer

The Cubs’ general manager joined Bruce Levine and Wayne Randazzo during Inside the Clubhouse (670 The Score) on Saturday morning. Jed Hoyer discussed a variety of topics during the nearly 15-minute interview. Here are a few of the highlights and those that would like to hear the entire segment can click here for the audio.

On trade rumors surrounding Jeff Samardzija, Nate Schierholtz and the Tigers scouting the Cubs for nearly two weeks

“I think in general that teams have scouted us pretty heavily. I think in part because we have a lot of young talent. I think in part because there’s some players they think we might move,” Hoyer said. “But, I really didn’t detect that much more aggressive scouting towards the end of spring than usual. I didn’t really feel like the traffic of phone calls was any different. The way I’m looking at it is that we’re going into the season and I’m hoping that we get off to a great start. If that comes to fruition that is something we will deal with when it happens. But it is certainly not something I’ve detected to this point.”

On Jon Daniels’ public statement about the Matt Garza trade

“Listen, I’ve known Jon for a long time and we are pretty good friends. I was honestly surprised by his candor. People don’t usually say that. I actually take it as a sign of his security with his own job and his own performance,” Hoyer said. “I’m sure he looks back at his Mark Teixeira trade as really what changed his organization completely. We’ve got a long way to go to get to that point obviously. I think that the guys we traded for have very brief Major League tenures and to me I think there’s a long way to go before our side of that trade is kinda finalized. I understand what he is saying but I think we’ve got a ways to go to see what happens because none of these guys have really established themselves to this point.”

On what the realistic expectations are and how long it will take for the top prospects to produce once they are called up to the majors

“I think every guy is different. There is always the rare guy who comes up and never misses a beat. Then there are guys that have to go back down once and come back and figure it out. I think we’ve tried to do our best to have fans excited about our young players but also to temper the enthusiasm because it will happen,” Hoyer said. “Guys will come up, they will struggle and he won’t be the player he eventually will be right away. We know that and we expect that. I think we saw a little bit of that of Anthony Rizzo last year. Really excellent second half of 2012 and then the league adjusted to him and now I think the onus is back on him to make that adjustment. I think you see those kinds of ebbs and flows throughout most young player’s career. I think normally that with a veteran team those ebbs and flows are as noticed quite as much because people are focused on the other players. I think with us one of the challenges with what we are doing, and we openly admit it, I think the scrutiny on the young players, people are going to notice those early career ups and downs a little bit more. We have to do a good job of helping them adjust.”

News and Notes

Rick Renteria does not plan on making his Opening Day lineup public until Monday morning.

The Cubs posted their promotional schedule for the upcoming season.

MiLB.com thinks Jeimer Candelario will be the Cubs’ breakout prospect for the upcoming season while Mike Olt is at a crossroad in his career. Javier Baez is Major League-ready and Albert Almora, Kris Bryant and C.J. Edwards are three of the prospects to keep an eye on.

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Quote of the Day

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