Countdown to Pitchers and Catchers Reporting to Mesa: 7 days
The Cubs spent the off-season in the headlines. From the hiring to Joe Maddon to the signings of Jon Lester and Jason Hammel to trading for Miguel Montero and Dexter Fowler and the numerous other moves, the front office made significant changes to the big league team with one goal in mind, to shift the focus to winning at the big league level.
Most in the game feel the Cubs will be one of the most improved teams during the upcoming season even with the questions about how the young position players will perform in the majors.
The work really begins for Joe Maddon and his staff next week when pitchers and catchers have their first official workouts of the spring. Maddon has the task of turning the group of players Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have assembled into a team and translate the off-season accolades into wins on the field.
The various projection systems have the Cubs improving its win total from a year ago by 5-12 victories (73-89 in 2014) which on the high end could keep the team in the thick of the NL Central for a majority of the season.
ESPN has been releasing its pre-Spring Training power rankings and according to David Schoenfield, the Cubs are the 13th best team in baseball a week before camps open across the league. Schoenfield is predicting an 84-78 record for the Cubs in 2015. And he said if he had more guts and the Cubs weren’t in the same division as the Cardinals and Pirates, he would pick them to win the division.
A lot has to go the Cubs way for the team to reach the goal that Anthony Rizzo set as Jesse Rogers pointed out. Most feel the Cubs are a year away from truly being contenders for a division title. Consistency could be an issue for the Cubs this season. One day the young roster could look unbeatable, the next like they’ve not played the game before. But with Joe Maddon calling the shots and the talent the team has on paper, the 2015 version of the Chicago Cubs figures to be anything but boring.
Jon Paul Morosi and Jon Heyman reported last week (Feb. 3-4) that the Cubs signed veteran lefty reliever Pedro Feliciano to a minor league contract. Morosi said the deal was close and Heyman reported the deal was done. Both of the national reporters had the same terms (one-year, minor league contract worth $700,000 if on the big league roster with incentives) and said he received a non-roster invite to Spring Training.
The Cubs have not announced signing Feliciano to a minor league contract and he was not included on the list of players that was released last Friday that received NRIs to camp.
News, Notes and Rumors
Ken Rosenthal obtained the details on the four-year, $75 million contract James Shields inked with the Padres. Shields will be paid $10 million this season (2015) and $63 million over the last three years (2016-18, $21 million per year). There is a $2 million buyout on the $16 million club option for the 2019 season. Shields did not receive a no-trade clause.
And speaking of James Shields, Bernie Miklasz thinks the Shields’ deal with the Padres could benefit the Cardinals. Not only did the Cubs not end up adding him to their rotation, but with San Diego no longer viewed as an option for Cole Hamels, the Cardinals might be able to acquire him.
Jake Arrieta’s wife is his biggest critic according to Comcast SportsNet.
The Diamondbacks were interested in Welington Castillo after dealing Miguel Montero to the Cubs at the Winter Meetings. After talking to teams about acquiring a catcher and not wanting to part with players it would take to add an everyday catcher, Dave Stewart backed off and is going with what he has on the roster. Arizona’s plan is to start the season with Tuffy Gosewisch as their starting catcher and there are questions abound behind the dish for the D-Backs according to Jack Magruder.
According to Jon Paul Morosi, Major League Baseball and the Players Association are still discussing ways to improve the pace of the game and changes that could be made for the upcoming season. Rob Manfred and Joe Torre are scheduled to address the media in Arizona on Feb. 23. The plan is to have changes finalized and announce any rule changes on that date.
With a majority of the prospect ranking season in the rearview mirror, Rob Neyer took a look at the prospects we know and the prospects we don’t. And how hard it is to know which prospects will succeed and which one won’t.
College baseball is changing the ball this year to boost offense according to a report from Hardball Talk.
Fans attending Spring Training in Arizona can score big with packages from Marriott Hotels.
Joe Maddon is one of the 15 most intriguing people in baseball going into Spring Training according to Tim Brown.
The Phillies continue to have trouble dealing Jonathan Papelbon according to Ken Rosenthal. Ruben Amaro Jr. will not eat any money, expects a top prospect in return and basically is not budging. One proposal discussed was the Brewers sending Jonathan Broxton to Philadelphia for Papelbon “as a way to balance the finances.”
For those that may have missed the Matt Szczur story … this is a must see video
This Day In Cubstory
2003 – Federal Judge James Holderman gave the Cubs and the owners of the rooftop buildings a year to settle their dispute. The Cubs believed the seating provided on the roofs across from Wrigley directly competed with the team for ticket sales and the neighborhood in turn had not been sympathetic to the Cubs expansion plans for Wrigley Field.
1988 – Cubs acquired Rich Gossage and Ray Hayward from the Padres for Mike Brumley and Keith Moreland
1966 – Jeff Pico, born
1955 – Gene Krug, born
1949 – Lenny Randle, born
1926 – Joe Garagiola, born
1918 – Monk Dubiel, born
1912 – Cubs traded Peaches Graham to the Phillies for James Ward and Dick Cotter
1901 – Virgil Cheeves, born
1895 – Sweetbread Bailey, born
1885 – Bill Mack, born