Cubs’ pitchers and catchers will take to the practice fields at the facility in Mesa one week from today. The first official on-field workouts of the spring are scheduled to take place Feb. 20, and the forecast is calling for a high in the low 80s, yes baseball is just around the corner.
Joe Maddon will get his first look at the pitchers and catchers that will comprise the Cubs’ Opening Day Roster, along with several of the top prospects in the system such as C.J. Edwards, Pierce Johnson, Armando Rivero and Kyle Schwarber.
Unlike the last three springs, there will be a lot of competition this year for the few remaining spots on the roster. Several players begin camp on the bubble not only with making the roster, but in some cases staying in the organization.
According to a report from Jeff Passan, Major League Baseball is considering changing the strike zone for the first time since 1996.
MLB is “fearful that the proliferation of the low strike as sapped too much offense from the game.” Passan explained, “Concern around baseball about the strike zone filtered down to the MLB’s Playing Rules Committee, which must formally adopt a rules change before it’s implemented.”
The strike zone will be a point of focus for the committee throughout the upcoming season. If the committee finds the strike zone has “expanded significantly since 2009” there could be changes as soon as 2016.
“Runs per game fell to 4.07 in 2014, the lowest mark since 1981, and the 13th fewest since World War II, and studies from The Hardball Times’ Jon Roegel and Florida professor Brian Mills pegged the low strike as a significant culprit.”
In an interview Thursday on The Mighty 1090 in San Diego, James Shields said his decision came down to the Cubs and Padres. The Cubs made a late-push to sign Shields and reportedly offered him a three-year, $60 million contract that included a vesting option for a fourth season.
Shields lives in San Diego, about 20 minutes from Petco Park, and said he chose the Padres over the Cubs.
Shields explained his number one reason for picking the Padres was winning and of the teams he was considering he said he knows “we are going to win and win now.” Shields complemented Padres ownership and management and feels they “have the win-now mentality.”
James Shields received a four-year, $75 million contract with a club option for a fifth season worth $16 million. Multiple reports have indicated the Padres were the only one of the teams interested in Shields willing to give a four guaranteed years.
Shields’ contract contains an opt out after two years according to Ken Rosenthal. If he opts out, he would lose $21 million in 2017-18 (total of $42 million for the two seasons) plus the $2 million buyout on the $16 million option for 2019.
Ken Rosenthal talked to Shields’ agent, Page Odle, who told Rosenthal that he never rejected a five-year, $110 million offer as was reported. And Shields never demanded a five-year contract.
News, Notes and Rumors
According to a report from Ken Rosenthal, Yoan Moncada worked out for the Dodgers and several other teams Thursday in Clearwater, Florida. Rosenthal did not say who the other clubs were. The Phillies train in Clearwater and are rumored to be interested in Moncada. The Cubs were expected to attend the same workout as the Dodgers. It is unknown if the Cubs were represented at Thursday’s workout.
And speaking of Yoan Moncada, the Red Sox and Yankees could up in a bidding war for him according to a report from WEEI.com.
Anthony Castrovince ranked 10 teams he thinks are the best in the baseball with Spring Training set to begin, and honorable mentions went to the Pirates, Blue Jays, Indians, White Sox and A’s. Castrovince’s top 10: 10) Royals 9) Mariners 8) Red Sox 7) Orioles 6) Giants 5) Angels 4) Tigers 3) Cardinals 2) Dodgers 1) Nationals
Baseball Prospectus’ Rob Arthur examined how Jonathan Lucroy makes batters swing at bad pitches.
According to Jon Paul Morosi, MLB and the MLBPA are making progress on possible pace-of-play rule tweaks for the 2015 season.
Former Cubs lefty reliever James Russell was expected to compete for a spot in the Braves’ rotation this spring. David O’Brien reported Thursday the Braves have shelved the idea of Russell in a starting role. Russell will be one of the lefties in Atlanta’s bullpen.
There are plenty of new faces on the Cubs roster according to Carrie Muskat.
USA Today posted a list of burning questions for every MLB team heading into 2015.
And last, but not least, a reminder to vote in the reader’s poll →
This Day In Cubstory
2014 – Cubs signed free agent Jason Hammel
2014 – Cubs signed free agent James McDonald
2007 – Cubs signed amateur free agent Junior Lake
2007 – Cubs traded Jae Kuk Ryu to the Devil Rays for Andrew Lopez and Greg Reinhard
2002 – Cubs signed free agents Phil Norton and Donovan Osbourne
1995 – Cubs signed free agent Manny Martinez
1987 – Ryan Buchter, born
1954 – Donnie Moore, born
1915 – Cubs released Tommy Leach, Charlie Smith, Eddie Stack and Bill Sweeney
1914 – Cubs traded Johnny Evers to the Braves for Bill Sweeney
1908 – Gilly Campbell, born
1878 – Bill Bradley, born