Countdown to Opening Night: 5 days
The Cubs’ brass made the announcements most were waiting for Monday when the team optioned INF Javier Baez to Triple-A Iowa and re-assigned 3B/OF Kris Bryant and SS Addison Russell to minor league camp. The trio will spend a lot of time in Iowa’s infield over the next few weeks.
Kris Bryant will likely be the first of the three in big leagues. And Addison Russell is expected to contribute in the majors at some point this season. If Javier Baez struggles making the adjustments at the plate, reports suggested Russell could make his debut before Baez is back in the bigs.
The first day Javier Baez can be recalled is April 15, that is the date a player on an optional assignment can be brought up (11th day of the season).
Theo Epstein told the beat writers, “I could probably be in this game a long time and could not send down three players that talented in the same day ever again.”
Kris Bryant is expected to see time at third base and in the outfield while he’s with the Iowa Cubs. Bryant is all but ready, according to the Cubs, just “a couple of areas to improve a little bit.”
Epstein explained Monday the Cubs are more likely to call up Bryant “sooner than later at this point” considering “how he’s playing and how close he showed he is to the majors.” Epstein pointed out Kris Bryant will play “an important role on the team.”
Addison Russell had an excellent camp. Russell produced at the plate and showed why scouts rave about his defense. Joe Maddon said he could not tell Russell one thing he needed to work on in the minors, “just keep doing what you’re doing” is what his soon-to-be manager told him.
There was reportedly a healthy debate about whether or not to keep Javier Baez on the big league roster or option him out. The opinions varied and Theo Epstein pointed out that “in a healthy organization there should be different opinions expressed.” In the end the Cubs’ brass agreed it was best for Baez’s development to send him to Triple-A.
Maddon said Baez is “the most accomplished 22-year old” he’s ever been around. And Baez knows he has to get better offensively.
Cubs Opening Day Roster
According to multiple reports, the Cubs first roster of the season is all but set after Monday’s roster moves.
The Cubs are expected to begin the season with a 12-man pitching staff. After the five starters (Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel, Travis Wood and Kyle Hendricks), the seven-man bullpen is expected to be Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, Neil Ramirez, Justin Grimm, Jason Motte, Phil Coke and Edwin Jackson.
ESPN Chicago reported that Mike Olt, Tommy La Stella and Arismendy Alcantara have made the roster. Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, Miguel Montero and David Ross were already locked in and the Cubs are expected to begin the season with Welington Castillo on the roster.
Beyond Dexter Fowler, Jorge Soler and Chris Coghlan in the outfield, ESPN Chicago indicated Ryan Sweeney made the team. And depending on Chris Denorfia, the Cubs will begin the year with either Matt Szczur or Junior Lake on the bench.
Chris Denorfia hasn’t ruled out Opening Day yet. Denorfia took practice Monday. According to Carrie Muskat, Denorfia “doesn’t want to speculate about whether he’ll be ready for Opening Day.” Denorfia is expected to play in a Minor League game by Wednesday.
Jonathan Herrera has not been ruled out, but there may not be room on the roster or a need for Herrera with Alcantara, who can play all the same positions plus center and left field.
Deadline for all 30 teams to set their Opening Day rosters is Sunday at 2:00pm CDT (3:00pm ET).
The Cubs have scheduled a conference call for Tuesday to provide an update on Wrigley and what fans can expect on Opening Night … make sure to check back for a full report.
Work continued on the old ballyard Monday … and installation of the panels for the video started Monday afternoon.
No Trades for the Cubs?
According to multiple reports, Theo Epstein is not expecting to make any big moves or trades before Opening Night. The Cubs are set to begin the season with three catchers on the roster.
Teams have called the Cubs about Welington Castillo, but the front office has not heard an offer that makes them want to part with Castillo yet.
Theo Epstein would not rule out “small trade possibilities” or “the waiver wire for certain spots.”
According to Joe Frisaro and Clark Spencer, LHP Andrew McKirahan did not make the Marlins team out of Spring Training.
Miami selected McKirahan from the Cubs in the Rule 5 Draft. McKirahan appeared in seven games for the Marlins this spring and reportedly isn’t ready for the big leagues.
The Marlins placed the lefty on waivers once he clears he will be offered back to the Cubs. There is a chance he could be picked up and if he is, the same Rule 5 rules apply.
Andrew McKirahan should return to the Cubs’ organization soon.
News, Notes and Rumors
• According to Carrie Muskat, Travis Wood and Kyle Hendricks will likely pitch in Saturday’s game at Chase Field, the team’s last exhibition game of the spring. Edwin Jackson is scheduled to start Friday night. The Cubs are leaving Arizona for Chicago on Saturday morning, but Wood and Hendricks will stay behind for the spring finale.
• Cubs’ prospect, OF Eloy Jimenez hired Beverly Hills Sports Council to represent him according to Jon Heyman.
• In former Cubs’ news … the Reds released LHP Paul Maholm. And it was a busy Monday for Reed Johnson. The Marlins released him and Johnson turned around and signed a minor league contract with the Nationals. Johnson received a very late non-roster invite to Nationals’ camp.
• Joe Maddon called Arismendy Alcantara “a beautiful man” Monday because of his versatility according to Jesse Rogers. Alcantara has played second, third, short, left and center field this spring. And Alcantara has a .256/.313/.442 line in 16 games with a double, two home runs, four walks and 16 strikeouts for a .754 OPS.
• There are no hard feelings between the Cubs and Scott Boras over the Kris Bryant situation according to Comcast SportsNet.
• According to Todd Zolecki, Ruben Amaro Jr. said Monday the Phillies “are looking outside the organization for a No. 5 starter, but if they find somebody it will be a minor deal.”
And last, but not least, the Cubs #LetsGo hashtag has been applied to the Wrigley Field marquee.
This Day In Cubstory
2014 – The Cubs became the first team to use expanded instant replay in a game. Manager Rick Renteria challenged the umpire’s decision on calling Jeff Samardzija out on a close play at first base. Replay confirmed the call.
2012 – Cubs released Bobby Scales
2008 – The Cubs unveiled a statue outside of Wrigley Field honoring Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks.
2008 – Cubs signed free agent Mike Burns
2007 – Cubs released Val Pascucci
2006 – A three team trade between the Cubs, Athletics and Rangers landed Freddie Bynum with the Cubs. The A’s sent John Rheinecker to the Rangers. Oakland sent Freddie Bynum to the Cubs. The Rangers sent Juan Dominguez to the Athletics and the Cubs sent John Koronka and cash to Texas.
2005 – Cubs released Dave Hansen
2004 – Cubs signed amateur free agent Raul Valdes
1999 – Cubs purchased Dan Serafini from the Twins
1999 – Cubs selected Brad Woodall off waivers from the Brewers
1997 – Reds traded Curt Lyons to the Cubs for Jay Peterson and Ozzie Timmons
1992 – Cubs released Les Lancaster
1988 – Cubs signed free agent Angel Salazar
1988 – Cubs traded Mike Curtis to the Pirates for Mike Bielecki
1986 – Cubs released Reggie Patterson and Gary Woods
1984 – Cubs traded Alan Hargesheimer to the Royals for Derek Botelho and Don Warner
1972 – Cubs traded Ray Newman to the Brewers for Odis McCowan and Floyd Weaver
1970 – Tim Cossins, born
1961 – Cubs traded Moe Drabowsky and Seth Moreland to the Brewers for Daryl Robertson and Andre Rodgers
1946 – Gonzalo Marquez, born
1938 – John Herrnstein, born
1935 – Cubs purchased Kirby Higbe from Atlanta in the Southern Association
1882 – Big John Pfeffer, born