The accolades for the Chicago Cubs kept rolling in Thursday from Buster Olney.
A day after the Cubs received top billing on Olney’s list of the best infields in the game, the group of outfielders received high praise from ESPN.
According to Buster Olney, the Cubs have the second best outfield in baseball, behind Andrew McCutchen and the Pirates.
Jason Heyward was added this off-season to Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler. The Cubs have a good fourth outfielder in Chris Coghlan and Ben Zobrist figures to see time in the outfield as well. Olney explained the Cubs were sure enough about Heyward and his defense to sign him to a record contract this winter. And the front office is confident Schwarber will produce at the plate while improving in the field.
The Cubs “are not quite sure what to make of Jorge Soler,” according to Olney, and that’s why “they’ve been reluctant to move him to date for less than what could turn out to be equal value.”
Olney thinks for as good a group as it is, there is still room for a center fielder, which would move Heyward back to right field.
Buster Olney’s top 10 outfields: Pirates, Cubs, Marlins, Red Sox, Yankees, Diamondbacks, Cardinals, Royals, Braves and Giants. Olney labeled the Rockies as “hard to place” and said the Nationals, Angels, Astros, Blue Jays and Rangers are the “best of the rest.”
One of the Cubs many storylines this spring will be the outfield defense. The improvements Schwarber and Soler made in the off-season, and how Joe Maddon is able to get the most out of Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward and Jorge Soler in the field.
Jake Arrieta spoke with the beat writers during a stop Thursday on the Cubs Caravan.
The reigning National League Cy Young Award winner acknowledged the Cubs should be the favorites to win the division with the additions of Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist and John Lackey. Arrieta knows the Cubs have a good team on paper, but the players have to perform on field and show they are the team to beat.
Arrieta fielded questions about his contract, both the one-year deal and the possibility of a long-term contract. As Comcast SportsNet pointed out, don’t bet on there being a surprise announcement during the Convention the Cubs have signed Arrieta to an extension.
It’s unlikely the Cubs will lock up Arrieta long-term, not with him coming off an historic second half, a Cy Young Award and with Scott Boras being his agent. Arrieta is under club control for two more seasons. And the front office is operating as this being a two-year window within the window to put the Cubs in the best position to reach the ultimate goal.
Jake Arrieta doesn’t think there will be a problem with getting the one-year contract done and avoiding arbitration. According to the Sun-Times, Arrieta said the “comparables are out there” and “both sides are pretty smart.” Arrieta knows each side would like to avoid drawing out the process and at least get the contract for the upcoming season taken care of as soon as possible.
According to the Tribune, “Arrieta resumed throwing earlier this month.” Arrieta said the goal is to increase his arm strength over the next four-five weeks. Arrieta indicated at that point he should be good to go.
Arrieta is anticipating a very good season and thinks it’s possible he could top his numbers from a year ago.
When asked about the possibility of signing a multi-year deal, Arrieta told the beat writers, “I don’t think it’s out of the question. I don’t know if it’s in the question either.”
“I’m going to be a Cub for the next two seasons, which I’m very excited about. And if it goes longer than that, then that would be nice, too.”
- Report from Comcast SportsNet
- Report from the Sun-Times
- Report from the Daily Herald
- Report from Bruce Levine
- Report from ESPN Chicago
The Cubs confirmed Thursday that Ryne Sandberg has rejoined the organization in an official capacity. Sandberg will be a Cubs ambassador with an announcement expected during opening ceremonies of the Convention.
According to the Sun-Times, Sandberg is not looking to manage again or be part of Joe Maddon’s coaching staff.
Details of Sandberg’s responsibilities in his new role with the Cubs will likely be included with the announcement.
Jason Heyward called into the MLB Network and discussed picking the Cubs over the Cardinals, playing center field and preparing for his first season in Chicago.
And according to the Sun-Times, Joe Maddon wonders if Jason Heyward can be the next Jim Edmonds in center field.
Friday is the deadline to exchange figures for salary arbitration players. The Cubs had nine players on the 40-man roster that were arbitration eligible for the upcoming season. LHP Rex Brothers and LHP Clayton Richard agreed to terms on contracts last month.
The Cubs have seven players (Jake Arrieta, Chris Coghlan, Justin Grimm, Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, Adam Warren, Travis Wood) remaining on the roster unsigned for next season. And multiple reports Thursday indicated six of the seven, including Jake Arrieta, could reach an agreement with the Cubs prior to today’s deadline. According to ESPN Chicago, Adam Warren is the only player he is hearing is unlikely to sign before the deadline. Warren and the Cubs will exchange salary figures and can still settle before an arbitration hearing takes place.
Check back throughout the day updates and reports will be posted as players agree to terms with the Cubs on contracts for next season.
News, Notes and Rumors
• David Haugh reported Ben Zobrist’s journey to Cubs is a family homecoming of sorts.
• The Cubs are ready to be targets in 2016 according to Jesse Rogers.
• Mark Gonzales talked to Kyle Schwarber. It doesn’t matter to him if he catches this season or if he’s in the outfield. Schwarber admitted, “I have to get better at both positions for me to continue on and help this team win.”
• Kyle Schwarber has defensive improvement on his mind according to ESPN Chicago.
• The Rays avoided arbitration with several players Thursday and Logan Forsythe is reportedly closing in on a multi-year contract. According to Jon Heyman, Desmond Jennings and the Rays settled on a one-year, $3.3 million contract for next season. Jake McGee received $4.8 million, Alex Cobb avoided arbitration with a $4 million deal and Brandon Guyer agreed to a $1.185 million contract. Logan Forsythe appears to have a two-year deal in place with the Rays that could pay him more than $9 million guaranteed and the contract includes a team option for a third year according to Chris Cotillo.
• The Padres search for a shortstop is over. Alexei Ramirez agreed to terms on a one-year contract with the Padres on Thursday. The deal is pending a physical. Terms of the contract have not leaked out yet.
• And speaking of the Padres, San Diego made three moves official Thursday and all three included former Cubs’ players. Carlos Villanueva was added to the roster after signing a one-year contract. The Padres announced purchasing LHP Ryan Butcher’s contract from Triple-A and adding him to the roster. The Padres released RHP Marco Mateo so he could pitch in Japan next season.
• LHP Rex Brothers will wear No. 50 with the Cubs.
• Ken Rosenthal explained why the Cardinals do not need to make a big move.
• Peter Gammons reported the Indians have not received any calls on their starting pitchers since Christmas.
• According to a report from Hardball Talk citing Ben Nicholson-Smith as its source, the Blue Jays are interested in Yovani Gallardo. The Jays have talked to Gallardo’s representatives as recently as this week.
• Roch Kubatko sent a shock-wave through baseball Thursday afternoon when he reported the Orioles had an offer on the table for Yoenis Cespedes. Kubatko said the Orioles preferred Cespedes to Justin Upton “at the moment.” Ken Rosenthal confirmed the Orioles made an offer to Cespedes. It’s unclear to Rosenthal if the Orioles are legitimately interested in Cespedes or if they are trying to force Chris Davis’ hand. Jerry Crasnick reported the Orioles are believed to be willing to sign Cespedes for five years in the $75-90 million range. Crasnick explained the Orioles “have grown increasingly frustrated with Chris Davis’ demands” and could be close to walking away from the slugger.
• Jordan Schafer is going to try his hand as a hybrid outfielder/left-handed pitcher according to a report from Dodgers.com.
And last, but not least, in a must read report Jayson Stark took a look at the odd and troubling state of the National League.
This Day in Cubstory
2009 – Cubs signed free agent So Taguchi
2008 – Cubs signed free agent Luis Figueroa
2005 – Cubs signed free agent Eddie Oropesa
2004 – Cubs signed free agent Felix Martinez
1998 – Cubs signed free agent Rod Beck
1986 – Cubs signed free agent Steve Christmas
1974 – Ray King, born
1969 – Delino DeShields, born
1969 – Cubs acquired Manny Jimenez from the Pirates for Ron Campbell and Chuck Hartenstein
1966 – Angels purchased Ed Bailey from the Cubs
1965 – Cubs traded Billy Cowan to the Mets for George Altman
1963 – William Brennan, born
1944 – Cubs signed amateur free agent Roy Smalley