It’s Opening Day for Major League Baseball as three games kickoff the 2016 season.
The Cardinals are in Pittsburgh for the first game on baseball’s calendar … Adam Wainwright versus Francisco Liriano with first pitch scheduled for 12:05pm CDT. The Blue Jays and Rays square off in Tampa at 3:05pm CDT and the Mets and Royals wrap up the day under the lights in Kansas City with a Matt Harvey, Edison Volquez match up at 7:37pm CDT.
The Cubs still have one more practice game on the spring schedule. The Cubs are in Anaheim for an exhibition game on Sunday afternoon (2:05pm CDT) with the Angels. Kyle Hendricks faces Matt Shoemaker. The Cubs first game of the season is Monday night (9:05pm) at The Big A, Jake Arrieta versus Garrett Richards.
Nick Cafardo posted his annual list of the 50 most important players in the game. And he included three Cubs in his ranking of the top 50 players in baseball … Jake Arrieta (14), Anthony Rizzo (36) and Kris Bryant (41).
Jake Arrieta, the reigning NL Cy Young award winner “must keep up the ace mantra and prove his 2015 season was not a fluke” according to Cafardo. Anthony Rizzo is the “veteran leader of what may be the best team in baseball.” Cafardo called Rizzo a “superb role model for the Cubs’ younger players and an effective offensive producer.” And Kris Bryant, the NL Rookie of the Year, could hit 40-plus homers annually if he’s able to “cut down on his strikeouts and put the ball in play more.”
And Cafardo thinks Addison Russell is one of the 20 players ready to emerge.
The 10 most important players in baseball according to Nick Cafardo: Mike Trout (Angels), Bryce Harper (Nationals), Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers), Zack Greinke (Diamondbacks), Buster Posey (Giants), Paul Goldschmidt (Diamondbacks), Miguel Cabrera (Tigers), David Ortiz (Red Sox), David Price (Red Sox) and Josh Donaldson (Blue Jays).
Trading for Pitching
According to Comcast SportsNet, Theo Epstein is ready to make the big deal when the Cubs need pitching.
As the 2016 season is set to begin the Cubs have the financial flexibility and player currency to acquire another starting pitcher if the need arises during the year. Patrick Mooney reported the Cubs “should be right in the middle of the action at the trade deadline” and could be in the mix for pitchers like Tyson Ross (Padres), Sonny Gray (Athletics), Danny Salazar (Indians), Carlos Carrasco (Indians) or Julio Teheran (Braves) if their current teams make them available.
Patrick Mooney spoke with Theo Epstein about the possibility of the Cubs trading for pitching this summer. Epstein said, “It has to be the right opportunity. It’s not going to be a deal where we just sell out for the moment. It has to be someone that fits … both for now and probably the long-term if it’s going to be a bigger deal. But we’re very open to it. We understand we’re a little deeper, a little bit better positioned with our position player and with our pitchers. It’s certainly something we talk about every day.”
“That time may or may not come. We haven’t made a big trade for a pitcher yet which we’ve figured to make at some point. Whether it happens or not, I don’t know. But I think we feel well-prepared to make that kind of move with some of the depth that we’ve built up … not only in our farm system … but out big league team.”
Jim Bowden posted 10 things that he thinks will happen during the 2016 season. And according to Bowden, the Cubs will work out a deal with the Braves for Julio Teheran. Bowden predicted Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer will deal Jorge Soler or Javier Baez as part of a package to the Braves for Teheran.
Bowden thinks the Cubs and Rays match up better than the Cubs and Braves. Bowden likes the adjustments Teheran made this spring, feels he will “get off to a fast start, which could lead to him becoming a Cubs sooner than later.”
Aaron Crow, Stephen Fife and Jack Leathersich
RHP Aaron Crow signed a minor league contract with the Cubs in the off-season that include a non-roster invite to Spring Training. Crow will continue working his way back from Tommy John surgery in extended Spring Training at the Cubs’ facility.
According to a report from the Tribune, Crow is one of several pitchers the Cubs could call on this season.
The Cubs added depth to the organization pitchers the front office knew would not be ready by Opening Day.
Aaron Crow and lefty Jack Leathersich are not expected to be fully recovered until midseason. And Stephen Fife missed last season with a right elbow injury. Fife will begin the season with Triple-A Iowa while Leathersich will continue his rehab in extended Spring Training.
Before Crow signed with the Cubs, he looked for a situation he could “help a team with a chance to win midway through the season.” Playing for Joe Maddon would give Crow a lot of opportunities because of the way he uses relievers. Crow said the Cubs were “the best fit with the offer they made and the whole setup they have.”
It’s more likely than not that all three pitchers will see time in the Cubs bullpen at some point this season.
News and Notes
• Mark Gonzales posted notes about the Cubs Opening Day roster.
• Sun-Times: Cubs sophomore jinx? No guarantees but no worries for ’15 rookies
• OF Donnie Dewees is starting the season with Low-A South Bend Cubs.
• The Cardinals open the 2016 season today against the Pirates. Mike Matheny wouldn’t even refer to the Cubs by the team’s nickname in a recent interview with Rick Hummel. The Cardinals have a very good team. It seems they’ve had just a miserable spring while focusing, and talking, too much about the Cubs.
• The Cardinals announced Saturday that back-up catcher Brayan Pena was placed on the disabled list. Pena is scheduled to undergo surgery on his left knee this week “to remove a loose particle of cartilage in his left knee.” Pena said the injury occurred when he slipped in the dugout during a Spring Training game.
• LHP James Russell made the Phillies Opening Day roster.
• According to David Lennon, the Cubs are favored to win it all, but the Mets face more pressure.
• Paul Sullivan previewed the National League.
This Day in Cubstory
2013 – Cubs signed free agent Donnie Murphy
2005 – Cubs released Peter Bergeron and Robinson Cancel
2004 – Cubs sent Todd Dunwoody to the Indians
2004 – Cubs released Trent Hubbard and Craig Wilson
1993 – Cubs signed free agent Doug Jennings
1990 – Cubs released Greg Booker
1989 – Marco Carrillo, born
1987 – Cubs traded Dennis Eckersley and Dan Rohn to the Oakland Athletics for Brian Guinn, Mark Leonette and Dave Wilder.
1978 – Bobby Hill, born
1968 – Cubs purchased Dick Nen from the Washington Senators
1967 – Cubs traded Don Bryant to the Giants for Dick Bertell
1964 – Cubs purchased John Flavin from the Reds
1964 – Cubs released Ken Aspromonte
1963 – Chris Bosio, born
1958 – Cubs traded Bob Speake to the Giants for Bobby Thompson
1888 – Boston Beaneaters purchased John Clarkson from the Chicago White Stockings for $10,000.