The Rundown: Cubs Avoid Arbitration With Pedro Strop, Field Narrowing For Shields, Cubs Partner With American Airlines

The Cubs have avoided arbitration with reliever Pedro Strop, settling on a one-year deal for $2.525 million. Strop was the final arbitration-eligible player on the Cubs roster for this offseason.

The reliever had a nice year with the Cubs last season, posting a 2.21 ERA (2.66 FIP) and striking out 71 in 61 innings. He served as the first half of a great one-two punch at the end of the Cubs’ bullpen.

Because bullpens can be wonky, and you never know what you’re going to get from year to year, the Cubs went out and acquired Jason Motte to help out in case things go south with Strop (or closer Hector Rondon) this season. But I still see Strop as a key bridge to closing out some wins for the Cubs in 2015.

Shields update

After Wednesday’s report from David Kaplan that the Cubs are possibly interested in James Shields, and vice versa, it’s now more interesting to follow the Shields rumors.

Most of the rumors this offseason have basically been “nobody really seems that interested in him.” Experts have had a hard time predicting where the RHP will end up, and that still seems to be the case.

Jon Heyman writes that the Padres appear to be the favorite, and he confirms the Cubs’ interest, as well as Toronto. Bob Nightengale also says the Padres could be the favorite.

Other than that, we’re hearing a lot of of “X team is out” on Shields:

* Dodgers (from Peter Gammons)
* Marlins (from Miami Herald)
* Cardinals (from St. Louis Dispatch)
* Red Sox (from Nick Cafardo)

So is it really down to the Cubs, Padres and Blue Jays?

I’d have to think the National League would sound more appealing to him. Shields is from the San Diego area, so that may be a factor, and the Padres have made a number of interesting pick-ups this offseason.

But so have the Cubs, and they have Joe Maddon, for whom Shields played in Tampa.

It should be interesting to see how things play out. Hopefully we’ll hear one way or the other fairly soon.

Other notes

* American Airlines has signed a long-term partnership with the Cubs. In addition to signage and video board advertisements at both Wrigley Field and the Cubs’ Spring Training park, the “American Airlines Club” will be located behind home plate in 2017. It’s a bit strange to see the Cubs making these advertising partnerships, although it doesn’t bother me as much as I would have thought.

* Carrie Muskat with a piece on Starlin Castro. He discusses his decision to move his family to Arizona, and it sounds like he’s in a good place. Sometimes it’s easy to forget how young Castro is (24). He had a nice bounce-back year last season. I think if the Cubs can get a “typical” Castro year from him, most people would be content with that.

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