Jed Hoyer addressed the media on the eve of pitchers and catchers reporting and said pretty much what you’d expect him to given the timing. The Cubs may have a few more moves to make on the periphery, but, barring something unexpected, the roster is “by and large” set at this point. And though he teased the announcement of an MLB deal for another reliever, he said the Cubs have not been engaged in any trade talks for a while now.
Jed Hoyer just now: “Right now we’re not engaged in any trade talk and we haven’t been for a bit.”
“So that Mets stuff was inaccurate?”
“That’s what I’m saying.”
Suggests team should look similar to now come opener.
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) February 16, 2021
Hoyer specifically addressed the ongoing rumors about trade talks with the Mets for Kris Bryant, confirming that they were inaccurate. The primary source of those rumors had been Andy Martino of SNY, which is owned by the Mets, so it’s possible the reporter was being used to help New York gain leverage in other negotiations. Even if there was “something there,” it may have simply been the Mets checking in and getting stonewalled by Hoyer.
Chicago’s new baseball boss said in his previous presser that the Cubs were done cutting salary and had actually seen a little boost in the budget, so there’s really no impetus to move Bryant or Willson Contreras. They were even able to add Jake Arrieta on a one-year, $6 million deal — which was initially broken by Danny Rockett on his Son Ranto podcast days before it was more widely reported — that seemed like more than they had to spend.
The budget bump had actually been reported several days earlier and was first evidenced by the Joc Pederson deal. Arrieta actually had an agreement in place all the way back on February 2, so the more recent spending isn’t necessarily a function of yet another change. In any case, there was still room left after those deals to allow Hoyer to add even further to the roster. That includes the additional reliever mentioned above and possibly a lefty-batting infielder other than Jason Kipnis.
The Cubs have been connected to Eric Sogard in the past and may still be keen on him even though he’s posted negative fWAR in two of the past three seasons. You may be tempted to repspond that he’s at least better than Daniel Descalso, but that’s actually not true. Since the start of the 2018 season, Sogard’s 87 wRC+ and .301 wOBA are lower than Descalso’s 90 and .308, respectively.
Even so, I would not be the least bit surprised to see Sogard brought to camp on a minors deal. Maybe he can maintain his high-contract approach and continue a trend that has seen him hit well every other year since 2017.
The rotation is obviously full at this point, maybe even overloaded, but David Ross said Tuesday that he isn’t planning to go with a six-man rotation. Instead, he’ll probably use a few swingmen who can flex between the bullpen and rotation as needs dictate. It’s also possible the Cubs will utilize piggyback starters at times as they navigate the return to a full season after last year’s 60-game slate.
Ross doesn't anticipate going with a 6-man rotation. He does envision having some swing men who move between rotation and 'pen, allowing for some flexibility as Cubs find best ways to divvy the innings.
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) February 16, 2021
Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks, and Zach Davies are locks for the rotation, with Trevor Williams right behind and Alec Mills probably holding the clubhouse lead on a spot. That would put Adbert Alzolay into one of those swing roles, perhaps with Shelby Miller earning the other. As good as it would be to see the former Cardinal return to form, it would also mean one less roster spot being allocated to a young pitcher.
Some combination of Cory Abbott, Justin Steele, Tyson Miller, and maybe Brailyn Marquez should be employed in Chicago in 2021 whether the Cubs emerge as contenders or not. There will undoubtedly be some spot starts as dictated by the schedule and perhaps injuries, and we see every season how the bullpen is constantly being shuffled.
Of note in that mix is Rowan Wick, who is still dealing with some minor residual issues from the oblique strain that shut him down last season. He’s been able to work out and has ridden his bike quite a bit as he rehabs, but he may need to take it easy in camp for a while in order to work up to the torque required to throw a baseball in the upper 90’s.
We should be getting a lot more specifics starting Wednesday as players starting going through scheduled workouts, then it’ll really crank up as the full squad gets going.