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PITCHERS AND CATCHERS: Cubs’ Season of mound gambles begins

KB is the Ginger. Allegedly.

Today as Chicagoans look at the mounds of snow that are everywhere, that first harbinger of spring – pitchers and catchers – appears in Arizona.

The Cubs have been tying up their loose ends with some signings being announced or confirmed this morning – reliever Brandon Workman has been signed to a major league contract, and perpetual Cub Pedro Strop has agreed to yet another minor league contract. This means the Cubs’ bullpen, barring any trades, will be quite crowded. Aside from closer Craig Kimbrel, there are any number of roles up for grabs. Rowan Thicc would normally be the setup man, but he’s still feeling the effects of his oblique injury from last season, and looks like a good candidate to be put onto the 60 day injured list, which would give the Cubs some roster flexibility. Kyle Ryan is also not ready to answer the bell, as he’s currently required to follow MLB’s COVID-19 protocol. Fortunately for the Cubs, having Andrew Chafin back gives them a dependable lefty in the pen. There are also a couple guys that, admit it, you’ve forgotten the Cubs even have. I’m talking Robert Stock and Kohl Stewart. Plus, Lovin’ Spoonful bassist Dan Winkler returns along with the Surprisingly Good Jason Adam. Throw Duane Underwood Jr. and Brad Wieck into this bunch and suddenly the room gets very crowded. And we haven’t even gotten to Perpetual DFA Candidate Dillon Maples.

The rotation seems pretty much set, with Kyle Hendricks as the ace of the staff. Jed Hoyer hinted that the Cubs would think outside of the 5-man rotation box yesterday, so the other cogs in the machine will be, in some order (I’m using alphabetical) Adbert Alzolay, Jake Arrieta, Zach Davies, Alec Mills and Trevor Williams.

But with the recent additions of Arrieta, Workman and outfelder Jake Marisnick, the Cubs suddenly have 43 players to squeeze onto the 40 man roster. That’s where putting Wick on the 60 day IL, and possibly Ryan and Wieck as well, gives them some flexibility. 60 days from today doesn’t even get you to May 1. So they’d essentially spend a couple extra weeks in Arizona while the Cubs figure out who to keep and who gets jettisoned. Looking at that crowded bullpen, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that the Cubs trade away a surplus arm or two for either minor leaguers or international signing money. Those seem to be the two areas that Hoyer is really looking to shore up.

While pitchers and catchers report today, most of the conjecture surrounds pitchers. There’s really not much to think about in terms of catching. Willson Contreras will handle 80% of the load (barring injury), while Austin Romine takes care of the rest. Veteran Jose Lobaton is also in camp as a non-roster invitee, but something drastic would have to happen for the Cubs to be willing to move a fourth man off the 40 in order to add a third catcher.

So let’s just be happy that there’s baseball today. Hoyer and David Ross have 6 weeks to hammer this into a team.

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