Baseball’s Winter Meetings are starting to wrap up, but the Chicago Cubs are busier than ever as they try to bolster their roster ahead of the 2018 season.
The team has already agreed to contracts with a group of pitchers, but they’re still digging on both the free agent and trade markets as they try to move forward from last season’s loss in the National League Championship Series.
Cardinals Bolster Outfield
The Cardinals have struck out on several players this offseason, including Giancarlo Stanton, but they nabbed a great consolation prize on Wednesday as they acquired outfielder Marcell Ozuna from the Miami Marlins.
Ozuna is a two-time All-Star and slugged 37 home runs last season for the Marlins. He is the type of power hitting bat that the Cardinals have been aggressively seeking, and he would represent an instant upgrade to the team’s offense.
Now, with Tommy Pham and Dexter Fowler already in the fold, the Cardinals may have one of the National League’s best outfields, and they will certainly be an improved team as they try to dethrone the Cubs after two straight years atop the Central Division standings.
Cubs Engaged in Talks With Indians
According to CBS Chicago’s Bruce Levine, the Cubs are engaged in trade talks with the Cleveland Indians, and the conversation has centered around right-handed pitcher Danny Salazar.
Levine says that the Indians are looking for left-handed hitting in return.
Salazar is a free agent after the 2020 season and is eligible for arbitration this year. He had a 5-6 record with a 4.28 ERA in 23 total appearances, including 19 starts, a season ago. He also struck out 145 batters in just 103 innings of work.
That kind of contract control and that type of power pitching should both be enticing to the Cubs, but they would likely have to give up a player like Kyle Schwarber to make the deal happen. There aren’t a lot of good left-handed hitters in the Cubs’ system, and Schwarber would seem to fit the bill, as teams like the Boston Red Sox have reportedly inquired about this offseason.
Cubs React to Reports on Mike Montgomery
Montgomery reportedly has told the Cubs that he wants to start for the team next season, and said that if he’s not given that opportunity, he would like to move onto another organization.
That report was apparently news to the Cubs, as they were “caught by surprise” by the news.
“That kind of caught me by surprise to be honest with you,” Cubs G.M. Jed Hoyer said. “We view him as a starting pitcher. I know he views himself as a starting pitcher. But he’s just a good teammate. He’s been willing to do both.”
Montgomery will likely be a candidate to join the rotation after the presumed departures of Jake Arrieta and John Lackey in free agency. Drew Smyly won’t be ready until later in the year to pitch, and Tyler Chatwood, while a likely starter for the team, could feasibly be beaten out if Montgomery has a strong spring.
Could Kyle Schwarber Lead Off?
Cubs manager Joe Maddon had a tough time finding a lead-off hitter last season, but he’s at least willing to give Kyle Schwarber another chance after he struggled in the role last year.
“We still go to see what the team’s going to look like in its entirety,” he said. “Schwarber absolutely could lead off if he’s hitting like Schwarber and he’s accepting his walks and he’s got his .250-plus batting average.”
Schwarber has reportedly lost about 25 pounds this offseason as he tries to mold himself into more of an all-around hitter, and Maddon is pleased with his progress.
“It was really amazing in a good way to see,” he said. “He’s in arguably the best shape of his life. It starts right there.”