Chicago Cubs trying to contend while looking to future
CHICAGO (AP) — The offseason overhaul for the Chicago Cubs included Seiya Suzuki, Marcus Stroman, Wade Miley and Andrelton Simmons.
It did not include Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Báez.
The Cubs are moving on.
Looking to contend while building a bridge to what President of Baseball Operations Jed Hoyer calls “the next great Cubs team,” the North Siders reworked their pitching staff and added Suzuki to their lineup in a flurry of offseason moves.
“We got a lot of new faces,” infielder Nico Hoerner said. “New staff, new players.”
Bryant, Rizzo and Báez — three key performers on Chicago’s historic 2016 championship team — were dealt ahead of last year’s trade deadline, and the Cubs went 71-91 for their first losing record since 2014. The three sluggers then became free agents after the season, but Bryant signed with Colorado, Báez went to Detroit and Rizzo stayed with the New York Yankees.
While there were no warm reunions for Chicago over the winter, the Cubs were certainly active.
The 27-year-old Suzuki came over from Japan for an $85 million, five-year contract. He batted .317 with 38 homers and 88 RBIs in 132 games last season with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp. He had nearly as many walks (87) as strikeouts (88).
The Cubs, who host Milwaukee on opening day on April 7, got Stroman and Miley before the lockout. Stroman finalized a $71 million, three-year contract in December, and Miley was claimed off waivers from Cincinnati on Nov. 5.
Stroman and Miley should help bolster a beleaguered rotation that was a glaring weakness a year ago. Stroman had a 3.02 ERA in 32 starts with the New York Mets last season, and Miley went 12-7 with a 3.37 ERA in 28 starts for the Reds, throwing his first career no-hitter in May.
Chicago also could get a boost from a return to form for Kyle Hendricks, who had a career-high 4.77 ERA in 32 starts last season.
“I think the team is going to set our identity,” outfielder Ian Happ said during spring training. “I don’t think that that’s something that we’ve kind of defined yet.
“I think it’s going to be up to us, once we get everybody together in Chicago, to kind of define what that’s going to look like and how it plays out in the first couple months.”
ABOUT THIS YEAR
Just like Bryant, Rizzo and Báez, catcher Willson Contreras could be on the move if he doesn’t agree to a new contract with the team. The two-time All-Star is eligible for free agency after this season.
Contreras, who turns 30 in May, hit .237 with 21 homers and 57 RBIs last year. He made 112 starts at catcher, tied for second-most in the NL.
READY TO GO
Nick Madrigal finally brings his elite bat-to-ball skills to Chicago’s lineup after he was acquired in the Craig Kimbrel trade with the crosstown White Sox last summer. Madrigal was sidelined by a torn right hamstring at the time of the July 30 trade.
The 25-year-old Madrigal, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2018 amateur draft, is a .317 hitter in 83 games in the majors.
“It’s a great feeling,” Madrigal said. “It’s been a lot of rehab, a lot of time in the training room, you know, the offseason, it’s taken a lot of work to get to this point.”
WELL, WELL, WELL
Clint Frazier was scooped up by Chicago after he was released by the New York Yankees in November, and the 27-year-old outfielder looked good this spring. Frazier was selected by Cleveland with the No. 5 pick in the 2013 amateur draft, but his career has been hampered by health issues and trouble defensively.
The bullpen has been overhauled, but there is no obvious closer. David Robertson, Mychal Givens, Chris Martin and Daniel Norris are among the new relief options for manager David Ross.
Depending on health and the opponent that day, Robertson, Givens, Martin, Rowan Wick and Manuel Rodríguez could take the mound for save opportunities. Wick is healthy again after being hampered by an oblique injury.
ROOKIES TO WATCH
Suzuki is the team’s most important rookie, but Brennen Davis could make his big league debut this summer. The athletic outfielder homered twice in the All-Star Futures Game in July, earning MVP honors. He finished last season at Triple-A Iowa, hitting .268 with four homers and 12 RBIs in 15 games.
Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap
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