With less than two weeks until the Chicago Cubs – and many other teams across Major League Baseball – report to Spring Training, the Hot Stove is still churning with one major piece still available: free agent right-hander James Shields.
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Several teams, including the Cubs, have been tied to the former Kansas City Royals ace of late, with Joe Maddon speaking to Theo Epstein about his former player this week. However, multiple reports indicate that the San Diego Padres, who have been one of the busiest teams in the league this winter under new general manager A.J. Prefer, are the front-runner to land Shields.
In other news, the reconstruction of the Wrigley Field bleachers is ongoing, with the first steel beams being put in place late this week. As noted earlier this year, the seats will not be ready until mid-May, meaning the Opening Night matchup against the St. Louis Cardinals will have a very different feel, despite the major changes to the aesthetics of the Friendly Confines.
The Philadelphia Phillies, a team that has a very unclear future given they have failed to either rebuild or add significant talent for the upcoming season, could make Cliff Lee available early this season if the team struggles, per a report. Of course, the team has failed to trade ace Cole Hamels this offseason, despite the need to revamp a weak farm system.
Here’s more from around the league:
“Cubs announce non-roster invitees for Spring Training” – Cubbies Crib
“Nothing imminent on Shields to the Padres” – U-T San Diego
“Maddon says Cubs interested in a ‘prize’ – James Shields” – Chicago Tribune