Chicago Cubs: Could anyone crash the party out of Spring Training?
With an already deep roster, it will be tough for players outside theChicago Cubs 25-man roster to make the team out of Spring Training. But it doesn’t mean it can’t happen as we look at some of the possible “surprises” laying in wait.
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Before last year, theChicago Cubs
were in a self-proclaimed rebuild–meaning outside of a guaranteed few the roster had a chance to change out of Spring Training. Coming off an NLCS appearance and a 97-win season, there isn’t much wiggle room on the Cubs roster. Chances of a “sleeper” making the team are unlikely, but there are a couple of unclaimed spots available.
The Cubs pitching staff needed most of last season to mold itself into shape, but several players used their chance to lock down a spot in 2016. Trevor Cahill and Clayton Richard parlayed strong 2015 campaigns into new deals, and the addition of Adam Warren–acquired from the Yankees in the Starlin Castro deal–means some others are on the outside looking in.
The most notable of those fighting to return to the bullpen is Neil Ramirez. After being slowed by injury, he saw very little action after returning to the team as manager Joe Maddon played things very safe with him. There’s no denying Ramirez has the potential to be a key piece in the bullpen, but his health last season may have cost him the opportunity to prove that–at least out of camp–this season.
Carl Edwards, Rex Brothers, and Zac Rosscup could also sneak their way onto the Opening day roster with a solid spring. One of the biggest “wild cards” will be deciding what to do with the flex guys that could be potential starters. The Cubs could send one down even if they do have an impressive spring to get work as a starter. Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks have shown flashes but neither has proven to be able to maintain it consistently.
With the Cubs roster full of versatility, including Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Ben Zobrist, Chris Coghlan and now Javier Baez–it’s hard to pinpoint who or what Maddon will want to add to the roster in 2016. Matt Szczur seems like he’s been around forever, but has always impressed–at least with his defense–in each stint in Chicago. Maddon loves his late inning defensive subs, and that could be Szcur’s opening.
The assumption is Tommy La Stella will break camp with the team, but don’t forget about Arismendy Alcantara. Another versatile player with the ability to play the infield as well as center field, a bounceback spring could allow him a second chance with the Cubs.
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And of course, there is always the VERY outside chance that Matt Murton could surprise us all and return to the Cubs in ’16. Brought over in 2004 in the Nomar Garciaparra deal–a deal with none other than Theo Epstein–this could just be a sentimental move, or maybe the Cubs believe his success in Japan could be carried over in the Major League’s.
Still, with all these possibilities, I wouldn’t expect to be stunned by who heads to Chicago with the team after the spring. But hey, no one expected the Cubs to be in the NLCS last season, so who’s to say someone can’t surprise us in Spring Training?