Chicago Cubs: Not much drama on this year’s roster

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 10: Jason Heyward
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 10: Jason Heyward /

As spring training begins, it’s hard to find a spot on the Chicago Cubs’ roster that isn’t spoken for. So what do we have to be excited about this spring?

The Chicago Cubs will be going for their fourth consecutive playoff appearance; a feat once thought to be impossible. And all that starts with the building of this year’s roster. Except, it pretty much has been put together already. So do we just wait it out until the season begins? Of course not. While the roster in undoubtedly set, there are still players to keep an eye on in this year’s camp.

While the roster is “set,” there are a few spots where battles will be held to decide playing time. One of those players is Ben Zobrist. With two years left on his four-year deal, questions have arisen about if he’s on the downhill side of his career. With Javier Baez ready to take over second base, Zobrist’s future at the position is unclear. But that hasn’t kept him out of the lineup before, and likely won’t now.

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A few here, a few there

With the ability to play multiple positions, there will always be at-bats to be had by Zobrist. When he came to Chicago, the hope was he’d be able to settle in at second base.

But it doesn’t look like that will happen, as the 36-year old might take back the “super utility” title he held upon coming here. Zobrist went to work–as many did–getting in shape for this season. Will it pay off for the veteran?

Who’s the backup catcher?

Another spot of curiosity is the backup catcher’s role. Until the Cubs signed Yu Darvish, it looked like they would go with Victor Caratini in that role.

But with Darvish’s addition, Chris Gimenez might have slid into that role. To be fair, the Cubs said he would have a chance at the spot either way. But you have to wonder if that was something they were saying to keep up appearances. But it should be a good battle between the two.

Grimm’s time up?

The bullpen will host its own show, as several will be looking to grab a spot on the roster. The most significant name of the group is that of Justin Grimm. After becoming the first player to go to an arbitration hearing with Theo Epstein, he hasn’t been high on Cubs’ fans radar since then. A poor showing in 2017 left people with a sour taste. And then wanting more money for it put them over the top. But a strong showing this spring may allow him to hold on to his spot–barely.

Who plays where?

The rest of the excitement will come from the outfield. By now, you pretty much know how this is “supposed” to go. But you’ve got the haters of Kyle Schwarber and his defense. And then the proponents of Albert Almora Jr. and his ability to leadoff–unless you look at the fact he hasn’t been very good at it. And then there’s Jason Heyward who can go get it with the best of them on defense. In his first two years, that’s about all he has done with the Cubs.

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This takes us all the way back to where we started with Zobrist. And for fun, throw in a talented Ian Happ, who lacks experience but still put up 24 home runs in just 364 plate appearances (Every 15.2 AB’s). He’s raw in the field, but there’s no doubt he’s going to go after it–sometimes a little too aggressively. But he’s still an x-factor for these Cubs.

So while there aren’t any battles to pick out in camp, it will still be an entertaining one to follow. Will Almora grab hold of the center field and leadoff spot? Will Zobrist find himself looking for at-bats other than second base? And how about Grimm? Once a valuable part of the Cubs staff in 2016, has his time run out? We’ve got a month and a half to figure all of these out. God, I love spring.