Chicago Cubs: In a game of inches, this is what to watch for this season

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

1. Baez’s playing time

This year could be pivotal in Javier Baez’s relationship with the organization. To this point, Joe Maddon has smartly used playing time to encourage more plate discipline and consistency on routine defensive plays. But whenever Baez seemed ready to start full-time, the old cockiness and bad habits reappeared.

This happened after Baez snagged 2016 NLCS Co-MVP honors. Then in the World Series, his 20 percent playoff strikeout percentage spiked to 43 percent, and he hit just .167 with a couple errors. Then after a strong 2017 second half, his playoff plate discipline again evaporated, hanging him with a .076 average and 42 percent strikeout rate.

So does Maddon again play carrot-and-stick with playing time? Will Baez stay the dutiful soldier? Or with his first year of arbitration pending after the season, does Baez demand the respect of everyday playing time? Does he air these complaints publicly?

Aroldis Chapman, Miguel Montero and Mike Montgomery all went public before him. Two of them are no longer Cubs. Worth watching.