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CHGO Cubs Weekly: Three stories I'm watching as spring training opens in Mesa

Ryan Herrera Avatar
February 13, 2024

Hey there, Cubs fans!

I’m typing this from thousands of feet in the air on my way to Arizona, and I can’t contain my excitement. Cubs pitchers and catchers officially report to spring training on Wednesday — which means baseball season is back, baby.

It hasn’t been the most exciting offseason on the North Side, but that doesn’t mean we can’t look forward to spring camp. This is when we’ll see some of the battles around the edges of the roster. This is when we’ll see the new additions get started with their new ballclub. And this is when we could possibly see a surprise arrival from Cody Bellinger or one of the big names still on the market.

There’s plenty that’ll pique my interest over the next couple weeks.

But right now, here are some of the biggest storylines on my mind:

Will the arrival of a big addition happen during spring training?

I doubt the Cubs are done adding. They haven’t filled every hole on the roster. There are still some notable names on the market that haven’t linked up with another team. As it stands, there’s time for the Cubs to improve this roster.

However, it’s unclear if the biggest names out there have any intention of signing a deal anytime soon. We’re mostly talking about Bellinger, Matt Chapman, Jordan Montgomery and Blake Snell here, all of whom are represented by agent Scott Boras. We’re now at the start of spring training, and there’s no telling when any of them will come off the market.

I’d say the priority signing from that group for the Cubs is Bellinger. He just feels like the best fit, and he has the experience of being with the club all last year. Even if the Cubs truly believe in some of their top prospects as foundational pieces for the future, re-signing Bellinger just makes sense, and that’s why he has to be the top priority.

But again, who knows when a deal will be made for any of those Boras clients? I still think the Cubs have a good shot at landing one of them, but how long it might take before that player shows up to camp remains to be seen.

Will Pete Crow-Armstrong be in Chicago on Opening Day?

When we talk about the Cubs potentially re-signing Bellinger, that would likely have a direct effect on the organization’s top prospect’s future.

Crow-Armstrong didn’t have a ton of success during his first stint in the majors last September, but he’s universally considered the team’s top prospect for a reason. And it’s clear the front office feels very strongly about his future.

But does he need to be on the Opening Day roster? That’s something the Cubs will have to sort out. Bellinger’s return would seemingly make that decision easy, as he could man center field full-time and allow PCA to keep working with Triple-A Iowa. Even if they don’t re-sign him, though, players like Mike Tauchman and Alexander Canario could fill in to start the season.

Crow-Armstrong earning that Opening Day roster spot wouldn’t be a major surprise. He certainly has the talent and the drive to continue his rapid climb. But with other factors at play, I’ll be interested in seeing what the Cubs do with this specific piece to their roster puzzle.

Who takes the last spot in the rotation?

Assuming the Cubs stick with the normal five-man rotation, we know how 80 percent of it will look: Justin Steele, Jameson Taillon, Kyle Hendricks and new signee Shota Imanaga. But who takes that fifth spot is still up for debate.

As mentioned earlier, the Cubs making a splash and signing either Montgomery or Snell would make that decision pretty simple, as either would slide right into the rotation. Barring a big signing like that, though, there are different internal options the Cubs will consider.

To me, the top contenders are Jordan Wicks and Javier Assad (with Wicks having a slight edge in my mind). Both impressed last season, and both should have ample opportunity to try and earn that spot during spring camp. Beyond them, the Cubs have Drew Smyly (who looked better out of the bullpen after losing his starting spot) and Hayden Wesneski (who still has to figure out some stuff as a starter at the big league level).

While there are probably some more pressing roster questions for the Cubs to address, this will definitely be a battle I pay attention to all camp.

As spring training gets started, CHGO will keep you up to date with everything from Cubs camp in Mesa, Ariz. Make sure you’re following on social, watching the CHGO Cubs Podcast on YouTube every day and checking in at allchgo.com.

One more thing: I’ll be sending out these Cubs newsletters all season long. While some will be free, others will be for Diehards only, so consider becoming one today.

Either way, make sure you enter your email below to let us know that you’re a Cubs fan and you want these newsletters (as opposed to the one my South Side co-worker Vinnie Duber will be writing).

It’s almost time for a new season to begin on the North Side. Let’s get going.

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