What are the odds that Willson Contreras replaces Jason Heyward in right field next season and that the Cubs find a different everyday catcher — whether it be Alex Avila, Victor Caratini or Kyle Schwarber (as you hinted last week)? Even though the Cubs moved on from pitching coach Chris Bosio, I think Contreras’ overactive personality and his pitch calling/framing ability directly contributed to the Cubs’ pitching woes in 2017. Since Heyward’s contract will likely prevent him from be traded and his bat is a liability, his role should be reduced to a late-game defensive replacement. — Pete, Bossier City, La.
I think there’s a better chance of Ed Orgeron playing right field for the Cubs on a full-time basis than Contreras, whom many observers believe is blossoming into one of the top wholesale mlb jerseys all-around catchers in the National League. There will come a time when Contreras could move to another position to lengthen his career and alleviate the wear and tear on his body, but it won’t come anytime soon.
My reference to Schwarber catching was only the possibility of him catching more games and not taking over the majority of the duties. Carrying a third catcher who can play multiple position makes a 25-man roster more elastic and helps a manager in late-inning situations. I realize Kyle’s time behind the plate was limited in 2017 because he was slightly more than 12 months removed from knee surgery, but I’d like to see him catch a little more next spring.
Speaking of next spring, the Cubs are scheduled to play the Giants at Scottsdale on Feb. 25 and March 22 and against the Athletics at HoHoKam Park on March 11. This is according to the Giants’ and A’s schedules. The Cubs don’t announce their spring training schedule until it’s fully complete, and there usually issues to be resolved before they finalize their traditional weekend trip to Las Vegas and perhaps a few games between the time they leave Mesa and open the season March 29 at Miami.
Anyway, there were bound to be some growing pains with Contreras taking over the full-time duties last season, but I still believe he did a good job considering the responsibilities he was given. I still think the following is an amusing development: Before Miguel Montero was designated for assignment, Contreras was batting .252 with a .321 on-base percentage. After Montero departed, Contreras’ batting average swelled to .276 and finished with a .356 OBP.
As for Heyward, regaining a semblance of his pre-Cubs production will be one of several missions for new hitting coach Chili Davis. I can see his playing time diminish if Javier Baez stays (leaving Ben Zobrist to play more in the outfield).
How could the salary limitations of the current Basic Agreement be manipulated to bring Bryce Harper onboard to the Cubs roster? I don’t figure that Kris Bryant can be signed along with Harper and leave the Cubs any room to sign the rest of the current roster. Also, in regards to the next season, which five starters do you think the Cubs have targeted to add to the roster? I realize Chris Archer is a target, but will Theo Epstein spend any real money on future starters? — Stormy
Some impressive financial gymnastics would have to be performed to accomplish that feat. Pitching remains the most immediate need and will come at a cost, short term and long term. According to my calculations, the Cubs have earmarked around $82 million to six players for 2018, which allows them plenty of room to add at least a big-ticket pitcher. According to mlbtraderumors.com, Bryant is projected to earn $8.9 million as a first-year arbitration-eligible player in 2018. So if I’m in charge of the Cubs, I’m stocking up on as much pitching via trades (and free agency if the cost is reasonable) this winter, with the majority of dollars allocated to starting pitching.
As for Archer, his contract is very affordable for the next four seasons (assuming the option years in 2020-21 are picked up). The Rays and Cubs have discussed players since at least after the 2015 season, so don’t be surprised when you hear names like Javier Baez and Addison Russell surface. It’s wise for the Cubs to kick the tires on all trade possibilities, especially since the cost of signing free agents who received qualifying offers from their previous teams can be steep.
The rotation currently consists of Jon Lester, Jose Quintana, Kyle Hendricks and perhaps Mike Montgomery, with Jen-Ho Tseng and Alec Mills providing depth. So yes, I’d expect Epstein to invest “real money” on pitching.
I can’t see Ozzie Guillen becoming the bench coach, but what about Joe Girardi, or is he destined for another team as manager? — Peter Sherman
I think Girardi is deserving of another managerial position without the lobbying of his unpaid advisers. I thought he did a pretty good job (along with his coaching staff) of getting the most out of a unique blend of many youngsters and some veterans with their best days behind them. I can’t see him settling for a bench coach job at this stage of his career.
As for Guillen, I’m surprised he didn’t get an interview with the Tigers for their vacant managerial position that went to Ron Gardenhire. But the Tigers’ pitching staff will be in good hands with Chris Bosio.