The Cubs remain open to adding a left-handed reliever, writes Patrick Mooney of The Athletic, though it’s not a lock that they’ll ultimately strike a deal. The Cubs are reluctant to surpass the $233MM luxury tax barrier, and an incentive-based deal for former All-Star Zack Britton could push them past that point if he’s healthy and effective. Chicago has been “monitoring” Mike Minor as well, per the report, though his struggles in recent seasons are an understandable red flag.
President of baseball ops Jed Hoyer said just last week that he “wouldn’t be shocked” to see another reliever come into camp, although the Cubs saw a pair of options come off the board over the weekend when Will Smith signed with the Rangers and Brad Hand inked a deal with the Rockies. Chicago currently sits with a projected $225MM luxury tax figure, placing them $8MM shy of penalization. Even if a deal with Britton or Minor doesn’t come to fruition, that doesn’t necessarily close the book on the Cubs making any kind of addition. Many non-roster veterans throughout the league have opt-out provisions they could trigger if told they’re not making their current organization’s roster, and there will surely be a number of arms being designated for assignment and/or placed on waivers later this month as teams set their Opening Day rosters.
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- Left fielder Ian Happ is slated to reach free agency following the 2023 season and could be positioned as one of the top names on the market with another big season in 2023, but he tells Mark Feinsand of MLB.com that his hope is to remain with the Cubs long-term. “It would be weird to wear another jersey,” says Happ, whom the Cubs selected with the ninth overall draft pick back in 2015. “I would love to stay here and I would love to be a part of the next great Cubs team, but we’ll see.” In addition to Happ, next year’s outfield market is slated to include Teoscar Hernandez, Hunter Renfroe, Cody Bellinger, Joey Gallo and perhaps Michael Conforto, depending on his player option. In general, the 2023-24 class will be a lighter group than this past offseason, and that’s especially true now that Rafael Devers and Manny Machado have foregone trips to the open market in favor of extensions. Happ could do the same, of course, but the Cubs didn’t sign any of Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant or Willson Contreras to extensions before they reached six years of service time (and thus qualified as free agents). Based on Happ’s comments, he’ll at least be open to it if they want to try to change that trend with him this spring.
- Kyle Hendricks threw a bullpen session on Monday, writes Maddie Lee of the Chicago Sun-Times. That marks the first full-strength, max-effort bullpen session for the veteran right-hander since last July, when he underwent surgery to repair a torn capsule in his shoulder. (Hendricks previously threw off a mound in late February and earlier this month but did not do so at full intensity.) The plan for Hendricks is to throw 10 bullpen sessions of this nature before he progresses to facing hitters. Hendricks will open the season on the 15-day injured list, and he’s not likely to complete that slate of 10 bullpen sessions until mid-April. From there, he’d need to throw live batting practice before progressing to a minor league rehab assignment, where he’d surely need multiple starts to build up. The 33-year-old Hendricks was one of the NL’s most durable and consistently effective starters from 2015-20, pitching to a 3.17 ERA over the life of 967 innings in that time. He’s stumbled to a 4.78 ERA in 48 starts over the past two seasons, however, as he’s become increasingly homer-prone. Hendricks is entering the final guaranteed season of a four-year, $55MM contract, though the Cubs hold a net $14.5MM decision on him for the 2024 campaign ($16MM option with a $1.5MM buyout).