Cubs notes: Nico Hoerner, leadoff hitter; Marcus Stroman on track to start Opening Day

MESA, Ariz. — The Chicago Cubs are nonetheless evaluating free brokers in the course of spring coaching and looking out to add a left-handed reliever to their bullpen, president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer mentioned Thursday, hinting at a attainable addition that may push the group nearer towards the $233 million luxurious tax threshold.

Zack Britton, Mike Minor, Will Smith and Brad Hand are among the many names the Cubs have thought-about, in accordance to major-league sources. Estimates from Roster Useful resource present the Cubs are roughly $8 million beneath the primary stage that triggers the aggressive steadiness tax, which is seen internally as a tender wage cap and an actual issue within the franchise’s long-range planning.

Inside that CBT assemble, the Cubs might discover it troublesome to shut a one-year, incentive-laden cope with a late-inning reliever. Bigger efficiency bonuses would make sense for Britton, a extensively revered veteran pitcher who has 154 profession saves and damage gaps during the last two seasons (19 innings pitched mixed). Across the start of spring coaching, two different left-handed relievers the Cubs saved on their radar signed elsewhere. Andrew Chafin agreed to a one-year, $6.25 million contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks whereas Matt Moore obtained $7.55 million assured from the Los Angeles Angels.

“There are nonetheless free brokers on the market, so I wouldn’t be shocked if we introduced somebody in,” Hoyer mentioned. “(Our professional scouting) group is at all times working. We’re typically completed. But when somebody got here into camp, I wouldn’t be shocked, simply because there are some gamers on the market, particularly some relievers.”

Cubs prospect notes with @sahadevsharma:

• What Ben Brown is working on to get to the subsequent stage

• Hayden Wesneski’s “It Issue”

• Clarifying Alexander Canario’s standing

— Patrick Mooney (@PJ_Mooney) March 2, 2023

• Nico Hoerner wasn’t a consensus first-rounder when the Cubs chosen him with the No. 24 decide within the 2018 draft. Hoerner hadn’t reached the Triple-A stage when the Cubs made him the emergency call-up to exchange Javier Báez through the failed playoff chase in 2019. Hoerner didn’t waste his probability when the Cubs bypassed the star-studded class of free brokers that turned accessible after the 2021 season. Now the Cubs need to see if Hoerner can run with one other alternative and turn into their long-awaited leadoff hitter.

“Once I take a look at Nico, it’s about setting a tone for our group to start a recreation,” Cubs supervisor David Ross mentioned. “He’s as prepared to go as anyone I’ve ever been round. One thing about the way in which he performs units an awesome tone for our group, so I like him beginning issues off.”

Hoerner, who has a .333 profession on-base proportion, isn’t a prototypical leadoff hitter, however these gamers are uncommon in at this time’s recreation, as Cubs followers discovered after watching Dexter Fowler carry out at such a excessive stage through the 2015 and 2016 seasons. It turned an annual query after that World Collection parade. Making Hoerner the preliminary reply is one other signal of his stature across the group. The Cubs count on Hoerner to be a Gold Glove-caliber second baseman subsequent to $177 million shortstop Dansby Swanson, a frontrunner within the Wrigley Area clubhouse and a contact hitter who will make issues occur on the high of their order.

“It’s an thrilling alternative,” Hoerner mentioned. “I do know the Cubs haven’t actually had a secure spot in that lineup shortly. The message has been not to change an excessive amount of. There are some issues right here and there, however for essentially the most half, simply proceed to focus on these strengths and go from there.”

• Ross has not introduced an Opening Day starter but, however Marcus Stroman is in line to start Recreation 1 at Wrigley Area if all the pieces stays on track. Stroman — who pitched into the third inning of Thursday’s Cactus League exhibition at Sloan Park — is scheduled to depart Arizona on Friday and be a part of Crew Puerto Rico in Florida forward of the World Baseball Basic. So long as Stroman stays wholesome, his five-day schedule is directed towards March 30 towards the Milwaukee Brewers.

“I might find it irresistible, however on the finish of the day, man, I’m not somebody who’s over right here like, ‘I would like to be the Opening Day starter,’” Stroman mentioned. “No matter’s finest for the group. All of us pitch as soon as each 5 days, so all of us find yourself getting the identical quantity of begins. I’m not prideful in that sense. If he needs me Opening Day, I might love that. I really feel like I’ve the pedigree, the boldness, to go on the market Opening Day and take the ball each fifth day after that.”

• It’s extremely doubtless that Seiya Suzuki will start the season on the injured record. Given the difficult points of a full restoration from a strained indirect — and their almost $100 million funding within the Japanese outfielder — the Cubs received’t rush this course of in any respect.

“We’re not going to put any agency timetables on it, however there are common expectations of what a ‘reasonable’ indirect damage is,” Hoyer mentioned. “That actually places Opening Day in sturdy jeopardy. We simply need to be sure that we get him fully wholesome. When that’s, I’m unsure. However when he does come again, he’s going to be prepared to go and we’re not going to be involved about it.”

(Photograph of Nico Hoerner: Matt Kartozian / USA Right this moment)

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