The subtraction of sometimes third baseman Luis Valbuena, who left for Houston in the Fowler deal, doesn’t mean Bryant has a job come Opening Day, according to general manager Jed Hoyer. He called the deal “independent” of Bryant. Valbuena didn’t need to be traded for you to know that. It’s not like he was holding Bryant back. His free-agency status years from now is keeping him in the minors for a few more weeks, though the Cubs will say it’s for his own “development.” Either way, he’ll be here soon enough.
Other notes from Hoyer:
The Cubs feel like they’ve accomplished their goals on offense: “We’ve added three guys this winter for the goal we stated at the beginning of the offseason: to get more left-handed and to get on-base more,” Hoyer stated.
Miguel Montero, Fowler and Tommy La Stella are on-base guys and the former two have proven that in the majors already, though La Stella is still very young. The Cubs don’t have many proven players who can work the count, so adding two that can is a big deal. The lineup got very mature overnight.
Who’s on third: As expected, Hoyer didn’t commit to a third baseman for Opening Day. He mentioned Mike Olt, La Stella and even Arismendy Alcantara as possibilities. Even Javier Baez might see time over there during spring training, though Hoyer stressed he wants him working on his swing more than his defense at a new position. Expect plenty of movement around the diamond this spring, including Bryant in the outfield.
Alcantara as Ben Zobrist: “Alcanatara puts a smile on Maddon’s face when he hears his name,” Hoyer stated.
Maddon isn’t the only manager that likes flexibility, so it comes as no surprise he wanted someone -- in this case Alcantara -- with the skill set Zobrist possessed for him in Tampa Bay. Zobrist played five different positions last season and Alcantara could very well do the same this year. Switch-hitting gives Alcanatar the potential to be even more valuable. And if someone falters at another position -- say Javier Baez at second or whoever is in left field -- Alcantara could take over as an everyday player.
Giving up control: For once the Cubs traded a player they had cost control of for one that will be a free agent very soon. Fowler can test the market next winter while the Houston Astros have Valbuena for at least two more years. They also have control over pitcher Dan Straily.
“We felt it was the right thing to do to balance out the team,” Hoyer said. “We are very aware we have a bright future but with that said we have invested a lot in this team and it makes sense if you can and get an outfield that fits very well and trade from an area that we have some strength.”
The Cubs promised Jon Lester they would be competitive and the Fowler move gets them closer for 2015. Pitching was there but the offense was lagging. Now they have a fighter’s chance.
“We’re still very reliant on young players,” Hoyer said. “There comes some volatility. I think we’ll have some stretches where we’re really dangerous and some where we’re really struggling.”