MESA, Ariz. -- It was addressed right away, on the first day of spring training for the Chicago Cubs on Thursday. Can third base prospect and reigning minor league player of the year Kris Bryant make the team’s opening day roster?
“Anyone in camp can make the team, that’s why they’re here,” Team president Theo Epstein said. “We’re going to meet with Kris and outline where we see him. We see him really, really close to the big leagues.”
It was a politically correct answer regarding the best player in baseball not yet in the major leagues. And the Cubs have created an out for themselves.
“Defense at third base is the big one,” Epstein said in answering what Bryant needs to work on.
Analysis: The Cubs have never publicly acknowledged the potential monetary benefits of keeping Bryant in the minors to start the season. So if he crushes in spring pitching, they’ll need an explanation as to why he’ll start at Triple-A Iowa. At 6-foot-5, Bryant is still working things out at third base. Unless something changes, he’ll have to wait until later in April to make his debut.
What is Castillo's future?
The Cubs will meet with former starting catcher Welington Castillo on Friday. They’ve already been in touch with his agent as a trade out of town is most likely to get done in the coming weeks.
Analysis: It’s just a matter of time before Castillo has a new home after the Cubs brought in Miguel Montero and David Ross as their new catching duo. Until then, Castillo is in camp even though he probably realizes it won’t be for long.
More moves coming?
Cubs brass left the door open for spring trades, though they aren’t forecasting anything right now.
“We’ll be open to it, but we’re focused on the players we have in camp,” Epstein said. “We’re not out there trying to move anyone.”
Analysis: Again, a politically correct answer, as we know Castillo is on the block. And even if the Cubs aren’t looking to move anyone, the Philadelphia Phillies might be. Cole Hamels should be back in play after he publicly said Wednesday that he wants to be traded to a winner. If the Phillies' asking price comes down -- they’ve wanted Cubs prospect Addison Russell in the past -- the Cubs could re-initiate talks with them. And if all their pitchers are healthy, the Cubs probably won’t keep Travis Wood, Tsuyoshi Wada and Edwin Jackson. One will have to go.
What’s next: Official workouts for pitchers and catchers begin on Friday. Bullpen sessions and fielding drills will take place every morning until games begin. Full squad workouts start next Wednesday.