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Cubs ‘monitor’ remaining free agents in slow-moving market

MESA, Ariz. – Nothing appears imminent, but Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said the club continues to monitor the status of a sizeable group of remaining big-league free agents as pitchers and catchers officially reported for spring training Friday.

“We’re very comfortable with our group, but we wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t continue to monitor what’s going on, on the free agent market,” he said, “and we’ll continue to do that until there’s no one left out there.”

One player the team has monitored closely all winter is Dexter Fowler, their one-year leadoff man and center fielder from last year. The Cubs remained interested in a reunion – which would have put Gold Glove right-fielder Jason Heyward back into his accustomed position – but only at a steep discount on the years and dollars Fowler originally seemed to command.

Fowler is close to signing with the Orioles, according to reports this week.

Don’t expect any last-minute trades of significance despite a busy winter of trade talks.

“I’d say right now that front’s pretty quiet,” Hoyer said. “The focus is moreon the remaining free agents. But that can change with one phone call.”

Cubs add arm, release another

The Cubs signed right-hander Aaron Crow, a one-time All-Star for the Kansas City Royals, to a minor-league deal to add bullpen depth.

Crow, 29, who did not pitch in 2015 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, has a career 3.43 ERA in 254 appearances. He was an All-Star as a rookie in 2011.

The Cubs also have voided the contract of recently signed minor-league left-hander Luis Cruz after a failed physical.

Into the fire

Last year, manager Joe Maddon made his Cubs debut at spring training delivering a “Respect 90” message for a play-hard approach.

After 97 wins and a near-berth experience with the World Series, the theme this year, naturally, is: “Embrace the Target.”

“I’m really a big believer in running towards the fire as opposed to away from it,” Maddon said.