MESA, Ariz. — Don’t count on any Dexter Fowler-like surprises in Cubs camp.
But don’t be surprised to see another big move or two at the trade deadline. The club will maintain as much or more payroll flexibility as it did last year, when it took on $4.7 million of Aroldis Chapman’s contract in a trade with the Yankees.
What you see in camp is what you get, said Cubs officials, who finished their offseason shopping in the last two weeks with the signing of left-hander Brett Anderson and trades for righties Eddie Butler and Alec Mills.
That swelled their spring-training pitching roster to a whopping 40 in big-league camp.
“There were some relievers who became available on shorter deals late that we were interested in early on those types of deals,” team president Theo Epstein said. “But they weren’t ready to commit yet to the shorter deal. By the time it rolled around late in the offseason, we’d kind of spent our money.
“We really want to be cognizant of leaving some flexibility for in-season moves, leaving a little cushion beneath the [luxury tax] threshold for us to be able to operate during the season. I feel like we successfully did that.”
Ross to ‘mentor’ Contreras
Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Tuesday that he expects second-year catcher Willson Contreras to catch the majority — and possibly all — of left-hander Jon Lester’s starts in the wake of personal catcher David Ross’ retirement.
As a rookie last year, Contreras took over the bulk of the starting duties late in the season and during the postseason. But Ross still was assigned to Lester to help offset his inability to control the running game.
With Ross returning to the organization as a special assistant in the front office, Maddon expects him to help ease the transition.
“We’re going to have David mentor him a little bit, regarding the thought, the process, the conversations he’s had with Jonny in the past and continue to move it forward from there,” Maddon said. “So we feel good about it.”
Maddon didn’t rule out the club’s second catcher, Miguel Montero, catching Lester in some starts.
After a breakout -season on defense capped by a significant postseason contribution as the starting second baseman, Javy Baez enters camp still fighting for a single position to play.
“We have to balance a lot of different things out,” Maddon said. “He’s going to play some second, of course, and so is [Ben Zobrist]. Zo is going to be out there primarily, and then we’ll work Javy in there. But Zo could also do what he’s done in the past, play some outfield.”
Baez was a Gold Glove-caliber fielder at all four infield spots last year.
“It’s all theory right now,” Maddon said. “Of course, he’s going to play a lot. How it’s going to balance out, we’re not 100 percent sure yet.”
This and that
Despite signing Anderson to a $3.5 million deal, general manager Jed Hoyer said the club still looks at the versatile Mike Montgomery as a starter, now and in the long term. “We’re going to prepare for the season with him starting in mind,” Hoyer said. “Obviously, we will make adjustments as we need to make adjustments.” They are the top candidates for the lone rotation opening.
† Epstein said the club plans to have Albert -Almora share the center-field job with Jon Jay as Almora transitions into what the team hopes is a long-term starting role.
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