ARLINGTON, Texas — Cubs owner Tom Ricketts made it clear in February that the Cubs didn’t spend more money on free agents in the offseason “because we don’t have any more.”
As the Cubs opened the season Thursday in Texas with almost entirely the same team they finished with last season, a bigger question emerged: How much will their spending situation change by this summer, when they might be looking to try to add for a pennant race?
“There are a lot of variables, so it’s impossible to answer that,” team president Theo Epstein said of his anticipated flexibility. “But I think we’re planning on scouting aggressively and being resourceful to make the team better in-season.”
Take “resourceful” any way you want. Epstein won’t get more specific than that. But it would seem he doesn’t expect to be flush with any more cash than he had over the winter.
Finding a taker for a chunk of what’s left on Tyler Chatwood’s contract might be the best way to make some money back.
But if that doesn’t happen, and this team is in position to win in July while the front office counts pennies again, it’s going to be hard to sell the empty-pockets narrative.
Close, but not that close
Middle infielder Nico Hoerner, the 2018 first-round draft pick who impressed with an eye-popping performance this spring during big-league games on loan from the minor-league side, has been assigned to open the season at Class AA Tennessee. He’ll skip the advanced-A level after playing just 14 professional games last year.
But the Cubs say he is not considered big-league depth for this season, regardless of how well he plays at Tennessee.
“We think he deserves to be at AA,” Epstein said. “It is an aggressive placement, but he is uncommonly mature and advanced for his age, both with his game on the field and the way he handles things off the field. So we believe he can handle it, but we expect him to be at AA for, if not the whole year, then the great, great majority of the year.”
Zagunis starts, Schwarber sits
After making his first Opening Day roster, rookie Mark Zagunis, a right-handed hitter, got the start in left field over lefty-hitting Kyle Schwarber because of the matchup against Rangers lefty starter Mike Minor.
“It’s an incredible feeling,” said Zagunis, who responded with a run-scoring double during the Cubs’ six-run fifth inning.
Schwarber pinch-hit for Zagunis in the sixth.
Pitching hopeful Luke Hagerty, the supplemental first-round pick in 2002 who returned to the organization after more than a decade out of the game, is having a season-ending “revision” surgery on his surgically rebuilt left pitching elbow. He hopes to try another comeback in 2020.
Hagerty, who turns 38 on Monday, almost reinvented himself as a power pitcher with a sharp breaking ball in private work at his baseball teaching facility in Arizona The Cubs signed him after a showcase for scouts.
This and that
A team source said reliever Carl Edwards Jr. was fined $1,000 after admitting he hit Mariners prospect Austin Nola with a pitch intentionally during a game this spring — but teammates covered the cost.
• Kyle Hendricks has been slotted to pitch the Cubs’ fourth game of the season in Atlanta on Monday, but team officials still are discussing how to use two days off in the first six days of the season to manipulate the rotation to get desired matchups in upcoming series.
• Lefty Brian Duensing cleared waivers and was outrighted to Class AAA Iowa.