Baez among Cubs looking to rebound in 2016

Baez among Cubs looking to rebound in 2016

Which Cubs players are looking to bounce back in 2016? As the Cubs count down to Spring Training, MLB.com takes a look at some hot topics, including which players are on the rebound.

After a 97-win season, it would seem that the Cubs didn't have anyone struggle last year, but here are a few players to watch in '16:

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cubs and Yankees sparred with Twitter GIFs

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Cubs and Yankees sparred with Twitter GIFs

Without baseball games to be played, it's hard for teams to figure out who's better. After all, there are no standings or head-to-head matchups in which to battle. 

Fortunately, there's Twitter. And it all started with a friendly (OK, semi-friendly) tweet from a Yankees fan expressing how the Yankees' account is better than the Cubs'. 

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Arrieta, Cubs reportedly reach one-year deal

Ace avoids arbitration with $10.7 million agreement

Arrieta, Cubs reportedly reach one-year deal

The Cubs and ace Jake Arrieta have agreed to a one-year contract for 2016 worth $10.7 million to avoid arbitration, according to the Associated Press. It's the richest one-year deal for a pitcher with four years of Major League service, per the AP.

The club has not confirmed the deal.

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Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cubbie scare: Sharks swim by Kris Bryant

NL Rookie of the Year posts dramatic video on Instagram

Cubbie scare: Sharks swim by Kris Bryant

CHICAGO -- Kris Bryant may have given manager Joe Maddon an idea for an in-season stunt -- and also given Cubs fans a scare by swimming with sharks in Hawaii.

Bryant posted a video on Instagram that features at least three sharks very close to the National League Rookie of the Year, who, thankfully, is safely in a protective cage.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Inbox: Will youngsters handle added heat?

Beat reporter Carrie Muskat answers fans' questions

Inbox: Will youngsters handle added heat?

Do you have a question about the Cubs? Send it to CubsInbox@gmail.com, and please include your full name and hometown.

Do you think the added pressure on the youngsters with all these "glowing" predictions by so-called experts will adversely affect their performance this year?
-- Earl S., Virginia, Ill.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cubs' Charity Run to go through Wrigley Field

Cubs' Charity Run to go through Wrigley Field

CHICAGO -- Need some motivation for your running program? The Cubs have updated the course for the 11th Annual Race to Wrigley Charity Run, to be held April 23. This year, the run, presented by ATI Physical Therapy, will allow participants to race through Wrigley Field.

Registration is open now through April 22 at 2 p.m. CT at race-cubs.com/. Registration fee is $40, and the chip-timed 5K fee is $45.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Arrieta takes to Twitter to interact with fans

NL CY Young Award winner shows off beard, expresses desire to win Silver Slugger

Arrieta takes to Twitter to interact with fans

CHICAGO -- Jake Arrieta took a break from his offseason workouts -- and took advantage of what he called a rare quiet moment at home -- to show off his beard and answer fans' questions on Twitter.

The reigning National League Cy Young Award winner posted a photo of his facial hair, which he had significantly trimmed after the season ended. A fan suggested the Cubs players have some friendly competition to see who can grow the biggest beard. Arrieta acknowledged new teammate Jason Heyward had some "strong fuzz" and the outfielder agreed, responding with a caricature.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

After six years in Japan, Murton reportedly coming back to Cubs

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After six years in Japan, Murton reportedly coming back to Cubs

Cue up the Diddy, because Matt Murton is coming home. After spending the last six seasons with the Hanshin Tigers of the NPB, Murton looks to be returning to his first Major League team: The Cubs. The team has reportedly signed the fiery-haired outfielder on a Minor League deal, bringing him back to the organization where he found his greatest Major League success. 

Of course, the last six seasons have been pretty good to Murton, too. In his first season with the Tigers, Murton smacked 214 base hits, breaking Ichiro Suzuki's then-single season record of 210. 

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Improved changeup could accelerate Johnson's path

Prospect fine-tuned the pitch following lat injury last year

Improved changeup could accelerate Johnson's path

CHICAGO -- Pierce Johnson could have been accused of stalking Jake Arrieta or Jon Lester last spring. The way the Cubs' prospect saw it, he was simply taking advantage of the veteran pitchers in big league camp, and he'll likely be shadowing them again when they gather in Mesa, Ariz.

"I didn't want to be obnoxious in Spring Training," Johnson said about last year. "If I could be a fly on the wall around Arrieta, Lester and [Jason] Hammel and all the guys who had so much success, I took that opportunity."

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Mike Petriello

Lester's lasers: Hitting lessons from the Cubs lefty

Hitting exit velocity of 92.5 mph was second best by any pitcher

Lester's lasers: Hitting lessons from the Cubs lefty

Recently, we noted that San Diego pitcher Tyson Ross had landed himself surprisingly high on the Statcast™ hitting exit velocity leaderboards, pointing out that (with a favorably low sample size threshold) he'd actually hit the ball harder on average than Paul Goldschmidt or Yoenis Cespedes. But in the process, something else even more fascinating came up. Only two pitchers hit the ball harder than 91 mph last year, given 10 non-bunt batted balls. One was Ross, one of the best hitting pitchers around, so that's not surprising.

The other just set a Major League record for offensive futility. That's something that grabs your attention. Jon Lester, who went without a hit over his first 66 career plate appearances dating back to 2006 before finally getting one in July, hit the ball an average of 92.5 mph last season. It was harder than every non-Ross pitcher, even Madison Bumgarner, who cracked five homers. Take a look for yourself:

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Mike Petriello is an analyst for MLB.com and the host of the Statcast podcast. He has previously written for ESPN Insider and FanGraphs. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

Exciting reunion could be in store for Murton, Cubs

Former Major Leaguer had highly successful six-year stint in Japan

Exciting reunion could be in store for Murton, Cubs

Matt Murton? Did you say Matt Murton?

That Matt Murton?

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Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Six Cubs make cut on Top 100 Prospects list

Six Cubs make cut on Top 100 Prospects list

CHICAGO -- The Cubs have six players among MLB.com's Top 100 prospects, including 19-year-old shortstop Gleyber Torres and catcher Willson Contreras, who was the team's 2015 Minor League Player of the Year.

Torres, who batted .293 at Class A South Bend last season, was listed at No. 29 on the top 100 list, released Friday, while Contreras, 23, who hit .333 at Double-A Tennessee, checked in at No. 51. Torres was projected to start the 2016 season at Class A Myrtle Beach, while Contreras could be at Triple-A Iowa.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Kluber trade taught Hoyer valuable lessons

Current Cubs GM made deal for Ludwick while serving as Padres GM

Kluber trade taught Hoyer valuable lessons

CHICAGO -- Bill Murray and the 1993 film "Groundhog Day" made Feb. 2 a day for do-overs, so we posed this question to Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer: What deal, with the benefit of hindsight, would you like to do over?

In 2010, Corey Kluber was a 24-year-old starting pitcher with the Padres' Double-A San Antonio affiliate. Baseball America didn't include him among the team's top 30 prospects. A fourth-round pick in 2007, the right-hander hadn't dominated in the Minor Leagues at any level.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Coghlan uses advanced stats to grow game

On-base and slugging data help him 'mature' at plate

Coghlan uses advanced stats to grow game

Cubs outfielder Chris Coghlan grew up like any other baseball player, focusing on his batting average and how to improve it. But when he decided it was time to reevaluate his career a few years ago, Coghlan realized it was time to expand his horizons.

Coghlan, 30, began to consider what teams valued in players, specifically when it came to more advanced statistics. He recently explained his evolution as a player and increased understanding of sabermetrics on the Statcast™ podcast with Mike Petriello.

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Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Prospect Almora among 18 Cubs NRIs

Prospect Almora among 18 Cubs NRIs

The Cubs have invited 18 non-roster players to Major League Spring Training, a group that includes two of their top five prospects.

Right-hander Duane Underwood and outfielder Albert Almora headline the list of non-roster invitees, announced Friday. The Cubs invited 10 pitchers, three infielders, three outfielders and two catchers, bringing their Spring Training roster to 58 players.

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Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Inbox: Does Fowler have future in Chicago?

Cubs beat reporter Carrie Muskat answers fans' questions

Inbox: Does Fowler have future in Chicago?

Do you have a question about the Cubs? Send it to CubsInbox@gmail.com, and please include your full name and hometown.

Straight to the point -- why have the Cubs not pursued keeping Dexter Fowler? I honestly believe he will be the missing link. That way, Jason Heyward can stay in right and we have a solid outfield. Plus, think of the offensive advantages as well. Please do not let this opportunity pass us by.
-- Allen H., Lyons, Ill.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Most Cubs spring games to be broadcast

Team website to stream audio for 21 contests; 11 available on TV

Most Cubs spring games to be broadcast

CHICAGO -- Cubs fans will be able to watch or listen to nearly every Spring Training game this year via television, radio or Internet broadcast.

The Cubs announced Wednesday that a Cubs game will be available every game day of the spring schedule via one or more broadcast mediums, and 30 of the 32 games are scheduled to be available overall. The only games not available are road split-squad games, March 7 against the Rockies and March 12 against the Dodgers.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Schwar, what is he good for? Cubs have ideas

Team's No. 1 Draft pick in 2014 projected to catch, play OF

Schwar, what is he good for? Cubs have ideas

CHICAGO -- In one of the Cubs' postseason games, manager Joe Maddon turned to Kyle Schwarber and asked the rookie if he could play third base. Maddon was plotting a possible switch and considering his options. Schwarber said yes and that all he needed was a glove.

The rookie dashed into the clubhouse, grabbed somebody's glove, and returned to the Cubs' dugout ready to go. Schwarber then stood next to catching coach Mike Borzello and confessed that he'd never played third. Ever.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Jim Callis

Torres makes MLB Pipeline's Top 10 SS Prospects list

Dodgers' Seager tops list, Philly's Crawford and Brewers' Arcia next up

Torres makes MLB Pipeline's Top 10 SS Prospects list

MLBPipeline.com will unveil its 2016 Top 100 Prospects list on Friday on MLB.com. The Top 50 will be revealed during a one-hour show on MLB Network at 9 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release, we look at baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.

Even with Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor and Addison Russell graduating to the big leagues, shortstop remains the glamour position for up-and-coming talent. Corey Seager, J.P. Crawford and Orlando Arcia rank among the elite prospects in the game, while Dansby Swanson, Alex Bregman and Brendan Rodgers were the first three picks in the 2015 Draft. Interestingly, the top six shortstop prospects and eight of the 10 best belong to National League clubs.

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Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

Rogers: Cubs among most improved teams

Cubs, D-backs and Red Sox turn in next-best offseasons

Rogers: Cubs among most improved teams

No Dave Dombrowski? No problem for the Tigers -- at least not in the short term.

It's still surprising that owner Mike Ilitch dismissed Dombrowski last August. It's tricky to deconstruct that move, especially since the Red Sox pounced on Dombrowski only two weeks after he cleaned out his office at Comerica Park.

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Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Candelario cracks MLB Pipeline's Top 10 3B Prospects list

Rangers' Gallo grabs top spot, Boston's Devers leaps to No. 2

Candelario cracks MLB Pipeline's Top 10 3B Prospects list

MLBPipeline.com will unveil its 2016 Top 100 Prospects list on Friday on MLB.com. The Top 50 will be revealed during a one-hour show on MLB Network at 9 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release, we look at baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.

Kris Bryant, Joey Gallo, Miguel Sano and Maikel Franco claimed four of the top five spots on last year's list of the top third-base prospects, and together they combined to hit 64 big league home runs in 2015. Gallo retained rookie eligibility and headlines this year's crop of top prospects at the hot corner, which, as a whole, stand out more for overall hitting ability than power. And as it's so often the case with young third basemen, only time will tell how many of these guys will be able to remain at the position long term.

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Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Bryant, Arrieta brave snow for BBWAA honors

Bryant, Arrieta brave snow for BBWAA honors

The Cubs were among the most decorated teams last season, becoming the first club since the 2001 Mariners to win three of the four Baseball Writers' Association of America Awards.

Two of those award recipients -- National League Rookie of the Year Kris Bryant and NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta -- were at the New York Hilton on Saturday night for the Baseball Writers' Association of America Awards presented by Esurance to accept their hardware.

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Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Hammel made a perfect shot at a Blackhawks game

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Hammel made a perfect shot at a Blackhawks game

Two weeks ago, Anthony Rizzo stopped by a Blackhawks game to try to shoot the puck for his charity. It went … well, let's just say some people might say "at least he tried." But not his teammate Jason Hammel.

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MLB.com Columnist

Jonathan Mayo

Happ makes MLB Pipeline's Top 10 2B Prospects list

Boston's Moncada leads list, followed by Reds' Peraza at No. 2

Happ makes MLB Pipeline's Top 10 2B Prospects list

MLBPipeline.com will unveil its 2016 Top 100 Prospects list on Friday on MLB.com. The Top 50 will be revealed during a one-hour show on MLB Network at 9 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release, we look at baseball's Top 10 prospects at each position.

There has been quite a bit of turnover from last year to the 2016 edition of the Top 10 second-base prospects, with six new names joining the list, thanks to two graduations and four who dropped off the list.

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Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayo on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cubs shut down Venezuelan summer team

VSL cancels 2016 season as clubs pull out due to unrest; Chicago continues to run academy

Cubs shut down Venezuelan summer team

CHICAGO -- The Cubs have signed talented prospects such as Gleyber Torres, Willson Contreras, Gioskar Amaya, Jeffrey Baez, Jonathan Mota and Carlos Penalver in recent years from Venezuela. But the difficulties in the country have forced the Cubs to drop their Venezuelan Summer League team this year.

Jason McLeod, senior vice president of player development and amateur scouting, said Monday the Cubs are currently looking at their options on how to best operate in Venezuela at this time. The Cubs will continue to run their academy there and use it for scouting purposes as well as a base for the Parallel League, which is a shortened fall league for young players.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Inbox: How will Maddon solve OF puzzle?

Cubs beat reporter Carrie Muskat answers fans' questions

Inbox: How will Maddon solve OF puzzle?

Do you have a question about the Cubs? Send it to CubsInbox@gmail.com, and please include your full name and hometown.

What's the most likely outcome for the Cubs' outfield? Jason Heyward is incredible defensively but has played right field his entire career. Does Joe Maddon plan to move Heyward to center and have Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler in the corner outfield spots? Or will the Cubs use Soler in a trade to acquire pitching, sign a center fielder like Dexter Fowler and keep J-Hey in right?
-- Tom H., Grayslake, Ill.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cubs ink Kawasaki to Minors pact with invite

Cubs ink Kawasaki to Minors pact with invite

CHICAGO -- The Cubs have signed colorful infielder Munenori Kawasaki to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training.

Kawasaki, 34, batted .214 in 23 games last season with the Blue Jays, and he hit .245 at Triple-A Buffalo. He's versatile, having played second, third and shortstop over four seasons with Seattle and Toronto.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.