Fresh faces, recent arrivals inspired Cubs in 2014

Breakout campaigns from Arrieta, Baez, Soler paved way for additions of Maddon, Lester

Fresh faces, recent arrivals inspired Cubs in 2014

CHICAGO -- The Cubs' 2014 season began without great expectations. It was meant to be another step in the rebuilding process.

But things changed. There was a buzz when Jake Arrieta nearly no-hit the Red Sox on June 30 at Fenway Park. It got louder when Javier Baez made his Major League debut in Colorado. The volume increased when Jorge Soler homered in his first Major League at-bat and every time Kyle Hendricks took the mound.

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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 complete deal, reunite Ross with Lester

Catcher who works well with left-hander inks two-year contract

Cubs complete deal, reunite Ross with Lester

CHICAGO -- David Ross and Jon Lester are together again, while Welington Castillo appears to be the odd man out.

The Cubs announced Tuesday they have signed Ross to a two-year contract. According to CBSSports.com, Ross' deal includes a $500,000 signing bonus, and he will be paid $2.25 million in 2015 and $2.25 million in 2016.

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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.

Jackson, Cubs forge bond with local school

Jackson, Cubs forge bond with local school

CHICAGO -- It started with a caravan stop in January and didn't end as pitcher Edwin Jackson and the Cubs gave Casals School of Excellence presents all year long, including a visit with President Obama for one ambitious student.

Jackson was part of a Cubs contingent that helped paint murals on the walls of the gymnasium and cafeteria at the Humboldt Park school. A few students gave the pitcher a private tour. Jackson later posted a picture of the kids, saying what a great time he had.

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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 add pitcher, lose two players via waivers

Kickham claimed from Giants; Lavarnway, Peterson go to O's, Brewers

Cubs add pitcher, lose two players via waivers

CHICAGO -- The Cubs shuffled the roster Tuesday, claiming left-handed pitcher Mike Kickham off waivers from the Giants and losing two players whom they had claimed last Friday.

Catcher Ryan Lavarnway, whom the Cubs claimed off waivers from the Dodgers, was claimed Tuesday by the Orioles, while outfielder Shane Peterson, whom the Cubs claimed off waivers from the Athletics, is now headed to the Brewers.

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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

Phil Rogers

No need to wait: Cubs have a spot for Bryant

Goal of contending now would be served by moving top prospect to Majors

No need to wait: Cubs have a spot for Bryant

Happy holidays, Kris Bryant.

Bryant is arguably the best prospect in baseball. He also may benefit immediately from the Cubs' signing of Jon Lester.

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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.

MLB.com Columnist

Bernie Pleskoff

Bryant, Russell among Pleskoff's top 10 prospects

Former scout takes a look at baseball's future stars with a breakdown of the best in the game

Bryant, Russell among Pleskoff's top 10 prospects

It is always difficult to rank prospects. Why is pitcher X better than hitter X in the rankings? The results are in the eyes of the person compiling the lists. That's exactly why multiple scouts or player evaluation professionals may have different rankings. Prospects are just that -- prospects. The truth of their ability will come between the foul lines of big league ballparks.

Given the landscape of individual difference, I offer my own 2015 Top 10 Prospects list. For me, each has the upside of an impact player.

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Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cubs announce signing of Motte to 1-year deal

Cubs announce signing of Motte to 1-year deal

CHICAGO -- Manager Joe Maddon now has a veteran presence in the Cubs' bullpen with the addition of Jason Motte.

The Cubs announced Friday that they have signed the free agent right-hander to a one-year, $4.5 million contract that includes $2.5 million in performance bonuses.

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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.

Motte excited about playing for Cubs, Maddon

Reliever has always enjoyed pitching at Wrigley Field in Chicago

Motte excited about playing for Cubs, Maddon

CHICAGO -- After spending his entire career with the Cardinals, Jason Motte had no trouble signing with their biggest rival, the Cubs.

"I know Cubs-Cards is a big rivalry," Motte said Friday. "We liked what the Cubs did this offseason and we're excited for the opportunity they presented to us to play there. I've always said it, and there have been many articles about it, but people ask, 'What's your favorite opposing city to go to?' and I've always said Chicago."

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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 claim Lavarnway, Peterson off waivers

Roach, Watkins designated for assignment to make room on 40-man roster

Cubs claim Lavarnway, Peterson off waivers

CHICAGO -- The Cubs claimed catcher Ryan Lavarnway off waivers from the Dodgers and outfielder Shane Peterson off waivers from the Athletics on Friday. To make room on the 40-man roster, pitcher Donn Roach and infielder Logan Watkins were designated for assignment.

Lavarnway, 27, has spent the last seven seasons in the Red Sox's organization, batting .299 in 25 games on the 2013 World Series championship team. He was claimed off waivers by the Dodgers on Dec. 5 but designated for assignment on Dec. 10.

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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 acquire Minor League pitcher, send Ruggiano to M's

Cubs acquire Minor League pitcher, send Ruggiano to M's

CHICAGO -- The Cubs dealt outfielder Justin Ruggiano to the Mariners Wednesday for Minor League pitcher Matt Brazis, opening a spot on the 40-man roster.

Ruggiano, 32, batted .281 with six home runs and 28 RBIs in 81 games for the Cubs last season, but missed time because of a left hamstring injury suffered in late April. His season ended Aug. 22 when he fractured his left ankle.

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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 Bauman

Windy City revival: Cubs, White Sox revamped for '15

Windy City revival: Cubs, White Sox revamped for '15

In the early years of this century, people spoke of the true center of baseball being in the east, in the North American sense of east, meaning close to the Atlantic.

Then they spoke of the true center of baseball moving west, to the Pacific Coast. Fine, the continent had been covered, from sea to shining sea.

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

Pevey, Bailey back as Minor League managers

Johnson at helm of Class A Myrtle Beach

CHICAGO -- Marty Pevey will return for his third season as Triple-A Iowa's manager, Buddy Bailey is back at Double-A Tennessee and Mark Johnson was promoted to Class A Myrtle Beach manager, the Cubs announced Wednesday.

Pevey will be joined by newly hired pitching coach Mike Cather, who spent 2014 in that role with the Padres' Triple-A El Paso team. This is Cather's 10th season as a coach after six seasons in the Red Sox system and three seasons in the San Diego organization. Brian Harper will return for his third season as Iowa's hitting coach.

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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.

Chicago hope: Cubs introduce Lester

Left-hander excited to be in Chicago after rave reviews from Hammel, Samardzija

Chicago hope: Cubs introduce Lester

CHICAGO -- The Cubs formally introduced Jon Lester on Monday, and they can thank Ryan Dempster, Kerry Wood, Anthony Rizzo, Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija for helping sell the left-hander on coming to Chicago.

Lester agreed to a six-year, $155 million contract last Tuesday, but needed to pass a physical to make it official. He did that, and showed off his new No. 34 Cubs jersey for the first time at Spiaggia restaurant in downtown Chicago on Monday afternoon.

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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 Convention to take place Jan. 16-18

Cubs Convention to take place Jan. 16-18

CHICAGO -- New manager Joe Maddon and pitcher Jon Lester will join Anthony Rizzo, Kerry Wood and Hall of Famers Billy Williams, Ernie Banks and Fergie Jenkins at the 30th Cubs Convention, Jan. 16-18, at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers.

The Jan. 16 opening ceremony will be at 6 p.m. CT, featuring player introductions. Former Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster, now in the front office as a special assistant, will host a show featuring interviews with Cubs players and coaches, comedy vignettes and interactive games to end the first day.

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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 announce Minor League coordinators for '15 season

CHICAGO -- The Cubs announced their Minor League coordinators for 2015 and named former outfielder Darnell McDonald as the organization's mental skills program coordinator and Dave Keller as the Latin America coordinator.

McDonald, 36, who retired in April after seven big league seasons, including 2013 with the Cubs, will work with players in all levels of the farm system. Last season, he served as a baseball operations assistant.

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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

Phil Rogers

Samardzija, Lester are right fits in Windy City

Pair of aces sure to add plenty of spice to City Series rivalry

Samardzija, Lester are right fits in Windy City

CHICAGO -- With apologies to the late Bob Wills and all Texans, this Hot Stove season has been a tale of the Chicago two step, with the White Sox and Cubs adding aces through a series of calculations and reactions that both teams believe could not have worked out better.

Not only did Jeff Samardzija jump from the A's to the White Sox, with Jon Lester being signed to replace him on the North Side, but the series of events that led them to Chicago bodes well for both teams.

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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.

Championship drought? Lester up for the challenge

Reunion with Epstein has lefty excited to steer Cubs back to World Series

Championship drought? Lester up for the challenge

CHICAGO -- In 2004, Jon Lester was pitching for the Red Sox's Class A Sarasota affiliate and could only watch that October as the parent club ended an 86-year drought to win the World Series.

"I saw how it transformed [the Red Sox] organization," Lester said Monday. "[After that] you're expected to win in the Minor Leagues. I saw how that transformed players, how it transformed the coaching staff, trainers, everybody. I think that excitement was definitely added to the top of the list for me. To be a part of something like that would be truly special and truly unbelievable, and that's our goal to do that."

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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 steadfast in aggressive pursuit of Lester

Club pulls out all the stops to bring left-hander into the fold

Cubs steadfast in aggressive pursuit of Lester

CHICAGO -- The first day Jon Lester became a free agent, the Cubs reached out and sent a 15-minute video about the team, its future and why the left-hander was a good fit. And the club didn't stop there.

On Monday, Lester officially joined the Cubs, signing a six-year, $155 million contract, the largest in franchise history. And among the deciding factors were camouflage hats with the Cubs insignia on them and the fact that chairman Tom Ricketts likes to go hunting.

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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.

Lester to wear Wood's No. 34 with Cubs

Lester to wear Wood's No. 34 with Cubs

CHICAGO -- Jon Lester couldn't get No. 31 with the Cubs, so he settled for No. 34 once he got the blessing from Kerry Wood.

Wood was the last Cubs player to wear No. 34, and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein asked the right-hander if it was OK for Lester to take it.

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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

Phil Rogers

Familiarity with Epstein makes Lester, Cubs perfect fit

Familiarity with Epstein makes Lester, Cubs perfect fit

CHICAGO -- Nothing builds confidence like institutional memory. The Cubs have been missing that building block for success since the 1950s, and it's also one reason that the investment in Jon Lester makes so much sense as the next step in president of baseball operations Theo Epstein's methodical rebuild.

Lester, Epstein and the Cubs' other top baseball men, general manager Jed Hoyer and senior vice president Jason McLeod, all left Boston with two World Series rings after the first act of Lester's pitching career. They all will be celebrated forever if they can come close to duplicating that success in Lester's second act.

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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.

Hammel re-introduced after signing 2-year deal with Cubs

Returning as free agent, righty thrived in Chicago before being traded to Oakland

Hammel re-introduced after signing 2-year deal with Cubs

Jason Hammel walked into the Cubs' offices, saw familiar media members, smiled and said, "I'm back."

The 32-year-old right-hander officially returned to Chicago on Friday on a two-year deal with a club option for 2017 after spending the first few months of the 2014 season with the Cubs.

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

High hopes: Meetings usher in new era for Cubs

Lester, Hammel, Montero adds have club aiming to contend; clubhouse leaders on winter list

High hopes: Meetings usher in new era for Cubs

SAN DIEGO -- Was this a week that will be remembered as a turning point in Cubs history? General manager Jed Hoyer won't have an answer for that until possibly October.

The Cubs' front office headed back to Chicago on Thursday with several items checked off their offseason wish list, although the addition of free agents Jon Lester and Jason Hammel weren't made official by the team -- unless you count manager Joe Maddon's impromptu hotel lobby news conference late Tuesday.

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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.

Free agent Lester agrees to deal with Cubs

Six-year, $155 million contract would be largest in franchise history

Free agent Lester agrees to deal with Cubs

SAN DIEGO -- As far as Joe Maddon is concerned, the Cubs won the lottery by getting Jon Lester. The next step is to win the World Series.

Late Tuesday, Lester picked the Cubs over his former team, the Red Sox, and agreed to a six-year, $155 million contract, the largest in franchise history. The Cubs will officially welcome the left-hander with a news conference on Monday.

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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.

ABC 7 to broadcast 25 Cubs games next season

CHICAGO -- The Cubs and WLS-TV/ABC 7 Chicago announced a partnership Friday for television rights to 25 games per year through 2019.

Starting next April, Cubs games will begin airing on ABC 7 Chicago in primetime, daytime and weekends.

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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 select Featherston in Rule 5, flip SS to Angels

Chicago loses McKirahan in Major League phase, Shoulders and Flores in Triple-A round

Cubs select Featherston in Rule 5, flip SS to Angels

SAN DIEGO -- The Cubs selected shortstop Taylor Featherston in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday, but they did not keep him long.

Shortly after picking Featherston, 25, off the Rockies' Triple-A roster, the Cubs dealt him to the Angels for cash considerations. The Cubs did the same in December 2006, when they used their pick to take Josh Hamilton off the Devil Rays' roster, and the outfielder was immediately traded to the Reds in a pre-arranged deal.

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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.

Breaking down the numbers of Lester's contract

Deal is the highest ever given to a free-agent pitcher on a multiyear pact

Breaking down the numbers of Lester's contract

SAN DIEGO -- Jon Lester's new deal with the Cubs puts him in the upper echelon among free-agent pitchers.

According to reports, Lester's six-year, $155 million contract with the Cubs includes a signing bonus of $30 million to be paid over the life of the contract and a full no-trade clause. Lester will receive either a $10 million buyout after the 2020 season or a $25 million vesting option for the '21 season that could bring the total take to $170 million.

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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.

Lester reaches out to fans -- and critics -- on Twitter

Lester reaches out to fans -- and critics -- on Twitter

SAN DIEGO -- Some fans couldn't understand why it took Jon Lester so long to make a decision. Others couldn't comprehend him leaving the Red Sox to go to the Cubs, who haven't had much success in the postseason in the last 100 years. Some welcomed him to Chicago, while others simply wanted to vent.

Lester did his best to answer his critics and supporters, responding on Twitter for about three hours on Wednesday, one day after agreeing to a six-year, $155 million contract with the Cubs. The team is expected to formally announce the decision Monday after Lester undergoes a physical. That's standard procedure regarding free agents; what Lester did Wednesday was above and beyond what most professional athletes do.

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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.

Lester's arrival in Chicago lauded by rivals

Lester's arrival in Chicago lauded by rivals

SAN DIEGO -- Neither Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein nor general manager Jed Hoyer would comment on the Jon Lester six-year, $155 million deal, which was confirmed late Tuesday. But agent Scott Boras did, even though Lester is not his client.

"I think the Cubs got a great deal," Boras said. "I think he's a really, really impactful player and a dominant, dominant pitcher."

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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 Bauman

NL Central looking like 5-team race

NL Central looking like 5-team race

SAN DIEGO -- With the Cubs' signing of Jon Lester, the 2015 version of the National League Central can safely be projected as a five-team race.

The Cardinals' track record and pedigree suggest that they should still be the favorites. But every other team can offer a valid argument on behalf of its own chances.

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