Chicago Cubs Roster
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Left-handed reliever Edwin Escobar will return to MLB with the Chicago Cubs. Details of the contract are not yet released, but Escobar has confirmed the transaction on his social media, and local reporting in Venezuela has also confirmed the signing. Escobar, a 6'2", 225-pound lefty, was once an elite prospect, ranked among the top 100 prospects in the game before the 2014 season. He had two brief cups of coffee in the major leagues with Boston in 2014 and Arizona in 2016, totaling 25 2/3 innings with a 7.01 ERA. Escobar has spent the past seven seasons in Japan in the NPB, putting together a strong 3.17 ERA and 1.19 WHIP pitching out of the bullpen, with 383 strikeouts over 392 1/3 innings. He will add depth to a Cubs bullpen currently headed by closer Adbert Alzolay. The newest Cub has deep family roots in MLB with father Jose Escobar a former Cleveland infielder and cousins Vicente Campos, Alcides Escobar, Kelvim Escobar, and Ronald Acuna, Jr. all having major league time.
Chicago Cubs infielder James Triantos put on a show during the Arizona Fall League. The 20-year-old prospect hit .417/.495/.679 with three home runs, 15 RBI, nine stolen bases in 99 plate appearances. That performance was strong enough to win Triantos the Offensive Player of the Year award for the Arizona Fall League. Triantos is a former second-round pick of the Cubs from the 2021 draft. Triantos slashed 287/.364/.391 with four homers, 48 RBI and 16 stolen bases over 83 games with mainly Single-A South Bend in 2023. He's expected to make the jump to Double-A Tennessee this upcoming season. It shouldn't be too long before we see Triantos on the big league roster. He's someone worth stashing in dynasty formats even though he's likely at least a year or two away from playing in the big leagues.
Chicago Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said that outfielder Christopher Morel is playing first base in winter ball and is likely to stay there heading into next season. Morel broke out in his second major-league season in 2023 with a .247/.313/.508 slash line, an .821 OPS, 26 home runs, 17 doubles, three triples, 70 RBI, six stolen bases and 62 runs scored for the Cubbies in 107 games played and could be a regular option for Chicago at the cold corner in 2024. The 24-year-old was used mostly at designated hitter in the second half of last season. He has the propensity to be streaky at the plate -- he has a 31.6 percent strikeout rate and only an 8.7 percent walk rate in his first two MLB seasons -- but there's no arguing with his raw power. Morel would only become more attractive in fantasy if he adds first-base eligibility next year.
Chicago Cubs shortstop Dansby Swanson and second baseman Nico Hoerner both won Gold Gloves in 2023. It's Swanson's second straight Gold Glove, while Hoerner won his first Gold Glove this year. Swanson's 20 outs above average led all MLB shortstops, and he also set a career-high with 18 defensive runs saved, which led all shortstops. The Cubs had a franchise-record three Gold Gloves this year with left fielder Ian Happ also winning the award. Other National League Gold Glove winners in 2023 include Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Christian Walker, Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Ke'Bryan Hayes, Diamondbacks rookie catcher Gabriel Moreno, Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Zack Wheeler, Colorado Rockies center fielder Brenton Doyle and San Diego Padres right fielder Fernando Tatis Jr. and utility man Ha-Seong Kim.
Chicago Cubs left-hander Drew Smyly exercised his $8.5 million player option for the 2024 season on Monday. Smyly was a swingman for the Cubs in his second year in Chicago in 2023, making 41 total appearances (23 starts). The 34-year-old veteran southpaw wasn't very effective, though, going 11-11 with a 5.00 ERA (4.96 FIP) and 1.43 WHIP with 56 walks and 141 strikeouts in his 142 1/3 innings pitched. He was much more effective in a relief role, as he had a 2.51 ERA and 12.2 strikeouts per nine innings in 28 2/3 innings out of the bullpen compared to a 5.62 ERA and 8.1 K/9 in 113 2/3 innings as a starter. Smyly is going to have to be better in a starting role in spring training next year if he wants to win a rotation spot for the Cubbies to begin the 2024 regular season.