Winter market has been frigid, but Cubs players stoking competitive fire

Mark Gonzales, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Baseball

CHICAGO -- President Theo Epstein stressed patience as he and his staff try to fortify the Cubs pitching staff during what has so far been a tedious winter.

"Realistically we'd like to add another pitcher," Epstein said Friday night as several thousand fans attended the opening ceremony of the Cubs Convention at the Sheraton Grand Chicago. "I like the talent we have now, but we can certainly add to the depth. You can do that through depth moves or through adding another real quality pitcher.

"We've made moves in spring training before. If it comes to that, for everyone's sake, I hope things happen in an orderly fashion before spring training and the players can be settled. I'm done predicting this winter. It's taken on its own life."

While player movement has been at a minimum this offseason, Cubs players already have begun the quest of regaining the World Series trophy they won in 2016.

"We're a better team than we showed last year," Ben Zobrist said. "Even though we won the division and made it to the (National League) Championship Series, it just wasn't good enough for what we know we're capable of.

"There were a lot of effects that went into it, but we still feel we're the best team. And if you're the best team, you've got to prove it. So we didn't prove it last year. Obviously, that's going to up the motivation going into this year."

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Several players have taken it upon themselves to make amends for falling short. The most noticeable and publicized transformation involves the frame of once-stocky left fielder Kyle Schwarber, who changed his lifestyle after a season in which he endured a brief midseason demotion but still hit 30 home runs.

"I want to be the best player I can be, and it starts there," said Schwarber, who appears to have dropped about 40 pounds and wore a sport coat a couple of sizes too big. "It's not going to help me hit .500. You've just got to take control of things you can control, and this is one thing I can control. People are making it out to be a big deal. This part of the job for me, I just wanting to keep getting better and better.

"I want to get quicker on the base paths and the outfield."

Schwarber is willing to bat anywhere in the lineup and still professed a love for catching. But Epstein said Schwarber likely would catch only in an emergency.


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