Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney, Marlon Byrd

Running down the rosters: Chicago Cubs

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Forget about 2012 and probably 2013 as well; the Cubs are thinking long-term after luring Theo Epstein from Boston as their new showrunner. This year’s club won’t necessarily be one of the worst in baseball — the pitching depth could help it avoid that fate — but there’s also little in the way of upside until more of the youngsters come along.

Rotation
Ryan Dempster  -R
Matt Garza – R
Randy Wells – R
Paul Maholm – L
Chris Volstad – R

Bullpen
Carlos Marmol – R
Kerry Wood – R
Jeff Samardzija – R
James Russell – L
Marcos Mateo – R
Andy Sonnanstine – R
Scott Maine – L

SP next in line: Travis Wood (L), Rodrigo Lopez (R), Sonnanstine, Casey Coleman (R)
RP next in line: Chris Carpenter (R), Manuel Corpas (R),  Lendy Castillo (R)(Rule 5), John Gaub (L), Rafael Dolis (R), Casey Weathers (R)

The Cubs have yet to find a Garza trade to their liking, leaving the rotation as the team’s strength. No one from the group aside from Garza stands out, but the team should get reasonable innings from everyone. I have the other five starters projected with ERAs ranging from 4.18 (T. Wood) to 4.42 (Maholm).

The bullpen, on the other hand, will need a bounce-back season from Marmol, a healthy Wood and continued improvement from Samardzija if it’s going to be any good. The last three spots should all be up for grabs. I like Carpenter, but he’s going to have to throw a few more strikes in spring training to claim a spot initially. Castillo, a Rule 5 pick from the Phillies, could be kept and hidden as a mop-up man.

Lineup
RF David DeJesus – L
SS Starlin Castro – R
CF Marlon Byrd – R
LF Alfonso Soriano – R
1B Bryan LaHair – L
C Geovany Soto – R
3B Ian Stewart – L
2B Darwin Barney – R

Bench
C Welington Castillo – R
INF-OF Jeff Baker – R
INF-OF Blake DeWitt – L
OF Reed Johnson – R
OF Tony Campana – L

Next in line: C Steve Clevenger (L), C Jason Jaramillo (S), 1B Anthony Rizzo (L), 2B-3B Adrian Cardenas (L), 3B Josh Vitters (R), INF Matt Tolbert (S), INF Bobby Scales (S), INF-OF Alfredo Amezaga (S), OF Dave Sappelt (R), OF Brett Jackson (L)

The lineup appears set, as the Cubs have made it clear that Rizzo will start off at Triple-A Iowa. It could actually be surprisingly productive if LaHair proves that his 2012 was no fluke and Soto continues his even year-odd year pattern (he had an .868 OPS as a rookie in 2008 and an .890 OPS in 2010).

As for the bench, we’ll have to wait and see what happens to DeWitt. He re-signed for $1.1 million last month, only to be designated for assignment in February. The Cubs could cut him and eat about $200,000, but he’s not such a bad guy to have around. If not DeWitt, then the last spot could go to Tolbert; ideally, someone on the bench would be able to serve as a backup shortstop. As is, Barney is the second option there.

Outside of Castro, no one in the lineup here is a great bet to be on the next contending Cubs team. Byrd and Soto are candidates to be traded this summer. Of course, the same goes for Soriano if he can play well enough to draw a suitor. Ideally, Rizzo, Jackson and maybe even Vitters will occupy lineup spots in the second half the season.

Rangers sign Josh Hamilton to a minor league deal

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The Texas Rangers have signed Josh Hamilton to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Not at all surprising. The Rangers released Hamilton last August, but that was simply to make some room on the 40-man roster. His season was already toast due to the surgery he underwent to repair lateral and meniscus cartilage in his left knee which had the added bonus of revealing that he had an ACL injury as well, which required reconstruction. At the time of his release both he and the Rangers made noises about him coming back on a minor league deal in 2017.

Hamilton turns 36 in May. The smart money has it that his big league career is over, but Hamilton would be silly to retire given that he is owed $30 million this coming season. That the Angels are paying $26.41 million of that makes it far less painful for the Rangers as well. If he can hit in the spring, hey, let him DH some and pay him low money. If not, no skin off of anyone’s nose. He can request a release on April 1 if he hasn’t made the big league roster.

A-Rod to host a reality show featuring broke ex-athletes

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Alex Rodriguez’s transition into retirement has featured a serious move into the business world. He has gone back to school, worked seriously on investments and has started his own corporation. Yes, he’s set for life after making more money than any baseball player in history, but even if his bank account wasn’t fat, you get the sense that he’d be OK given what we’ve seen of his work ethic and savvy in recent years.

He’s going to be getting another paycheck soon, though. For hosting a reality show featuring athletes who are not in as good a financial shape as A-Rod is:

Interesting. Hopefully, like so many other reality shows featuring the formerly rich and famous, this one is not exploitative. Not gonna hold my breath because that’s what that genre is all about, unfortunately, but here’s hoping A-Rod can help some folks with this.