Cubs manager Mike Quade announced this afternoon that Ryan Dempster will be the Opening Day starter, telling Carrie Muskat of MLB.com that he slept on the decision last night and let his “instinct” make the call.
Ultimately which pitcher takes the mound on Opening Day is mostly meaningless, as everyone in the rotation will be in line to start 32-34 games as long as they remain healthy all season, but Quade turning to Dempster is interesting given that Carlos Zambrano has drawn six straight Opening Day assignments for the Cubs.
Zambrano was demoted to the bullpen for a stretch last season and logged just 130 innings for the lowest workload since he was a 21-year-old rookie in 2002, but he was brilliant after rejoining the rotation in mid-August with an 8-0 record and 1.41 ERA in his final 11 starts. He finished with a 3.33 ERA overall, while Dempster had a 3.85 ERA in 215 innings.
Instead of starting Game 1 for the seventh consecutive season Zambrano will follow Dempster, with Matt Garza taking the mound in Game 3 after coming to the Cubs in an offseason trade with the Rays.
Fox 26’s Mark Berman reports that the Astros and third baseman Alex Bregman have agreed to $100 million contract extension. MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart confirms a deal has been reached and adds that the deal is actually for five years, beginning after the 2019 season. The contract will cover all three of Bregman’s arbitration years and two years of would-be free agency.
Bregman, who turns 25 years old later this month, has quickly become one of the best third basemen in baseball. Across parts of three seasons, he has hit .282/.366/.500 with 58 home runs, 208 RBI, 224 runs scored, and 29 stolen bases. FanGraphs credited him with 7.6 Wins Above Replacement, tied with Francisco Lindor and Christian Yelich for the fourth-best mark among position players in baseball, trailing only Mookie Betts (10.4), Mike Trout (9.8), and José Ramírez (8.0).
This is obviously a smart move for the Astros, as this contract extension will secure Bregman’s age 25-30 seasons. With second baseman José Altuve also locked up through 2024, and presumed extensions to come for Carlos Correa and possibly Gerrit Cole and George Springer, the Astros have a core that they can build around for years to come.