Cubs roster and schedule
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Chicago Cubs roster and schedule for 2020 season

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The 2020 MLB season is now a 60-game dash, starting on July 23 and ending, hopefully, with a full-size postseason in October. Between now and the start of the season, we’ll be giving quick capsule previews of each team, reminding you of where things stood back in Spring Training and where they stand now as we embark on what is sure to be the strangest season in baseball history. First up: The Chicago Cubs roster and schedule:

CUBS ROSTER (projected)

When the season opens on July 23-24, teams can sport rosters of up to 30 players, with a minimum of 25. Two weeks later, rosters must be reduced to 28 and then, two weeks after that, they must be reduced to 26. Teams will be permitted to add a 27th player for doubleheaders.

In light of that, there is a great degree of latitude for which specific players will break summer camp. For now, though, here are who we expect to be on the Cubs roster to begin the season:

Catchers:

Willson Contreras
Victor Caratini

Infielders:

Anthony Rizzo
Nico Hoerner
Jason Kipnis
Javier Báez
Kris Bryant
David Bote
Daniel Descalso

Outfielders:

Albert Almora Jr.
Ian Happ
Jason Heyward
Kyle Schwarber
Steven Souza Jr.

Starters:

Kyle Hendricks
Yu Darvish
Jon Lester
Tyler Chatwood
Alec Mills

Relievers:

Craig Kimbrel
Kyle Ryan
Jeremy Jeffress
Duane Underwood Jr.
Ryan Tepera
Dan Winkler
Casey Sadler
Rowan Wick


BREAKDOWN:

The Cubs missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 2014. The club’s 84-78 record marked a decline of 11 wins from the previous season. The offense was predictably good, but the pitching staff did not quite live up to expectations, especially the mid-season signing of closer Craig Kimbrel, who posted a 6.53 ERA over 20 2/3 innings.

They’re bringing back more or less the same starting cast from last year. The big change on offense is the glut of second basemen used last season will be replaced by prospect Nico Hoerner and, to a lesser extent, veteran Jason Kipnis. Before the league shut down due to the pandemic and the 2020 season was reduced to 60 games, there was some thought that the Cubs could leave Hoerner in Triple-A, but now the club has nothing to lose. In a brief debut spanning 20 games in 2019, Hoener posted a solid .741 OPS. Kipnis, meanwhile, has been getting closer and closer to replacement level since he turned 30, but he will prove to be a valuable mentor to Hoerner.

Alec Mills earned a spot in the rotation as José Quintana is sidelined with a thumb injury. Tyler Chatwood, bumped up to the No. 4 spot for the time being, pitched mostly out of the bullpen last year and showed promise after a couple of shaky seasons in 2017-18. The right-hander improved his strikeout rate and made progress on reducing his walk rate. He hasn’t pitched regularly out of the rotation since ’18, but if his peripherals and limited exhibition performances this year are any indication, he may have turned the corner.

One wonders how much leash Kimbrel will have if he can’t figure things out in a shortened season. His 2019 performance was by far the worst of his 10-year career, no doubt affected by his free agency lingering two months into the regular season. Kimbrel will need to be effective out of the gate, but none of the other members of the bullpen have lengthy histories closing out games. Would the Cubs trust Rowan Wick, Casey Sadler, or Kyle Ryan, for instance, to handle the ninth inning if Kimbrel can’t?

It goes without saying the Cubs will be buoyed by their big bats — Anthony Rizzo, Javier Báez, Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, and Kyle Schwarber. One can write in pen 150 homers (or the 60-game equivalent pace, 56) from the quintet. It’s the rest of the cast that will determine whether or not the Cubs miss out on the postseason for a second straight season or make an attempt to return to glory.

CUBS SCHEDULE:

Every team will play 60 games. Teams will be playing 40 games against their own division rivals and 20 interleague games against the corresponding geographic division from the other league. Six of the 20 interleague games will be “rivalry” games.

  • July 24-26: vs. Brewers
  • July 27-30: @ Reds
  • July 31-August 2: vs. Pirates
  • August 3-4: vs. Royals
  • August 5-6: @ Royals
  • August 7-9: @ Cardinals
  • August 11-12: @ Indians
  • August 13-15: vs. Brewers
  • August 17-19: vs. Cardinals
  • August 21-23: vs. White Sox
  • August 24-26: @ Tigers
  • August 28-30: @ Reds
  • September 1-3: @ Pirates
  • September 4-7: vs. Cardinals
  • September 8-10: vs. Reds
  • September 11-13: @ Brewers
  • September 15-16: vs. Indians
  • September 18-20: vs. Twins
  • September 21-24: @ Pirates
  • September 25-27: @ White Sox

The entire Pirates schedule can be seen here.

Angels’ Andrelton Simmons opts out of final 5 games

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Shortstop Andrelton Simmons has opted out of the remainder of the Los Angeles Angels’ season.

The Angels announced the four-time Gold Glove-winning shortstop’s decision Tuesday before they faced the San Diego Padres.

Los Angeles (24-31) is still technically in the playoff race with five games left in the regular season, and Simmons clearly caught the Angels by surprise, although the club said it respected his decision.

The 31-year-old Simmons, who can be a free agent this winter, is finishing his fifth year with the Angels. After spraining his ankle in late July and missing 22 games, Simmons is currently batting .297 with 10 RBIs while playing his usual stellar defense, albeit with four errors in 30 games.

“At this time, I feel this is the best decision for me and my family,” Simmons said in a statement. “We don’t know what the future holds, but we would like to sincerely thank the Angels organization and Angels fans for welcoming and making us feel at home.”

Manager Joe Maddon acknowledged he was caught by surprise when general manager Billy Eppler told him about Simmons’ decision Monday night after Simmons went 1 for 4 with an RBI single in the Angels’ home finale. Maddon texted Simmons, but hadn’t heard back by Tuesday afternoon.

“I’ve really enjoyed this guy a lot,” Maddon said. “I’m a big fan. This guy is a good baseball player, and I’ve enjoyed the conversations, too. It’s just unfortunate. He’s really a big part of what we’re doing right now.”

Simmons is a favorite of Angels fans for his defensive wizardry, and owner Arte Moreno has described Simmons as perhaps his favorite player to watch on the roster. Simmons has batted .281 with 36 homers and 281 RBIs during his five seasons with Los Angeles, and he won the Gold Glove in 2017 and 2018.

“He’s a thinking kind of a player, and I’ve enjoyed him a lot,” Maddon said.

Simmons will be a free agent this winter, and the Angels have an obvious replacement for him in David Fletcher, who has a .374 on-base percentage while regularly hitting leadoff for the Angels during his breakout major league season. Fletcher has been playing second base since Simmons’ return from injury.

But the Angels haven’t publicly closed the door on Simmons’ return, and he could be given a qualifying offer. Maddon has repeatedly said he would like Simmons to return in 2021 if possible.

The Angels haven’t had a winning season during Simmons’ five years in Anaheim, although Simmons said last week he wasn’t discouraged by the lack of team success. Simmons played his first four major league seasons in Atlanta, and he hasn’t appeared in the postseason since 2013.

Simmons also said he hadn’t been involved in any recent contract talks with the Angels, but he had enjoyed playing for the club. When asked if he wanted to return to the Halos, Simmons said he would have to “plead the fifth.”