The Rundown: Baez Admits He Was ‘Confused’ at the Plate Last Year, Castro Moving to Arizona, Cubs Avoid Arbitration with 5 Players

Javier Baez was “confused” at the plate last season, he told the media last night at the Cubs Convention.

“I had a lot of people talking and trying to fix my swing. I can’t just hear what everyone has to say. I was waiting for the season to be over to work on it,” he said.

I’m a tad puzzled with this quote. During last season’s call-up, we were told multiple times that the Cubs weren’t going to tinker with Baez’s swing.

They wanted to just sit back, observe, and let Javy be Javy, as Jed Hoyer told 670 the Score last August.

Perhaps things changed near the end of the season; I’m not sure.

Baez reportedly looks slimmer and fitter, dropping an estimated 15 pounds. It sounds like this was planned.

“He played a little bigger last season than was ideal,” Theo Epstein said. “He took his conditioning seriously this winter. When he showed up to winter ball, everyone was impressed.”

We saw something similar last year with Starlin Castro, and he had a bounce-back year at the plate.

Here’s hoping the work pays off for Baez and he becomes a force to be reckoned with as a fixture at second base for the Cubs.

Castro moving family, too

Earlier this week we learned Starlin Castro was in Arizona already working out in preparation of Spring Training. On Friday, he told the media that he is considering moving his family from the Dominican Republic to the Phoenix area.

Castro was questioned, but not charged, for two separate shootings in the Dominican Republic this offseason. It sounds like the best thing for him at this point is to distance himself from any future incidents.

The young shortstop expressed that he wants to remain a Cub and try to win a championship in Chicago, writes Jesse Rogers. I’m sure he’s happy to finally see the Cubs start to turn things around.

Everybody’s favorite: Arbitration talk

The Cubs avoided arbitration with five players on Friday. The following players signed one-year deals: Jake Arrieta, Travis Wood, Welington Castillo, Chris Coghlan and Luis Valbuena.

Pedro Strop remains the only arbitration-eligible player that hasn’t signed a deal. The Cubs can still negotiate a deal with him before arbitration hearings take place in February.

Arrieta’s deal was for $3.63 million, a bit lower than I was expecting. Castillo signed for $2.1 million, but it doesn’t mean he won’t be traded at some point before the season.

Other news

* Matt Spiegel from 670 the Score said yesterday that a source told him the delay with having the Wrigley Field bleachers ready could last until May. We have heard before that it was possible the bleachers wouldn’t be ready by Opening Day, and with this year’s weather, I’m not all that surprised there are delays. Spiegel also said signage at Wrigley “most likely” will be ready for Opening Day. I haven’t heard any mentioning of the Jumbotron and whether it will be up and running when the Cubs and Cardinals kick off the MLB season. I wonder if the bleacher delay will have an effect on it.

* Arismendy Alcantara may be more of a utility player than an everyday center fielder next year, Theo Epstein said yesterday on the “Spiegel and Mannelly Show” on the Score. This statement lines up with the recent reports of the Cubs pursuing an everyday outfielder who can play center. I don’t think this means Alcantara will be a rarely used bench player, however. I’m sure new manager Joe Maddon will get creative to insert Alcantara into the lineup often. He can play second base, shortstop and third base as well.

* Speaking of Maddon and his lineups, he may decide to bat the pitcher batting eighth on occasion, he said on Friday. Seriously can’t wait to see his lineup and bullpen utilization.

* Gordon Wittenmyer takes his turn to wonder whether the Cubs have one more big move this offseason. While not being very committal, Theo Epstein acknowledged “there’s a chance for something significant.” Wittenmyer also notes the Phillies expressed interest in LHP Travis Wood last month. Wood is certainly a piece that could still be moved before the season starts.

* The Ricketts family has purchased three Wrigleyville rooftop buildings, according to the Tribune.

* In a piece in which he wonders where Cuban phenom Yoan Moncada would rank among the top 100 prospects, Ben Badler lists his top 20 (in alphabetical order). Four Cubs made the top 20, the most surprising of which being Kyle Schwarber. (The other three being who you would expect: Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and Jorge Soler.) Very encouraging stuff.

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