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Spring Training Notebook: Breaking down Cubs’ trade and what it means for roster

2 months agoAndy Martinez

St Notebook Sloan Image

MESA, Ariz. — Tuesday was an example of the Cubs’ strides in terms of building up roster depth.

The team traded away Bailey Horn to the White Sox, a left-handed pitcher they added to the 40-man roster just a few months prior to protect him from being lost in the Rule 5 Draft.

The move allows the Cubs to add Cody Bellinger to their 40-man roster after his deal became official Tuesday evening. It also speaks to the talent that Jed Hoyer and the Cubs’ brass has built.

In adding Bellinger, the Cubs looked at the move as a trade in a way — do they trade a player on their 40-man roster with years of control and room for development away for a free agent who might only be on the team in the short term? In Bellinger’s case, the move was a no-brainer, but that’s the way the front office looks at these kinds of moves with a deep roster.

And trading away Horn by no means was a giveaway. The Cubs received right-handed pitcher Matthew Thompson, a second-round pick in 2019 who struck out 23.9% of hitters he faced in 2023. He is the White Sox 25th-ranked prospect, per MLB Pipeline.

“He’s got a good arm,” Hoyer said Tuesday. “He’s a guy that we liked as an amateur. I think anytime you grab a starting pitcher in that context, you do it.”

The trade does leave the team thinner in left-handed relief options, but the Cubs are bullish on their in-house options. Luke Little is the only lefty reliever on their 40-man roster, although Drew Smyly — who is being stretched out to start — could fill that role, which he did at the end of 2023. Little debuted in 2023, pitching 6.2 innings with a 40% strikeout rate. He had over a 40% strikeout-rate in Double-A and Triple-A last season. That gives the Cubs optimism that he can step up and factor in the bullpen picture. 

The Cubs also have relievers like Mark Leiter Jr. and Hector Neris, righties who can get lefties out. Edwin Escobar, Richard Lovelady, Thomas Pannone and Brad Wieck are all in camp as non-roster invitees.

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Hendricks’ Spring debut

Kyle Hendricks made his spring debut Tuesday in the Cubs’ 6-6 tie against the Reds at Sloan Park. The veteran pitched 2 innings, allowing 1 run on 1 hit with a walk and a strikeout.

“It’s just fun again to be out there,” Hendricks said after the outing. “It’s tough facing your own guys, it’s tough to really do what you want to do. So yeah, getting back into a real game facing an opponent, different team, just good feeling good to be back out there.”

Hendricks started the spring with an aggressive mindset, wanting to start the season off on the right foot and avoiding a slow start. He’s doing that by not focusing in too hard on what he’s working on.

“[Before] I go in there with a plan of something specific I do want to work on and I hammer it too much almost,” Hendricks said. “So yeah, pick a spot where I want to work on something, but then pick other spots where I’m attacking the hitter, putting together an at bat and getting a guy out.”

Next Up

The Cubs travel to Maryvale, Ariz. Wednesday to take on the Brewers at 2 p.m. on Marquee Sports Network. It will be manager Craig Counsell’s first time taking on his former team. Jordan Wicks gets the start for the Cubs.

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