Per Jordan Bastian of MLB.com, Cubs’ manager David Ross revealed that Trevor Williams and Adbert Alzolay will round out the starting pitching rotation following Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta, and Zach Davies.
This news means Alec Mills will begin the season in the bullpen, likely as a long-relief option. The response to Adbert Alzolay making the Opening Day rotation seems to be extremely positive among Cubs fans, as it should be. He possesses great strikeout potential and his blossoming relationship with veteran Jake Arrieta has been fun to watch throughout Spring Training. Trevor Williams signed as a free agent from the Pirates, so his familiarity with the NL Central is a major positive heading into the season.
In his limited major league experience, Alzolay has spent time in the bullpen, so there’s a possibility he could return to a relief role should he experience early-season struggles. In that scenario, Mills would be the top candidate to take over a rotation spot. Starting this season in the bullpen is an unfortunate break for Mills, especially considering he performed as well as anybody could have asked for in 2020.
But in the grand scheme of things, this setup gives David Ross flexibility if a rotation piece either struggles or goes down with an injury. Alzolay figures to be a long-term fixture of the rotation, so it is encouraging to see him begin the season in a starting role.
David Bote Will be the Opening Day 2nd Baseman
Following last night’s news that the Cubs will option Nico Hoerner to start the 2021 season despite a scorching spring, Ross claims the move has less to do with Hoerner and more to do with David Bote, citing his improved defense. That’s a nice sentiment, but it’s also likely a cover for the front office’s decision to halt Hoerner’s service time clock. Nevertheless, Bote has more major league experience under his belt and provides more power than Hoerner.
Getting Over the Decision to Option Hoerner
Do we believe that the decision to option Hoerner doesn’t have anything to do with service time manipulation? No. But is it possible that Bote earned the Opening Day spot and a chance to play every day? Absolutely.
Of the four candidates for the second base spot, Hoerner is the only player with options remaining and the Cubs may not be ready to move away from Illdemaro Vargas or Eric Sogard just yet. We will see Nico Hoerner in a Cubs uniform this year, there is no doubt about that.
As for Sogard and Vargas, their competition will be strictly performance-based. Both can hit from the left side, and Vargas is a switch-hitter. The Cubs have struggled in the left-handed-hitting second base department, so now it is all about results. Additionally, the Cubs’ commitment to Vargas and Sogard does not compare to their commitment to Bote and Hoerner.
It will be interesting to see how this situation plays out over the course of 162 games, but for now David Bote will be manning second base.