3 things we learned at '23 Cubs Convention

January 15th, 2023

CHICAGO -- The fans who gravitated to the Sheraton Grand Chicago on this frigid weekend were treated to a heavy dose of nostalgia, hype for the coming season and a glimpse into the future.

Cubs greats Mark Grace and Shawon Dunston were announced as the '23 Cubs Hall of Fame class. Ryne Sandberg learned he would be getting a statue outside Wrigley Field. Kyle Hendricks raised a fist to an adoring crowd as the last Cub standing from the 2016 World Series team. Newcomers like Dansby Swanson were introduced and a long line of prospects were shown off.

"This is it. This is the exciting time," Cubs manager David Ross said. "It gets the blood pumping, for sure."

In terms of the 2023 Cubs, here are three things we learned at Cubs Convention this weekend:

1. Hendricks may not be ready by Opening Day

Hendricks has started on Opening Day in each of the last three seasons, but that streak looks likely to end. In his comeback from a right shoulder issue, Hendricks' throwing program may extend beyond the March 30 opener against the Brewers.

And that is fine with Hendricks.

"It's not important," Hendricks said. "I'm pushing, you know? I'm going to try and take full advantage of my program. But we're really not putting a day on it. So, if it comes sometime in April, May, I just really want to be there and be 100 percent for these guys. And I know we're going to be there at the end of the season."

Hendricks, 33, is currently built up to 90 feet in the flat-ground stage of his throwing and could be back on a mound in a few weeks. He said the bulk of his offseason has been spent focusing on adjusting his arm path, making it more efficient with the goal of putting less strain on his shoulder.

Pitching coach Tommy Hottovy echoed the stance that forcing Opening Day as an artificial deadline did not make sense.

"We want him being the best version of himself, right?" Hottovy said. "And having him ready for Opening Day, if it's four innings and he's not quite built up, then why would we hang that over his head?"

2. Happ, Hoerner signed, but extension talks still possible

The Cubs reached one-year deals with All-Star outfielder ($10.85 million) and infielder ($2.525 million) on Friday to avoid arbitration, but president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said "there is a desire" to keep discussing extensions with the players.

In the past, the Cubs have tried to use Spring Training as a time to hold extension talks with their players, but Hoyer would prefer to use the rest of the winter to negotiate on that front. By no means would the arrival of Spring Training be a hard deadline, but Hoyer would like to avoid distractions.

"Once we get into the real part of Spring Training, I'd like to avoid that," Hoyer said. "I feel like, let those guys focus on baseball at that point by not having that hanging over their head. I think I've obviously learned a lesson a little bit.

"I feel like I definitely want to change the timing of that. And it's hard, because you're working on so many other things. But trying to get it done before spring, I think, makes a lot of sense."

3. Mervis to play for Team Israel in World Baseball Classic

Slugging first-base prospect Matt Mervis (No. 21 on Pipeline's Top 30 Cubs list) has been given permission by the Cubs to suit up for Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic. Israel will be part of Pool D, which plays the first round of games from March 11-15 in Miami.

Mervis could be competing for an Opening Day job this spring with Chicago, but felt he could benefit from playing in a higher-intensity environment and in a pool featuring teams with many MLB stars and "the best pitching I've ever seen."

"There's so many," Mervis said of the benefits. "I mean, the manager is Ian Kinsler, who played years and years in the big leagues. Joc Pederson's on that team. Kevin Pillar is on that team, so there's guys with a lot of big league experience coaching and playing.

"We're playing against super teams. I mean, it's the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico and Venezuela and Nicaragua. Those teams are full of MLB All-Stars. So getting that experience, playing in a big environment like that -- I mean, it's in Miami -- the crowds are going to be loud and excited. It was really a no-brainer for me."