Cubs' core on board for extension talks

'People want to be here, and that's a great thing,' Jed Hoyer says

March 1st, 2021

MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer let it be known before Spring Training that he planned on sitting down with some core players in the coming weeks to see where things stood on the topic of potential extensions. The players have made it clear they are ready to listen.

In the early portion of camp, , , and each said publicly that they look forward to the conversation with Hoyer. And all four expressed that they would love to stick with the Cubs beyond their current contracts.

"I think it's a testament to ownership and the front office and the coaching staff, and all the staff, that guys want to be here," Hoyer said on Sunday in Arizona. "They enjoy the environment. Obviously, we've got the ballpark and the fan base and the city, but people want to be here, and that's a great thing.

"That was kind of the theme I felt, reading the parade of articles one day after another, was guys saying that. More as a collective, I think that's great that they feel [that way] about this place."

What that means for possible negotiations remains to be seen.

Báez, Bryant and Rizzo are currently on pace for free agency next offseason, while Contreras is under contractual control through 2022. The Cubs were down the road to some degree in talks with Báez last spring, but that was before the COVID-19 crisis halted the sport.

Hoyer emphasized that any talks this preseason would be kept in-house. He also indicated that any deadlines for negotiations would likely come from the players' side of the table. For instance, Báez hinted that he may prefer to avoid having talks linger into the season.

"That's a player preference -- not a front-office preference, really," Hoyer said. "They don't want it as a distraction, but if their agent wants to continue those conversations, because they have a feel for what the player wants, then we can do that. From the club side, I don't want to put hard-and-fast deadlines on it, because I don't see any reason to limit it like that."

Worth noting
• The Cubs activated left-hander Kyle Ryan from MLB's COVID-19 related injured list on Sunday and righty Robert Stock was designated for assignment to vacate a spot on the 40-man roster. Manager David Ross would not speculate on whether Ryan's setback would impact his chances of being ready for Opening Day.

"I want guys to progress at their pace and listen to them," Ross said. "I don't want to push anybody and give them a thought of, they've got to be ready by a certain date. Get ready. Get ready to pitch in games. He's got to listen to his body. He's been doing this for a little while. The trainers will be on top of that."

• Cubs closer threw live batting practice during Sunday morning's workout, but the timing of the veteran's Cactus League debut is to be determined. Ross said Kimbrel will be on a more conservative program as he ramps up for the regular season.

"Yeah, we'll take it slow like we normally do," Ross said. "I just want him to build towards the season and be ready to close out games Opening Day. So, there's communication with him, there's a plan for him, but we'll continue to monitor that, on how he feels and how he continues to progress."

• The Cubs agreed to 2021 contracts with the following pre-arbitration players on Sunday: Cory Abbott, Jason Adam, Adbert Alzolay, Miguel Amaya, Gray Fenter, Nico Hoerner, Dillon Maples, Brailyn Marquez, Tyson Miller, Alec Mills, Christopher Morel, James Norwood, Manuel Rodriguez, Justin Steele, Keegan Thompson, Duane Underwood Jr., Ildemaro Vargas, Rowan Wick and Brad Wieck.

• The Cubs are still gathering more information about the left side injury Wick continues to work through. There is no established timetable for Wick, but he is not expected to be a part of the Opening Day bullpen picture.

Up next
Right-hander , who started Opening Day for the Cubs last season, is slated to take the ball for the North Siders in the Cactus League opener Monday against the Padres at 2:05 p.m. CT in Peoria, Ariz. Chicago's first 2021 lineup is expected to feature Rizzo, Contreras, Báez and .