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Schwarber, Rizzo: Cubs confident entering 2020

Pair of left-handed-hitting sluggers report early to Spring Training
@MLBastian
February 12, 2020

MESA, Ariz. -- Kyle Schwarber let out a big laugh on Wednesday morning. The source of his amusement was a question about whether he has spent much time thinking about his future with the Cubs, given all the talk of trade rumors or extensions, and the reality that the core

MESA, Ariz. -- Kyle Schwarber let out a big laugh on Wednesday morning. The source of his amusement was a question about whether he has spent much time thinking about his future with the Cubs, given all the talk of trade rumors or extensions, and the reality that the core group might face a breakup in the coming years.

"Do I look like a guy that thinks about my future?" said Schwarber, still chuckling.

Schwarber was swiftly reminded that he did get married over the offseason.

"For that part, yes," he replied. "But for the most part, I go day by day. I'm just happy I showed up today."

Schwarber showed up Wednesday with some new real estate, having moved into the mid-clubhouse locker that previously belonged to veteran Ben Zobrist. Anthony Rizzo was also on hand, arriving ahead of Sunday's reporting date for Chicago's position players. Javier Báez and Kris Bryant will be in Arizona soon, too.

There are new faces around the room at the Cubs' complex, but the roster did not undergo the sweeping changes that were thought possible at the offseason's outset. Around the clubhouse, the players have expressed some relief that the band is seemingly back together for 2020, feeling that there is more in the roster than last season's 84-win showing would indicate.

Given how open the front office was all winter about being open-minded to trades, Rizzo admitted to being "very surprised" that the roster is mostly unchanged.

"There was a lot of talk at the end of the year about a lot of change and a lot of turnover," Rizzo said. "You're just thinking, when you hear that, you don't know what's going to happen. But I'm happy with everyone we have. I'm happy with who's here and I'm ready to get going."

Epstein, Ross talk offseason speculation, Bryant

Trade rumblings about Schwarber and Willson Contreras have died, but there is still chatter about Bryant. Rizzo had his $16.5 million team option picked up, but extension talks stalled over the winter. There is a chance, however, that the Cubs and Báez try to hammer out a long-term pact before Opening Day.

In 2020, the Cubs will be leaning hard on that core group again and counting on the new environment under manager David Ross inspiring more production. There is a heap of risk involved with standing pat, though. Whether looking at the lineup, rotation or bullpen, the Cubs' roster is riddled with question marks.

Coming off last season's disappointing finish, Rizzo was asked if the players are confident about returning to a postseason-caliber level of play.

"I think it's going to be something that grows more and more confidence wise," Rizzo said. "I think we're a confident group, but I think we're also a very humbled group right now."

An annual Spring Training topic is the idea of a team playing with a chip on its shoulder, trying to prove any doubters wrong. Schwarber said he felt that is true of the Cubs for this year, but Rizzo was not willing to bite on that preseason narrative.

"I mean, I don't see why we even deserve a chip on our shoulder," Rizzo said. "We didn't make the playoffs. This year, we've got to go out and earn it. It's on us to be the best team this year."

Rizzo peered over to Schwarber's new locker -- four down from his own -- and quipped that the team should hold a ceremony since it used to be Zobrist's spot. He then joked that his locker neighbor, top prospect Nico Hoerner, already had an empty stall for storing his belongings. Kids these days.

The makeup of the row was symbolic of the Cubs' situation. There was Schwarber, who will try to build off a strong second half in 2019 and be a real offensive threat all season long. Next to him is Albert Almora Jr., who is trying to bounce back and reclaim his place among the club's core players. Then there is Hoerner, providing a glimpse of the future core of the Cubs.

Next is Rizzo: The face of the franchise who has been in the fold through a rebuild, a World Series title and now during a critical point of transition in the team's timeline.

"You see what everyone's done in this room, what they're capable of," Schwarber said. "You've got World Series champions in here. That doesn't change. We all know what to do and how to get it done. It's just being able to have a good solid foundation, which is what camp's for."

Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.