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Cubs agree to 2018 contracts with 20 players

Baez raring to return; Maddon brings in new art piece
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs have agreed to contract terms with 20 players on their 40-man roster with zero-to-three years of Major League service and renewed the contract of infielder/outfielder Ian Happ.

Among the players who reached an agreement were Javier Baez ($657,000), Mike Montgomery ($611,250), Kyle Schwarber ($604,500), Willson Contreras ($604,500), Carl Edwards Jr. ($594,000), and Albert Almora Jr. ($584,500).

MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs have agreed to contract terms with 20 players on their 40-man roster with zero-to-three years of Major League service and renewed the contract of infielder/outfielder Ian Happ.

Among the players who reached an agreement were Javier Baez ($657,000), Mike Montgomery ($611,250), Kyle Schwarber ($604,500), Willson Contreras ($604,500), Carl Edwards Jr. ($594,000), and Albert Almora Jr. ($584,500).

Procedurally, Happ's contract was a renewal, not an agreement, but he is still above the $545,000 minimum and will be paid $570,000.

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"In Happ's case, we had a small disagreement over [the figures]," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said Sunday. "We couldn't come to an agreement, but there are zero hard feelings and we've had great conversations about it. It's not a punitive process. We couldn't quite get to the right number, and that's OK. We love having Ian, we have a great relationship, good conversations about it, and we'll move forward."

It's the first time since Theo Epstein took over as president of baseball operations that the Cubs have renewed a player.

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Other players to agree to terms include right-handers Adbert Alzolay, Eddie Butler, Oscar De La Cruz, Luke Farrell, Cory Mazzoni, Dillon Maples, Alec Mills, Jen-Ho Tseng and Duane Underwood Jr.; left-handers Randy Rosario and Rob Zastryzny; catcher Victor Caratini; infielder David Bote; and outfielder Mark Zagunis.

Tweet from @Cubs: #Cubs sign 21 players to 2018 contracts. pic.twitter.com/Bvbctfpqar

Baez feels ready to return
Baez said he was ready to go Sunday, but he was held out of the lineup. Baez underwent an MRI on his left hamstring Friday, one day after coming out of a game because of tightness in the hamstring. He was expected to return to game action this week.

"I'm 110 percent. That's good enough," Baez said. "I'm serious."

Hoyer said they are being careful.

"This is the time of year where there's zero reason to rush anything," Hoyer said. "He says he feels good, and we'll probably be cautious, and that's the smart and prudent thing to do this time of year."

Video: CHC@ARI: Baez reaches to make terrific stop on liner

Told that Baez said he was "110 percent," Hoyer said, "Tell him 125 [percent] is what we're looking for."

Meanwhile, Contreras, who has been ill, is expected to get back in a game on Tuesday. Reliever Pedro Strop, who has been slowed because of a tender left calf, was sent home on Saturday because he wasn't feeling well. He's been slowed by a sore left calf.

Maddon's art collection grows
The Cubs players were greeted by new artwork Sunday when they arrived at the complex. It's another creation by Tampa, Fla., artist James Skeldon and features a young boy with a backpack writing on a fence and is a take on work by the artist Banksy. The message is "Build relationships. Trust. Exchange ideas. Constructive criticism. Flow."

"You build relationships, and when you've done that, then you can create trust, and then you can exchange ideas openly, and then constructive criticism flows and conversation occurs," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "I've utilized that a lot. If you ask me, what's the culture building, the premise, that would be No. 1.

"It's not about shifts and better methods of teaching or building a batting order or how to utilize the bullpen. You have to have that other stuff in place and then the other stuff works."

Piece of mind
Sunday's Cubs lineup card was full of pieces. Actually, the players were listed as "Alpiece" for Almora, "Brypiece" for Kris Bryant, "Rizpiece" for Anthony Rizzo and "Zopiece" for Ben Zobrist.

"You always throw 'piece' at the end of stuff when you're talking in the dugout," said Maddon, who had created a "pro" lineup on Saturday with plays on the players' names. "[Saturday] was about 'pro,' today was about piece. 'That was a good 3-2 piece, that was a good slide piece.'"

Camp battle
Chris Gimenez caught Jon Lester on Friday, and on Sunday against Oakland, the catcher was back behind the plate for Yu Darvish. Gimenez, who is a non-roster invitee in camp and hit his first homer of the spring against the A's Sean Manaea, played for Maddon on the Rays in 2012 and '13.

Video: CHC@OAK: Schwarber, Gimenez go back-to-back

Up next
Monday is an off-day for the Cubs, who will resume Cactus League play on Tuesday with split-squad games against the Padres in Peoria at 3:10 p.m. CT (watch on MLB.TV) and the Giants in Mesa at 9:05 p.m. (audio webcast). Montgomery will get his first spring start in the early game, and Tyler Chatwood will make his fourth start in the night game. Chatwood has given up one run on three hits over six innings.

Jose Quintana will get his work done in the Minor League camp on Monday. Lester is scheduled to start Wednesday when the Cubs travel to Surprise, Ariz., to face the Royals.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs, Javier Baez, Ian Happ