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Late addition could help finalize Cubs' roster

Darvish to join rotation; camp competition limited to backup catcher
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

MESA, Ariz. -- The only question regarding the Cubs' Opening Day 25-man roster is whether there would be a late addition before the regular season begins. They appeared to find their answer on Saturday, when sources told MLB.com of a six-year agreement with right-hander Yu Darvish.

Aside from that, there aren't any real roster battles, with the exception of who will back up catcher Willson Contreras. The Cubs are expected to carry eight relievers, and with the addition of Darvish, Mike Montgomery might find himself in the bullpen rather than the rotation.

MESA, Ariz. -- The only question regarding the Cubs' Opening Day 25-man roster is whether there would be a late addition before the regular season begins. They appeared to find their answer on Saturday, when sources told MLB.com of a six-year agreement with right-hander Yu Darvish.

Aside from that, there aren't any real roster battles, with the exception of who will back up catcher Willson Contreras. The Cubs are expected to carry eight relievers, and with the addition of Darvish, Mike Montgomery might find himself in the bullpen rather than the rotation.

The focus this year will be more social as new hitting coach Chili Davis and pitching coach Jim Hickey get to know the players.

Spring Training information

What will the Cubs' 25-man roster look like on Opening Day? Here's an early projection.

Catcher (2): During a panel discussion at the Cubs Convention, some of the players talked about their offseason routine. Contreras scoffed at his teammates for late starts. He began his workouts at 5:30 a.m., and after lunch and a nap, would do a second session. Who will back him up? It will be either veteran Chris Gimenez or Victor Caratini. Manager Joe Maddon and Hickey know Gimenez from their time together on the Rays. If he's not with the Cubs, Caratini would get regular time at Triple-A Iowa.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

First base (1): Only the Reds' Joey Votto started more games at first base than the Cubs' Anthony Rizzo last year. The only issue with Rizzo, 28, is trying to get him to take a day off. Possible backups include Contreras or Ben Zobrist.

Second base (2): Zobrist was a Gold Glove Award finalist last year at second base, but Javier Baez will most likely get the majority of starts there. Baez, who started all of the Cubs' postseason games in 2016 at second, posted a .983 fielding percentage in 56 games in '17. He would've had more starts but was needed to fill in at shortstop when Addison Russell was hurt.

Third base (1): This will be Kris Bryant's fourth season, and if the infielder has anything to work on, it would be his defense. He led NL third basemen in errors last season with 18.

Shortstop (1): Russell was limited to 110 games last season because of a nagging right foot injury, which most likely affected his offense. He batted .239 with 12 homers, a drop after hitting 21 in 2016. Baez is the backup.

Video: Outlook: Happ a super-utility man in Cubs' lineup

Utility (2): Ian Happ surprised the Cubs with 24 home runs last season as well as his ability to move from the infield to the outfield with ease. The left-handed option on the bench will be Tommy La Stella, who batted a career-high .288 last season.

Outfield (3): Five-time Gold Glove Award winner Jason Heyward will patrol right field, and Albert Almora Jr. could be the regular in center if he shows he can handle right-handed pitching. The Cubs will likely rotate Kyle Schwarber and Zobrist in left. Happ can play all three positions. A svelte Schwarber needs to avoid the slow start he had last season, which prompted the Cubs to send him to the Minor Leagues in June.

Zobrist looks to re-establish presence

Starting pitching (5): The rotation is exceptional with Darvish joining Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood. Chatwood is the other new guy after signing a three-year, $38 million contract this offseason.

Bullpen (8): Maddon does like to use his bullpen, and the Cubs are expected to carry eight relievers. Right-hander Brandon Morrow is the new closer, the fourth in the past four years. The setup men include right-handers Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards Jr., Steve Cishek and Justin Grimm while the lefties include Montgomery, Justin Wilson and Brian Duensing.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

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