Ross expects to write 'Bryant' in his first lineup

January 16th, 2020

CHICAGO -- David Ross is operating under the assumption that star third baseman will be in the first Opening Day lineup that he writes as the new manager of the Cubs. Ross does not believe there is any other way to think about the situation at the moment.

"With how things stand right now coming into camp, KB's on the roster," Ross said at a Cubs charity event on Thursday morning. "I expect him to be there. I think the fans should expect him to be there. This is an exciting time to be a Cubs manager. There's a lot of talent. There's no ceiling for this team."

Bryant has been at the center of trade rumors all offseason for the Cubs, who currently project to have a payroll in the neighborhood of the first luxury-tax threshold ($208 million). The Cubs and potential bidders for Bryant are also awaiting an arbitrator's ruling on the third baseman's service-time grievance, which will detemine whether he will remain under club control through the 2021 season or have that eligibility moved up to next offseason.

Ross noted that he is in constant communication with Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer. That said, the manager has made a point of leaving the roster decisions up to the front-office team. Just because Ross currently expects Bryant to stay put, he knows things could change in the coming weeks.

"I expect them to put us in the best situation to succeed. That's their job," Ross said. "My job's to manage the team they give me. Right now, I look at that roster and Kris Bryant's on it and he's at Cubs Convention [this weekend]. I know the rumors are out there. Those will always be."

Both Ross and Cubs first baseman , who helped out at Thursday's event, said Bryant has done a good job of tuning out the trade rumors this offseason.

"I've talked to him a couple of times," Rizzo said. "I think he's in a good place. He knows it's a rumor until it happens. It's the MVP of the league a couple of years ago [2016], and a guy who puts up consistent numbers. So, we hope he’s on our side, that's for sure."

Rizzo not focused on stalled extension talks

The Cubs picked up Rizzo's $16.5 million team option earlier this offseason, and the expectation is that the team will do the same next winter. Last month at the Winter Meetings, however, Epstein confirmed a report that Chicago is not currently exploring a multiyear extension with the first baseman.

On Thursday, Rizzo reiterated his stance that he would love to remain with the Cubs long term.

"Obviously, that's not in the plans right now. That doesn't mean it's not going to [happen]," Rizzo said. "My focus will just be on this team winning, playing for 'Rossy,' because this is kind of a dream come true. You're playing for one of your best friends. I'm going to see him grow as a manager, and he's going to help me continue to grow in my career. I hope it's here."

Rizzo was asked for his reaction to the stalled extension talks this offseason.

"I'll keep that in-house," Rizzo said. "We've had some talks and whatnot. Obviously, nothing came to fruition. I've stated how much I love this place. This is like home to me and my wife and my family. But this is a business."

Worth noting

• Both Ross and Rizzo praised Major League Baseball's decision-making on punishments in the wake of the sign-stealing allegations against the Astros and the ensuing investigation.

"It is disappointing," Ross said of the situation. "You've got to applaud Major League Baseball for doing their due diligence and upholding the integrity of the game. It's super important for our fans, for our players, for our coaches. I'm glad they did their homework and made some of the decisions they made."

Rizzo was asked directly if the Cubs have played by the rules when it comes to gaining in-game advantages.

"I think it’s 100 percent safe to say that, without a doubt," Rizzo said. "That's for sure, on the record."

• Last season, the Cubs cycled through 11 different players in the leadoff spot, producing a .212/.294/.383 slash line and a MLB-low 77 wRC+ in that role as a team. Ross said he has spent a lot of time this offseason examining Chicago's options for the top of the order but said he is not close to a decision on how to approach that slot.

"I'm looking at that heavily," Ross said. "Definitely, that is an area that I've focused on the most, and trying to see what that looks like. I don't have that picture yet, and I don't think any of us rightfully would be able to say that that's something we can strongly feel one way or another yet."


"I don't want to be 'Grandpa.' I'm like a young manager, right? I don't know. Rossy's good, or 'Skip.' Fans can call me whatever they want. I'm sure there will be some names getting [called] and I'll like Grandpa a lot better." -- Ross, on his Grandpa Rossy nickname