Hats to the left! Strop reports to Cubs ST

Contreras focused on '21 but willing to talk extension

February 27th, 2021

MESA, Ariz. -- leaned against a chain link fence on Saturday morning, watching work through a bullpen session at the Cubs' complex. Strop's hat was tilted to the left, and he flashed that familiar smile that was noticeably missing from camp a year ago.

Strop's Minor League contract with the Cubs became official on Saturday, bringing an old friend back into the fold as a non-roster invitee. The energetic reliever will have a chance to compete for a spot in the bullpen, but for now, Chicago is just thrilled to have his presence back around the team.

"We're glad to have him here," Cubs manager David Ross said. "It's nice just to have him back walking around the clubhouse. I don't know -- it makes me smile. It makes me happy to see him. I think it makes a lot of guys happy."

It was fitting that Strop watched Arrieta work. They came to the Cubs in the famous July 2, 2013, trade with the Orioles and helped alter the course of the Chicago franchise. Arrieta blossomed into an ace and Cy Young Award winner, Strop became an impact setup arm, and they played key roles in the Cubs winning the ‘16 World Series.

This offseason, Arrieta came back to the Cubs as a free-agent signee on a big league contract, hoping to rediscover his form as a leader for the rotation. The 35-year-old Strop has less of an assured spot in the Opening Day picture, given the ups and downs of his past two seasons.

Strop appeared in only four games last season for the Reds, who released him on Aug. 31 after an injury-marred showing. The veteran reliever, who has a 2.90 ERA in 411 career games with Chicago, re-signed with the Cubs on Sept. 5 on a Minor League pact and finished the 2020 campaign at the team's alternate training site.

"He'll fall right into line, get in the mix," Ross said, "and be able to get out there and compete real soon. I told him I have an office now. That if he needed to talk to me, he could come to the office. That was fun to say."

Contreras open to extension
The Cubs have a handful of key members of their core who can reach free agency next offseason. All-Star catcher could follow them after the 2022 campaign, making him a candidate for Chicago to discuss a contract extension.

"That's something that I'm not thinking about right now," Contreras said. "Obviously, I'm willing to listen to whatever they have. But, I think my main focus is on this year, on the team, trying to have a great year for all of us. I'm just not thinking about it. If they come to me and talk and want to talk about it, I'm open to it."

Worth noting
• During and after Arrieta's bullpen session on Saturday, Ross offered feedback on the pitcher's delivery. Arrieta posted a 1.43 ERA in 82 innings with Ross behind the plate during their days as teammates, and the manager believes his history with the starter can only help in the season ahead.

"I can pull from experiences. I think that's extremely valuable," Ross said. "Being a former teammate of his and now on the same team again, I feel like I was just speaking from a couple of experiences, where things that I noticed and saw and what his ball was doing in watching his bullpen and trying to get feedback."

• Lefty Kyle Ryan was cleared to rejoin the Cubs and participate in Saturday's workout, but the reliever remains on MLB's COVID-related injured list. When Ryan is activated, Chicago will need to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.

• Infield prospects Chase Strumpf, the Cubs' No. 9 prospect per MLB Pipeline, and Andy Weber were added to Major League camp as non-roster invitees this weekend.

• The Cubs have sent Minor League righty Zach Bryant to the Red Sox as the player to be named to complete last season's Aug. 31 trade for lefty Josh Osich.

"The year before, everybody questioned myself, like, 'Can you frame a pitch?' I was like, 'Yeah, of course.' Last year, I put my focus on it and you all saw what I was able to do. ... It made me feel good. Now, what are they gonna say?" -- Contreras, on improving his framing and being a Gold Glove finalist in 2020