Peter Bourjos

As Opening Day approaches, Cubs roster comes into focus

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USA TODAY

As Opening Day approaches, Cubs roster comes into focus

With less than a week until Opening Day, the Cubs' roster is all but set.

Joe Maddon told reporters in Arizona Friday the Cubs will roll with eight relievers to open the season, which doesn't come as any surprise. 

Left-handed pitcher Randy Rosario was optioned to Triple-A Iowa, leaving Eddie Butler and Shae Simmons as the two most likely guys to take the final bullpen spot.

Butler, 27, is out of minor-league options, which means if the Cubs do not keep him on their big-league roster, they risk losing him on waivers. Simmons still has two options remaining.

Butler also represents more starting pitching depth for the team beyond their five-man rotation and Mike Montgomery. Theo Epstein's front office likes to enter a season with 8-10 starting pitching options in case of injury, so it'd be hard to see the team getting rid of their No. 7 guy on that depth chart.

This spring, Butler has pitched 10 innings over five games with a 4.50 ERA and five strikeouts. He made 11 starts and two bullpen appearances with the 2017 Cubs, posting a 3.95 ERA and 1.43 WHIP.

Simmons, 27, signed with the Cubs as a free agent Feb. 16 and pitched nine games with the Seattle Mariners last year. He's appeared in four games for the Cubs this spring, pitching to a 2.45 ERA with five strikeouts in 3.2 innings.

In carrying eight relievers, that only leaves one position player spot available (backup catcher). Outfielder Peter Bourjos was released Friday afternoon and is no longer part of the competition for the final roster spot.

Veteran backstop Chris Gimenez will probably get the nod on the big-league roster over youngster Victor Caratini.

Gimenez comes with experience and a knowledge and relationship with Yu Darvish and we do have confirmation Darvish is making the Opening Day roster:

The Cubs really like Caratini and he's arguably their top position player prospect, but at age 24, he needs to play every day and see regular at-bats, which he wouldn't get backing up Willson Contreras in Chicago.

With that, here's the projected Cubs' Opening Day roster:

Catcher

Willson Contreras
Chris Gimenez

Infielders

Anthony Rizzo
Kris Bryant
Addison Russell
Javy Baez
Tommy La Stella
Ben Zobrist

Outfielders

Ian Happ
Kyle Schwarber
Albert Almora Jr.
Jason Heyward

Starting pitchers

Jon Lester
Kyle Hendricks
Yu Darvish
Jose Quintana
Tyler Chatwood

Bullpen

Brandon Morrow (closer)
Carl Edwards Jr.
Pedro Strop
Justin Wilson
Steve Cishek
Brian Duensing
Mike Montgomery
Eddie Butler

It looks like the Cubs are adding more outfield depth

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USA TODAY

It looks like the Cubs are adding more outfield depth

Warm up the hot stove!

The Cubs reportedly added another minor-league signing Thursday by inking outfielder Peter Bourjos to a deal:

Bourjos is a Park Ridge, Ill., native who turns 31 on March 31. He was in spring camp with the White Sox a year ago, but didn't make the club.

The veteran journeyman has had stops in Los Angeles (Angels), St. Louis, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay, as well, playing in at least 100 games in six of the last seven seasons (including the last four). 

Bourjos played in 100 games with the Rays in 2017, starting 46 and hitting .223 with a .655 OPS. 

In his career, Bourjos has been heralded as a speedster and good defender who can play all three outfield spots, but not much of a hitter. His career slash line is .241/.298/.382 (.680 OPS) and that mark has been even worse the last few seasons (.655 OPS since 2014).

As fast as Bourjos is, he hasn't had much stolen base success, either, swiping 66 bags in 98 tries. After breaking into the big leagues and stealing 32 bases in 2010-11, the veteran has just 34 stolen bases in 54 tries since.

Still, Bourjos represents some solid depth for the Cubs. 

He hit far better against lefties (.752 OPS) than righties (.534 OPS) last season and the Cubs could use another right-handed outfielder to provide more options in an outfield that already includes Jason Heyward and Kyle Schwarber, who can sit against tough lefties.

There probably won't be room for Bourjos in the big-league club right away barring injury, but depth in Triple-A Iowa is never a bad thing.

And if the Cubs hang on to Bourjos all year, he could be a welcome addition down the stretch if Joe Maddon needs a pinch-runner or defensive replacement.

White Sox agree to trade outfielder Peter Bourjos

White Sox agree to trade outfielder Peter Bourjos

The White Sox have agreed to trade outfielder Peter Bourjos to the Tampa Bay Rays for cash considerations late Monday, according to multiple major league sources.

Bourjos was signed to a minor league contract and invited to camp with the White Sox. He was expected to see a good amount of playing time in center field in the wake of Charlie Tilson’s injury.

Trading Bourjos improves rookie Jacob May’s chances of making the Opening Day roster.

Bourjos, 29, has played for the Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Angels over the span of his career. His best season came with the Angels in 2011, when he hit .271 with 12 homers and 43 RBIs.