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2016 MLB roster outlook: Chicago Cubs

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2016 MLB roster outlook: Chicago Cubs

2015 record: 97-65, 3rd place in NL Central

Manager: Joe Maddon, 2nd season

Estimated 2016 payroll: $164 million

Key additions: OF Jason Heyward, 2B Ben Zobrist, RHP John Lackey

Key losses: SP Dan Haren, RP Fernando Rodney, INF Starlin Castro

Projected lineup

CF Jason Heyward
2B Ben Zobrist
1B Anthony Rizzo
3B Kris Bryant
LF Kyle Schwarber
RF Jorge Soler
C Miguel Montero
SS Addison Russell

Projected rotation
RHP Jake Arrieta
LHP Jon Lester
RHP John Lackey
RHP Jason Hammel
RHP Kyle Hendricks

Top relievers
CL Hector Rondon
RHP Pedro Strop
RHP Justin Grimm

Biggest questions entering 2016
1. How will they deal with expectations? The Cubs burst on the scene in 2016 to win 97 games - which amazingly put them at only third in their division - and immediately found success in the playoffs. The Cubs won their wild card game against Pittsburgh, then beat the Cardinals 3-1 in the next round to reach the NLCS. It was an amazing run and one that happened with many players experiencing the postseason for the first time. What will happen now that many see them as the World Series favorites? As the Nationals have shown in recent years, living up to lofty expectations isn't exactly easy. Now they will have a target on their back and will not be sneaking up on anybody.

2. How will the new additions perform? The Cubs were among the most aggressive teams this winter in free agency by adding Heyward, Zobrist and Lackey. All three are proven, veteran stars who have performed well for winning teams. But sometimes adding big free agents to a team can change things in a negative way. It will be interesting to see if the Cubs take a step forward, or a step back with their new-look roster.

3. Can they score more runs? Despite their star-studded lineup, it was the Cubs' offense that was a relative weakness in 2015. Their pitching staff ranked third in team ERA, but their offense placed 15th in runs scored. That could all change in 2016, as their young players improve with experience. They also focused mostly on their lineup this offseason with the additions of Heyward and Zobrist. Neither are MVP-caliber offensive players, but both bring versatility and balance to the Cubs' lineup.

[Roster info via RosterResource.com]

[RELATED: Top D.C. sports moments worse than #SnowTraffic]

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Nationals trade Brian Goodwin to Kansas City Royals

Nationals trade Brian Goodwin to Kansas City Royals

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  -- Outfielder Brian Goodwin has been acquired by the Kansas City Royals from the Washington Nationals for minor league pitcher Jacob Condra-Bogan.

The 27-year-old Goodwin hit .200 with three homers and 12 RBIs in 48 games for the Nationals this season. He bruised his left wrist diving for a ball and did not play from April 15 until May 15, when he had two at-bats. He went back on the disabled list, returned June 1 and is hitting .171 (7 for 41) since.

Condra-Bogan, 23, went 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA in 16 relief outings with Lexington of the South Atlantic League and one appearance with Wilmington of the Carolina League, also Class A.

The trade was announced Sunday.

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What to make of the Strasburg-Scherzer shouting match in the Nationals' dugout

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USA Today Sports

What to make of the Strasburg-Scherzer shouting match in the Nationals' dugout

Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer had a heated exchange in the Nationals dugout Friday night.

It was another not-so-great moment in an otherwise unspectacular season for the Nats so far.

Things like this often appear worse than they are based on what we can see, not hear, on television. In any case, it has fans and pundits talking about a perceived off-the-field issue instead of the actual game. There's nothing "good" about this, but there are important factors that are "bad" and ones that are "not bad."

Davey Martinez, Strasburg and Scherzer already said this has been settled and wasn't a big deal in the first place, but for a manager who's already faced some scrutiny this year for how he manages his pitchers, having two of them go at it in the dugout isn't ideal.

It also doesn't present the best optics for a team that came out of the All-Star Break 5.5 games back of the division-leading Philadelphia Phillies. The Nationals need to build some momentum heading into the dog days of summer, and after a lackluster first half, this isn't how anybody would want to start the second half.

This was also Strasburg's first start back from a month-long stint on the disabled list. Ryan Zimmerman just rejoined the club as well. Things are shaping up to make for a solid second-half run, but all this does is detract from that.

The Nationals also just hosted the first All-Star Game in Washington since 1969. Having something like this happen in the dugout where everybody can see it takes away from some of that good publicity.

But there are also positives, or at least non-negatives, to take from this. Scherzer has always been ultracompetitive, and as the best pitcher on the staff, he needs to harness that into leadership. With Strasburg coming off a rough inning, Scherzer may have thought he needed a little tough love from a veteran. There's nothing wrong with that. Strasburg, to his credit, has never been one to focus too much on himself, so if there's anyone who can take something like this constructively, it'd be him.

This isn't Jonathan Paplebon fighting Bryce Harper for not running out a pop fly the day after the Nats were eliminated from playoff contention. These are two veteran guys who play the same position who are both competitive and want to win. It's akin to an older brother pushing his younger brother to do better. Strasburg even hinted at the family aspect after the game.

In the end, there's really nothing to see here. Frustration is part of the game. Talking it out is a part of remedying the frustration.

What really matters is tracking down the Braves and the Phillies. The Nationals can get started on that Sunday in the second game of a rain-shortened two-game series against the Braves.

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