I don't have an exact date of when the Cubs report to spring training.
There are 2 websites I like to use for spring training updates.
The first that is focused on the Cubs is Boys of Spring. I can highly
recommend this site for the earliest action photos of spring baseball
and good game coverage and analysis as well.
The other site that I like, especially if you are planning on attending
spring training baseball in Arizona or Florida is spring training
online. Lots of great information on the parks, schedule and things to
do in the local area.
I've also included a link to the Arizona Cactus League's website.
January 2, 2017 Update;
The offseason transactions are probably not yet completed so some things may change, but early on the stories to watch for the 2017 Cubs surround the starting rotation, the bullpen, playing time at 2B and LF and how Jason
Heyward is hitting.
Starting Rotation: It seems clear right now that Jason Hammel will be the
only person in the Cubs rotation that won't return to the team in 2017. Early reports indicate that the 5th starter job will go to Mike Montgomery. Montgomery was starting for the Seattle Mariners prior to the trade that brought him to the Cubs and Joe Madon had enough confidance in him in the playoffs that he pitched in 5 World Series game and was called upon to get the final out with the tying run on base in the 10th inning of Game 7 of the World Series.
Rumor: The Cubs have shown interest both in the past and currently in Tyson Ross, who was non-tendered by the San Diego Padres, and is a free agent.
the changes in the Cubs bullpen early on are that Aroldis Chapman left for the Yankees, Travis Wood & Trevor Cahill are not likely to not to return to the Cubs in 2017 as they are both free agents. And as mentioned above, Mike Montgomery, a lefty, is likely not to return to Cubs bullpen as well if he wins the 5th spot in the rotation.
That's 3 lefthanded pitchers in the 2016 Cubs bullpen that will not return in
2017. Thus far, the Cubs have signed Brian Duensing, a lefty, and Koji Uehara, a righthanded pitcher who does have career success against lefthanded hitters.The Cubs also traded Jorge Soler for Wade Davis, a very good closer for the 2015 World Series champion Royals, but who did have some injuries in 2016 and is only signed through the 2017 season.
the other transition seems to be having fewer available "spot starters" in the bullpen. In the past, the Cubs had guys like Clayton Richard, Travis Wood & Trevor Cahill who could move from the bullpen to the rotation and had past MLB experience in a starting role. The only current pitcher on the roster that seems to fit this description is Montgomery, who would not be available in this role if he has the 5th spot locked down. The transtion seems to be having more relief pitching options to give Joe Maddon more flexiibilty to pull his starting pitcher earlier or use his relievers in a more specialized role.
My prediction: Look for the Cubs to add another possible starting option
to compete with Montgomery for the 5th spot in the rotation. I get the impression that Theo, Jed & Joe like to have 7 to 8 possible replacement to starting pitchers in case of injury or ineffectiveness.
Second Base & Left Field
Javier Baez really impressed a lot of people in the 2016 playoffs, winning MVP in the NLCS (with Jon Lester). The dilemma now is that Ben Zobrist moved to left field to let Baez play second base and Kyle Schwarber should be healthy and ready to return to left field. It's a good problem to have, but how is Joe Maddon going to give all 3 of them playing time? The Cubs do have options to move Jason Heyward to centerfield and play all 3 with Schwarber in left, Baez at second base and Zobrist in right field. But this option wouldn't allow much playing time for young centerfielder, Albert Almora Jr and free agent signing, John Jay who was brough in to share playing time with Almora.
Jason Heyward signed a big, long term contract with the Cubs in the 2016 offseason, but he struggled offensively in 2016. Early reports are that he started working on his swing early this offseason so as Cubs fans, let's hope he returns to the offensive success he has shown in the past. If he does continue to struggle, it might be a very difficult decision for Joe Maddon to keep him in the Cubs lineup. His defense is a very important part of the team's success, but as noted above, the Cubs may have very good hitters sitting on the bench. It may be very difficult to keep Heyward in the lineup if he cannot improve to at least league average offensive