SS Starlin Castro is a possibility for the leadoff spot in 2014, according to new manager Rick Renteria. The Cubs were without a true leadoff man after the Aug. 19 trade of OF David DeJesus to Washington. Castro had a down year in 2013, and his on-base percentage was only .284, far from ideal for a leadoff man. "I know over the course of his career, (Castro) has led off quite a bit and has some significantly decent numbers in that spot," Renteria said "But as we continue to put together the club and see matchups and things of that nature as the season progresses, we'll see where we are at."
RHP Kyuji Fujikawa continues his rehab from Tommy John surgery performed last June. He's not expected to open the 2014 season on the active roster, but the Cubs say they feel he is progressing. "He's doing better, obviously," said manager Rick Renteria. "He's doing well. Obviously he's on our roster and expected to keep moving along. So we'll see where he's at."
C George Kottaras was obtained in a trade with the Kansas City Royals. The Cubs expect the 30-year-old Kottaras to back up C Welington Castillo. Dioner Navarro served that role well in 2013, batting .300 and winning rave reviews for his handling of the pitching staff. But Navarro was likely going to be too expensive for the Cubs, and he wound up signing with Toronto.
RHP Jeff Samardzija has been the subject of much trade speculation, but team president Theo Epstein said at the winter meetings that Samardzija is the Cubs' Opening Day starter as of now. Samardzija, who turns 29 in January, cannot become a free agent until after the 2015 season, but the Cubs have not been able to come to terms on a contract extension. "Every time we meet with (Samardzija's agent, Mark Rodgers), I feel great about the relationship and the relationship with Jeff, too," Epstein said. "Talks are amicable, open. We're transparent about the situation and our interests, and he's transparent about Jeff's desires and interests."
OF Justin Ruggiano was traded from the Marlins to the Cubs for OF Brian Bogusevic. Ruggiano, 31, batted .222/.298/.396 with 18 homers, 50 RBIs and 15 steals for the Marlins in 2013. Over five major league seasons -- three with Tampa Bay, two with Miami -- Ruggiano has a career .251/.315/.432 batting line with 37 homers and 109 RBIs in 317 games.
OF Justin Ruggiano, obtained at the end of the winter meetings in a trade with Miami for OF Brian Bogusevic, gives the Cubs a right-handed bat in the outfield. Nate Schierholtz and Ryan Sweeney are left-handed hitters, as is Bogusevic. Ruggiano, who hit 18 homers in 2013 for the Marlins, joins Junior Lake as right-handed hitting outfielders for the Cubs.
LHP Wesley Wright and the Cubs were close to finalizing a free-agent contract after Wright was non-tendered by the Rays. The Cubs want another lefty in the pen to take some of the load off LHP James Russell, who appeared in 74 games this year after working in 77 in 2012. Russell showed signs of fatigue as the season wore on, and he struggled from time to time.