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Will the same Chicago Cubs offense produce different endings?

MESA, Ariz. — Chicago Cubs manager Craig Counsell was heading to Maryvale for Wednesday’s Cactus League game against his former Milwaukee Brewers club when agent Scott Boras arrived in camp. For Cody Bellinger’s press conference.

“I thought (Jordan) Montgomery was coming with you,” Counsell snapped, referring to another unsigned free agent who has been dubbed the “Boras Four.”

Montgomery is not on the Cubs’ radar, and Bellinger’s signing will likely be the last big move of the offseason as payroll approaches the luxury tax threshold.

“We’ll never stop looking,” Cubs President Jed Hoyer said of possible additions. “I will never put the final nail in this. Something always comes up; trades, free agents. “But it’s the end of February and I think that’s the expectation, but I’m not going to rule anything out.”

What you see is what you’ll get, barring trade deadline moves. Counsell said Thursday that he’s looking at the roster he has with the understanding that there won’t be any more major moves this spring.

“I’ll be honest, even before Cody (signing) I wasn’t thinking about it that way,” Counsell said. “At that time of year, you definitely start looking at rosters in your mind and that goes for the players here as well. I think we’re in a really good position. “I think we’re in a good place right now because of the flexibility in the squad.”

So, would Bellinger’s return make the Cubs the favorites in the Central Central National League? DraftKings Sportsbook is now available in St. He sees the Cubs as the favorites, slightly ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals.

At the very least, the Cubs should be considered a contender, which is what fans expected every year before 2015-21. Summer sales on 21 From Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez and the rest of the old core.

“I felt that way before,” shortstop Dansby Swanson said. “This just solidifies that further.”

Still, the Cubs won just 83 games last season and returned with pretty much the same roster, so they’ll need to show some improvement to get over that hump. The biggest change in 2023 is Christopher Morel starting at third base after spending most of last year as the designated hitter.

Photos: An inside look at the Cubs’ spring training

The matchups will ultimately decide who the DH will be on a daily basis, and Counsell will have power options from the right side in Patrick Wisdom, who hit 23 home runs in 268 at-bats in 2023, and from the left side in Michael Busch. He hit 26 home runs in 390 at-bats for Oklahoma City, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate. Miles Mastrobuoni and Mike Tauchman also provide attack from the left flank, and Miguel Amaya should create opportunities against left-handed players when Yan Gomes starts from the back.

“That’s the spot I think about the least, and that means it’s probably going to be a bunch of guys, and keeping it open means whoever that (squad) goes is who’s going to take the hits.” said Counsell.

“We have some non-roster players in camp right now that can take that into account, so it’s wide open. … These are decisions that are becoming clearer to me day by day, so I don’t like to spend too much time on them.”

Alexander Canario has offensive talent and is promising. Pete Crow-ArmstrongOwen Caissie and Matt Shaw are also at the top.

Cubs’ ability to learn last year’s end-of-season swoon It will be something to watch. Arena was clearly tired and entered the stretch with nine losses and a league-worst 10 saves in September.

But September has also been a tough month for the offense, driven primarily by Seiya Suzuki hitting .370 with a .685 slugging percentage and Nico Hoerner hitting .302 with a .382 on-base percentage. happened. percentage.

Swanson had a good season overall but hit .236 with a .391 slugging percentage in September. He admitted that he wasn’t very happy with his season, despite being named to the National League All-Star team. Quickly won the NL Gold Glove award.

Cubs shortstop Dansby Swanson throws a ground ball and throws to first base during a spring training practice in Mesa, Ariz., on Feb. 20, 2024 (Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune)

“Simply put, no,” he said. “I’ve always had high standards for myself, and I’m not so graceful with myself when I don’t meet them. It was a really tough year personally, when you look at everything. It was just challenging.

“And at the end of the day, I fought as hard as I have in a long time. And I see that as a personal accomplishment in a way because it will shape me for things to come.”

Like Swanson, the team’s confidence has not waned. However, as the club’s experienced leaders, Bellinger and Swanson should be expected to step up frequently in big situations. That’s why they got the money they did.

“We talked a little bit about confidence, and Dansby moves with a lot of confidence,” Counsell said. “It’s a form of leadership, if that makes sense, because other players see that and see how you react to things.

“It’s even more impressive to see him for a few weeks. I watch him pick up a ball. … I knew he won a Gold Glove and stuff, so I knew he was good, but watching it now, it’s like, ‘God, can you make this easier?’ It’s fun to watch, and that’s trust and leadership.”

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