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World Series champs open camp with new faces

Outfielder Jon Jay and closer Wade Davis headline a group of newcomers on the 40-man roster headed to their first Cubs camp.

While the core group of the World Series champs returns for the 2017 season there are some new faces on the 40-man roster, including seven new pitchers.

Here’s the rundown of the new guys on the 40-man roster:

Jon Jay—He’ll be the only position player on the 40-man roster introducing himself to his new teammates as the former Cardinal signed a one-year, $8 million deal to fill the gap left by the departure of Dexter Fowler. Jay is expected to platoon in center with Albert Almora. The 31-year-old Jay spent last season in San Diego after getting traded from the Cardinals during the off-season for Jedd Gyorko. In 2016, Jay hit .291/.339/.389 with 26 doubles, two homers and 26 RBI in 90 games. He missed part of the season due to a broken right forearm he suffered on June 19 but did return for the final month. Originally drafted by the Cardinals in the second-round in 2006 out of the University of Miami, Jay made his MLB debut in 2010 for St. Louis, hitting .300/.359/.422 in 105 games. In six seasons with the Red Birds, Jay appeared in 757 games, slashing .287/.354/.384 while making five post-season trips and logging 58 playoff games.The versatile outfielder can play all three positions but has spent a majority of his time in center, leading all active players with a .996 fielding percentage in center.

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Wade Davis—The Cubs new closer owns a World Series ring and has been one of the top relievers in the game over the past few seasons. Jorge Soler was shipped to Kansas City to acquire the right-hander, who becomes a free agent after the season. Last season he notched a career-high 27 saves but made two trips to the DL in July with a right forearm strain and a right flexor strain. The 31-year-old returned to the lineup in September and appeared in 10 games, with a 2.79 ERA in 9.2 innings. Davis said he’s 100 percent and ready to go in 2017. Cubs will be able to limit his innings and have him ready to go when the post seasons rolls around.

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Koji Uehara— Cubs closed out the winter meetings with the signing of another arm for $4.5 million. The addition of the 41-year-old strengthens the Cubs bullpen depth and adds another experienced arm. The right-hander appeared in 50 games for Boston in 2016 and was 2-3 with seven saves and a 12.1 K/9 rate. He missed part of the season with a right pectoral strain. In the previous three years, Uehara recorded 72 saves for Boston with a career-high 26 in 2014 when he got the final out of the World Series. He’s tough on lefties as they’ve hit .183 against him during his MLB career while righties are batting .208. After 10 years in Japan, Uehara signed with the Orioles in 2009 and was 2-4 with a 4.05 ERA in 12 starts. He made the move to the bullpen in 2010 and was traded to the Rangers in 2011 for 1B Chris Davis and RHP Tommy Hunter. Uehara pitched in 2012 for the Rangers and then signed a free agent deal with Boston in 2013.

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Brett Anderson—Could be a key addition to the Cubs staff but will need to beat out Mike Montgomery for innings in the rotation. If any of the starters go down, Anderson is the odds on favorite to step into the rotation. A one-year deal with $3.5 million with incentives that could drive the contract to $10 million.  Anderson, 29, is 38-43 with a 3.86 ERA (294 ER/685.2 IP) in 127 major league appearances, all but 12 as a starter, covering all or part of eight seasons with the Oakland Athletics (2009-13), Colorado Rockies (2014) and Los Angeles Dodgers (2015-16). He owns a 58.9 ground ball percentage in his career, the second-highest mark among active pitchers since the start of the 2009 campaign. Anderson, 28, appeared in only four games for the Dodgers in 2016 after missing most of the year after back surgery. The former second-round pick of the Diamondbacks in 2006, Anderson tossed a career-high 180 innings for the Dodgers in 2015, making 31 starts while posting a 3.69 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP. 

 Brian Duensing—Another arm recovering from an injury that sidelined his 2016 season, the Cubs inked the left-handed bullpen arm to a one-year deal worth a reported $2 million. The 33-year-old was signed by the Royals last off-season and released in May. He then agreed to terms with the Orioles and only appeared in 14 games, missing time with an elbow injury. He spent the first seven years of his big-league career with the Twins, making 61 starts while appearing in 354 games. Duensing is 42-37 with a 4.13 ERA in over 660 innings with 438 K and a 1.38 WHIP. If Duensing can stay healthy, he could earn a spot on the 25-man roster and break camp with the North Siders as the lefty out of the pen.

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Eddie Butler—The 25-year-old with a sinking fastball in the mid-90s should be considered a project, and if successful, could provide the Cubs with another rotation piece. A potential front-line starter after getting drafted in the first-round in 2012 out of Radford, Butler shot up the minor league ranks with the Rockies and was one of the top pitching prospects in 2014. But the success he found in the minors has not translated to the big league ranks. Despite his plus stuff, Butler hasn’t missed many bats at the big league level, sporting a 1.77 WHIP and surrendering 28 homers in 159.1 innings. Despite his plus stuff, Butler’s K/9 is just 5.3 in the bigs while issuing four walks per nine. Cubs traded minor league relief pitcher James Farris to the Rockies for Butler.

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Alec Mills—The Cubs latest addition, the 25-year-old is another “lottery ticket” that was acquired for outfield prospect Donnie Dewees. Mills was designated for assignment by the Royals on Feb. 8, which promoted the trade with the North SIders. A 22nd round pick of Kansas City back in 2012 out of Tennessee-Martin, Mills has spent most of his five-year career as a starter in the Royals system, earning all-star honors in the South Atlantic League (2013), Carolina League (2015) and Texas League (2016). Last season, he split the year between AA and AAA, and made his pro debut, despite not having pitched above High A heading into the year. In 23 starts between the two levels, the 25-year-old logged 125.2 innings, striking out 122 while holding hitters to a .252 BAA. The Cubs keep adding to their pitching depth and Mills provides another good arm that can be used out of the bullpen or developed in Iowa as a starter. He has two options left so the Cubs have time and flexibility on their side.

Caleb Smith—Selected by the Brewers in the Rule 5 draft at the Winter Meetings and then traded to the Cubs for cash considerations, the former Yankee farmhand is a long shot to make the roster. Smith was the Yankees 14th round pick in 2013 out of Sam Houston State and has spent most of his minor league career as a starter, making 69 starts and appearing in 94 games (367.2 IP). The 25-year-old pitched at AA Trenton last year, going 3-5 with a 3.96 ERA in 27 games, seven starts. He missed a week with a hamstring injury and finished the year striking out 70 in 63.2 innings, a career high for K/9. Smith will need to spend half the year on the 25-man roster as a Rule 5 draft, so its likely the Cubs return him or he could stay in the organization if the Yankees don’t want him back.

The Cubs also added four prospects to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft. Left-handed reliever Jack Leathersich is the one to keep an eye on as the former Met could make a push for the bullpen, especially if Duensing isn’t healthy. They also added C Victor Caratini, OF Jacob Hannemann and RHP Duane Underwood, but none of them are expected to contribute at the big league level this year.


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