The Chicago Cubs may not be the defending World Series champion this season, but they’ve still been given a very big responsibility by Major League Baseball. The league announced start times for games on Wednesday afternoon, and the Cubs will play the very first game of the 2018 against the Miami Marlins. The Cubs and Marlins will get underway at 11:40 a.m. Central time on Mar. 28, kicking off a full day of MLB action. The league will have all 30 teams start their season on the same date for the first time since 1968, according to a press release. The Cubs also announced that their pitchers and catchers will hold their first spring training workouts on Feb. 14, with the first full squad workout slated for Feb. 19.
Top free-agent starter Yu Darvish is considering signing with the Yankees, Cubs, Rangers, Astros and Twins. Darvish has drawn interest from New York, Chicago, Houston and Minnesota over the last month. As for Texas, there is a natural soft spot for Darvish, as Wilson said Darvish“ loves the area and loved his time” playing for the Rangers for four-and-a-half seasons before being traded to the Dodgers at the non-waiver deadline in 2017. After the trade, Darvish helped Los Angeles get to the World Series by winning games in both the NLDS and NLCS, but had two disastrous starts in the Fall Classic, including Game 7. Darvish posted a 10-12 record with a 3.86 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 209 strikeouts over the course of 186 2⁄3 innings. However, Wilson believes that signing with the Rangers is ”wishful thinking” because the club is not inclined to add top-of-the-line free agents since it is still rebuilding and has signed low-cost players to fill in the gaps for now. In addition, the Astros appear to be going after Pirates ace Gerrit Cole on the trade market, leaving the Yankees, Cubs and Twins as the most likely destinations for Darvish to go. The Cubs met with Darvish back in December and would like to have someone anchor their rotation if they don’t bring back ace Jake Arrieta, who is also a free agent. The Yankees like Darvish and are serious about their pursuit of him, but they want to sign him for a price that can help them stay under the luxury tax threshold. The Twins have made it known that Darvish is a big priority, but will they be able to out-bid the other clubs for him?
The Mets have reached a three-year, $39 million deal with outfielder Jay Bruce, a major-league source confirmed. Bruce returns to New York, where he spent about a full season before being traded to Cleveland in a waiver-wire deal in August. He reportedly drew strong interest from the Giantsand Astros but ultimately will re-join Michael Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes in the Mets outfield. The signing may mean the Mets will shop Juan Lagares in coming weeks. Bruce, who turns 31 in early April, hit .245/.313/.482 with 37 homers in 153 games for the Mets after being acquired in a deadline deal with the Reds in 2016. He is the top free-agent position player to sign so far this winter, with J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas still available. Bruce owns a career .249/.319/.472 line with 277 homers in 10 seasons with the Reds (2008-16), Mets (2016-17) and Indians (2017). He’s a two-time All-Star who has two top-10 MVP finishes and two Silver Slugger awards. He is the second free-agent signing of the winter for the Mets, who also inked Anthony Swarzak to a two-year, $14 million deal at the winter meetings.