Cubs Notes: Tauchman, Imanaga, Taillon

Cubs Notes: Tauchman, Imanaga, Taillon


Cubs outfielder Mike Tauchman has had plenty of uncertainty in his career. He’s bounced around from the Rockies to the Yankees and Giants, spent 2022 with the Hanwha Eagles of the KBO League and settled for a minor league deal with the Cubs going into 2023. But in 2024, he seems to have a bit more clarity on the path ahead of him. He tells Maddie Lee of the Chicago Sun-Times that manager Craig Counsell told him at the start of Spring Training that he has already made the team.

‘‘From a personal standpoint, [it’s] given me a little freedom to trial-and-error a couple of things, rather than really focusing on the results, focusing on ‘making the team,’ ’’ Tauchman said. ‘‘Because now it’s about getting ready for March 28 and the subsequent games that we have.’’

Tauchman, now 33, got added to the Cubs’ roster last year when Cody Bellinger was injured but played well enough to stick around even when Bellinger returned. He got into 108 games, drawing a walk in 14% of his 401 plate appearances. His home run total of eight was fairly modest but he was on-base enough to be above average at the plate overall. His .252/.363/.377 slash line translated to a wRC+ of 107. He also stole seven bases and got strong grades for his time on the grass, most of which was in center field. In 584 innings in center, he produced three Defensive Runs Saved and got a +1 from Outs Above Average.

That solid showing was enough for the Cubs to tender him an arbitration contract, with the two sides eventually agreeing to a $1.95MM salary. For part of this offseason, Tauchman may have been seen as the on-paper center fielder between Seiya Suzuki and Ian Happ. Prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong would have been another option but he’s considered a glove-first player, is still shy of his 22nd birthday and has just 47 games played above Double-A.

The Cubs recently re-signed Bellinger and he figures to take the center field job. He also plays first base but it seems like the Cubs will give Michael Busch a chance to take that spot. That will likely leave Tauchman in a fourth outfielder role while Crow-Armstrong gets regular reps in Triple-A. An injury could always change things, with Happ currently dealing with a mild hamstring strain, but Tauchman seems to have a refreshingly secure gig for the time being.

Elsewhere in Cubs’ tidbits, the rotation figures to be an area of focus this year as the club looks to take a step forward after just missing the playoffs last year. Collectively, Cub starters had a 4.26 ERA last year which put them 14th in the majors. Since the club is going into 2024 with a fairly similar roster, improvement in the rotation could be a difference maker.

Marcus Stroman departed via free agency and the club signed Shota Imanaga to take his spot. Imanaga will be looking to make the transition from Japan, where pitchers often throw once a week, to the five-day cycle in North America.

Bruce Levine of 670 The Score relays that the club plans on using off-days and spot starters to help him with the adjustment, which could perhaps lead to some extra starts for optionable depth arms. The club figures to have Justin Steele, Kyle Hendricks, Jameson Taillon and Imanaga in four rotation spots, with one more spot available to Jordan Wicks, Javier Assad, Hayden Wesneski, Caleb Kilian or Ben Brown.

Everyone in that latter group has options and may start the season in the minors but it sounds like there will be opportunities to make big league appearances as the season rolls along. The occasional spot start will be used to give Imanaga and the other guys a breather and injuries are fairly inevitable for pitchers, which will open other chances.

Taillon will be looking for a bounceback season, as his first campaign with the Cubs wasn’t strong, finishing with a 4.84 ERA. That potential bounceback season is off to a bumpy start, however, as Lee reports that Taillon is dealing with some soreness in both of his calves. That issue doesn’t seem debilitating and he still appears to be on track for Opening Day if he doesn’t experience any setbacks, but it’s a situation worth monitoring over the weeks to come since a return to form for Taillon will be important for the Cubs this year.


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