Plenty to celebrate, anticipate at Cubs Convention

Plenty to celebrate, anticipate at Cubs Convention

CHICAGO -- Fans will be able to cheer for award winners Jake Arrieta, Kris Bryant and Joe Maddon, ask the front office questions about roster moves, and meet the newest players during the three-day Cubs Convention, which begins Friday at the Sheraton Grand Hotel.

The event, which is sold out, will feature seminars, autograph sessions and booths showcasing the Cubs' Minor League affiliates.

This will be the first appearance in Chicago for Arrieta, Bryant and Maddon, who won the National League trifecta of awards -- Cy Young, Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year, respectively. It's been a busy offseason for Arrieta.

Arrieta weighs on possible 2016 contract, extension

"I've had moments to reflect on our team's success and some of the things I was able to do and accomplish and really appreciate it, and try to carry certain things over to next season and try to be better," the right-hander said Thursday.

The Cubs likely will introduce Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg as an ambassador to the team, but are not expected to use the winter fanfest to announce an extension for Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein. Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said Wednesday that he has talked to Epstein, but he added an extension was "just a matter of timing."

Sandberg returning as team ambassador

This weekend is about the fans, and Cubs supporters are most likely still giddy after last year's trip to the postseason despite being swept in the NL Championship Series by the Mets. Fangraphs predicts the Cubs will lead the Major Leagues with 95 wins in 2016 after spending $272 million this offseason on Jason Heyward, John Lackey and Ben Zobrist.

"It's hard to look at those three guys right there and feel like we're not a favorite," Arrieta said. "I know on paper is one thing -- you have to go out there and perform and show you're the team the beat. But right now, it looks like we are.

"Zobrist has obviously had an amazing career thus far. He's a very versatile player. We've all seen what Heyward can do -- Gold Glove-type outfielder with a tremendous bat. He's got a ton of potential to grow as a player -- he's only 26 years old. With Lackey, he's a seasoned veteran with a lot of experience under his belt, he's pitched a lot of games and he'll be big with us."

Are the Cubs done adding?

"Honestly, there's a lot of talk," Maddon said. "But I'm working under the assumption -- and I really mean this -- that [the team] is going to look exactly like this when we go to camp.

"Do I anticipate anything? Not necessarily. I would imagine we're pretty close to what we're going to look like when we get there and into the first part of the season. But if that's the case, I have nothing to complain about."

A perk of the Cubs Convention is the chance for fans to meet some of the top prospects. Players such as Dan Vogelbach, Jeimer Candelario and Pierce Johnson are among the attendees, along with Hall of Famers Fergie Jenkins and Billy Williams.

Jenkins, Arrieta and Rick Sutcliffe will take part in a panel discussion on their Cy Young Award seasons. The first question to Arrieta may be what can he do to top his 2015 season.

"The numbers are something that are hard to control," Arrieta said. "You need a lot of good fortune and great things to happen for you on defense and you have to be really good. I anticipate having a very good season. Whether I go under 1.7 [ERA] or over 22 wins remains to be seen. I think it's possible. That's how I like to plan and attack the upcoming season is just try to be a little bit better at things I can improve on."

And he's sticking to the same offseason program that he did last year by starting to throw Jan. 1.

Cubs have promising young core

On Saturday, the Cubs' business operations staff will provide an update on Wrigley Field's renovations. Bryant, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler will participate in a seminar titled "Rock Star Rookies." For the youngsters attending the convention, there will be a "Kids Only Press Conference" where they can ask players questions.

After getting to the postseason for the first time since 2008, Cubs fans are eager for more.

"I feel like we're going to win the division," Schwarber said. "We showed what we could do when we're all in for the common goal."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.