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Friday, January 17, 2014
Questions abound as convention kicks off

By Jesse Rogers

CHICAGO -- The annual Cubs Convention kicks off with an unusual amount of uncertainty surrounding the team.

Questions abound both on and off the field: Will the Cubs' pursuit of Japanese star pitcher Masahrio Tanaka end with the right-hander wearing Cubbie blue? Baseball insiders say not if the New York Yankees have anything to do with it. And to make matters worse, those close to Tanaka's camp are saying the highest bid may not be the winner. Tanaka will be the talk of the weekend for fans, media and front office types.

Will this be pitcher Jeff Samardzija's last Cubs convention? He could go to an arbitration hearing as teams and players will exchange salary figures on Friday unless deals are struck. Either way, that only assures Samardzija a one-year deal. There's been no sign of progress on a long-term deal and as a league source indicated, every day he remains without one increases his likelihood of testing free agency after the 2015 season. It means he's still on a path to be traded before it gets to that point.

When will the Wrigley Field renovations begin? It was a year ago at this time the Ricketts family announced an ambitious $500 million project that would be funded soley by the team. It's been nearly a full year and nothing of significance has been accomplished. The family will face the media and fans this weekend, but will they have answers?

There are smaller questions like who's on third come 2014 and will Travis Wood get a long-term deal or is it too soon for him? Some of these questions will be answered throughout the weekend as there is plenty of player, management and front office access for fans and media alike.

Here are some highlights:

FRIDAY

Media social: 4:30-5:30 p.m.
This will be the first chance for the mass media to talk with Samardzija about another offseason in which little progress was made for a long-term deal. It's also a chance to meet newcomers Jose Veras, Wesley Wright and Justin Ruggiano.

Opening ceremonies: 6 p.m.
Who gets the biggest cheer from the assembled fans during introduction is always of interest. Will it be a former Cub or a prospect instead of a current player? More importantly, how will new mascot Clark be received?
Film premiere: 100 Years of Wrigley Field, 8 p.m.

SATURDAY

Ricketts family forum: 9-10 a.m.
No question is a bad one when it comes from the paying customer and the family will undoubtedly be grilled on the Wrigley project and when the Cubs will win again.

Meet Cubs baseball management: 10-11 a.m.
A chance to ask Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and the rest of the front office about their long-term plan for the team. It hasn't changed since a year ago at the convention -- youth will rule the day. The only difference is now that youth is getting very close to playing at Wrigley Field.

SUNDAY

30-year anniversary of 1984 team: 9-10 a.m.