As the 2006 season comes to a merciful end, you can look forward to Jim Hendry making a few roster moves in the next few weeks and months in an attempt to improve the Cubs for 2007. Besides trying to re-sign some of his own free-agents (almost certainly Aramis Ramirez, and probably Juan Pierre, Kerry Wood, Wade Miller, and Henry Blanco), the Cubs GM will also likely try and acquire a starting pitcher or two, maybe a power-hitting outfielder, and maybe a veteran middle infielder, via free-agency or trade. But there are also other roster moves that will be made, the type that are made "under the radar" by all MLB clubs every year at this time. And since we want you to be prepared, here's what you might expect to see happen in the coming weeks and months...
At present, the Cubs 40-man roster is full, with one additional player (Kerry Wood
) on the 60-day DL (which does not count against the 40-man roster).
Sometime during the first week after the end of the regular saeason, I expect the Cubs will place IF-OF Buck Coats
, C Jose Reyes
, and LHP Les Walrond
on waivers for the purpose of assigning them outright to the minors. If they clear waivers (and I believe it's very likely that they will), all three would have the option to be a Six-Year Minor League Free-Agent (6Y MLFA) and will have until October 15th to decide. It's entirely possible that if they clear waivers, any or all all three could agree to 2007 minor league contracts with the Cubs, probably for the split contract minimum (about $55,000) and a Non-Roster Invitation (NRI) to Spring Training.
Not counting Coats, Reyes, and Walrond, there are 19 players presently assigned to Cubs minor league clubs who have the option to be a 6Y MLFA if not added to the 40-man roster by October 15th:
Hugo Castellanos, RHP
Gary Cates, IF-OF
Wilton Chavez, RHP
Jeff Deardorff, OF-1B
Brandon Emanuel, RHP
Cristian Gonzalez, RHP
Nic Jackson, OF
Casey Kopitzke, C
Albenis Machado, INF
Luis Montanez, OF
Augie Ojeda, INF
Carlos Perez, LHP
Michael Restovich, OF
Brandon Sing, 1B
Jon-Mark Sprowl, C-1B
Mac Suzuki, RHP
Carlos Vasquez, LHP
Aron Weston, OF
While it is very unlikely that the Cubs will add any of these players to the 40-man roster prior to October 15th, it is quite possible that a couple or three of these players could be re-signed to 2007 minor league contracts and maybe get an NRI to Spring Training.
For example, Carmen Pignatiello
is one of the players eligible to be a 6Y MLFA after this season, but the fact that he has been assigned to the Mesa Solar Sox of the Arizona Fall League (AFL) as a "Cubs" player means that he must have already agreed to a 2007 Cubs minor league contract (probably with an NRI to Spring Training, as happened with Brandon Sing
last year), because free-agents are not permitted to play in the AFL. If he pitches well in the AFL, Pignatiello could still be added to the 40-man roster on or before November 20th (when the major league and minor league reserve lists are filed with MLB in preparation for the Rule 5 Draft).
I would expect John Mabry
to be released soon after the end of the regular season, possibly at the same time Coats, Reyes, and Walrond are dropped from the 40-man roster. It's not unusual for teams to release a player who can be a Type XX MLB free-agent sooner rather than later when the club has no plans for the player in the following season and where the club is sure that it will not offer arbitration to the player. Same goes for veteran reliever Kerry Ligtenberg
, who spent the entire 2006 season in AAA.
Kerry Wood is signed for 2007 ($13.5m), but the Cubs have a "club option" to buy out his contract for $3m, and it is a virtual absolute certainty that Hendry will exercise this option. However, it is also very possible that after buying him out, Hendry will offer Woody a 2007 contract with a low base salary plus incentives based on appearances (presuming Wood will work out of the bullpen in '07). Whether Wood would accept such a deal is unknown.
Normally, players on the 60-day DL do not have to be reactivated until November 20th, but because they will be buying him out (thus making him a Type XX FA), the Cubs will need to reactivate Kerry Wood from the 60-day DL sometime prior to the Free-Agent Filing Period (the first 15 days after the close of the World Series). Wood could be reactivated when Coats, Reyes, and Walrond (and probably Mabry) are likely to be dropped from the 40, but the Cubs could also wait until the end of the World Series to make the move. (Just so it is before the Free-Agency Filing Period).
Jim Hendry is usually pretty aggressive in his attempt to re-sign Cubs players who are eligible to be Type XX FAs if Hendry wants the player back the following season. Last year, Hendry re-signed Ryan Dempster
right at the end of the regular season (Oct 1), and Glendon Rusch
(Oct 31) and Neifi Perez
(Nov 8) prior to the end of the Free-Agent Filing Period (during which time MLB clubs retain exclusive negotiating rights with their owns FAs). If Hendry cannot re-sign one of his own free-agents by the end of the Free-Agent Filing Period, it becomes a lot less likely that Hendry will continue to pursue that player.
Besides Ligtenberg and Mabry, Henry Blanco
, Wade Miller
, and Juan Pierre
(plus Kerry Wood--once he is bought out, and Aramis Ramirez--if he exercises his player option to be a FA) can also be Type XX FAs after this season, and if Hendry is going to re-sign any of them, he is most-likely to do so sometime prior to the end of the Free-Agent Filing Period. It is very possible that Hendry might want to sign Blanco and Miller to 2007 minor league contracts (but for "Major League" money) to keep spots on the 40-man roster open for prospects he might want to protect from the Rule 5 Draft, with the explicit understanding that Blanco and Miller will be added to the 40-man roster during Spring Training or sometime prior to Opening Day 2007, as soon as spots become available. While it seems likely that Hendry would be happy to have both Blanco and Miller return in 2007, it is not clear whether Blanco and/or Miller would accept the terms likely to be offered by Hendry.
As for Pierre, it is becoming more and more likely that he wants to test the free-agent market and will not re-sign with the Cubs prior to the end of the Free-Agent Filing Period. And the way the Cubs are playing Felix Pie
in the Arizona Instructional League these days (designated pinch-runner several times each game, where he attempts to steal a base each time--and he has been successful every time I've seen him try so far, BTW, or PH leading off an inning and trying to bunt for a hit), it looks like the Cubs--for better or for worse--fully intend to make the Pie Man into the best lead-off hitter he can possibly be, and if Hendry was fairly sure that Pierre would be coming back for three years, that probably would not be the case.
Last but certainly not least, Aramis Ramirez
is signed through 2009, but has a player option to be a free-agent after this season. Given that his current contract is below "market value" ($33.5m owed througn 2009, with 2009 a "mutual option"--or a "player option" that vests if A-Ram plays 270 games in 2007-08), it is VERY likely that Ramirez will want more years and more guaranteed money. The starting point will probably be "Derrek Lee Money," meaning at least $65m (maybe more) over five years 2007-11, possibly with a "player option" after two or three years. If there is a "player option" in a new Ramirez contract, Hendry needs to "back-load" the deal with annual salary escalators so that Ramirez will be giving up the highest-salaried years if he exercises the option.
If it gets to the point where Hendry believes he cannot re-sign Ramirez, he may instead go hot & heavy after a FA OF like Alfonso Soriano
or maybe try and make a trade for somebody like Blue Jays CF Vernon Wells
(who will be a FA after 2007, but who is only making $5.6m in '07) to replace Ramirez's bat in the lineup (and also replace Pierre in CF), and then possibly sign a free-agent 3B like Pedro Feliz
or maybe Nomar Garciaparra
(who could be moved back to SS sometime in 2007 if Izturis falters), or execute a trade for a veteran 3B like Milwaukee's Bill Hall
(eligible for salary arbitration for the first time after this season) or Boston's Mike Lowell
(who will be making $9m in 2007 before becoming a FA after next season).
The next item of business Hendry will have to address is to decide which prospects eligible to be selected in the December Rule 5 Draft will be added to the Cubs Major League Reserve List (AKA 40-man roster). The major league and minor league reserve lists (AAA clubs have a 38-man reserve list, AA clubs a 37-man reserve list, and each Class "A" club a 35-man reserve list) must be filed with the MLB office no later than the close of business on November 20th. How many players Hendry can add to the 40-man roster will depend on how many players leave via free-agency and how many other players are dropped from the 40-man roster prior to November 20th. If I had to guess, I would say Hendry will add six players eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft to the Cubs 40-man roster (thus excluding the six from the 2006 Rule 5 Draft) on or before November 20th. Whether Hendry will choose the right ones is always the $50,000 question. (The Rule 5 Draft will take place on December 7th, at the MLB Winter Meetings).
In addition to any 6Y MLFA who are signed or re-signed by the Cubs in October and November, the following 60 Cubs minor league players will be eligble for the 2006 Rule 5 Draft Draft in December if not added to the 40-man roster by November 20th:
Thomas Atlee, RHP
Justin Berg, RHP
Oscar Bernard, RHP
Ryan Bicondoa, RHP
Todd Blackford, RHP
Chadd Blasko, RHP
Jerry Blevins, LHP
Bobby Brownlie, RHP
Edward Campusano, LHP
Jose Caridad, RHP
Robinson Chirinos, 2B
Matt Ciaramella, OF
Matt Craig, 1B-3B
Darin Downs, LHP
Mike Fontenot, 2B
Alfredo Francisco, RHP
Alberto Garcia, 1B-OF
Lee Gwaltney, RHP
Luke Hagerty, LHP
Jesse Hoorelbeke, 1B
Jonathan Hunton, RHP
Fabian Jimenez-Angulo, LHP
Scott Koerber, LHP
Tim Layden, LHP
Richard Lewis, 2B
Dary Maria, RHP
J. R. Mathes, LHP
Zach McCormack, LHP
Casey McGehee, 3B
Adalberto Mendez, RHP
Ryan Norwood, 1B
Isaac Pavlik, LHP
Leonel Perez, RHP
Billy Petrick, RHP
Jose Pina, RHP
Elvin Puello, 3B
Robert Ransom, RHP
Tony Richie, C
Alan Rick, C
Carlos Rojas, SS
Issmael Salas, INF
Joel Santo, RHP
Paul Schappert, LHP
Andy Shipman, RHP
Jemel Spearman, 3B-2B
Nate Spears, 2B
Jesus Valdez, OF
Chris Walker, OF
Jake Whitesides, INF
Olin Wick, C
Jesus Yepez, LHP
Of this group, the players most-likely to receive strong consideration to be added to the Cubs 40-man roster by November 20th are (alphabetically):
And you can add to this list of candidates LHP Carmen Pignatiello (presuming he is re-signed to a 2007 minor league contract sometime before October 15th).
Fox (a power-hitting catcher who was Rich Hill's college battery-mate at the University of Michigan) and Harvey (the Cubs #1 draft pick in 2003) are virtual "locks" to be added to the 40, but the others are probably "on the bubble."
Holdzkom (acquired from the Marlins in the Todd Wellemeyer
deal) and Rapada (a side-arming LOOGY who is murder on left-handed hitters) will be pitching out of the Mesa Solar Sox bullpen in the coming weeks, and how each perform in the AFL will go a long way toward deciding whether either will be added to the 40. (Same goes for Pignatiello).
Baez, a one-time third-baseman in the Orioles organization who was converted into a pitcher by the Cubs, pitched for Team Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic last March, and then pitched very well at West Tenn in 2006. He had a brief mid-season promotion to Iowa, but struggled a bit there. His best feature is a "rubber-arm" that allows him to swing back & forth between the bullpen and starting rotation.
Cherry (finger) and Shaver (bone chip in elbow) are recovering from season-ending (Cherry) or post-season (Shaver) surgery, and may be left off the 40-man roster just for that reason. However, Cherry (like Holdzkom, a TJ-surgery survivor) was clocked in the mid-to-upper 90's at Iowa prior to his injury (the same type of injury sustained by Sean Marshall a couple of years ago) and was a good possibility to get a slot in the AFL before he got hurt, and Shaver is one of the Cubs better pitching prospects and was another good possibility for a slot in the AFL before deciding to have surgery.
Like Carlos Marmol
, Wells is a a converted catcher who pitched very well as a starting pitcher at AA before struggling at a higher level (in the case of Wells, that was AAA) after a mid-season promotion. Wells has shown tremendous progress as a pitcher over the past couple of seasons (he even got an NRI to 2006 Spring Training) and he may have a future as an MLB middle reliever, but that may not be a enough of a reason to put him on the 40-man roster at this time.
Hoffpauir showed signs that he could maybe evolve into a Ross Gload
-type "lefty bat off the bench," and he probably would have gotten a September call-up and would be playing 1B for the Cubs right now, except he suffered a season-ending oblique injury in August. He has big league power, but adding him to the 40 would probably only happen if most all of the pitchers listed above are discounted.
It is very possible that OF Miguel Negron
will be dropped from the 40-man roster on or before November 20th to help make room for one of the pitchers Hendry will want to protect from selection in the Rule 5 Draft. Negron is a one-time Blue Jays #1 draft pick (another one of Tim Wilken's boys) who Hendry claimed off waivers in May, and although he did hit a lot better at AA West Tenn than he did in AA with the Jays, and although he is an outstanding defensive outfielder with a plus-arm, he doesn't have any power and his future is probably only as a "4th OF."
If more spots on the 40-man roster are needed, it's not unthinkable that 1B Brian Dopirak
(stupidly added to the 40-man roster after last season) could be dropped ftrom the 40 (or get traded) prior to November 20th. Dopirak missed most of the 2006 season with a broken foot, but even if he had had a healthy season, he will be out of minor league options two years before Derrek Lee
's contract expires, and since Dopirak's only other position is DH (which is probably his best position, BTW), barring a career-ending injury to D-Lee, B-Dope has no future in the Cubs organization.
It is also possible (though a lot less likely--at this point, anyway) that Glendon Rusch could either retire (having suffered a pulmonary embolism, it may be recommended that he not fly in airplanes) or get released. No question Hendry could certainly use Rusch's roster spot for a young pitching prospect. but it's unknown whether Hendry would have the cojones
to release Rusch while he is still recovering from a life-threatening illness and while he is contemplating retirement.
Unless they are included in a trade, LHP Ryan O'Malley
(who as an emergency starter pitched eight shoutout innings at Houston in August before sustaining an elbow injury in his next start) and RHP Adam Harben
(acquired earlier this month from MIN as the PTBNL in the Phil Nevin deal) will both likely remain on the 40-man roster throughout the off-season, at least until the end of Spring Training '07.
Besides deciding which prospects to add to the 40-man roster by November 20th, Hendry will have until December 7th to decide whether to offer arbitration to Cubs players who have filed for Type XX free-agency. The current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) expires on December 19th, and there is talk that in the new CBA, draft pick compensation for losing Type XX free-agents will be eliminated. However, I would think the elimination of draft pick compensation (if it occurs) would be deferred until after the 2007 season, because teams have been operating this season with the understanding that draft pick compensation will still be in place after this season, and knowing there will be draft pick compensation has no doubt affected decisions about whether to trade a player or keep him and risk losing him to free-agency. So even if there is a change regarding draft pick compensation for Type XX free-agents in the new CBA, I would suspect that draft pick compensation will still be in place at least until after the 2007 season, and if so, I would think it likely that the only Cubs FAs to whom Hendry will offer arbitration are Aramis Ramirez and Juan Pierre (that is, unless Hendry has not re-signed Ramirez or Pierre by December, but has no money left because he has allocated all remaining available 2007 payroll to other players he has acquired via trade or free-agency in the meantime!).
And finally, December 20th is the date by which contracts have to be tendered to all players under club control who are not already signed to a contract for the next season. If any such player (either "arbitration-eligible" or "auto-renewal") is not tendered a contract by that date, he becomes a "non-tendered" free-agent and can sign with any club without the former club receiving any compensation.
So December 20th is the date by which Jim Hendry will have to decide whether he is willing to go to salary arbitration (if necessary) with unsigned players who qualify for arbitration. Unless one or more additional ones are acquired via trade sometime between the end of the regular season and December 20th, as of right now the only three players presently on the Cubs 40-man roster who will be eligible for salary arbitration after this season are Carlos Zambrano
, Mark Prior
, and Will Ohman
. Hendry will definitely go to arbitration (if necessary) with Zambrano (actually Hendry would no doubt prefer to get a multi-year deal in place with "Z" before the start of the 2007 season, but as happened with Ramirez in 2004 and D-Lee a year ago, he will probably settle for a one-year contract until a multi-year deal can be worked out later), will likely go to arbitration with Prior (unless Prior is diagnosed with a major shoulder or elbow injury sometime between now and December, in which case he could very possibly be non-tendered), and will probably go to arbitration with Ohman.
POTENTIAL MLB TYPE XX FREE-AGENTS AFTER 2006 SEASON
Kerry Ligtenberg (on AAA IOWA roster)
Aramis Ramirez (player option for 2007-08)
Kerry Wood (club option with buy-out for 2007)
: Aramis Ramirez has a player option for 2007. If he does NOT choose to be a free-agent after this season, and if his contract is NOT renegotiated, then the orginal contract remains in force as written, and there is either a mutual option for 2009, or a player option (only) for 2009 if he plays 270 games (combined) in 2007-08
SIGNED BEYOND 2006
Michael Barrett (thru 2007)
Glendon Rusch (thru 2007)
Scott Eyre (thru 2007 & player option for 2008 - limited ìno tradeî thru 2008)
Cesar Izturis (thru 2007 & club option with buy-out for 2008)
Ryan Dempster (thru 2008)
Bob Howry (thru 2008)
Jacque Jones (thru 2008)
Derrek Lee (thru 2010 ñ ìno tradeî thru 2010)
OTHERS UNDER CLUB CONTROL
(PROJECTED POST-06 MLB SERVICE TIME IN PARENTHESIS)
NOTE: Although the MLB season is 182 days, 172 days constitutes one full year of MLB service time
WILL BE ELIGIBLE FOR ARBITRATION AFTER 2006
Carlos Zambrano (5+42 - FA after 2007)
Will Ohman (4+40 - FA after 2008)
Mark Prior (4+131 - FA after 2008)
AUTO-RENEWAL (PRE-ARBITRATION) FOR 2007
David Aardsma (0+168)
Freddie Bynum (1+35)
Ronny Cedeno (1+108)
Buck Coats (0+35)
Brian Dopirak (0)
Angel Guzman (0+95)
Adam Harben (0)
Rich Hill (0+87)
Sean Marshall (1+0)
Carlos Marmol (0+121)
Juan Mateo (0+62)
Scott Moore (0+28)
Matt Murton (1+87)
Miguel Negron (0)
Roberto Novoa (1+169)
Ryan OíMalley (0+47)
Angel Pagan (1+0)
Felix Pie (0)
Jose Reyes (0+27)
Jae-kuk Ryu (0+38)
Geovany Soto (0+60)
Ryan Theriot (0+112)
Les Walrond (0+53)
Michael Wuertz (2+4)
MINOR LEAGUE OPTION STATUS
NO MINOR LEAGUE OPTIONS LEFT
ONE MINOR LEAGUE OPTION LEFT
David Aardsma (see NOTE 1
Angel Guzman (see NOTE 2
: David Aardsma will get an additional (4th) option year in 2007 because players get a 4th option year IF they have not played five seasons in the major leagues or minor leagues by the time they have used up their three minor league options.
: Because of time spent on the DL in 2004 and 2005, Angel Guzman will likely get a 4th option year in 2007, because he will probably not have played five ìfull seasonsî (minimum 60 days on major league or minor league active roster in each of five separate seasons) by the time he has used up his three options. (CANNOT BE CONFIRMED AT THIS TIME).
TWO MINOR LEAGUE OPTIONS LEFT
THREE MINOR LEAGUE OPTIONS LEFT