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Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun, appearing Monday night on WGN Sports Central with Dave Kaplan, said he expects the Cubs and Orioles to reach agreement on a trade involving Brian Roberts in "a week to ten days."

Zrebiec disagreed with Kaplan's suggestion that the talks have "heated up" in the past few days; he thinks the discussions have been on a steady, low simmer since they began. Bottom line: Zrebiec said he's confident Roberts will be in Cub blue by Opening Day.

As to who the Cubs might be shipping east or at least whom the O's might want, the usual names were brought up: Gallagher, Cedeno and/or Patterson, Pie, Ceda. (No mention of Donald Veal.) Zrebiec said the O's are especially high on Gallagher and see him as a potential #3 or maybe even a #2 starter. No such love for Matt Murton, however. According to the writer, the Orioles think Murton will require 400-500 at-bats a season to be an effective MLB hitter, which he won't get in Baltimore if he's part of a platoon arrangement with, say, former Astro Luke Scott.

On an unrelated front...

Kaplan also spoke tonight with Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin. In the course of that conversation, Kaplan said his sources tell him that the Cubs are talking deal with a major, Chicago-based corporation which would pay less than the $40 million bandied about for naming rights. The company would be paying for "significant" signage all over the ballpark but would voluntarily forego renaming the park and in a selfless gesture of corporate goodness, allow the place to remain "Wrigley Field."

Nice folks, those selfless, major Chicago corporate guys.

 

An incomplete list, in no particular order...

Bad Weekend

Jason Marquis. Though Lou Piniella apologized for "overreacting" to Marquis' comments following Saturday's game, the pitcher's "I have a family to worry about" statement made him look stupid and foolish and...like a modern-day Major Leaguer.

Alfonso Soriano. Broke the tip of this right middle finger on Sunday during a drill meant to hone his ability to catch balls up against the outfield wall. Expected to miss game action for the next five days.

Neal Cotts. Pitched two-thirds of an inning on Sunday and now has a 27.00 ERA. 'nuf said.

Geo Soto's waistline. I hope AZ Phil can confirm or refute this, but it appeared to me from Sunday's telecast that Soto has regained a lot of the weight he lost last year, when he had his big season in the Pacific Coast League and was so impressive in his limited debut with the big club.

Kerry Wood. Tagged for a longball by the Angels' Torii Hunger, plus two singles and a double in one-third of an inning on Saturday.

Good Weekend:

Matt Murton. Went 3-for-3 in Saturday's loss to the Angels.

Felix Pie. Knocked his second Cactus League home run on Sunday; hitting .273 in the early going.

Carrie Muskat groupies. Carrie got some air time during Sunday's telecast and revealed that she had business cards printed up in Japanese to help her establish rapport with Kosuke Fukudome. I'm wondering how many cards she had printed up and how many she'll have to give Fukudome before he finally replies, through his interpreter, "What am I supposed to do with all of these cards?"

Sam Zell. As this NYT profile makes clear, Sam has little chance of being the game's most odious owner as long as Hank Steinbrenner is around.

 

Reader Crunch beat me to this by a couple minutes in the Comments, but Paul Sullivan of the Tribune writes that after making his Spring Training debut Saturday in a 6-2 Cubs loss to the Angels (2 runs, 3 hits allowed in 2 IP), Jason Marquis let it be known that he wants to be traded if the Cubs aren't going to let him start:

"I love Chicago. I definitely want to stay here...But I also signed as a starter...I love (Chicago), I love the fans, I love the stadium. I also have a family to worry about, too. I think I can take my services elsewhere...and help another team, in that capacity as a starter."

How Marquis's family would suffer if he was pitching long relief, I'm not sure.

Lou Piniella's response after he was informed of Marquis's comments:

"You know, that galls me about Marquis, it really does. I'm not pleased with that comment. We've had a good camp over here, everybody's getting an opportunity. Go out and win a spot in the rotation."

Sullivan also writes that Boston scout Keith Champion was at Saturday's game, which one might connect with the Cubs' reported interest in Coco Crisp. When Curt Schilling's latest injury came to light, Marquis's name came up as a possible trade target for Theo Epstein, but since the Sox recently signed The Pitcher Who Used To Be Bartolo Colon, their interest in Marquis might be less...if there was ever any to start with.

Earlier today, Rob alluded to this story in the Baltimore Sun, which says the O's will be sending a scout to Mesa next week "to get a closer look" at players the Cubs and Orioles have discussed as part of a potential Brian Roberts swap.

The same story indicates that Luis Hernandez currently has the edge over Brandon Fahey and--I'm going to try to type this without laughing--Freddie Bynum in the competition to succeed Miguel Tejada as Baltimore's starting shortstop.

Hernandez was snagged off waivers by the O's after the Braves released him following the '06 season. Though he is good with the glove, over six minor league seasons, his career OPS is 621. Baseball Prospectus says:

He's as light-hitting an infielder as you'll find, with three years of Double-A ball under his belt and no apparent improvement. Tejada's injury last year gave him a chance to play in the majors last year, and he hit .290, but it was almost all singles and was accompanied by a single solitary walk.

That's one walk in 71 plate appearances.

That's Neifi Perez...without the power.

And that's a reason you might be thinking about trading for Ronny Cedeno.

========================

AZ PHIL:

Orioles GM Andy MacPhail, Scouting Director John Stockstill, and Manager Dave Trembley all came to BAL from the Cubs. Also, ex-Cubs Minor League Pitching Coordinator Alan Dunn is the O's bullpen coach. So they probably have opinions and personal knowledge about Cubs players and prospects that go well beyond what other organizations might have. For instance, Ronny Cedeno was signed under Stockstill's tenure, and Sean Gallagher and Sean Marshall were drafted by Stockstill, as was Donald Veal.

BTW, the reason the Orioles scout will be coming to Mesa next week instead of right now is that minor league camp hasn't opened yet, so if the Orioles want to get an updated look at Veal, they will have to wait until next week. 

Cubs baseball (Cactus League version) is back! Ryan Dempster begins his attempt to win a spot in the '08 rotation; Noah Lowry starts for the Giants. Neither starter is slated to go beyond the second inning.

First pitch is at 2:05 Central Time. Pat and Ron have the radio call on WGN radio in Chicago.

Rob tells me that Parachat is open and your usernames/passwords from last year will still work, though they are different than the names you just created so you could leave comments here at the new site.

Tribune Company is now owned by a supposed money-making genius, and the best ideas he can come up with to wring more money out of Wrigley Field are more night games, additional concerts, and peddling the naming rights?

What about the weddings you could host on the pitchers mound, the bar mitzvahs, the graduation bashes, and the Congratulations On Getting Out Of Prison parties?

We've all seen the elaborate staging that happens at halftime of the Super Bowl. How hard could it possibly be to wheel a roller derby track onto the field between innings? Or put a petting zoo on the concourse. Or try this, Sam--get to know Cub fans on a personal level and feed the bottom line by setting up a booth where the Cub faithful get to kiss your beard for a buck!

Obviously the creative ideas are out there, and Sam isn't uncovering them. He needs our help. Send your suggestions to Sam Zell at Tribune Tower. Or post them in the Comments.

We can all laugh and be disgusted together.

I haven't enjoyed typing anything as much as this in a very long time:

Per the Sun-Times, here is the Cubs' batting order for Thursday's Cactus League opener at 2:05 Central Time against the now Bonds-less San Francisco Giants:

ss Theriot

3b Cedeno

rf Fukudome

1b Lee

lf Murton

c Soto

2b Cintron

cf Pie

p Dempster

DeLuca and/or Wittenmyer report that following Dempster's two innings, Sean Gallagher will go for two. Ceda, Cotts, Pignatiello, Ascanio, and Hart will then pitch an inning apiece.

Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez are expected to step into the lineup on Friday, when the Cubs host the Giants at HoHoKam.

From Arizona Phil:

The Cubs moved a half-mile up Center Street to HoHoKam Park this morning for the first time this Spring.

There were about 100 fans in attendance for the "free" preview, and as was the case last year, Manager Lou Piniella opted not to play an intrasquad game to prepare for the Cactus League, instead preferring an extended (90 minute) regular season-type infield practice and traditional BP, followed by baserunning practice.

– Gordon Wittenmyer writes in today's Sun-Times that Mark DeRosa's cardiac issues are not a major concern to DeRo or Cub doctors, nor will they be the impetus for any personnel moves by Jim Hendry.

Wittenmyer also thinks the Cubs are more likely to add that
proverbial, right-handed hitting, three-position outfielder before
Opening Day than they are He Who Must Not Be Named.

Baseball Musings sizes up a potential Cubs rotation of Zambrano, Lilly, Hill, Dempster, and Marquis (Where is your Lieber?) based on the Marcel the Monkey projections
and foresees a cumulative 4.28 ERA for the fivesome. That's a few ticks
above the 4.19 ERA Cub starters pitched to last season, when their ERA
was second best in the NL, but still pretty solid.

One highly questionable element in the projection: Ryan Dempster's
projected 4.50 ERA. Only once in his career as a starting
pitcher--Dempster's All-Star season in 2000 down in pitcher-friendly
Florida--has Dempster ever had an ERA at or below 4.50.

What the latest Baseball Prospectus annual has to say about the Cubs, minus all those pesky numbers and the obscure historical and literary allusions:

Ronny Cedeno
"...Cedeno's is a tried and true skill set–the same one that's earning Orlando Cabrera millions of dollars every season..."

Ryan Dempster
"...has experienced a steady decline in his groundball rates over the past three seasons...coupled with command that was never very good to begin with..."

Mark DeRosa
"If the Cubs bring in a Brian Roberts-type...the gains will be less than they might appear at first glance."

Kosuke Fukudome
"An inspired acquisition...a J.D. Drew/Bobby Abreu type of player..."

According to the Daily Herald, the Blackhawks have discussed with the Cubs the possibility that the Hawks would play one of the NHL's outdoor games next season at Wrigley Field. The NHL would obviously need to give its okay and according to the Daily Herald story, the New York Rangers, who are hoping to host a game in soon-to-be-shuttered Yankee Stadium, might be more likely to get Gary Bettman's approval than the Hawks.

I've looked around the Internet trying to find the weight of an NHL hockey rink and can't come up with it, but I'm pretty sure they're heavy.

If Roger Bossard was dead, he would be spinning in his grave.

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