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With Cubs pitchers & catchers scheduled to report to Fitch Park in Mesa this week, and with position players scheduled to report next week, let's take a quick look at the Cubs 2008 Spring Training roster:

The Cubs have signed 37-year old RHP Chad Fox to a minor league contract and have invited him to Spring Training.

Fox last pitched in the big leagues in 2005 with the Cubs, when he suffered what was thought to be a career-ending injury to his right elbow in a game at Houston in April of that season.

But back when he was healthy, Fox had some decent years as an MLB reliever, and had some excellent IP/K ratios and OppBA numbers. In 214 MLB games, Fox went 10-11 with 45 saves, a 3.57 ERA, and a 1.43 WHIP, but in 224.1 IP, Fox allowed only 193 hits, with 128/261 BB/K.

Somebody must have some reason to believe Fox is healthy enough to compete for a big league job. I mean, I enjoy blood and gore as much as the next guy, but I really don't necessarily want to see his arm fall off in front of the old folks and kiddies at HoHoKam.

Although their complete list of Non-Roster Invitees (NRI) to Spring Training has not yet been released, and while additional players may be subsequently signed to minor league deals and get an NRI to ST, I believe the Cubs NRI list will ultimately probably look something like this:

(And again, this is just speculation on my part)

Who says the Milwaukee Brewers aren't nice guys? On behalf of Cubs fans everywhere, allow me to extend deepest thanks to Brewers GM Doug Melvin, who just couldn't wait until after December 1st to sign Cubs FA catcher Jason Kendall.
With the MLB Winter Meetings set for next week in Nashville, the Hot Stove League should start to heat-up. So here is a summary of what appears to be the "Hendry/Piniella Cubs Plan for 2008" (or whatever they call it internally) that was apparently devised at the Cubs Organizational Meeting in Mesa last month (and I am NOT necessarily advocating any of this stuff):
The Cubs have signed their first batch of minor league free-agents. Minor League FAs signed prior to 11/20 are normally the ones most in demand, and so they often get the best deals, including more money and usually an NRI to Spring Training. The six minor league free-agents signed recently by the Cubs are:
Today is the deadline for MLB clubs to submit their major league and minor league reserve lists to the MLB office, the beginning of the so-called "frozen period" that runs between November 20th and the conclusion of the MLB Rule 5 Draft (which will be conducted on Thursday, December 6th, as the last order of business at the 2007 MLB Winter Meetings in Nashville). During this period, a player on a minor league roster is essentially "frozen," meaning the player cannot be added to his club's 40-man roster or be traded. The only way a player can be moved off a minor league roster during the "frozen period" is by outright release. Back in 2003, the Cubs acquired 1B Derrek Lee from the Florida Marlins for 1B Hee Seop Choi and a PTBNL during the "frozen" period between November 20th and the Rule 5 Draft. The PTBNL was RHP Mike Nannini, who was "frozen" (by rule) on the Cubs AAA roster until the conclusion of the Rule 5 Draft. So as soon as the '03 Rule 5 Draft ended, the Cubs sent Nannini to FLA as the PTBNL. 45 Cubs minor leaguers are presently eligible for selection in the 2007 Rule 5 Draft if not added today to the Cubs MLB Reserve List (40-man roster): James Adduci, OF Alberto Alburquerque, RHP Cory Bailey, RHP Andres Blanco, INF Robinson Chirinos, INF Edward Campusano, LHP J. D. Closser, C Rafael Cova, RHP Matt Craig, 3B Brian Dopirak, 1B Darin Downs, LHP Danny Fatheree, C Alberto Garcia, 1B-OF Ryan Harvey, OF Jim Henderson, RHP Koyie Hill, C Micah Hoffpauir, 1B Grant Johnson, RHP Geoff Jones, LHP Scott Koerber, LHP Josh Kroeger, OF Tim Layden, LHP Marcos Mateo, RHP J. R. Mathes, LHP Casey McGehee, 3B-C Adalberto Mendez, RHP Mario Mercedes, C Jonathan Mota, INF Leonel Perez, RHP (was a coach for AZL Cubs in 2007) Jose Pina, RHP Tony Richie, C Alan Rick, C-1B Carlos Rojas, SS Issmael Salas, INF Joel Santo, RHP Paul Schappert, LHP Chris Shaver, LHP Mike Smith, RHP Jemel Spearman, IF-OF Nate Spears, 2B Andres Torres, OF Chris Walker, OF Les Walrond, LHP Matt Weber, RHP (RESTRICTED LIST - is playing college basketball) Randy Wells, RHP The Major League Reserve List limit is 40 players (which is why the Reserve List is also known as the "40-man roster"), with a 38-man reserve list limit for AAA clubs, a 37-man limit for AA clubs, and a 35-man limit for all Class "A" clubs. A player who is not on his club's MLB reserve list (40-man roster) can be assigned to any minor league roster in the organization. A player on an MLB 40-man roster is exempt from selection in the Rule 5 Draft. However, a player on a AAA roster who is eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft is available for $50,000 in the "Major League Phase" of the draft, and if a player is selected off a AAA roster in the Major League Phase, the player must be given a "reasonable opportunity" in Spring Training to earn a spot on the drafting club's 25-man Opening Day roster. The first date a Rule 5 pick can be placed on waivers is 25 days prior to Opening Day. If the drafting club chooses to keep the Rule 5 player, the player must be kept on the selecting club's MLB 25-man roster (or DL) for the entire season following selection before the player can be optioned to the minors. If because of time spent on the DL a player spends less than 90 days on the selecting club's active 25-man roster during the season immediately following selection in the Rule 5 Draft, the Rule 5 restrictions continue into the next season, and remain in effect until the player accrues 90 days on an active 25-man regular season roster (not including time spent of the 15-day or 60-day DL). Only then can the player be optioned to the minors (presuming the player has minor league options available). If the selecting club decides not to keep a Rule 5 drafted player, MLB Rule 6 kicks-in, and the player must be placed on Outright Waivers (with a $25,000 Rule 6 waiver price, $5K more than the usual $20,000 waiver price). If another MLB claims a Rule 5 player off waivers, the claiming club assumes the Rule 5 roster restrictions. If the player is not claimed, he must be offered back to the club from which he was drafted. The club from which he was drafted can then either reclaim the player for $25,000 (half the Rule 5 Draft price) or can decline. If the club from which the player was drafted reclaims the player, the player is automatically assigned outright to the previous club's AAA affiliate. If the club from which the player was drafted declines its Rule 6 option to reclaim the drafted player, the player remains with the drafting club. Sometimes clubs will work out a trade at this point in the process, as the selecting team will send a player or players to the Rule 5 player's old team in exchange for the player's old team declining its option to reclaim the Rule 5 player. In the "AAA Phase" of the Rule 5 Draft, players on AA rosters who are eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft can be selected for $12,000, with no roster restrictions for the following season. Although the drafted player is supposed to receive a "reasonable opportunity" to compete for a roster spot with the drafting club's AAA affiliate in Spring Training, the player can ultimately be assigned anywhere in the drafting club's minor league system. In the "AA Phase" of the Rule 5 Draft, players on a Class "A" roster who are eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft can be selected for $4,000, with no roster restrictions for the following season. As with the AAA Phase, players selected in the AA Phase must be given an opportunity to compete for a roster spot with the drafting club's AA affiliate, but can ultimately be assigned to any affiliate in the drafting club's minor league system. Last year, 48 Cubs minor leaguers were eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft. Of those 48 players, 32 were placed on the Cubs AAA Iowa roster (with six of the 38 slots left open), 11 were assigned to the Cubs AA Tennessee roster, and five were assigned to one of the Cubs Class "A" rosters. Of the 32 Rule 5 eligible players assigned to AAA Iowa last November 20th, three were selected in the 2006 Rule 5 Draft (LHP Edward Campusano by MIL then traded to DET, RHP Lincoln Holdzkom by HOU, and INF Jason Smith by TOR). Campusano suffered a torn elbow ligament while at Spring Training with the Tigers and underwent TJ surgery in April, before eventually being placed on Rule 6 waivers and eventually getting reclaimed by the Cubs last month. Holdzkom was reclaimed by the Cubs last March, but was released by the Cubs at the end of ST and was subsequently signed to a minor league contract by the Red Sox, where he split the '07 season between AA and AAA, before being assigned to the AFL last month. The Jason Smith 2007 Rule 5 selection was peculiar, because he had been signed by the Cubs as a minor league FA just prior to the November 20th deadline, and would have been available to the Blue Jays as a minor league FA in November if they were all that interested. The Blue Jays ended up placing Smith on Rule 6 waivers in May, but he was claimed by the Diamondbacks before the Cubs got a shot at reclaiming him (not that they would have been interested). Then after recovering from abdominal surgery, Smith was placed on waivers again in July, with the KC Royals making a claim. Smith remains on the Royals 40-man roster. Players available for selection in the Rule 5 Draft who are assigned by a parent club to it's AA roster on November 20th are almost always players the club doesn't consider to be MLB prospects. Although placing a player on a AA reserve list is sometimes a matter of a AAA 38-man roster being full, usually when a club places a player on a AA roster (with a $12,000 "price tag" and no roster restrictions), it's a bit like a seller placing a "Buy It Now" item on eBay. Last year, LHPs Nate Bland, Luke Hagerty, and Geoff Jones, RHPs Alfredo Francisco and Andy Shipman, 3B Matt Craig, 1B Alberto Garcia and Jesse Hoorelbeke, 2B Richard Lewis, INF Albenis Machado, and catcher Tony Richie were placed on the Cubs AA roster. Lewis (by KC) and Shipman (by OAK) were selected in the AAA Phase of the Rule 5 Draft, while Bland, Francisco, Hoorelbeke, and Machado were released at the end of Spring Training in March, and Hagerty was released during EXST in May. Only Craig, Garcia, Jones, and Richie survived the 2007 season. Players available for selection in the Rule 5 Draft who are placed on a Class "A" roster on November 20th (and are available for just $4,000 with no roster restrictions) are very often guys the club plans to release anyway, and getting even four grand for one of these fellows is considered a minor victory. In fact, four of the five players eligible for selection in the 2006 Rule 5 Draft who were placed on the Cubs Class "A" Daytona roster last November 20th (RHPs Ryan Bicondoa and Robert Ransom and LHPs Issac Pavlik and Jesus Yepez) were released almost immediately after the 2006 Rule 5 Draft ended.
Baseball America released its annual Cubs Top Ten Prospects list today. BA doesn't consider MLB service time when rating prospects, but it does hold to the 130 AB and 50 IP rookie limit, making Felix Pie, Ronny Cedeno, and Carlos Marmol ineligible for the list this time around. BA did provide somewhat detailed scouting reports on each of the Cubs Top Ten prospects, but since it's available only by subscription, I will not provide that additional information here.
Sam Fuld played only three innings and went 1-2 with a SB and a run score, as the Cubs outfielder completed his AFL season today.
In an interview with the Sun Times yesterday, Lou Piniella discussed some of his ideas about the upcoming season, including a desire for added bullpen depth. Sun Times Cubs beat writer Gordon Wittenmyer speculated that in their quest to add depth, the Cubs would probably be looking at minor league free-agents. Of course, teams do that every year.
As most of you now know by now, the Cubs traded OF Craig Monroe to the Minnesota Twins today for a PTBNL. The Cubs also reactivated RHPs Angel Guzman (TJ elbow surgery) and Mark Prior (shoulder surgery) from the 60-day DL (MLB clubs have until November 20th to reactivate players from the 15-day and 60-day DL), bringing the Cubs MLB Reserve List (AKA "40-man roster") up to 38 players, and leaving two slots open.

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