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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.
I know a lot can change (and very likely will change) over the next couple of seasons, but AS THINGS STAND RIGHT NOW, here is the payroll preview for the Cubs 2008-09:
The Cubs have declined their 2008 club options on RHP Steve Trachsel and OF Cliff Floyd, and the Cubs and 1B-OF Daryle Ward have agreed to exercise the 32-year old Ward's $1.2M mutual option for 2008, bringing the Cubs #1 LHPH and back-up 1B back to the team for one more year. Ward is one of the top pinch-hitters in baseball, going 296/404/464 as a PH over the past three seasons, with 37 total pinch-hits (including four home runs and nine doubles) and 23 pinch-hit walks over that period of time. Trachsel, who turned 37 on Halloween, was acquired from the Baltimore Orioles on August 31st for 3B Scott Moore and RHP Rocky Cherry, but pitched poorly for the Cubs in September and was left off the Cubs post-season roster. The 34-year old Floyd was signed by the Cubs as a FA last January. Trachsel and Floyd had filed (provisionally) for free-agency earlier this week while waiting for the Cubs to decide whether to exercise their options for next season. The only issue still to be resolved regarding potential Cubs free-agents is Scott Eyre's $3.8M player option for next season. Eyre has until November 12th to file for free-agency. If he doesn't, he returns to the Cubs in 2008. The Cubs have also added RHP Adam Harben to their 40-man roster. Harben was acquired frrom the Minnesota Twins in September 2006 as the PTBNL in the Phil Nevin deal, but suffered a torn elbow ligament while pitching in the AFL a year ago. After undergoing Tommy John surgery, Harben was non-tendered last December 12th, but signed a minor league contract with the Cubs that allowed him to spend the 2007 season rehabbing at Fitch Park in Mesa. He made three rehab starts for the AZL Cubs in August, and should be 100% by the time pitchers and catchers report to Fitch Park in February. The last season prior to his injury (2006), the now 24-year old Harben was a rotation starter for the Twins in AA. It's possible the Cubs will bring Harben back the same way they did with Rocky Cherry after Cherry's 2005 TJ surgery, and that is as a late-inning reliever. Cherry had been a rotation starter prior to his injury, but found success as a set-up man and closer when he returned to action in 2006. Harben has two minor league options left. ===================================== Speaking of minor league options, here is the 2008 minor league option status for players on the Cubs 40-man roster who have less than five years of MLB service time (and thus cannot refuse an optional assignment to the minors). * Must clear Optional Assignment Waivers to be optioned to minors NO MINOR LEAGUE OPTIONS LEFT: Ronny Cedeno Geovany Soto ONE MINOR LEAGUE OPTION LEFT: * Neal Cotts (eligible for salary arbitration) Mike Fontenot * Angel Guzman (likely 60-day DL in 2008 after TJ surgery) Rich Hill Carlos Marmol Angel Pagan Felix Pie * Michael Wuertz (eligible for salary arbitration) TWO MINOR LEAGUE OPTIONS LEFT: Jake Fox Sean Gallagher Adam Harben Sean Marshall Juan Mateo Matt Murton Eric Patterson Billy Petrick Ryan Theriot THREE MINOR LEAGUE OPTIONS LEFT: Sam Fuld Kevin Hart Carmen Pignatiello Jeff Samardzija
The list of post-2007 minor league free-agents has been released by MLB, and ten of the 18 Cubs minor leaguers eligible to be free-agents after the 2007 season have filed: Federico Baez, RHP Cory Bailey, RHP Gary Cates, INF Jorge Cortes, OF Ben Howard, RHP John Nelson, INF Mike Nannini, RHP Mike Mahoney, C Ryan O'Malley, LHP John Webb, RHP The eight eligible Cubs minor league FAs who did not file (and this means they almost certainly have signed 2008 minor league contracts with the Cubs) are: Robinson Chirinos, INF Adam Harben, RHP Koyie Hill, C Geoff Jones, LHP Josh Kroeger, OF Carlos Rojas, INF Issmael Salas, INF Les Walrond, LHP All eight of the players who have (apparently) re-signed with the Cubs for 2008 will be eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft next month if not added to the Cubs 40-man roster by November 20th. Normally, to get a player eligible to be a minor league FA to "re-up" (sign a minor league contract for the following season), a club needs to offer a salary equal to or greater than what a player would get on a "split contract" if assigned to the 40-man roster (at least $31,125 for players never on a 40-man roster previous, or at least $62,500 for players who have been on a 40-man roster previously in their career), plus (for veteran players) an NRI to Spring Training. So I fully expect to see Adam Harben (who was rehabbing from TJ surgery this past season), Koyie Hill, Geoff Jones, Josh Kroeger, and Les Walrond on the list of non-roster players invited to ST with the Cubs in 2008, while Robinson Chirinos, Carlos Rojas, and Issmael Salas will likely report to minor league camp at Fitch Park on March 1st, albeit with a lot higher salaries than they had in 2007! Ex-Cubs and ex-Cubs minor leaguers who have filed as minor league FAs from other organizations include: Manny Alexander, INF (WAS) Francis Beltran, RHP (BAL) Bobby Brownlie, RHP (CLE) Jon Connolly, LHP (DET) Gookie Dawkins, INF (PHI) Jason Dubois, OF (BAL) Shawn Estes, LHP (SD) Jason Fransz, OF (BAL) Adam Greenberg, OF (KC) Lindsay Gulin, LHP (MIL) Chad Hermansen, OF (NYM) Jose Hernandez, IF (PIT) Nic Jackson, OF (PHI) Mike Kinkade, IF-OF (NYY) Richard Lewis, 2B (KC) Jose Macias, IF-OF (MIL) Pat Mahomes, RHP (TOR) Sandy Martinez, C (FLA) Luis Montanez, OF (BAL) Miguel Negron, OF (NYM) Carlos Perez, LHP (BAL) Jose Reyes, C (NYM) Aaron Sisk, INF (TB) Jerome Williams, RHP (MIN)
The Cubs have seven left-handed hitting center-field prospects in their system, four at the upper levels, and three more at the lower levels. It's likely that one of them will eventually end up as the Cubs everyday CF. But the big question is, which one?
With the 2007 World Series history, today marks the beginning of the 15-day MLB Free-Agency Filing Period, where MLB players with at least six years of MLB service time who are not signed to a contract for 2008 are eligible to file for free-agency under Article XX of the CBA.
The Baltimore Orioles have claimed RHP Roberto Novoa off waivers from the Cubs. Acquired along with 3B Scott Moore and OF Bo Flowers from the Tigers in February 2005 in exchange for RHP Kyle Farnsworth, the 26-year old Novoa spent the entire 2007 on the DL after suffering a fractured shoulder in an off-season car crash. In his two previous seasons with the Cubs (2005 and 2006), Novoa went 6-6 with a 4.33 ERA in 115 games (all in relief), allowing 124 hits and 19 HR in 120.2 IP, with 57 BB and 100 K and a 1.50 WHIP. Because Novoa, Mark Prior, and Angel Guzman were on the DL going into the post-season, the Cubs were able to add three players to their post-season roster who were not on their 25-man roster as of 8/31 (Ronny Cedeno, Kevin Hart, and Geovany Soto), but once the Cubs were eliminated, there was no further need to keep Novoa on the DL. Players on the 60-day DL do not have to be placed back onto the 40-man roster until rosters are frozen on 11-20, but wth 2+169 of accumulated MLB service time, Novoa will almost certainly qualify as a "Super Two" for salary arbitration purposes, and so he probably would have been non-tendered by the Cubs on 12/12. And because he is eligible to be a Six-Year Minor League FA, even if he had cleared waivers today, he probably would have refused his outright assignment to the minors and would have opted for free-agency instead. So this way, the Cubs get $20,000 instead of nothing. Novoa joins a host of other "refugees" from the Cubs who are now in the Orioles organization, including (among others) RHPs Francis Beltran, Chadd Blasko, Rocky Cherry, and Jon Leicester, IF-OF Freddie Bynum, OFs Jason Dubois, Jason Fransz, Luis Montanez, and Corey Patterson, 3B Scott Moore, and 1B Brandon Sing, former Cubs President Andy McPhail, and ex-Cubs Scouting Director John Stockstill. Also, Orioles manager Dave Trembley and bullpen coach Alan Dunn are former coaches in the Cubs minor league system, and ex-Cubs RHP Kennie Steenstra is pitching coach at the Orioles Delmarva club in the South Atlantic League.
The contracts of 18 Cubs minor league players expire on October 15th, and so each of the 18 is eligible to be a free-agent. The Cubs have until the day after the conclusion of the World Series to decide whether to add a potential minor league free-agent to their 40-man roster (which the player cannot refuse), offer the player a minor league contract for the following season (which the player can refuse), or just allow the player to walk away.
Paul Sullivan at the Chicago Tribune is reporting that the Cubs and the Seattle Mariners are the two MLB clubs who have expressed the most interest in Hiroshima Toyo Carp RHP Hiroki Kuroda. Kuroda is 32-years old and an 11-year veteran of Japanese major league baseball. Because he is an unrestricted FA, no posting fee would be required. Sully also mentions that the Cubs had tried to sign Kuroda a year ago, but Kuroda decided to return to the Carp for one more season. Cubs Pacific Rim Scouting Coordinator Steve Wilson has been busy the past few months, signing amateur free-agents from Australia, Korea, and Taiwan. By being present and active around Asian and Australian baseball circles, Wilson gives the Cubs a leg-up over where they were just a year ago. The "Big Fish" among Japanese FA this off-season should be Chunichi Dragons OF Kosuke Fukudome. A 30-year old left-handed hitting RF, Kosuke (like Ichiro, he wants to be known by his first name) had right elbow surgery in L. A. in August, and is presently said to be rehabbing in the U. S. As is the case with Kuroda, Kosuke (pronounced "Ko-Skay") is an unrestricted FA and so no posting fee would be required.
Today was "getaway day" for the Cubs Arizona Instructional League team, and when I say "getaway" day," I don't mean an overnight trip to Tucson. I mean the end of the line, far as we go, everybody off the train.

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