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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.
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?

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