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The rain has stopped, skies have cleared, Kerry Wood is a lean, mean, fighting machine, and with pitchers, catchers, and a few of the position players having reported to Fitch Park yesterday (minus Carlos Zambrano, whose arrival was delayed), and with the first offical Spring Training workout scheduled for this morning, here is the up-to-date Cubs 40-man roster and ST NRI list, the contract status and minor league option status for all players on the 40-man roster, the list of Cubs minor league players who will be eligible to be free-agents after the 2007 season and those who will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft next December, and AZ Phil's pre-ST Cubs organizational depth chart:
This time each year, I get stoked. It's automatic. It never fails. I'm in Arizona. The weather's great. It's time for Spring Training. But there's this one thing that gnaws at me, that keeps me from enjoying the experience quite as much as I would like to enjoy it. The start of Spring Training is fun, but there's this one memory from my youth--it's kind of a Long Sorrow--that I guess will be in the back of my mind for the rest of my life. For those of you who don't remember him or who aren't all that familar with his career, Ken Hubbs was born in Riverside, CA on December 23, 1941, and as a 12-year old, he led his Colton (California) Little League team to the Little League World Series championship game in Williamsport in August 1954. Colton lost the game to future Cub Billy Connors and his Schenectady (New York) team, but by the time he was a senior in high school (1959), Kenny Hubbs was nothing but a winner. President of his high school class and a star football, basketball, and baseball player, he could have followed his older brother Keith to BYU--where he probably would have been a two or three-sport star and BMOC. But Kenny instead chose to sign a professional baseball contract with the Chicago Cubs (yes, YOUR Chicago Cubs), all the more significant because this was before the amateur draft, and Hubbs had the option to sign with any of the then-16 MLB clubs.
The Super Bowl is over, March Madness isn't until next month, and the NBA and NHL regular seasons (AKA the playoffs) haven't started yet. So what time IS it? Well, it's time again for Spring Training, which is when professional baseball teams gather in Florida and Arizona to prepare for the coming season.
After what only seems likes months or perhaps years, the Chicago Tribune and numerous other Chicago media are reporting that the Cubs have (finally, at long last) signed FA OF Cliff Floyd. Terms are being reported as $3M for 2007 plus some type of mutual option for 2008. Although Floyd was rated an MLB Type "A" free-agent, the Cubs will not lose a pick in next June's Rule 4 Draft because the Mets declined to offer arbitration to Floyd.
In addition to signing Jeff Samardzija to a major league contract last week and INF Tomas Perez to a minor league contract (with an NRI to ST) the week before, and while waiting for Cliff Floyd to decide what he wants to do, the Cubs have signed several additional FAs to minor league contracts recently:
Some of you might remember back to last June, when the Cubs selected Notre Dame RHP (and WR) Jeff Samardzija in the 5th Round of the Rule 4 Draft (June Draft). The Cubs subsequently gave Samardzija what was reported at the time as a record-setting multi-million dollar bonus that the Cubs hoped would ultimately dissuade Samardzija from pursuing a career in the NFL. Not so, apparently
Ken Rosenthal at FoxSports is reporting that FA outfielders Darin Erstad and Steve Finley are "on the Cubs radar" as potential stop-gap CF candidates for 2007, and that they are still interested in signing Cliff Floyd as a part-time LF. Rosenthal also mentions Bernie Williams as a possible bridge (and mentor) to Felix Pie, although it is not clear whether Williams will retire if he can't get a new deal done with the Yankees. Rosenthals's comments presume that Jacque Jones leaving the Cubs is a given, and maybe it is. But it is at least theoretically possible for the Cubs to just keep Jones and play him in CF until whenever Pie is ready, and then move Jones at that time. But maybe Jim Hendry has promised Jones that he positively will trade him prior to Opening Day. I don't know.
The Cubs have announced the names of 11 more players who have received Non-Roster Invitations to Spring Training. Together with the five players who received NRIs to ST in November, the new list of NRIs is: * bats or throws left # bats both PITCHERS (9): Jason Anderson Sean Gallagher Adam Harben Ben Howard * Ryan O'Malley * Carmen Pignatiello * Les Walrond John Webb Randy Wells CATCHERS (2): Jake Fox # Koyie Hill INFIELDERS (3): Mike Kinkade Casey McGehee * Eric Patterson OUTFIELDERS (2): * Tyler Colvin Chris Walker Four notable names NOT on the Cubs NRI list are: RHP Federico Baez 2B Mike Fontenot 1B Micah Hoffpauir RHP Jeff Samardzija Baez--a rubber-armed swingman and one-time infielder in the Orioles organization--pitched for Team Puerto Rico in the WBC last Spring and split time between AA and AAA in '06; Fontenot--the one-time DP partner of Ryan Theriot at LSU, who was acquired by the Cubs from BAL in the Sammy Sosa deal a couple of years ago and who has been the starting 2B at Iowa the last two years--almost certainly has no future in the Cubs organization, but he probably at least deserved a courtesy NRI to the big club's camp; Hoffpauir tied Scott Moore for most HRs among Cubs minor leaguers in '06 and would appear to possibly have a future as an MLB 1B-LF-LHPH; and Samardzija was supposedly promised an '07 NRI to ST when he signed with the Cubs last Summer.
Paul Sullivan in the Chicago Tribune is reporting the Cubs are close to signing 1B-OF Cliff Floyd to an incentive-laden deal. Sully speculates that Floyd will be used in a "platoon" in LF with Matt Murton, which considering the number of RHP vs LHP starters in the N. L., would mean Floyd would start about 2/3 of the time. Floyd was hampered by a sore left Achilles tendon in 2006, and there has been some concern that the Achilles will continue to be a problem for him in 2007. Also, Floyd had a rather extreme case of the splits in 2006 when it came to hitting versus RHP (OK) and versus LHP (terrible).
Contracts have been tendered and salary abritration has been offered, so pending further trades, FA signings, and minor league acquisitions, here is the projected Cubs organizational position depth chart, including the Cubs and their four full-season farm clubs (Iowa, Tennessee, Daytona, and Peoria). There are quite obviously too many position-players and pitchers listed on the various minor league teams, so not all of the candidates will survive Minor League Camp (Spring Training). Some will get released, while others will get moved in a "courtesy trade" to allow them to go to an organization where they aren't blocked.

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