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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.
Today is the deadline for MLB clubs to tender 2007 contracts or offer salary arbitration (where applicable) to players on the club's MLB Reserve List (40-man roster) who are not already signed for 2007. (The old deadline for tendering contracts or offering salary arbitration was December 20th).
Paul Sulivan at the Chicago Tribune (as well as other media) are reporting that the Cubs have signed free-agent RHP Jason Marquis to a three year deal worth $28M. The 28-year old Marquis was ranked as an MLB Type "B" free-agent, so the Cubs weren't going to lose a draft pick by signing him anyway, but because the Cardinals did not offer arbitration to him by the December 1st deadline, they will not be receiving a Supplemental ("sandwich") draft pick between the 1st & 2nd round of next June's First-Year Player Draft (Rule 4 Draft) as compensation for losing him. (If the Cubs had signed Type "A" FA Jeff Suppan instead of Marquis, the Cubs would have lost a 3rd round draft pick to the Cardinals--Alfonso Soriano cost the Cubs their 2nd Round pick--and the Cards would have also received a Supplemental 1st rounder). Marquis was a 1st Round (supplemental) pick of the Atlanta Braves in the 1996 Rule 4 Draft (June Draft), and quickly became the Braves #1 pitching prospect. He was used as both a starter and reliever with the Braves 2001-2003, before getting traded along with RHP Adam Wainwright and LHP Ray King to St. Louis in December 2003, a deal where the Cardinals sent OF J. D. Drew and C-OF Eli Marrero to Atlanta. Marquis had his two best seasons while pitching for the Cardinals in 2004 and 2005, when he went 15-7 with a 3.72 ERA ('04) and 13-14 with a 4.13 ERA ('05) as a rotation starter. Marquis went 14-16 with a 6.02 ERA and 1.52 WHIP in 2006, and was considered so unreliable at the end of the regular season that he was left off the Cardinals post-season playoff roster. In his best years, Marquis was--like Brandon Webb, Jake Westbrook, and Derek Lowe--an extreme ground ball pitcher. However, last season he got his pitches up and got clobbered, actually getting increasingly worse as the season wore on (he was 11-6 5.55 at the All-Star break, and 3-10 6.91 after the break). If you throw out his six-plus ERA, Marquis' 2006 G/F ratio and WHIP closely match MLB starting pitchers like Josh Fogg or Rodrigo Lopez, so if he can't rediscover his ground ball magic, that's the type of pitcher you can expect Marquis to be for the Cubs in 2007. But if he can relocate his sinker, then he could be a lot better than that. I'd like to think the Cubs know something the Cardinals don't know, but if Redbirds pitching coach Dave Duncan couldn't fix whatever ailed Marquis last season, is it realistic to expect Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild will be able to turn the trick in 2007? CUBS PROJECTED 2007 STARTING ROTATION: 1. Carlos Zambrano 2. Ted Lilly 3. Rich Hill 4. Jason Marquis 5-A. Mark Prior 5-B. Wade Miller 5-C. Neal Cotts 5-D. Sean Marshall, Angel Guzman, Juan Mateo, or Jae-kuk Ryu. UPDATE from Rob G. The Trib has changed its tune again on the money and puts it at a far more reasonable 3/21 now. Bruce Miles of The Daily Herald also pegs the contract in that vicinity as well.
The 2006 Rule 5 Draft meeting was held this morning at the MLB Winter Meetings at Lake Buena Vista, FL, near Disney World. The Cubs lost three players in the Major League Phase of the Draft--LHP Edward Campusano to MIL (the Brewers then sold Campusano's draft rights to DET), RHP Lincoln Holdzkom to HOU, and INF Jason Smith to TOR, and two players in the AAA phase--2B Richard Lewis to KC and RHP Andy Shipman to OAK. The Cubs also selected one player in the Major League Phase (OF Josh Hamilton from TB) and one player in the AAA phase (RHP Jim Henderson from WAS), but Hamilton was subsequently sent to the Cincinnati Reds in a cash deal. After the conclusion of the Rule 5 Draft, the Cubs acquired RHP Kevin Hart from BAL as the PTBNL in yesterday's deal where Freddie Bynum was sent to the Orioles. Hart was selected by the O's in the 11th round of the 2004 Rule 4 Draft (June Draft) out of the University of Maryland, and was a rotation starter at Hi-A Frederick last season. Hart will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time after next season, so the Cubs have a year to decide whether to place him on their 40-man roster.
UPDATED 12-6-06 The 2006 Rule 5 Draft meeting will be held tomorrow, and (as per usual) it will be the last order of business at the Winter Meetings.
A few days ago, right here at TCR, I dared Ryne Sandberg to take the open Peoria manager's job. Well, guess what happened?

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