In the move that anyone could have predicted once the Cubs missed out on Tanaka, they have come to terms on a deal with RHP Jason Hammel.  The 31-year old hasn't had much of a career to-date between Tampa, Colorado and Baltimore (94 ERA+), but his stuff has always been heralded and he did have a very nice 2012 for the Orioles(123 ERA+).  It'll be another hopeful reclamation project for the Cubs and they did quite well with Paul Maholm and Scott Feldman, so here's hoping the streak stays alive.

It appears they'll head into 2014 with a rotation of Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson, Hammel and most likey Jake Arrieta with Carlos Villanueva, Kyle Hendricks, Justin Grimm, Brett Marshall, Chris Rusin and Brooks Raley all in the mix as well, along with I'm sure a few other surprise guests.

You've heard the news by now, that Theo's white whale got away, snatched up from the open sea by his old nemesis the S.S. Yankees. The contract numbers are absurd (7 years/$155M, opt out after 4 years), but we knew that eyeball popping was going to be required once the dust settled. There's been no confirmation that the Cubs were willing to be as absurd, although the whispers from Peter Gammons and Jeff Passan seem to indicate that no one was all that close to the Yankees offer. That being said, we're not sure how much back and forth there were in these negotiations either or what the final push was for Tanaka to pick New York over the other clubs. It may have been simply the money, maybe the glory of Yankee pinstripes, maybe the city of New York, maybe a combination of all three. What we do know is that the consolation prize (most likely) is either Paul Maholm or Jason Hammel and you kind of hope that the Cubs just don't even bother going back to pick either one up.

It's a little less than 4 days before Decision Tanaka is due and nobody knows nothing except that everybody seems to need speculate on something. Bruce Levine reported that the Cubs will not be outbid. Gordon Wittenmyer said that's rubbish and Cubs remain a longshot. Jayson Stark kept hearing from important baseball people that the Cubs were going to make a splash and so on and so on.

As of this morning, the latest rumors are that the deal will be in the 6/120M range (not including posting fees) and that the Yankees and Cubs are the last 2 teams standing. Of course, it's also been said that Tanaka's agent Casey Close follows his namesake and doesn't negotiate through the media and we know the Cubs and Yankees like to keep things close to the vest. Unfortunately the Diamondbacks aren't in on this, otherwise we'd know exactly where everything stands thanks to Kevin Towers.

So what do we know? We know Tanaka will be playing his age 25 season, and that young age plus his pitching skills are why the Cubs and TheJedi would be willing to hand out their first 9-figure deal. Is the price going to be ridiculous? You betcha!!! And as Jayson Stark noted, only 8 other pitchers in the league are getting paid over $20M annually and only 2 don't own Cy Youngs (Kershaw, Sabathia, Hamels, Lee, Cain, Verlander, Greinke, and King Felix).

But of course, this isn't a case where you're paying for past performance, the Cubs would be paying for potential future performance and that's obviously not the norm by baseball practices, but on the other hand, probably smarter. Granted, the chances of Tanaka even being one of the top 5 pitchers in the National League are slim as most scouts put him more as a solid #2 pitcher. But #2 pitchers pitch like #1 pitchers all the time and Jeff Samardzija's numbers look like a #3 or #4 pitcher at the end of most every season, but there's #1 or #2 stuff in that arm that occasionally shows itself and the Cubs are hoping they get paid in prospects like he's a #1.  So don't get too riled up about his alleged slot in the rotation. Travis Wood had the 12th best ERA in the National League last year, but when you look at things like FIP and BABIP, you realize, he's probably more a mid to low-end rotation starter. But you get enough good pitchers and you never know which ones will pitch great in any given year, you just hope for solid results and enough depth to make it through the season and then hope for a little magic and luck to ride through the postseason. A starting staff of Samardzija, Tanaka, T. Wood, E. Jackson (who will bounce back) and Jake Arrieta sure doesn't sound bad. I'm not sure it's great, but it's a good start for a few years while the minor league reinforcements continue their basic training.

So as the January 24th deadline looms, Tanaka and his family have some decisions to make. My guess is the Cubs know that joining a rebuilding team is a tough sell and they went all in on their bid, hoping to lure him with money and the promise that the winning is just around the corner. Now what that all-in means, we may or may not find out, but if he chooses to go with another team, my guess is the reasons will go beyond the financial ones.


You may have seen the announcement last week that MLB has approved the use of expanded instant replay. I won't go into the details, but fair to say I'm happy that there will be more correct calls and less incorrect calls. That is a good thing. It will not be perfect, although I'm sure some will demand perfection. Some folks are worried that it will extend the length of what is already a pretty lengthy baseball game. That may or may not be the case, since it would in theory cut down on some of the lengthy shouting matches over calls. What I would have really liked to accompany the announcement is that any player or manager protesting a call that goes beyond a moment of exasperation would be immediately ejected from a game. And if a manager left the dugout to argue, he'd immediately get slapped with a 5-game suspension with no appeal. Add that to the mix and you have a system that should work nicely and swiftly.

An unsigned player under club control who has accrued at least three but less than six years of MLB Service Time is automatically eligible for salary arbitration. Also, any unsigned player with at least two years but less than three years of MLB Service Time who accrued at least 86 days of MLB Service Time the previous season can qualify for salary arbitration as a so-called "Super Two" if the player is among the top 22% in MLB Service Time of players in that group.

If a club and a player eligible for salary arbitration cannot agree on a contract, the player can request the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) to file for salary arbitration.

...lunkhead to ruin it for everybody.

So as I and many others guessed a few weeks back, there was going to be somebody that was going to throw all semblance of logic and reason out the window and not vote for Greg Maddux. And while there may be others, Ken Gurnick was the first vote identified as leaving Maddux off their ballot. In and of itself, this is hardly a big deal, I mean there are plenty of worthy Hall of Famers on this year's ballot and while I may question your sanity and lucidness for putting others ahead of Greg Maddux, with a limit of just 10 choices, maybe, just maybe you just ran out of room and figured Maddux will have 14 more years to get in.

Nah, Ken Gurnick isn't voting for Greg Maddux because, "those who played during the period of PED use, I won't vote for any of them."

He only put one name on his ballot and that's Jack Morris.

/Facepalm.

There are plenty of more talented writers that have already dissected Gurnick's one paragraph explanation of his vote. And the one major flaw in Gurnick's "reasoning" is that he has apparently cracked the code of exactly when the PED era began and ended and whatever that code is, it means despite the careers of Maddux and Morris overlapping over 9 seasons, one is clean and one is tainted.

By what I've gathered on Twitter so far, Gurnick seems like a good enough guy from other reporters that know him and in the end, Maddux will still get in this year and possibly still have the highest vote total of all-time. Unfortunately Gurnick will still get to vote next year and while there's an argument to be made that it's just one man's opinion, an opinion on the Hall of Fame with the gift of an actual ballot should be based on some facts, and it's hard to see which ones he used in this case.

What a dumb play.
Aaron Rodgers drops back, Julius Peppers hits the ball just as Rodgers arm is moving forward to throw.
Ball falls to the ground.

(note: this post got eaten by the internets yesterday, so re-posted today)
I went to Cubs.com just to see what the depth chart looks like.
Maybe there would be new pics in there.
Sure enough, there's Justin Ruggiano in center field complete with his new Cubs hat!

The Cubs finalized some deals that certainly were discussed over Winter Meetings and made a number of roster moves today.

First, they claimed 25-year old RHP Liam Hendriks off of waivers from the Minnesota Twins. He was a roster casualty with the Phil Hughes signing. While he has done nothing remotely good in 156 innings at the major league level, he's put up at the very least an outstanding 2.99 ERA in the minors over 580.1 IP.  Those numbers were good enough to get him on the BA's Twins Top 10 list for 2011(#6) and 2012(#7).His strikeout rates are trending the wrong way and I don't know if that's an arm issue or just more of the Twins pitch-to-contact approach, but certainly seems worth the risk as a possible back-end starter/in-season depth.

The Cubs also signed non-tendered OF Ryan Kalish, formerly of the Boston Red Sox. A 9th round pick in the 2006 draft, Kalish was the 98th rated prospect in baseball before the 2008 season and usually in the middle of the pack of the top 10 Boston prospects lists back then. Injuries though have curtailed his career and he got a minor league deal with a spring training invite from the Cubs. Again, he'll be playing his age 25 season next year so certainly worth a flyer.

12/12 UPDATE: The Arizona Diamondbacks selected RHP Marcos Mateo from the Cubs AAA Iowa affiliate with the 15th overall selection in the first round of the Major League Phase iof the 2013 Rule 5 Draft. Because he has been outrighted previously in his career, Mateo can elect free-agency if he is later re-claimed by the Cubs. (If re-claimed, a player selected in the Major League Phase of the Rule 5 Draft MUST be sent outright to the minor league club from which he was drafted).

The Cubs also lost 1B Justin Bour (to Miami), OF Julio Borbon (to Baltimore), and RHP A. J. Morris (to Pittsburgh) off the AA Tennessee roster in the AAA Phase. Once selected, players chosen in the AAA or AA Phase cannot be re-claimed.


The Cubs did not make any selections in the Major League Phase of today's draft, but they did select left-handed hitting catcher Charlie Cutler from the Pittsburgh Pirates AA Altoona roster in the AAA Phase. Cutler was a college teammate of Cubs OF Brett Jackson at Cal.

While not alot of the activity involved our favorite team, I'm dizzy from all the signings and trades that have already happened this winter.
So, just wondering what all the general managers could possibly talk about at the Winter Meetings in Orlando tomorrow...

I don't know what's going on with the comments and sometimes it just ends up fixing itself. The site is due for a minor software upgrade that I'll try to complete tonight and I'm hoping that fixes the problem. If not, the twitter sidebar still seems to be updating as does the abilithy to write stories, so hopefully you won't be missing too much until I can fix it.

In the meantime, Daniel Bard will be non-tendered according to multiple Cubs sources. That one was a no-brainer of course. We still await the decision on the rest of the group and I'll update as the news trickles out.

UPDATE #1: Kottaras signs a $1.075M deal with incentives according to Jon Heyman.

UPDATE #2: AZ Phil's crystal ball is still working, Cubs will non-tender Mat Gamel.

UPDATE #3: The Nats trade Steve Lombardozzi, Robbie Ray and Ian Krol for Doug Fister. Fister's a year older than Samardzija but has the same amount of club control left. Samardzija may have a little more upside because of his K's, but Fister's been a lot better pitcher the last 2 years. Every situation is different of course, but imagine this will hinder Cubs trading Samardzija this offseason. That's probably not a terrible thing considering what they were still able to get for Matt Garza.

UPDATE #4: I believe the commenting issues have been fixed. In Cubs news, Donnie Murphy gets a 1/$825K contract and P Chang-yong Lim was non-tendered although he wasn't arbitration eligible. I believe he had a non-guaranteed contract for 2014, but now he's off the 40-man and free to sign with anyone while the Cubs are off the hook for his contract. Samardzija, Schierholtz, Strop, Wood, Russell, Valbuena and Barney were all tendered contracts and I'm sure most will sign before any arbitration hearings.

There were a total of 43 non-tenders according to MLB Trade Rumors and the list of interesting names is too numerous, but a few that may strike your fancy include RHP John Axford, RHP Andrew Bailey, RHP Ronald Belisario, RHP MItchell Boggs, OF Ryan Kailish, SP Daniel Hudson and RP Ryan Webb.

The Cubs MLB Reserve List (AKA "40-man roster") is presently full. Of the 40 players on the Cubs MLB Reserve List, eight (Starlin Castro, Kyuji Fujikawa, Edwin Jackson, Chang-Yong Lim, Anthony Rizzo, Jorge Soler, Ryan Sweeney, and Carlos Villanueva) are signed for 2014, and 32 (see list below) are under club control but are unsigned. The Cubs must decide by Monday (December 2nd) whether or not to tender a contract to each of the 32 unsigned players.

The BBWAA released the Hall of Fame ballot today and I count 6 players that you can reasonably associate with the Cubs: Rafael Palmeiro, Jacque Jones, Sammy Sosa, Lee Smith, Moises Alou and Greg Maddux. Of course, all but Sammy and maybe Lee Smith are more closesly associated with other organziations. Sammy won't be getting in and neither will Lee Smith with Maddux and Frank Thomas on this ballot, not to mention more interesting carryovers like Craig Biggio, Jack Morris, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines and Jeff Bagwell to name a few.

That being said, I think we all as Cubs fan consider Greg Maddux one of our own and we'll just have to share him with the Atlanta Braves in a joiny custody battle. He'll certainly be fitted with the Braves cap on his plaque, but we can just contine to blame Larry Himes for that historical atrocity.

To the point, if I even have one, is that if there's anything interesting about this ballot, it's whether Greg Maddux will be the first player to be voted in unanimously. There's no reasonable case against him, he checks off every box of a Hall a Fame pitcher. Cy Youngs...check, 4 straight. Exceptional Peak Years...check, see 1992-1998. 300 wins...check. 3000 strikeouts...check. Steroid rumors...nope. Postseason success...okay, I mean it's not Mariano Rivera good, but 11-14 with a 3.27 ERA and a World Series title isn't a reason to not vote for him considering his in-season resume. So the case is airtight and he'll of course get in on the first ballot, but he frankly deserves more. But we all know that one attention-starved voter will make this vote about him and deny Maddux the honor. Tom Seaver stills holds the record at 98.4% of the vote (425 out of 430 ballots) and well, there's no way you can't say Maddux was the better pitcher. But that won't matter when the votes are tallied. All that will matter is if some holier-than-thou, sanctimonious piece of excrement decides that he's the one that will take the burden of being the Hall of Fame bouncer this year. And when and if that happens, it'll just be another check on the list of the "Hall of Fame is Becoming More Irrelevant Each and Every Year."

11/20 UPDATE:  The Cubs have selected the contracts of INF Arismendy Alcantara and RHP Dallas Beeler from AA Tennessee and both have been added to the Cubs MLB 40-man roster. Alcantara was rated the Cubs #7 prospect by Baseball America last week, and Beeler likely earned his spot on the 40 with a strong performance in the Arizona Fall League after missing much of the 2013 season with a finger injury.  

Because they were eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft and were added to an MLB 40-man roster after August 15th, both Alcantara and Beeler have Draft Excluded status and cannot be outrighted to the minors until 20 days prior to MLB Opening Day, even if the Cubs decide they need one of the two roster slots sometime later during the off-season. 

With the addition of Alcantara and Beeler, the Cubs MLB Reserve List now numbers 39 players (one slot is open).

Notable Cubs minor leaguers who will be eligible for selection in next month's Rule 5 Draft include OF Jae-Hoon Ha, RHP Matt Loosen, LHP Eric Jokisch, and 2B Gioskar Amaya.

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