Not trying to step on Rob's post so my apologies for the dueling TCR writeups.

I'm providing a hand made transcript of the XM Front Office Radio show, hosted by former GM's Jim Bowden, (Reds GM 1992-2003 and Expos/Nationals 2004-2009) and Jim Duquette (aka, "Duke", the Mets GM 2004). Their program airs every Sunday morning.  They interviewed Cubs GM Jed Hoyer (preceded by interviews of Mets Sandy Alderson and followed by Rangers Jon Daniels) and there was some post-interview Cubs chatter by the two hosts. Just some decent hot stove talk on a late January AM.

Enjoy.

Bowden: You had a very busy offseason here. Can you break down moves...Edwin Jackson, Scott Baker, Carlos Villaneuv-er, Scott Hairston, Kuji Fujikawa?

Meatballs, mashed potatoes and Lumpy Gravy after the jump...

So the Cubs are going to sign Scott Hairston, but since the deal isn't official we don't really have comments from TheJedi on his exact purpose. Chances are though, he'll platoon with DeJesus and Schierholtz and be the thunder off the bench late in games. And if they happen to trade Alfonso Soriano at some point, he might just be the starting left fielder. The 33-year old usually puts up OPS numbers around the mid 700's, most of it playing in pitching friendly parks like Oakland, San Diego and Citi Field, although he did start out his career in Arizona. The deal at 2/$5M with up to $1.25M in perfomance bonuses each season is reasonable enough in today's baseball economics, there's also something about another extra $1M being tacked on per year as well. It's probably bad news for Dave Sappelt's hopes of making the Opening Day roster, but doubtful the outfield will stay healthy all season, so he'll probably get his chance. If you're looking for 2 good reasons to like the deal, it's a career .825 OPS versus lefties(.867 last year) and that for his career he sees 3.85 pitches per plate appearance (closer to 4 the last 2 seasons). So another efficient, if not spectacular move by TheJedi.

And then the great 40-man mystery has been solved, although another is awaiting once they deal with Hairston's spot. But last year's Rule 5 pick-up Lendy Castillo has been DFA'd to make room for Carlos Villanueva. If no other team wishes to use up a 40-man spot on him, and he pitched rather poorly this winter, he'll likely be outrighted and wander the Cubs's farm system this season.

The guys at Vine Line got me a ticket to this year's convention.
Because they're awesome.
In the past I always arrived late to that Saturday morning meeting with the GM and Manager, ended up standing in the back of the crowded ballroom getting pictures of the backs of Cub fan's heads.
I thought with Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, Dale Sveum and Shiraz Rehman, I should finally be on time.
Instead of the Hilton on Michigan, it's at the Sheraton on the river this year.
Phones work here which is fabulous, but... new layout.

The Bears get their new coach in Marc Trestman, his last gig was with the CFL Montreal Alouettes...who knew Moises Alou was so popular in Canada. Trestman has been out of the NFL for 8 years, coaching in the CFL and college, but has plenty of NFL experience. He's considered some sort of QB guru starting his career coaching Bernie Kosar at the University of Miami and then successful runs with Steve Young, Rich Gannon, Jake Plummer and Scott Mitchell, although I don't recall anything successful about Scott Mitchell in the NFL.

And if that's not enough good news, he's going to hire Aaron Kromer as his offensive coordinator/offensive line coach ending the Mike Tice era. Kromer comes way of the New Orleans Saints where he's been there the last 5 years including filling in as interim head coach for the first 6 games of last season while Sean Payton and Joe Vitt served suspensions.

Word is that they would like to keep Rod Marinelli as defensive coordinator which I doubt anyone will complain about.  Special teams coach Dave Toub left to take a job with Kansas City so there's a vacancy there.

Anyway, only time will tell if this is a good move. The Bears are obviously moving to an offensive mindset and while the change is welcome, they're way behind the curve and it's always hard to lead when you're following. But I appreciate the out-of-the-box thinking in hiring a guy from the CFL, hopefully he'll bring some fresh ideas, something the Bears have been sorely short on for a long time.

According to Patrick Mooney of CSN, the Cubs added OF Brett Lillibridge and OF Darnell McDonald on minor league deals today with spring training invites. They also agreed to a $930K contract with Luis Valbuena, thus avoiding arbitration.

 

Check out the left sidebar for some of the other NRI's to spring training courtesy of Arizona Awesome.

 

In 2002 the Cubs traded Dontrelle Willis, Julian Tavarez and two minor leaguers for Antonio Alfonseca and Matt Clement.
11 years later, they get Willis back.

So the Bears won yesterday and finished 10-6 on the year, a 2-game improvement upon 2011. Normally this doesn't get your coach fired, but when the coach has been there for 9 seasons and has only put together back-to-back winning seasons once, normal doesn't apply. So the Bears owners (maybe management) did what I'd say 99% of Bears fans wanted and fired Lovie today.

These few paragraphs from the Trib story sum up his Bears' career best.


Since Smith took over in 2004, the Bears have ranked higher than 23rd in offense only once. They have ranked 28th or lower four times.

Since 2004, the Bears defense ranks first in the league in takeaways, three-and-out drives forced and third-down percentage and is fourth in scoring defense.

Smith's defenders scored 34 touchdowns, which became a signature of the Bears' style of play.

There was some good, some bad and I'm sure after 9 years of a defense first team, many fans will be screaming for an offensive first coach. Sure. But if that happens, you know by mid-season the same fans will be complaining why the defense doesn't get takeaways anymore. Regardless of what the future holds, the Bears finally got rid of the past they held on well past the expiration date. So as the hope of the New Year approaches, the hope for a new Bears dynasty comes with it.

The regular seasons for the Latin Winter Leagues in Venezuela (VWL), Mexico (LMP), Puerto Rico (PWL), and the Dominican Republic (DWL) close this weekend, and the playoffs will start next month. Then the four league champions will meet in the Caribbean Series in Hermosillo, Mexico, the first week of February (just prior to the start of MLB Spring Training).


About 30 Cubs (both major leaguers and minor leaguers) are playing winter ball in Latin America, and the following are seven of the better performances:


Hi.
Just a little Edwin Jackson interruption here.

UPDATE: Carrie Muskat tweet says Cubs talking to Edwin Jackson and Villanueva, but no deal done with either. And so we wait...


Jon Heyman (and others) are reporting that the Cubs have signed SP Carlos Villanueva, formerly of the Toronto Blue Jays. The 29-year old swingman ran up career highs in innings (125.1) and games started(16) last year for the Blue Jays. Depsite a fastball that won't get over 90 too often, he manages nearly 8 K/9(7.8 to be exact) for his career and a 3.1 BB/9. He's a bit prone to the long ball with a 1.3 HR/9 rate for his career (although his HR/FB% rates are a little higher than the norm) and has a 4.26 career ERA between the Brewers and Blue Jays over 7 seasons (306 games, 56 of those started).

Much like the addition of Scott Feldman, he's being applauded by many of the saber-folks as a good low money risk play this offseason.

We'll see what the money is in this case, but seems like another shrewd, yet unspectacualr move for the Cubs. I don't know if he's been promised a rotation spot, but more likely he'll just be one of the competitors for a spot in spring training and obviously someone comfortable with moving to the pen if and when necessary. Now let's see if Twitter didn't jump the gun again.

LHP Jeff Beliveau was Designated for Assignment yesterday, and 3B Ian Stewart has been officially added to the 40-man roster, so now the Cubs just need to clear one more slot for free-agent OF Nate Schierholtz.


Although it might sound strange, the Cubs could outright Stewart to the minors (but with an NRI to Spring Training) to make room for Schierholtz on the 40, just like when they outrighted Manny Corpas to the minors last off-season in January just a month after he signed a major league contract and was added to the 40-man roster in December.


Some quick hits...

- Frankly, i have no idea what effect this has on anything, but the Cubs are one of three teams to have opted out of the MLB/StubHub agreement that was recently renewed. I imagine tickets for Wrigley will still be available on StubHub, but not in some official capacity. I also imagine the Ricketts didn't like seeing tickets going for $2 on game day on StubHub that still cost $20 or more if you purchased from MLB.com.

- Jason Grilli ended up officially resigning with the Pittsburg Pirates today, although it was rumored last week that would be the case.  It was claimed he had a better offer that he turned down to return to Pittsburgh, which may or may not have been the Cubs offer.

The Cubs added another short term contract tonight, signing outfield Nate Schierholtz on a one year deal for $2.25M that includes $500K in incentives. As Arizona Phil pointed out, they actually retain the rights to Schierholtz for two seasons as he's only at a little over 4 years of service time. Along with the signings of Scott Feldman and Scott Baker, the Cubs have added over $14M in payroll for next season, almost what they were paying Carlos Zambrano to not play for them.

The Cubs say Schierholtz will start in right field, but could very well platoon with Dave Sappelt. He'll be playing his age 29 season next year and accumulated a 257/321/406 slash line between the Giants and Phillies last year in 269 PA's, good for a 104 OPS+. The good news if they do platoon him is that he put up a more robust 287/360/466 line against righties last year for a 120 OPS+ in 201 PA's last year. But then of course anything can happen in 200 plate appearances. But in 2011, he put up a 288/340/461 line that was good for a 115 OPS+ in 294 PA's. But then anything can happen in nearly 300 PA's. As the years get smaller in numbers, so does his stat line and for his career in 1098 PA's, his slash line is 266/319/413 and a 101 OPS+ against righties. Now 1100 plate appearances carries a little more weight, but the trend is certainly favoring Schierholtz and the Cubs' decision.

As for defense, he's played most of his games in right field, although he did step his toes into center field last year for the Phillies a lucky seven times. If you belive in such things as UZR, they seem to be favorable towards Schierholtz.

Overall, considering the price...it's a pretty decent deal. A well-managed platoon can be very advantageous and maybe Schierholtz can keep up his slash line over 400 or more PA's. If not, he's cheap enough to be a bench player or trade bait and certainly won't be blocking anyone that may force themselves into the lineup (here's looking at you Brett Jackson).

 

 

The 2012 MLB Rule 5 Selection Meeting (AKA "Rule 5 Draft") will be held tomorrow morning in Nashville.

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