I am thankful that I now live in a part of the country that's very foreign to me, with no family, friends or loved ones within six-hundred miles, who would be doing annoying things right now like competing for my attention, thus preventing me from sitting alone in my computer-room and posting an entry at TCR on Thanksgiving day. Oh, wait a minute, no, that didn't come out quite right. Let me try again.
*I'm thankful that the Cubs are investing a ridiculous amount of time and money in Soriano and not in Matthews or Pierre. *I'm thankful that we are under new on-field and executive management. *I'm thankful for seeing my first Cubs game in person since 2000, this summer. It was a beautiful day, I went with the most important person in my life, Pierre stole a couple bases, Jones hit a home run, and Howry blew the game. As perfect a day as I could have asked for. *I'm thankful that there's both a "mute" and an "off" button for the Thanksgiving Day Schlockfest. er, Parade. *I'm thankful for Ivy. *And for Len and Bob. *And for another five years of Aramis Ramirez, loafing and all. *And for the likelihood of many, many more years of Zambrano. *I'm thankful that in this winter's market, the Cubs have lots of relief pitching to deal. *I'm thankful that my family is all basically in good health, and waited until reasonable hours of the morning to begin phoning. *I'm thankful that I finished all my schooling, and that it looks like I'll finish my first semester of teaching World History without having instigated any riots or religious wars. *I'm thankful that Ruz hasn't fired me for being AWOL too frequently, and then showing up to write brief, schmaltzy fluff-pieces when no one will be looking. *I'm thankful to be a part of the most lively, entertaining, combative, humane, thoughtful, ridiculous, diverse and passionate group of Cubs fans for, what has it been for me, now, almost five years?
What are you thankful for, Cubs-related or otherwise?
Althouugh no official announcement has been made by the Cubs, LHP Ryan O'Malley and OF Miguel Negron have quietly been removed from the Cubs 40-man roster. I suspect both have been Designated for Assignment, with their final disposition TBD within 10 days.
Huh, I had forgotten about This Entry from last Thanksgiving, the All-Food team. For your consuming pleasure, here it is, again, with a few updates. The only eligiblity requirements for the team are that the player: A. has a food-related name B. at some point played for the Cubs C. has a food-related name that is so delicious, and plays a position where the Cubs don't have a home-grown alternative, thus requiring an imaginary trade so that we can complete our roster. There isn't much pitching or infield depth to this team, but you've got to love the outfield...
With today being the deadline for moving players from the minor leagues to the 40-man roster, the Cubs announced today that they have added LHP Clay Rapada and RHP Rocky Cherry to their 40-man reserve list. All players still remaining on a Cubs minor league roster will remain "frozen" (cannot be added to the 40-man roster and cannot be traded) until after the conclusion of the Rule 5 Draft, which will be held on December 7th at the MLB Winter Meetings. If any player currently on a Cub minor league roster is to be part of a trade consummated sometime in the next couple of weeks, that player will have to be identified as a"Player to be Named Later" (PTBNL), and cannot be named until the Rule 5 Draft concludes. Although players on minor league rosters are now "frozen," players on major league 40-man rosters are not. Players on MLB 40-man rosters can be traded, and players on MLB 40-man rosters can even be assigned outright to the minors during the "frozen" period. Also, free-agents can be signed to minor league contracts and can be assigned to a minor league club during this period. By adding Rapada and Cherry, the Cubs would seem to now have 42 players on their 40-man roster, which (of course) is not allowed. So the only obvious explanation is that apparently Mark DeRosa and Alfonso Soriano have yet to be officially added to the Cubs roster, because no other roster moves were made today. Some of you may remember the same thing happened last year when Bob Howry was signed as a free-agent, but wasn't officially added to the Cubs 40-man roster for several days. But at least two more roster moves will need to be made in the near future, possibly by means of a a two-fer-one or three-fer-one trade for a starting pitcher. A lanky side-armin' slinger who is death on left-handed hitters, the 25-year old Rapada was THE best reliever I saw in the Arizona Fall League this year. I believe he can pitch in the big leagues right now. Signed out of Virginia State University by Cubs "bird dog" scout Billy Swoope in 2002, Rapada is notable for being a one-time "Non-drafted Free-Agent" (NDFA) who made good. Cherry, 27, was drafted by the Cubs out of the University of Oklahoma in the 14th round of the 2002 Rule 4 Draft (June Draft), but didn't sign until January 2003. He made his pro debut at Boise that season. The Rock underwent Tommy John transplannt surgery in 2005, after suffering a torn elbow ligament. A starter earlier in his career, Cherry returned to action this season, working out of the bullpen at AA West Tenn (Cherry and Rapada were an extremely effective 1-2 punch out of the DiamondJaxx pen). Like Rapada, Cherry pitched well-enough to earn a mid-season promotion to AAA Iowa. Showing a mid-90's heater and a devastating breaking ball, Rocky was supposedly about to be called up to the Cubs when he suffered a season-ending finger injury that required surgery.
From a Baseball Prospectus article talking about the Cubs and Tribco's imminent sale.
...because Ramirezís contract is back-loaded. The contract starts at $8 million with a $5 million signing bonus for next season; from there, the numbers jump, to $14 million in 2007, $15.65 million in 2009, $15.75 million in 2010, a $14.6 million player option in 2011, followed by a $2 million buyout clause of a mutual option for 2012.
Bruce Miles points out this little tidbit which seems to mesh with what Lou apparently said on the radio last night that Soriano would be a corner outfielder.
Most reports had the Cubs looking at Soriano as a center fielder, but sources said Sunday that the Cubs will put Soriano in right. That means Jacque Jones (whose injured left shoulder prevented him from throwing well in 2006) will go from right to center with the Cubs, if they donít trade Jones, hoping for the best.
I mentioned in the comments yesterday that I would be surprised but certainly not shocked if the Cubs still ended up signing J.D. Drew or Julio Lugo to play center field and if Jacque Jones becomes the expendable outfielder over Matt Murton, let's say I shall be pleased. I guess the assumption was always that Murton was going to be shown the door or the bench but Jones suddenly has an extremely cheap contract for a guy with a decent lefty bat, who can go get them in the outfield and could be a valuable trading chip for a team trying to compete in the now. It's just some speculation at the moment, but it could be an interesting twist. I'll weigh in some more on this whole adventure once the contract details are clear. It's seems to waiver between 6/90 with option years for the 7th and 8th or a straight 8/136 and there's supposedly a full no-trade clause for the first five years (until Soriano becomes a 10/5 man and the no-trade becomes automatic) as well.
While we are waiting for the details of the reported eight year $136M contract, chew on this: Thom Brennaman mentioned in a D'backs broadcast in August that Nats manager Frank Robinson told him that Alfonso Soriano is the happiest and most positive player he has known in MLB since our very own "Mr. Cub" (Ernie Banks), that he is very popular with his teammates, that he worked hard to improve his defense in what was a new position for him this past season, and that he now loves playing the outfield so much that he doesn't want to go back to 2B. I am one who believes that if you have the speed and range to cover the ground, CF is actually an easier position to play than LF or RF. Certainly Soriano still needs to improve his outfield defense (he made 11 errors last year), and there will be questions about his ability to play CF until he can prove it, but the fact is he has a strong arm (an ex-shortstop, he threw out 22 opposing baserunners last season--by far, leading all of MLB). And if he plays CF, he will get more straight-on fly balls, not the evil hooks & slices you get in a corner outfield spot. And there is no bullpen mound to trip over in CF at Wrigley, either. I may be a lot more optimistic than the average TCR poster (hey, I grew up watching the Cubs on Channel 9 and listening to Jack Brickhouse!), but speaking as a long-suffering Cub fan of 47 years, I am abso-freakin-lutely thrilled that McDonough-Hendry-Piniella & Company are at least trying to make the Cubs the best team it can be. How many of you actually thought it was possible that the Cubs would or could sign Soriano away from the Angels, especially after Angels owner Artie Moreno never even got a chance to sign Aramis Ramirez? Look, the Cubs still need to acquire a couple of reliable starting pitchers (I've got Schmidt, Westbrook, and Jennings as 1-2-3 "Most Wanted" on my board), but AZ Phil's bottom line is this: So far... EXCELLENT, BABY! Pass the Kool-Aid! And GO CUBS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Ken Rosenthal at Foxsports.com is reporting the Cubs are on the verge of signing Alfonso Soriano. The first paragraph alludes to an eight year deal but it's not really clear if that's what is being offered or what Alfonso is asking for. If true, when did George Steinbrenner buy the team? UPDATE: Yahoo is confirming the story via an ESPN 1000 report that it is an eight year deal for $136 million. I guess the Cubs were serious about that whole winning the World Series thing. The years are ridiculous, the money is ridiculous and I'm pretty sure Soriano isn't that great of a player and definitely won't be in eight years. But for today, I'll have a little smile on my face knowing the Cubs picked up the two best free agent pieces off the board.
Monday is the last day players on minor league rosters can be traded or moved up to a major league roster. Starting next Tuesday, and until the completion of the Rule 5 Draft on December 7th, players on minor league rosters are "frozen." That is, any player on a minor league roster as of this coming Tuesday cannot be traded and cannot be added to an MLB 40-man roster until the conclusion of the Rule 5 Draft. Players on an MLB 40-man roster can be sent outright to the minors during this period, but it's strictly a one-way highway. (Three years ago, the Cubs acquired Derrek Lee from the Florida Marlins for Hee Seop Choi and a Player to Be Named Later (PTBNL), but because the deal was made during the period between November 20th and the Rule 5 Draft, the PTBNL--RHP Mike Nannini--was not identified and could not be sent to the Marlins until the Rule 5 Draft had been completed).
In our first Spring Training story of the year, six players recently signed by the Cubs to 2007 minor league contracts have received Non-Rroster Invitations (NRIs) to Spring Training: * bats or throws left # bats both Jason Anderson, RHP # Koyie Hill, C Ben Howard, RHP * Jason Smith, IF-OF * Les Walrond, LHP John Webb, RHP If some of the names sound familiar, it's probably because all six have at least some MLB experience. Webb and Smith are both one-time members of the Cubs organization, both have done time on the Cubs 40-man roster, and both were rated as Top 10 Cubs Prospects by Baseball America at various times (Smith in 1999, and Webb in 2001). Smith was one of two players sent to Tampa Bay for Fred McGriff in July 2001, and Webb was claimed off outright waivers by the Devil Rays in February 2004 after suffering a broken leg while walking his dog during the off-season. (Tough break). Now 27, Webb has evolved into a jouneyman AAA rotation starter, spending last season in the Cardinals organization. But Jason Smith would appear to have something to offer. An athletic left-handed hitter who started his career as a shortstop, Smith is capable of playing all four infield positions and both corner outfield spots. In 49 games with the Colorado Rockies in 2006, he hit .263 with five HR in just 107 PA. In 166 career MLB games with TB, DET, and COL (about equal to one full season's worth of games), Smith has gone 230/260/385, with 11 HR, 10 doubles, eight triples, and nine SB (12 CS). Depending on who else Jim Hendry is able to sign this off-season, Smith, who is now 29, might have an outside chance to win a bench job with the Cubs in 2007. A lefty "swingman" and a one-time Kansas Jayhawk, Walrond had some previous MLB experience with the KC Royals in 2003 before signing a minor league contract with the Cubs after the 2005 season. Walrond received an invitation to Spring Training with the Cubs, but was sent to Iowa after failing to make Dusty Baker's Opening Day pitching staff. Walrond had a decent year at AAA Iowa that earned him a September call-up with the big club, and Les showed a pretty good strikeout pitch with the Cubs (21 K in 17 IP). Unfortunately, between the punch-outs he was pretty bad (6.23 ERA and 1.79 WHIP). Walrond is 30 years old. A switch-hitting catcher, Koyie Hill played college ball at Wichita State and is a one-time BA Dodgers Top 10 Prospect (2003-04) who failed to seize opportunities over the past couple of years with the Diamondbacks after being acquired by Arizona from the Dodgers in the 2004 Steve Finley trade. Hill suffered a broken ankle in August 2004 shortly after arriving in Arizona, and that likely has had a negative impact on his career. But he is an MLB-ready catcher, and he could be a viable back-up catcher for the Cubs in 2007 in case anything happens to Barrett or Blanco. Hill will turn 28 during Spring Training. Jason Anderson, who pitched collegiately at the University of Illinois, got into 28 games (combined) as a middle reliever with the Yankees and the Mets in 2003, and Ben Howard is a one-time 2nd round draft pick of the San Diego Padres and BA Top 10 Padres Prospect (2002-04) who got six starts with the Pads in 2003 before getting traded to Florida in 2004, where he got into 31 games out of the bullpen (5.50 ERA & 1.54 WHIP). However, both Anderson and Howard have settled into life as AAA middle relievers, and "considerable AAA experience" is their primary attribute at this point. Both are presently 27 years old, although Howard will turn 28 in January.
The Chicago Tribune is reporting that the Cubs have acquired LHP Neal Cotts from the White Sox for RHP David Aardsma and LHP Carlos Vasquez. The 26-year old Cotts attended Illinois State University, and was selected by the Oakland A's in the second round of the 2001 June Draft. He was traded to the White Sox four years ago in a multi-player deal where Keith Foulke went to Oakland and Billy Koch came to Chicago. Cotts has spent the last three seasons in the White Sox bullpen, and had (by far) his best year in the Sox World Series Championship season of 2005 (when he was virtually unhittable and probably one of the three best lefty relievers in baseball), but he struggled this past season. Cotts will be eligible for salary arbitration for the first time this off-season A 25-year old hard-throwing right-handed reliever with a mid-90's fastball, Aardsma was the closer for the 2003 NCAA National Champion Rice University team, before being selected by the San Francisco Giants in the first round (22nd overall pick) of the '03 June Draft. "Aardvark" and Jerome Williams were the two pitchers acquired by the Cubs from the Giants for LaTroy Hawkins in May 2005. The 23-year old Vasquez was a one-time member of the Cubs 40-man roster (2004-05) who underwent shoulder surgery in 2005 before returning to action as a LOOGY at AA this past season. Vasquez was eligible to be a six-year minor league FA on October 15th, but he signed a minor league contract with the Cubs for 2007. Vasquez is currently pitching in the Venezuelan Winter League, and will be eligible for selection in next month's Rule 5 Draft if he is not added to the White Sox 40-man roster by next Monday. Acquiring Cotts gives the Cubs three (possibly four) left-handers in their bullpen for 2007. Besides Cotts, the Cubs pen now features Scott Eyre and Will Ohman, and quite possibly Clay Rapada (who has been the best reliever in the Arizona Fall,League). With the hassle Jim Hendry had negotiating a contract with Will Ohman last off-season, I would imagine Ohman (who once again will be eligible for salary arbitration) will now almost certainly be traded. That is, unless the Cubs intend to use Cotts as a rotation starter. Prior to the 2004 season, Baseball America had Cotts rated as the White Sox #3 prospect--and as a STARTING PITCHER, not as a reliever. Cotts was converted to a relief pitcher by the White Sox in 2004.
With Tim Wilken and all of the Cubs scouts from around the world watching from the picnic area above and behind the third base grandstand, the Mesa Solar Sox hosted the first-place Phoenix Desert Dogs at HoHoKam Park in Mesa last night.
As the Seibu Lions deliberate over the Matsuzaka bids, the Cubs (cough) shored up their pitching staff by resigning Wade Miller to a one year deal. Financial details have yet to be released. UPDATE Paul Sullivan writes that the deal is for one year and $1.5 million guaranteed. Incentives could make it worth up to $5.25 million.
Organizational meetings started yesterday in Arizona but still very little on the rumor front. The Cubs did hire former A's hitting coach Gerald Perry to fill out the coaching staff. He use to work under Piniella in Seattle from 2000-2002. If you go read the press release linked above, you'll notice an unusual amount of stress put on OBP and walks for the teams that Perry was a coach. We can only hope it carries over to the Cubs. - An expose on Lou Piniella in USA Today confirms a bit of the Cubs game plan.
"Just get me two starting pitchers, two position players, and, I'm telling you, we'll win."
Piniella seems to indicate that Soriano, Zito and Schmidt are on the top of the Cubs wish list. There's also a mention that Hendry is pretty confident he'll bring back Ramirez, but not so much on Pierre. If Pierre does leave, Matthews Jr. could move to the top of the list. Don't expect any bullpen signings but the bench will get an overhaul with a stress on power bats. And if you read between the lines, you get the sense that Murton is going to get moved to the bench for a power upgrade. There are also mentions of Ted Lilly, Miguel Batista, Vicente Padilla and Jeff Weaver along with a $115 million payroll but they don't seem to be direct quotes from Lou himself.
I believe itís mandatory that if you write for a baseball blog that you have to partake in some sort of postseason awards shenanigans. So hereís one manís take on the 2006 season. Managers of the Year (or manager of a team that most people thought would suck) I think we all know that this award means nothing. Whichever club had the most surprising season will have itís manager honored despite little knowledge of what happened behind the scenes. So I imagine Joe Girardi and Jim Leyland will win running away and I donít necessarily think those are bad choices. Personally, I take a look at whichever team had to endure the most disruptions during the course of the season. A manager who couldnít just put it in cruise control because everyone stayed healthy and productive, who actually had to make some tough decisions over the season. In the NL that still pretty much just leaves Joe Girardi with the Phillies Charlie Manuel sneaking in for a peek. Phils GM Pat Gillick went into sell mode around the deadline coughing up Bobby Abreu, David Bell and Rheal Cormier without getting any real major league talent in return. Then Aaron Rowand hit the DL in mid-August and the only pickup was a waiver wire deal to get the carcass of Jamie Moyer. The Phils though stayed in the playoff hunt pretty much until the end when they could have easily folded the tent. Joe Girardi though is the clear winner here. Brought in believing heíd have a little more experience than a full roster of rookies, he kept the team focused throughout the year as they flirted with the Wild Card for most of the season. There were obviously some rough patches and you can't attribute all the Marlins success to Girardi, but on the other hand you really canít underestimate the job Girardi did either. In the AL, itís a three man race between Jim Leyland, Ron Gardenhire and (Gasp) Ken Macha. Yeah, I said it. Sure, everyone will vote Leyland, but his pitching staff pretty much stayed healthy all year and he had the audacity to bat Neifi Perez 2nd a few times. The players may not have liked Macha, but they lost Harden and Crosby for good parts of the year and Eric Chavez was never right, throw in a lot of underperforming players the first half and keeping Milton Bradley from killing anyone and I donít think heís all that bad. Ron Gardenhire though prevailed through injuries to Radke, Stewart and Liriano, a horrid start to the season and a the likes of Rondell White and Tony Batista on the roster, not to mention a fairly young team. Plus they ended up winning the division which definitely gives him the nod over Leyland.

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