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.
The free agent period gates open up next week, hundreds of ballplayers and their agents on one side, thirty GM's waving contracts on the other. Let's hope one of them isn't Aramis Ramirez. Here's a rundown of the names bandied about in some rumors and trades that I've read in the mass media. 2B - Mark Derosa CF - Alfonso Soriano, Gary Matthews Jr., Vernon Wells 3B - Nomar Garciaparra LF - Carlos Lee, Gary Sheffield P - Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jason Schmidt, Ted Lilly, Miguel Batista, Hiroki Kuroda, Kei Igawa, Aaron Heilman And of course all the incumbents like Ramirez, Wood and Pierre. Jimbo likes to hold his cards close though and organizational meetings begin Tuesday, so I imagine the beat writers will be kind enough to feed us rumor vultures with a few more bits over the next week. A few new ones from today... - More Marcus Giles trade talks although this one has him in a move to the Padres to play with his brother and move to 3b. - Some of the teams that dropped out of the Matsuzaka race may have done so because Boras told them Matsuzaka wasn't interested in playing for them, specifically the Dodgers (I like the guy already) and Mariners (didn't want to play under Ichiro's shadow). - Kind of a throw away at in there that the Cubs are on the block for $1 billion dollars. The Nomar to the Cubs mention is in there as well. The $1 billion does make sense, I believe the Cubs are valued around $600 million or so and I'm guessing Tribco would like even a little more to cover the problems with their other businesses. So start saving those pennies. And go Bears!!
Itís time to hand out the postseason awards and weíre going to do it hockey style because naming your awards after obscure things is clever or something. Splendid Splinter Award (Honoring the Rookie who was firmly planted on the bench for no real good reason) While Angel Guzman looked like an early frontrunner in June when he was called up for almost a month, but got into a grand total of three games for about seven innings, it's "scrappy" Ryan Theriot who takes home the hardware. Theriot began the year with a decent showing in spring training to a tune of 214/395/250 but couldn't impress the coaching staff enough to avoid the Cubs going hard after A's reject Freddie Bynum for the 25th man. Theriot's first callup of the season came May 8th and despite no one on the team hitting, Theriot got a grand total of 5 plate appearances. Apparently Neifi and Jerry Jr. were just due to break out of that career slump that month. Theriot was sent back down later in the month and got called up to warm up the bench once again on July 14th. Theriot was able to squeeze more AB's in that week than his previous stint but Prior's brief return put him back in Iowa. It took Derrek Lee's second DL trip to get Theriot up for good, but that didn't mean he'd play right away. Once everyone in front of him either got hurt, traded or released, Theriot finally got a regular shot at playing time near the end of August where he overachieved himself to a line of 328/412/522. To sum up, once Neifi, Walker, Jerry Jr. got traded and Izturis got injured and Womack got released, we finally were able to give Theriot a shot(reluctantly). That doesn't even include the abysmal season Ronny Cedeno made us witness. Good job keeping that pine warm sir Theriot. Tallest Midget of the Year (Perceived Greatness amongst Mediocre Peers) Despite walking every player in baseball this year, Carlos Zambrano looks like a demi-god to Cubs fans due to his fiery temper, overswinging and the next best pitcher on the club basically had one good month. Kudos to you Carlos and be sure to buy Hendry dinner once you're done raping him over that new contract this spring. It's the gentlemanly thing to do.
I really didn't intend to do one of these again today as there isn't much news and I was working on something else, but the comments have gotten out of control on the last post so I'm going to shut those down and hope cooler heads will prevail. Bruce Miles of The Daily Herald answered some message board fodder over at Northside Baseball. A lot of interesting stuff he touches on. A few of the hot topics: - He says the Score report yesterday doesn't jive with his sources and his people tell him it will likely go down to Nov 11th. Stresses the whole two sides to the negotiation and that Kinzer and Co. are going to milk this for everything it's worth. - Kinzer is part of Adam Katz's agency and last time they signed Aramis, Katz swooped in the last minute with a lot of changes and sweeteners. - Cubs are warming up to OBP as Miles stated that Pierre's low OBP got the Cubs' attention. - Out clause was a Macphail creation at the last minute - Hendry probably trusted Ramirez and agent's stated desire to stay a little too much. - Rumor has that Soriano wants a full no-trade clause and the Phils are quite reluctant to offer that, preferring a limited no-trade clause. - Lee Elia resigned from the O's citing a desire to spend time with his family. He may take a scouting gig or something but doesn't want a job requiring lots of travel. - Cleveland and San Francisco are being talked about as destinations for Gary Sheffield. - Angles are making a run at Gary Matthews Jr., the White Sox and Cubs are rumored as well. - And in a sad note, Joe Randa has retired. Let's remain calm everyone, it's just baseball.
If this USA today article is to be believed, and I don't know why it wouldn't, Elias has finished their rankings of players that determine their Free Agent classification. This in turn determines what other teams will have to cough up if they sign one of these players (assuming arbitration is offered) or receive if one of their players is signed. The relevant Cubs are Aramis Ramirez (Type A), Juan Pierre (Type B) and Henry Blanco (Type C). The new CBA has changed the rules on draft pick compensation but those don't go into effect until next offseason. Thus, if the Cubs lose Ramirez they'll either get a 1st round pick (if the signing team doesn't have a pick in the top 15 next year) or a 2nd round pick (if the signing team does have one of those protected top 15 picks) and a sandwich pick between the 1st and 2nd round. The same deal goes for Juan Pierre, although the Cubs would not receive the sandwich pick. The Cubs would get a sandwich pick between the 2nd and 3rd rounds for Henry Blanco if he signs somewhere else and is offered arbitration, the latter part being very likely since the Cubs seem to want him to stay. As for some of the free agents that the Cubs are rumored to be interested in: Jason Schmidt (Type A) Barry Zito (Type A) Alfonso Soriano (Type A) Julio Lugo (Type A) Ray Durham (Type A) Carlos Lee (Type A) Mark Loretta (Type A) Greg Maddux(Type A) Say what? Jeff Suppan (Type A) See Maddux Vicente Padilla (Type B) Ted Lilly (Type B) Adam Eaton (Type C) Randy Wolf (Type C) Elias system is based off the last two years and mostly relies on counting stats and does not account for defense in any way. I don't know what exact categories they use. The USA today article eludes to batting average, OBP, home runs, RBI's and plate appearances for hitters but I don't know if that's the complete list nor do I know the pitching categories used. The Cubs first round pick is protected though given their top 15 status.
Sorry about the writer's block lately, I'm sure I'll get over it soon enough. In the meantime, some rumors to keep you going. - Bruce Miles throws out some numbers on the Aramis deal. He's careful to use the term may to describe the figures, but here they are anyway. Ramirez may be asking for 6 years/$15 million per year while Hendry may be offering 5/$14 mil per year at the moment. If there's any truth to those figures, then get the freakin' deal done Hendry. - Miles also says the Cubs aren't so hot on Sheffield as other papers seem to believe. - The Trib has the Cubs potentially going after Aaron Heilman as a 5th starter/bullpen guy. - Daisuke Matsuzaka is about to be posted. I think teams have 4 days to get their bids in and then 30 days to negotiate a deal. I could be wrong about that. - Maddux and the Dodgers are talking new deal. Maddux wants 2 years, the Dodgers are offering one. - Alfonso Soriano is asking for 7/$119 mil for his new deal. The Phils may start talks at 5/$80 mil. - Supposedly the Mets and Glavine are close on a 2/$25 deal.
At the halfway point, here is a quick update on Cubs players active in the AFL:
LAST UPDATE: 11/2 The following MLB players were eligible to file for free-agency under Article XX of the CBA starting last Saturday at 12:01 AM (EDT):
With the Cardinals having won the 2006 World Series, MLB players with at least six years of MLB service time who are not signed to a contract for 2007 can begin to file for free-agency starting at 12:01 AM (EDT), Saturday, October 28th. Players may file by telephone, FAX, e-mail, snail mail, telegram, Candygram, however they choose to do it. Cubs players eligible to file are: Henry Blanco John Mabry Wade Miller Juan Pierre Aramis Ramirez (player option for 2007-08) Kerry Wood (club option with buy-out for 2007) NOTE: Aramis Ramirez has a player option for 2007. If he does NOT choose to be a free-agent after this season, and if his contract is NOT renegotiated, then the orginal contract remains in force as written, and there is either a mutual option for 2009, or a player option (only) for 2009 if he plays 270 games (combined) in 2007-08. During the 15-day Free-Agency Filing Period, the player's former club retains exclusive negotiating rights with the player. However, the other 29 MLB clubs are permitted to contact the player and express interest during the 15-day period, and although the other clubs cannot discuss money with the player or actually offer a contract, they can discuss length of contract, "no trade" provisions, how the player will be used, the benefits of playing for the club, the local housing market, schools, cultural and recreational activities, restaurants, etc. Beginning on Sunday November 12th at 12:01 AM (EST), all 30 MLB clubs will be permitted to offer a contract to any free-agent who has not re-signed with his former club. Any player who signs a contract with a club (either his former club or a new club) after the conclusion of the 15-day filing period receives an automatic "no trade" through June 15th of the following season. A player can waive this right, but even if he does, his club can only trade the player for cash or a player contract with a value not in excess of $50,000. A player who re-signs with his old club prior to end of the 15-day filing period does not receive the automatic "no trade."


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