Cubs rumors

It's everyone's favorite time of the year, so gather the kids around the fire and let's speculate away to our heart's content.

Cardinals - Like those annoying folks that get their Christmas shopping done early, the Cards are probably done wheeling and dealing picking up Matt Holliday and Mark DeRosa. They missed out on the Christmas sales and paid a steep price in prospects, but they should help a team that has basically been riding a 16-7 April to justify the spending spree.

Brewers - They found an early deal getting Felipe Lopez to play second base for them and you know they're searching far and wide for a starting pitcher. They seemed to scoff at adding Doug Davis into that Lopez deal, but looks like they have their sites set on Wisconsin native, Jarrod Washburn.  Considering they have the third worst ERA in the league, and second worst among starters, I'm not sure adding Washburn and his Safeco-aided ERA is really gonna be much of a boost.

What are you gonna say about last night's game? Rich Harden looked dominating for a second straight game and the offense looked maddening for the about the 60th time this year. There's not a lot of strategy to complain about when the Cubs couldn't even muster a hit. The Cubs need to try to punch through tonight with Carlos Zambrano on the mound versus Father Time to avoid the sweep.


According to Wittenmyer, the Cubs do have some limited payroll flexibility to add a "mid-level" player, but don't expect a run at Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee. Wittenmyer mentions relievers as the most obvious targets and throws out the names of George Sherrill and Chad Qualls. If Geovany Soto has any setbacks recovering from his oblique injury, a catcher will become the focus with Rod Barajas being mentioned.

Milton should be back in the lineup today after a few private hitting sessions with Lou. Lou says he needs to relax at the plate and then spends a few sentences throwing Hendry and Milton under the bus for not getting Raul Ibanez or a left-handed hitter that could actually hit a home run or two.

"The only thing I talked about last season was a need for a left- hand
bat in a predominantly right-handed lineup who could hit the ball for
power and drive in some runs," he said. "You look at our production
last year and it was mainly from the right side.


"We didn't bring [ Jim] Edmonds
back and Edmonds hit quite a few home runs, so we needed a left-handed
bat. That's it. That was what I mentioned, that we could use a nice
productive left-hand bat in the middle of our right-handed hitting."


Piniella paused for some time before finishing his thoughts and finally said:


"Look, we still need a left-hand bat who can hit for some power and drive in runs."

This is as much on Lou as Hendry...as well as Bradley. Fine, Lou wanted a run-producing bat from the left side and Bradley hasn't delivered and Hendry (so far) signed the wrong guy. How about stop being so stubborn and move Bradley from the middle of the order and put him in a spot that his current talents might be better suited for? While I still think he'll start hitting, right now he's nothing more than a guy that can take a walk, move him to the top of the order and let him set-up some guys who are hitting. And while you're complaining about hitting, how about getting Jake Fox a start behind the plate instead of Three-Finger Hill?

You know, I don't think managers are all that important to a team, it starts with the talent, but if there's anything a manager needs to do its to work with the talent he does have and give them the best chance to succeed, not force them into pre-conceived roles that they're not suited for.

The Boston Globe is reporting that the Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago Cubs seem to have the most interest in Pedro Martinez. Both teams have sent scouts down to the Dominican to see him pitch (hitting 94 mph with his fastball) and are beginning to explore just how much it might cost to sign the future HOF'er (I would hope). It's said he's looking for $5 million.

On the surface, it certainly wouldn't make much sense for the Cubs to be looking for another starting pitcher, considering that's been the strongest part of the team. But if the Cubs could sign Pedro, that could open them up to move another starting pitcher for a much needed bat...or two...or five. I would think Z and Dempster are pretty much locks to stay. Lilly would certainly draw interest from contenders but they would probably want to move prospects and that's probably not what the Cubs are looking for and Lilly does have some sort of no-trade clause. Rich Harden is a free agent at the end of the year, so he could be moved to a contender at the deadline, but you run into the same problem of that contender probably wanting to move prospects rather than established talent. So that leaves guys like Sean Marshall or Randy Wells or both and now you might be able to make some moves with teams out of the race and be left with Z, Dempster, Lilly, Harden and Pedro as your rotation. I know I could live with that starting staff.

All just a bit of fun speculating, but we need some fun after the last two days (Thanks to Wes for the link).

The Cubs needed to make a roster move with Randy Wells getting the call-up for today's start. With MIlton Bradley's ridiculous 2-day suspension loooming and Derrek Lee in injury limbo - too hurt to play, not to hurt to be put on the DL - the Cubs are going to ask Joey Gathright to go the minors.  WIth 5+ years of service time under his belt, Gathright can refuse the assignment, but then he forfeits the remainder of his $800K contract and has to hope another team will pick him up. And him getting picked up is an unlikely scenario with a .214 batting average, being a putz in the outfield and getting caught twice stealing to just one successful attempt for a guy whose speed is suppose to be his main tool. Enjoy Iowa Gathright, I hear it's lovely this time of year. Say hi to Jeff Samardzija...and your mother.

On the rumor front (hat tip to VA Phil for the find), the Cubs are interested in utility-man Ryan Freel who seems upset with the Baltimore Orioles. Freel is owed whatever is left on his $3.3M contract this year and can play all three outfield positions along with second and third base. Once an easy bet to steal 30 bases, it looks like he's lost a step but will at least take a walk although he brings almost no power. As an added bonus, Freel also brings his imaginary friend Farney with him....fun on bus rides or when you've accidentally killed a hooker.

"Farney, what have you done?"

So those that had Jake Fox to the Orioles in your trade pools, I think the odds just went up.

In day old news (that high priest and ruler of all men "The Joe" uncovered for us after hours of laboring), Luis Vizcaino will sign a minor league deal with the Cleveland Indians.

Those Jake Peavy talks will probably heat up again once the Ricketts take over the team or Rich Harden hits the disabled list, but just how close were they to completing the trade over the winter?

 They were so close, in fact, that Peavy's side had begun the process of negotiating how much of his salary would be deferred. I's were being dotted, t's were being crossed.

Buster Olney makes it sounds like they were in the middle of the press conference before the red phone rang from Sam Zell to put a stop to the deal. I guess we may never know, but Padres general manager Kevin Towers certainly thought a deal was just about in place, so there's probably more truth than fiction to that story.

The other newsworthy item is that USA Today pegs the Cubs total payroll at $134,809,000. That's the third highest in baseball behind the Mets and Yankees and well ahead of the fourth place Boston Red Sox ($121,745,999).

Troy Renck at The Denver Post says the Rockies might have some interest in Chad Gaudin. And to fill my word quota, here's some excerpts:

As they say goodbye to a respected veteran, the Rockies are attempting to say hello to a new pitcher, exploring trades for the Cubs’ Chad Gaudin and Tampa’s Jason Hammel.


Gaudin is a pitcher the Rockies have liked for the last few years, dating to his days in Oakland. His situation is a bit difference because of his salary. While a player like Hammel would never clear waivers, Gaudin might. There will be a handful of pitchers like him designated for assignment over the next week, which means the final spot in the Rockies’ figures to be a fluid situation.

 

Dallas Braden and Carlos Zambrano will start today's Cactus League game. 

The Angels show up in Mesa today sending prospect Nick Adenhart to the mound -  Sean Marshall will go for the Cubs. Here is the lineup according to Muskat:

LF Alfonso Soriano, CF Kosuke Fukudome, 1B Lee, RF Micah Hoffpauir, 3B
Aramis Ramirez, 2B Mike Fontenot, C Geovany Soto, SS Ryan Theriot, P
Sean Marshall.

Other than Hoffpauir in there for Bradley, it's pretty much what we should expect to see on Opening Day.

On the rumor mill, Paul Sullivan says that Chad Fox will head down to Iowa after the Cubs vs. Yankees series which leaves Patton, Gaudin, Guzman and Samardzija for the final two spots in the bullpen. Sullivan says a trade would have to go down by Wednesday and it looks like the Cubs are trying to move Gaudin or Guzman. Also, Lou said, "There will either be a trade, an option.... anything but (putting one of them through) waivers."

Jake Peavy's not a Cub yet and now it appears Ricketts is keeping the Cubs from signing Orlando Hudson.

It's amazing that a player of this caliber remains unsigned, but lining
up are the Cubs, White Sox, and Dodgers. A few Cubs organizational
people really want Hudson, but the impending transfer of ownership from
the Chicago Tribune to Tom Ricketts may hinder GM Jim Hendry's ability to do anything until it's complete.

Just kidding about the headline of course, but I do hope no one took the Cubs aren't going to be affected by the Tribune's bankruptcy case to heart. The article also includes some quotes from Rich Hill.

In other news, it seems I was off about Henry Blanco being displeased about his playing time, that is if you are to believe Carrie Muskat.

Blanco was the perfect teammate. He was a terrific mentor to Geovany
Soto, who gave the veteran much of the credit for his success after he
won the 2008 National League Rookie of the Year Award. Blanco also
didn't complain about his limited playing time. One reason for the
switch is because Bako gives the Cubs another left-handed bat. The
team's other backup-catcher option is Koyie Hill, a switch-hitter, who
is back after suffering a horrific hand injury.

A good time to point out this nugget that Cubnut uncovered.

Paul Bako's lifetime batting line against RHP: 2015 PA's, .240 / .317 / .321 / 638 OPS
Henry Blanco's lifetime batting line against RHP: 1708 PA's, .222 / .281 / .352 / 633 OPS

Yet another rumor of the Cubs trying to move a player who is out of options. Some of our readers overheard on the radio that the Athletics and Rangers are having talks with the Cubs over Michael Wuertz. Moving Wuertz who is due to make $1.1M in 2009, would free up some salary and some space in the Cubs bullpen and make Kent Sterling a happy man. Under the assumption the Cubs carry 12 pitchers, their current staff would be:

Starters: Zambrano, Dempster, Lilly, Harden, Heilman

Relievers: Marmol, Gregg, Vizcaino, Wuertz*, Cotts*, Guzman*, Gaudin*

* players out of options

I'm guessing on Heilman being the 5th starter, but that wouldn't leave any room for the loser of the 5th starter battle (assuming Samardzija or Marshall are the other competitors), nor any of the non-roster invitees. And I think it would be wiser to try and move these guys before spring training rather than during. The other teams would probably prefer to have them working with their staff for the duration of camp and you don't risk a player getting hurt or sucking up joint so bad that they have almost no trade value and you have to cut them. There's the flip side where they pitch well and you still have to move them and could possibly get more, but there's not a lot of teams that have room on their 25-man roster by the end of spring training.

If the Cubs are dealing with the A's, can they get Sean Gallagher or Josh Donaldson back?

Reports are out that Andy McPhail is adding to his Cubs minor league collection, much like I use to collect G.I. Joes. The latest acquisition looks to be left-hander Rich Hill.

One industry source said it's a "strong possibility" that Hill will
wind up with the Orioles, perhaps as early as next week. The Orioles
will likely give up a player to be named who could be contingent on
Hill's success in Baltimore.

The O's just need to make some room on their 40-man roster for the deal to go down. This would also clear a spot on the Cubs 40-man roster for the new Jose Macias that the Cubs have been in search of lately.

Also, Bruce Levine did a guest spot on XM radio that I heard on my drive home. He said that the Paul Bako signing should go down tomorrow, mentioning $725K as the contract amount. The only other revelation from the interview was Levine saying that Felix Pie was the big hang-up in the Cubs not getting Brian Roberts last offseason.

This was probably posted in the comments, but Bruce Levine on his blog also said that once the Heilman deal is finished - which will clear a spot on the 40-man roster - the Cubs will sign Gabor Paul II Bako on a one year, $750K contract.

The Cubs are also said to be weighing offers on Danny Noonan...err, Rich Hill, and looking at adding another bench player such as Juan Uribe that could cover 2B, SS, 3B and possibly 1B. The Cub seem determined to make it virtually impossible for Micah Hoffpauir to make the team out of camp.

And if this Peavy deal doesn't happen, the Cubs may try and sign Braden Looper or Randy Wolf, to try and make it virtually impossibe for Sean Marshall to break with the team. A good way to keep his service time down I suppose. Of course, I think odds are high Rich Harden will be doing the Mark Prior-spring-training-DL-trip around March 20th routine because he wasn't quite ready when spring training began.

I don't know anything about this pitcher or the site, but it's being reported by Sports Hochi(?) that the Cubs are close to signing left-handed pitcher Ken Takahashi. A 40-year old pitcher (technically 39, he'll be 40 by next April) that had a 3.50 ERA last year in a 115.2 IP last year; the article mentions he could start or pitch out of the bullpen. NPB Tracker that picked up the story says that the Cubs were searching for some support for Kosuke Fukudome.

We tried this with our labrador when she was about two. She tore through everything in the house and outside while me and The Angel Fan Wife were both at work, so we decided to get her a buddy in the name of a dalmation that we affectionately named Wrigley. For the five years we had Wrigley before she passed away they had nothing to do with each other and co-existed like two roommates forced together in a rent-controlled apartment that neither one wants to give up. So my advice to the Cubs is to do your homework and make sure the breeds get along...and make sure they have their shots...don't leave any food out either...make sure at least one of them is fixed as well.


P.S. - If this is indeed a major league deal, the Cubs will need to drop someone off their 40-man roster before it's finalized.

P.P.S. - Some stats from Japanese Ballplayers.com and a more thorough scouting report from NPB Tracker back in late December that included a couple of videos.

P.P.P.S. - Cubs deny the report.

A small blurb in the Boston Herald about the Red Sox going after John Smoltz made me wonder if Smoltz should be the Cubs top target. Oh sure, a 27-year old Jake Peavy not coming off arm surgery sure sounds swell, and the Sun-Times is stoking those fires again.

''Hopefully, we'll still add another pitcher before Opening Day.''  (Jim Hendry)

But the numerous roadblocks to that destination still make it highly unlikely that the Cubs will ever land on planet Peavy. If Hendry is intent on adding another pitcher, and I assume starting pitcher, I sure hope he's looking into John Smoltz over the normal grab bag that has produced Wade Miller, Jon Lieber and Glendon Rusch the last few years. But then of course, considering Smoltz just came off arthroscopic shoulder surgery to fix his labrum, sounds like Smoltz might fit the pattern.

One of our readers ("DB") caught Steve Phillips saying a deal of Jason Marquis to the Colorado Rockies for relief pitcher Luis Vizcaino was "close". Famous last words of any rumor...

MLB Trade Rumors has it as well (apparently part of the update ticker on ESPN2).

Marquis is owed $9.875M and the story out of Colorado yesterday was that they couldn't "absorb hardly any of his $9.8 million salary this season." Cot's Baseball Contracts has Vizcaino as making $3.5M in 2009 and a $4M option in 2010 with a $500K buyout. That would still leave the Rockies on the hook for $6.375M and I'm going to guess that the Cubs are still throwing $1-2M more the Rockies way if this does indeed go down.


6:24 PM CST UPDATE: Reader "DB" is all over it today including an update from Bruce Levine on ESPN 1000. The highlights:

  • Marquis trade may not be competed until next week
  • Deal for Bradley is essentially done but also won't be announced for a week or two
  • Moving Marquis means the Cubs may once again hit up the Padres about Peavy
  • Hendry might try to spin Vizcaino if he does acquire him
  • DeRosa may still need to be moved if they go after Peavy

6:32 PM CST UPDATE: Troy Renck at the Colorado Post makes the deal sound pretty official, although he concurs with Levine that it likely won't be announced until next week. He mentions the Cubs sending $1M to the Rockies. If true, the Cubs take on at least $4M ($3.5M plus a $500K buyout for next year) and send $1M to the Rockies, netting themselves $4.875M in savings, a bit more if you count the $500K buyout towards next season's payroll.


6:50 PM CST UPDATE: Wittenmyer chimes in and says it's at least $875K going to the Rockies. I should also mention that Vizcaino was arrested on a misdeamoner DUI in Florida in October.


7:11 PM CST UPDATE: Rosenthal also says it would be less than $1M headed to the Rockies.


8;25 PM CST UPDATE: Bruce Miles throws a wet blanket on the deal saying it's possible but not done yet. Adding that the deal is essentially in the Rockies hands to approve.

Rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated, but I am finally feeling somewhere close to normal finally. I know you were all worried. 

A whole lot of nothing going on, but Ken Rosenthal is reporting that Mark DeRosa will play in the WBC. I know we were alll waiting for that shoe to drop. Kosukue Fukudome had already been named to play for Team Japan.

In two-day rumors news, Dave Kaplan on WGN radio reported that Adam Dunn's first choice is to play with the Chicago Cubs at a "fair offer". The Cubs first choice is to have Adam Dunn play somewhere else and sign Milton Bradley. The other rumor is that somehow Tim Redding is possibly holding up Jason Marquis getting traded. It seems whomever "loses out" on signing Tim Redding between the Rockies and Mets may pursue our dear fifth starter.

I'll slowly get back in the flow as the week goes on...otherwise enjoy the holidays.

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