Cubs SS Ryan Theriot officially qualified for post-2009 salary arbitration yesterday, and Aaron Heilman hit five years of MLB service time a week ago, meaning that although he has two minor league options left, he can't be sent to the minors without his permission.
Also, the Cubs have released OF Richie Robnett from AAA Iowa and RHP Jesse Estrada from AA Tennessee, and have signed minor league FA OF John-Ford Griffin, with Griffin replacing Robnett on the I-Cubs roster.
Robnett was one of two players the Cubs got from Oakland for Michael Wuertz in February. The other one (INF Justin Sellers) was traded to LAD at the end of Minor League Camp for a PTBNL (or ca$h) and is presently at AA Chattanooga. I wonder how Wuertz is doing at Oakland?
Now 28, Griffin was the Yankees 1st round draft pick out of Florida State in 2001, and was rated by Baseball America as a Top 100 prospect and one of the Yankees Top 10 prospects in 2002, and one of the A's Top 10 Prospects in 2003 after he was traded to Oakland along with Ted Lilly in the deal that sent 1B Carlos Pena and RHP Franklyn German from OAK to DET and RHP Jeff Weaver from DET to NYY.
Griffin hit 310/386/527 at Las Vegas (Dodgers AAA) in 2008, but was released by the Dodgers recently after hitting only .122 with 13 K in only 41 PA in his first 16 games in AAA in 2009. He has logged 13 games in the big leagues (with Toronto 2005-07), and he will be a Rule 55 minor league FA post-2009 if he is not added to the Cubs 40-man roster by the end of the World Series.
In addition, LHP James Russell has been promoted from Tennessee to Iowa and LHP Jayson Ruhlman has been demoted from Iowa back to Tennessee, and RHP Marco Carrillo has been promoted from Daytona to Tennessee (replacing Estrada). The son of ex-MLB closer Jeff Russell, James Russell was the Cubs 14th round draft pick of out the U. of Texas in 2007, although he got "3rd round money" to give up his college career (he dropped to the 14th round only because he was considered to be a "tough sign," because he was telling everybody that he wanted to return to Texas for his senior season). Along with 2008 draft picks RHP Jay Jackson and RHP Casey Coleman (who is also the son of an ex-MLB pitcher), Russell is one of the more-polished pitchers in the Cubs system.
Drafted by the Cubs out of a Texas JC in 2004 but signed as a "Draft & Follow" in May 2005, the now 25-year old 6'8 300+ Estrada progressed steadily through the Cubs system over the past few seasons, and was considered enough of a prospect that the Cubs sent him to the AFL last fall, and he looked OK there. But he was not added to the Cubs 40-man roster in November, and then he pitched poorly at Minor League Camp in march with Iowa, where he was given every opportunity to nab a spot in the I-Cubs starting rotation. So instead he began the 2009 season in the Iowa bullpen, but he was demoted to Tennessee earlier this month, and he continued to perform poorly when given a chance to start at AA.
Besides the PTBNL the Cubs are yet to get back from the Dodgers for Sellers, the Cubs are stilled owed a PTBNL from BAL (for LHP Rich Hill), one from OAK (for RHP Rocky Roquet), and another from TOR (for RHP Dumas Garcia), although I wouldn't be surprised if the Cubs will get ca$h instead in all four cases (probably around $20,000, which they could use to claim a player off waivers at a time & place of their own choosing).
And Rule 5 LHP Donald Veal is still on the Pirates 25-man roster. although he has appeared in only one game in the last three weeks (and he has pitched in just five games & logged only 6.1 IP so far in 2009), although he did throw two innings in relief versus the Astros last night.