The Cubs Off-Season Report – 12/16/05

More Cubs Rumors

The Chicago Cubs Rumor Mill and Major League Hot Stove had a lot of action on Wednesday and Thursday, but most of the news….was NO news. I have been listening and reading ALL of the frustration of the Cubs Faithful over the inactivity since the Winter Meetings ended last week. Everyday I keep hoping Jim Hendry will add another piece to the puzzle that will be the 2006 Chicago Cubs….but nothing. I keep reminding myself it is only December, I have yet to see Santa and pitchers and catchers do not report until February 15th. I am not a patient person….but with the Cubs I have to be.

Most of the news on Wednesday and Thursday surrounded Nomar Garciaparra, Corey Patterson and the two trade proposals reported in the Chicago Sun Times on Thursday. I do have news on Kevin Mench, Jacque Jones, Johnny Damon, Bill Mueller, Jarrod Washburn, Kevin Millwood, Kenny Lofton, Austin Kearns, Kerry Wood, Joey Gathright, the possible effects on the Cubs on the Javier Vazquez trade and the signing of Carl Everett in Seattle, plus some cool info from a Tampa Bay Devil Rays site on Julio Lugo and Aubrey Huff.

Nomar Garciaparra has been EVERYWHERE for the past two days. Several reports suggested Nomar could actually make his decision on Thursday, and then a late night report said a decision could come by Friday. If I hear it, you will read it here. Nomar has been reported to have narrowed his decision down to 4 teams: the Indians, Yankees, Astros and Dodgers. On Wednesday, the Baltimore Orioles announced they were no longer interested in signing Nomar. According to two different reports from the New York Post, apparently both Joe Torre and Jason Giambi have called Nomar to persuade him to play for the Yankees. If Nomar lands in New York, the Yankees would have the 3 best shortstops in the game (5 years ago)….in the same infield. Richard Justice from the Houston Chronicle was on Baseball Beat on Wednesday with Chuck Wilson and he said Nomar could be too expensive for the Astros. Justice thinks Nomar is looking for $6 million dollars a year and another former Cub; Rondell White could be a more cost effective option (let’s hope so). Buck Martinez mentioned on Thursday morning that Nomar would be a good fit for the Cardinals and that is the kind of deal Walt Jocketty is known for and with the uncertainty of Scott Rolen’s health, Nomar could play third….I almost wrecked my car when I heard that….first the Astros….now the Cardinals….PLEASE STOP!!! According to Mark Patrick, Nomar was brought up on a Red Sox off-season TV show in the Boston area, and the new general managers in Boston said Nomar would not be brought back to play shortstop, but first base would be an option. Patrick went on to say with the recent signing for the Dodgers, there might not be room for Nomar there. When he said that, I thought about the Grady Little connection. Nomar met with the new Dodgers GM, Ned Colletti, on Thursday and according to the meeting went well. Stan McNeal from the Sporting News thinks Nomar will end up in Southern California. As long as it is not St. Louis or Houston….

The announcement of the Cubs plans to offer salary arbitration to Corey Patterson on Wednesday sent shock waves through Wrigley Field and if it were not so cold in Chicago there would probably be picketers outside right now. I do not know how this is going to play out. I think it was better to make the offer than to lose Patterson, I just do not know how he could ever be successful in Chicago. He has the tools and if he could finally put it together….it would be amazing to watch.

A report in the Chicago Sun Times on Thursday stated that Jim Hendry is waiting on two trade proposals concerning the vacancy in right field. The article went on to explain Hendry has contacted the agent for Jacque Jones but is unwilling to commit to the 3-year contract Jones is seeking because of the Cubs future plans concerning Felix Pie. The Kansas City Royals have reportedly offered Jones a 3-year, $15 million dollar contract.

On Wednesday, Bill Mueller signed a 2-year, $9.75 million dollar contract with the Dodgers….the Grady Little effect.

The Texas Rangers General Manager, Jon Daniels, was on the XM morning show on Wednesday. Daniels confirmed that Brad Wilkerson is not on the trading block and mentioned the core group of Rangers that included Wilkerson and Kevin Mench. Daniels said he had received more calls about the availability of Wilkerson over the past week than in the past two years on the availability of Alfonso Soriano.

There have been multiple reports concerning Johnny Damon over the past couple of days. The Dodgers are now in the mix for Damon after the recent trade of Milton Bradley. The Dodgers are reported to have offered Damon a 5-year, $49 million dollar contract according to the New York Post. A report (XM Radio) late on Thursday said Damon is not happy with all of the change in the Red Sox front office and he is unlikely to return to Boston. According to the Newark Star Ledger, Damon wants to play for Grady Little. A report on XM said the Yankees are prepared to offer Damon the best 4-year deal possible and in the same report, the Red Sox offered Damon a 4-year, $40 million dollar contract. Stan McNeal from the Sporting News thinks Scott Boras is using the Yankees as a bargaining chip to help increase Damon’s new contract.

The Dodgers and Diamondbacks are interested in Kenny Lofton and according to ESPN the Dodgers have made an offer to Kenny Lofton.

According to Mark Patrick and Buck Martinez either Jarrod Washburn or Kevin Millwood could end up in Seattle. The Mariners just signed Jaime Moyer to a new one-year contract and is looking to add another starting pitcher. According to several reports the Mariners have offered Kevin Millwood a 4-year, $44 million dollar contract and Scott Boras is looking for a 5-year contract.

According to reports on ESPN and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays are close to a deal that would send Joey Gathright to the Marlins for pitching prospect Scott Olsen. Olsen was 1-1 with a 3.58 ERA in 5 games for the Marlins in 2005.

Brad Kullman the Director of Major League Operations for the Cincinnati Reds was on Fantasy Focus on Thursday. Jeff Erickson from RotoWire asked him about Austin Kearns. Kullman said Kearns could be a bench player for the Reds in 2006 or possibly even being sent back to AAA to get more playing time.

Phil Rogers from the Chicago Tribune was on Baseball Beat with Joe Castellano on Thursday. This guy??? Rogers is still pushing the idea of the Cubs sending Carlos Zambrano to the Orioles for Miguel Tejada. Joe asked him why did the Cubs not keep Nomar and Rogers said the Cubs do not trust his legs. He said if the Cubs had openings in either left field or third base, they would have kept him. Rogers said he does not think Matt Murton could play right field and if he could that would open up options for the Cubs. He said he thought Kerry Wood still has a great upside and the Cubs would have to take risks to be successful in 2006. He went on to say Woody needs to win 15 – 18 games next year and he has never done that before. Rogers also said Wood will not be on the Opening Day roster, but will be ready soon after and he is surprised he has not heard about any free agent starting pitchers talking to the Cubs. Rogers thinks they will add another starter before the season starts.

Speaking of starting pitching, the recent addition of Javier Vazquez to the starting rotation of the Chicago White Sox could mean Jon Garland is now on the trading block. Several reports on Thursday said the Sox had attempted to extend Garland’s contract, but he wants to test the free-agent market after the 2006 season (The A.J. Burnett effect). A report on XM on Thursday said the Cardinals have contacted the Sox about the availability of Jon Garland.

Free agent Carl Everett signed with the Seattle Mariners on Thursday to a one-year deal. Could this free up Raul Ibanez? I know Everett will be primarily used as a DH. Everett can still hit and could the Mariners trade Ibanez to free up money for a starting pitcher and put a more cost effective player in the outfield?

With all of the recent rumors surrounding Miguel Tejada, the talk of the Cubs acquiring Julio Lugo and Aubrey Huff have all but disappeared. I think this is an avenue the Cubs should continue to explore. We have all read the stats and what the experts think, but what do the Tampa Bay Devil Rays’ fans think of Lugo and Huff. I found a VERY good Devil Rays site and emailed them to find out what they think of Lugo and Huff. Sam emailed back and this is what he had to say:

“Are they good players? Depends. Lugo is undeniably a very solid shortstop. He’s probably never gonna be a star, but in terms of skills he’s a very good guy to have on your baseball team. Speedy. Good baserunner. Good quickness in the field, hence great range. Excellent defensive SS, although common fans tend to focus overmuch on the errors. He makes his share of errors, true, but he makes up for that by getting to a lot of batted balls that most shortstops don’t reach. He’s also a fine hitter for a shortstop — at least, for a shortstop not named ARod, Miggy, Jeter, or Nomar. Hits for good average, good power for the position, decent plate patience. All that, and he’s moderately priced. And for what it’s worth, Lou Piniella loved him in the clubhouse, too.

Needless to say, I have a lot respect for Lugo as a ballplayer. If he’s traded this winter, somebody’s going to have a fine catch on their hands.

Huff is a harder read. Obviously his past numbers speak for themselves, but 2005 was a bad year at the plate for Huff, obviously. Personally, I think he’ll rebound. But baseball’s GM’s aren’t as convinced. Huff has drawn interest from several teams, but none of them has been interested in parting with the kind of talent the Rays are asking.

As far as skills go, he plays multiple positions, but he’s a poor fielder at all of them. He can hit for average and power, but he has a tendency to be a second-half hitter. Most years he’s very slow out of the gate in the early months. He’s not particularly patient either. Average at best. And it isn’t to be forgotten that The Trop is generally friendlier to lefty hitters. Nor is Huff considered good in the clubhouse. He can be overfree with his opinions to the media, IMHO, not to mention that he’s often quite cynical. But he says what he thinks when he speaks, I’ve gotta give him that.

Both guys have a year apiece left on their respective contracts.”

If you get a chance, check those guys out….VERY COOL. I really appreciated Sam getting back with me….it is always good to get another opinion.

For all of the Cubs Off-Season Rumors and Reports go to the ‘If The Ivy Could Talk – Cubs Rumors’ in the Category Section of the CCO

The next few days should be interesting. December 20th is the last day for teams to tender 2006 contracts to unsigned players. Those not tendered become free agents. Remember to check back for your Cubs Off-Season reports. If anything happens it will be in ‘Cubs News from the Wire’ and you will be able to read about the Cubbies here.

Well, that’s the news (Cubs Rumors) and I’m sticking to it!!

Quote of the Day

"Don’t ever permit the pressure to exceed the pleasure." - Joe Maddon