Cubs Off-Season Rumors – The Winter Meetings – Day One

More Cubs Rumors

As the entire baseball world descended on Dallas the biggest story out of Day One of the Winter Meetings was the announcement of the World Baseball Classic(WBC). 177 Major League players agreed to play in the WBC, including 6 of our Cubbies. Michael Barrett, Henry Blanco, Derrek Lee, Jose Macias, Neifi Perez and Carlos Zambrano. Scroll down to ‘Cubs News from the Wire’, click on the link and go directly to the entire article on Cubs.com to find out more about this exciting event.

The Cubs Rumor Mill and Major League Hot Stove were warming up for what I think will be a HUGE Tuesday. I have updates from Monday on Nomar Garciaparra, Julio Lugo, A.J. Burnett, Corey Patterson, Sammy Sosa, Johnny Damon, Barry Zito, Milton Bradley, Alfonso Soriano, Kevin Mench, Kerry Wood, Todd Walker, Mark Grudzielanek Aubrey Huff, Juan Pierre and an interesting tidbit from Peter Gammons that could effect Matt Clement’s future with the Red Sox, plus an addition to the Cubs Rumor Mill: Brad Wilkerson.

Nomar Garciaparra’s name is everywhere this off-season including Ryne Sandberg’s new column on Yahoo Sports (scroll down to Cubs News from the Wire, ‘Market Swings’). Nomar has been mentioned to be able to fix everyone’s needs….except the Cubs. The Baltimore Orioles and the Los Angeles Dodgers are the teams showing the most interest, with everyone thinking Nomar will be added to a roster, the question is when and most are thinking late in the off-season.

Julio Lugo has become a VERY hot commodity after the recent signing of Rafael Furcal. Marc Topkin from the St. Petersburg Times was on Baseball Beat with Charley Steiner and he said the Devil Rays are looking for prospects that will make a difference in 2007, not 2006. Topkin went on to say the Devil Rays will trade their foundation (Julio Lugo and Aubrey Huff) for elite prospects or young Major League talent with a lot of potential (can we say Sergio Mitre). The Devil Rays know they will be worse in 2006, but they are willing to sacrifice for the possibility of a good 2007 season. Topkin said the Devil Rays are looking for starting and relief pitching and a third baseman, depending on who gets traded this off-season. There were many Internet reports and newspaper articles that tied the Cubs in with both Lugo and Huff on Monday.

The A.J. Burnett sweepstakes continued on Monday. A report from Ronnie Lane on MLB Live (XM Radio) said the Blue Jays raised their offer to Burnett from 5 years, $50 million to 5 years and between $52.5-$55 million dollars. The Texas Rangers and the Washington Nationals are still interested and no word has come from the Cardinals on the 4-year, $40 million dollar offer that was made to Burnett last week. John Donovan from SI.com said on Monday, ‘a 5-year contract is too much for a pitcher, much less an everyday player’.

A report came out late on Monday from the Winter Meetings….look for the New York Mets to sign Mark Grudzielanek in the next 24-48 hours and possibly Sammy Sosa after the Winter Meetings. According to the Chicago Tribune, Sosa said on Monday several teams have contacted him and Omar Minaya, who signed Sosa to his first contract with the Rangers, said Sosa deserves a chance to play after he has recovered from all of his injuries. Ronnie Lane thinks he will sign a Minor League contract.

Evan Grant from the Dallas Morning news was on Baseball Beat with Charley Steiner and he said Alfonso Soriano and Kevin Mench should be traded during the Winter Meetings. The Rangers want a starter and/or a reliever for their pitching staff. Grant said Soriano will go after Julio Lugo and mentioned the Cubs as being a possible destination. When asked about the possibility of moving Soriano to the outfield, Grant’s response was ‘could result in zero production and will become cranky’. Grant said Mench is on the verge of becoming very good and is a possible .280-.290, 30-35 home run guy. Grant said Mench’s defense is better than it appears and has to mature at his approach to the game. Grant said ‘whoever ends up with Mench, could end up getting more than they imagine’. Another report on XM mentioned a trade that would send Jason Marquis to the Rangers for Alfonso Soriano. (I think the Cardinals are waiting on A.J. Burnett to see how much money they have left….) Also, Seth Everett from MLB.com when asked about the Kerry Wood, Corey Patterson and Todd Walker to the Rangers for Soriano and Mench….his response was ‘he would make that trade’.

The Oakland A’s and the Los Angeles Dodgers are discussing a trade that would send Barry Zito to the Dodgers for Milton Bradley (….hello….Mr. Hendry….go get Barry Zito!!!). Billy Beane also said on Monday he has no interest in trading Barry Zito….we have all heard that one before.

Buck Martinez on XM’s morning show mentioned the possibility of Corey Patterson being traded to the Marlins (straight up) for Juan Pierre. According to Martinez, someone in the Marlins organization likes Corey Patterson. Martinez went onto explain they both had bad years and could help both teams and on the same note….the Washington Nationals’ GM Jim Bowden has expressed interest in Corey Patterson. The trade to the Nationals would be for Brad Wilkerson.

Wilkerson is a decent player, I just do not think he is the answer to fill any of the HUGE holes the Cubs have in their outfield. Wilkerson might be a good bench player, but that is all. The 28-year old lefty hit .248 for the Nats in 2005. Wilkerson had a .351 OBP, a .405 SLG and hit 11 home runs to go along with 57 RBI’s. He had a lot of strikeouts (147), but he can play first base and all of the outfield positions. Wilkerson is a better option than Patterson, but I think Corey could be packaged and help acquire a bigger piece to the puzzle.

Mark Patrick reported on Monday morning, the Red Sox and Johnny are not close on a new deal and the Red Sox do not want to give Damon a 7-year deal. Holden Kushner brought up an interesting question. If the Cubs were willing to give Furcal a 5-year, $50 million dollar deal then why not give the same deal to Johnny Damon? He said the Cubs have a good core of players in their prime (Prior, Zambrano, Lee, Ramirez) and maybe Damon could push them over the top. Very interesting….

Peter Gammons was on Baseball Beat on Monday afternoon and said the Red Sox will be lucky to get 20 starts out of Josh Beckett in 2006. A MRI revealed a bad injury that almost voided the trade. Could this be what keeps Matt Clement in Boston?

Over the next few months while we are waiting for the season to start and you start to get down on the Cubbies, remember this….as of December 5th, the Marlins have trimmed their payroll from $90 million in 2005 to $22 million with at least Juan Pierre left to go.

The Rule 5 draft is Thursday, and December 7th is the deadline for teams to decide if they will offer salary arbitration to players. 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 up to the minute Winter Meeting updates in ‘Cubs News from the Wire’….as the deals happen you will be able to read about them there.

Well, that’s the news (Cubs rumors) from the first day of the Winter Meetings and I’m sticking to it!!

Quote of the Day

"Don't wish it were easier. Wish you were better." - Jim Rohn

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