Another Weekend Update

One week ago it appeared inevitable the Cubs would lose their All-Star 3rd baseman, arguably the best at his position in the league and a key piece to the mandate from John McDonough that the Cubs would compete in 2007. The deadline came and went but Jim Hendry was able to resign Aramis Ramirez for less than the apparent market value. While many have viewed this signing as that of a non-move, keeping Ramirez and Kerry Wood for under market value sent a message to the rest of the league. The GM Meetings were a prelude to the activity that is just around the corner at the Winter Meetings. Teams are spending money at a record pace and many think that trades will be where the real deals will be done. The amount of money being paid out to middle-of-the-road talent is unparalleled as baseball is flooded with more money than it has been in the history of the game.

While the Cubs resigned Ramirez, Wood, Miller and Blanco, signed Mark DeRosa and traded for Neal Cotts….what is the next step? Many think Alfonso Soriano will not sign with any team before the Winter Meetings and when he does it could be a contract worth $20 million dollars a year for at least 6 years. The teams in the bidding war for Soriano all have a Plan B, so do the Cubs have one? Apparently so….here is the latest from around the league, a few unbelievable contracts, a change in the front office, injury updates and of course, the latest from the mill…. Turn Up the Heat…. The Cubs are on the market and while most are looking at the off-season additions to team on the field, everyone should be paying just as much attention to who will soon own the team. There will be an ownership change and the Tribune Company no longer owning the team will be the biggest step in turning around the fortune of the organization. Bidding could start at $600 million dollars with some speculating the sale cost could reach a billion dollars.

Alfonso Soriano…. By now it is well known the Astros have made an offer to Soriano and the Phillies have had in depth conversations with Soriano’s agents on multiple occasions. The Angels are going to be players in the Soriano sweepstakes but the Phillies are convinced Soriano wants to stay in the National League and in the Eastern Time Zone. Mark Patrick and Buck Martinez thinks the Phillies are the team most likely to overpay for Soriano. They feel the Phillies are just one bat away from being able to take the next step and actually make the playoffs….something they have come very close at doing over the past two seasons….they were eliminated in the last weekend the past two years. Buck Martinez used the phrase “most desperate” in reference to the Phillies and signing Soriano. Martinez feels the Astros announcement was just to satisfy the fans but both think Woody Williams will actually end up in Houston and used the phrase “a good fit” especially with the fact Williams attended the University of Houston.

The Phillies met with Soriano’s agents, Pat Rooney, Fern Cuza and Diego Benz, at the GM Meetings and appear to be willing to meet or beat the 7-year, $120 million dollar deal that is rumored to be on the table from the Angels and Cubs. The Phillies feel they have a better bargaining chip with Soriano than the Cubs….a 66 win season compared to a lineup that includes Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard. Julio Lugo appears to be the backup plan for centerfield if Soriano is not signed as well as J.D. Drew. The Cubs appear to be less interested in Juan Pierre as everyday passes and Gary Matthews, Jr. is apparently asking for more than the 3-year, $30 million dollar offer the Giants have on the table for both players.

Bill Mueller…. The former Cub announced his retirement on Friday but he will remain with the Dodgers as special assistant to Ned Colletti.

Alex Gonzalez…. No, not that one….the other one is close to signing a new contract with the Reds rumored to be worth $15 million dollars over 3 years according to several reports including one in the Boston Herald. And everyone thought the Cubs over paid for Mark DeRosa. Gonzalez signing with the Reds could end up being beneficial to the Cubs, if Julio Lugo does reunite with Lou Piniella the Cubs would have a trading chip in Cesar Izturis and/or Ronny Cedeno.

Jason Jennings…. The Rockies are shopping Jennings but how interested are the Cubs? Some think the Cubs could trade Felix Pie and Michael Wuertz for Jennings, who will be a free agent after the 2007 season. But according to a report in the Chicago Tribune, the Rockies are looking for Rich Hill from the Cubs for Jennings. Hill has been labeled untouchable.

Jake Westbrook…. Westbrook’s name surfaced over the past week in the Cubs rumor mill and there was even an Internet rumor that a deal between the Cubs and Indians had been made….it was just that a rumor. Westbrook to the Cubs was discussed by Mark Patrick and Buck Martinez on Friday and Martinez thinks Westbrook would be a great fit with the Cubs and would be very successful at Wrigley with the sinker he possess. Westbrook is a slow starter but always finishes strong and with pitching in Cleveland he would be used to the climate at Wrigley in April and early May.

Sharon Pannozzo…. The long-time Media Director of the Cubs resigned on Friday but will remain with the team until the end of the year. Pannozzo has been with the Cubs since 1982.

Injury Update…. According to a report on Cubs.com, Mark Prior, Cesar Izturis and Jacque Jones are making progress on rehabbing their injuries this off-season. Prior is working out 6 days a week with a personal trainer in San Diego. Izturis had a MRI a few weeks back and was cleared to begin his off-season training program. And despite playing in Japan, Jones is in San Diego working on his shoulder issues with Prior’s trainer.

Barry Zito…. According to a report in the New York Post, Barry Zito will be a New York Met. When did they start signing checks?

Kei Igawa…. Igawa was posted on Friday and according to a report in the Chicago Tribune the Cubs are likely not going to bid for the rights to negotiate with the left hander with adding Neal Cotts to the mix on Thursday.

Nomar Garciaparra…. Nomar appears to be off of the market, several reports have indicated the Dodgers are very close at resigning him for a multi-year deal.

Free Agent Signings from ESPN….check out the deals being signed

Daily Transactions from ESPN

Daily Transactions from CBS SportsLine

Well, that’s the news, rumors and just a bunch of stuff….and I’m sticking to them!!!!