Between the Lines

The apparent announcement of the signing of Jason Marquis on Saturday divided the Faithful more than any other off-season move to this point. While the signing appears it will happen, several reports on Sunday stated that Marquis had not agreed to terms with the Cubs as reported here as well as countless other sites of the like. But the biggest part of the soon-to-be-acquisition was that Greg Maddux recommended to his friend, Jason Marquis, that he talk to Larry Rothschild about his pitching mechanics. An endorsement from Maddux about both Rothschild and Marquis has to give a little more credibility to both of their abilities….granted Maddux is not the end all be all of pitching but after all he is Greg Maddux.

Here is the latest from around the league, an updated off-season calendar and of course the daily dose of rumors….

More on Marquis and the Projected Payroll for 2007…. While Marquis may or may not be the answer for the 4th or 5th spot in the rotation, no one will know for sure until the season starts, but the fact remains the Cubs still have room to add players under their rumored payroll for next season of $120 to $130 million dollars. The Cubs, to the best of this writer’s knowledge, have not announced what the payroll will be for next season but suffice it to say with the contracts Jim Hendry has given out there is room to add pieces to the puzzle. Until the details on Lilly’s contract and the apparent contract of Marquis are released, there is not a way to know for sure where they stand for 2007. Granted it looks as they have spent a lot of money, around $300 million, but the numbers per year cannot be figured as of yet and that number is the most important….don’t worry about 2008 or beyond until next off-season.

The Center of Attention…. Who will be in center for the Cubs in 2007? Several reports have indicated Alfonso Soriano will likely play right field for the Cubs next season, which would leave Matt Murton and a possible platoon partner for left. Cliff Floyd is on the radar and some feel Murton’s upside might be a better option in left next year which would put a player like Floyd on the bench and make him one of the role players that Piniella has stated the Cubs must sign. Jacque Jones’ future with the Cubs is still in question as he as requested a trade; Felix Pie needs time in Iowa as well as Eric Patterson. The Cubs need a lefty to fill the void in center and a return to the Northside for Kenny Lofton is a possibility. Ryan Church entered the rumor mill last week in Orlando but according to a report in the Chicago Sun-Times those talks have cooled. Kenny Lofton has been rumored to be looking for a $6 million dollar salary and with the fact most teams would want pitching in return (the Nationals were rumored to be asking for Sean Marshall for Church) giving Lofton a 1-year deal and Pie time might be the best answer. A report by Ken Rosenthal late on Sunday night stated that Kenny Lofton and the Rangers were close to signing a 1-year deal. If the Rangers do sign Lofton, Brad Wilkerson could be non-tendered by the Rangers and could be an option for the Cubs if his shoulder is fully recovered. Wilkerson’s career OBP (.358/.306 in 2006) would be a good addition but his career batting average would not be (.252/.222 in 2006). A report in the Chicago Tribune mentioned Brady Clark and Aaron Rowand could become available and Darin Erstad, Bernie Williams and Steve Finley are the remaining centerfielders on the free-agent list.

Daryle Ward…. The contract that Ward reportedly agreed to last week is believed to be for 1-year with a club option for the second. This could be one of those signings that makes little noise but pays big dividends. Ward’s numbers were impressive as a role player last season with the Nationals and Braves.

.308/7/26/.380/.546 in 98 games, 130 at bats, 10 doubles
vs. RHP – .345/7/26/.412/.619 in 113 at bats

Against left handed pitching he obviously struggles, but how many times last season did the Cubs need a big bat off of the bench and John Mabry was the only option and he could not deliver. If the Cubs are going to have a predominately right handed starting lineup, role players like Ward is a necessity.

Glendon Rusch…. The first mention of Rusch this off-season was on Sunday. Rusch’s health has put the future of the much-maligned pitcher in question. Rusch is recovering from a pulmonary embolism and is on blood thinners and according to a report from Paul Sullivan he is not expected back until the middle of next year….and to quote Sullivan “at best.”

The Wild Card…. Remember the name of Clay Rapada

Kerry Wood…. Wood was on WGN TV on Sunday night and spoke about his off-season training and becoming a reliever in 2007. He said he will be ready, the shoulder feels good and according to the report he has lost 30 pounds. Wood will be on WGN News Tuesday night at 9:00pm C.T. to finish the interview.

The Central is Scrabbling…. The Houston Astros and St. Louis Cardinals have more holes in their staff right now than the Cubs. Andy Pettitte’s decision to return to the Yankees and the possibility of Roger Clemens following him back to the Bronx has left the Astros scrambling for starters. The Astros are still talking to the Rockies about Jason Jennings but the Rockies are asking for either Willy Taveras or Dan Wheeler and Jason Hirsch in return. The Astros are rumored to have had a deal for Jon Garland in place last week but that fell through but the Houston Chronicle has stated the deal is still a possibility. Jennings is apparently reluctant to sign an extension with just a year left before he hits the market and with the contracts pitchers have received to this point Jennings is looking to test the market next off-season. A move that involved Jennings to the Cubs might prove to be more costly than the Juan Pierre deal last year….the Rockies are wanting top prospects and Major League talent for Jennings….not low level prospects.

The Astros are left without Pettitte for a difference of $4 million dollars after just paying Carlos Lee an average salary $16.6 million dollars a year. For the last three seasons the Astros have had arguably the best rotation in the National League but could not score enough runs, now they have a run producer but after Roy Oswalt and Woody Williams a bunch of pitchers with promise and talent….just ask Richard Justice. Justice thinks the Astros will now have to overpay for Jeff Suppan, a move that would have multiple effects on the Cubs.

The Cardinals on the other hand have the same problem as the Astros, plenty of offense but not any proven starters in the rotation behind Chris Carpenter and newly signed Kip Wells. The Cardinals are pursuing Miguel Batista but lost out to Jason Schmidt and have had thoughts of putting Braden Looper in their rotation….something he has never done at the big league level. The Cardinals have even requested medical records on Carl Pavano because they are not willing to pay the $10 million dollar annual contract that Jeff Suppan is seeking.

Jason Schmidt…. According to a report in the L.A. Times, Schmidt chose the Dodgers because of his relationship with Ned Colletti.

Gil Meche…. Ken Rosenthal tried to justify the signing of Meche, a million dollars per career victory.

The Cubs spending spree is on everyone’s mind this off-season….here is the latest from Phily.

Matsuzaka and Boras…. The Red Sox have until December 14th to sign Daisuke Matsuzaka and according to a report on FoxSports.com it is not looking like the two sides will be able to agree to a deal by then. The Red Sox paid $51.1 million to negotiate with him and have offered him a contract worth between $7 and $8 million annually for 4 to 6 years and Boras is asking for $15 million a year. This could get very ugly for the relationship between MLB and Japanese Baseball.

Updated Off-Season Calendar…. Tuesday is another big day for Major League Baseball, it is the last day to tender contracts to players, maybe Jim Hendry can find a jewel in the bunch. The Angels, a couple of years back, decided not to tender a contract to David Eckstein, the Cardinals stepped in and signed him….here are the rest of the important dates for this off-season.

2006

December 12 – Last Day to Tender Contracts to Players

2007

January 4 – Spring Training Single Game Ticket Go on Sale
January 5 – 15 – Salary Arbitration Filing Period
January 18 – Salary Arbitration Figures Exchanged
January 19 – 21 – 22nd Annual Cubs Convention
February 1 – 21 – Salary Arbitration Hearings
February 15 – Pitchers and Catchers Report to Spring Training
February 23 – Regular Season Single Game Tickets Go on Sale
February 27 – Hall of Fame Veterans Committee Results Announced
February 27 – Mandatory Spring Training reporting date for all players
March 1 – Spring Training Opening Day in Mesa against the Giants
April 1 – MLB Opening Day
April 2 – Opening Day for Chicago Cubs in Cincinnati

Well, that’s the latest from around the league and I’m sticking to it!!!!

Quote of the Day

"No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it to anyone else." - Charles Dickens
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