The Magic Kingdom?

Updated – 2:27pm C.T. with Arbitration Updates

As all of baseball descends on Orlando with the Winter Meetings getting underway on Monday, the next week should have a huge impact on the Chicago Cubs for the foreseeable future. The Cubs are at a crossroad, if they continue what they have started Jim Hendry and Company could build a winner for the next several seasons on the Northside of Chicago but if they rest on what they have accomplished thus far this off-season there could be an even more disappointing and frustrating season ahead for the boys in blue….but this time with a higher price tag.

The Cubs off-seasons of old seem, at this point, to be a distant memory. But now is when Hendry must fill in those missing pieces to the puzzle, ones that he has mentioned over and over again. The easy part was spending money now the task must be to build a winner….something the City of Chicago and the Faithful are pinning their hopes on.

Here is the latest from around the league and from the rumor mill…. Rewind…. There were several moves this past week throughout the league that have not been mentioned here at the CCO….

To Arbitrate or Not to Arbitrate…. The arbitration deadline was on Friday and several players were not offered arbitration, while several surprising players were….among those offered arbitration was Tony Graffanino and he is a Type A free agent, the Brewers must want to resign him. The Rangers offered Vicente Padilla arbitration. Padilla is a Type B free agent. The Giants did not offer arbitration to Barry Bonds.

Denied…. Alfonso Soriano will not be playing winter ball.

Barry Zito…. According to a report in Newsday, the Cubs are listed, along with the Mets and Rangers, as a possible destination for Zito. The report mentions the Cubs have had discussions with Schmidt.

Jason Schmidt…. According to a report in the Rocky Mountain News, Mark Prior has been speaking with Jason Schmidt and trying to get the right-hander to pitch in Chicago. This blurb was good to read for more than one reason. The Cardinals also entered the ring on the Schmidt sweepstakes this past week according to a report on XM Radio and a report from the Seattle Times mentions the same as well. The Mariners appear to be the front-runner to land the services of Schmidt. The Giants did offer arbitration to Schmidt.

Jason Jennings…. The Rockies appear to be shopping Jennings in case they cannot sign him to a contract extension. The Cardinals, Astros, Yankees, Mets, Twins and Cubs have shown interest in Jennings according to a report in the Denver Post. The Rockies would like a centerfielder and a starting pitcher in return for Jennings if they do trade him.

Jacque Jones…. According to a report by Ken Rosenthal, the Cubs and Rockies have discussed a trade that would send Jones to the Rockies for Jason Jennings and in turn the Cubs would sign Julio Lugo to play center in 2007. Lugo would move to short when Felix Pie is ready to play center in 2008.

Julio Lugo…. As been mentioned several times here at the CCO, according to a report in the Insider section of ESPN.com, the Cubs made an offer this past week to Julio Lugo. There are not an any other outlets reporting this offer and nothing other than the blurb on the rumors section could be found….read into what you want.

J.D. Drew…. According to several reports, the Red Sox are expected to sign Drew at some point this weekend before the Winter Meetings start on Monday.

Miguel Negron and Ryan O’Malley…. The Cubs finally made the roster moves official earlier in the week. Both O’Malley and Negron were DFA’d on November 17th. This past week the St. Louis Cardinals signed Negron to a Minor League contract.

Bo Flowers…. Flowers hung up his baseball cleats this week and has decided to play football for the Illini next season. The Cubs received Flowers (along with Roberto Novoa and Scott Moore) in 2005 as a part of the deal that sent Kyle Farnsworth to the Detroit Tigers.

No Small Roles…. Every player counts, the Sporting News released a few names in a report that were considered “throw-in” players at the time the trade they were involved in was made. With all of the trading that is likely to take place at this year’s Winter Meetings….take a look well worth the read, very surprising and has a good quote from Jim Hendry about Matt Murton.

The Price of Pitching…. Hal Bodley from USA Today.com published a report about how much teams will pay for pitching next week at the Winter Meetings. Well worth the read, and in this writer’s humble opinion it is better to overpay in dollars than in years. Deals over 3 years for a pitcher should have a Surgeon General’s Warning attached.

An Expensive Empire…. The “Evil Empire” struck again on Friday when they announced the price increase to see the Yankees in 2007.

The CCO Off-Season Grader…. Dayn Perry from Fox Sports.com mentioned the worst off-season deals so far this year. As previously mentioned, Perry is not a Cubs’ fan but he knows the game….worth the read.

Hot Stove Talk…. John Donovan from SI.com shared his thoughts recently on all of this off-season movement to this point.

The Meetings…. Jon Heyman from SI.com mentioned his hot topics for next weeks meetings.

Daily Transactions from ESPN.com

Daily Transactions from CBS SportsLine

Well, that the latest from the news room and rumor mill….and I’m sticking to it!!!

Update - According to a report in the New York Daily News the Mets did not offer arbitration to Cliff Floyd and according to a report in the LA Daily News the Dodgers did offer arbitration to Julio Lugo, but they did not offer arbitration to either Kenny Lofton or Greg Maddux. Lugo is a Type A free agent.