Put a Bow on It

Updated – 9:41am C.T. with Rule 5 Draft Results, Jim Hendry had an Angioplasty and Gil Meche Close to Signing with the Kansas City Royals

Updated – 1:00pm C.T. – Gil Meche Agrees to terms with the Royals on a 5-year, $55 Million Dollar Contract and Cubs Nearing a Deal with Daryle Ward

Updated – 5:09pm C.T. with Updated Info on the Rule 5 Draft, Ward Signs with the Cubs and the PTBNL from the Bynum Trade

The Winter Meetings conclude on Thursday with the Rule 5 Draft and after a relatively slow start there was quite a bit of activity on Wednesday. The Cubs agreed to terms with Ted Lilly and several reports have indicated the Cubs are still one of the favorites to sign free agent Gil Meche. Kenny Lofton and Cliff Floyd are still in the rumor mill and a new name….that of one Ryan Church. Lou Piniella was on XM Radio talking Cubs’ baseball with Charley Steiner and Jacque Jones is still on the trading block.

On more of a serious note, Jim Hendry was hospitalized on Wednesday afternoon and ESPN reported the cause was exhaustion. The Cubs front office has not issued a formal statement but all indications were, whatever is going on with Hendry, is not life threatening.

$273 million and counting….

Ted Lilly…. According to a report by Paul Sullivan in the Tribune, Lilly left around $5 million dollars on the table from the Blue Jays to sign with the Cubs.

Ryan Church…. According to a report in the Washington Post the Cubs are interested in trading for the lefty.

Gil Meche…. Most think with Lilly signing with the Cubs, Meche will end up with the Blue Jays. A report on Rotoworld.com on Wednesday stated the Cubs were close to signing Meche until the Blue Jays upped the contract to 4 years and $40 million dollars. According to a report in the Chicago Tribune by Paul Sullivan, the Cubs and the Mariners are also atop Meche’s list.

Kenny Lofton…. According to a report in the Dallas Morning News, the Rangers were very interested in signing the former Cub. According to the report, Lofton is looking for a $6 million dollar annual salary and most think Lofton would sign a 1-year deal. According to a report on NBCSports.com and Rotoworld, the Rangers are discussing a 2-year deal with Jay Payton because they have not made much progress with Lofton (according to MLB.com), “a signal that he could be on his way to rejoining the Cubs.” The Rangers view Lofton (or Payton) as a 1-year option in center so they will be able to bid for Vernon Wells next off-season.

Brad Penny…. According to report on NBCSports.com, the Cubs are among several teams that could be interested in trading for Penny. Penny could be available with the recent signing of Jason Schmidt and the Dodgers are looking for a corner outfielder in return according to Jerry Crasnick on ESPN.

Jason Jennings…. The Rockies have offered Jennings a 3-year, $24 million dollar deal according to a report from the Denver Post. The Rockies GM, Dan O’Dowd, thinks that once Lilly and Meche are signed, the market for Jennings will become clearer.

Lou Piniella on XM Radio with Charley Steiner during the Baseball Beat…. Piniella sounded very upbeat when he spoke with Steiner and said he really likes the team he has. (He did mention in a report on Cubs.com what a possible lineup could be for 2007.) He said he looks forward to working with Alfonso Soriano and him hitting leadoff for the Cubs. When Piniella met with Jim Hendry, Hendry kept using the word urgency and Piniella liked hearing that word.

Steiner then brought up the fact the Cubs are nearing the century mark between World Series Championships and Piniella quickly reminded him that he [Piniella] still has two more years to remedy that. Piniella said the only thing good about the past is to learn from it and he cannot concern himself with what happened before he came to Chicago. He can only control what is happening now.

Piniella mentioned the two nice offers the Cubs had made to free agent pitchers but did not mention any names (Lilly received and accepted, the other is rumored to be Meche). Piniella said the Cubs would have to wait and see if they accept. When asked about Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, Piniella said both are still important to the Cubs and mentioned if Prior returns to form it would be like them signing a number one pitcher for the rotation. Piniella mentioned one of the Cubs problems last season was the 80+ starts made by rookie pitchers and the fact they walked too many batters. He said the Cubs did strike out the most in the league but walked the most as well and that they have to throw strikes. He went on to say that walks lead to runs. Piniella did bring up the fact that all of the experience the young pitchers received last season could benefit the Cubs in the future either on the field or via trade.

Piniella really stressed the pitching problems and said they cannot pitch behind in counts and have to throw strikes. It is hard to pitch behind in counts, give up a lot of walks and expect to win.

Rule 5 Draft…. The Chicago Tribune does not think either of the Chicago teams will make a pick in Thursday’s draft….the Cubs pick 3rd.

The Best and Worst of this off-season according to Jacob Luft from SI.com.

Daily Transactions from ESPN.com

Daily Transactions from CBS SportsLine

Well, that’s the news and rumors and I’m sticking to them!!!

Update – According to reports on XM Radio and FoxSports.com, Jim Hendry underwent an angioplasty on Wednesday in Orlando is expected to remain in the hospital for the next couple of days. According to the report on Fox, Hendry is back working the phones on Thursday.

Rule 5 Draft…. 19 players were taken in the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday morning. The Cubs took Josh Hamilton, the first over-all pick in the 1999 draft, and later traded him to the Reds for cash considerations. Jim Calis was on XM Radio during the draft and he and Chuck Wilson discussed the fact this was the first time that a first over-all pick had been taken in the Rule 5 Draft.

The Cubs lost Ed Campusano to the Milwaukee Brewers, Jason Smith to the Toronto Blue Jays and Lincoln Holdzkom to the Houston Astros.

Gil Meche…. According to a report on FoxSports.com by Ken Rosenthal, the Royals are close to landing Meche for 4 years and $45 million dollars.

Update – According to a report on ESPN.com, the Royals have agreed to terms with Gil Meche on a 5-year, $55 million dollar contract.

Daryle Ward… According to a report on FoxSports.com, the Cubs are nearing a deal with free-agent Daryle Ward on a 1-year contract worth $1.05 million.

Update 5:09pm C.T.According to a report on Yahoo Sports, Daryle Ward did sign a 1-year deal with the Cubs on Thursday, a move FoxSports had been reporting on all day as a strong possibility. According to the report Cliff Floyd is still on the Cubs radar.

Rule 5 Draft Update…. After being selected by the Brewers, Ed Campusano was traded to the Detroit Tigers for cash considerations. The Cubs also lost infielder Richard Lewis to the Royals and right handed pitcher Andy Shipman to the A’s in the Triple-A portion of the draft.

The Cubs drafted right handed pitcher James Henderson, 23, from the Washington Nationals in the Triple-A portion of the draft.

PTBNL…. The Cubs acquired Kevin Hart, 23, right handed pitcher from the Baltimore Orioles to complete the deal for Freddie Bynum on Wednesday. Hart pitched in the Class A Carolina League in 2006.

Quote of the Day

"When you play, play hard; when you work, don’t play at all." – Theodore Roosevelt