The much-anticipated Winter Meetings will get underway today and run through Thursday. The Cubs have plenty of holes to fill this week, mostly in the starting rotation and role players. Although they resigned Aramis Ramirez, Kerry Wood, Wade Miller and Henry Blanco and signed the biggest name of this off-season class in Alfonso Soriano they must add to the Mark DeRosa signing and the trade for Neal Cotts. Several names appear to be on the Cubs radar, most notably Ted Lilly, Jason Schmidt and Barry Zito but the second-tier guys like Gil Meche, Miguel Batista and Vicente Padilla could figure into the equation. While the Cubs projected lineup for Opening Day would be extremely right-handed, the recent of additions of Kenny Lofton, Cliff Floyd and Trot Nixon to the rumor mill are three names that could help even out the roster.
News came out on Sunday that Matt Murton would not be dealt this off-season in separate reports from Cubs.com and Phil Rogers in the Tribune. So with Murton and Felix Pie not on the block, can the Cubs package enough to make a few trades or will the Tribune’s blank checks be used again this week? The Cubs are in a different position than they have been in the past. The league and the players have to be taking notice how much money is being spent in order to change the landscape on the Northside of Chicago. A comment made by Ted Lilly on Friday said it all, but regardless of how much of the $136 million that Soriano will receive will end up being money well spent might not be able to be measured just by his play on the field. The Cubs willingness to pay for Soriano and change the mindset of the league, the players and Major League baseball is priceless….now Hendry must finish what he has started.
[Chicago Tribune] “I’m very happy with Matt,” Hendry said Sunday. “We’re not going to trade Matt. He’s going to be a quality player. I’m just looking to get some left-handed help, and that player might be an outfielder or it might be somebody off the bench. But it has nothing to do with not being happy with Matt.”
Pitching, Pitching, Ronny Cedeno and Jacque Jones…. A late report on Sunday by Phil Rogers in the Chicago Tribune focused on the lack of pitching the Cubs have and what Jim Hendry must address. Hendry denied the report that surfaced on a Chicago Radio station on Sunday that the Cubs had offered Barry Zito a contract, the same way he did the multiple reports about Jason Schmidt last week. According to Rogers the Cubs have turned their attention to Barry Zito and Jason Schmidt as well as the second-tier free agent pitchers that have been rumored to be in the mix for several weeks.
Rogers also mentioned with the Cubs trading chips, a trade for starting pitching could be difficult. Hendry has been talking to the Rockies about Jason Jennings in a deal that could include Jacque Jones, Ronny Cedeno and some of the Cubs young pitching staff. But apparently the Rockies asked about Rich Hill (who is untouchable) and a deal with the Rockies might have to include a third party….a scenario mentioned by Ken Rosenthal on Saturday.
The Winter Meetings end on Thursday and the Rule 5 Draft will be conducted then. But between Monday and Thursday there are quite a few moves that should be made….either by trade or free agent signings. By the time Jim Hendry returns to Chicago, Lou Piniella’s first Cubs team should have several new faces and will begin to take shape for 2007.