What does taking a 66-win team to a Central Division Title with an 85-77 record in a year’s time get you? If your name is Lou Piniella, a 4th place finish in the NL Manager of the Year voting. Piniella received two first place votes, three second place and six third place votes….a total of 25 points well behind Bob Melvin of the Diamondbacks, who won the award, with 19 first place votes and a 119 points. Eric Wedge of the Cleveland Indians won the AL Manager of the Year award. The National League Cy Young Award will be announced later today….

The rumors surrounding the ‘package of players’ the Cubs were putting together to offer the Rays for Carl Crawford was squashed by a report in Bradenton Herald. According to the Herald “there is nothing in the works” with the Cubs for Crawford. There were several rumors floating around as to which players Jim Hendry would send to Tampa for the talented Mr. Crawford.

Here is the rest from the mill, including an addition, more on the Craig Monroe trade and a payroll hike? Updated – 7:50am C.T. with Additional Information on Kosuke Fukudome

The Cubs….

More on the Crawford rumors…. The Cubs were rumored to be putting together a package for Crawford that included Rich Hill and Eric Patterson, plus other prospects. Trading Hill could create a huge hole in a rotation that is not too deep. Teams can never have enough pitching, especially good pitching….and lefties with a hook, like Hill, is very hard to find.

According to a report by Paul Sullivan, the Cubs payroll for 2008 “is likely to be raised from $100 million to $120 million-$125 million.” That is a $5-$10 million dollar difference between the report in late October from Barry Rozner in the Daily Herald. Rozner speculated then, the Cubs payroll would be around the $115 million dollar mark.

Felix Pie is getting a lot of attention this off-season. With the trade of Jacque Jones earlier in the week, the centerfield position looks to be Pie’s, now all he has to do is earn it. Gerald Perry has already been working with Pie in winter ball. This week Pie received a visit from the ‘Daily Double’. Both Ryne Sandberg and Bob Dernier paid Felix a visit. Pie is hitting .205 in the first 13 games for Licey in Winter Ball.

Speaking of Mr. Sandberg. Ryno said he would like to keep managing….stay tuned.

More on the Craig Monroe trade…. According to a report in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Cubs will receive the infamous player to be named later from the Twins only if Monroe remains with the team. The Twins are apparently going to offer Craig Monroe a contract for less than the $4.775 million he made last year. The Twins have until December 1st to tender Monroe a contract for 2008.

Lou Piniella is looking for an athletic outfield. Alfonso Soriano is set in left field and the road has been cleared for Felix Pie, but who will patrol right field? Hendry said he is looking for a player “who can hit, field and keep baserunners from taking the extra base.” How do you pronounce Kosuke Fukudome again?

Piniella feels his team is “not that far away” from being one of the top teams in the National League. Piniella was asked about the rotation for next year and he responded with:

“The only other thing is we’ve got Zambrano and we’ve got Lilly and we’ve got Hill.”

When asked about Jason Marquis…. “Marquis didn”t pitch well at all in the last month of the season and that’s another mystery. We’ve got to figure out why, because he’s done that for the last couple of years.”

Piniella suggested if Marquis would have been his fourth game starter in the NLDS, he might not have pulled Carlos Zambrano in the opener of the playoffs. Piniella has said he has not lost confidence or trust in Marquis….but one must wonder.

Barry Rozner thinks fans could actually own their seats at Wrigley soon….well, a PSL (personal seat license) at least.

Barry Rozner also brought up the possibility of a Matt Murton/Shawn Green platoon in right field for next season. He said Green is a good OBP guy, would “come cheap” and would be a better option defensively than either Luis Gonzalez or Geoff Jenkins.

The Cubs have shown interest in Geoff Jenkins according to Ken Rosenthal.

Around the League….

The Astros are interested in a lot of players and have begun making offers according to the Houston Chronicle. Luis Castillo, Randy Wolf, Scott Linebrink, Tadahito Iguchi, Kaz Matsui, Jon Leiber, Tom Glavine, Jeremy Affeldt, Troy Percival and Francisco Cordero top new GM, Ed Wade’s wish list.

The Rays are looking at Troy Percival as well.

The Red Sox and A’s will open the 2008 season in Japan at the Tokyo Dome. They will play two games on March 25th and March 26th.

The Cubs could have a new opponent in the Cactus League in 2009. According to a report in the East Valley Tribune, the Reds could be playing spring ball in the desert starting in 2009.

Geoff Blum said he would like to stay in San Diego but he will probably sign with the Astros.

The Cardinals are shopping Scott Rolen. John Mozeliak, St. Louis’ new GM, has met with Rolen and his agents about Rolen’s willingness to be traded. Rolen has 3-years and $36 million left on his current contract.

Michael Barrett is interested in playing in Colorado. Apparently the Rockies think Barrett is their insurance policy in case Yorvit Torrealba signs with another team….the Mets appear to be the front runner to land the catcher.

Update – According to a report by Ken Rosenthal, Kosuke Fukudome has received an offer from the Tokyo Giants and is “considering his options back in Japan.” Rosenthal’s report states Fukudome is expected to make a decision after Thanksgiving.

Quote of the Day

"You can’t sit on a lead and kill the clock. You’ve got to give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game." - Earl Weaver