Looking East

On the day after the Cubs announced Ryan Dempster would not be closing games for Lou Piniella, but would be starting them instead next season, the weekend passes for the 23rd Annual Cubs Convention in January sold out in 10 minutes. Other than the news concerning Dempster, most of the conversation surrounding the Cubs centered around the possibility of Jim Hendry signing one of the free-agents coming over from Japan this winter….

There was finally a trade made at the General Managers meetings. Late Wednesday night the Astros traded Brad Lidge and Eric Bruntlett to the Phillies for Michael Bourn, Geoff Geary and Mike Costanzo. The Astros are rumored to be interested in Francisco Cordero and this trade could clear the way for the free agent closer to sign with Houston.

Here is the rest of the latest, including more from Japan…. Ken Rosenthal was on the Baseball Beat with Charley Steiner on Wednesday. Steiner and Rosenthal talked about the weak free agent market. Rosenthal’s response was, “The lack of quality free agents will cause teams to be creative this off-season.” Both think there will be more trades than usual this winter….

Hiroki Kuroda is rumored to be at the top of, it seems, every team’s off-season wish list. The Phillies and the Royals are the latest two teams mentioned by the mainstream media to be interested in the Japanese right-hander. Buck Martinez thinks Kuroda will be a solid pitcher in the major leagues. Other teams that have shown interest outside of the Cubs and Mariners….the Dodgers and the Red Sox.

The Cubs’ apparently have interest in another Japanese pitcher. According to Chris De Luca, Hitoki Iwase, “considered Japan’s top closer“, is on the Cubs’ radar. Iwase was 2-4 last season with 43 saves and a 2.44 ERA for the Chunichi Dragons. Iwase has saved at least 40 games in each of the last 3 seasons and 151 since 2004. Here is Iwase’s player page from Japanese Baseball.com. The left-hander turns 33 on Saturday.

Iwase’s teammate on the Dragons, Kosuke Fukudome has gotten the attention of the Texas Rangers. According to De Luca the Cubs “focused much of their attention“, during the organizational meetings, on Fukudome.

Another Japanese ballplayer the Cubs appear to be very interested in is Kaz Matsui. Chris De Luca stated the Cubs “will make a serious run” at Matsui and the Rockies offered him a 2-year contract on Wednesday. Matsui is apparently looking to double his $1.5 million dollar salary from 2007.

Carlos Silva is getting a lot of interest according to his agent Barry Praver.

Jay Mariotti thinks Carlos Marmol should be the Cubs’ closer next season, not Kerry Wood.

From Around the League….

It might end up being called “The Nomar Rule” but Major League Baseball is looking for ways to speed up the game according to Phil Rogers.

The Marlins are interested in Michael Barrett.

And finally…..

It turns out if the Cubs would have made it to the World Series in 1984 the games in Chicago would have been played at Comiskey Park. Peter Ueberroth, then Commissioner of Major League Baseball, dropped that little tidbit last week according to a report in the Chicago Sun-Times. Ueberroth said because Wrigley did not have lights at the time and all the money tied into TV advertising plans had been made to have the games played on the South Side.