Still Searching

As the Christmas holiday quickly approaches, will Jim Hendry be able to deliver on his promise to Lou Piniella? The Cubs are rumored to still be interested in Brian Roberts and Erik Bedard, as well as Joe Nathan but has Hendry added his last piece of the puzzle this calendar year?

The Cubs did make a minor signing this past week with the addition of pitcher Tanner Watson. Here is the latest from the mill, more on Watson, Prior received an offer from a central division foe and the rest from around the league….

The Cubs

According to a report on Our Sports Central, the Cubs signed pitcher Tanner Watson (hat tip to the ProSports Daily Forum) last Friday. Watson was the Frontier League’s best pitcher and he broke Riverhawks’ records in career wins and single-season wins. Watson was “the only Frontier League player” named to Baseball America’s All-Independent Leagues first team. He did not pitch until July of last season “because of visa difficulties” and finished the year with an 11-3 record and a 2.17 ERA in 15 games, 12 starts with 77 strikeouts, 31 walks and 64 hits allowed in 104 innings.

The Seattle Mariners drafted Watson in the 19th round of the 2000 draft. The right hander turned 25 last June.

Tanner Watson’s Baseball Cube Page

In a report from the SunTimes, Neil Hayes stated the Cubs have “been slow to sign Japanese talent” but Kosuke Fukudome could be a good start. Fukudome, as mentioned last week, is the first Japanese player in the history of the Chicago National League Ballclub, Inc.

Gary Hughes was on XM Radio Saturday afternoon talking to Holden Kushner about this topic. Hughes said he was very impressed with the work ethic of the players in Japan, and apparently it pays off in the states….five of the last six World Series have included Japanese players.

The Cubs are the early favorites to win the NL Central in 2008, according to the sportsbooks in Las Vegas, hat tip to Hook’s Center Sports Blog. Vegas is giving the Cubs 9/2 odds, the Brewers are second with 8/1 odds, the Cardinals third with 10/1 odds, the Astros are fourth at 20/1, the Reds are fifth at 25/1 and the Pirates are last at a 60/1 shot at winning the Central. It is too early to make predictions, but there is nothing wrong with seeing the odds.

Wrong versus right? Greg Couch recently debated which is the right way to build a team….the Cubs way or the White Sox way? Here’s one….the Boston Red Sox. Two titles in four years, using the right mix of high priced free agents, excellent role players and a good farm system. Hopefully the Cubs new ownership will be very similar to John Henry and company in Boston.

Phil Rogers cited a report on Rotoworld that centered on the pitching dominated league that Felix Pie is participating in this winter. Rogers said Pie’s stats are not as bad as they look from a distance. Pie and Sam Fuld will compete for the centerfield spot when Spring Training gets underway in a couple of months. Rogers also states that Andres Torres could fit into the mix, as well as Ronny Cedeno.

Erik Bedard

While Erik Bedard may remain on Jim Hendry’s radar, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer the Mariners “may now be the favorite” to land Erik Bedard. The Mariners need starting pitching, and with losing out on Hiroki Kuroda, most are thinking the Mariners will make a big push to pry Bedard from the Orioles. With Dan Haren off the market, Bedard’s price likely increased. It would take the Mariners including Adam Jones in any deal for Bedard.

The Reds are still in hot pursuit of Bedard as well, but any trade with the Reds for Bedard would have to include Jay Bruce according to XM Radio. If the Orioles are looking for the Reds and Orioles top prospects, would Jim Hendry part with a package centered around Felix Pie for two years of Erik Bedard?

Joe Nathan

Are the Cubs really interested in Joe Nathan? The Twins closer has 1-year left on his current contract and with the money being handed out to free agent closers, there is not a scenario in which Nathan does not test the open market. A 1-year rental would cost Hendry Major League ready talent and could make the Juan Pierre trade look like a salary dump….time to move on.

Mark Prior

Several clubs are very interested in Mark Prior. The Washington Nationals think Prior would be a good fit and would have a spot in their rotation as soon as he is ready to pitch. The Yankees, Mets and 10 other teams have contacted Prior’s agent according to a report in the Newark Star Ledger. Prior is looking for a 1-year deal so he can rehab and then test the open market next winter. Prior’s agent said he would be able to pitch again in May according to Dr. James Andrews….barring setbacks.

According to a report on ESPN, the Astros became the first team to offer Prior a contract for 2008.

Phil Rogers thinks the Cubs should have tendered Prior a contract.

From Around the League

The Dodgers signed Hiroki Kuroda over the weekend to a 3-year, $35.2 million dollar deal and introduced ‘Mr. Complete Game’ to the local media on the field at Dodger Stadium on Sunday. If Kuroda can pitch the way he is projected, a 4th or 5th starter in the Majors, Joe Torre will have a solid starting staff….if they can stay healthy.

The Astros are making changes….Ed Wade has traded away their future in order to win next season. The Houston media is questioning his moves, but on paper the Astros have improved their offense and their bullpen, now they need to find starting pitching.

Tom Trebelhorn was recently named the manager of the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (San Francisco Giants, Low-A). Trebelhorn managed the Cubs to a 49-64 record in the strike-shortened season of 1994.

Dayn Perry thinksquality is dwindling” among the remaining free agents this winter.

The fallout from the Mitchell Report continued through the weekend and into Monday. According to a report in the Boston Globe, Doug Melvin was embarrassed when he saw Eric Gagne’s name in the Mitchell Report. Here is the quote from the Brewers’ GM:

“It’s embarrassing to acquire a player and then have him appear on the Mitchell Report. We’re just going to have to deal with whatever happens.”

Andy Pettitte admitted on Saturday he used HGH two times in 2002 to recover from injury. More and more players have begun to admit they used performance-enhancing substances. Former Cardinal and current ESPN analyst, Fernando Vina admitted to his use of performance-enhancing substances on Monday.

Roger Clemens is not one of those players, and his inclusion in the Mitchell Report could cost him on the convention circuit as well. Clemens is scheduled to be the keynote speaker next month at the Texas High Baseball Coaches Association’s annual convention but the members are meeting on Tuesday to decide if Clemens will still deliver the speech.

Quote of the Day

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anais Nin
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