Weekend Update – 12/30/07

The last weekend of 2007….it is hard to believe the year is all but over. The Cubs Convention is less than three weeks away and Harry Caray always referred to the convention as the “unofficial opening day” and some refer to the Cubs annual gathering as the “kick-off to spring training“….whatever the case, the 2008 season is getting closer by the day.

Bruce Levine talked baseball on Saturday morning with Chet Coppock. Levine talked about the Cubs’ interest in Brian Roberts, the fact it is just six weeks until Spring Training starts, Mark Prior, Jeff Samardzija and a new addition to the rumor mill, with an old ring to it.

Here is the rest from the past week….

The Cubs

News and rumors out of the North Side of Chicago has been non-existent over the past week, other than the former ‘Employee‘, so it was quite refreshing hearing Bruce Levine update what has been happening. Levine and Chet Coppock discussed a variety of topics during their three-hour show on ESPN 1000.

Mark Prior

According to Levine, the Cubs offered Prior a package that would have totaled around $8 million dollars if the proposed option for 2009 ended up being exercised. The Cubs did want Prior to sign a deal with an option, like most of the other teams interested in Prior, and Levine said the Cubs did what they could to retain Prior.

Levine mentioned Hendry did try to trade Prior during the winter meetings but once teams looked at his medical records and the fact the Cubs were likely not to tender Prior a contract, they were not interested.

Levine did say the Cubs could file tampering charges with the league for Kevin Towers talking walks with Mark Prior. Levine views Towers discussions with Prior as being tampering and the Cubs could be rewarded millions and millions of dollars by Major League Baseball if they file charges against Towers and the San Diego Padres.

Jason wrote an Ode to Mark Prior earlier in the week after Prior inked the 1-year deal with the Padres….enjoy.

Ode to Mark Prior

Once upon a Summer weary
came an aberration nearly
fastball curveball never missing
Barry Bonds the ball was kissing
he was a savior draped in blue
playoff dreams were coming true
eighth inning with a three run lead
ensuing meltdown ulcers bleed
towels crying giant calfs
Just Ducky good for laughs
Nostalgic memories always linger
Then you left flipping us the finger
great ones have talent effort class
your arrogance revealed a pompous ass
so Mark Prior I write this letter
you’re not all that….you know better

Wrigley Field

Levine stated Wrigley would need between $350 and $500 million dollars worth of renovations over the next 5-7 years to update the historic ballpark. He said if the State of Illinois owned Wrigley then the state could charge the new owner of the Cubs $30 million a year in rent for 20 years. Levine mentioned the Cubs could end up playing at the Cell on the South Side for a year while the major renovations took place on the North Side….yeah, that will go over well. But if the Cubs are to remain at Wrigley for the long term, they will have to do what they have do.

Brian Roberts and Erik Bedard

A caller asked Levine about the possibilities of the Cubs still trading for Roberts and Bedard. Levine said the Cubs will not give up the farm for Roberts but did not elaborate on Bedard. Levine mentioned the Angels have a pair of second basemen that could help and said the Diamondbacks have one as well.

Levine thinks there is still a deal to be made with the Orioles and speculated (Levine stressed the players he threw out was purely speculation) the Cubs could send Sean Gallagher to Baltimore for Roberts. Levine said any possible deal with the O’s would have to include Ronny Cedeno as well. The Cubs and other teams view Gallagher is a very good prospect and many feel Cedeno has the tools to be a successful major leaguer. He said Cedeno has more tools than Ryan Theriot but he has yet to put it together. Levine finished the discussion on Roberts by saying a possible deal could include Donnie Veal, but the Cubs are very hesitant to move the very talented southpaw.

Levine went on to say later in the show that Brian Roberts is a key for the Cubs. He feels Roberts would allow Lou Piniella to have a conversation with Alfonso Soriano about where he would like to bat in the lineup. Roberts would give the Cubs a proven Major League leadoff hitter….and would force the Cubs to move Soriano down in the order to try to capitalize on his power and put more runners on base in front of him to give him more RBI opportunities.

Jon Lieber

According to Levine the Cubs are going to add a starting pitcher to the mix and the name he keeps hearing is Jon Lieber. Lieber was an All-Star for the Cubs in 2001 and posted a 20-6 record with a 3.80 ERA in 34 starts with 5 complete games. Lieber has struggled the past two years, mostly with his health, after posting a 17-13 record with a 4.20 ERA with the Phillies in 2005.

Lieber pitched for the Cubs from 1999 to 2002 and posted a 48-36 record in 121 starts with 17 complete games. Lieber has a 29-18 career record at Wrigley in 70 games, 67 starts, with 8 complete games. In 474 2/3 innings he has a career 3.62 ERA at Wrigley with a 1.13 WHIP.

Lieber missed the second half of last season after needing surgery to repair a torn tendon in his left foot. The right-hander will turn 38 on April 2nd.

Jeff Samardzija

Levine mentioned during his show that the Shark could make an impact for the big league club in 2008 in the second half, sometime around July or August. He said Samardzija showed a lot of improvement last season and if he can continue in 2008 could make the leap all the way to the majors.

Jeff Samardzija’s stats from 2007

Cubs Tidbits

Dayn Perry thinks Kosuke Fukudome will be one of the rookies to make an impact in 2008. Yes, the Cubs new right fielder will be considered a rookie next season.

According to the Baltimore Sun, the Cubs rotation next season will be…. Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Rich Hill, Jason Marquis and Ryan Dempster.

Cubby Blue illustratedThe Fukudome Effect at Wrigley Field“. Tim Souers’ illustrations appear from time to time in the Vineline, and his latest will be in the January 2008 issue.

The latest line from Vegas has the Cubs at 10 to 1 odds to win the 2008 World Series.

From Around the League

So Taguchi signed a 1-year deal with the Phillies on December 23rd.

The Cardinals signed Cliff Politte to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training.

Jayson Stark weighed in with his recap of the 2007 season, he included a couple of Cub references.

Dayn Perry listed his top 10 pitching duos in the league.

Darin Erstad signed a 1-year deal with the Astros on Thursday.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wanted a $50 million dollar gift card for Christmas.

Jon Heyman from SI.com discussed possible Hall of Famers….the next class will be announced on January 8th. Andre Dawson and Lee Smith should be in Cooperstown.

The Brewers are looking at Scott Rolen and Hank Blalock to fill their need at third base. If the Brewers add one of those two, Ryan Braun would likely move to left field according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The report stated the Brewers are interested in trading for Andre Ethier as well.

From the What!?! Department

Someone should let ESPN know the Cubs have a catcher named Geovany Soto and that Ryan Dempster is no longer the closer. Check out their depth chart.

Finally…. A Brewers’ fan by the name of Ryan Lipski purchased a commemorative brick from the Chicago Cubs. The apparently rich Lipski spent $180 dollars on a brick that will read, “Go Brewers, Ryan Lipski, Brew Crew Fan.” He told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel it was the “best $180 dollars he ever spent.

Quote of the Day

"Don’t ever permit the pressure to exceed the pleasure." - Joe Maddon