Entering the Homestretch

While various reports have indicated Jim Hendry is still trying to improve his roster leading up to Spring Training, the countdown to Mesa can officially begin. Pitchers and catchers report to Fitch Park in twelve days and there will be actual baseball to talk about before the end of the month.

One of the strangest off-seasons in recent memory is slowly coming to an end….and for Major League Baseball, the games can probably not get here fast enough.

Here is the latest from the rumor mill, updates from Baltimore, more prospect lists and notes from around the league….

Erik Bedard and Brian Roberts

A report in the Baltimore Sun on Thursday night indicated the Erik Bedard deal to the Mariners “looks as though it’s going to get done.” But Roch Kubatko is not sure if the Orioles should trade Brian Roberts. Kubatko would not trade Roberts to the Cubs for a package that included Ronny Cedeno, Matt Murton and Sean Gallagher. He said, “I’d rather keep Roberts than accept those three players in return.” Kubatko would like to see Felix Pie in Baltimore and finished his report with….”I’d have absolutely no problem with Roberts staying with the Orioles if the Mariners deal goes down. Team president Andy MacPhail hasn’t settled yet. Why start now?

Dave Kaplan updated the latest on Bedard and Roberts on Thursday night. The deal between the Mariners and Orioles could be done either Friday or Monday according to Kaplan. He said the Cubs made several calls to the Orioles about Bedard but his sources told him the Orioles want Adam Jones and Erik Bedard will not end up in Chicago. Kaplan once again said Brian Roberts will be “the next shoe to fall” after Bedard is dealt.

Kaplan also mentioned Hendry is still looking to add a right handed outfielder that can play all three positions but the demands the Rangers were making for Marlon Byrd were “unreal.” Hendry wants to add Roberts and an outfielder before camp starts in a couple of weeks.

In related news, the Mariners signed Brad Wilkerson to a 1-year deal on Thursday worth $3 million dollars. Reports earlier in the week suggested Seattle had a deal in place with Wilkerson in the event Adam Jones was dealt to Baltimore. Wilkerson’s deal being announced is likely a good sign the Mariners are on the verge of landing Erik Bedard. Wilkerson would replace Jones in right field next season.

Ken Rosenthal mentioned adding Bedard does not solve all of the Mariners problems.

The Cubs

Keith Law from Scouts Inc. released his Top 100 Prospects of 2008. Evan Longoria from the Tampa Bay Rays is the best prospect in baseball according to Law. Jay Bruce of the Reds came in second while Joba Chamberlain, Clay Buchholz and Colby Rasmus of the Cardinals complete the top five. Four of the Cubs’ prospects were included…. #17 Josh Vitters, #32 Geovany Soto (Law added Soto could make a run at the NL Rookie of the Year Award), #71 Sean Gallagher and #76 Josh Donaldson.

Top Prospects 1 – 25
Top Prospects 25 – 50
Top Prospects 51 – 75
Top Prospects 76 – 100

Josh Vitters was listed as the 30th best prospect in a Top 50 list from Minor League Baseball….Tyler Colvin came in 44th.

Baseball Musings thinks the Cubs will score more runs in 2008.

Kosuke Fukudome was mentioned among the league’s elite prospects in a report from MILB.com. Fukudome will be considered a rookie this season, and like Ichiro, would be eligible to take hardware home at the end of the year.

Ryne Sandberg recently talked with MILB.com about his first season as manager of the Peoria Chiefs.

Johan Santana

While the Cubs were not able to trade for the best pitcher in baseball, at least they tried. Dave Kaplan stated on Thursday night that the Cubs did make a phone call to the Twins concerning Johan Santana. The Cubs were told Santana wanted to be with a team that had a Spring Training home in Florida and would not accept a trade without an immediate extension (Kaplan’s report was very similar to Bruce Levine’s report on Wednesday). With the impending sale of the team, Kaplan said there would not be a way Bud Selig would allow the Cubs to sign a player to that large of a deal without a new owner in place.

Kaplan said a source of his in Minnesota told him Santana’s agent called the Twins front office and told them a trade must be done by Tuesday or they would not approve a trade. The Mets have until 5:00pm ET on Friday to work out a deal with Santana. Reports on XM Radio indicated the two sides are around $20 million dollars apart. Jayson Stark reported the deal would not get done until Friday, “if at all.

Greg Couch told everyone what he thought of the Cubs missing out on Santana in the Sun-Times on Thursday morning….and then went on XM Radio and talked about his column. Couch joined Chuck Wilson on the Baseball Beat and discussed why he thought the Cubs made a mistake.

Couch told Wilson that the Cubs have a lot of good number four and number five pitchers but they do not have a playoff rotation. Couch does not trust the top of the Cubs rotation. Carlos Zambrano is a number one according to Couch but that Ted Lilly is a number three, not a number two. Couch does not trust Rich Hill at this point in his career but did admit he has the tools to become a number two.

Couch said if the Cubs could add Erik Bedard that would give them a solid 1-2-3 and a rotation of Zambrano, Bedard and Lilly in the playoffs would be very formidable.

Couch told Wilson he likes the Cubs chances at winning the division and feels they have a good rotation for the regular season….just not the post-season.

The topic changed to the Cubs’ bullpen and Carlos Marmol and Kerry Wood. Couch told Wilson he thinks Marmol will be a star in the league but as much as he likes Wood and wants to see him succeed, he has doubts he can stay healthy.

Dayn Perry really likes the Santana acquisition for the Mets. With Santana in the rotation the Mets should win the East according to Perry and figure to be a front-runner for the NL Pennant.

From Around the League

Morgan Ensberg signed a minor league contract with the New York Yankees on Thursday. The 1-year deal includes an invitation to Spring Training and could be worth $1.75 million if he is added to the Yankees 40-man roster. Ensberg is expected to be in the mix at first base.

Luis Gonzalez agreed to a 1-year, $2 million dollar deal with the Florida Marlins on Thursday….great another Cub killer in a Marlins’ uniform.

Finially…. Maybe Jim Hendry should find a new trading partner. The last four off-seasons have centered around “deals or no deals” with the Baltimore Orioles. First there was Sammy Sosa in 2004-2005….then the Mark Prior-Miguel Tejada-Erik Bedard saga of 2005-2006. Last winter it was Freddie Bynum for a player to be named later….a good trade, the PTBNL was Kevin Hart and then the three-for-one deal at the trading deadline for Steve Trachsel. Now this winter….well this one is STILL going, like that blankin’ bunny!

Quote of the Day

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