Time for Cubs to Concentrate on the Offense?

It was another busy week on the North Side of Chicago. From re-signing Ryan Dempster to Major League Baseball putting a deadline on bids for the team, the third week of November was anything but non-eventful. Lou Piniella, Jim Hendry and Ryan Dempster were all over the airwaves and Piniella did some damage control over Dempster’s statement during his press conference that suggested the Cubs were not prepared at the start of the playoffs.

Lou Piniella came out and said during one of his interviews that the club’s pitching staff is in pretty good shape with the re-signing of Dempster and it was time to work on improving the offense. But are the Cubs still looking at Jake Peavy? Some say ‘yes‘ and others say ‘no‘. One thing is for sure, as the Winter Meetings approach, the rumors continue to swirl around the reigning National League Central Division Champions. Here’s the latest….

As with most of the weekend updates here at the CCO, a majority of the updates and rumors are from the story breaker himself, Bruce Levine….with a few others mixed in.

Jake Peavy

The Cubs are concentrating on adding a left-handed bat and speed to their offense according to Bruce Levine but they are still in the mix for Jake Peavy. Kevin Towers was on the Show (XM Radio) Friday afternoon and said it is really down to just one team to work a deal with for Peavy….the one team, the Cubs. Levine added the Cubs have been the leading team since the beginning but emphatically stated there is nothing imminent between the Cubs and Padres for Jake Peavy. The Cubs and Padres are continuing to exchange names.

Many have pointed out, including Bruce Miles, that for the most part the possible trades that are discussed in the media are the ones that rarely happen. It is the trades are not heard about that ends up getting done. In the case of Jake Peavy and Kevin Towers, Levine said that Towers likes doing his business in public because he feels like he has nothing to hide.

The talks with the Padres over Peavy are not done and the Cubs are very much involved. Levine added later in the show that both sides have agreed to table the discussions for the next 10 days (that time frame would mean the talks would resume a week before the Winter Meetings, December 2nd). The Cubs are looking at the December 1st deadline when all bids must be submitted to purchase the club and that will also give them time to see what else is left in the budget. The general feeling from this writer is that from all of the talk over the last week, it seems the Cubs and Jim Hendry are trying to move forward but truly have the December 1st deadline circled on the calendar. At that point if a group, like the Ricketts, emerge as the true leaders to buy the club then they could be approached about what can be spent on next year’s club….and beyond.

Mark Teahen and David DeJesus

A caller questioned the Cubs interest in Mark Teahen on Saturday morning. Bruce Levine said that after the Royals traded for Coco Crisp that made Teahen the odd-man out in Kansas City. The Cubs have asked about Teahen and David DeJesus, but Levine thinks the Royals will not trade DeJesus and slide him over to left field.

Teahen is coming off a bad season but is a versatile player that would give the Cubs options. According to Levine, Teahen might cost the Cubs a relief pitcher or a young position player down on the farm. Teahen is not the big left-handed bat the Cubs are looking for but would be more of an extra part. Levine said that nothing is imminent on Teahen but talks could heat backup.

Phil Rogers reported on Saturday morningKansas City is focused” on Sean Marshall and Mike Fontenot for Mark Teahen. A lot different from what Bruce Levine has been told and a lot more than the Cubs should have to pay for Teahen.

Chone Figgins and Brian Roberts

Another caller broached the subject of leadoff hitters and Chone Figgins during Talkin’ Baseball. Levine said the Cubs discussed Figgins with the Angels last year but to his knowledge have not this winter. The Angels do not want to move Figgins yet.

True leadoff hitters are difficult to acquire and while the Cubs may still be interested in Brian Roberts, the Orioles are working on an extension for Roberts. If Roberts is put on the block, the Cubs will engage talks for the second winter in a row with the always deliberate Andy MacPhail.

Lou Piniella was asked about the Cubs’ leadoff spot and Alfonso Soriano recently according to a report from the Tribune. He said, “before you make changes or contemplate making changes, you’ve got to have somebody who can do that.

Rafael Furcal

The Cubs are interested but according to Ken Rosenthal, the Giants and the A’s are the front-runners to sign Rafael Furcal. A 4-year deal for Furcal is too long for a player coming off an injury-shortened season because of back surgery. Rosenthal reported the Furcal sweepstakes are “accelerating at a rapid pace.

The A’s and Giants have seen Furcal’s medicals and were satisfied with what they saw according to Rosenthal.

Geovany Soto on Talkin’ Baseball

The National League Rookie of the Year joined Bruce Levine and Carmen DeFalco Saturday morning and was very humble throughout the interview. Soto was asked about his off-season to this point and said he is busy working out and preparing for next season. Soto admitted that he realizes he has to work harder and harder every winter and must go to Spring Training ready to compete for a job. Soto is not taking anything for granted. It was very refreshing to hear the NL Rookie of the Year say he knows he must be ready to ‘compete for a job in Spring Training‘….it would be easy, and several have in the past, for him to assume he would be able to pickup where he left off last season without putting in the work during the winter.

Soto called Ryan Dempster and congratulated him earlier in the week after he re-signed. He said it was an honor to catch Dempster and that Ryan was one of his teammates that motivated him throughout the season.

Soto is on board with the club’s need to add a left-handed bat. He said he knows Jim Hendry will give them what they need. Soto called Hendry an excellent GM and added he wants to have the best team and the best bunch of guys, same as last year.

Carlos Marmol is ready to be the Cubs’ closer according to Soto. He thinks he has matured as a pitcher and will do a good job. The next topic Soto was asked about is the possibility Henry Blanco will not return.

Levine phrased the question about Blanco by prefacing it with, from what he has been told Henry Blanco will not be back next season. Soto responded with the fact he realizes baseball is business but he would still like Blanco back next year. He appreciates all that Blanco has done for him and his career. Koyie Hill could serve as Soto’s backup in 2009 according to a report from Inside the Ivy.

Soto said ‘the sting‘ from October is done that the page must be turned….but admitted he has thought about the way the season ended. Soto said he is focused on 2009.

Micah Hoffpauir

A caller asked Bruce Levine about the possibility of Micah Hoffpauir helping the Cubs next season. Levine agreed with the caller about the fact that Hoffpauir can hit but stated the Cubs have no place to play him. First base is Hoffpauir’s natural position and with Derrek Lee, that is not an option. Hoffpauir is not an outfielder.

The Cubs are looking for a little more flexibility and if Hoffpauir makes the club next year it will be as the 25th man and he would take the spot that Daryle Ward filled last season. Ward was a disappointment and will not be back in blue pinstripes.

Ryan Theriot

Ryan Theriot was discussed for a just a short time after Levine and DeFalco touched on how slow both the Cubs and the White Sox are and the fact both sides of town need to get more athletic. Levine admitted that Alfonso Soriano and Ryan Theriot do have a little bit of speed but Theriot is a ‘lousy‘ base runner. Levine called Theriot an ‘amazing story‘ because mist figured he would be a career minor leaguer but Theriot’s will and desire has made him a Major League ballplayer.

Theriot’s questionable, at best, defense at shortstop was briefly discussed and Levine added that if the Cubs can do it, they would like to move Theriot to second base next season.

Bobby Abreu

According to a report in the New York Daily News, the Cubs and Mets have expressed interest in Bobby Abreu.

Miscellaneous Notes

Lou Piniella and Jim Hendry will be the featured speakers at the Iowa Cubs FanFest on January 13th in Des Moines according to a report from the Des Moines Register.

Matt Murton and Ben Sheets were inducted into The Cape Cod Baseball Hall of Fame on Saturday morning according to a report from the Cape Cod Times.

Finally….Saturday is the 45th Anniversary of the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Well, that’s the latest….and I’m sticking to it!

Quote of the Day

"Baseball, just a game as simple as a ball and a bat. Yet, as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes." - Ernie Harwell
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