All Quiet on the North Side…For Now

As the conclusion of the long Holiday weekend approaches, all of baseball has begun focusing their attention on Monday’s arbitration deadline and the Winter Meetings that begin in nine days in Las Vegas.

On the Cubs front, the next two weeks should be anything but slow and boring. From Kerry Wood to Bobby Howry to Ron Santo to Jake Peavy to Monday’s deadline to submit bids to buy the club…and then there is the unknown that Jim Hendry is working on that will undoubtedly catch many by surprise. Here’s the latest, including Jim Hendry on Talkin’ Baseball….

Jake Peavy

Dave Kaplan mentioned Jake Peavy briefly on Friday night and said he doesn’t see the Cubs landing Peavy because of the money. The Cubs need a left-handed bat and a leadoff hitter according to Kaplan and if they use all of their bullets to acquire Peavy they would bankrupt the farm system and would have nothing else to trade in order to improve the offense….adding a left-handed bat and lead-off hitter. Kaplan is hearing the Cubs are still involved but does not think he will end up in Chicago.

Bruce Levine thinks there will be progress made on the Jake Peavy trade in Las Vegas. He said that Peavy is not staying in San Diego because of the money that is owed and the divorce of John Moores. Levine added the pending divorce of John Moores is why Kevin Towers has been so vocal. Levine described the Moores’ divorce as a messy one and because of that is the reason Towers is doing the best he can to keep the fans informed and talking so publicly.

According to Levine the Cubs have never been out of the running to land Jake Peavy and have been one of the top two teams since the beginning. Levine said it is purely a money issue at this point. Jim Hendry is waiting on the new owner to find out if and how he can increase the payroll.

Paul DePodesta, current Special Assistant of the Padres and former Dodgers’ GM, joined Casey Stern Saturday afternoon on MLB Live Weekend (XM Radio). DePodesta discussed several topics surrounding the Padres….but the biggest was Jake Peavy.

Stern started the interview by saying Jake Peavy is one of the hottest topics in all of baseball because of the career Peavy has put together. Stern asked DePodesta what goes on behind the scenes in preparation for the Winter Meetings. DePodesta said a lot of the talk about the Padres has been blown out of proportion.

According to DePodesta the Padres lost 99 games in 2008 with Jake Peavy and they must explore all ways to get better this off-season….and that includes trading Jake Peavy. DePodesta added after the statement about improving the club in reference to trading Peavy by stating, “If we end up doing it.

The Padres are not of the mindset that they absolutely have to move him (Peavy) according to DePodesta. The Padres’ front office is aggressively trying to improve the club and it does not necessarily mean they will move Peavy in order to do so. The Padres are trying to balance improvements for short term versus long term and are as focused as they can be on two, three or four years from now.

DePodesta added the Padres are in a conundrum because in 2007 they were one game away from making the playoffs and won the division in both 2005 and 2006. He did state 2008 was just an awful season. The Padres feel they have certain pieces in place and by trading Jake Peavy for the right players they could accelerate the process.

According to Peter Gammons, the Padres “absolutely believe Cubs GM Jim Hendry can make this a three-way trade to get the Padres the pitching they need in addition to third base prospect Josh Vitters.

Jim Hendry on Talkin’ Baseball

Jim Hendry joined Carmen DeFalco and Bruce Levine on Saturday morning. Hendry said they are getting ready for the Winter Meetings and DeFalco asked him what is at the top of his list. Hendry answered with the fact he feels he has a very good club right now and their priorities for this off-season have not changed. They are looking for a left-handed bat in the lineup.

It was a very quiet couple days according to Hendry because of the holidays and he thinks after Monday’s arbitration deadline talks will pick-up. The Cubs are planning a lot of meetings between Tuesday and Friday in preparation of the Winter Meetings, which begin a week from Monday. Hendry said the goal of next week’s meetings will be to get their ‘ducks in a row‘ before leaving for Vegas.

Hendry hopes more teams will be in the trading mode once they arrive in Las Vegas. He said he feels like the Cubs “need to make a couple of key moves to get better” but did not elaborate.

Bruce Levine asked Hendry about continuing to talk to Kevin Towers and began the line of questioning by saying he realizes that Hendry cannot talk about a specific player. Hendry laughed and agreed that he has continued to speak with Kevin Towers but added that he talks to Towers on a regular basis whether they are working on a deal or not. Towers is quite vocal according to Hendry and Hendry reiterated the fact he has a good relationship with the Padres’ GM.

Hendry said this is a different winter for the Cubs because of the ownership change…and hopefully it will be coming to a conclusion. Hendry did not specifically point to the Monday deadline, but it was implied.

The Cubs have a significant payroll according to Hendry and has been increased for next season. Hendry did not say how much he has to spend on improving the club but did say that the way Sam Zell has handled the payroll is very admirable. Hendry added because of the flexibility during the ownership change the Cubs have not had to cut any positions.

Hendry was asked about Raul Ibanez and Milton Bradley. Hendry told Levine that the Cubs discussed all possible moves that could be made at the organizational meetings and made a board that listed all of the possible left handed bats and switch hitters that could help the club…either free agents or through possible trades. Hendry added hopefully in the next couple of weeks they will be able to add the pieces they feel like will make the club better next season.

Hendry used the word ‘fortunate‘ to describe the addition of Kevin Gregg. He said Carlos Marmol and Gregg will battle it out in the spring for the closer’s job.

The feeling from the interview with Jim Hendry was the pending ownership change has effected the off-season. The Cubs should have a better idea on Monday who will own the club and that will give Hendry an idea of what he can or cannot do this off-season. Levine thinks Hendry will be given parameters by the new ownership group despite the fact the change over might not be complete for a few months. Levine said the Ricketts Group still appears to be the leader in the clubhouse and the switchover should be completed by mid 2009.

Mark Teahen

Bill Althaus from the Kansas City Independence Examiner joined Dave Kaplan Friday night on Sports Central and talked about the rumored interest in Mark Teahen. Althaus told Kaplan that the rumors surrounding Teahen possibly being traded to the Cubs is all of the talk in Kansas City. Althaus described Teahen as a very good clubhouse guy and a community leader. And despite what he has done in and around the team, Teahen has been a big disappointment for the Royals.

Althaus spoke highly of Teahan’s versatility and labeled him a ‘Lou Piniella guy‘ because of the flexibility he would give the Cubs. He feels it is time for Mark Teahen to leave the Royals because of the label of a disappointment. Basically the old cliché of a ‘change of scenery‘ would probably do Teahen a lot of good.

Kaplan asked Althaus about Teahen being a run producer and he feels Teahen could be in the right situation. Althaus was extremely complimentary of Teahen throughout the entire segment…the overwhelming theme was ‘in the right situation‘ or ‘change of scenery‘ and on the negative side, ‘disappointment‘.

David DeJesus was discussed briefly and Althaus confirmed he has heard that the Cubs have been interested in DeJesus for the last couple of years. Althaus said DeJesus would be a very good number one or number two guy and on a better team he would have a ‘bigger name‘ throughout the league. He added the team has pushed DeJesus around and used the acquisition of Coco Crisp as an example. Last year DeJesus played center and this year he figures to be used in left and the lack of stability has not helped his development.

Althaus said of the two he would rather see Mark Teahen traded. He agreed with Kaplan that he is a left-handed version of Mark DeRosa to a certain extent. The Royals thought they were acquiring a .290 hitter that would hit around 30 home runs and drive in 110 to 120 runs a year when they acquired him from the Oakland A’s. Teahen has not put up those type of numbers and had a bad season a year ago….hence the label of disappointment. Althaus thinks Teahen can hit around .290 in the right situation and be the run producer the Royals thought they were getting…again in a lineup that will have guys on for him to drive in.

Kaplan added after the interview with Bill Althaus that he doesn’t see the Cubs going out and spending big money on an aging veteran. He said that David DeJesus is 29 and Mark Teahen just turned 27 last September and those are the type of players the Cubs are more focused on acquiring this winter.

Brian Roberts

Dave Kaplan mentioned on Friday night that the Cubs, along with the White Sox, are expected to be in hot pursuit for Brian Roberts if and when he is put on the trading block this winter.

Derrek Lee

Bruce Levine reiterated the fact that the Cubs approached Derrek Lee after the season about waiving his no trade clause. Lee does not want to leave Chicago and will remain with the Cubs for the final two years of his contract.

Carlos Marmol

Bruce Levine and Carmen DeFalco talked about relief pitching pretty extensively on Saturday morning. Carlos Marmol was discussed and Levine recalled a conversation he had with Marmol last season. Marmol has a great changeup according to Levine and the Cubs will try to get him to throw it more next season. A good changeup is less damaging to a pitcher’s arm and is much less violent than the slider that Marmol currently throws. Levine talked about Trevor Hoffman’s longevity is due to a great changeup and it would be wise for Marmol to use his more to keep him from breaking down.

Finally….Cot’s Contracts received a tremendous write up by John Donovan in SI.com. Cot’s Contracts has become the site that every one uses for accurate information on players’ contracts throughout the league. A big tip of the cap goes out to Jeff from the CCO!

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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