Is Jim Hendry Exploring the ‘Right’ Options? More from the Cubs Rumor Mill

Several reports since the end of the season stated one of Jim Hendry’s biggest off-season goals was to resign Ryan Dempster….and on Tuesday, the Cubs’ General Manager was able to scratch Dempster off his ‘to do list‘. The Cubs and Ryan Dempster agreed to a 4-year deal that could end up paying the Cubs’ best pitcher from a year ago $52 million dollars. Dempster’s new deal has a player option for the fourth year worth $14 million as well as a $4 million dollar signing bonus. Dempster will earn $8 million in 2009, $12.5 million in 2010 and $13.5 million in 2011. Dempster is the first starting pitcher to sign this winter and many think he set the market with his new deal.

Once Dempster was ‘signed, sealed and delivered‘, the Cubs rumor mill kicked back into high gear. A report from the Kansas City Star mentioned the Cubs’ interest in Mark Teahen, a possibility Bruce Levine reported on Saturday the Cubs were exploring. After the Dempster announcement, Bruce Levine mentioned the Cubs’ interest in Milton Bradley during his report on ESPN 1000 Tuesday afternoon…then there are the never-ending, always-changing Jake Peavy rumors. Plus, the Cubs are eyeing Rafael Furcal once again.

Here are the latest rumblings and grumblings….

Before getting to the latest rumors, many speculated after the Cubs resigned Ryan Dempster that they were out of the market (or running) for Jake Peavy. Even the report from the Kansas City Star about the Cubs interest in Mark Teahen made that assumption. Jim Hendry told the media on Tuesday afternoon that the Cubs’ brass will meet on Wednesday (today) and go over all of their options and plan out their next move. Hendry said they would put names on both sides of the board and figure out ways to improve the club. There is always different ways to get better according to Hendry and there was one statement worth repeating: “I wouldn’t necessarily rule out anything.

Milton Bradley

A name that has been mentioned as a possible fit this winter for the Cubs in right field is Milton Bradley….and on Tuesday, the rumor picked up a little more steam. According to Bruce Levine the Cubs are looking at Bradley to fill the need for a left-handed bat in right field, not Raul Ibanez. Levine said the Cubs are interested in Bradley but are not sure if he can still play the field.

A report on Cubs.com indicated, “the Cubs have to determine if Milton Bradley can stay healthy and whether he would be motivated.

Peter Gammons indicated in his blog on Tuesday that the Blue Jays have targeted Milton Bradley as one of their off-season priorities.

Mark Teahen

Multiple reports, citing the same source, surfaced on Tuesday night about the Cubs interest in Royals’ outfielder Mark Teahen. The Kansas City Star reported the Cubs are targeting Mark Teahen to fit their need for a left-handed right fielder. Teahen can play multiple positions as pointed out by Bruce Levine last Saturday and would make the Cubs a more athletic team.

The report in the Kansas City Star indicated the Cubs are still interested in Raul Ibanez but his contract demands could be too costly for the Cubs. The Star stated:

“Discussions stalled earlier this month, in part because the Cubs wanted to hold onto several young players while discussing a possible trade with San Diego for pitcher Jake Peavy if Ryan Dempster signed elsewhere.”

The Cubs have “long covetedDavid DeJesus but failing that, appear open to acquiring Teahen.Teahen figures to make $3 million through arbitration, or a negotiated deal, next season….meaning the Royals could non-tender Teahen.

The Royals want to keep DeJesus and talks for Teahen could increase in the “coming days (the timetable would be in line with the fact teams have until November 20th to file their reserve lists for all Major League and Minor League levels).

The Star mentioned Felix Pie as a possibility to be traded for Teahen, which would allow the Royals to move DeJesus to left field….other possibilities are Ronny Cedeno or Mike Fontenot. A report on Cubs.com stated the Royals could be interested in Felix Pie, who is out of options but will not be arbitration eligible until 2010, or Ronny Cedeno who is arbitration eligible for the first time in 2009 and is out of options.

Teahen played 14 games at first, 19 games at third, 31 games in left, 1 game at center and 92 games in right for the Royals last season. Teahen finished last year with a .255/.313/.402/.715 line and hit 15 home runs and 31 doubles in 149 games. Most of his power came on the road (11 home runs) but hit 10 points lower against righties (.252/.314/.394/.708) than lefties (.262/.311/.419/.730) with 10 home runs coming off right handed pitching.

A late report on Royals.com stated the Cubs and Royals have not discussed a deal for Teahen and that Teahen’s agent “was unaware of any trade talks.

Rafael Furcal

Ken Rosenthal reported on Tuesday that the Cubs “could enter the mix for Furcal” and the Sun-Times also mentioned the Cubs interest in the free agent shortstop.

A report in the Tribune indicated the Cubs are interested in Furcal who is seeking a 3-year deal worth $10 million a year.” Frucal’s agent, Paul Kinzer, has spoken with the Cubs but the Tribune mentioned the talks “were nothing serious yet.

If the Cubs added Furcal, he would give them a legitimate leadoff hitter and could free up Ryan Theriot to move to second base or be a part of a trade.

Adam Dunn – Raul Ibanez – Bobby Abreu

The Cubs are not looking at Raul Ibanez to play right field according to Bruce Levine. XM Radio reported Ibanez, 36 (will turn 37 on June 2nd), is looking for a 3-year deal with an annual payout of around $10 million dollars. The price tag alone should take the Cubs out of the running for Ibanez….not to mention his questionable (at best) defensive abilities, especially in right field at Wrigley.

A report on Cubs.com stated free-agents “such as Bobby Abreu, Adam Dunn and Raul Ibanez don’t appear to be good fits” to fill the need for a left-handed bat that can play right field.

Jake Peavy

Bruce Levine stuck to his reports from Saturday and said acquiring Jake Peavy would cost the Cubs five players and it depends if Jim Hendry wants to spend his inventory on one player.

Just because the Cubs inked Ryan Dempster on Tuesday does not mean they are out of the Jake Peavy sweepstakes according to Bruce Levine. The Cubs are still exploring their options with Peavy and Randy Johnson.

After stating over the weekend that the Braves were out of the running for Jake Peavy, a report on the Padres website on Tuesday afternoon indicated the Padres are not ruling out the Braves for Peavy. Most of the experts think Peavy will end up in Atlanta, it is the better package, but Peavy reportedly wants to play for the Cubs. A new sticking point seems to be Peavy wants no-trade protection with the Braves and Atlanta is not an organization that hands out no-trade clauses.

A day after Kevin Towers said he was focused on the Cubs, the signing of Ryan Dempster has changed the Cubs focus from improving their pitching to improving their offense according to the report on Padres.com.

Stay tuned on the Peavy rumors. As everyday passes the Winter of Brian Roberts keeps coming to mind…..

Ryan Dempster

On Tuesday afternoon Bruce Levine called the Dempster signing an important one for the Cubs and Ryan Dempster. According to Levine, his agent wanted him to wait another month to sign and continue to explore the market. Levine mentioned he thought a 4-year deal for Dempster was rather long but much better than a 5-year contract.

Ryan Dempster joined Dave Kaplan on Sports Central (WGN Radio) Tuesday night and discussed his new contract. He said he has a good feeling about his new deal and realizes he could have waited a little longer but wanted to concentrate on baseball. Dempster added he knew he would be back.

Kaplan asked him if he enjoyed the process of being a free agent and Dempster responded with ‘yes and no‘. Dempster thought about the Cubs offer long and hard on Monday night and thought it was a fair deal….even though he probably could have gotten more money elsewhere.

Dempster feels the Cubs have a good team coming back and one quote that stuck out was: “I’m being paid more money than I should be playing baseball.” He said it comes down to being happy and the money is more than he could ever spend. Dempster stated he doesn’t care for the business end and just wants to play ball.

Kaplan asked Dempster if he talked to Kerry Wood since last week. Dempster said he and Kerry have gotten very close over the last five years and he thinks the team will be good without him….but would have been just as good with him. He is excited for Kerry and the possibility of a big contract for him and his family.

Dempster said Rich Harden is in Arizona working with Mark O’Neal and that he is planning a boot-camp style type workout in Denver for himself, Ted Lilly and Mark DeRosa. Dempster hopes the training session will happen and if it does, he feels it will help prepare for next year.

Kaplan asked Dempster if he had any specific plans in mind to spend some of his new contract. In typical Ryan Dempster fashion, he said he was going to buy a sidecar for his bike and start super sizing his lunches. Dempster was quite humble and said even though the paychecks will be bigger….the goal is still the same.

Video from ESPN.com – Peter Gammons on the Ryan Dempster Signing

Pending Ownership

Ken Rosenthal stated on Tuesday morning that the Cubs new ownership group is expected to be selected by Christmas according to his sources.

Bruce Levine mentioned in his Tuesday afternoon report that the Ricketts Group is the leader to buy the Cubs and that Mark Cuban is definitely out of the running (after the news concerning the SEC came out on Monday). Levine went on to explain that after Thanksgiving the new ownership group will be announced and the sale should be finalized by the first of the year.

Odds and Ends

The story breaker, Bruce Levine, stated the Cubs won 97 games last season without a true leadoff hitter and a middle of the order, left-handed bat is where the priority for the Cubs is now (Levine used the term ‘most important’ in reference to adding a left-handed bat).

The Cubs are planning to platoon Reed Johnson and Kosuke Fukudome in center next season and it will be up to Felix Pie, once Spring Training starts, to win a job at the age of 23. Pie is out of options and will wind up on the bench, unless he is traded according to Levine.

Larry Rothschild joined Joe Castellano (XM Radio) on Tuesday night and reiterated several points he made last week on WGN Radio about the pitching staff. There were a couple of points worth mentioning.

Carlos Zambrano was discussed and Rothschild thinks all of Zambrano’s innings might have caught up with him last year. He expects Zambrano to come to Spring Training stronger than last year and does not think there will be any carryovers from last season’s arm troubles. Rothschild was very impressed with the way Zambrano handled himself and kept it together during Game Two of the NLDS and hopes that will be a building block for him learning how to control his emotions.

Ticket Prices

Unlike the Boston Red Sox, the Cubs have decided to raise ticket prices for next year. Bruce Levine did not go into specifics, but he said the announcement will be made soon.

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

Quote of the Day

"In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than you fear of failure." - Bill Cosby
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