The Sale, The Payroll and Trader Jim

As the Cubs’ brass made their way to Las Vegas on Saturday, the most important news for the Chicago Cubs of the off-season hit the wire late on Friday night. According to multiple reports the sale of the Chicago Cubs is expected to be completed by Spring Training. It has been business as usual for Jim Hendry and his staff for nearly two years but the pending ownership change has begun to affect what the Cubs can and cannot do….both on the field and behind the scenes.

Crane Kenney was quoted in the Tribune about his future with the organization after Sam Zell sells most of his interest in the team. Kenney said, “There’s a lot bigger stuff coming, and better stuff coming, for this franchise. It would be exciting to be a part of that, and a new owner, I think, with one commitment to it, it would help us get there.

Spring Training is a week longer this year because of the WBC and will go from pitchers and catchers reporting on February 14th to their final exhibition game at New Yankee Stadium on April 4th….Opening Day for the Cubs is April 6, 2009 in Houston.

With the reports of the sale of the team also came the announcement that the Cubs payroll for 2009 will probably be between $140 and $145 million dollars. The Sun-Times reported the Cubs payroll would be up around 10 percent from the final $130 million they paid out in 2008.

So as Jim Hendry spends Saturday night setting up his table in the ‘lobby‘ of the Bellagio, here are the updates from the mill….

Jake Peavy, Jason Marquis and the Payroll

Two Cubs sources told the Sun-Times this week that the Cubs are still interested in Padres right-hander Jake Peavy, including one saying he expects Jim Hendry to acquire the former Cy Young winner.The Sun-Times went on to explain that Hendry is “said to be drawing up off-season transaction scenarios even more creative than usual for him.

The delay in the Cubs acquiring Peavy appeared earlier in the week to be the inability to add his contract….but the Sun-Times indicated that is no longer the case. The Cubs are “willing to eat as much as $4 million” of Jason Marquis’ $9.875 million dollar contract at this point to free up room to make additional changes.

The Sun-Times pointed out without any additions this off-season and with pay raises due to salary arbitration eligible players, the 2009 Opening Day payroll would be $133 million. If the Sun-Times’ math is correct, just the addition of Peavy would mean a $144 million dollar payroll in 2009…and they would still need to add a left-handed right fielder. Moving Marquis would free up nearly $6 million if the Cubs are willing to send $4 million in any deal involving Marquis.

A report from the Tribune stuck to the reports that Jason Marquis would probably have to be traded in order for the Cubs to afford to add Jake Peavy…and said if they could not move Marquis then the Cubs “would be burdened with the highest-paid middle reliever in history.

Talkin’ Baseball with Bruce Levine

For those unaware, the Story Breaker himself has his own blog now and promises updates from the Winter Meetings. Bruce Levine talked everything Cubs, and White Sox, with Chet Coppock on Saturday morning….with a couple of special guests Randy Bush and Bill Brick, special assistant to Kevin Towers.

Bruce Levine started the show by saying Jim Hendry has goals for the upcoming week in Las Vegas. He added there is a tremendous Cubs’ angle to the start of the meetings on Monday with the announcement on Ron Santo and the retirement of Greg Maddux…plus Lou Piniella’s press conference is scheduled for Monday.

Levine thins both Jim Hendry and Kenny Williams will have active weeks.

On the Jake Peavy front, Levine talked about the latest. He said with the addition of Peavy the Cubs’ payroll for next season would be around $140 million and that moving Jason Marquis is a priority…..he added after the 12 o’clock hour that he expects Jason Marquis to be traded this week in Las Vegas.

The Cubs must decide on the right players to trade to San Diego for Peavy and then get the new owners to signoff on adding between $60 and $80 million to the Cubs payroll over the next four to five years. Levine added, if the Cubs were to acquire Peavy then add a couple of lefties to the line-up, “Oh, what a Christmas it would be.

Bill Brick joined Levine and Coppock for a quick segment and talked about Steve Garvey and Gary Templeton….oops, wrong decade, he, of course, discussed the ongoing talks between Jim Hendry and Kevin Towers for Jake Peavy.

Brick stated the Padres are in rebuilding mode and it is a good time to be a minor leaguer in the Padres system. He said it is tough for the Padres to think about trading Peavy and this reminds him of when he worked with the Pirates organization and they had to dump payroll.

When the Padres traded Khalil Greene to the Cardinals a few days back it gave the Padres a little more flexibility with their payroll and with Jake Peavy. In other words, if the Padres do not find the right deal, they do not necessarily have to trade him…he added that Kevin Towers would trade anyone in the right deal. He still thinks the Cubs are in on Jake Peavy and knows Jim Hendry is working to get it done. Brick said, “If the Cubs don’t win it all with Peavy in the rotation, then I will begin to believe in the curse.

The Padres must get a good amount in return for Jake Peavy according to Brick. He added the Padres will have lots of holes, especially who’s at second and who’s at short. He confirmed the Padres asked the Braves for Tyler Flowers and Tommy Hanson for Peavy.

Randy Bush spent a little time with Levine and Coppock as well on Saturday morning. Bush spoke on the phone from O’Hare waiting to board a plane headed for Las Vegas. He said the distractions of Las Vegas will not keep them for meeting with teams and he does not anticipate much down time this week. He joked about the fact there will be a lot of “blurry-eyed people coming back to Chicago.

Bruce Levine talked about the best info during the meetings usually comes late at night after the executives spend time in a bar. In the ‘old days, twenty to thirty years ago‘ as Levine referred to them, guys would meet at the bar, have a few and make deals….basically get the job done after a few adult beverages.

Kosuke Fukudome was discussed and Randy Bush said what he did in the first two months of 2008 was not a mirage. Fukudome is a Gold Glove caliber right fielder according to Bush and he helped changed the lineup. He showed the other guys how to be patient at the plate. Fukudome started struggling in the second half and never got out of it. He said he wasn’t a matter of the pitchers or the league figuring him out, he just started struggling and was never able to get out of it. Bush said Fukudome is a proud man and will get it figured out.

Ryan Theriot was next up and Bush said Theriot is the Cubs shortstop now and in the future. He reminded Levine that last year was Theriot’s first full season as a starter and pointed out the fact that Theriot is a winner…and he does things necessary to be a winner. The Cubs do not have problems with Theriot remaining at short but later in the discussion over Theriot, Bush did admit that Theriot could slide over to second base. To say Randy Bush was very complementary toward Ryan Theriot would be an understatement.

Levine talked about what the Cubs rotation would look like if Peavy were added to the mix. He said he would run out the following starting five….in this order: Jake Peavy, Ted Lilly, Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster and Rich Harden. He said the Cubs must move Jason Marquis to acquire Peavy but a rotation with Peavy could be, on paper, as good as the one in Atlanta in 1993 after Greg Maddux signed with the Braves (Maddux, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Steve Avery). Levine said the Cubs could still use Sean Marshall as the sixth starter if he is not dealt.

Levine was asked about Rich Hill and Levine said he was suffering from the walking blues. He added that teams are still calling the Cubs about Rich Hill, even with all of his command problems….after all, Hill is a lefty.

Levine said the Cubs’ main move figures to be for free agent left handed hitters and switch hitters this week.

The Bullpen

The Cubs probably will not go after lefty Joe Beimel according to a report in the Tribune. Earlier in the week, Paul Sullivan speculated Chad Gaudin could be non-tendered but on Saturday he listed Gaudin, along with Jeff Samardzija, Neal Cotts and Kevin Gregg as being in the Cubs plans for the pen in 2009. The Shark will “probably remain in the bullpen instead of starting the season in the rotation at Triple-A Iowa.

Kerry Wood

Speaking of the bullpen, according to Buster Olney, the Mets will make three relievers offers during the Winter Meetings and the first to accept will close games for the Metropolitans next season and beyond. Olney speculated and called the figures educated guesses that Francisco Rodriguez will receive a 3-year, $36 million dollar offer. Brian Fuentes, three years and $30 million and Kerry Wood a 2-year offer worth between $16 and $18 million.

Bruce Levine mentioned on Saturday that if Wood is still on the market in a month there could be a way he could return to the Cubs on a one-year deal….but Levine does not think it is likely he will remain unemployed that long. Levine said by then the sale of the team will be figured out, but not yet finalized.

Ray Durham

Could the former Brewer and South Side resident be on Lou Piniella’s bench next season? The Tribune mentioned Ray Durham as a possibility to be a backup for the Cubs in 2009.

Javier Valentin and Koyie Hill

As everyday passes it appears Henry Blanco’s days with the Cubs are over. The Tribune stated the Cubs could sign Javier Valentin to be Geovany Soto’s backup next season or go with fan and organizational favorite, Koyie Hill. Valentin would give Piniella a veteran left-handed pinch hitter of the bench as well.

Randy Johnson

The East Valley Tribune listed the Cubs as one of six teams interested in Randy Johnson on Saturday….the Dodgers, Giants, Brewers, A’s and Rangers are the other five.

Rafael Furcal

The former Dodger and Brave rejected a multiyear offer from the Oakland A’s on Friday. According to reports from ESPN and FoxSports.com, the offer was believed to be 4 years in the $35 to $40 million dollar range.

Bruce Levine said on Saturday morning that adding a leadoff hitter is important to the Cubs but he would be leary because of Furcal’s back problems. Levine labeled Furcal ‘a big gamble‘.

Brian Roberts

According to a report from the Baltimore Sun, Andy MacPhail figures clubs will ask about Brian Roberts this week in Las Vegas. The Orioles plan is to extend Roberts’ contract, not to trade him and Mark Pieper (Roberts’ agent) and MacPhail are expected to meet this week.

Donald Veal

The Cubs did not protect the very talented southpaw and will likely lose him in the Rule 5 Draft next week. J.J. Cooper from Baseball America joined Jeff Joyce on XM Radio Saturday afternoon and Donald Veal was the first prospect the two discussed as a possibility to be taken in the Rule 5 Draft. Cooper thinks the White Sox will take a chance on Veal and will put him in the pen. Cooper said Veal is a one-pitch pitcher that could excel in the bullpen in the right situation.

From Viva Las Hendry

A quote from the Tribune:

“We’re not opposed to moving money and adding money. It’s kind of intriguing, to be honest. We’re in a good spot because … the team that’s on our wall right now you can line up with and contend. I don’t think a lot of clubs can say that.”

While the meetings do not officially start until Monday, the decision makers are in Las Vegas….it should be an interesting week. And for the Cubs organization, Monday will be a big day. One of the greatest of All-Time is scheduled to announce his retirement and one of the greatest Cubs of All-Time should finally be enshrined into the Hall.

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

Quote of the Day

"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow." - Albert Einstein
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