Weekend Update … A New Priority for the Cubs?

Move over Marlon Byrd and Mike Cameron, the Cubs will make Curtis Granderson their number one target of the off-season according to Bruce Levine … if he is indeed available. Some recently questioned if Curtis Granderson is actually on the block. After all he has a cost-effective contract for 2010 and should be an important part of the Tigers’ organization moving forward … but the Tigers are having financial issues, like many teams and most of the country. Detroit has several high-priced veterans that cannot be moved and Granderson might give them several players, not just for 2010, but for the future.

Here is the latest from the mill, including info on the Cubs sending an offer sheet to the agent for John Grabow

Notes from Talkin’ Baseball

The always-informative Bruce Levine talked everything Cubs’ baseball, and a little White Sox too, with Jonathan Hood on his weekly show Saturday morning.

Levine stated the Cubs will continue to be proactive and will continue going “full throttle” to change this team.

The Cubs have $140 million already on the books for 2010 according to Bruce Levine (with players under contract, automatic renewals and arbitration eligible players). Levine said that number ($140 million) is very close to the projected payroll on opening day.

Some reports have suggested the Cubs’ payroll could be from $143 million to $150 million next season. Levine said Jim Hendry would have to make lateral moves once again this winter. In other words, Hendry will have to drop payroll in order to make changes to his roster … and Hendry will not have any room to make additions unless he sheds some current contracts.

A caller asked about Kelly Johnson of the Braves. Levine likes him but has not heard any interest from the Cubs. Johnson figures to be one of the many players non-tendered this winter. The Cubs have to upgrade at second base this offseason according to Levine. They cannot go into 2010 with the same middle infield. Levine views Jeff Baker as a good backup for second and third but not an everyday player. Mike Fontenot is not an option.

Geovany Soto will go into the season as the Cubs starting catcher … with Koyie Hill as the backup.

Ted Lilly being back by mid-April is optimistic, late April or the first of May more realistic.

Jeff Samardzija will compete for a spot in the starting rotation of either the Cubs or the I-Cubs next year … no more bullpen for the Shark.

Jim Hendry

The Cubs’ general manager stated this week he thinks there will be a lot of trades throughout the game. Attendance was down seven percent and there are financial problems with many teams in Major League Baseball.

Milton Bradley

Bruce Levine reiterated the Rangers, Mets and Rays are the three teams Jim Hendry talked with the most about Milton Bradley during the GM meetings. It is going to take a lot of creativity to make a deal for Milton Bradley. Tampa or Texas would be good markets for Bradley while New York would not be. According to Levine, if the Mets acquired Bradley they would move him immediately to another team (Levine did not mention specifically, but this is where a three-team deal could be made that included Pat Burrell and Luis Castillo).

The Rays wanted Bradley last season and had a two-year deal for him on the table. Levine feels Bradley could be a good fit in Tampa but the Cubs are looking for the Rays to pick-up more than $3 – $4 million of Bradley’s contract … Hendry is not willing at this point to make the deal with the Rays and ‘eat‘ that much money.

Marlon Byrd

Reports early last week indicated the Cubs would target Marlon Byrd to play center once free agency begins on November 20. Hendry attempted to trade for Byrd before the 2008 season … and before Reed Johnson fell into their lap. In other words, Hendry has viewed Marlon Byrd as a player that could help the Cubs for several years.

Bruce Levine briefly discussed Marlon Byrd Saturday morning. Levine said with the recent rumors of Curtis Granderson possibly being available, Byrd has become a back-up plan, same as Mike Cameron, for the Cubs this winter.

Curtis Granderson

As mentioned on Saturday, Curtis Granderson will likely end up being the 2009-2010 version of Brian Roberts and Jake Peavy.

Bruce Levine indicated Curtis Granderson could be the Cubs’ number one target if he is made available. Levine thinks it will cost the Cubs in terms of prospects in order to land Granderson.

The reason the Tigers could be shopping him is numbers. The Tigers have several contracts that cannot be moved (sound familiar) and they took a large hit in attendance last season. The Tigers drew roughly 3.25 million in 2008 and dropped to just 2.5 million through the gate in 2009. As Levine pointed out, at $50 per ticket, that is roughly $30 million in lost revenue.

The Tigers are also looking at a huge payday in the near future for Justin Verlander … and must have the money to re-sign (or extend) him. Contracts of Dontrelle Wills, Miguel Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez and Jeremy Bonderman have really handcuffed the team and other than Cabrera all are viewed as bad contracts.

According to Bruce Levine, the Tigers know if they trade Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson they can get numbers in return. Not only do the Tigers have to shed payroll they also have to figure out a way to remain competitive.

Bruce Levine shot down the ‘reportsfrom Phil Rogers on what it would take for the Cubs to land Curtis Granderson … especially the one that mentioned Carlos Marmol. Levine was pretty adamant on the fact the Cubs would not include Starlin Castro in any deal … much less one for Curtis Granderson. The Cubs view Castro as their future shortstop and feel the 19-year old could be in the big leagues a couple of months after the 2010 season begins.

Levine explained later in the show that he can guarantee that a Cubs’ source did not tell Phil Rogers they would give up Starlin Castro and Andrew Cashner in a deal for Granderson.

Levine admitted Granderson would be a good fit for the Cubs both on and off the field. He would give them a leadoff hitter against right-handed pitching with Ryan Theriot hitting behind him … depending on what they do with filling the hole at second base.

Levine drove home the fact Granderson cannot be played against left-handed pitchers … and if the Cubs do acquire Granderson they should re-sign Reed Johnson. Levine feels Johnson could remain healthy and provide a solid platoon partner for Granderson.

Granderson strikes out a lot and the Cubs do not want another Alfonso Soriano swinging-n-missing at the top of the lineup but Rudy Jaramillo should be able to help him … especially against lefties.

Levine mentioned later on Josh Vitters could be included in a deal for Granderson. Vitters might end up as a first baseman and might fit on an American League team a little better. From what Levine has heard, the Cubs will not give up either Castro or Andrew Cashner in a deal for Granderson … and, as mentioned, debunked the Rogers’ article.

Jake Fox could be an option in a deal for Granderson. Fox is viewed as an “AL player” and a DH but Levine is not sure if the Tigers would be interested in him. The Tigers will be looking for a replacement for Granderson in centerfield and at least three quality players that are cost effective and can help in 2010.

The Tigers cannot project their attendance for 2010 and cannot go into the season with a $120 million payroll.

Levine indicated toward the end of the show that the Cubs’ interest in Curtis Granderson is legit but he is not sure if there is a match. The Cubs will not include Starlin Castro and Andrew Cashner is a deal for Granderson.

Aaron Miles

Bruce Levine mentioned the “personal problemsAaron Miles had to deal with again last season … and the fact he could not shake them, Levine did not go into specifics and has hinted in the past that is was a difficult divorce. Levine said the personal problem was not a death in Miles’ family or a health issue.

Levine said the Cubs must move Aaron Miles and his $2.7 million contract this winter.

John Grabow

According to Bruce Levine, the Cubs’ faxed over an offer sheet to Grabow’s agent on Wednesday. The deal is believed to be two years worth around $7 million. Levine thinks the deal will get done but he’s not sure if the contract is exactly what John Grabow is looking for … the Cubs have until November 20 to work out a contract with Grabow before he hits the open market.

Randy Wells on XM Radio

Whether Randy Wells ends up being a one-season wonder or not will be determined soon … but one thing is certain, Randy Wellsgets it“. Randy Wells joined Jeff Joyce on MLB Live Weekend Edition (XM Radio) Saturday.

Jeff Joyce asked Wells about last year and his thoughts on the season. Wells said he was really pleased given his background and was glad he was given the opportunity to show he could be effective in the big leagues.

Wells is not sure when the Cubs decided he would be a starter. Wells spent time in the bullpen until he came back to the Cubs’ organization from Toronto (Blue Jays picked Wells in the 2007 Rule V Draft but offered him back after one major league appearance).

Wells admitted he struggled as a starter before learning a slider with the Blue Jays and how to keep the ball down.

The Cubs’ right-hander admitted he lost focus a little last season. He tried to use the fact he could be making his last start every time he was given the ball as fuel to keep him motivated. Wells explained he has to learn how to evaluate his own stuff in the first inning … basically what he has to work with on a given day. He explained that sometimes he would try to push through instead of making adjustments, which shortened his outing several times.

Randy Wells is pleased with the amount of groundballs he was able to induce last year and feels that was a big key to his success.

Wells loves being a Cub, loves Wrigley Field and playing in Chicago. He explained that a player cannot “let the stuff get you down” that is associated with playing with the Cubs. There is a lot of pressure but you have to remain positive … especially when dealing with some of the “fans“. He said, “You just gotta laugh it off … gonna have good days and gonna have bad days.

Jeff Joyce asked about Milton Bradley. Wells said, “Milton is Milton.” He mentioned the fact he cannot speak for Bradley and described him as a great guy and a really good teammate. Wells went onto explain it went bad for Bradley early and he couldn’t recover.

Randy Wells is not taking his spot in the rotation next season for granted. He does not expect the job to be handed to him and he realizes he must earn it. Tom Gorzelanny and Jeff Samardzija deserve a spot in the rotation according to Wells and they will be trying to take his job in the spring.

Wells thinks Darwin Barney, Mitch Atkins and J.R. Mathes could help the big league club win ballgames.

The break is already over for Wells. He has begun working out for next year, hired a personal trainer and received advice from Ryan Dempster and Ted Lilly on how to prepare for a long season. Wells said he would start throwing in December and “crank it up” in January.

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

Quote of the Day

"Don't wish it were easier. Wish you were better." - Jim Rohn

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