Decisions, Decisions and More Decisions Ahead for the Cubs

Will Matt Capps choose the Nationals or the Cubs? Is Marlon Byrd still an option for centerfield? What about second base? The bench?

The Cubs are expected to hear by Wednesday night on Matt Capps’ decision on whether he will close for the Nationals … or set-up Carlos Marmol on the North Side. According to multiple reports the former Pirate is expected to sign with either the Cubs or Nationals before Christmas Eve. Capps’ former teammate, John Grabow, made contact with Capps trying to recruit him to sign with the Cubs.

In the wake of the Melky Cabrera-Javier Vazquez trade between the Yankees and Braves, the Cubs will continue to explore free agent options and possible trading partners to fill their need for a centerfielder.

Bruce Levine thinks the Cubs will be very active over the next ten days … here’s the latest from the mill.

Chatting with Bruce Levine

Mr. Talkin’ Baseball held his weekly chat on ESPN Chicago Tuesday afternoon. The always-informative Bruce Levine tossed a couple of new names into the rumor mill. Here are the highlights:

  • Starlin Castro has been compared to Hanley Ramirez … but at 19 it is hard to make a true comparison to the Marlins’ shortstop. Castro could be with the Cubs by mid to late 2010.
  • The Cubs are looking at rehab pitchers Kelvim Escobar and Ben Sheets.
  • Levine is hearing Aroldis Chapman is looking for four years and around $35 million, which is too much for the Cubs.
  • Levine thinks the Cubs listened to the Indians about possibly trading for Kerry Wood … but he thinks the Wood “ship has sailed” with the Cubs.
  • Carlos Silva will have every chance to fail with the Cubs before they would release him. Silva is slotted to compete for the fifth spot in the rotation … but could end up in the pen.
  • Reed Johnson wants to come back to the Cubs.
  • The Cubs were interested in Javier Vazquez.
  • Scott Podsednik is looking for a three-year deal in the neighborhood of $12 million ($4 million per season).
  • According to Levine, “it is believed that management will allow Hendry to spend more dollars to fill the roster for 2010.
  • The Cubs like Orlando Hudson … but he is not the Cubs’ priority right now. The Cubs are looking to add a bullpen arm and a centerfielder.
  • The Cubs were very interested in Melky Cabrera.
  • Jim Hendry will investigate the trade market and free agents over the next couple of weeks. Levine thinks Hendry will be extremely aggressive, even during the holidays.
  • The Cubs might consider Jose Contreras to fill the final spot in the rotation.
  • The Cubs would love to trade Kosuke Fukudome … but there is no market. “There was some thought that he could go in a trade to the Yankees, who are losing a lot of Japanese revenue now that Matsui is playing in Anaheim. That trade is not going to happen now.
  • Levine tossed out the idea of trading Kosuke Fukudome for Nick Swisher. Later Levine pointed out the two teams have not discussed the trade. Swisher was the back-up plan for the Cubs had Fukudome signed elsewhere two winters ago.
  • Scouts that Levine has spoken to about Josh Vitters think he will hit at the big league level … but could end up being a first baseman.
  • The Ricketts family really likes Ryne Sandberg and he could be the Cubs’ manager once Lou Piniella decides to hang ’em up.

Matt Capps

Matt Capps’ agent, Paul Kinzer, told Bruce Levine that his client would make a decision by Wednesday night.

One thing is certain Matt Capps is about to get paid.

The Cubs and Nationals are looking to sign Capps to a two-year contract and it appears the deal will be worth around $8 million.

The Nationals were not originally on Capps’ radar but they have pushed very hard to sign him according to a report from ESPN. If Capps wants to remain a closer, he will sign with the Nationals.

According to a report from, John Grabow told Capps that he might not sign with the Cubs as a closer “but things happen.

Grabow described Capps as a bulldog and a guy willing to take the ball everyday.

Marlon Byrd

The Cubs are still interested in signing Marlon Byrd. According to a report from ESPN, the Cubs remain the favorite to sign Byrd. The Cubs think Byrd will continue to hit outside of Texas due to the influence of Rudy Jaramillo. Byrd views Jaramillo as his mentor.

Apparently Byrd is looking for too much money. Bruce Levine said the Cubs could sign both Byrd and Matt Capps … but “it depends on how soon Byrd’s agents will bring down his request to a more realistic amount.

The Braves are one of the other teams rumored to be interested in signing Marlon Byrd.

Marlon Byrd is represented by Seth and Sam Levinson … the same agents as Milton Bradley.

Jim Duquette (XM Radio) made a bold statement about Marlon Byrd on Tuesday. Duquette said, “Marlon Byrd reeks of Aaron Rowand.” Duquette does not feel Byrd will live up to the contract he is about to sign.

Centerfield Candidates?

Phil Rogers is at it again. Rogers said the Cubs have been exploring trades for centerfielders and questioned if Jim Hendry would try to reacquire Felix Pie.

Marlon Byrd, Scott Podsednik, Rick Ankiel and Reed Johnson were the other names brought up by Rogers.

As always, take the blurb from Rogers about Felix Pie with a grain of salt.

Minor Signing

The Cubs signed non-drafted free agent Derek Helenihi according to the transaction column on Baseball America. The third baseman played along side D.J. LeMahieu on the College World Series Champion Louisiana State University squad.

Derek Helenihi’s Page on the Baseball Cube

The Cubs released Erik Hamren (RHP), Bill Muldowney (RHP), George Pineda (RHP), Jayson Ruhlman (RHP) and Melvin Vazquez (LHP).

Finally … Barry Rozner asked the question: Could Girardi wind up on the Cubs’ radar? Joe Girardi is a “free agent” after the 2010 season …

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

Quote of the Day

"There are places I remember. All my life though some have changed. Some forever not for better. Some have gone and some remain. All these places have their moments ... " John Lennon/Paul McCartney