Weekend Update … All Signs and Cubs Rumors Point Toward Indy

The baseball world is making its way toward Indianapolis … including the Cubs’ GM. Jim Hendry spoke with Bruce Levine and Jonathan Hood en route to the Winter Meetings during Talkin’ Baseball on Saturday morning.

Here’s an update from the mill and notes from Jim Hendry’s discussion on ESPN 1000 …

Before speaking with the GM of the Chicago Cubs, Bruce Levine and Jonathan Hood discussed both sides of town … and the always-informative Bruce Levine shared more than just a few rumors and tidbits.

Aaron Miles-Jake Fox

Bruce Levine briefly discussed the recently traded Aaron Miles at the top of the show. Levine sarcastically replied, “You think?” when Hood asked if Miles was a disappointment for the Cubs in 2009.

Levine explained the keys to being a good GM is making moves and if they don’t work out adjust and make changes. Levine compared the signing of Aaron Miles to “blockbusters” of the past (Mel Rojas and Todd Hundley). Levine said Hendry should be given “props” for moving Miles and getting usable pieces in return. Levine called Miles’ year with the Cubs a complete disaster due to injury and personal trauma … and added Miles had one of the worst seasons in the history of Major League Baseball.

Saving the $1.7 million on Miles’ contract will benefit the Cubs in 2010.

Some are viewing the Miles-Fox trade, as the Cubs received nothing in return that will help in 2010. Levine said many are comparing to the Mark DeRosa trade a year ago but sometimes people must look down the road. John Gaub, one of the three pitchers acquired in the DeRosa trade, is a power-arm and will compete for a spot in the Cubs’ bullpen in the spring.

Jake Fox is not a starter in the National League. He has no position according to Bruce Levine. Fox is excellent at hitting a fastball, like many Major League hitters, but the last three weeks of the season he saw nothing but breaking balls … and saw his production plummet. Fox is a solid backup in the AL and could have a good career in the Junior Circuit.

Notes and Rumors from Talkin’ Baseball

  • According to Bruce Levine, the Cubs are moving salary and peripheral players so once Milton Bradley is traded they have ways to improve the team for 2010.
  • Jeff Gray is a player that cannot be projected at age 27. Command and throwing strikes is a key for any pitcher, especially one on Lou Piniella’s staff. Levine explained even in Spring Training, it is a must to throw strikes if you are on Piniella’s staff or risk ending up in the doghouse.
  • Derrek Lee will likely receive a contract extension before the start of the season or in Spring Training … either one-year, a two-year or one-year with an option.
  • Mark DeRosa does not fit in the Cubs’ plans for 2010 … or in the future. Levine is hearing DeRosa is looking for a three-year contract in the $25 million range.
  • If Mike Fontenot is the Cubs’ starting second baseman in 2010 … it is “going to be another long season for the Cubs” according to Levine.
  • Bruce Levine is hearing the Cubs will offer arbitration (tender contracts) to all of their arbitration eligible players. Levine reminded Hood even if the player is offered a contract and it is agreed upon it is not guaranteed until after the March deadline … it will cost the team 20% of the contract. (deadline is March 31)
  • Jeff Baker will be the Cubs’ backup at third base … and will be a part-time player at second base.
  • Levine is hearing Orlando Hudson will sign with the Colorado Rockies … again, Levine thinks Hudson would be a fit with the Cubs.
  • Levine gives Starlin Castro a 50% shot of making the big league roster out of Spring Training. Castro needs more time in the minors and a couple of months in Double-A would help him develop.
  • Khalil Greene is a player the Cubs could look at … Levine did not mention the Cubs having interest.
  • Both Levine and Hood like Juan Uribe as a backup … again he did not mention the Cubs having interest in Uribe.

Jim Hendry on Talkin’ Baseball

Jim Hendry called in to ESPN 1000 from the road on his way to Indianapolis. Bruce Levine began the conversation by asking Hendry about the report in the Sun-Times that the Cubs are targeting Mike Cameron to play centerfield … Hendry said he would not comment on that subject.

Hendry said they’ve done a few good things already this off-season and he feels the winter will go longer than usual … maybe into January. He feels teams will still be making deals late into the off-season.

The Cubs are prepared for the Winter Meetings according to Hendry. He said they are looking to add an outfielder, a bench guy that can play the outfield and a bullpen arm. Hendry feels if they tinker with two or three areas they can be back in contention next season.

Players such as Alfonso Soriano, Geovany Soto and Mike Fontenot need to have resurgent years in 2010 for the Cubs to be successful according to Hendry. The Cubs’ GM used Derrek Lee’s 2009 campaign as an example. The Cubs need their own “good players” to perform to expectations.

Hendry explained it is hard to believe Carlos Zambrano would not do better than nine wins in 2010.

The conversation switched to leadoff hitters and Hendry reminded Levine that is not like the old days when most teams had table-setters at the top of the lineup. Hendry asked how many teams have that any more and reminded Levine that there are not too many Brian Roberts-type players in the world.

The Cubs took steps back in their run production in 2009. Hendry pointed out how bad the offense was getting runners in from third with less than two outs … not to mention the team’s batting average with runners in scoring position.

Hendry said it is too early to say who will be hitting leadoff for the Cubs next season. It is just December and the players do not report until mid-February.

Bruce Levine tried to ask Jim Hendry, in a roundabout and very vague way, about Milton Bradley. Levine worded the question very carefully and did not mention any names. He asked if the meetings make it easier to trade a player with being able to meet with other GMs face to face.

Hendry said as soon as the season is over he gets back into the trading mode. He explained making trades never go the way you think they will. Hendry said he had no interest in moving Hee-Seop Choi but he had coffee with Larry Beinfest at the GM Meetings and three days later Derrek Lee was a Cub.

Hendry and his staff are going to the Winter Meetings with a lot of “things” to talk about with other teams … and you never know what can happen. Hendry indicated the Cubs are going to be aggressive and try to get “things” done.

Mike Cameron

As referenced above, Mike Cameron is at the “center of wish list for Cubsaccording to the Sun-Times. Lou Piniella, speaking at Reds Fest on Friday night, indicated the Cubs would speak to Cameron’s agent at the Winter Meetings.

Lou Piniella is a big fan of Mike Cameron … and the feeling is mutual.

The Cubs also have interest in Marlon Byrd according to the Sun-Times.

Vicente Padilla

The Cubs shot down the Internet rumors of their interest in Vicente Padilla. The Sun-Times indicated the Cubs would not be looking at a veteran pitcher to add to the rotation unless a pitcher is included in a deal for Milton Bradley.

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ChicagoCubsOnline will have full recaps and updates during the winter meetings. If the Cubs make a move, the CCO will post it. If the Cubs are rumored to be making a move, the CCO will post it … so check back early and often to discuss all of the moves at Baseball’s Winter Meetings here at the CCO.

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

Quote of the Day

"The struggle you're in today is developing the strength you need for tomorrow. Don't give up." - Robert Tew
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