The next four days figure to be very busy for Jim Hendry and his staff. The Winter Meetings officially begin Monday morning and conclude on Thursday with the Rule 5 Draft. Hendry stated on Saturday that he feels they have done their due diligence in preparation for the meetings and will be very aggressive this week.
This could be a pivotal off-season for the Chicago Cubs. The decisions made, or not made, over the next week could have an impact down the line. It is time for the Cubs to be proactive toward their moves and roster decisions and not reactive like they have for too many years.
For the good part of the next week Indianapolis will be the center of the baseball world … basketball, auto racing and Peyton Manning will all take a backseat to America’s Pastime.
The fear for Cubs fans is that even having changed hands, their team won’t be able to do much. The lack of spending authority a year ago meant that they had to deal Mark DeRosa to sign Milton Bradley, a move that was overrated in its significance, but indicative of a paralysis that kept the team from attacking problems. Now, you see the Cubs failing to offer Rich Harden arbitration, seemingly unable to trade Bradley, loaded with extremely large salaries to players who, while good, don’t seem to comprise a championship core. Like the Mets, they will be better in 2010 than they were in ’09, because so many things went wrong last year, but it’s not clear that “better” is necessarily enough without some kind of substantial improvement to the top of the lineup, to the team OBP, to the bullpen. The Cubs don’t need to sign or trade for stars, but they need to have a better offseason with respect to roster spots eight through 25 than Hendry has had the last few years, starting this week
According to a report from Cubs.com, the Rangers have asked about Milton Bradley “but a Texas source said Sunday that Bradley was very high maintenance and the team wasn’t sure if it wanted to deal with the headache again.” The Rangers are looking to add a few arms to their bullpen this winter … and the Cubs could help them in a deal for Bradley. The Rangers would like the Cubs to “pick up a chunk of the $21 million.”
Jim Hendry denied the Internet rumors that a Milton Bradley trade was imminent.
Peter Gammons reported the Cubs should send Bradley to the Rays for Pat Burrell at some point during the meetings … then Jim Hendry will figure out what to do with Pat Burrell.
According to a report Sunday night from Cubs.com, three to four teams remain interested in Milton Bradley.
From the Hot Stove
Possible Trading Chips for the Cubs
According to a report from Baseball Prospectus, the Cubs have only two players that could possibly be used for trading chips … Micah Hoffpauir and Mike Fontenot. According to BP, the Cubs would “certainly deal” Carlos Zambrano and Alfonso Soriano “if someone would be willing to take their hefty contracts.”
Cubs Winter Meetings Outlook
Jon Paul Morosi of FoxSports.com previewed each team’s outlook prior to the Winter Meetings. For the Cubs …
The Cubs can’t begin improving their club in earnest until they deal away Milton Bradley, so look for GM Jim Hendry to seek a quick resolution this week. One bit of information obscured somewhat by the Bradley rumors: Ted Lilly, arguably the Cubs’ best pitcher this year, will miss the start of the regular season while recovering from shoulder surgery. And it doesn’t look like Rich Harden is going to be back. This team needs an outfielder and rotation help.
The holes in the Cubs’ rotation have been discussed on the CCO since the announcement of Ted Lilly’s shoulder surgery. Jon Paul Morosi mentioned the potential problems with the starting rotation and Mike Ferrin (XM Radio) discussed his concerns over the Cubs … and especially the starting rotation.
Mike Ferrin is a huge Cubs’ fan, so there is no hidden agenda. Ferrin said the Cubs will be the favorite to win the NL Central and should have the second or third highest payroll in the NL in 2010. Ferrin has been told by his Cubs’ source that the payroll for 2010 will be around $147 million … up slightly from 2009.
Among Ferrin’s concerns are all of the aging guys on the Cubs’ roster with expensive contracts and no-trade clauses. Ferrin is hoping the Cubs will not spend a lot on the bullpen and really liked the addition of Jeff Gray. Ferrin is worried about the rotation.
Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster will anchor the rotation. Randy Wells had a great rookie season but the Cubs cannot predict what they will get from Wells in 2010. With Rich Harden not in the Cubs plans, there are a lot of holes.
Tom Gorzelanny will likely be the Cubs’ fifth starter, a role he should be able to handle. Without Ted Lilly, the Cubs have a big void to fill. Ted Lilly has been the Cubs best pitcher since the 2008 All-Star break.
Simply put, as Mike Ferrin did, if Ted Lilly has one setback in his recovery and has to shut it down for two weeks that is equal to another month on the shelf. Which means Lilly would not return until June.
The CCO has mentioned this in the past, but Jim Hendry is playing with fire once again. He went into last season without a true backup for Aramis Ramirez. Ramirez misses time every season, just not to the extent he did in 2009. Not having a proven backup on the Major League team or in the wings cost the Cubs several games.
It would be another mistake by the Cubs’ GM not to have more starters than he feels he might need going into Spring Training. Lou Piniella would like to see a middle-of-the-rotation starter added … but Hendry does not see then need. The Cubs have arms in the system, but most figure the ones with a future in the big leagues are a couple of years away.
After Jeff Samardzija, Sean Marshall and Tom Gorzelanny, the Cubs are very, very thin and that says a lot. Samardzija, Marshall and Gorzelanny should be competing with Randy Wells for the fifth spot in the rotation … not for two spots with Wells penciled in as the team’s third starter.
Lou Piniella’s Return Following 2010
Jim Hendry said the Cubs would keep Lou Piniella beyond next year but has not spoken with Piniella about the possibility. Hendry indicated he would like to have Piniella back in 2011 but that is not the team’s focus right now.
Piniella has repeatedly stated the Chicago Cubs would be his last managerial job in the big leagues.
Mike Cameron Video from ESPN.com
Updates from the Weekend
For those that missed all of the rumors and news from the weekend prior to the Winter Meetings … here are links to the updates from the CCO.
Off the Field News … On the Field Rumors (12/5/09)
Includes: A rumor the Cubs could look at Ben Sheets and J.J. Putz … down the road. Updates on the Cubs’ Spring Training home, increase on ticket prices, a permanent sponsor for the new billboards at Wrigley and the back of the old scoreboard will receive a facelift before the season. Notes from Jake Fox’s interview on XM Radio … plus the latest on Milton Bradley, Reed Johnson, Mike Cameron, Rick Ankiel and Coco Crisp.
Includes: The latest rumors from Bruce Levine and notes from an interview with Jim Hendry on ESPN 1000 … plus more on the Cubs targeting Mike Cameron and the Vicente Padilla rumor from earlier in the week was shot down on Saturday.
Lou Piniella opened the door for his return to the Cubs after 2010 … the last year he is under contract.
Hendry Travels Down 1-65 to Unload Milton Bradley (12/6/09)
Includes: The latest on Milton Bradley and Mike Cameron … including a tweet from Will Carroll about an imminent deal. The Cubs are one of the teams rumored to have interest in Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano. Kevin Millwood back in the Cubs’ rumor mill and Rick Ankiel is not high on the Cubs’ list.
And from the world of Twitter … Jim Hendry was reportedly in the press box of Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday afternoon prior to the start of the Winter Meetings.
Jim Hendry is hopeful the winter meetings will be full of trades while Kenny Williams is predicting a slow week, as for activity, during the meetings.
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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!