Is Angel Guzman on the Block?

Depending on the source, the Cubs are looking to add a right-handed relief pitcher, a fourth outfielder or a starting pitcher … or maybe all three. Jim Hendry would like to make changes to his roster before Spring Training, that much is known.

The CCO’s three-part series on the projections for the 2010 season will resume but with pitchers and catchers reporting to Fitch Park in just over a month, February 17, let’s check in on the mill.

The Cubs like Ben Sheets, but can’t afford him. Could the Cubs really be shopping Angel Guzman? News on Felipe Lopez and Heath Bell, plus another minor league signing was announced on Tuesday. Here’s the latest …

Chatting with Bruce Levine

The always-informative Bruce Levine held his weekly chat Tuesday afternoon on ESPN Chicago from Mesa, Arizona. Mr. Levine is in the Phoenix area for the owners’ meeting with all 30 GMs in attendance. Here are the highlights:

  • The Cubs have discussed trading Sean Marshall, Tom Gorzelanny, Mike Fontenot and Angel Guzman in possible deals that would net them a fourth outfielder or a veteran relief pitcher.
  • According to Levine, “Guzman will most likely be moved to bring back either and outfielder or another setup man.” The Cubs like Angel Guzman but “they’re unsure of the stability of his arm for the future.”
  • The media will receive a progress report from Ted Lilly during the convention.
  • Lilly is still targeting to begin throwing next month with a late April return.
  • Carlos Zambrano is the only one that can fix Carlos Zambrano … not Greg Maddux. Levine pointed out Zambrano always reports to camp in good shape but seems to “gain weight during the season.” Levine thinks he should “stay away from the second and third spread in the clubhouse everyday.”
  • Levine agreed with a comment that suggested the Cubs should extend Derrek Lee’s contract.
  • Due to money restraints, Jim Hendry will “have to be a bottom feeder” this winter. The new owners have basically “frozen the payroll.”
  • Ryan Theriot will be moved to second base eventually, “hopefully” with Starlin Castro at shortstop. Levine “would not be shocked” if Lou Piniella tries to move Theriot to second during Spring Training if Starlin Castro “has a good start.”
  • The Cubs are “pretty well convinced” Jeff Samardzija is “not a pen guy for now.” Samardzija will get an opportunity to earn a spot in the rotation.
  • Jim Hendry has talked to a “few teams about trades” for a right-handed reliever … including Toronto for Jason Frasor.
  • Money is an issue for the Cubs … and trades will have to include similar contracts.
  • The Cubs like Jonny Gomes. Gomes’ agent is looking for a good deal and the Cubs do not have the money.
  • The Rockies “probably” want a bullpen arm for Ryan Spilborghs.
  • The Cubs are monitoring Alfonso Soriano and are hoping he will “bounce back” next season without the nagging leg injuries that has plagued his first three years with the Cubs.
  • Aramis Ramirez is working hard this winter. Ramirez’s agent, Paul Kinzer, recently spoke with Levine and indicated his client is working “on his conditioning and strengthening the muscles around the area where the shoulder was dislocated.”
  • Aramis Ramirez is one of three Cubs that will not be at the Convention.
  • Koyie Hill is the backup to Geovany Soto.
  • Levine would be cautious on spending money on Ben Sheets Levine feels Jon Garland or John Smoltz could be a better fit.
  • The Cubs have no interest in Felipe Lopez according to Bruce Levine’s source.
  • The Cubs will have three second basemen on the roster “when Starlin Castro becomes the starting shortstop.”

Ben Sheets

The former Brewers’ ace keeps popping up with the Cubs. Bruce Levine has indicated for weeks that the Cubs have interest in Ben Sheets. Sheets is looking for a lot of money ($10 to $12 million) but Ken Rosenthal predicted last week Sheets would end up with the Cubs for less than his asking price.

Paul Sullivan reported on Monday night that the Cubs are planning on making a run at Sheets. The Cubs are interested in Sheets and will watch him workout but they might not be able to afford him.

Bruce Levine said on Tuesday that the Cubs chances of signing Sheets are around 10% … unless he takes a “cousins discount.” Sheets is from Louisiana.

Levine thinks the Cubs could only sign Sheets for around $1 million, plus incentives. The Cubs should be concerned over Sheets injury history. Like Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, Ben Sheets is a high-risk, high-reward pitcher.

The Cubs have approximately $3 to $5 million left on the payroll to add a fourth outfielder, a bullpen arm and a starting pitcher according to Bruce Levine. Sheets is wanting more than that despite the fact he did not pitch last year.

A report from Cubs.com indicated Sheets’ asking price “does not appear to fit” into the Cubs budget … if he is demanding what reports have suggested.

As Bruce Miles pointed out, the Cubs still need to see him throw “and if Sheets and agent Casey Close want a high-priced multiyear deal, it won’t be with the Cubs.”

Jim Bowden reported during his show on XM Radio (MLB Live) with Joe Castellano on Tuesday night that he has heard the Cubs would really like to add Ben Sheets … just not at his “astronomical” asking price.

Heath Bell

Bruce Miles reported on Tuesday that there “doesn’t seem to be much to those Heath Bell rumors, at least at this point.” Bell is arbitration eligible and is in line to have a huge payday. Miles questioned if the Cubs want to mess with Carlos Marmol again this spring.

The Cubs’ Payroll Commitments

Baseball Prospectus recently added Jeff Euston (Cot’s Baseball Contracts) to their team. Kevin Goldstein used the great resource and broke down the Cubs payroll … here is the link. It is more than worth the read.

Hot Stove U … The Cubs’ Contractual Cul-de-sac

Minor League Signing

Non-roster invitations to big league camp should be announced in the next 10 days. The Cubs signed Bryan LaHair and appear to have re-signed Brad Snyder … both are expected to compete for a spot on the Cubs bench this spring.

Baseball America finally caught up (a little) from the Holidays on Tuesday.

The Cubs signed right-handed relief pitcher Jeff Kennard.

Jeff Kennard was 3-1 in 40 games for Louisville (Reds Triple A) last season with a 2.83 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP. Kennard finished 14 games with two saves. Kennard is 36-26 in nine minor league seasons with a 3.44 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP. In 338 career games, he has made only one start.

Jeff Kennard’s Page from Baseball Reference

The Cubs Caravan kicks off on Wednesday. The two-day event is the lead in to the Cubs Convention, which begins on Friday.

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

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