Weekend Update … The X Factor and Other Cubs Notes

It’s the final day of January. Pitchers and catchers report to Fitch Park in 17 days and Jim Hendry would like to make at least one more addition to his roster. Not only are the Cubs looking to add a reliever to the backend of their pen, they also have two arbitration eligible players still unsigned … Ryan Theriot and Carlos Marmol. The Cubs could be staring at their first arbitration hearing since Mark Grace in 1993.

Jim Hendry is excited about the signing of Xavier Nady (just call him X, that’s what Nady prefers). The Cubs added a middle-of-the-order run producer, that if healthy, could be more than just the fourth outfielder they were looking to add this winter.

Xavier Nady is coming off his second Tommy John surgery (July of 2009) and the Cubs are planning on using him sparingly during the first month of the season … as well as in Spring Training. The Cubs feel Nady will begin the year on the active roster and not on the DL with Ted Lilly. As Bruce Miles pointed out, look for the Cubs to use the designated hitter more during Spring Training than in years past in order to get X at bats.

Here’s the latest from the mill and other notes as the first month of Twenty-Ten comes to an end …

Talkin’ Baseball

Bruce Levine joined Jonathan Hood on Saturday morning for the weekly all-baseball show on ESPN 1000.

The duo began the show with a little discussion about the Cubs signing Xavier Nady and what he could bring to the table.

Xavier Nady

Bruce Levine called the addition of Xavier Nady a real good sign for the Cubs. Levine pointed out that Nady would be a work in progress at the beginning of the season. It usually takes nine or ten months for a position player to comeback from Tommy John surgery. Nady had the procedure last July.

Xavier Nady could end up being a starter for the Cubs … Nady has said as much in the last two days. Nady is going into camp to compete for a starting position not a bench role. Levine thinks Nady could end up being more productive than Kosuke Fukudome.

Nady will give Lou Piniella options if Marlon Byrd struggles and if Alfonso Soriano gets hurt again. Levine called Nady one of the better bargains of the off-season … if the Cubs can nurse him through the recovery from Tommy John.

Chad Tracy

Chad Tracy has already been at the Cubs’ facility in Mesa preparing for the season. Tracy, who signed a minor-league deal with the Cubs on Wednesday that included an invitation to big league camp, is determined to beat out Micah Hoffpauir for a spot on the Cubs bench according to Bruce Levine.

Tracy could end up being the Cubs left-handed bat off the bench, instead of Hoffpauir. Tracy gives Lou Piniella a little more flexibility than Hoffpauir. While Hoffpauir is more of just a backup at first base that can play a little outfield, Tracy can play both corner infield spots.

According to Levine, the Cubs should not need Micah Hoffpauir in the outfield this season. With the additions of Marlon Byrd and Xavier Nady, the Cubs defense should be better this season.

Sean Marshall

The versatile Sean Marshall avoided arbitration last week. Bruce Levine thinks Marshall is pigeonholed with the Cubs and could be a starting pitcher for another team. Levine feels Marshall’s career has suffered a little while with the Cubs. Levine pointed out there are several fifth starters in the league worse than Sean Marshall … but his willingness and ability to pitch out of the pen could be holding him back.

Levine thinks Sean Marshall could be used in a trade.

The Cubs are going to add a reliever and if the addition is made via a trade Sean Marshall, Tom Gorzelanny or Angel Guzman could be used in a deal.

Backend of the Pen

The Cubs have spoken to the Padres and Blue Jays about a couple of relievers … Luke Gregerson, Scott Downs and Jason Frasor.

If the Cubs pull a deal for one of the three relievers, the Blue Jays and Padres would want pitching in return.

The Padres have been interested in Angel Guzman for a while according to Levine. They feel Guzman could step in and be a closer. Guzman was the Cubs top-pitching prospect for years before injuries derailed his career.

Ryan Theriot and Carlos Marmol

As January comes to an end, the Cubs face two potential arbitration cases with Ryan Theriot and Carlos Marmol.

The Cubs have avoided arbitration this winter with six of the eight eligible players … but could be headed into the little room with both their projected starting shortstop and closer.

According to Bruce Levine, Ryan Theriot is adament in his contract demands for 2010. Theriot submitted a $3.4 million figure and the Cubs offered $2.6 million. Theriot has not backed off yet.

Carlos Marmol asked for $2.5 million and the Cubs offered $1.75 million. Levine did not provide any details about the negotiations but when the two numbers were exchanged the thought then was there would not be a problem meeting in the middle.

The Cubs have avoided arbitration hearings since 1993. The arbitration process is not a positive one for either side and should be avoided at all cost.

Starlin Castro

Jeff Baker and Mike Fontenot beginning the year as platoon partners at second base would be an easy solution for the Cubs according to Bruce Levine. He does not feel either player should be the Cubs starting second baseman.

Levine thinks Starlin Castro should be given every opportunity to make the club out of Spring Training. The addition of Castro would slide Ryan Theriot to second base, make the bench and the Cubs defense much better … Levine said it is easy for him to make that decision.

It is unfair to compare Starlin Castro to Alex Rodriguez … they are totally different players. The only reason for the comparison would be Lou Piniella. Piniella has a history with Rodriguez of bringing up a 19-year old shortstop to play in the majors.

Levine thinks the Cubs coaching staff, especially with Alan Trammell, could bring Castro along at the Major League level.

Random Notes

  • During his show on XM Radio last Thursday, Jim Bowden revealed the Cubs have talked to free-agent starter Jarrod Washburn. Bowden did not indicate when or how serious the talks may have been with the southpaw.
  • Reed Johnson’s time in Chicago is over according to Bruce Levine.
  • The Cubs view Sam Fuld as their fifth outfielder.
  • Eric Byrnes may have wanted to sign with the Cubs but he inked a one-year contract with the Mariners on Friday.

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

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Quote of the Day

"People who write about Spring Training not being necessary have never tried to throw a baseball." – Sandy Koufax