Decisions Looming for Hendry and Piniella

The practice games are coming to end for the Chicago Cubs. While a majority of the Opening Day roster is set, there are still a few spots the Cubs must fill before turning in their 25-man roster on April 4.

Reportedly, Lou Piniella met with his coaching staff following Monday’s game to discuss final roster moves. There is also that “little issue” with adding a veteran arm to the bullpen. The Cubs are talking to the Blue Jays about Jason Frasor, will a deal get done?

With just 13 exhibition games remaining, which players will break camp with the Chicago Cubs?

The Backend of the Rotation

The Cubs are leaning toward beginning the season with Carlos Silva and Tom Gorzelanny in the rotation. It appears Sean Marshall and Jeff Samardzija will begin the year in the bullpen.

The Cubs have stated they will begin the year with a 12-man pitching staff and a five-man rotation despite the fact they do not need a fifth starter until April 19,

Piniella is expected to make the official announcement on his starting five by Friday.

The Bullpen

The Cubs have one spot left to fill in the pen, unless Jim Hendry pulls off a trade. Justin Berg will reportedly head east with the team when they leave for Atlanta on April 3. With Berg in the mix, there is one spot left in the pen.

  • Carlos Marmol
  • John Grabow
  • Esmailin Caridad
  • Sean Marshall
  • Jeff Samardzija
  • Justin Berg

Of the pitchers still in camp, James Russell has outperformed them all this spring.

The last few outings by John Gaub have been less than satisfactory. As for Mike Parisi, his outing on Monday against the Indians likely punched his ticket back to the Cardinals’ organization. Marcos Mateo has shown flashes, but can be very wild and inconsistent.

The Cubs would have to add James Russell to their 40-man roster in order for him to start the season with the big league club.

The Bench

Lou Piniella reiterated on Sunday that Xavier Nady would begin the year on the active roster. If that is case, the following 11 players are locks to begin the season on the active roster … with one big if.

  • Derrek Lee
  • Ryan Theriot
  • Mike Fontenot
  • Jeff Baker
  • Aramis Ramirez
  • Alfonso Soriano
  • Marlon Byrd
  • Kosuke Fukudome
  • Xavier Nady
  • Geovany Soto
  • Koyie Hill

The “big if” is Aramis Ramirez. The fact he is not able to throw a baseball yet is a little concerning, but it is just Spring Training. Ramirez took grounders on Monday and hit with Rudy Jaramillo on Sunday. Ramirez is supposed to be the Cubs’ DH on Tuesday against the Royals.

Here’s where it gets a little tricky. Depending on whom the Cubs’ decide will begin the season as the backup to Ryan Theriot, the Cubs will either break camp with Chad Tracy and/or Kevin Millar.

Andres Blanco is out of options and if he does not break camp on the active roster, the Cubs will risk loosing him to another team. Blanco has been hampered by the leg injury, seeing his first game action on Monday since March 6. So they could start him on the DL to give them a little more time. Again, it depends on if they feel Mike Fontenot can at least make routine plays at shortstop.

Bobby Scales and Micah Hoffpauir should begin the year with Ryne Sandberg in Iowa.

The other spot available on the Cubs’ bench is for a fifth outfielder … Tyler Colvin, Sam Fuld and James Adduci. All three have minor league options and the feeling of late is the Cubs might decide to send Colvin to Iowa so he can play everyday. Plus they know what they have in Sam Fuld … a late-inning defensive substitute that can play all three spots in the outfield. Fuld can also hit left-handed pitching, as he displayed a year ago.

So the safe bet for one of the last two spots on the Cubs’ bench on March 23 is Sam Fuld … with the Cubs deciding on the last day, depending on the health of Aramis Ramirez, between Chad Tracy and Kevin Millar.

Jason Frasor

The Cubs are very interested in Jason Frasor … no real news there. According to Jim Bowden (during his show on XM Radio last week), Jim Hendry and Alex Anthopoulos speak on a daily basis. The Cubs are scouting Frasor while the Blue Jays have scouts at all of the Cubs Spring Training games.

If Hendry decides he must add Frasor, how much will it cost the Cubs?

Ken Rosenthal brought up a good comparison on Monday. When the Dodgers traded for George Sherrill last year they sent the Orioles Josh Bell and Steve Johnson.

Josh Bell, a third baseman, was the Dodgers’ eighth best prospect according to Baseball America prior to the 2009 season. Johnson (RHP) was the Dodgers’ 13th round pick in 2005. Last season he posted a 12-7 record in two minor league stops (High-A and Double-A, in the Dodgers and Orioles organization) with a 12-7 record in 27 games, 25 starts, with a 3.41 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP.

Rosenthal does not think the Blue Jays will get two players for Jason Frasor, or Scott Downs, because both pitchers have only one year remaining on their current contract … Sherrill had one more full season left (2010). According to Rosenthal, the Blue Jays will likely ask for the “equivalent of a 2011 sandwich pick between the first and second rounds, and probably more.”

So how much is Jason Frasor worth? If the Cubs were to trade this year’s eighth best prospect according to Baseball America … that would be right-handed pitcher Chris Carpenter.

Keep in mind, the roster a team breaks camp with is never the one they finish the year with … but it could be an interesting 12 days leading up to decision time.

Stay Tuned …


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