From the Files of Cubs Rumors

The countdown to Lake Buena Vista has begun … and the rumors and activity throughout baseball picked up after the long holiday weekend.

The Cubs continue to be linked to the same players, with a few exceptions. Jesse Crain joined the list of relievers the Cubs are looking at this winter. Brandon Webb, Jeff Francis, Aaron Harang and Erik Bedard are on the Cubs radar

Bruce Miles put an end to all of the Vicente Padilla rumors. Miles reported on Monday that “the Cubs weren’t keen on him in the past, and it seems to be the case today.”

Will the Cubs tender contracts to Jeff Baker and Koyie Hill by Thursday’s deadline and the latest on first base … Lance Berkman remains in play and the Cubs are strongly considering Carlos Pena.

Here’s the update …

Starting Pitchers
After losing out on Javier Vazquez to the Florida Marlins (according to Bruce Levine, the Cubs were set to make Vazquez their next move until the Marlins signed him for a one-year deal on Saturday), the Cubs have been connected to several pitchers that are on the mend in recent days. With Vicente Padilla off the list, if the Cubs add a starting pitcher it appears that player will also come “what if” before their name.

The Cubs are interested in Brandon Webb, Jeff Francis, Erik Bedard and Aaron Harang according to a report from Bruce Levine. Levine went as far to say, those pitchers are on a list of “former star pitchers who have had injury problems of the past few seasons” that the Cubs are pursuing.

The Cubs have “had conversations with agents” for most of the pitchers that Levine mentioned to get a “ballpark sense of where these pitchers are physically and what sort of contracts they’re looking for.”

As Levine pointed out, Jim Hendry has been interested in Erik Bedard for years and at one point almost traded for the southpaw.

Of the four pitchers mentioned, Brandon Webb has the highest upside but it also getting the most attention from other clubs.

Brandon Webb’s Page on Baseball-Reference
Jeff Francis’ Page on Baseball-Reference
Aaron Harang’s Page on Baseball-Reference
Erik Bedard’s Page on Baseball-Reference

Carlos Pena
From the old news department, the Cubs are interested in Carlos Pena according to a report from Jon Paul Morosi.

Pena is coming off a rough season at the plate. Pena dealt with injuries but still played in 144 games. Pena’s line of .196/.325/.407/.732 with 18 doubles and 24 home runs is more than concerning but he can still pick it at first base.

As Bruce Miles pointed out, the Cubs “would be quite happy to sign Pena for one year” and they “are not going to go out too many years on a contract for a guy like Pena” who is coming off a down year.

Lance Berkman
According to a tweet from Buster Olney, Lance Berkman is scheduled to meet with the Oakland A’s on Tuesday. Berkman is still in play for the Cubs, as reported by Fox Sports, Bruce Miles and Dave Kaplan.

Miles indicated that Berkman “remains a name in play for the Cubs, but much will depend on Berkman’s salary demands.”

Jesse Crain
According to a tweet from Peter Gammons on Sunday night, the Cubs are one of several teams interested in signing Jesse Crain (Type B free agent).

The 29-year old right-handed reliever (July 5, 1981) was the Twins second round pick in the 2002 draft. Crain posted a 1-1 record in 71 games (16 games finished) last season with Minnesota. Crain walked 27, struck out 62 and served up five home run in 68 innings (3.04 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP).

Outside of Target Field, Crane did not have a record in 40 games and posted a 2.52 ERA and a 0.99 WHIP (32 strikeouts, 11 walks and two home runs in 39 1/3 innings with nine game finished.)

Jesse Crain’s Page on Baseball-Reference

To Tender or Not to Tender
Thursday (December 2) is the deadline for clubs to offer 2011 contracts to unsigned players that are arbitration eligible (service years, 3-6). The Cubs have several arbitration eligible players this off-season … Carlos Marmol, Sean Marshall, Tom Gorzelanny, Geovany Soto, Jeff Baker and Koyie Hill are the Cubs arbitration eligible players.

Marmol, Marshall, Gorzelanny and Soto have been givens all off-season, the Cubs will tender contracts to those four players. But the two players that have caused debate are Koyie Hill and Jeff Baker.

According to a report from Bruce Miles, the Cubs “would prefer to have both players signed by Thursday so that arbitration would be out of the question.” Miles stated that Jim Hendry “figures to step up talks with both players’ agents early this week.” Miles explained if the Cubs get “signals from the players and/or their agents that their contract demands are not to the club’s liking” that he thinks the team will non-tender both players.

Miles does not expect any signings (free agent) from the Cubs until after Thursday’s deadline. There figures to be a lot of players throughout the league not offered contracts for 2011 that could open up other possibilities for the Cubs.

Miscellaneous Notes
The Cubs could announce Larry Rothschild’s replacement as early as Wednesday according to a tweet from Carrie Muskat. Mark Riggins remains the favorite to land the job.

Speaking of Larry Rothschild, Carlos Marmol was unaware Rothschild left the Cubs for the Yankees until he was updated Sunday night during a Cubs’ function in the Dominican Republic.

Starlin Castro was named to the annual Topps Major League Rookie All-Star team on Monday. Gaby Sanchez (Marlins, 1B), Neil Walker (Pirates, 2B), Danny Valencia (Twins, 3B), Austin Jackson (Tigers, OF), Mike Stanton (Marlins, OF), Jayson Heyward (Braves, OF), Buster Posey (Giants, C), Stephen Strasburg (Nationals, P), Jamie Garcia (Cardinals, P) and Neftali Feliz (Rangers, Closer) completed the team … an impressive list.

Three former Cub farmhands signed with new organizations last week. Josh Kroeger found a new home in the Marlins’ organization and Doug Deeds landed a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers. Russ Canzler inked a contract with the Tampa Bay Rays after a solid season with the Smokies in 2010.

Neal Cotts signed a minor league deal with the New York Yankees. Cotts had TJ surgery in 2009 and hip surgery last season. Cotts last pitched for the I-Cubs in 2008.

With the signing of Juan Uribe, Ryan Theriot’s days in Dodger blue appear to be numbered. Ryan Theriot was a non-tender candidate for the Cubs before being traded to Los Angeles at the deadline last summer … and Theriot appears to be close to not being offered a contract by Ned Colletti. The Orioles are already showing interest in Theriot.

From the two years and a good team too late department … according to Bruce Levine, it was Sam Zell who pulled the plug on the Jake Peavy deal two winters ago. Hendry was a half a day away from acquiring Peavy, and his contract, from the Padres.

A tip of the cap to Leslie Nielson for always making me laugh, he surely will be missed … just don’t call him Shirley. Enjoy a hilarious scene from Naked Gun and keep an eye out for former ’84 Cub, Jay Johnstone.

It’s only 13 weeks until Spring Training …

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Well, there’s the update … and I’m sticking to it.

Quote of the Day

"From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life." – Arthur Ashe