Weekend Update … Free Agency Begins

MLB’s free agent signing period began at 12:01am ET on Sunday morning. Will the Cubs make any early signings or will Jim Hendry have to trade Kosuke Fukudome first?

A report on Saturday afternoon from the Tribune indicated Aubrey Huff, Victor Martinez and Jon Garland could be on the Cubs’ radar.

Here the rest of the weekend update, including how two of the Cubs top prospects fared in the AFL Rising Stars game …

AFL Rising Stars
Josh Vitters and Chris Carpenter participated in the annual AFL Rising Stars game Saturday night in Surprise, Arizona … the Spring Training home of the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals.

Chris Carpenter was extremely impressive in his inning of work. Carpenter gave up a one-out double to Jason Kipnis (Kipnis went down and pulled the ball down the first base line) but struck out a pair (Eric Thames and Jared Mitchell) on nasty curve balls.

Carpenter was consistently in the mid to upper 90s with his fastball, topping out at 99, and threw 20 pitches, 14 for strikes.

Josh Vitters came in as a pinch hitter in the sixth. Vitters struck out swinging against Carlos Gutierrez. Vitters stayed in the game at third base.

Vitters led off the ninth in a 2-2 game and popped up a 1-1 pitch from Anthony Carter (White Sox) to Eduardo Escobar (White Sox) at short.

The West squad beat the East squad 3-2 on a walk-off home run by Leslie Anderson off of Bruce Billings.

Talkin’ Baseball
Bruce Levine and Fred Huebner discussed all things Chicago baseball on Saturday morning. Here are a few of the highlights:

Tom Ricketts was on the Afternoon Saloon (ESPN 1000) earlier in the week and was asked about the Cubs payroll for the 2011 season. Mr. Ricketts indicated the payroll for the organization would remain flat. Ricketts did not specifically say how much would be spent on the big league club but said the same dollars spent in 2010 would be spent again in 2011.

The money could be spent on player development or the draft or fielding the big league team. At the time, Mr. Ricketts was not sure how much of the 2011 budget for the organization would be allocated to the Major League club.

Levine wondered where the difference between Lou Piniella’s salary in 2010 and Mike Quade’s salary in 2011 would be spent.

According to Levine, Jim Hendry likely will have to be creative with trades in order to free-up money in order to sign a free agent.

The Cubs are trying to figure out Koyie Hill’s future with the Cubs. Hill is a serviceable backup but was not as good defensively last season. The Cubs must figure out if Welington Castillo or Robinson Chirinos can serve as Geovany Soto’s backup.

Levine brought up the Nick Johnson rumor and said that Johnson may be an option but one the Cubs would not explore until January or February.

30 to 1
Bodog.com listed the odds for each team winning the 2011 World Series on Thursday. The Yankees are the favorite (4/1), with the Phillies second (6/1). As for the Chicago National League Ball Club, the odds of them winning it all next season … 30/1.

Undercover Boss
The episode of the CBS Show, Undercover Boss, featuring Todd Ricketts airs Sunday night at 8:00pm CT. Todd Ricketts’ undercover name, Mark Dawson … for Mark Grace and Andre Dawson.

Todd Ricketts was fired from his maintenance job.

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

Quote of the Day

"Baseball, just a game as simple as a ball and a bat. Yet, as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes." - Ernie Harwell
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