Cubs Off-Season Stirred … But Not Shaken

Cliff Lee’s shocking decision to sign with the Philadelphia Phillies changed the off-season throughout the league. With Lee off the market, the Yankees and Rangers will turn their attention to other players, which in turn will have a direct impact on the Chicago Cubs.

The Lee signing affects not only the teams trying to acquire Matt Garza, but it also frees up money for the Yankees to possibly re-sign Kerry Wood … plus the Bronx Bombers could inquire about the availability of Carlos Zambrano.

Here’s the update, including the latest rumors from Bruce Levine …

The Latest from Levine
Bruce Levine held his weekly chat Tuesday afternoon on ESPNChicago.com … here are the highlights:

  • Both the Cubs and the White Sox are looking at trades “to figure out their bullpens.”
  • Jim Hendry has “more pressing” problems than finding a leadoff hitter … like “another starting pitcher and bullpen help.”
  • If the Cubs can find a taker for Kosuke Fukudome, they’re going to have to eat at least half of his contract. Then, according to Levine, “he can be looked at as a decent, defensive right fielder who will hit .280 and maybe score 75 runs.”
  • The Cubs have very little money left, possibly $3-$5 million tops and trading for Matt Garza will probably top out their payroll for next season.
  • Jim Hendry “has to try to put together a competitive team that can compete for the division championship.”
  • The Rangers and the Yankees may have better prospects to give the Rays for Matt Garza.
  • The Cubs “may not have enough money left” to sign Kerry Wood if they acquire Garza.
  • Kerry Wood would “prefer to stay somewhere in the Midwest and most likely with the Cubs if they can come up with any money.”
  • Bruce Levine does not think Carlos Zambrano will be traded.
  • The Chris Davis trade talks were put on the backburner until Cliff Lee made his decision. The Rangers now appear to be concentrating on a starting pitcher.
  • Nobody is trading starting pitching according to Levine. There does not appear to be another pitcher out there behind Matt Garza and Brandon Webb.
  • With the way Carlos Silva ended the season, it’s hard to put him “in as a part of your rotation.”
  • Tom Gorzelanny could be moved at some point “depending on what Hendry does with the rest of his pitching staff.”

Matt Garza
According to reports, the Cubs acquiring Matt Garza became a little more difficult in the wake of Cliff Lee signing with the Phillies. The Cubs are still interested but so are the Rangers and according to Bruce Levine, the talent Texas could offer for Garza “is probably superior” to what the Cubs have on the table.

Many feel the Rays played the Garza card the right way by holding on to him until Cliff Lee signed. With, at least, the Rangers and Yankees in the mix, it could be very tough for the Cubs to trade for Garza.

According to Bruce Levine, the Rays are looking for three top young players for Garza … including a shortstop of the future and a catcher of the future. And the Cubs already have a package of young prospects on the table for Garza.

According to a report from ESPN Chicago, the Rays are looking for pitching prospects and “are insistent on getting back a shortstop of the future.” Levine pointed out the two tremendous shortstop prospects the Rangers have in their system (Jurickson Profar and Luis Sardinas) but added the Cubs have “good middle infield prospects” to offer as well … such as Hak-Ju Lee and Ryan Flaherty.

Profar (born February 17, 1993) was the Rangers’ fifth best prospect according to Baseball America prior to last season and Sardinas (born May 16, 1993) was ranked 13th. As for Lee and Flaherty, the Cubs middle infielders were ranked sixth and ninth respectively.

Carlos Zambrano
Carlos Zambrano’s name was thrown out Tuesday as a possible solution for the Yankees. With New York losing out on Cliff Lee, the feeling is the Yankees will try to make a deal to fill the hole in the rotation they had earmarked for Lee.

A report from ESPN Chicago asked the question “will Texas, the Yankees or Angels come looking for a starter like the Cubs’ Carlos Zambrano after Garza is traded.”

The Cubs are “not expecting to trade Zambrano” according to the report and they “are not entertaining offers.” The Cubs expect Z to be at the top of their rotation, along with Ryan Dempster, and possibly Matt Garza when the season begins.

Carlos Zambrano has a full no-trade clause in his contract.

The Daily Herald’s Barry Rozner questioned if this is the chance for the Cubs to move Carlos Zambrano … that is, if Jim Hendry’s phone starts ringing with calls about Big Z.

Miscellanous Notes
Former Cub Mark Prior will be reunited with Larry Rothschild, at least for Spring Training. The Yankees signed Prior to a minor league contract Tuesday that included an invite to big league camp. Prior will earn $750,000 if he makes the team and an additional $750,000 in incentives. Prior will compete for a spot in the Yankees’ pen.

The Cubs are expected to name their minor league coaching staffs this week.

According to a report from Scout.com, Jeff Samardzija will be “an interesting project for new pitching coach Mark Riggins.” Riggins said that Samardzija requires confidence and a lot of work to stay in his form.

For those keeping score at home … It’s only 11 weeks until Spring Training.

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

Quote of the Day

"Baseball is drama with an endless run and an ever-changing cast." - Joe Garagiola
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