Weekend Update … It’s Spring Training Time for the Chicago Cubs

There was plenty of Cubs news and notes on the eve of the official reporting date for pitchers and catchers.

Jim Hendry spent time on Saturday morning talking Cubs baseball with Bruce Levine. The Cubs GM provided an update on Carlos Marmol’s new contract. Hendry confirmed he is working on two deals with Marmol’s agent Barry Praver … a one-year contract to avoid arbitration and a multi-year deal. Neither side is expecting to go to arbitration, which is scheduled for Tuesday, February 15.

According to a report from Carrie Muskat, Marmol took his physical on Saturday and the Cubs are expected to announce a long-term contract with Marmol in the coming week.

Here is the update, including more from Jim Hendry on Talkin’ Baseball, several young Cubs continue to make lists and other news and notes …

Jim Hendry on Talkin’ Baseball
The Cubs’ GM joined Bruce Levine and Fred Huebner in the final hour of Talkin’ Baseball (ESPN 1000) on Saturday morning. Hendry led off by giving an update on Carlos Marmol’s contract situation.

Marmol and the Cubs are scheduled to go to arbitration on February 15 (Tuesday). Hendry has had a lot of conversations with Barry Praver (Marmol’s agent, also represents Carlos Zambrano). Hendry has discussed parameters of a multi-year deal and a one-year settlement with Praver. Hendry said the two sides are not far apart on either deal (one-year or a multi-year contract) and he is not expecting to go to trial with Carlos Marmol.

The Cubs have 29 healthy pitchers as camp begins. Angel Guzman is the only pitcher not ready to go … Hendry and the Cubs are hoping he’s ready to pitch soon. The Cubs usually like to go into Spring Training with seven or eight guys competing for a spot in the rotation, this year there will be nine or ten.

Hendry feels good about the pitching depth but pointed out they have to stay healthy.

The Cubs really like the idea of Tyler Colvin being an everyday player. Colvin can play all three outfield spots and first base according to the Cubs GM. Recent reports have suggested that Colvin will serve as the left-handed backup to Carlos Pena with Jeff Baker being the right-handed backup, with the statement Hendry made, it appears those reports are accurate.

Tyler Colvin has been in Mesa for a while and really put in the work once again this winter. Hendry saw Colvin at the park Friday and said Colvin looks good.

The conversation switched to Marlon Byrd at that point. Hendry said Byrd expects a lot out of himself and was not happy with his drop off down the stretch. Byrd is focused on putting together a good full season and being more consistent. Hendry was quick to point out how good of a clubhouse guy and leader Marlon Byrd is.

Bruce Levine asked about the run production in the outfield … or as was the case last season, the lack of run production from the outfielders on the Cubs roster.

Hendry liked the way Mike Quade handled the rotation last year. It is important for Alfonso Soriano to get time off “here and there”. The Cubs are expecting more out of Tyler Colvin and Marlon Byrd than they received a year ago … a full-season worth of production from Colvin and a healthy Byrd in the second half. Hendry thinks the production will improve, plus they have young guys coming that could help.

Levine was quick to ask about Brett Jackson and if he could help the Cubs this season. Hendry said Jackson is a possibility this season. He is two years removed from the draft and this will be his second big league camp. Hendry would not rule out Brett Jackson making his big league debut. It is an important camp for Jackson; he needs to build on his past success. Hendry said, “He will let us know when he is ready (to be called up to the majors)”.

Every team is looking for speed. Hendry pointed out that teams are not as fast as in the past and many no longer have a prototypical leadoff hitter. He feels the Cubs have players that run the bases well. The lack of team speed was one of the reasons he wanted Fernando Perez included in the Matt Garza deal. Perez is one of the fastest guys in the big leagues. The Cubs just need him to be healthy and able to produce.

As for the horrible defense in 2010, Jim Hendry thinks his team will be much better this season. Carlos Pena will help and Starlin Castro should be better. Hendry said he would like to think the defense will perform like it did over the final 35 games, not the way it did for a majority of the 2010 season.

Jim Hendry sounded upbeat on the eve of Camp ‘Q’.

Andrew Cashner, Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters
Andrew Cashner checked in at number 38 on USA Today’s 100 Names every fan should know for the upcoming season. Cashner is the third young Cub to make their list … Darwin Barney and Brett Jackson were the other two.

From USA Today:

38. Andrew Cacshner: Cashner, 24, was developed as a starter in the minor leagues but when he came to the majors for the first time last summer, the Cubs decided his nasty slider and high-90s fastball played best in a bullpen set-up role. Now, it’s back to the rotation or at least a chance to compete for the fifth spot in Chicago. The fact that Cashner allowed three runs and 14 hits in his final 19 innings last season, striking out 21, gives him and the Cubs a viable option of returning him to the bullpen if he’s not ready to start.

Jim Bowden of XM Radio and FOX Sports released his list of the top 50 prospects in the game. Brett Jackson (35) and Josh Vitters (47) were the two Cubs that cracked Bowden’s top 50.

From FOX Sports:

35. Brett Jackson: Tremendous bat speed, lofting power and speed are his best attributes. Has an average arm with above average accuracy. Has played CF and demonstrates good range but profiles out to one of the corners because of jumps and angles. Cubs were glad they didn’t have to include him in the Matt Garza deal.

47. Josh Vitters: He has off the charts bat speed and a quick compact swing. He loves the 94-98 mph FB in and can handle it. Really struggles with pitches away, especially sliders. Below average defender at 3B. Laid back approach to the game. Still only 21 year old and should develop into a 25-30 HR 100 RBI bat in time. The key will be to not rush him, he won’t get there as quickly as Michael Moustakas and Matt Dominguez even though he was the first of the three third baseman taken in the 2007 draft.

D.J. Short of Rotoword published his list of the top National League prospects on Saturday. Short did not go into details about any of the Cubs prospects but did list Brett Jackson as among those to watch in 2011.

News, Notes and a Rumor
According to the Tribune, it’s up to the Cubs to perform for the manager they wanted. Paul Sullivan brought up several topics on the eve of pitchers and catchers reporting to Fitch ParkQuade effect, Rotation idol, Leadoff redux, Bullpen shuffle and Adjustment period.

According to a report from Carrie Muskat, Angel Guzman threw off a mound of the second time on Friday. Guzman is recovering from shoulder surgery and is not throwing at full speed. The Cubs said he is making progress.

Several players have begun working with Rudy JaramilloTyler Colvin, Marlon Byrd, Darwin Barney, James Adduci, Steve Clevenger, Chris Robinson and Micah Gibbs.

The Cubs added four covered batting cages to the facilities at Fitch Park. With the new addition, the Cubs have a total of six cages to work on improving their offense. In the event of bad weather, the screens on the cages can be removed, which allows them to be expanded to eight mounds for pitchers to get their work in.

According to Tim Sheridan (Boys of Spring), Marlon Byrd and Tyler Colvin have been working on base running skills. Byrd brought in a world class sprinting coach to help with drills and they did exercises that Sheridan has never seen before. Click here for Tim’s full blog post … including pictures of Matt Garza, Randy Wells and Marlon Byrd.

Phil Rogers threw the Cubs into the mix of teams possibly interested in trading for Michael Young. According to Rogers’ source within the Cubs, there are not any ongoing conversations between the Cubs and Rangers about Michael Young … but the Cubs are monitoring the situation.

Rogers reported that Marlon Byrd “is believed to be on the list of players the Rangers would consider for Young.” Another possibility, according to Rogers, is Alfonso Soriano.

Tidbits from Bruce Levine
Mr. Talkin’ Baseball is in Arizona and passed along several bits of information on Saturday morning …

  • The Cubs are expecting Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Pena and Geovany Soto to carry the load this year in terms of RBI.
  • In order for the Cubs to win more games this season, they have to get better production from Alfonso Soriano … especially in the second half.
  • Alfonso Soriano is getting ready to begin year five of his eight-year contract.
  • On some days against right-handed starters, Mike Quade will have to decide who will sit … Soriano or Byrd. Tyler Colvin and Kosuke Fukudome will get a lot of the starts against righties. Levine asked, “Who leads off for the Cubs against right-handed pitchers if it’s not Kosuke Fukudome?”
  • The Cubs look at Darwin Barney the way they did Ryan Theriot prior to 2007. Lou Piniella is the one that inserted Theriot at short for Cesar Izturis early in the 2007 season. According to Levine, another year at Triple-A might not be bad for Darwin Barney.
  • If Barney is not with the team when camp breaks, the Cubs middle infield on Opening Day could include Starlin Castro, Blake DeWitt, Jeff Baker and Augie Ojeda.
  • Andrew Cashner will get every opportunity to earn the fourth spot in the starting rotation.
  • The Cubs feel Brett Jackson could be an impact centerfielder at the big league level. If the opportunity arises (due to lack of production or injury), Jackson could be with the team by May or June … the same path Starlin Castro took last year.
  • Levine thinks one of the big storylines early on this spring will be the competition for the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation. He is expected Carlos Silva and Randy Wells to come out soon in the media and claim those spots based on previous success.

Bruce Levine’s Spring Training preview continued with his look at the Cubs infield on Friday … and the outfield on Saturday. Click here to read Levine’s thoughts on the infield and click here to read about the outfield.

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO

Well, there’s the update … it’s time for PFPs!

Quote of the Day

"Never discourage anyone who continually makes progress, no matter how slow." - Plato
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  • studio179

    “If Barney is not with the team when camp breaks, the Cubs middle infield on Opening Day could include Starlin Castro, Blake DeWitt, Jeff Baker and Augie Ojeda.”

    I’m not liking it much. My early guess has Ojeda heading north out of spring.

  • Bo

    I just swallowed my tounge when I read sori for young!!!!

    • Vivid_Reality

      A man can only dream. If we did manage to pull that off I would love to see Hendry flip Young to COL. Young plus 20mm for Jose Lopez, Fowler, and a mid level prospect. Fowler slots in at center, slides Byrd to right, and Lopez takes over at 2nd.

      Fowler
      Castro
      Pena
      Rami
      Soto
      Colvin
      Byrd
      Lopez
      Z

      Fairly deep lineup after unloading Fonzi.

      • Tony_Hall

        So you took a near impossible trade,and flipped it to make another near impossible trade, to come up with lineup.

        Good imagination, but if the Rockies want Young they will do the trade themselves, and the Rangers would take those players, instead of Soriano.

        • Vivid_Reality

          Hence Dreaming.

  • Tony_Hall

    “The Cubs are expecting Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Pena and Geovany Soto to carry the load this year in terms of RBI. ”

    So much for getting production from the OF…they aren’t even expecting an OF to keep up with Soto, RBI production of 53 last year and 47 the year before (he did drive in 86, in his one full season of play)

    OUCH – “Alfonso Soriano is getting ready to begin year five of his eight-year contract” That just hurts to read!

    “On some days against right-handed starters, Mike Quade will have to decide who will sit … Soriano or Byrd. Tyler Colvin and Kosuke Fukudome will get a lot of the starts against righties. Levine asked, “Who leads off for the Cubs against right-handed pitchers if it’s not Kosuke Fukudome?” ”

    I have been saying Soriano won’t get 500 PA’s, and now you are starting to hear things like this. Just wait if this happens…

    “The Cubs feel Brett Jackson could be an impact centerfielder at the big league level. If the opportunity arises (due to lack of production or injury), Jackson could be with the team by May or June … the same path Starlin Castro took last year”

    Just like I have been saying all winter, then Soriano and Byrd will really not get as many AB’s in the 2nd half…and that is a good thing.

  • Tony_Hall

    This does not look like the middle infield options for a playoff team!

    “If Barney is not with the team when camp breaks, the Cubs middle infield on Opening Day could include Starlin Castro, Blake DeWitt, Jeff Baker and Augie Ojeda”

    I hope that soon we can have Castro and maybe Lemahieu (someone who can hit), with backups like Barney and Flaherty. That would give us some much needed offensive production at 2B, and a group of players that can play all over.

  • Tony_Hall

    I hope Vitters, starts to realize the gift he has, and learns to be a little patient. I want to see him at Wrigley and the swing that impresses everyone that watches.

  • Patrick_Schaefer

    Too Bad that it is Phil Rogers reporting on the Michael Young thing. Since he is a very unreliable source. That would be something though. He would be a solid stopgap for the Cubs, until one of the middle infield prospects can takeover. Young is getting up there he should still have atleast a year or two left in him as a starter, and could still be a role player with his versatility in 2013 as a super utility guy at 36.