Weekend Update … Big Decisions for the Cubs in Big D

Baseball’s Winter Meetings officially begin on Monday but many are already in Dallas getting an early jump on the week ahead … and that includes the Chicago Cubs’ new front office. According to Tom Ricketts, a big contingent of the Cubs’ regime, including Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, are in Dallas preparing for what figures to be a big week for the Cubs.

The Cubs are one of the teams that many are expecting to be very active during the meetings. Epstein and Hoyer have a lot of holes to fill and could wrap up deals (trades or free agent signings) they’ve been working on since the GM Meetings.

On Wednesday (December 7) the Cubs will also find out if Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena have accepted or declined salary arbitration from the Cubs. Both players are expected to decline arbitration and sign multi-year deals with other teams. Three to four teams are said to be interested in Ramirez’s services and the interest in Pena has picked up over the last week … but there is still a possibility that the Cubs will re-sign Carlos Pena.

Dale Sveum’s coaching staff is expected to be announced this week as well as the compensation packages for Theo Esptein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod. The meetings conclude with the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday morning. A handful of players the Cubs left unprotected could be selected … Ryan Flaherty, Marwin Gonzalez, Jay Jackson and Dae-Eun Rhee.

There is another big announcement that is expected during the Winter Meetings. The Golden Era Committee (1947-1972) met Saturday and will meet again on Sunday to discuss which players will be enshrined into the Hall of Fame this year. Billy Williams is in Dallas making the case for Ron Santo. The committee will announce the results on Monday at 10:00am CT. If Santo is elected it will be a bittersweet moment for the Santo family and a call that is a year and two days too late.

Here is the update chalked full of rumors and speculation of the moves the Cubs could make while in the Lone Star State …

Cubs Pitching Options
The Cubs are looking for starting pitching … to put it simply, right now they have four big league starters on the roster and that number includes both Matt Garza and Carlos Zambrano.

Jeff Samardzija could be in the mix for a starting job this spring according to Bruce Levine and that is if Carlos Marmol is not traded. According to Levine, if the Cubs move Marmol this off-season then Samardzija and Chris Carpenter could compete for the closer’s job this spring. Levine thinks teams will be coming after some of the Cubs’ relievers and that could open up opportunities for other pitchers to step into more prominent roles.

The Cubs are expected to add pitching depth and still have interest in Mark Buehrle but he might be pricing himself out of the Cubs’ range. According to a report from Bruce Levine, it appears likely the Cubs will go after free agents like Aaron Harang, who might come at a more reasonable price … Levine’s report is not the first time the Cubs have been connected to Harang this off-season, not to mention the familiarity Jed Hoyer has with Harang from last year.

Tom Ricketts on Talkin’ Baseball
The Cubs’ Chairman joined Bruce Levine and Fred Huebner in the final hour of Talkin’ Baseball (ESPN 1000) on Saturday morning and discussed a variety of topics during a nearly 20 minute interview. Here are the highlights …

  • From a fan’s standpoint, Tom Ricketts is excited about the upcoming Winter Meetings.
  • Ricketts stressed nothing happens overnight, it takes time to build a winner and he feels over time the Cubs will have a great team.
  • When asked about the how the transition is going for the new front office, Ricketts said it is going well. The front office has been working 15-hour days and it has been difficult with their families in other cities. The new regime has been scrambling preparing for the Winter Meetings.
  • Ricketts pointed out that the Cubs’ previous regime were doing some things well and that Randy Bush, Oneri Fleita and Tim Wilken have fit in very well with the personnel that Theo Epstein brought in.
  • Ricketts thinks the Cubs have the best front office team in baseball.
  • On the possible election of Ron Santo into the Hall of Fame, Ricketts said the Cubs have done as much as they can to get him in this year. They have sent info out to the 16 voters (takes 12 votes to be elected) and they are really hoping it happens this time. Ricketts said Santo’s election would be bittersweet but hopefully they receive good news and he has to travel to Dallas on Monday.
  • Ricketts is working on a contract extension for Crane Kenney and he’s hoping to keep him with the organization for a long time. Ricketts does not understand why Kenney has been treated the way he has in the media … he said some people might be looking for a bad guy to blame for the problems the Cubs have had. Ricketts wants all of the Cubs’ fans to know how good of a job Kenney has actually done.
  • Ricketts said with Theo Epstein in charge of the baseball side and Crane Kenney running the business side of the Cubs that he feels his has the best team in baseball.
  • Epstein and Ricketts do not talk about how much is going to be spent on the big league team.
  • The money for baseball operations is determined after all of the overhead is taken out then it is up to Epstein and Hoyer on how to allocate those dollars between the big league team, the draft, player development and facilities.
  • Ricketts said the Cubs will not comment on how they are going to build the team or the free agents they may or may not be talking to. All of the rumors are just noise … but he did add, “Who knows. We could end up with a high end guy, or not.”

Jed Hoyer
Former GM and current XM Radio analyst Jim Bowden looked at all of the new general managers throughout the game and the possible moves they could make during the Winter Meetings. Bowden expects the meetings to be very active in both free agent signings and with trades. Here’s what he had to say about the Cubs’ new GM.

Quick profile: Hoyer is a measured and polished individual. Like Dipoto and Cherington, it will be his first winter meetings as a GM. Hoyer firmly believes improving the big league club is a completely separate issue than rebuilding the farm system. He certainly has autonomy as a GM, but the Cubs’ new president of baseball operations, Theo Epstein, will be hovering closely.

Possible moves: Hoyer and Epstein keep moves close to the vest, but they have talked to the agents for Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, as well as Mark Buehrle. Shortstop Starlin Castro might be the only untouchable. They don’t want to deal Matt Garza, Carlos Marmol or Sean Marshall, but they will listen to teams. And just because they are “rebuilding,” do not think they won’t sign a big free-agent. It could be a very busy winter meetings for the new Cubs contingent.

News, Notes and Rumors
According to Bruce Levine (Talkin’ Baseball on Saturday morning), Chase Headley or Ian Stewart will be the Cubs third baseman before the end of the Winter Meetings.

Troy Renck of the Denver Post was on MLB Radio Network/XM Radio on Saturday afternoon and spent a little time with Jeff Joyce and Jeff Nelson discussing Rockies’ baseball. Renck thinks Ian Stewart needs a change of scenery and his days in Colorado should be over. Renck brought up the Cubs interest in Stewart and said it would take more than Blake DeWitt to make a deal work. Renck mentioned Tyler Colvin as a possibility again. If the Rockies are able to land Colvin that could open up other avenues to improve their team for next year. From the way Renck was talking, Stewart is no longer in the Rockies’ plans. Nolan Arenado is considered to be the Rockies’ future third baseman and he could take over as soon as next spring.

According to Bruce Levine, Mark Buehrle’s agent, Jeff Berry (CAA Sports) is looking for a big pay day for the veteran southpaw. Levine is hearing either three years and $45 million or four years and $60 million.

During Talkin’ Baseball on Saturday morning, Bruce Levine said he spoke with Scott Boras this week about Prince Fielder and what it could take to sign the slugger. Boras told Levine they are looking for at least a seven-year deal.

Matt Garza addressed the off-season rumors during the tree lighting ceremony at Wrigley Field on Saturday night. Garza’s agent told him to watch television over the next week because it is going to be an active Winter Meetings. Garza said he was going to be in Italy. Garza said he’s been through this before (last six years of his career) and is used to the rumors. According to Comcast SportsNet, Garza is open to a future with the Cubs.

According to Ken Rosenthal, Yu Darvish is likely to be posted after the Winter Meetings. Once Darvish is posted, teams will have four days to submit sealed bids to Darvish’s Japanese team. The team with the winning bid would secure exclusive rights for 30 days to negotiate a contract with Darvish. It is not known for certain if Darvish will be posted … but if he is, the Cubs are rumored to be one of the many teams interested in bidding for the right to negotiate a contract with the right-hander.

UpdatedKen Rosenthal updated his report on Darvish late Saturday night with information that Darvish might not post until mid to late January. Darvish’s father told the Japanese news service Sponichi that his son could wait a month or more to make his decision.

According to a report from ESPN Chicago, teams may approach the Cubs about Geovany Soto. The Cubs may be hesitant to trade him because Welington Castillo and/or Steve Clevenger might not be ready to be a full-time big league catcher.

Bruce Levine reported, “Outside of a wild shot at Prince Fielder and Mark Buehrle or C.J. Wilson, the Cubs may decide to spend their time in Dallas looking for trades and adding more players like David DeJesus who are versatile and less costly.

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

With the Winter Meetings getting underway, remember to check back with the CCO for constant updates throughout the week and to follow on Twitter for up to the minute news and rumors … follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO

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