Winter Meetings Day Two: Cubs Keep Everyone Guessing

Day two at the Winter Meetings in Dallas turned out to be ‘The Pujols Watch‘. With the free-agent slugger on the market, if Albert Pujols were to sign with a team other than the Cardinals, it would have a ripple effect throughout baseball.

The Marlins, Cardinals and Angels are rumored to be the three teams that have offered the decade long contract to Pujols … and while the Cubs likely made an offer, the length of the deal is reportedly not in the ten-year range.

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer addressed the source of the rumors floating around the lobby in Dallas. The Cubs’ brass does not mind that some news comes out through agent sources and other team’s confidents. Epstein said, “I don’t mind when that stuff’s out there, because maybe it hides the ball a little bit from what we are really doing. I encourage that type of circus atmosphere in the lobby … it’s good to be a little unpredictable.” To no surprise, Hoyer has a similar stance. Hoyer added, “I think it makes the fan base know we are working hard when we are attached to a lot of teams and players. At least they know we are trying to make the team better.”

The Cubs are hoping to announce Dale Sveum’s coaching staff this week. From all indications all but one spot is filled, first base coach. The Cubs have been waiting on Craig Counsell to decide if he wants to continue his playing career or not. According to multiple reports, Sveum has reached out to former Cardinals’ coach Dave McKay to fill the opening.

Jamie Quirk (bench coach), Rudy Jaramillo (hitting coach), Chris Bosio (pitching coach), Pat Listach (third base coach) and Lester Strode (bullpen coach) appear to be in place for Dale Sveum in 2012 … there has not been any indication that the Cubs would be hiring an assistant hitting coach.

Wednesday is the deadline for free agents to accept or decline salary arbitration from their former team … both Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena are expected to decline.

The other two dates to keep an eye on are the Rule 5 draft on Thursday and the tender deadline on Monday.

Here is the update from day two of the Winter Meetings …

Pitching, Pitching and Pitching
Dale Sveum told the assembled media on Tuesday that he believes the Cubs can win with the pitching they currently have on the roster. Sveum likes the Cubs’ pen and mentioned Carlos Zambrano as part of a possible rotation that could include Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster.

The Cubs are looking for two-three young starters to fill out the rotation … plus several options in Iowa in case of injuries. According to Bruce Levine, Edwin Jackson could be on the Cubs radar but Levine has not been able to confirm the Cubs interest in the former Southsider and Redbird.

Prince Fielder
The Brewers are telling teams that they do not expect Prince Fielder back. So where will Fielder land?

Many think the Cubs are the favorite to sign Fielder but rumors have suggested the Cubs are not willing to go seven years for the slugger. According to multiple reports, the Cubs would like to sign Fielder to a shorter term deal with a high AAV (average annual value) and the contract could even include opt out clauses.

The Mariners were rumored to be very interested in signing Fielder on Tuesday afternoon and some looked at Seattle as being the favorite to land him … but by Tuesday night reports indicated Seattle was no longer in the mix. Free agent sluggers have really struggled in Seattle but the Mariners apparently were willing to go seven years for Fielder and the Mariners’ GM, Jack Zduriencik, drafted him.

Chattin’ with Bruce Levine
Mr. Talkin’ Baseball held his weekly chat on ESPNChicago.com, here are the highlights:

  • Levine reiterated the Padres are looking for relievers in return for Chase Headley.
  • Numerous teams have asked about Carlos Marmol. The Cubs feel Jeff Samardzija, Andrew Cashner or Chris Carpenter could close games if they deal Marmol.
  • On dealing Alfonso Soriano, the Cubs scouts have been told to find a trading partner and that the front office will eat a good majority of his contract.
  • Levine does not see Placido Polanco as being an option for the Cubs, he does not fit the type of player the Cubs are looking for.
  • According to Levine, there is no reason to think the Cubs would not be interested in trading for Gaby Sanchez if Pujols ends up in Miami.
  • The Cubs may use Marlon Byrd as trade bait.
  • There are a lot of rumors about Tyler Colvin being involved in possible trades.
  • Levine does not think the new regime would hesitate to trade any player on the Cubs roster with the exception of Starlin Castro.
  • Levine has heard the Cubs are interested in Edwin Jackson but has not been able to confirm the possible interest.
  • Everyone feels Carlos Zambrano will be a Cub next year.
  • The Cubs will end up adding two-three young starters to their rotation.
  • The Cubs do not believe that D.J. LeMahieu is a second baseman and they would be open to finding another middle infielder.
  • In an ideal world, Darwin Barney would be the backup for second base and shortstop.
  • Jason Varitek is the type of guy who brings credibility and could also mentor the two young Cubs catchers.
  • The Cubs are still interested in Yoenis Cespedes and Jorge Soler.

News, Notes and Rumors

According to a report from Comcast SportsNet, there is no chance the Orioles would trade for Alfonso Soriano.

Dale Sveum hinted Tuesday that David DeJesus could wind up as the Cubs’ leadoff hitter which would move Starlin Castro down in the order … possibly second, third or fifth.

According to a report from the Tribune, the Cubs new president of baseball operations purchased a house near Wrigley Field. Theo Epstein paid $3.25 million for a newly built, 7,800 square foot house in Lakeview. The house is less than a block north of Ryan Dempster’s mansion.

Aramis Ramirez is garnering a lot of attention. One day the Phillies are the front-runner to overpay for Aramis Ramirez, the next day it is another team. The Phillies, Angels and Brewers have been linked to Ramirez … and on Tuesday, the Brewers became the favorite to land Ramirez. The Brewers view Ramirez as a way to replace some of the numbers they figure to lose when Prince Fielder signs elsewhere. Paul Kinzer was unsure if Ramirez would sign with a new team before the end of the meetings … but it appears Ramirez will not accept salary arbitration from the Cubs.

Speaking of third basemen … the Cubs have reportedly backed away from trying to acquire Ian Stewart from the Rockies. According to a report from Thomas Harding, the Cubs originally wanted to send Blake DeWitt to Colorado for Stewart but the Rockies are more interested in players such as Tyler Colvin, D.J. LeMahieu or Scott Maine for Stewart.

Dale Sveum discussed his new team at his first Winter Meetings on Tuesday.

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

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Quote of the Day

"Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere." - Albert Einstein