Weekend Update … What Moves are Brewing for the Cubs?

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer were expected to be very active during the Winter Meetings, even the chairman of the team publicly stated his excitement of what could happen prior to baseball’s annual event last week. While the Cubs did not make any moves in Dallas they did complete the trade for Ian Stewart and Casey Weathers … and according to Jed Hoyer, more is in the works.

Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Dale Sveum worked hard on deals into the early hours of Thursday morning according to the Tribune. Hoyer said, “A lot of this week was spent pushing things forward. You always see things get done a day or two or even a week after these meetings. We think that will be the case for us. We think we are in a good place and hopefully some of things will come to fruition soon.”

After the Ian Stewart, Casey Weathers trade was announced Hoyer discussed the deal and shed some light on the front office’s plan.

“This was something that was teed up for a couple of days. We’ve got some deals that we’re working on. A number of agents, a number of teams we’re talking to. I wouldn’t characterize anything as close or imminent. But certainly I feel like we made a lot of progress this week and hopefully we can carry that into next week.”

Monday is the deadline for teams to tender contracts to arbitration eligible players (three-six years of service time). The Cubs have a couple of non-tender candidates that could reduce their 40-man roster, which currently stands at 37 players … also the players non-tendered from other teams figure to give Team Epstein a few more options.

Here is the update … including more from the Prince Fielder rumor mill.

Prince Fielder
While the Cubs are not saying publicly that they are interested in signing Prince Fielder, many in baseball think the Cubs will be in the middle of the Prince Fielder sweepstakes … including Fielder himself.

According to a report from Bruce Levine, Fielder recently told a former teammate that he feels the Cubs would make the biggest push for him.

Bruce Levine addressed the Fielder rumors during Talkin’ Baseball (ESPN 1000) on Saturday morning. Levine discussed several reasons as to why he thinks the Cubs are interested in signing Fielder.

According to Levine, the 27-year old Fielder is the type of young, dominant player the Cubs would like to build a championship team around and he expects them to be more aggressive in a smart way toward signing Fielder.

Levine brought up the agreement Theo Epstein and Scott Boras had in regards to the Cubs offering salary arbitration to Carlos Pena. There was an agreement in place that the Cubs would offer salary arbitration to Pena and he would decline in order for the Cubs to receive a draft pick once he signs with another team.

While Boras needs the Cubs in play for Fielder it would be a big risk for his other first base client (Carlos Pena) to walk away from possibly a $12-13 million one-year contract. According to Levine, Pena will be held back from signing until Fielder inks his new deal … and Levine also mentioned that the Cubs either have a deal with Boras to compete for Fielder or a deal in place to sign Pena if Fielder signs elsewhere.

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer talked about investing their resources in young, impact players and not paying for past performance during their introductory press conferences. With the lack of talent in the Cubs minor league system, coupled with the very thin free agent market in the coming years and the changes in the CBA, Prince Fielder seems to fit the bill.

To Tender or Not to Tender
The Cubs have seven players with three-six years of service time that is arbitration eligible for the 2012 season and rumors have suggested at least two could end up being non-tendered by Monday’s deadline.

Jeff Baker, Blake DeWitt, Matt Garza, Koyie Hill, Geovany Soto, Ian Stewart and Randy Wells are the seven players arbitration eligible for next season.

Jeff Baker was paid $1.175 million last season and will be a free agent after next season. Matt Garza figures to get the biggest jump after earning $5.95 million in his first year with the Cubs. Geovany Soto was paid $3 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility and Ian Stewart is figured to be paid around $2 million for next season. Randy Wells is arbitration eligible for the first time.

The two non-tender candidates are Blake DeWitt and Koyie Hill. DeWitt is arbitration eligible for the first time and Koyie Hill was paid $850,000 to backup Geovany Soto last year. Hill was a favorite of the previous regime and if Team Epstein sees value in keeping Hill around he could probably be signed to a minor league contract with an invite to big league camp.

News, Notes and Rumors

According to Bruce Levine (Talkin’ Baseball, ESPN 1000), if Prince Fielder signs with the Marlins the Cubs will try to trade for Gaby Sanchez.

The Cubs will be looking for a new TV deals when their current contracts expire in the next two-three years according to Bruce Levine. In the wake of the Angels new TV contract, look for many of the big market teams to explore new deals or possibly start their own network. The Cubs have been looking to start their own network for a couple of years but their current contracts would not allow them to do so.

According to Bruce Levine (Talkin’ Baseball, ESPN 1000), the Cubs talked to the Rangers and three other teams during the meetings about Matt Garza. The Cubs are really not interested in trading Garza and wanted to know what other teams thought of him. The Cubs would have to be blown away to trade Garza. Levine mentioned that a five-for-one deal could get a trade for Garza done … but the Cubs would have to receive two top prospects very close to the big leagues, a current Major Leaguer that filled a hole and two other top prospects from that team’s system.

Casey Coleman told his hometown newspaper that he is prepared for whatever the Cubs have in store. Coleman explained that not being prepared to start games coming out of camp last spring. Coleman said he was not trying to use that as an excuse but felt that led to his struggles early on. The Cubs have not addressed his future with him and Coleman has no idea of what his upcoming role will be … reliever, starter or both.

The Angels announced on Saturday that they would be tendering a contract to Kendry Morales for next season.

According to a report from Bruce Levine, the Cubs will make a bid for the right to negotiate a contract with Yu Darvish.

According to a report from Bruce Levine, the Cubs will take a run at outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. Seven or eight teams are known to be interested in Cespedes … and it could cost as much as $50 million to sign the Cuban outfielder.

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

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