Winter Meetings Day One: Talk, Talk and More Rumors for the Cubs

Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and the Cubs’ contingent spent the first official day of the Winter Meetings talking to agents and teams trying to gauge the market … but according to Epstein, they are not close on any deals right now. As Epstein has said, the Cubs keep everything close to the vest. And while moves have not happened, the Cubs appear to be in the middle of the action in Dallas.

Here is the update from day one at the Winter Meetings …

Who’s on Third?
One of the many holes the Cubs have to fill this off-season is third base. The Cubs and Aramis Ramirez have parted ways. Ramirez is receiving a lot of interest … with the Phillies stepping up on Monday and may have become the front-runner to sign Ramirez.

The Phillies are now trying to move Placido Polanco and the Cubs could be interested. Polanco is under contract for one more season ($6.25 million in 2012) and the three-year deal he signed in December of 2009 has a mutual option for 2013 worth $5.5 million that includes a $1 million buyout.

The Cubs continue to be connected to Ian Stewart and Chase Headley. The Rockies are looking for more than a utility player (Blake DeWitt) in return for Stewart. According to a report from the Sun-Times, the Rockies are more interested in Scott Maine or D.J. LeMahieu than they are in Blake DeWitt in a trade for Stewart.

A report from the Denver Post indicated that Stewart’s wrist is healing. Stewart is swinging lightly off a tee and he is in California working with a hitting coach. Stewart injured his wrist during the first game of the Rockies’ Cactus League schedule and battled the injury all season. Stewart does have minor league options left which would give the Cubs a little flexibility if they end up trading for him.

According to the North County Times, the Padres are asking a ton for Chase Headley due to the lack of quality third basemen on the market this winter. According to the NCTimes’ sources the Padres “asking price could scare some potential trade partners off.”

According to Bruce Levine, the Padres are looking for bullpen help in return for Chase Headley and are hoping the Cubs might part with a couple of pitchers, including left-hander James Russell.

Carrie Muskat reported the Cubs’ options at third base include Jeff Baker, D.J. LeMahieu, Josh Vitters and Junior Lake … and the Cubs are not thinking about moving Starlin Castro from shortstop to third base.

Pitching, Pitching and Pitching
The Cubs are trying to find starting pitchers. Right now they have four big league starters on their 40-man roster and two of those pitchers are Matt Garza and Carlos Zambrano.

The Cubs met with C.J. Wilson’s agent on Monday according to Ken Rosenthal but Wilson is asking for too much money and too many years. The Nationals made a six-year offer to the southpaw according to XM Radio’s Jim Duquette … or did they? Mike Rizzo denied making the offer to Wilson … then a late report from Jon Paul Morosi indicated the Angels were making a push to sign Wilson.

As for Mark Buehrle, the Cubs are rumored to still be in the mix … but so is most of baseball. The Nationals and Marlins appear to be the most interested but Buehrle is looking for a no-trade clause … and the Marlins’ will hand out no-trade clauses.

According to Joe Cowley, if the Marlins lose out on Buehrle they could turn to plan B which might include Carlos Zambrano. Cowley reported Monday night that the Marlins and Cubs met to discuss what the Cubs are looking for in return for Zambrano.

Another one of the Cubs rumored targets, Aaron Harang, appears to have a two-year deal in place with the Dodgers worth more than $12 million. The Cubs were rumored to be interested in Harang and Chris Capuano but both have signed two-year contracts with the Dodgers.

Could the Cubs be interested in bringing back Rodrigo Lopez?

Theo Epstein said he met with the agent for Albert Pujols, Dan Lozano, on Monday. But Lozano also represents Rodrigo Lopez. Epstein mentioned the discussion with Lozano about Lopez on the MLB Network but at the time his comments appeared to be of the sarcastic nature.

According to both Carrie Muskat and the Sun-Times, the Cubs are interested in bringing back Lopez to give them starting pitching depth.

Who’s on First?
The Cubs are interested in Albert Pujols according to Ken Rosenthal but right now the extent of the interest is unknown.

The Cubs are expected to sit down with Scott Boras to discuss Prince Fielderand possibly Carlos Pena. Many think the Cubs are very interested in Fielder because of his age and he fits the profile of the type of player the Cubs are looking to have on their roster. According to Jim Bowden, the Cubs could make Prince Fielder a short-term offer with a high AAV (similar to the rumor that surfaced Sunday about Albert Pujols).

Bryan LaHair could end up being an option at first base next season. LaHair met with Epstein and Hoyer while at the Winter Meetings accepting his minor league MVP award. LaHair discussed his future with the Cubs and was told they would like to give him an opportunity while at the same time not making any promises.

Sveum’s Coaching Staff
The Cubs are expected to announce Dale Sveum’s coaching staff at some point this week … and the hold up in the announcement does appear to be Craig Counsell.

Chris Bosio (pitching coach), Rudy Jaramillo (hitting coach), Jamie Quirk (bench coach), Pat Listach (base coach) and Lester Strode (bullpen coach) are reportedly on his staff and Sveum has talked to Craig Counsell about a coaching job as well.

Counsell is trying to decide if he’s ready to retire and his agent, Barry Meister, is in Dallas trying to determine possible interest in his client. Meister confirmed that Counsell has spoken with Sveum but according to Doug Melvin, the position with the Cubs is not there anymore … stay tuned.

According to the Tribune, Dale Sveum is looking to bring in longtime Dave McKay as a coach.

News, Notes and More Rumors

The Brewers’ GM, Doug Melvin, does not have plans right now to meet with Scott Boras concerning Prince Fielder. According to Buster Olney, the Brewers are telling people they are pretty much out on Fielder and are moving on.

Multiple reports are indicating teams are showing interest in Alfonso Soriano. The Cubs would have to eat a lot of the remaining $54 million owed over the next three years. Could the Cubs’ new front office end up swinging a bad contract for a bad contract and fill a need?

Carlos Zambrano might return to the mound this weekend according to Carrie Muskat.

The Cubs are still looking to add to their front office. Theo Epstein is interviewing candidates while in Dallas to fill scouting and player development positions.

According to the Tribune, former Cubs’ southpaw John Koronka has be rehired by the organization. Koronka will serve as a regional scout in charge of Florida

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

For the latest Cubs news and rumors, follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO

Quote of the Day

"A day without laughter is a day wasted." - Charlie Chaplin

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  • Tony_Hall

    We need to figure out our corner infield.  Pujols and Fielder would obviously be nice to see on a shorter term deal, but at what price.  $25M/year…$30M/year…wow that use to be the Marlins budget…

    Internally Lahair is waiting around, hoping to get a chance, if not, he will be heading overseas.  Can you imagine what he would do in the Japanese league?  I would think a lot of HR’s and more money than he could get from the Cubs, but he will wait as long as possible to get his chance to have a starting job in the majors.

    3B – Interesting internal list – Jeff Baker, D.J. LeMahieu, Josh Vitters and Junior Lake … and the Cubs are not thinking about moving Starlin Castro from shortstop to third base (Neil you have crushed Paul this morning with that last part).  I would like to Headley or Polanco, out of the external options, but would love to see them stay internal and develop our own players.  If they kept Baker on the team (in a bench role), they would have the insurance needed to give one of the young guys a shot.  It would be hard to imagine Lake getting a shot before Vitters.

  • Tony_Hall

    Help wanted!  Must be able to throw fastballs for strikes and pitch 6 innings.  

    Garza, Dempster, Zambrano, Wells  doesn’t fill up a rotation, especially when you consider we want to get rid of one, should get rid of another, reluctantly sighed when one picked up his option, and the only one we really want, we may get offers for him, that are hard to turn down.

    Casey Coleman is the 5th starter at the moment.  Is there any wonder Theo joked about Lopez…or was he serious. Will Cashner or Samardzija be able to win a spot, either way, the rotation needs some help.

    Internally, our guys aren’t ready yet.  A year ago, we might have thought Trey McNutt or Jay Jackson would be given shot at the 5th spot, but it sure doesn’t seem like any of our starters are ready to pitch above AAA.  

    I asked Tom for an update on 3 guys (Cabrera, Jackson, Bibens-Dirkx) and whether they could help out in 2012.  With all that was posted yesterday, if you missed his response, here it is:

    “Don’t expect Cabrera to be at Wrigley this season. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he is sent back to Double-A, or moved to the pen. He just recently turned 23, so he can use a bit more seasoning.Jackson seems to be an enigma. At times, he’ll look like a world-beater. At others, he’ll leave you scratching your head.I said last year that Bibens-Dirkx had the best potential to produce a Ryan O’Malley type of performance. He’s an all or nothing pitcher that can strike out 12 or serve up a half a dozen taters.”

    Not exactly exciting news or much help on the way.  Other names that could pass these guys, Raley, Searle, Rusin.  I am looking forward to seeing our own CCO’s prospect list, to see how our guys, who know the players in the Cubs minor leagues better than anyone outside of Clark and Addison (maybe even better), rate our players.

  • Tony_Hall

    Action on Soriano.  I saw one tweet that stated the Cubs would have to pay over $40M (of the $54M owed) to get rid of Soriano.  

    Which will make it very interesting, as Cubtex and I have set $12M as our bragging rights bets.  I say no one will pay over $12M of Soriano’s contract, he says a team will pay more than $12M.  Well if the thought is   the Cubs will have to pay over $40M to move him, we are right in the ballpark.  And don’t look at it as paying $40M for nothing.  It is already spent dollars.  I look at it at getting money back, that is already spent. 

    • Ripsnorter1

      I don’t believe Sorry-oh-no will land anywhere except Wrigley. We need what is left of his bat. The Adam Dudd trade would do us good, but……

      • Anonymous47701

        One way or Another Rip, Soriano is a DH and the AL is where he might end up before the 2012 Season.

        Just my opinion.

        • Ripsnorter1

          You could be right.

    • J Daniel

      Agree with you Tony – nobody will pay more than 12M of it.  Just my opinion though.

  • Tony_Hall

    I guess if Friedman didn’t go to Houston, he was not really available for the Cubs to hire.

    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2011/12/friedman-decides-against-astros-job-1.html

  • Tony_Hall

    10 year contract offer for Pujols…

    I thought the owners had learned that 10 years is too long of a contract for any player, let alone a guy already in his 30’s.

    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2011/12/albert-pujols-rumors-monday.html

    I really hope that Miami signs him.  I just don’t see how they will be able to afford their payroll down the road.  They are totally banking on a massive attendance increase to pay the bills they are taking on this year.  

    This is the franchise known to go for it, then have a fire sale…of course they do have 2 World Series trophies to show it can work.

    • cubs1967

      the marlins didn’t learn from their own history.  they are gonna sign all these players like blockbuster wayne did and in 2 yrs have to trade them when the stadium is still not filled.
      plus, the SEC is sniffing around; never a good thing.

      and if their revenues are gonna be this high; then they cannot get as much revenue sharing as in the past.  they are “fooling” themselves!!

    • Schwimmer

      I hope that this rumor is true.  Because I would love to see any team BUT the CUBS saddled with PUJOLS on a 10 year contract for $200m to $250m.

      How does any team justify such as contract?   I don’t get it.

      Why would a National League team want to be paying a 39 or 40 year old player $22m to $30m?  It is not only bad business…but also insane.

      In contast, I think the CARDINALS’ GM is a smart guy.  He’s not going to sacrifice his entire budget to give PUJOLS a ridiculous contract.

      It looks to me like PUJOLS is “only” about the money.   What happened to loving the team and a city that worships you???

      • Schwimmer

        Just read this morning that John Heyman said that the CUBS are much more interested in FIELDER than PUJOLS.

        And, they are not interested in giving PUJOLS a 9 or 10 year contract.

        Glad that THEO and company are among the more intelligent execs in MLB.

        I’ve got a strong intuition that if FIELDER really wants to play for SVEUM…and, in the National League…that he realizes that he can hit 50 HRs at Wrigley.

        And, that he signs with the CUBS!!!!!

  • Tony_Hall

    Excellent article by Chris Deluca on Ron Santo.

    http://www.suntimes.com/sports/9266878-419/why-it-took-so-long-for-ron-santo-to-get-into-hall-is-anybodys-guess.html

    I dont’ know if I will ever forgive the Hall of Fame and their voters, for not giving Ron Santo his day in the sun at the Hall of Fame.  He earned it, and deserved to have his day, in front of all of baseball.

  • Ripsnorter1

    WHO’S ON THIRD?
    Concerning Ian Stewart: “Stewart does have minor league options left which would give the Cubs a little flexibility if they end up trading for him.”
    Let’s not trade for a minor leaguer. GAG! The guy’s a bust, and he isn’t coming back to the MLs to stay. His ML future is behind him. 
    ******
    Chase Headley: I’d give up a James Russell to get him, provided the other piece they wanted wasn’t too valuable to me. Besides, Baker cannot field the position or hit RHP at all; Vitters isn’t ready and apparently doesn’t much care; DJ LeMahieu is simply a singles hitter with no power and no speed. You cannot win games without power. And the Jr. Lake suggestion is really out of the question. This guy is not ready, and if they brought him up prematurely they would destroy his confidence and his career. 
    ***************************

    WHO’S ON FIRST?
    I’ve always contended that I think they will bring Carlos Pena back (not because I want him). He’s cheaper than Fielder and Pujols, and he’s the best that’s left on the market—a platoon 1B with some power. Go ahead, Cubs’ fans; swallow that caster oil!  Actually, if he was strictly a platoon player, we could live with his .255 BA vs RHP and .504 slugging (include the 115K and 79 BB). Lahair? I really think he’s a AAAA player now with a weaker glove than Pena. We simply need to find a RH 1B for him to platoon with. What do you think? LeMahieu, who has exactly one games worth of experience? Soto? Or the eminently valuable Baker?????
    ***************************

    PITCHING. MORE PITCHING PLEASE!
    They have to offer Lopez a contract. THEY NEED HIM. We have no one else. Coleman? NO. And Neil, where is the Edwin Jackson rumors? Or maybe they don’t exist after all….. I’d take Jackson in this market with our minor league system. 

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      Already mentioned the Jackson rumor in the first report.

      • Ripsnorter1

        Yes, so you did.

  • Anthony

    Pujols:

    Went back and looked at the all-time HR leaders(the clean ones) to look for a trend in power peak and age. Appears that age 36 is about where the decline starts to fall off at a rapid pace. Whether Albert is 31 for real, or older, any contract past 5-6 years is a handcuffer, especially for a NL team with no DH.

    Looking at the Top 20, it reminded me of how great some of these hitters were. Unfortunately in the mix are 6 guys tied to the Roid Era.

    Without the benefit of the cream, the clear, the needle, the Manny Method, whatever, aging players are going to have to deal with being natural.

    Any team without a younger core group of players already in their lineup(CUBS) would be foolish to sign the player.

    Fielder:

    Has, by MLB trend and standards, 8 good seasons left. He plays an “easy” defensive position not very physically taxing, not very mentally taxing which allows for stress free at bats, if that makes sense.

    You can actually build an offense around him, especially table-setters and he can allow/cover management to provide an opportunity for a young guy(Vitters) to break in. Fielder is also a marketing tool to maintain fan interest while more pieces are put together in the rebuilding process, and instead of eating Soriano dollars, take your defensive lumps and keep the additional power in the lineup.

    Or, play the youngsters, give LaHair his shot, and make deals later on.

    Just don’t don’t sign retreads. If you are gonna lose lots of games, do it with kids in the system and see what you got.

    • Ripsnorter1

      Speaking of Prince and how long he’s got left (without the “roids)……

      His dad quit after his age 34 season. Prince will be 28 on May 9, 2012

      Let’s compare their career marks……
      CECIL–6’3″…230 lbs.=3.06 lbs per inch of height 
      1990, Cecil peaked at age 26 with 51 taters (and 182 K). .592
      1991-44 HR, .513
      1992–35 HR, .458
      1993–30 HR, ..464
      1994–28 HR at age 30, .504
      1995–31, .472
      1996–39 HR, .484
      1997–13 HR, .410,
      1998–17 HR and DONE–.401.

      Cecil’s last two years were sub-20 HR seasons.
      Note how he fell off of a cliff in 1997.
      *******************************
      PRINCE–5’11″…275 lbs.=3.87 lbs per inch of height
      Is getting far more PA than his father ever did……
      Cecil…………………vs. Son the Prince
      age 23……197……vs……681
      age 24……190……vs……694
      age 25 (Japan)……vs…..719
      age 26…..673…….vs…..714
      age 27….712……..vs…..692

      Prince’s HR totals, with slugging….
      age 22……28 HR, .483
      age 23…..50 HR, .618
      age 24….34 HR, .507
      age 25….46 HR, .602
      age 26….32 HR, .471
      age 27….38 HR, .566

      Prince out-slugs his father.

      I am guessimating that Prince will play to 36 compared to his father’s 34. 

      • Anthony

        basically, you confirmed the better sign for any Club.

        If he signs NL, that Org also creates tradeable 1B prospects in their current system(or their current 1B MLB starter) that could bring in pitching. If he goes AL, then the team who acquires him should be seeking a 1B current younger prospect with power potential to arrive later on in the contract moving Fielder to DH.

  • Chuck

    Having lived in Miami from 1995 – 1999.  I went to many Marlins’ games including games 1 and 7 of the 1997 World Series. In 1997 the attendance was good and in in 98 a fire sale; attendance drops.  The problem, for me, was watching a baseball game in a football stadium.  Also there were the rainouts.  In the past years the Marlins had one of the lowest payrolls and Loria, the owner, did not spend.  Now with a new stadium, a new manager, some new signings; the attendance will be up this season. Loria is now showing the fans that it will spend some of that money to put a contender on the field.  If the Miami Heat can make big signings, the Marlins can also.  If the Marlins stay healthy, they could have a better record than the Cubs and get that final playoff spot.