The High Cost of Matt Garza … and Other Cubs News, Notes and Rumors

The Cubs finally announced the one-year contract with Reed Johnson on Tuesday. The agreement between the Cubs and Johnson surfaced on December 21 and Johnson spoke about re-signing with the Cubs during an interview on MLB Network Radio/XM Radio shortly after the agreement was leaked. Johnson made $900,000 last year and will be paid $1.15 million for the upcoming season.

Matt Garza and Prince Fielder continue to be main topics of conversation surrounding the Chicago Cubs.

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are reportedly listening to offers for Matt Garza but have yet to find a match … and they still have not ruled out signing Garza to a long-term extension. As for Prince Fielder, for every report that states the Cubs are not interested in signing Fielder, there is one that says they are still in the mix.

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

Matt Garza
According to multiple reports, the Cubs continue to listen to offers for Matt Garza … but they have yet to find a team to meet their high demands. The Cubs have talked to the Yankees, Blue Jays, Marlins, Tigers and Red Sox about Garza but have not found a match. According to Dave Kaplan, teams that are interested are waiting to see how high a team is willing to go for Garza.

The Yankees appear to be out of the running for Garza because the Cubs want at least two of New York’s top prospects (Manny Banuelos, Dellin Bestances and Jesus Montero). The Yankees were not willing to part with those players for Gio Gonzalez and apparently valued Gonzalez more than they do Garza.

The Marlins do not match up because of the lack of pitching depth the Cubs are seeking and the same can be said about the Red Sox. Plus Boston has luxury tax issues and would likely have to dump salary in order to afford Garza according to a report from Bruce Levine.

The Blue Jays are in the same place as the Cubs. Apparently Toronto does not feel they are quite ready to compete for a title in the AL East and might not be willing to part with the package of prospects Epstein and Hoyer are looking for in return for Garza. Kyle Drabek and Deck McGwire are two of the pitchers the Cubs are asking for because they believe both could step right into the rotation for the upcoming season.

As for the Tigers, they might be willing to part with Jacob Turner, Rick Porcello and outfielder Avisail Garcia (20-year old right-handed outfielder that hit .264/.297/.389/.686 with 16 doubles, six triples and 11 home runs in 129 games at the High-A level in 2011) for Matt Garza.

Fangraphs discussed Garza’s value and they do not feel he is worth what the Cubs are asking for in return. Due to Garza’s rising salary that will take him near market value over the last two seasons of team control, he is not valuable enough for more than a position player ranked in the 11-50 range of all the prospects in the game, or a couple of players from the back-end of the top 100 prospects in baseball.

According to Kaplan, the Cubs could end up getting more back for Garza than they gave to Tampa last year.

The Cubs could end up keeping Garza and building a rotation around him. During his weekly chat, Bruce Levine said he knows for a fact there have been internal discussions about what it would take to sign Garza to a four-five year extension.

While rumors have suggested otherwise, the Cubs do not appear close to trading Matt Garza … and could just end up hanging onto one of the best players on their roster.

Prince Fielder
It appears the reports about the Nationals being the front-runner to sign Prince Fielder are correct. According to a report from Bill Ladson (MLB.com), the Nationals met with Scott Boras in the Nation’s Capital to discuss Prince Fielder.

The Mariners and Cubs are believed to be the Nationals main competition for Fielder.

The Nationals’ ownership will apparently make the final decision on whether Washington signs Fielder or not.

Scott Boras has several clients currently in the Nationals’ organization including Jayson Werth, Stephen Strasberg and Bryce Harper. There is also the thought that Boras us using his relationship with Mike Rizzo and the Nationals to drive up Fielder’s price.

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

  • Rick Porcello could be in the Matt Garza talks with the Tigers. Porcello is arbitration eligible according to Levine and might defeat the Cubs goal of adding young pitching for Garza. The Cubs are looking for pitching and outfield depth for Garza and the Tigers’ outfield prospect Avisail Garcia could be in the talks as well.
  • The Cubs do not have much starting pitching depth in the upper levels outside of Trey McNutt. Levine sees Ryan Dempster and Travis Wood as being the only sure things to make the starting rotation, right now.
  • Levine does not think the Cubs match-up well with what the Padres would want in return for Anthony Rizzo.
  • Younger, more athletic, more left-handed and better defense are all priorities for Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.
  • Levine said he knows for a fact that the Cubs have looked at the numbers in order to try to sign Matt Garza to a four or five year extension. Levine thinks Garza’s agent would want a similar contract to the one John Danks just signed (five years, $65 million).
  • The Cubs have talked to eight American League teams over the last two months about Alfonso Soriano. There is a possibility for a fit with the Orioles according to Levine but teams are waiting out the Cubs to see how much of Soriano’s contract they are willing to eat. Unless the Cubs find a team that is willing to take on a small part of Soriano’s contract, Levine thinks he will be in left field for Dale Sveum on Opening Day.
  • Levine is not sure the Marlins have enough young pitching to acquire Matt Garza.
  • As for Carlos Zambrano to the Marlins, Levine thinks the Cubs would take a non-pitching prospect in return for Zambrano.
  • The Red Sox, Nationals and Braves have all had interest in Marlon Byrd. The Cubs are hoping to find a team to take what is left on his contract … Byrd is owed $6.5 million for the upcoming season.
  • Both Yoenis Cespedes and Jorge Soler are expected to receive their Dominican Republic citizenship in the next week or so. Once they are Dominican Republic citizens they will be able to be signed. The Cubs are expected to be in on both.
  • There is suspicion that Kerry Wood is in agreement on a contract with the Cubs but they have just announced the deal … Wood re-signing with the Cubs could be made official before the convention next week.
  • Levine said it is strange the Cubs have not released the list of players (both past and present) yet that will be at this year’s convention.
  • The Cubs are not out of the running for Prince Fielder yet but the Nationals appear to be the front runner because they are willing to give more years than some teams. Fielder is looking for at least a seven-year deal.
  • Carlos Marmol will probably stay with the Cubs … for now.
  • Levine does not think Carlos Zambrano will be with the Cubs on Opening Day.
  • Levine’s guess on the Cubs big league payroll for 2012 … $121 million, they already have $105 million committed.
  • Darwin Barney figures to be the Cubs second baseman on Opening Day and Levine thinks the Cubs will add more infield depth before the season begins.
  • Edwin Jackson is asking for too many years and too much money for the Cubs to be interested in signing him.
  • Levine has not heard anything this off-season (yet) about the Cubs being interested in signing Roy Oswalt.
  • Carlos Pena is still a possibility at first base for the Cubs.

Cubs Convention
The 27th Annual Cubs Convention kicks off next Friday afternoon at the Chicago Hilton. And while the Cubs have not released a list of the players, both past and present, that will be in attendance, the players attending Kerry Wood’s charity event and the caravan stop in Peoria have been announced.

Theo Epstein, Ryan Dempster, Marlon Byrd, Matt Garza, Andrew Cashner, Geovany Soto, Starlin Castro, Randy Wells, Welington Castillo, Darwin Barney, James Russell, Ernie Banks and Rick Sutcliffe are expected to attend Kerry Wood’s charity event. “Woody’s Winter Warm-Up” will take place from 8:30-11:30pm on January 13 at Harry Caray’s on Navy Pier.

The Cubs Caravan stop in Peoria will feature Tony Campana, Chris Carpenter, Brett Jackson, Josh Vitters, Matt Szczur and Casey Coleman.

The CCO will post a list of attendees and the schedule for the 27th Annual Cubs Convention when it becomes available.

News, Notes and Rumors

According to multiple reports, Coco Crisp has decided to stay in Oakland and has agreed to terms on a two-year contract according to Buster Olney that will pay Crisp a guaranteed $14 million ($6 million in 2012, $7 million in 2013 and a $1 million buyout on a $7.5 million club option for 2014). Crisp’s deal includes a $250,000 bonus if he’s traded.

According to Ken Rosenthal, the Orioles are interested in both Paul Maholm and Joe Saunders.

According to multiple reports, Carlos Silva agreed to a minor league contract with the Boston Red Sox.

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

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Quote of the Day

"Don’t ever permit the pressure to exceed the pleasure." - Joe Maddon