Weekend Update … Thirteen Days Until Cubs Camp Officially Begins

The countdown to pitchers and catchers officially reporting to Spring Training has begun. It is only 13 days before the first workout for Cubs’ pitchers and catchers at Fitch Park. The first full squad workout is on February 24 and the Cubs’ first Cactus League game against the A’s is less than a month away (March 4) … Cubs baseball is just around the corner.

The Cubs have more roster decisions to make in the near future. According to multiple reports, the contract Gerardo Concepcion agreed to is a Major League deal. Concepcion would have to be added to the 40-man roster once the deal is official. The Cubs will have to open a spot to add the southpaw to the big league roster.

The next seven to ten days should also see Yoenis Cespedes sign with a team. The Cubs are considered one of the front-runners to sign Cespedes as well as Jorge Soler, once Soler establishes residency in the Dominican Republic and MLB makes him eligible to begin negotiating with teams.

Here is the update on ‘big game’ Sunday …

Matt Garza
The Cubs and Matt Garza avoided the arbitration process Friday when the two sides agreed to a deal but both parties ended up in St. Petersburg for the hearing … that never took place.

According to Bruce Levine (Talkin’ Baseball, ESPN 1000), the Cubs sent six-seven people to Florida for Garza’s arbitration hearing and the two sides agreed to the contract just prior to the start of the hearing.

The Cubs have two years of control on Matt Garza, counting the upcoming season, and he should make somewhere between $12 and $14 million in the final year of arbitration eligibility (Garza was a Super Two). Levine thinks if the Cubs cannot sign Garza to a long-term deal between now and Opening Day that he will be traded. A long-term contract for Garza could end up being in the five-year and $60 to $70 million range according to Levine.

The Cubs cannot afford [not in terms of money] for him to go into the last year of club control still on his current deal. Garza becomes a lot less valuable on the market with just one year remaining under team control and would hurt the Cubs process of building for the future.

According to Levine, teams the Cubs have talked to this off-season about Garza includes the Rangers, Diamondbacks and Red Sox but they could not agree on a package of players the Cubs feel Garza is worth. The Cubs feel they should receive three to four top prospects for Matt Garza.

Gerardo Concepcion
The Cubs have not announced the signing of Gerardo Concepcion but are expected to very soon. The hold-up is apparently him passing his physical … there have not been any indications there will be any issues with Concepcion passing his physical.

The contract Concepcion signed is for a guaranteed $7 million according to Bruce Levine (Talkin’ Baseball, ESPN 1000) and will be for at least four years … plus it will be a Major League deal.

The Cubs will have to add Concepcion to the 40-man roster, which will require another roster move to create a spot for the young southpaw.

Gerardo Concepcion is expected to start the season in low Class-A, either with full season Peoria or short-season Boise.

Yoenis Cespedes
According to Bruce Levine (Talkin’ Baseball, ESPN 1000), the Cubs are going to do everything they can to make sure they sign Yoenis Cespedes. The Miami media thinks it is a foregone conclusion that he will end up signing with the Marlins. Levine thinks Ozzie Guillen’s new team will be in a big battle with the Cubs and White Sox over Cespedes … and the outfielder could end up inking a six-year contract worth between $50 to $60 million.

Yoenis Cespedes should sign with a team in the next week to ten days so he can be in camp to compete for a job out of Spring Training.

Jim Hendry on Talkin’ Baseball
The former general manager of the Chicago Cubs joined Bruce Levine and Fred Huebner at the top of the second hour of Talkin’ Baseball (ESPN 1000) Saturday morning. Hendry sounded refreshed and ready to begin his new position with the New York Yankees … and had nothing but good things to say about his former team.

Hendry is excited about joining the Yankees organization. He said he was ready to get back into the game and feels this is the right opportunity for him. The decision to take the job with the Yankees actually happened two weeks ago.

Several organizations were interested in hiring Jim Hendry but he feels the job with the Yankees is the best fit. Hendry explained that it was important for him to be in what he felt was the right environment and his good relationship with Brian Cashman helped lead to the decision.

Hendry said anyone that has ever been in baseball or grew up watching the game would want to be a part of the Yankees organization. Hendry and Larry Rothschild actually had a similar talk last year before Hendry let Rothschild out of his contract to take the pitching coach job with New York.

Hendry explained he feels Cashman really wanted him as a part of his team and the good relationship over the years helped with the decision.

Bruce Levine asked Hendry how he thinks the Cubs off-season has gone so far. Earlier in the interview Hendry said he had a good relationship with Theo Epstein while Epstein was in Boston. He thinks Theo has a long-term plan and the Cubs will be good down the road. The plans that Tom Ricketts has for the facilities in the Dominican Republic and in Mesa will help with the development of the players. Hendry also alluded to the planned changes for Wrigley Field will help the Cubs in the long run as well.

Over time the Cubs will be very good according to Hendry. Theo Epstein is doing the best he can to get younger and cut payroll to try to save a little money. Hendry added, “Certainly down the road, the moves that are being made will be good for the Cubs.”

Hendry does not think he would have done things much differently during his time with the Cubs. He might have stepped away a little better when the job called for him to take a breathier. Hendry pointed out it is hard to think how the job is affecting you [health wise] in the moment. Hendry feels he did the best he could with not the deepest staff.

Jim Hendry has no animosity toward anyone with the Cubs. Hendry acknowledged there was a lot of change toward the end of his tenure [ownership changes] but he wishes them [the entire organization] well.

News, Notes and Rumors
Bruce Levine is expecting Bud Selig to make his decision on the compensation for Theo Epstein in the upcoming week … next week at the latest.

According to Bruce Levine (Talkin’ Baseball, ESPN 1000), the Cubs are still very interested in signing Jorge Soler.

And for those that were concerned about Brett Jackson’s appearance at the Cubs Convention, apparently he has cut his hair and shaved his beard.

WGN Radio Contest

WGNSongContest.jpg

WGN Radio has asked the CCO to help promote their latest contest … write the official WGN Radio Cubs Song for the 2012 season. For those baseball fans that are also musicians this could end up being your bring break.

All entries must be submitted by February 29, 2012.

Click here for more information and the official rules from WGN Radio.

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

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO

Quote of the Day

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the things you did." - Mark Twain

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  • Roger Larson

    There have been multiple references to Soler not gaining residency in the Dominican Republic, but I believe he gained citizenship in Mexico and is eligible to sign a MLB Contract.

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

       That was Concepcion that established residency in Mexico.

  • Tony_Hall

    Here is a good article, that is sure to spark some debate.  I am not saying I agree with all of the picks, but it is always fun to review one writers take on the best and worst free agent signings of this off-season.

    http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-0205-baseball-free-agents-20120205,0,4931350,full.story 

    Cub related picks.

    Remember the best or worst signings of this year, doesn’t mean the signing is good or bad, just that this writer feels it was the best or worst of this off-season.

    First base
    Best: Carlos Pena, one year, $7.25 million, Tampa Bay.

    No team stretches a $60-million budget like the Rays, who contend in the American League East despite puny payrolls. In Pena, 33, they have another low-cost, high-impact player.Pena had a .357 on-base percentage and 28 home runs for the Chicago Cubs in 2011 after averaging 36 homers with a .368 OBP in four seasons at Tampa Bay. He’s also a Gold Glove-caliber defender and a strong clubhouse presence. 

    Third base
    Best: Aramis Ramirez, three years, $36 million, Milwaukee.

    The knock on Ramirez, 33, is he has bad body language and occasionally takes defensive plays off, but he has consistently put up excellent power numbers and will ease the loss of Fielder. Ramirez has a career .284 average, .342 OBP and .500 slugging percentage, has averaged 24 homers and 86 RBIs in 13 seasons and is a .299 hitter with runners in scoring position. 

    Right field
    Best: David DeJesus, two years, $10 million, Chicago Cubs.

    The 31-year-old struggled in 2011 after being traded from Kansas City to Oakland, hitting .240 with a .323 OBP and .376 slugging percentage.

    But he’s one season removed from hitting .318 with a .384 OBP and slugging .443. DeJesus has 15-homer, 70-RBI potential and is an excellent defender.

  • Tony_Hall

    The 40 man roster is getting interesting.  One thing to note, it is getting evened out and is right now 21 pitchers to 19 hitters, with another pitcher needing to be added who will be taken off the 40 man roster, baring a trade that opens up a spot.

    Batters 
    C – Soto, Castillo, Clevenger
    1B – Lahair, Rizzo
    2B – Barney, Dewitt, Baker
    SS – Castro, Lake
    3B – Stewart, Vitters
    OF – Soriano, Byrd, DeJesus, R Johnson, T Campana, Sappelt, Szczur

    Pitchers
    SP – Garza, Dempster, Maholm, Volstad, Wells, Castillo, Coleman, Sonnanstine, Cabrera

    Bullpen 
    RH – Marmol, Samardzija, Wood, Carpenter, Dolis, Mateo, Weathers
    LH – Russell, Beliveau, Maine, Gaub

    My candidates to be cut.
    Coleman – should clear waivers and will not be a big loss, as we have re-stocked the #5 starters and AAA. 
    Dewitt – Not sure how or why he is still around
    Cabrera – Not sure he has a future on a major league team with 5 and 6 range ERA’s in AA and AAA.

    There are more that will be gone soon enough, but baring a trade these are the likely candidates and none of these will be tough cuts, and I would expect all of them to be gone, by Opening Day anyway.

    • SuzyS

      Tony, I just looked at the roster…and a thought went through my mind….How many roster moves will it take to get the Cubs to the promised land?
      I expect the 40 man roster to be an extremely fluid item for the next few years….while team Theo revs up into gear.

      • Tony_Hall

        Absolutely!  I had stated at the end of last season, that this team needed to turn the 40 man roster over and was hoping to have only 16 or 17 players that were on the roster at the end of the season, still be there by Opening Day.  

        We have 24 left.

        Pitchers (13) Garza, Demspter, Wells, Coleman, Marmol, Russell, Samardzija, Cabrera, Carpenter, Dolis, Gaub, Maine, Mateo

        Batters (11) Soto, Castillo, Clevenger, Lahair, Dewitt, Castro, Barney, Baker, Soriano, Byrd, Campana

        I think by Opening Day, we could see us get close to 17 left, but probably will take until June/July and the trade deadline.

        My best estimate of the next players, via trade or cut, to get down to 17 left.

        Pitchers Wells, Coleman, Cabrera, Gaub

        Batters – Soto, Dewitt, Byrd

        • Aaron

          Wells, Soto, and DeWitt are almost assured of staying:

          Wells-because he’s a groundball pitcher, and they probably think they can get more out of him

          Soto-they’ve already said he’s staying (though they said that about Z  and Marshall too, so who knows?)

          DeWitt-because they were foolish not to protect Gonzalez and Flaherty. Had they protected either one of them, he likely would’ve been non-tendered…same for Baker. Then they signed Bianchi for more depth, then lost him to waivers…so, again, DeWitt makes the team easily

          I agree on Coleman, Cabrera, and Gaub though, but I’m a bit on the fence regarding Byrd. I think they would’ve dealt him by now if they had any intention of doing so.

          • Tony_Hall

            I agree that all 3 will make the team, IF, they aren’t traded.  That is why I said it will likely take until the trade deadline to turn over more of the roster.

            I think Soto will be traded by the trade deadline. 

            Wells, I just don’t think will make the rotation except for the fact he is out of options, and other guys have options. But either way they would never cut him, as they will be able to get something for him in trade.  

            Dewitt, we both agree is confusing that he is still here, and I just don’t see him being around by the trade deadline.

            Byrd will be traded by the trade deadline to maximize the return.

          • daverj

            While I don’t think DeWitt is any good … I do think he will have a more productive major league career than Flaherty or M Gonzalez so it doesn’t surprise me at all the Cubs protected DeWitt over those guys.

          • WidespreadHisPanic

            Flaherty needs to get ABs and I think he will get them in Baltimore since they have to give him back if he doesn’t make the team out of camp. I think he will prove his worth and I think he is alot better than DeWitt.
            Same goes for Gonzalez with the ‘Stros. I think he’s gonna play in Houston.
            So, as much as I like both of these guys more than DeWitt, I think DeWitt will make the Cubs opening day roster by default. He played everywhere last year and that’s not such a bad thing…flexibility.
            I’d rather have Flaherty or Gonzalez looking at what the team is trying to do.
            Then again what do I know…

          • Anthony

            great to know we have front office decision-makers on board with roster decisions,,,,,,,,stop

          • RynoTiger

            No Anthony, you stop