A Look Back at the Cubs Off-Season as Pitchers and Catchers Report to Spring Training

Doesn’t it seem like a lot longer than just 144 days since Jed Hoyer’s San Diego Padres beat the Chicago Cubs 9-2? Ryan Dempster took the loss on the final day of the 2011 season. Starlin Castro ran his hitting streak to 11 games in the loss and reached base for the 40th game in a row.

The past four and a half months have been anything but boring for the Chicago Cubs. The hiring of Theo Epstein and then Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod continue to make headlines and will well into the season.

The Cubs’ new regime not only changed the team’s manager and a majority of the coaching staff but they also said goodbye to a few long-time Cubs and welcomed several new faces as they attempt to build an organization with sustained success.

With the seemingly daily changes and roster moves, not to mention all of the rumors and Ron Santo finally being voted into the Hall of Fame, this past off-season will not soon be forgotten.

So with pitchers and catchers officially reporting to Fitch Park today, let’s take a look back at the off-season from the archives of the CCO …

Click on the Red Hyperlinks to Read the Original Reports from the CCO

September

September 28 – Happy Trails – Cubs 2 Padres 9
Ryan Dempster lost the final game of the 2011 season in what turned out to be Aramis Ramirez’s last game as a Cub. Starlin Castro went 1-for-3 and extended his hit streak to 11 games and reached base for the 40th game in a row. Steve Clevenger collected his first big league hit in Mike Quade’s last game as the manager of the Chicago Cubs.

September 29 – From the Wire … Cubs Designate Berg and Schlitter for Assignment, Reinstate Zambrano
On the first day of the off-season, the Randy Bush led Chicago Cubs made three roster moves. Justin Berg and Brian Schlitter were designated for assignment and Carlos Zambrano was reinstated from the disqualified list.

October

October 2 – Guillen Has Reached Out to Zambrano
Ozzie Guillen reached out to Carlos Zambrano about him pitching for the Miami Marlins in 2012. The move would not happen until January 4.

October 3 – Epstein to the Cubs Rumors Heating Up
What appeared to be a meaningless report from Joel Sherman at the time was the first sign that Theo Epstein could leave the Red Sox to take a job with the Chicago Cubs.

October 4 – Cubs Ask Red Sox for Permission to Speak with Theo Epstein
Reports surfaced that Tom Ricketts had formally asked the Red Sox for permission to talk to Epstein about the general manager opening with the Cubs.

October 9 – Cubs Receive Permission to Speak with Epstein?
The CCO confirmed on October 9 that the Cubs had received permission to speak with Theo Epstein about taking a job in the Cubs’ front office.

October 11 – Epstein Close to Joining the Cubs’ Front Office?
Reports out of Boston suggested Theo Epstein could be leaving the Red Sox in 24-48 hours to take a job with the Cubs.

October 14 – Negotiating for Theo
The negotiations over compensation for Theo Epstein between the Sox and Cubs began. Reports suggested at the time that Epstein had already agreed to terms on a contract with the Cubs … and a list of players were turned over to evaluate as possible compensation for Epstein.

October 15 – Cubs and Sox Making Progress on Compensation Talks
Just days before the first pitch of the 2011 World Series, the Cubs and Sox were reportedly making progress on the right compensation for Theo Epstein.

October 19 – President Epstein? … and Cubs Front Office Rumors
After hearing that Theo Epstein could be more than general manager of the Chicago Cubs, the mainstream media finally broke the news that Theo Epstein would likely be named President of Baseball Operations for the Chicago Cubs and hire a GM.

October 20 – Deal Done with Sox for Epstein?
As Tom Ricketts inched closer to bringing in Theo Epstein, news surfaced that once Epstein was hired to run the Cubs he would bring in Jed Hoyer to serve as the Cubs’ general manager and would also hire Jason McLeod.

October 21 – From the Wire … Theo Epstein Take Over as Cubs President of Baseball Operations
Theo Epstein resigned from his position with the Red Sox and in a press release on a Friday night in October he quietly became the President of Baseball Operations for the Chicago Cubs. At the urging of Bud Selig, the two teams agreed that appropriate compensation would be paid to Boston at a later date in order to let Epstein out of the last year of his contract with the Red Sox.

October 22 – Team Epstein Taking Shape … Hoyer and McLeod Next Up for the Cubs
Before Theo Epstein was introduced as the President of the Cubs he requested and received permission from the Padres to interview his long-time friends, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod, for positions in the Cubs’ new front office.

October 25 – The Start of the Epstein Era
Theo Epstein was introduced as the President of Baseball Operations … and talked about a Cubs Way and Sustained Success during his introductory press conference.

October 26 – From the Wire … Hoyer and McLeod Officially Join Cubs Front Office
Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod resigned their positions with the San Diego Padres and accepted positions with the Chicago Cubs. Hoyer was named Executive Vice President/General Manager and McLeod was named Senior Vice President of Scouting and Player Development. The Cubs agreed to send a player to be named later to the Padres as compensation for Hoyer and McLeod.

October 29 – From the Wire … Ryan Dempster Picks Up 2012 Option

October 30 – From the Wire … Aramis Ramirez Declines 2012 Mutual Option

October 31 – From the Wire … Cubs Decline 2012 Option on Jeff Samardzija, Expected to Re-Sign at a Reduced Salary
The Cubs declined the club option on Jeff Samardzija worth $3 million. The Cubs were expected to re-sign Samardzija at the time to a reduced rate … and of this writing, Samardzija’s salary for 2012 has not been made public.

November

November 1 – A Deadline, A Press Conference and More Decisions for Team Epstein
November 1 was the first deadline set by Bud Selig for the Cubs and Sox to settle the compensation issue. The deadline came and went but Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod were formally introduced in an afternoon press conference.

November 2 – From the Wire … Mike Quade Out as Manager of the Chicago Cubs
Theo Epstein flew to Florida to let Mike Quade go … and the search for the Cubs’ new manager began immediately. One of the first names to surface was Dale Sveum.

November 2 – Sandberg Not a Candidate for the Cubs’ Managerial Position

November 3 – Team Epstein Begins Interviewing Managerial Candidates

November 5 – From the Wire … Cubs Tab Joe Bohringer as Pro Scouting Director
The Cubs added an important piece to the front office with the hiring of Joe Bohringer and at the same time took a little off Tim Wilken … and allowed Wilken to focus on amateur scouting.

November 14 – From the Wire … Cubs Add Shiraz Rehman as Assistant GM

November 15 – Zambrano Could Earn Way Back to the Cubs
Carlos Zambrano and his agent Barry Praver met with Theo Epstein and Randy Bush to discuss Zambrano’s future with the Chicago Cubs.

November 16 – Cubs Offer Managerial Position to Dale Sveum
Reports surfaced that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer had offered Dale Sveum a job to become the 52nd manager of the Chicago Cubs.

November 17 – From the Wire … Dale Sveum Named Manager of the Cubs
On a Thursday night in November, the news Dale Sveum was hired to be the Cubs’ new manager surfaced. Sveum was introduced at the Cubs’ weekly press conference the next day … after he stopped to buy a sport coat on his way to Chicago from the GM Meetings in Milwaukee.

November 18 – Cubs 40-man Roster Moves … Vitters, Lake, Beliveau and Szczur Added to the Big League Roster
Jed Hoyer made his first roster moves in mid-November. Top prospects Josh Vitters, Jeff Beliveau, Junior Lake and Matt Szczur were added to the Cubs 40-man roster … and Esmailin Caridad, Kyle Smit and Luis Montanez were outrighted off the big league roster. At the time, the Cubs 40-man roster stood at 34.

November 20 – From the Wire … Sveum Retains Rudy Jaramillo

November 22 – Baseball America’s Top 10 Prospects for 2012
The first list of the top prospects in the Cubs’ system was released with Brett Jackson named as the Cubs’ best prospect.

November 23 – Rounding Up the Cubs News, Notes and Rumors
Matt Garza hit the rumor mill for the first time in the wake of the announcement of the new CBA … and Carlos Zambrano was expected to start his winter warm-up in Venezuela.

November 23 – Sveum Asked Chris Bosio to be Cubs Pitching Coach
Just days after Bruce Levine mentioned the possibility, the news of Chris Bosio replacing Mark Riggins as the Cubs pitching coach surfaced.

November 23 – Cubs Offer Arbitration to Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena
While many worried that Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena would accept salary arbitration from the Cubs, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer gambled and it paid off. Ramirez signed with the Brewers, Pena signed with the Rays and the Cubs received two sandwich picks. As it turns out, the Cubs had a handshake agreement with Scott Boras that Pena would not accept salary arbitration with the Cubs … after all, Boras needed the Cubs to stay in the mix as long as possible to keep the perception of a market for Prince Fielder.

November 29 – Are the Cubs Planning a Roster Overhaul?
News of the Cubs interest in both David DeJesus and Ian Stewart first surfaced.

November 29 – From the Wire … Jamie Quirk Tabbed as Sveum’s Bench Coach
The second hire by Dale Sveum for his coaching staff. Jamie Quirk replaced Pat Listach as the Cubs bench coach and pushed Listach out of the dugout and back to the baselines. Listach would end up being named third base coach.

November 29 – Rangers Hire Greg Maddux as Special Assistant to GM
Greg Maddux left the Cubs’ organization again … this time to join his brother Mike Maddux in Texas.

November 30 – From the Wire … Cubs Sign Outfielder David DeJesus
The first free agent signing of the new regime … Theo Epstein tried to acquire DeJesus while he was in Boston and was unable to pull off a deal. DeJesus signed a two-year, $10 million contract that includes a $6.5 million club option for 2014.

December

December 2 – From the Wire … Chris Bosio to be Named Cubs Pitching Coach

December 5 – Ron Santo Elected to the Hall of Fame
A year and two days after his passing, the Santo family received the call that Ron waited so many years for. Ron Santo was finally elected to the Hall of Fame and will be enshrined into Cooperstown on July 22.

December 7 – From the Wire … Ramirez and Pena Decline Salary Arbitration

December 8 – Cubs Selected Lendy Castillo in Rule 5 Draft … Flaherty Selected by Orioles, Gonzalez Selected by Red Sox, Dealt to Astros
The Winter Meetings concluded with the Rule 5 Draft … and the announcement that Albert Pujols had signed with the Los Angeles Angels. The Cubs lost two players in the Rule 5 Draft … Ryan Flaherty and Marwin Gonzalez. Flaherty has a good chance to stick with the Orioles and the same could be said about Gonzalez. The Cubs selected Lendy Castillo from the Phillies, a 22-year old right-handed pitcher.

December 8 – Cubs and Red Sox Not Worrying About Compensation for Epstein

December 8 – From the Wire … Colvin and LeMahieu Traded to Colorado for Ian Stewart and Casey Weathers
The rumored trade involving Ian Stewart and Tyler Colvin finally happened and included two other top prospects, D.J. LeMahieu and Casey Weathers.

December 9 – From the Wire … Cubs Claim Infielder Jeff Bianchi
The Cubs claimed infielder Jeff Bianchi off waivers from the Kansas City Royals and added him to the 40-man roster. The Cubs ended up trying to sneak Bianchi back through waivers on January 11 to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Paul Maholm … but the Brewers ended up claiming the infielder.

December 10 – Will Fielder End Up with the Cubs? … and Other News and Notes
The Prince Fielder to the Cubs rumors heated up … as the Cubs continued to deny the interest.

December 12 – Aramis Ramirez Agrees to Three-Year Deal with Brewers
Aramis Ramirez’s days with the Cubs officially ended as he signed a three-year deal with Milwaukee. The Cubs received a sandwich pick in June’s draft when Ramirez took his talents to Miller Park.

December 12 – Cubs Tender Contracts to Six of Seven Arbitration Eligible Players … Koyie Hill Lone Non-Tender
The Cubs tendered contracts to six of their seven arbitration eligible players and released Koyie Hill. Matt Garza, Blake DeWitt, Jeff Baker, Geovany Soto, Ian Stewart and Randy Wells were tendered contracts for the 2012 season.

December 15 – Cubs Bid on Yu Darvish … and Other News, Notes and Rumors
Not only did the Cubs make a bid for the right to negotiate a contract with Yu Darvish (rumors later suggested the Cubs placed a $20 million bid for Darvish), news surfaced that the Ricketts family had purchased the McDonald’s property across the street from Wrigley Field.

December 16 – From the Wire … Cubs Announce Dale Sveum’s Coaching Staff
After postponing the announcement for more than 10 days, the Cubs finally announced Dale Sveum’s coaching staff … Chris Bosio (pitching coach), Rudy Jaramillo (hitting coach), Jamie Quirk (bench coach), Pat Listach (third base coach), Dave McKay (first base coach) and Lester Strode (bullpen coach). The Cubs also announced Franklin Fort will serve as the team’s assistant hitting coach.

December 16 – Cubs Negotiating a Deal with Paul Maholm?

December 18 – Weekend Update … Rumors, Rumors and More Cubs Rumors
A day after the Padres acquired Yonder Alonso in the Mat Latos deal, the rumors were flying that Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod would soon be trading for Anthony Rizzo … the trade would end up happening less than a month later.

December 19 – Cubs Add to Front Office … Hire Matt Dorey as National Crosschecker

December 20 – Cubs and Reds Discussing a Sean Marshall for Travis Wood Trade?
News first surfaced that the Cubs’ new front office could send Sean Marshall to the Reds for lefty Travis Wood.

December 21 – From the Wire … Cubs Reach Agreement on One-Year Contract with Reed Johnson

December 21 – From the Wire … Cubs Agree to Send Sean Marshall to the Reds for Travis Wood and Two Minor Leaguers
The Cubs and Reds agreed in principal on the deal that sent Sean Marshall to Cincinnati for Travis Wood.

December 21 – Cubs Announce Minor League Managers, Coaching Staffs and Coordinators for 2012

December 22 – From the Wire … Cubs Sign Manny Corpas
News surfaced that the Cubs had signed reliever Manny Corpas. The deal would not be made official for several days and when it was it was announced as a split-contract. Corpas ended up going through waivers to clear room on the 40-man roster for Kerry Wood on January 26.

December 23 – From the Wire … Cubs Acquire Travis Wood, Dave Sappelt and Ronald Torreyes from the Reds for Sean Marshall
Two days after the trade was leaked it was made official … the Cubs sent Marshall to the division rival Reds for Travis Wood, Ronald Torreyes and Dave Sappelt. The trade also signaled what Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer had been saying, the Cubs are building for the future and beyond the 2012 season.

December 26 – From the Wire … Cubs Agree to Terms on a Non-Guaranteed Split Contract with Andy Sonnanstine
The Cubs announced two non-guaranteed split contracts the day after Christmas … one for Andy Sonnanstine and one for Manny Corpas.

December 31 – Two Minor Signings, A Front Office Hiring and Other Cubs News, Notes and Rumors
The Cubs signed two Cuban prospects on the final day of the year. According to Baseball America, the Cubs inked outfielder Yasiel Balaguert and right-hander Carlos Martinez. Both players were teammates of Jorge Soler and Gerardo Concepcion. The Cubs have still not announced those signings. The Cubs also added a piece to the front office with the hiring of Kyle Evans. Evans will run the Cubs video and advance scouting department.

2012

January

January 4 – Cubs Close to Trading Zambrano to Miami?
The news surfaced that the Cubs were on the verge of trading Carlos Zambrano and a lot of money to the Miami Marlins for Chris Volstad. Bruce Levine first reported the possibility in November just after the GM Meetings … where the talks between the Cubs and Marlins started.

January 4 – From the Wire … Cubs Deal Zambrano to Miami for Chris Volstad
Not long after the report from Ken Rosenthal, the Cubs and Marlins agreed in principal on a trade that sent Carlos Zambrano to the Marlins for Chris Volstad.

January 5 – Zambrano Out, Volstad In and Two Minor League Signings
The news surfaced the Cubs signed Joe Mather and Edgar Gonzalez to minor league contracts … the deals were actually completed in mid-December.

January 5 – From the Wire … Carlos Zambrano for Chris Volstad Deal Official
The Cubs announced they had parted ways with Carlos Zambrano, as well as with $15.345 million of the $18 million owed to Zambrano for the 2012 season. Zambrano waived his no trade clause and his vesting option for the 2013 season. The Cubs also announced they settled the grievance with Zambrano for $2.4 million.

January 6 – From the Wire … Cubs Acquire Anthony Rizzo and Zach Cates from the Padres for Andrew Cashner and Kyung-Min Na
Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod acquired Anthony Rizzo again and for the second time since taking over the Cubs, they traded a former first-round pick of the previous regime (Tyler Colvin, 2006; Andrew Cashner, 2008). The Cubs also acquired a pitcher with a ton of upside in the deal. Even with the Cubs trading for their future first baseman, the national media continued to insist that Prince Fielder would end up singing with the Cubs.

January 9 – From the Wire … Paul Maholm Signs with the Cubs
For the first time a player announced on twitter that he had signed a contract with the Cubs. Paul Maholm could not wait to tell the world he signed with the Cubs.

January 11 – From the Wire … Brewers Claim Jeff Bianchi Off Waiver from Cubs
The Cubs tried to sneak Jeff Bianchi through waivers but the Brewers claimed the utility infielder. The move created a spot on the 40-man roster for Paul Maholm. The Cubs claimed Bianchi off waivers 33 days earlier from the Kansas City Royals.

January 13 – The Unofficial Opening Day … It’s Time for the Cubs Convention

January 13 – From the Wire … Cubs Re-Sign Kerry Wood
It was reported earlier in the week that Kerry Wood was on the verge of signing with another team but to the delight of the crowd in the big ballroom at the Hilton, Pat Hughes announced the Cubs had re-signed Kerry Wood to kick off the Cubs Convention.

January 14 – Day One of the 2012 Cubs Convention … Welcome to Theo Fest

January 14 – Soriano Would Only Accept a Trade to a Contender
The Cubs’ new regime was (and still is) trying to move Alfonso Soriano to an American League team. On the first day of the convention, Soriano said he would only accept a trade to a city and a team that was good for him and his family. Rumors have suggested that Soriano rejected a trade to the Orioles at some point during the off-season.

January 14 – Day Two of the 2012 Cubs Convention … Behind the Scenes with Theo Epstein

January 15 – Day Two of the 2012 Cubs Convention … Meet Cubs Baseball Management and the Coaches’ Den

January 15 – Day Two of the 2012 Cubs Convention … The Cubs Newest Hall of Famer, Scouting and Changes to Wrigley Field

January 15 – Day Three of the 2012 Cubs Convention … Fathers, Sons and Down on the Farm

January 17 – From the Wire … Cubs Avoid Arbitration with Geovany Soto
The Cubs starting catcher received a nice raise in his second year of arbitration eligibility. Soto made $3 million in 2011 and will be paid $4.3 million in the upcoming season.

January 17 – From the Wire … Cubs Agreed to One-Year Deals with Six of Seven Arbitration Eligible Players, Exchanged Figures with Matt Garza
The Cubs avoided arbitration with Jeff Baker ($1.375 million), Blake DeWitt ($1.1 million), Ian Stewart ($2.3755 million), Chris Volstad ($2.655 million) and Randy Wells ($2.705 million). The initial report of Matt Garza filing a $10.255 arbitration number was incorrect but the Cubs submitted a $7.95 million offer for Matt Garza.

January 19 – Garza’s Arbitration Filing Higher Than First Reported
Two days after reports surfaced that Matt Garza filed a $10.225 million arbitration figure, news surfaced that Garza actually filed a $12.5 million figure … a far ways from the $7.95 million figure the Cubs filed.

January 20 – Baseball is Better … and Other Cubs News, Notes and Rumors
Minor league signings continued to surface right around the time the Cubs new ad campaign hit the Internet and newspapers. The return of Rodrigo Lopez to the Cubs on a minor league contract was announced.

January 26 – From the Wire … Corpas Outrighted Off Cubs 40-Man Roster
The Cubs finally created a spot on the 40-man roster for Kerry Wood. Manny Corpas cleared waivers and was outrighted off the big league roster.

January 30 – Cubs Invite 21 Non-Roster Players to Camp
At the time, the Cubs announced their non-roster invitees to Spring Training … since January 30, Esmailin Caridad has been added to the list and Blake DeWitt is also expected to be in camp on a non-roster invite after he cleared waivers (February 16) and was outrighted to Triple-A Iowa.

February

February 2 – The CCO’s Top 20 Prospects for 2012

February 2 – From the Wire … Cubs Sign Gerardo Concepcion
According to multiple reports, the Cubs signed 19-year old southpaw Gerardo Concepcion to a guaranteed $7 million deal. The contract could reportedly end up paying Concepcion $8 million … but the Cubs have not announced the signing and have not added him to the 40-man roster yet.

February 3 – From the Wire … Cubs Avoid Arbitration with Matt Garza
The Cubs avoided arbitration with Matt Garza just before the hearing was set to begin. Garza agreed to a one year contract for $9.5 million that includes an additional $150,000 in performance bonuses.

February 4 – Avoiding Arbitration, a Minor League Signing … and Other Cubs News and Notes
The Cubs signed Ryan Rowland-Smith to a minor league contract and invited Esmailin Caridad to big league camp.

February 6 – From the Wire … Cubs Designate Blake DeWitt for Assignment, Claim Adrian Cardenas Off Waivers

The off-season is over. It is time to focus on the field. Baseball is back.

Position players report February 23 and the first full squad workout is in just six days, February 24. Before long the Cubs will take the field in Mesa against the A’s on March 4 … and Pat Hughes will proclaim, “Chicago Cubs Baseball is on the air.

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Quote of the Day

"You can’t sit on a lead and kill the clock. You’ve got to give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game." - Earl Weaver