Cubs Exploring Ways to Fill Holes … and Other News, Notes and Rumors

The Owners Meetings are underway in Chicago and instead of the focus around the game being on awards week, all of baseball has turned its attention to the reported deal between the Miami Marlins and Toronto Blue Jays. Once the proposed trade is finalized, it will change the course of the off-season throughout baseball. The meetings, which conclude on Thursday, were expected to include discussions about expanding the use of instant replay.

The Cubs’ focus remains on adding pitching but they are also looking for a third baseman, bullpen arms, an outfielder and possibly a veteran backup catcher. The Cubs also have roster decisions to make prior to Tuesday’s deadline (November 20) to file reserve lists in order to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft.

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

  • There is a possibility that the Cubs could begin the season with a Tony CampanaDave Sappelt platoon in centerfield.
  • Levine alluded to fact the Cubs still shopping Carlos Marmol. When asked what the Cubs would expect in return for Marmol, Levine mentioned the aborted Dan Haren trade as the type of value. The Cubs are looking for a good-hitting third baseman.
  • The Cubs feel they have their first baseman, second baseman and shortstop of the future on the team.
  • According to Levine, the Cubs are not sure if the team’s future third baseman is in the organization. Levine mentioned the possibility of adding a third baseman like Lonnie Chisenhall or Nick Castellanos to fill the position.
  • The Cubs have been very vague about Ian Stewart and Levine does not think that is the direction they would like to go.
  • The Cubs would listen to a deal for Darwin Barney but Levine is not sure if they want to trade him. The Cubs “have a newfound appreciation for Barney after watching him play a whole season” and they really like his leadership ability.
  • The Cubs and the White Sox are both interested in Brandon McCarthy. McCarthy’s agent told Levine that his client would love a chance to play in Chicago again.
  • Jason McLeod told Levine last week that Javier Baez is going back to short after playing third in the AFL. Baez is expected to be 100 percent when Spring Training begins.
  • Levine said the Indians like some of the Cubs’ young players and it would probably take Josh Vitters and another young player for the Cubs to acquire Lonnie Chisenhall.
  • Starlin Castro is going to stay at shortstop until someone in the organization shows they can play short better than Castro.
  • Levine asked a Cubs official about the team’s interest in Francisco Liriano and if they offered him a contract. Jim Bowden reported last week that Liriano had a deal on the table from the Cubs. Levine said he heard it could be a two-year contract but he was not able to confirm the Cubs interest or if there is a deal on the table.
  • Interest in Trey McNutt is way down compared to a couple of years ago.
  • Levine has heard the Cubs are going to add another LED board to Wrigley Field. This one would be in left field. Levine was not able to confirm if they are planning on adding another board. A lot of the upgrades the Cubs have planned for Wrigley Field are being held up due to the Mayor’s refusal to talk to them at this point.

Brandon McCarthy
The Cubs are interested in signing free agent Brandon McCarthy … but so are several other teams. Bruce Levine reported over the weekend that McCarthy had been medically cleared to pitch and Susan Slusser confirmed the report on Wednesday.

Brandon McCarthy has been medically cleared to pitch two and a half months after undergoing life-saving emergency brain surgery. According to Slusser, McCarthy underwent 20 hours of testing by Dr. Michael Collins. The testing was scheduled for three days in Pittsburgh and McCarthy did so well that the third day was not required.

The next step for McCarthy is a two-week workout program to ease him back into baseball activities. Once McCarthy completes the two week plan given to him by Dr. Collins then he can resume his normal off-season activities.

According to the report from the San Francisco Chronicle, McCarthy’s exam included tests for eye movements and head movements while watching moving objects. McCarthy was also given cognitive tests, exertion tests and balance tests.

The A’s would like to re-sign McCarthy but they feel he will receive bigger offers from other teams that they will not be able to match.

Minor League News
According to a report from Baseball America, the Cubs re-signed Blake Parker to a minor league contract and released first baseman/outfielder Rebel Ridling. Ridling hit a combined .215/.287/.354 in 131 games for the D-Cubs and Smokies last season. Ridling hit 23 double and 13 home runs with most of the damage being done with Daytona. Ridling set career marks with Double-A Tennessee in 2011. Ridling hit 23 doubles and smacked 20 homers while posting a .309/.372/.515 line.

According to a report out of Venezuela, the Cubs signed catcher J.C. Boscan to a minor league contract. The 32-year old backstop has spent the last 14 years in the Braves system after signing as a free agent in 1996. In 70 games last season at the Triple-A level, Boscan hit .189/.264/.284/.548 with 12 doubles and three home runs. Boscon has played a total of 11 games at the big league level over the last three seasons.

Several former Cubs’ farmhands have signed minor league contracts with new organizations. Brad Snyder (Diamondbacks), Marquez Smith (Reds), Juan Apodaca (Rangers), Neal Cotts (Rangers), Scott Olsen (Rangers), James Adduci (Rangers), Blake Lalli (Brewers) and Justin Germano (Blue Jays).

Ken Rosenthal asked if teams’ statements are crossing the line. Rosenthal brought up the ugly word “collusion” and reported that his sources believe “that recent statements by club officials and other baseball employees violate the collective bargaining agreement.” Rules in the CBA state “team officials cannot communicate through the media the substance of economic terms discussed by players and clubs – the facts of an offer, or whether the club will decline to make an offer.”

Rosenthal cited several examples of teams communicating through the media on what they plan to do or not do with a certain player or players. The players’ union is not planning on filing a grievance at this time but they are monitoring the situation closely.

News, Notes and Rumors
According to a report from Baseball Prospectus, the Cubs might have had a little more interest in Jeremy Hellickson than first reported. The report cites Joel Sherman of the NY Post as its source and indicates the Rays are listening to offers for every starter not named David Price. The talks hit a dead end last week between the Cubs and Rays on Hellickson.

More details have surfaced on why the deal between the Cubs and Arizona State University fell apart. According to a column in the Arizona Republic, the deal started to unravel when Theo Epstein questioned the deal after he took over baseball operations. The Cubs then started asking for changes, including a reduction of years of the agreement from 30 down to 15. ASU’s athletic director Steve Patterson and Crane Kenney did not get along and according to the column spent a majority of one session “arguing over the location of a hot dog stand.”

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Quote of the Day

"When you play, play hard; when you work, don’t play at all." – Theodore Roosevelt