More Roster Moves on the Horizon for the Cubs … and Other News, Notes and Rumors

When the off-season began, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer said they were looking to add at least two starting pitchers, an outfielder, a third baseman, a veteran back-up catcher and relievers to the Cubs roster. The Cubs added two players to the roster this week and there are more roster moves on the horizon.

The Cubs announced the signing of catcher Dioner Navarro on Friday. The Cubs inked Navarro to a one-year deal worth a guaranteed $1.75 million that includes $250,000 in performance bonuses. The addition of Navarro means if healthy, Welington Castillo will start the year with the big league club and Steve Clevenger is likely bound for Iowa. Castillo is out of options while Clevenger has three minor league options remaining.

The Cubs also signed Scott Baker to a one-year contract. Baker said he expects to be ready to start the season on the active roster but Baker underwent Tommy John surgery last April and it is unlikely he will begin the year in the Cubs rotation. Epstein and Hoyer are looking to add starting pitchers and have recently been connected to Francisco Liriano, Rick Porcello, Brandon McCarthy and Shaun Marcum.

The Cubs have other roster decisions to make with the November 20 deadline to set reserve lists at the major and minor league level to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft just three days away. The Cubs have two open spots on their 40-man roster.

Rick Porcello
If all of the reports and rumors are correct, the Cubs have been interested in acquiring Rick Porcello from the Tigers for nearly a year now. Porcello was rumored to be in the discussions with Detroit for Matt Garza, then Darwin Barney and according to George Ofman, the Cubs are one of the teams talking to the Tigers about Rick Porcello.

Ofman tweeted Thursday night that the Cubs remain interested in Porcello. This is the second connection made between the Cubs and Tigers this week. Bruce Levine mentioned the possibility of Nick Castellanos playing third for the Cubs during his weekly chat. The next day Ofman connected Porcello to the Cubs again.

Rick Porcello is coming off a 10-12 season with the Tigers. In 31 starts, the 23-year old right-hander posted a 4.59 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP. Porcello allowed a career-high 226 hits and issued 44 walks while striking out 107 batters. Many feel the Tigers’ poor defense contributed to his rough year. Porcello is arbitration eligible for next season (Super 2 in 2012) and does not hit free agency until after the 2015 season.

Rick Porcello gave his number to Torii Hunter on Friday after Hunter’s deal with the Tigers was announced. Porcello asked Hunter to make a donation to the victims of Hurricane Sandy in exchange for his number. Porcello lives in New Jersey.

Scott Baker
One of the newest Cubs joined Jeff Joyce and Mike Stanton during MLB Roundtrip (MLB Network Radio/XM Radio) on Thursday night. Scott Baker was very open about his recovery from Tommy John surgery and why he signed with the Chicago Cubs.

After discussing the recent announcement of Miguel Cabrera winning the AL MVP over Mike Trout (Baker said that Cabrera would have received his vote for MVP due to the ballpark and the fact he just mashes the ball), Mike Stanton congratulated him on signing with the Cubs and asked how his arm is doing. Baker quickly replied, “My arm is doing great actually.” Baker explained that he is taking ownership of this rehab and trying to make sure he is ready to pitch.

Baker said he talked with several guys that had Tommy John surgery, including Joe Nathan. Baker explained that his conversations with Nathan led him to choose Dr. Altcheck to perform the surgery. He did not know at first he was going to need Tommy John until he went under the knife. Baker thought he was just going to get the flexor tendon cleaned up. Baker found out that the UCL was useless and that was the reason the flexor tendon kept flaring up. Baker pitched with pain for several years and when the pain stopped he knew something was wrong. Baker acknowledged that despite the rehab program being monotonous, he knows it is strategic and has long as he follows doctors’ orders, he will have a full recovery.

Once Baker became a free-agent, the Cubs showed very strong interest. Baker explained that things stalled out with the Twins and several teams showed interest. Baker acknowledged that there were teams probably “just kicking the tires” but there was serious interest from several teams, including the Cubs. He was looking for a place he could be successful next year and he thinks the Cubs is the right place for him.

Scott Baker admitted that he did not want to sign a multi-year deal or a one-year contract with an option. Baker said he let all of the teams know he was only looking for a one-year deal. Baker wants a chance to re-establish himself then come out again [free agency] and test the market. There were several teams that were interested in signing him to a one year contract but he feels the Cubs are the right situation for him.

Baker feels good about pitching with the Cubs. He knows the Cubs did not have the type of season they would have liked last year. Baker spoke with Theo Epstein and the coaching staff and thinks the Cubs will be cautious with him through the rehab process. As for pitching at Wrigley Field, Baker said if he makes the pitches he’s capable of then there will not be a problem.

Scott Baker and Matt Garza were teammates for a short time in Minnesota. Baker did not speak with Garza before signing with the Cubs but plans to talk to him and a few of his other new teammates.

Baker said he is on track to be ready to go when Spring Training begins. He is already long tossing and will begin his mound progressions in a month or two. Baker explained that will take him into Spring Training. Baker is hoping to treat his Spring Training starts as his rehab starts but he is not sure if the Cubs are going to let him do that or not. He has to play it [rehabbing the elbow] by ear and not try to act like the injury never happened.

Scott Baker strained his elbow ligament in college. He feels blessed and fortunate to have made it 11 years without having surgery. Baker said he has nursed the ligament and elbow so long that he is looking forward pitching without pain and without having to worry about it [the elbow] anymore. Baker is looking forward on just focusing on pitching.

Scott Baker said there is no doubt in his mind that he will have a full recovery.

News, Notes and Rumors
Miguel Socolovich has an agreement in place with the Hiroshima Carp to pitch in Japan next season. The Cubs claimed Socolovich off waivers from the Orioles in August and he finished the year on the Cubs’ active roster. Socolovich dealt with arm issues over the last month of the season but finished the year healthy. The Cubs outrighted him off the 40-man roster in October.

According to a report from Bruce Levine, Brian Harper will soon be named the Iowa Cubs’ hitting coach. Harper managed the D-Cubs last season. The Cubs are expected to announce the managers and coaching staffs for the entire minor league system in the near future.

The Arizona Fall League’s regular season ended on Thursday. Logan Watkins created quite a buzz in a short time after he replaced Javier Baez on the Solar Sox’s roster. Matt Szczur, Nick Struck, Dae-Eun Rhee, Kevin Rhoderick, Rubi Silva and Tony Zych are done playing ball for the remainder of the calendar year.

Dale Sveum thought Welington Castillo was probably the team’s most improved player during the second half according to a report from Comcast SportsNet.

Matt Garza views the dustup between him and Dioner Navarro as a turning point in his career. Garza said he embarrassed himself and the confrontation led to temper-management consulting according to the Sun-Times. Garza and Navarro later became inseparable.

According to a report from Comcast SportsNet, the players are already concerned about getting off to a good start next April, so the team will not become sellers at the trade deadline.

Not only did the AFL come to an end Thursday, Camp Bussie also broke for the holidays.

Passes for the 28th Annual Cubs Convention are on sale and for the first time, the yearly event will be at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers. According to the Vine Line, the weekend convention begins at 1:00pm CST on Friday … four hours earlier than the event has begun in the past.

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO

Quote of the Day

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