Pitching Remains Cubs Priority … and Other News and Notes

With the tender deadline and the Winter Meetings just around the corner, the next 10 days figure to be very busy throughout baseball … and for the Cubs.

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have decisions to make over the next four days as they continue exploring ways to add pitching to the roster. Carrie Muskat confirmed the Cubs are still looking to add at least one starting pitcher and they are pursuing pitchers across the spectrum.

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are looking at “some guys who might be classified as buy low, there might even be buy high guys, some multi-year deals, some trades” basically pitchers that will be able to improve the rotation according to the report. The Cubs, along with just about every other team, will be focused on adding pitching at the Winter Meetings next week.

The Cubs made an addition to Dale Sveum’s coaching staff with the hiring of Rob Deer as assistant hitting coach. Deer is already working with the players according to a report from Bruce Levine. Darwin Barney and Brett Jackson worked with Deer, Dale Sveum, David Bell and James Rowson at the Cubs’ complex at Fitch Park on Monday.

Rob Deer
A lot was made across the web and on Twitter about the Cubs hiring a career .220 hitter that is known for striking out more than he hit the ball. The bottom line is Rob Deer is the Cubs assistant hitting coach, not the only hitting coach on staff. Deer will be asked to follow the Cubs’ philosophy for hitting, not create one himself, and is expected to work closely with Dale Sveum and James Rowson to change the approach throughout the Cubs’ system.

With all of the technology that exists in the game, it is impossible now for one person to be responsible for an entire team. Assistant hitting coaches will exist on all 30 teams in the near future.

The Hardball Times tweeted a Q&A with Rob Deer from October of 2006 in which he discussed how a player that struck out so much in the majors could become a hitting coach.

From OnMilwaukee.com:

“I answer that a lot. I don’t teach the way I hit. I understand how to hit .300. I know what it takes. We tell the guys to be selectively aggressive. We want that to be their approach. We tell them ‘Be patiently aggressive.’ That’s our motto. What does it mean? If you get a good pitch to hit and you take it, it’s your fault. We don’t ever want to take aggressiveness away. But we don’t want to swing at bad pitches either. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t want them to hit like I did.”

A report from Andrew Simon pointed out the importance of assistant hitting coaches to teams. The Cubs have had an assistant hitting coach in the past, but not as a full-time position. One of Franklin Font’s many duties last year included helping Rudy Jaramillo at the beginning of the season.

Right now, assistant hitting coaches are not allowed in dugouts during games due to MLB’s restrictions on limiting uniformed personnel.

Ian Stewart
According to a report from Carrie Muskat, the Cubs will likely non-tender Ian Stewart prior to Friday’s deadline “then re-sign him to a Minor League deal.” The Cubs have been unclear all off-season on Stewart’s future with the team and have until Friday to make a decision.

Stewart has been a non-tender candidate after his poor start last season and his subsequent trip to the DL. The report indicates that Stewart could be re-signed at a lower cost, which has been the thought process for a while, but as the report points out there is a weak pool of free agent third basemen and another team might be willing to take a chance and sign Stewart to a Major League contract.

News and Notes
Former Cubs’ utility man Bobby Scales has found a new job. Scales hung up his cleats and accepted a position in the Angels’ organization. Scales was named the Angels’ new Director of Player Development.

According to a report from Jon Heyman, Jeff Keppinger recently suffered a break in his right fibula tripping down some stairs at his house. Keppinger has been connected to the Cubs this off-season through the rumor mill but most think he will sign with a team that is expected to compete next season. Keppinger is hoping to be ready by mid-January or by Spring Training at the latest. Teams have been aware of the injury and have asked for medicals. According to Heyman, the Yankees, Diamondbacks and about half-dozen other teams have shown interest in Keppinger.

Joe Torre announced his coaching staff for the upcoming World Baseball Classic. Torre is the skipper for Team USA and will have three former Cubs on his staff … Larry Bowa (bench coach), Greg Maddux (pitching coach), Gerald Perry (hitting coach), Dale Murphy (first base coach) and Willie Randolph (third base coach).

According to a report from ESPN, the MLBPA is expected to discuss changes to the disciplinary portion of the game’s drug-testing program when the union holds its annual executive board meetings in New York this week.

Pat Hughes will be answering questions on Tuesday via Twitter. Hughes will take questions on @Cubs using the #AskPat hashtag beginning at 12:00 (noon) CST.

Jim Bowden mentioned during Inside Pitch (MLB Network Radio) on Monday that he thinks there will be a lot of activity (trades and signings) after Friday’s tender deadline … and there could be a blockbuster trade or two during the Winter Meetings next week.

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