Cubs Non-Tender Stewart, Make Roster Moves and Continue Looking for Pitching

The Cubs made three roster moves prior to Friday’s deadline to tender contracts to arbitration eligible players. As expected the team did not tender a contract to Ian Stewart for next season. The Cubs would like to re-sign Stewart to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training but right now he is a free agent.

The Cubs also announced they did not renew the contracts of Jaye Chapman and Zach Putnam. Both relievers were expected to be in the mix for a job in the Cubs pen in the spring. The Cubs would like to re-sign Chapman to either a Major League or minor league deal according to the Daily Herald. With the three roster moves, the Cubs 40-man roster now stands at 37 players.

As expected the Cubs tendered contracts to Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija, James Russell and Luis Valbuena. The Cubs also announced they renewed the contracts of 14 players (0-3 men) on the 40-man roster and that Casey Coleman cleared waivers and was assigned to Triple-A Iowa.

The three open spots give the Cubs a little flexibility moving forward this off-season.

Pitching will remain the primary concern for the Cubs heading into the Winter Meetings according to a report from ESPN Chicago. Jed Hoyer said the team is looking at pitching as an “area of need” and they will be active at the meetings trying to find bullpen help.

Jed Hoyer also discussed the need to add depth in the starting rotation with pitchers such as Matt Garza and Scott Baker coming off injury.

Kyuji Fujikawa
Jed Hoyer confirmed on Friday that the Cubs met with free agent closer Kyuji Fujikawa and admitted that they came away very impressed. The Angels appear to be the frontrunners to sign Fujikawa but Hoyer explained why the Cubs were interested in signing him.

According to a report from Comcast SportsNet, the Cubs would like to “have an assortment of guys” in the backend of the bullpen that can pitch in the ninth inning. Hoyer acknowledged that they depended too much on James Russell, Shawn Camp and Carlos Marmol last year and they must avoid similar use next season.

The Cubs have said all off-season they would like to add depth to the pen and a pitcher, like Fujikawa, with closer experience would also push Carlos Marmol.

The Outfield and Michael Bourn
When Jed Hoyer addressed the media on Friday, the Cubs general manager said they were looking to improve their outfield. The Cubs have indicated that was an area they would like to address this winter. Brett Jackson is expected to start the year in Iowa and right now the Cubs are looking at a platoon in centerfield (Dave Sappelt and Tony Campana). The Cubs would like to add either a centerfielder or a right fielder and as the team is currently constructed, David DeJesus would either stay in right field or slide over to center depending on who was brought in.

Hoyer said, “There are a number of players that we’ll be talking to across the next few weeks.” And according to Bruce Levine, one of those players could be Michael Bourn.

The Cubs had conversations with Bourn’s agent, Scott Boras, according to Levine’s report. The report is rather vague and neither Boras nor the Cubs would comment on when the two sides spoke about the speedy, soon-to-be-30-year old outfielder.

As Levine pointed out, the Cubs have enough payroll flexibility to sign Bourn … but a free agent signing, like this one, does not appear to be in line with the plan for building the organization that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have discussed since taking over 14 months ago.

Michael Bourn is looking for a long-term deal and the Cubs are looking at a long-term rebuild … and the two do not seem to be a match. Bourn would be the wrong player at the wrong time for the Chicago Cubs.

Josh Vitters
As it turns out Josh Vitters has left Venezuela and is back in the U.S. to work out for the remainder of the off-season. Reports Wednesday indicated that Vitters had been sent home for not producing in two games for Caracas. Vitters actually switched teams to get more playing time but still could not find his swing and went home. It was pretty obvious that Vitters was in over his head after being recalled from Triple-A Iowa in August. The mental break will likely be more beneficial to Vitters at this point than more time on a field.

Ryan Dempster
The Ryan Dempster rumors have picked up over the last few days. The Brewers, Red Sox and Angels have expressed interest in Dempster with many feeling that Dempster will end up signing with Milwaukee. Dempster reportedly turned down a two-year, $26 million offer from the Royals and is seeking a three-year contract.

Even with Tommy Hanson in the fold, the Angels are looking to add starting pitching and Dempster could give the Halos rotation depth according to the L.A. Times.

News, Notes and Rumors
Jon Heyman heard that Bryan LaHair signed a two-year, $4.7 million deal with the SoftBank Hawks, not the $4.5 million that was reported last week.

Rob Deer is eager to temper doubts according to a report from Carrie Muskat. The Cubs new assisting hitting coach was considering an assistant hitting coach job with another team and called Dale Sveum to get additional information. Sveum and Deer talked and now he’s on Sveum’s staff. Deer has already begun working with the players (Brett Jackson and Darwin Barney) and will travel to the Dominican Republic later in the winter to meet more of the players, including Alfonso Soriano, Starlin Castro and Welington Castillo.

According to a report from Hardball Talk, the Diamondbacks are interested in signing Brandon McCarthy.

Several former Cubs hit the open market on Friday night after not being tendered a contract for next season. Geovany Soto (Rangers), Jacob Brigham (Rangers), Tom Gorzelanny (Nationals), Rich Hill (Red Sox) and Andres Torres (Mets) all became free agents as well as John Lannan. The Cubs were rumored to be interested in the southpaw last season in a possible deal for Marlon Byrd.

According to a report from Carrie Muskat, Brett Jackson has shortened his swing already this off-season and worked on the adjustments at the Cubs’ complex in Mesa last week. Jackson is expected to return to Mesa in January to get an early jump on Spring Training.

According to a report from Jeff Passan, Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball are discussing significant changes to the posting system that allows players from Japan to play in the Major Leagues.

Jesse Rogers has taken over the Cubs’ beat for ESPN Chicago. The former Blackhawks beat reporter for ESPN 1000 and ESPNChicago.com replaces Doug Padilla. Padilla moved back to the South Side to cover the Sox.

Baseball America named Javier Baez the top prospect in the AFL. (video link)

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