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)

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO

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  • SuzyS

    Any news on what Jon Garland is doing these days? I thought he might be a target for the Cubs if he is ready for a comeback this year. Thoughts???

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      Hey Suzy, there have been rumblings that the Cubs could sign Jon Garland. There is a good relationship between him and Hoyer. Garland says he is ready to pitch again.

      With Hoyer’s statements yesterday, if they went down that road I would imagine it would be a minor league deal.

      • SuzyS

        Thanks Neil…I didn’t see that. Personally, I think Garland could be a great signing for the Cubs at this point…especially on a minor league deal.

        • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

          Sign him on the cheap. If he does well flip him for prospects. That’s the “Cubs Way.”

          • Aaron

            Not a wise move. Pelfrey, Lannan, Gorzelanny, Jurrjens, or even go out on a limb and sign Kazmir.

            Garland has a history now of shoulder and elbow problems, and hasn’t pitched since 2011 (9 games), and is now 33 years old….probably not a good gamble to take.

            Other than that, he was actually a horse, averaging about 200 IP for 7 straight seasons until 2011.

            And while Kazmir also has injury issues…many actually…nor does he have the durability Garland has….he still has more upside, and is still in his 20′s, so I’d much rather take a flier on him than Garland…plus he’s lefty.

            Here’s how I’d rank the non-tender pitchers in terms of who I would sign first:

            Pelfrey

            Jurrjens
            Gorzelanny
            Lannan
            Kazmir
            Garland

            I’d prefer Liriano above all of them though

          • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

            As always, good points Aaron.

  • Cubs4ever

    Speaking of former Cubs prospects. Rich Hill? He still has swing and miss stuff and could be a good loogy along with Russell.

  • Tom U

    In today’s Chicago Tribune, Paul Sullivan reports that the organization has been encouraged with the performance of Junior Lake at third base and in the outfield in the DWL.

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/breaking/chi-chicago-cubs-news-cubs-could-nontender-two-players-20121130,0,2665621.story

    • John_CC

      Still hoping for this kid to a have future with the big league club!

  • daverj

    It sure would have been nice to have Randall Delgado to plug into the rotation …

  • John_CC

    Thoughts on Nate Schierholtz for an incentive laden contract and OF option? There are some interesting pitchers out there too now; Jurrjens, Karstens, Lannan and Pelfry…these guys all fit the mold of buy low reclamation projects. I think the roster is going to look very different pretty soon.

    • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

      Id love to pick up Lannan and Jurrjens

  • paulcatanese

    Hoyer looking at pitching as “an area of need”, wow ya think?
    How many months have they been around to figure that one out.

    • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

      We’ve been hearing that comment since they’ve been here. Just reiteration.

  • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

    How about Brian Wilson? If he doesn’t get too expensive he’d be a great sign and flip guy if he returns to form. If he’s the guy he used to be a contending team would probably give us a nice package for his services down the stretch.

    • WidespreadHisPanic

      I agree

  • Vivid_Reality

    The thought of the Cubs dishing out to sign Bourn makes me pretty uneasy. I would much rather see them go internal or find someone in rule 5. I would be fine with a low risk low reward type player in center this year provided they play above average defense. There is a serious lack of smart options in free agency and even via trades. Fangraphs profiled some of the rule 5 eligible prospects and I would be pretty content with:

    Kenny Wilson | Center-fielder | Toronto Blue Jays

    It took five years but Toronto finally began to see the player they thought they were getting when they took Wilson with the 63rd overall selection (2nd round) out of a Tampa high school during the 2008 amateur draft. The speedy outfielder played most – if not all – of his pro career with a damaged left shoulder labrum, which was surgically repaired mid-way through the 2011 season.

    When Wilson returned to the field in 2012 he was a much improved player. Returning to A-ball in Lansing, Michigan for the third time in his career, he showed significant improvements with the bat and also stole 41 bases (49 attempts) in 94 games. He finished the year with even
    better results in 29 games at high-A Dunedin. A former switch-hitter, who was flipped to the left side in an effort to maximize his speed tool, Wilson is now solely batting right handed and is still learning to face right-handed pitchers from the opposite batter’s box.

    When I saw Wilson play, he was showing good bat speed and a shorter stroke than he employed earlier in his career. He was also taking lots of pitches (13 in his first two at-bats of the game) and working the count into his favor. He went 0-for-4 in that game but he made solid contact and hit the ball all over the field. The Florida native also almost beat out a routine ground ball to shortstop for an infield single.

    Along with being a weapon on the base paths with his near 80 speed, Wilson is a plus defender who takes good routes on balls, shows outstanding range and has a strong arm. I personally saw him throw out a runner with an incredibly accurate throw to third base from right-center field. A contact told me, “This guy is legit in center field and can really go get it.” I fully expect Wilson to continue his breakout in 2013 and could be ready for double-A ball. As a Rule 5 pick he’s not going to be an impact hitter by any means but he could be a late-game defensive replacement and/or pinch runner; he also has projection as a fleet-footed, future up-the-middle regular in center field.

    Projected Tools Grades (20-80)

    Hitting: 50
    Power: 45
    Speed: 75
    Arm: 65
    Fielding: 70

  • SuzyS

    Vivid,
    Wilson sounds like an interesting prospect/suspect for the short term. However, it seems to me that it’s much easier to hide and hold onto a pitcher via rule 5.
    Our one-time ” centerfielder of the future”, Felix Pie, is a FA. What about a short term contract with him?

  • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

    Could get some good prospects for Bourn at the trade deadline. Sign him up without a no-trade clause and we’re in business.

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    Suzy, Pie signed a minor league contract with Pirates that includes an invite to Spring Training.

  • Tom U

    Just to follow up, Pie is hitting .248 for Estrellas de Oriente in the DWL, the same team that has Junior Lake, Rafael Dolis, and Nelson Perez.

  • SuzyS

    I saw that he was released but missed his signing with the Pirates. Scratch that idea.
    Thanks, Neil.

  • Vivid_Reality

    Bourn isn’t a player that can be flipped easily. He will command a contract similar to what BJ Upton signed and no one will want to take on that commitment and give up prospects.