Cubs Off-Season Heating Up as Winter Meetings Begin

The Winter Meetings have not officially begun but the Cubs appear to have already made an addition to their bullpen. The Cubs reportedly agreed to terms on a two-year, $9.5 million contract with free agent reliever Kyuji Fujikawa. The deal includes a vesting option for a third year based on games finished and $2 million in performance bonuses per year. Fujikawa received a $1 million signing bonus and will make $4 million per year in 2013 and 2014. The third year vesting option is worth $6 million and includes a $500,000 buyout.

There is speculation that the Cubs and Angels could revisit a deal for Carlos Marmol with Fujikawa under contract for the next two years. It is unclear at this point how aggressive the Cubs will be trying to move Carlos Marmol once the signing of Fujikawa is made official.

The Cubs are expected to meet with teams about Alfonso Soriano during the upcoming meetings. Soriano has a full no trade clause and is owed $18 million per season over the last two years of his eight-year, $136 million contract. The Phillies could be a fit but the Cubs are not willing to eat the money owed to Soriano unless they receive a good return according to David Kaplan.

Baseball’s Winter Meetings official begin Monday morning and run through Thursday at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Resort in Nashville, Tennessee … but if the last 48 hours is any indication, the next five days could be extremely interesting …

Updated 5:41pm CSTAccording to Comcast SportsNet, Cubs closed Kyuji Fujikawa deal late Saturday night, all that’s left is the physical.

The Winter Meetings
Baseball’s Winter Meetings officially begin Monday morning and conclude Thursday with the Rule 5 Draft. MLB Network Radio’s coverage of the meetings begins Sunday afternoon with The Front Office (Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette) MLB Network and ESPN will also broadcast live from The Opryland Hotel in Nashville.

The Cubs opened three spots on the 40-man roster (Kyuji Fujikawa will take one of the spots once his deal is made official) and are trying to upgrade the pitching staff and according to David Kaplan more moves are coming … the Cubs are looking to add another starter, a right fielder and a third baseman.

Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, Randy Bush, Shiraz Rehman and company will attend the Winter Meetings and could leave with a few more pieces to the puzzle.

The next five days will be full of news, trades and free agent signings as teams work to fill their needs for next season and beyond. The rumors will be rampant … and the CCO will do our best to report only confirmed and accurate information.

Kyuji Fujikawa and Carlos Marmol
As of this writing, the Cubs have not confirmed they have agreed to a contract with free agent right-handed closer Kyuji Fujikawa. Ken Rosenthal broke the news on Twitter on Saturday afternoon. Jon Heyman also reported the signing and the terms of the contract.

The Cubs have not announced the signing.

Once the Fujikawa is officially in the fold, the Cubs are expected to try to move Carlos Marmol. Marmol is under contract for one more season and the Cubs do not view him as a long-term solution, more as a short-term asset that could be used to fill other needs. Marmol is owed $9.8 million on the final year of the three-year contract he signed prior to the 2011 season.

The Angels were considered to be the frontrunner to sign Fujikawa and could be a fit for Marmol.

Alfonso Soriano
According to a report from Jon Paul Morosi and Ken Rosenthal, the Cubs are expected to meet with teams about Alfonso Soriano during the Winter Meetings.

The Phillies could be one team interested in trading for Soriano and Todd Zolecki, the Phillies’ beat writer for MLB.com, mentioned the possibility last Thursday during Inside Pitch on MLB Network Radio. Zolecki told Casey Stern and Jim Bowden that if the Phillies decided to go the trade route to fill their need for a power-hitting right-handed outfielder that Alfonso Soriano or Michael Cuddyer could be options. At the time it sounded like nothing more than speculation at the time … but Rosenthal and Morosi described the Phillies as an obvious fit for Soriano.

The Phillies were interested in signing Soriano in November of 2006 and according to reports finished second to the Cubs in the Soriano derby.

According to David Kaplan, the Cubs are skeptical they can trade him but they will not eat all of the money left owed to Soriano … unless they receive something good in return.

Rule 5 Draft
The Winter Meetings conclude with the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday morning. The Cubs selected Lendy Castillo last year and lost Ryan Flaherty and Marwin Gonzalez.

The Cubs have several players that could be selected this year (Frank Batista, Austin Kirk, Nick Struck) but none that cracked MLB’s top 20 list of players that could be selected in the Rule 5 Draft. Here is the list of players in the Cubs’ system eligible for Thursday’s draft:

Jeffry Antigua (LHP), Frank Batista (RHP), Jason Berken (RHP), Brian Bogusevic (OF), J. C. Boscan (C), Justin Bour (1B), Michael Brenly (C), Michael Burgess (OF), Kyler Burke (LHP), David Cales (RHP), Esmailin Caridad (RHP), Marcelo Carreno (RHP), Matt Cerda (INF), Hunter Cervenka (LHP), Johermyn Chavez (OF), Casey Coleman (RHP), Evan Crawford (OF), Willengton Cruz (LHP), Michael de la Cruz (RHP), Antonio Encarnacion (RHP), Carlos Figueroa (INF), Eduardo Figueroa (RHP), Alberto Gonzalez (INF), Carlos Gutierrez (RHP), Marcus Hatley (RHP), Ty’Relle Harris (RHP), Jay Jackson (RHP), Alvido Jimenez (RHP), Austin Kirk (LHP), Luis Liria (RHP), Jeff Lorick (LHP), Marcos Mateo (RHP), Edwin Maysonet (INF), Pedro Medina (RHP), Jose Montesino (INF), A. J. Morris (RHP), Jonathon Mota (INF), Blake Parker (RHP), Felix Pena (RHP), Starling Peralta (RHP), Nelson Perez (OF), Dae-Eun Rhee (RHP), Greg Rohan (IF-OF), Jose Rosario (RHP), Zac Rosscup (LHP), Julio Sanchez (RHP), Brian Schlitter (RHP), Ryan Searle (RHP), Matt Spencer (LHP), Nick Struck (RHP), Larry Suarez (RHP), Francisco Turbi (RHP), Brett Wallach (RHP), Casey Weathers (RHP) and Ty Wright (OF)

Jed Hoyer said Friday that the organization had about 10 different long meetings about which players to protect from the Rule 5 Draft. The Cubs added Christian Villanueva, Robert Whitenack, Logan Watkins and Trey McNutt to the 40-man roster prior to the November 20 deadline.

News, Notes and Rumors
According to a report from the Tribune, the Cubs are likely to make a pick at this year’s Rule 5 Draft.

The Cubs are not sure if Ian Stewart is 100% healthy according to Bruce Levine and that is the reason they decided to non-tender him. The Cubs could still bring him back but other teams figure to get into the mix for Stewart due to the lack of third basemen on the open market. The White Sox could be one of those teams according to Doug Padilla.

According to a report from the Tribune, Mark Reynolds, John Lannan, Jeff Karstens and Brian Wilson “could be affordable one-year signings” for the Cubs “who could be flipped at the trade deadline in July.”

The search for Bob Brenly’s replacement is expected to continue over the next week. During his show on Saturday morning (Talkin’ Baseball, ESPN 1000), Bruce Levine reported that Eric Karros is still a possibility to replace Brenly and a new name has been added to the mix, Mark DeRosa. Levine does not think the Cubs and WGN TV will not make a decision or an announcement until after the Winter Meetings. David Kaplan confirmed Levine’s report on Twitter that Mark DeRosa is a candidate to replace Bob Brenly in the booth.

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  • Ripsnorter1

    I think it fair to say that Team Theo got skunked in last year’s Rule V draft. We needed the infielders lost in the draft, and the pitcher we selected was not ML caliber. In fact it is very possible that the Cubs ruined Mr. Castillo’s career by keeping him inactive in the ML bullpen instead of giving him development time in the minor leagues.

    • SuzyS

      Rip,

      I’m not going to disagree on what happened in last year’s rule V….as far as Castillo goes…it’s impossible to gauge

      However, last year….Theo had less then 2 months on the job when the Rule V draft occurred. It was just Theo…because Hoyer and company had even less time…and the rest of the organization was in flux between old regime and new regime.

      I agree that the initial roster management was poor.

      But I’m willing to give them a mulligan as a management team.

      We won’t like any losses we incur this year in Rule V either.
      As our farm system gets better…Rule V losses…logically…should get worse and give us all plenty of gist for the discussion mill.

      • calicub

        good point SuzyS that was definately something i hadn’t thought of…. Teams with great systems loath the Rule V, teams with awful systems look at it as an opportunity to add depth for cheap and/or future assets.

        With that being said, is there any history of rule V guys actualy working out?

        For the life of me I cant remember what happened to David Patton after ’09?

        • Tony_Hall

          Many, but the rules changes a few years ago, giving teams more time before exposing the players to the Rule V, meaning not as good of players as there use to be.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_5_draft

    • RynoTiger

      I’ll disagree Rip. The Cubs lost nothing special with Flaherty or Gonzalez. They would not have made any difference whatsoever in the performance of the team. Flaherty and Gonzalez’s performances were no different than Valbuena.

      • SuzyS

        Ryno,
        With Flaherty on board, it might not have been necessary to expose Vitters when he clearly wasn’t ready. Flaherty/Valbuena would have been enough to get them through.
        In the long run you are right…but short term it created problems.

        • calicub

          Didn’t vitters look like he was ready though? He was mashing in iowa. I was calking for them to bring him up when they did, but i was also expecting them to give him full time at 3b. We all know he is a slow adjuster, and I hope that this cup of coffee helps/motivates both him and BJAX the same way rizzo grew from his first poor showing in 2011.

          • SuzyS

            Calicub,

            I’m like you when it comes to hoping for a Rizzo-like result. However, Vitters is a different
            scenario.

            If you recall, the real knock against Vitters before his call up was that his defense was sub-par….and they wanted him to work on that more.
            When he was called up…he was like a deer caught in headlights.

            A lot of people don’t think he is going to make it. I hope he does.

          • DWalker

            Yeah, most people were right there with you. I held out for a while, but was right there with you by the time they did come up.

          • Dorasaga

            I believe what I saw (at least for this case): Vitters can field. He handled many sharp linedrives beautifully. There must be something in him. He’ll learn how to make solid contact, by working Big-league’s cat-and-mouse game. He needs another 300 chances at-plate next season, minimum.

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    From the Sun-Times: Source confirms tentative agreement with Fujikawa reached late Saturday night — hours after reports began to surface.

    And just a reminder to check the CCO’s twitter feed for the most current updates

    • calicub

      I ‘ve always thought twitter was alttle stupid, but that feed on the right side of the screem is fantastic for little insights into the world of cubs baseball.

  • Tom U

    Dave Sappelt fell a triple shy of hitting for the cycle last night as Margarita defeated La Guiara in the VWL.

    http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20121201&content_id=40491978&vkey=news_mlb&c_id=mlb

  • paulcatanese

    If the Cubs are going to deal Soriono, They are going after it in the right way. They have made it pretty clear that they want something in return, and just not eat his contract to have him gone.
    I believe Soriono has earned the respect for that, and nothing back would be a tremdous insult.

    • SuzyS

      Paul, I agree that Soriano has finally earned respect for his play…both defensively and offensively…amazing what listening to a little coaching can do!
      More important than the respect…If Soriano is traded…how do the Cubs replace his production on an offensively challenged team???

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

        I don’t think they can really replace his offense, and in my opinion they shouldn’t try. At this juncture it’s all about developing the farm system. The big league club is going to stink for another year at least so why try and replace his offense to lose 90 games instead of 100? Get a return for him and fatten the system. The organization is a mess and that’s the quickest way to fix it.

        • paulcatanese

          Not saying Soriono should not be traded, but it go’s without saying his offensive numbers will be missed in what promises to be another lac-luster season, and at least it was some fun to watch him perform last year.
          What I would say again that the Cubs should not eat all of his contract and get something in return. Not neccesarily cash but good youngsters.
          If Epstein can pull that off and get a good return,
          it would make the deal easier to digest.
          Even though it was a lost season, it was fun to watch Rizzo,Soriono,Castro, hit the long ball, and even LaHair while it lasted.
          Their were a lot of entertaining games, even when lost that these guys provided.
          So I agree with Suzy about the offensive numbers, even tho its the right thing to do.

          • DWalker

            A big issue with Sori though is that he should be on the downhill slope, and fast. Look at his legs last year, yeah, he was performing better then ever, but there were games he could barely walk, let alone run. Yes, his offense will be missed, but if they can get a decent piece for him, they have to take it because next year may not be nearly as nice as last year was and we may not have him even if we do.

            Unless a nice trade is pulled off, expect another Dejusus type or a rehab signing for a year. unfortunately, I am worried how it will affect Rizzo and Castro, Rizzo really needs a big bat in the lineup or he won’t see any pitches and that may affect his development. Thats one reason I could sill see a major OF move still, especially with the lack of immediate prospects in the minors.

          • paulcatanese

            That’s a good point, one can not fool mother nature.
            Hopefully if and when they trade him, a substantial return would be obtained, and someone that can protect Rizzo and Castro.

          • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

            From Comcast SportsNet: Source confirms Cubs closed Fujikawa deal late Saturday night – all that’s left now is the physical.

  • RynoTiger

    Does anyone know why MLB chose 40 as the maximum roster number instead of say 45/50?

  • RynoTiger

    I read that the Orioles are still looking for a middle of the order bat. What about Soriano to the O’s for J.J. Hardy and put Hardy at 3B? His current contract ends after 2014…right when our minors 3B talent may be ready.

    • gary3411

      Hardy’s one of the best defensive shortstops in the game. He doesn’t help us too much playing 3B though, it takes him out of his most valuable talent. Someone else (if he’s available) that will use him at SS will pay more than we will.

      • RynoTiger

        ok I’ll sweeten the deal and include Valbuena and a custom O’s cake made by Baltimore’s very own Ace of Cakes, Duff Goldman.

  • SuzyS

    Neil,
    Is there a time table rule on announcing signings??? If I’m the Cubs…I really don’t want to make any roster changes just now until after the Rule V draft.

    Is it possible that the Cubs are making no announcement about
    Fujikawa for that reason???

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    Suzy, not that I am aware of. There is a lot of reasons for teams not announcing right away. The upcoming Rule 5 could be one ,,, good point

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Raymond-Robert-Koenig/1295439291 Raymond Robert Koenig

    The Cubs are under 40 players on their 40-man roster. No need to worry about roster spots prior to the Rule V Draft. If the Cubs do draft a player, they won’t draft more than 1 any way.

  • SuzyS

    Good catch Raymond…but who knows what else is up their sleeve this week…Roster at 37 players…assume 1 Rule V pickup…Fujikawa takes them to 39. They might want a little more room if there’s a trade in the works.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Raymond-Robert-Koenig/1295439291 Raymond Robert Koenig

    Thanks. You might be right as well as far as a trade goes. I still expect Marmol to be gone before Spring Training. Maybe Soriano, too. It might be an interesting week.

  • Tony_Hall

    Also keep in mind they are looking for an OF, 3B, and need another IF to even be able to round out the roster. So, that’s 3 more plus Fujikawa, and a Rule V bullpen arm (I’m assuming they will take an arm). That would mean 2 more guys are going when they fill have these additions.

  • SuzyS

    Tony, you’re right….but roster changes won’t be as dangerous after the Rule V draft…in terms of actually losing talent instead of reassigning them.