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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Quote of the Day

"People who write about Spring Training not being necessary have never tried to throw a baseball." – Sandy Koufax