Winter Meetings Day Two: Cubs Exploring Third Base and Outfield Options

Day two of Baseball’s Winter Meetings was filled with more noise and rumors surrounding the Chicago Cubs … but no moves. The Cubs appear to be exploring all options to fill their needs at third base and in the outfield.

The mainstream media linked the Cubs to numerous players on Tuesday including Yunel Escobar, Yuniesky Betancourt, Mark Reynolds and Shane Victorino, before Victorino agreed to a surprising three-year, $39 million contract with the Red Sox.

Jed Hoyer said that the team has had more conversations with agents than with other teams which likely means that a free agent signing is more realistic for the Cubs right now.

Dale Sveum addressed several subjects, including the improvements Brett Jackson has already made with his swing this off-season … and that Robin Yount shot him during a hunting trip.

The Cubs are looking for ways to improve the roster but with the contracts being handed out to mediocre free agents it could end up being an expensive trip to the Opryland Hotel if the Cubs sign any players over the next two days.

Who’s on Third?
The Cubs search for a short-term solution at third base continued Tuesday. The Cubs are one of four teams (Yankees, A’s and Rays) that have checked in with the Marlins on their asking price for Yunel Escobar. The former Braves’ shortstop was shipped to the Marlins in the mega-deal between Toronto and Miami a couple of weeks back. The now 30-year old infielder is coming off a rough year with the Blue Jays that ended in controversy. Teams are looking at Escobar as a way to fill a need at third base. The Rays are considered the favorite for Escobar at this point and he was expected to be traded to Tampa on Tuesday night. Updated 11:01pm CSTThe Rays acquired Yunel Escobar from the Marlins for infield prospect Derek Dietrich.

The Cubs have said they would like to re-sign Ian Stewart to a lesser contract after non-tendering him prior to last Friday’s deadline. Stewart has been linked to several teams during the meetings (Yankees, White Sox) and has drawn wide interest from teams since receiving a clean bill of health.

Jeff Keppinger remains on the Cubs’ radar but the Yankees are very interested in signing him to play third. Keppinger’s asking price jumped to around $8 million over two years on Tuesday morning then sky rocketed to three years and $12 million by Tuesday afternoon according to Jon Heyman.

Jon Heyman listed the Cubs as a possible destination for free agent Mark Reynolds. Reynolds is coming off a decent year with the Orioles, one in which he finished at first base. Reynolds can hit the ball a mile but misses more than he hits … always has and always will. Reynolds has been linked to the Marlins as possible insurance for Giancarlo Stanton as well as the Yankees, Indians, Mariners, Orioles and Rays.

It is unclear if the Cubs are interested in Casey McGehee or not. McGehee was linked to the Cubs earlier in the off-season and the former Brewer that thrived under Dale Sveum in 2009 and 2010 drove to the Winter Meetings for some face-to-face networking.

The Cubs have had scouts watching Yuniesky Betancourt play in the Mexican Winter League and his agent, former Cub Alex Gonzalez, recently met with Theo Epstein about his client … and Betancourt could end up as an option at third base according to Carrie Muskat. Betancourt struggled last season in limited action for the Royals after a poor year in Milwaukee in 2011. Muskat’s report did not indicate if the Cubs were looking at Betancourt on a minor league contract or not. If Betancourt is viewed as an option, the Cubs would be better off leaving Luis Valbuena there to begin the season.

Alfonso Soriano
Theo Epstein sung the praises of Alfonso Soriano on Monday while talking to the Chicago media. Epstein discussed how Soriano won the new regime over last season with his “work ethic and preparation.”

The Cubs are reportedly talking to teams about Soriano this week and Epstein said they would keep Soriano informed if they find a fit for the Cubs … and the right fit for Soriano.

As the report from ESPN Chicago pointed out, it is unclear on which team or teams that Soriano would be willing to waive his no trade clause. Soriano turned down a trade to the Giants last season and does not appear to be willing to play on the West Coast.

Speculation is that the Cubs will have to include at least half of the remaining $36 million he is owed over the next two seasons in any deal.

According to a report from Buster Olney, the Phillies are viewed by rival executives as the most desperate to add outfield help during the Winter Meetings. The Phillies have been mentioned as a possible destination for Alfonso Soriano … and Charlie Manuel would like to add a right handed outfielder that can hit in the middle of his order.

News, Notes and Rumors
Dan Haren agreed to terms on a one-year, $13 million contract with the Nationals on Tuesday … pending results of a physical.

Welington Castillo will be the Cubs everyday catcher next season with a chance to start 70 percent of the games according to a report from the Tribune.

Matt Garza is on schedule as he recovers from the stress reaction in his right elbow that cost him a majority of the season half of last season. Garza has been cleared to resume his off-season program as if he was never injured. The Cubs are counting on a strong return from Garzaand Garza is ready to go.

Jed Hoyer told the media that Carlos Marmol is the Cubs closer and will remain in the ninth inning unless he is moved.

According to Ron Roenicke, Jason Grilli is looking for a contract worth between $5 and $7 million. Roenicke and the Brewers like Grilli … but not at that price. The Cubs have talked to Jason Grilli’s agent and the agent for Kyle Farnsworth according to Bruce Levine.

The Mariners look like a potential player for Michael Bourn according to Jon Heyman.

The Marlins do not plan to trade Giancarlo Stanton but teams are calling and the price is sky-high … three top-level prospects and likely two other players is what it might cost for Stanton according to Danny Knobler.

The Red Sox are among the teams interested in Ryan Dempster according to WEEI in Boston. The Brewers are still in the mix for Dempster but the Angels are no longer interested according to Jon Heyman.

And last but not least, Tuesday marked the 10th anniversary of the Todd Hundley for Eric Karros and Mark Grudzielanek deal. Take a minute and look back at Chris Jaffe’s write up of one of the better trades in Cubs’ history.

Dale Sveum from the Winter Meetings

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Quote of the Day

"From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life." – Arthur Ashe