Weekend Update … Cubs Off-Season Work Continues

Baseball’s off-season figures to be rather busy over the next few weeks leading into the holidays. Teams are not done and that includes the Cubs. Even with Zack Greinke reportedly agreeing to terms on a six-year, $147 million contract with the Dodgers several big name players are still on the market and while the Cubs are not in the mix for those players, the deals they are working on will be held up until other pieces fall into place.

The Cubs are looking for pitching, both relievers and starters, a right-handed hitting utility infielder and help in the outfield.

The Cubs should name their minor league managers and coaching staffs in the coming days. Brian Harper will reportedly make the jump to Triple-A and will be named the hitting coach for the I-Cubs.

The Cubs should make the signings of Nate Schierholtz and Ian Stewart official this week. Once again, they will have to make at least one roster move to clear a spot on the 40-man to add both players. Jed Hoyer said Saturday afternoon they have a couple of “irons in the fire” and holes they are still looking to fill.

Jed Hoyer
The Cubs’ GM joined Jesse Rogers during Chicago’s Game Day (ESPN 1000) on Saturday afternoon. In bullet point format, here are a few of the highlights from Jed Hoyer’s conversation.

  • So far it has been a productive off-season for the Cubs. Hoyer is glad they were aggressive early with the signings of Scott Baker and Scott Feldman with the way the cost of starting pitching has escalated in the last few weeks.
  • Hoyer acknowledged the Cubs will have a couple of “small deals” to announce in the coming days. (Note: Hoyer was responding to a question about agreeing to terms on contracts with Nate Schierholtz and Ian Stewart)
  • The Cubs have a couple of irons in the fire and have holes they are still looking to fill this off-season. It is still early in the off-season, not late as some feel after the Winter Meetings. The Cubs are looking to add pieces before camp begins in Mesa.
  • Most teams have 30-35 people with them during the Winter Meetings. Each day is full of meetings with agents, about the organization, etc. Eight to ten years ago there were more meetings with teams than there are now. With the way communication has changed, the Winter Meetings are more about teams meeting with agents. Teams can now communicate through the smartphones about deals they may or may not be working on and no longer have to meet face to face.
  • There was a lot of talk about players during the meetings. There is typically a room attached to a team’s suite during the meetings. There are seven-eight meetings per day with agents that last around 20 minutes. Agents use the meetings in order to get the best deals they can for their clients. Hoyer described the meetings “as turbo charged” for agents because they can go from team to team and play one against the other quicker.
  • Jesse Rogers asked about the one-year contracts the Cubs are signing players to and not multi-year contracts. Hoyer said they generally prefer short-term deals with free agents because it limits the risk. There is a lot more risk involved for teams signing players to long term contracts. The Cubs do not want to pay for past performance any more. Most players that hit free agency are past their prime. The day will come that the Cubs sign free agents to long term contracts.
  • The Cubs feel good about the pieces they added to the minor league system this year. Hoyer thinks they added players that will be part of the core moving forward. Their goal is to add at least two-three players each year to the core. Hoyer explained how important it is to have a strong core and a strong minor league system. The Nationals and Rangers are good examples of both. Having a strong system also provides insurance in case there are injuries at the big league level, plus those pieces can also be moved in order to make the big league team better … and that’s where the Cubs have to get.
  • From a baseball operations standpoint, the draft is the most important day of the year. Hoyer and Theo Epstein have confidence in Jason McLeod and his staff to make the right additions to the system. McLeod’s track record (Boston and San Diego) speaks for itself.
  • The Cubs have not gotten on base enough in the past. Hoyer said they are trying to change the culture in the organization but too many guys swing early and often during their at bats. It is not about walks, those are a byproduct of being a good hitter. It is about working the count, getting in hitter’s counts and getting into the other team’s bullpen as soon as possible.
  • Jesse Rogers asked about the fan base and how it is different from Boston and San Diego. Hoyer said the Cubs’ fan base is completely different than the one in San Diego and very similar to the one in Boston. Only a handful of teams have a fan base as loyal as the Cubs. Hoyer stressed they are working on building a winning organization. To win a World Series in Chicago would be the best championship in all of sports. The fan base has been great over the first year. Hoyer said they have been patient and their patience will be rewarded with a big pay off one day.

Jed Hoyer discussed a variety of topics on Thursday with XM/MLB Network Radio. Click here to read the entire interview.

Jim Deshaies
Crane Kenney and the Cubs introduced the Cubs new color analyst last week during the Winter Meetings. Len Kasper reportedly pushed for the hiring and the duo should have very entertaining and informative broadcasts.

The Cubs are locked into their current television contracts (WGN through the 2014 season and Comcast SportsNet through the 2019 season) but will have stability in the booth over the next four seasons. Jim Deshaies and Len Kasper are both under contract through the 2016 season as the Cubs.

News, Notes and Rumors
Jim Bowden reported on Thursday that the reason the Cubs pulled the deal off the table with the Angels for Dan Haren was the medicals. Bowden said Haren’s hip is a bigger problem than his back. As Bowden understands it, the hip is bone to bone and he will require at least two epidurals on his back to get through the season. Haren passed his physical on Friday and is officially a Washington National.

Dale Sveum said the much publicized (and criticized) bunting tournament will return in the spring.

During Talkin’ Baseball (ESPN 1000) on Saturday morning, Bruce Levine defended his report that the Cubs discussed parameters of a deal with Ryan Dempster. Dempster has reportedly turned down two, two-year deals (two and $26 million from the Royals and two and $25 million from the Red Sox). Levine said the Cubs talked about a one-year deal that did not include a no-trade clause with Ryan Dempster. Dempster’s agent figures that once Zack Greinke signs Dempster will receive three-year offers. Dempster would prefer a National League team with a Spring Training home in Arizona according to Peter Gammons.

The Phillies acquired Michael Young from the Rangers on Saturday to play third base next season. According to multiple reports, the Phillies are still looking to add a setup man and other outfielders. Alfonso Soriano has been linked to the Phillies this off-season and according to Jeff Passan, Philly could still end up trading for an outfielder.

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