The Cubs stayed busy on the Friday before the Christmas holiday and announced three roster moves that ended up clearing one spot on the 40-man roster.
The team finalized the contract with outfielder Nate Schierholtz that was agreed to during the Winter Meetings. The one-year deal is believed to be worth $2.25 million and includes a $500,000 incentives package. Schierholtz was added to the roster after the Giants claimed Sandy Rosario off waivers. The Cubs also announced that Gerardo Concepcion cleared waivers, was outrighted off the roster and assigned to the Kane County Cougars.
The Cubs roster officially stands at 39 players and they will have to make one more move in order to add both Edwin Jackson and Carlos Villanueva to the roster.
Jeff Beliveau did not clear waivers after being designated for assignment last week to make room on the 40-man for Ian Stewart. The Rangers claimed the southpaw and added Beliveau to their roster. Beliveau was the Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2011.
Darwin Barney joined Casey Stern and Jim Bowden during Inside Pitch (MLB Network Radio/XM Radio) on Friday afternoon. The Cubs’ Gold Glove second baseman discussed a variety of topics, including the signing of Edwin Jackson as well as teammates Alfonso Soriano and Starlin Castro.
Casey Stern: Time to talk some gold, as in golden glove, and talk some Chicago Cubs as well. Kind enough to hop on board and get us ready for the holiday season is second baseman of the Cubbies, Darwin Barney. Darwin, Casey Stern and Jim Bowden. We always appreciate this, Happy Holidays. How are you?
Darwin Barney: I’m good guys, good to talk to you.
Jim Bowden: Great to talk to you as well. First of all, how has your off-season gone so far?
DW: It’s gone really well. Just spending as much time as I can with the family and getting going on this training stuff and trying to keep up with all of these signings that we are making, so it’s been a lot of fun this off-season.
CS: The off-season started out real good for you. I know it’s a team game and talking to you in the past, I know you are a team guy. But let’s put it all on time out for a minute, to at least respect what it is like to win a Gold Glove in this sport. What was the feeling when you found out that you won and have you gotten it yet, physically, to put on the mantle place? Where are we with getting it officially in the house?
DW: Well, you know, it is really exciting. I knew I had, you know my numbers added up. I knew I had the kind of season that it takes to win the Gold Glove. But you know baseball is so status based. How much time you have and what you’ve given to the game. You know part of me thought maybe they would make me have another season like that to have to earn it again. But fortunately for me the coaches found it right to vote me in and I got it. You know I’m kinda waiting for it too. I went to the dinner thing down in New York and I got to see it for a brief second. I held it for a picture, then that was it. I was expecting it in the mail for two weeks. Now it’s just like, hopefully they will get it to me on Opening Day, or something. I’ve got all of these places picked out in my house but I can’t put it anywhere because I don’t have it, so we will find out later.
JB: Yea, it’s interesting because what they normally do is they will do a pre-game ceremony at Wrigley and they will give it to you on the field and then you take it home. So tell us, where does it go in your house? Do you have like a sports room? Does it go on the mantle piece? Where do you have picked out that it’s going to land?
DW: I don’t know, I mean I haven’t really thought of it that far because I haven’t had enough time to look at it. So at the beginning I was planning on taking it into whatever room I was in. So from there we will find a place, we will find a place in some kind of sports memorabilia room that we end up getting so it will be nice and safe.
CS: Obviously you look from a defensive stand point and you want the pitchers to keep the ball on the ground and strikeouts are okay too if you don’t have to do much. You’ve added a lot of depth now. Let’s start with the most recent acquisition of Edwin Jackson, a guy obviously you’ve had to face in the National League. Talk about hearing about that signing yesterday and what you think he brings to your ballclub Darwin.
DW: I talked to Jeff Samardzija yesterday about it and we are really excited about Edwin Jackson. He’s the kind of guy that has real power stuff, the kind of guy we need. Good dude, some of us know him. We like what he brings to the table. I will never forget the first time I faced him and what his slider looked like. He’s a guy that throws 95-96 mph with a really, really tough slider. So I bet he’s excited to sign a nice length deal because he’s been on so many different teams throughout his career. So it can only be good for us that he will get comfortable playing in one place.
JB: Are you pleased that Theo and Jed are at least trying to make some efforts for the short-term instead of just the long-term? We know the long-term plan there and they are working hard towards that but to see them make moves to help the club now it in terms of that locker room, will that be a huge plus for you guys?
DW: Yea, I mean there was never a doubt that they would do that. They are going to try to take care of us short-term but obviously the goal is long-term. So you’re going to sign a guy like Edwin Jackson for a few years because he has upside. He has those things that you can win with, he’s proven to do that. There is also a lot of the other signings that we’ve made that are perfect for what our club needs. You sign guys for a year or two and you know you can extend them if you want. It also leaves the door open for opportunities in the future. Then again, that’s about as deep as I get into thinking about it. You are so focused on getting yourself prepared that we will leave the GM job to them and hopefully I am still around in the future.
CS: You know we are not sure exactly who will be around and who won’t yet because obviously as any of you or your teammates with the Cubs or any other team, we sit there and kind of watch it as it moves forward. There is always going to be rumors around a guy considering his contract situation and age and all that comes with Alfonso Soriano. But can you talk about not just offensively what he did last year Darwin but I think it’s important to point out what kind of teammate and work ethic he brings to the park everyday as well.
DW: Alfonso Soriano is one of a kind. When Dale Sveum came in, he said Alfonso was the biggest surprise because from the other side of the fence you don’t know what kind of guy he is. You see what he brings to the table. You see what he does in the outfield but he didn’t know how hard he worked. He didn’t know how good of a teammate he was. Soriano is probably one of the best teammates I’ve ever had. He comes to the park with a smile. He’s laughing every day. He knows he is truly blessed to play this game. A good story that Dale told me about him is that early hitting, I believe we were in San Francisco, and it was hot. Sori did not come out to hit but he came out just to take some fly balls off the bat and Dale went up to him and was like hey, why don’t you get a little rest? Why don’t you take a breathier? And he said, you know what papi, I need the work out here. This is what I need to get better at. So he is a really god example for us young players and we are very fortunate to have him on our team.
JB: Yes, no question about it. Let me get your take on the young shortstop Starlin Castro because certainly this was a player that was extremely consistent. He’s got a long-term contract. Talk about what he means on the field, his work ethic and how good a player do you see him being maybe five years from now?
DW: Well, you know I truly believe that we have only seen the beginning of Starlin Castro. He made huge strides last year in just the mental side of the game. He’s so young and coming from the Dominican you wonder how many games he really had to play that meant something. So the more that he has these opportunities to learn the game and what it takes to win and stuff like that. You can see it in his eyes that this is what he wants. I see big years coming out of him. We work well together. He’s constantly asking me questions, defensive questions on how he can get better and I’m doing the same with him. He brings a lot to the table and I think that he could be a really huge part of this team moving forward and especially in the immediate future with his new deal he signed.
CS: You know Darwin, as we chat with the second baseman of the Cubbies, Darwin Barney. That’s always the question with younger teams trying to build and we all know when you are talking about the guys that you guys have in the front office that they all understand how to win championships but it takes time. I know fans sometimes get frustrated because they are looking at wins and losses. As a player, how do you avoid getting frustrated with where you might be now in terms of, not personally, but the roster, and trying to understand, hey look the organization has a plan in place where they want us to win every year and it might take some time for us to do that.
DW: Baseball is a tough enough game that you stay intrigued and trying to get better and develop as time goes on. So, I think all of us are trying to develop into the players that we want to be and when we start winning some ballgames and stuff like that then he big signings start coming in. It’s just the way things will work. It’s kinda like, a little bit what Toronto did. They did one or two year signings for everybody and then boom they went out and got the big ones when their team is knocking on the door of the playoffs with the core players that they brought up. There is plenty to look forward to. We are all fighting to be a part of that winning Chicago Cubs team and right now it is very important in proving that you are a part of that.
JB: Darwin, let’s talk about your game and where you are. You won the Gold Glove so we know defensively you’re the best in the league, edged out Brandon Phillips. Offensively, seven homers, 44 RBI, 26 doubles, played basically every day. What part of your game do you want to improve and what do you need to work on in 2013?
DW: As a middle infielder, obviously, the quantity of my offense last year is something I am not unhappy with. You know you want to be around 10 home runs, 30 doubles, something like that. I want to work on the other little things. Getting on base, getting on base will raise my average, stuff like that, things that I can do day in and day out to help the ballclub. When you go through those streaks when maybe you’re not getting your hits, maybe you are getting unlucky. Getting on base is very important so that is one of the things that we talked about with those coaches and upper management on what I’m trying to work on this off-season. I’m trying to develop that plan that I can stick with and find a way to get on base more often and help this team out.
The last question of the interview was about Christmas and how far he is into his shopping. Barney said two days ago that he had not started but at the time of the interview he was about 80 percent done.
Casey Stern congratulated Barney again on the Gold Glove to close out the interview and thanked him for his time.
News and Notes
One of the Cubs possible off-season targets has decided to play in Japan next season. According to multiple reports, Casey McGehee signed a one-year contract with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles worth $1.5 million with easy incentives that can take the contract past $2 million.
According to Jim Bowden, Michael Bourn’s market includes: Seattle, Cleveland, Miami, Philadelphia, the Mets and Texas. Bowden has linked Bourn to the Cubs repeatedly over the last two weeks … but not on Friday.
While the Cubs appear to have zero interest in Cody Ross, the free agent right fielder could have an impact on the Cubs moving forward. The Phillies have been connected to Ross all off-season while exploring a trade for Alfonso Soriano. Ross appears to be at the top of the Phillies list at this point in the off-season but he recently met with the Rangers according to Jon Heyman.
According to multiple reports, the Pirates signed Francisco Liriano to a two-year, $12.75 million contract. The Cubs reportedly had an offer on the table to Liriano earlier in the off-season.
Former Cub Rich Harden signed a minor league contract with the Twins that includes a non-roster invite to Spring Training.