It was back to business for the Chicago Cubs and the rest of baseball on Thursday. The team announced they avoided arbitration with Luis Valbuena and agreed to terms on a one-year deal worth $930,000. Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija and James Russell are the three remaining arbitration eligible players for next season and the deadline to exchange arbitration figures is next Friday (January 18).
Matt Garza should receive a slight pay increase from the $9.5 million he was paid last year to around $10 million for the 2013 season. James Russell is in line for a nice pay increase. Russell made $512,500 in 2012 and should receive around $1 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility. Rumors have suggested that the Cubs are working on a long-term extension with Jeff Samardzija. Samardzija is arbitration eligible for the first time and should make $5-$6 million next season after earning $2.64 million last year.
The Cubs reportedly agreed to terms on a two-year, $10 million contract with Carlos Villanueva on December 20 and more than three weeks later they have yet to announce the deal. The Cubs must clear a spot on the 40-man roster before they can make the signing official.
The Cubs Convention is just a week away and more details of the 28th annual gathering were released Thursday evening. The Cubs have not released a full schedule or list of attendees … and it could end up being an interesting seven days leading up to the event.
Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo
Keith Law released his ranking of the top players in the game under the age of 25. To no surprise, Mike Trout topped Law’s list with Bryce Harper, Jason Heyward, Giancarlo Stanton and Stephen Strasburg rounding out the top five. Two of the Cubs’ building blocks cracked Law’s ranking … with one making the top ten.
Law ranked Starlin Castro as the eighth best player in the game under the age of 25 and he thinks the Cubs shortstop will develop 20-homer power over time … worse case if Castro barely improves at all, he is likely to hit at least .300 with plenty of doubles power.
Anthony Rizzo checked in at 18 after not being ranked last year. Law thinks Rizzo will hit close to 25 homers with a batting average in the high 200s in 2013. Law likes Rizzo’s odds of figuring out lefties at the big league level based on his track record of hitting lefties in the minors.
The Cubs announced the signings of Brent Lillibridge and Darnell McDonald as well as right-handed pitcher Dayan Diaz on Thursday. Lillibridge has a legitimate shot of making the Cubs’ 25-man roster out of Spring Training. The right-handed hitting utility player would give Dale Sveum a bat off the bench that can play shortstop, second base, third base, first base and in the outfield.
The Cubs also confirmed that Dontrelle Willis signed a minor league contract that did not include an invite to big league camp. If Willis pitches well early on and throws strikes, he could end up moving down the street from Fitch Park to HoHoKam Park during Spring Training.
Non-Roster Invitees to Spring Training
The Cubs released a list of 16 players that will be in big league camp this spring on non-roster invitations. The full list of non-roster invitees should be released later in the month and will include players from the system not on the 40-Man roster.
- Andrew Carpenter
- Jaye Chapman
- Dayan Diaz
- Jensen Lewis
- Blake Parker
- Zach Putnam
- Hisanori Takahashi
- Cory Wade
- J.C. Boscan
- Alberto Gonzalez
- Edwin Maysonet
- Brad Nelson
- Brian Bogusevic
- Johermyn Chavez
- Brent Lillibridge
- Darnell McDonald
MLB and MLBPA Announce Testing for hGH
Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association announced changes to their Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program on Thursday that will include unannounced, random blood testing for detections of human growth hormone (hGH) during the regular season, beginning with the 2013 season.
The D-Backs and Mariners reportedly agreed on a deal that would have sent Justin Upton to the Mariners for Nick Franklin, Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor and one of Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen or James Paxton. Upton invoked his limited no-trade clause and rejected the trade to Seattle. With the details of the trade leaking to the media, the Mariners set the price for Upton moving forward. Walker (1), Hultzen (2), Paxton (3), Franklin (4) and Pryor (15) were among the top prospects in the Mariners’ system according to Baseball America prior to last season.
It was also reported Thursday night that the Rangers have moved on from trade talks with Arizona for Justin Upton. The relationship between Upton and Arizona is definitely strained and many think he will be traded before Spring Training … but don’t look at him landing with the Cubs.
Reports Thursday night confirmed that the Chicago Cubs remain on Justin Upton’s no-trade list … along with the Blue Jays, Mariners and Red Sox.
Chattin’ with Bruce Levine
Mr. Talkin’ Baseball held his weekly chat on ESPN Chicago, here are the highlights:
- According to Levine’s sources, the Cubs and Phillies talked “seriously about eight weeks ago” about a deal that would send Alfonso Soriano to Philly but “nothing much has changed.”
- Levine has been told that Carlos Zambrano doesn’t want to retire. Zambrano will likely have to sign a minor league contract with a club or wait for injuries to occur during Spring Training in order to continue his career.
- Levine has heard the rumored three-team deal involving the Cubs, Tigers and Orioles but has not heard it substantiated. Levine does not know the names that Detroit is asking for in return for Rick Porcello.
- Levine thinks that other organizations like Josh Vitters more than the Cubs do.
News and Notes
Kosuke Fukudome decided to return to Japan after playing five seasons in the Major Leagues. The former Cubs signed a three-year contract with the Hanshin Tigers
Manny Corpas signed a minor league contract with the Rockies on Wednesday that includes a NRI to Spring Training.
Preliminary 28-Man rosters for all 16 teams participating in the World Baseball Classic are scheduled to be announced Thursday, January 17.
The CCO’s first reader’s poll of the New Year closed on Wednesday night. There were 601 votes cast on ‘What has been the Cubs best move of the off-season so far?’ The Cubs signing Edwin Jackson was voted as the best move of the off-season so far and received nearly half of the votes placed (285). Hiring Derek Johnson as Minor League Pitching Coordinator (94) came in second with the signing of Scott Baker (63) and the signing of Kyuji Fujikawa (58) rounding out the top four. None of the above took home 46 votes, while the signings of Carlos Villanueva (18) and Nate Schierholtz (12) received double-digit votes. Signing Scott Feldman (3), re-signing Shawn Camp (8), signing Dioner Navarro (5), hiring James Rowson (3), hiring David Bell (3) and minor league signings (3) also received votes.
And last, but not least … a baseball card from 1865 is set to be auctioned off.