Playing .500 Ball Not Acceptable for the Cubs

The first day of the Cubs Caravan is in the books and both Theo Epstein and Dale Sveum took time to speak with the media on Wednesday.

The Cubs’ manager addressed the 101-loss season and said being a .500 team is not acceptable. Sveum expects the Cubs to “compete with a revamped rotation, a new set-up man and another year of growth from the kids” according to the Tribune. If the Cubs were to post a .500 record during the upcoming season that would be a 20-game improvement. Sveum does not think being a .500 team is good enough, “getting into the playoffs is what’s satisfactory.”

Theo Epstein addressed the playoffs question and said, “the 2013 season can be considered a failure if the Cubs don’t make the playoffs.” Epstein explained that with that said “we’re obviously building for something greater, which is a time when we can expect to be in the postseason every year.” Epstein went on to say that “behind the scenes, regardless of the results, there’s progress being made.”

Rosters for the upcoming World Baseball Classic will be released on Thursday. Anthony Rizzo is excited about playing for Team Italy and according to a report from Cubs.com, Starlin Castro will play for Team Dominican Republic. The Sun-Times reported Monday that Castro would not play in the WBC this time around.

Matt Garza and Scott Baker

Theo Epstein addressed the status of two of his starting pitchers on Wednesday and said both guys are on track to be ready to start the year. Dale Sveum did not sound as optimistic. According to the Tribune, Sveum indicated his team has “an above average chance” to be 100 percent healthy by May 1. The Tribune reported that if Garza and/or Baker are not ready to start the season in the rotation then Travis Wood or Carlos Villanueva would be able to fill in.

The Cubs like the depth they created in the rotation this off-season and Epstein thinks the depth gives them the flexibility if everyone is not ready to begin the season on the active roster. Epstein said that Baker is on track to be up to 75 pitches by the end of March but if he needs an extra start or a rehab start in the minors then they have enough depth to not skip a beat.

Epstein reiterated on Wednesday that they expect Matt Garza not to have any restrictions when Spring Training begins and for him to be ready to go when the season starts.

According to the Tribune, Dale Sveum said Jeff Samardzija, Matt Garza and Edwin Jackson will lead his rotation with Scott Baker and Scott Feldman filling in the last two spots … if Baker is ready to go. Epstein mentioned the possibility of the Cubs using a piggyback for Baker when the season begins in order to have him in the rotation on April 1. Piggyback pitchers are pretty common in the lower levels of the minor leagues.

The Sun-Times reported Wednesday night that Theo Epstein “left open at least the glint of possibility” that Matt Garza could remain with the Cubs throughout the season.

Jeff Samardzija

According to a report from ESPN Chicago, the Cubs are working on a one-year contract to avoid arbitration with Jeff Samardzija. The Cubs were discussing a long-term extension with Samardzija in early December but have decided to wait before extending his current contract. The Cubs have three years, including the 2013 season, of control left on Jeff Samardzija.

Carrie Muskat reported that Jeff Samardzija is likely to get the Opening Day assignment.

Carlos Villanueva

The Cubs have not made the signing of Carlos Villanueva official yet after agreeing to a two-year, $10 million deal with the right hander on December 20. According to Carrie Muskat, Villanueva is expected to attend this weekend’s Cubs Convention and the announcement has been delayed because the team needs to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.

News, Notes and Rumors

According to a report from the Tribune, Dale Sveum plans to use Kyuji Fujikawa in the eighth inning to setup Carlos Marmol with James Russell and Shawn Camp mixing and matching in the sixth and seventh innings … the remaining four spots in the pen is to be determined.

Scott Hairston is on the Cubs’ radar, along with the Phillies, Braves and Mets but New York’s second team reportedly low-balled Hairston and offered him a one-year, $2 million deal and not the two-year, $8 million contract reports have indicated he is looking to sign.

The Rays are definitely in the mix to sign Kyle Farnsworth according to a report from the Tampa Bay Times. Farnsworth is reportedly deciding between three teams … with one of them apparently being the Rays.

Multiple reports Wednesday indicated what the CCO reported last week that the Cubs will unveil renovation plans for Wrigley Field during the Saturday session “Renew Wrigley Field” at the Cubs Convention. According to Bruce Levine, the Cubs continue to explore options to add a giant electronic scoreboard that would be placed in the outfield or on a rooftop across from Wrigley. Wrigleyville residents and the city would have to approve a “jumbotron” due to the added noise and light the structure would produce.

The Nationals traded Michael Morse to the Mariners on Wednesday as part of a three-team deal with the Oakland A’s. The Nationals received minor league right handers A.J. Cole, Blake Treinen and a PTBNL from the A’s. Seattle sent John Jaso to Oakland and the A’s DFA’d George Kottaras to make room on the 40-man roster for Jaso. The Nationals re-acquired A.J. Cole after sending him to Oakland in the Gio Gonzalez deal last winter. With Morse off the block and on the way back to Seattle, the M’s could be out of the discussion to sign Michael Bourn.

And last, but not least, Jim Bowden brought up the Alfonso Soriano to the Phillies rumor again during his show (Inside Pitch) Wednesday afternoon on MLB Network Radio. Bowden said that if Darin Ruf has a bad Spring Training then Alfonso Soriano will be with the Phillies on Opening Day. The money owed to Soriano is a major issue and holding up the deal according to Bowden. If the Cubs are going to pay $20 million of the $36 million owed to Soriano then they want a good prospect in return but Ruben Amaro Jr. is trying to hold onto his prospects. Bowden thinks that Soriano will be traded by Opening Day.

The Cubs Caravan concludes on Thursday and the 28th Annual Cubs Convention kicks off on Friday afternoon …

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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