The Roster, Spring Broadcasts and Other Cubs News, Notes and Rumors

The Cubs did not announce the signings of Carlos Villanueva or Scott Hairston on Thursday but there was plenty speculation of which two players would be removed from the roster in order to add the right-handed pitcher and outfielder. Scott Hairston reportedly agreed to a two-year deal that could be worth up to $6 million, another signing this winter by the Cubs that FanGraphs seemed to like. But the Cubs would not comment on the third Scott signing of the off-season … the deal is pending a physical.

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have roster decisions to make and they appear to be putting them off as long as they possibly can.

It took nearly two years but Kevin Towers was finally able to trade away Justin Upton … and for a package of players that was a lot less than he was rumored to be asking for in return. Towers traded Justin Upton and former Astros’ third baseman Chris Johnson to Atlanta for Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, shortstop Nick Ahmed, RHP Zeke Spruill and first baseman Brandon Drury in the seven-player deal. The trade takes Jason Kubel off the market and leaves Baltimore a possible destination for Alfonso Soriano.

Aledmys Diaz’s workout with teams is still scheduled for the end of the month and the Cubs are one of several teams rumored to be interested in signing the 23-year old free agent shortstop … and speaking of shortstops, Javier Baez was named the third best shortstop prospect in the game by MLB.com.

Spring Training Broadcast Schedule

The Cubs released their broadcast schedule for the upcoming Cactus League games. 36 of the Cubs’ 39 exhibition games will be carried on a Cubs’ network (WGN Radio, Cubs.com, WGN TV and Comcast SportsNet). WGN TV and Comcast SportsNet will televise six games (four on WGN, two on CSN) with WGN broadcasting the first telecast featuring Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies on March 16 when the Cubs host the Royals at HoHoKam Park.

WGN Radio will be on hand for the Cubs’ Cactus League opener on February 23 in Tempe against an Angels’ split squad and will carry eight additional spring games.

For the third straight spring, Len Kasper and Smokies’ play-by-play man, Mick Gillispie, will call games on Cubs.com. Len will also step in WGN’s radio booth for games that Pat Hughes is not in Arizona to call.

As previously reported, not only will the Cubs host one of the WBC teams on March 15, the Cubs and Dodgers will play a Spring Training game at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium in Tucson on March 21. All proceeds from the exhibition game will benefit the Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Fund. The game will help raise funds for the victims and families that were affected by the events on January 8, 2011. John Green, the father of Christina-Taylor, played for the Cubs, is a National Crosschecker for the Dodgers and the son of former Cubs’ General Manager, Dallas Green.

Full Broadcast Schedule

Javier Baez

MLB.com’s ranking of the top 100 prospects in the game will be unveiled Tuesday night on the MLB Network (8:00pm CST). Over the last couple of days, Jonathan Mayo has been releasing his lists of the top prospects by position … and the Cubs’ Javier Baez came in at number three behind the Rangers’ Jurickson Profar and Francisco Lindor of the Indians. Baez moved up five spots from last year’s ranking of the top shortstop prospects.

3. Javier Baez, Cubs: Taken No. 9 overall in the 2011 Draft, just one spot after Lindor, Baez might be the more dynamic pure hitter of the two, even if Lindor is the better defender. Baez’s plus bat speed will allow him to hit for average and power, both of which have already been on display, and he will improve as he refines his approach. He’s not without defensive skills, with a strong arm and good hands, and more folks are thinking he can stay at shortstop than did when he was coming out of the Florida high school ranks. Even if Baez has to slide to third base, his bat will profile just fine there.

Prospect Watch: Top 10 Shortstops

Rick Porcello

The Rick Porcello rumors heated up a little on Thursday shortly after the Diamondbacks-Braves trade was announced. Reports surfaced that Kevin Towers would try to package recently acquired shortstop Nick Ahmed with a pitching prospect to send to Detroit for Rick Porcello. That rumor was quieted on Thursday night when Steve Gilbert reported that Towers said it was doubtful that he would go after another starting pitcher this off-season.

The Cubs reportedly discussed a three-team trade with the Tigers and Orioles that would land Porcello in Chicago earlier in this month.

The Orioles are one of the many teams interested in trading for Rick Porcello. Rock Kubatko reported Wednesday that Dan Duquette has indicated he is more interested in trading for a pitcher than a middle-of-the-order bat. Baltimore is one of many teams linked to Porcello this off-season but the Tigers and Orioles have been unable to match-up on a two-team trade.

Rick Porcello has been connected to the Cubs since Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer took over baseball operations … stay tuned.

The Cubs 40-Man Roster

The Cubs 40-man roster currently stands at 40 players with two contracts pending … Carlos Villanueva and Scott Hairston. The crowded roster was one of the reasons given during the Cubs Convention as to why Carlos Villanueva’s deal has not been announced (the other was they are still working out details with his contract). Villanueva is in the Cubs’ pans for the upcoming season and was even in the highlight video during Opening Ceremonies last Friday. But in order to make both deals official, the Cubs will have to open two spots on the 40-man roster.

There was a lot of speculation as to which two players will either be traded or designated for assignment to make room for Villanueva and Hairston … and two tweets from Dave Sappelt just fueled the speculation.

The Cubs have limited options on which players they could designate for assignment in order to clear the two spots … Tony Campana, Dave Sappelt, Steve Clevenger, Brooks Raley, Chris Rusin, Hector Rondon and Lendy Castillo were the names thrown out on Thursday.

Due to the lack of catching depth in the upper levels of the minor league system, it is highly unlikely the Cubs would risk losing Steve Clevenger. Remember Anthony Recker? The Cubs designated Recker on October 24, the Mets claimed him off waivers on October 25 and he is still on the Mets’ 40-man roster.

Dave Sappelt deactivated his twitter account late Thursday afternoon and created even more speculation.  Sappelt hinted at changes and that he was shutting down his account until April because he did not want to say something he probably should not on Twitter. But Sappelt gives the Cubs a right-handed bat off the bench that can play all three spots in the outfield.

Brooks Raley and Chris Rusin struggled last season when they were called up. The Cubs have discussed ad nausea the lack of pitching in the system and it is unlikely the two lefties would make it through waivers … that leaves Tony Campana, Hector Rondon and Lendy Castillo.

The Cubs selected Rondon in the Rule 5 Draft from the Indians in December. The Cubs could offer Rondon back to Cleveland and lose $25,000.

Lendy Castillo, last year’s Rule 5 pick, would likely clear waivers after struggling last year in his limited time in the majors. The Cubs could work with him in the minors while he was not taking a valuable spot on the roster … and that leaves Tony Campana.

According to Bruce Levine, the White Sox were interested in trading for Campana last fall but the Cubs kept the fan favorite and now they face a decision. Campana could end up passing through waivers but it is highly unlikely due to his best asset, his speed … Campana could help a contending team.

Aledmys Diaz

The Cubs are rumored to be one of several teams interested in signing free-agent Aledmys Diaz. The Cuban shortstop turned 23 earlier this month and was granted free agency by Major League Baseball in December. Diaz, due to his age and service time, is not subject to the new international signing restrictions. Teams can spend as much as they would like for Diaz and it is unclear if his contract will reach the amount teams spent on Yoenis Cespedes (four years, $36 million with the A’s), Yasiel Puig (seven years, $42 million with the Dodgers) or Jorge Soler (nine years, $30 million with the Cubs).

Aledmys Diaz and free agent outfielder Dariel Alvarez are scheduled to work out with teams at the end of January. The Cubs figure to be in the middle of the bidding for Diaz but have not been linked to Alvarez by the mainstream media. At least 10 teams are reportedly interested in signing Diaz.

News, Notes and Rumors

The mainstream media will not stop connecting Michael Bourn to the Chicago Cubs … and Jon Heyman was the latest on Thursday morning. The Cubs have talked publicly about the importance of having their second round pick in this year’s draft and the fact that signing a free-agent with draft pick compensation tied to him will not only cost the team the pick but they also would lose the slot money for that pick. Jon Heyman listed eight teams that Bourn could end up signing with and the Cubs came in a number six.

The Cubs were linked to Kyle Farnsworth earlier this off-season … but he signed a one-year deal with another one of his former teams on Thursday, the Tampa Bay Rays.

Former Cub, Super Joe Mather, signed a minor league contract with the Phillies that includes a non-roster invite to big league camp.

Shaun Marcum signed a one-year deal with the New York Mets … the first Major League free agent signed by the Metropolitans this off-season.

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Quote of the Day

"People who write about Spring Training not being necessary have never tried to throw a baseball." – Sandy Koufax