Jed Hoyer said Thursday that the Cubs off-season is not over yet and while the Cubs’ GM did not drop any hints as to what they are working on, it could be a very interesting couple of weeks leading up to the Cubs Convention. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have to make at least one roster move in the near future in order to officially add Carlos Villanueva … the Cubs’ roster currently stands at 40 players. They are believed to be looking for an outfielder, a utility infielder and could still add a piece to the bullpen … and if the reports are correct, the Cubs are still listening on offers for Alfonso Soriano.
Hoyer recently said that “nothing is close” but they are looking for ways to improve the offense after spending the winter focused on adding pitching.
The Cubs signed Dontrelle Willis to a minor league contract that does not include a non-roster invite to Spring Training. If Willis performs well early on in camp, he could end up in big league camp before the end of the Cactus League schedule. This is a no-risk contract for the Cubs and if not for the fact it is Dontrelle Willis, it would not be news. Teams sign players to this type of contract all of the time that does not make headlines.
Willis has been working hard to get back into the game after announcing his retirement last July. Willis confirmed the signing on his Twitter account and thanked the Cubs for giving him another opportunity.
Non-Roster Invites to Spring Training
The Cubs list of non-roster invites to big league camp increased this past week. The Cubs re-signed right-handed pitchers Jaye Chapman and Zach Putnam. Chapman’s deal includes a NRI and Putnam’s should as well.
So far the list of players that will be in camp on non-roster invitations includes: Jaye Chapman, Zach Putnam, Jensen Lewis, Cory Wade, Hisanori Takahashi, Brad Nelson, Andrew Carpenter, Blake Parker, J.C. Boscan, Brian Bogusevic, Alberto Gonzalez, Johermyn Chavez and Edwin Maysonet.
The full list of non-roster invitees to Spring Training should be released soon.
Chattin’ with Bruce Levine
Mr. Talkin’ Baseball held his weekly chat last Thursday afternoon on ESPN Chicago. Here are a few of the highlights:
- Bruce Levine pointed out that Edwin Jackson is good for the Cubs right now and is a movable commodity in the future. Jackson is the only legitimate 200-inning starter in the Cubs’ rotation and he could be around for a couple of years.
- Levine called the Alfonso Soriano to the Phillies trade rumors “a tremendously old rumor” and nothing came from the discussions between the two teams six weeks ago.
- If the Cubs can find viable suitors for Carlos Marmol and Alfonso Soriano, Levine thinks they could be traded before the start of the season.
- From what Levine can gather, Welington Castillo and Dioner Navarro will be the Cubs catching tandem when the season starts (Note: Castillo is out of minor league options, Clevenger has three remaining. If Castillo is healthy, he will begin the year with the Cubs with Clevenger getting his reps with the I-Cubs.)
- A couple of scouts that Levine is very friendly with told him that Jeff Samardzija was the most improved pitcher they saw from April to September last year. Samardzija has been in Arizona preparing for Spring Training since November.
- Carlos Marmol and prospects to the Tigers for Rick Porcello makes sense to Bruce Levine.
- The Cubs possibly trading for Justin Upton is just a rumor at this point. The Cubs do not have the inventory of young players to trade for an Upton or Giancarlo Stanton. According to Levine, trading Starlin Castro or Javier Baez would set the Cubs plans back for competing in 2014 and 2015.
- The Cubs are open to any deal that would make them better. If they could add a guy like Mike Olt and a young pitcher or two, they certainly would entertain a trade with the Rangers for Matt Garza. Texas has been trying to trade for Garza for the past couple of years.
- If Brett Jackson is successful with his new swing over the first few months of the season in Iowa, Levine thinks the Cubs will call him up and put him in either right field or centerfield. Right now the Cubs outfield is “very much a stopgap situation.”
- Levine has not heard the rumor that the Cubs would send Alfonso Soriano and Brett Jackson to the Red Sox for Jacoby Ellsbury.
- Levine has heard that the Cubs plan on Javier Baez playing the upcoming season at shortstop.
News, Notes and Rumors
The Dodgers’ spending spree continued Friday night when they agreed to terms on a one-year deal with lefty reliever J.P. Howell for $2.85 million. Howell’s deal reportedly includes a incentives package. The Cubs were rumored to be interested in signing Howell.
According to a report from Comcast SportsNet, the Cubs are not viewed as having a match with the Tigers for Rick Porcello.
FanGraphs took a look at the Edwin Jackson signing.
Alfredo Amezaga signed a minor league contract with the Dodgers that included an invite to big league camp. Amezaga spent last season with the Iowa Cubs.
According to a report from Ken Rosenthal, the Rangers signed Lance Berkman to a one-year contract. While the Cubs have not been connected to Berkman this off-season, if Texas closes the deal with the former Astro, Yankee and Cardinal, it could take away a possible landing spot for Alfonso Soriano … and the Diamondbacks asked the Orioles for young pitchers in return for Jason Kubel according to Jon Heyman but Baltimore is disinclined to do that.
The ‘Frustrated Four’, as Ken Rosenthal labeled them, are having a hard time finding jobs this winter. Teams have not signed Kyle Lohse, Michael Bourn, Adam LaRoche or Rafael Soriano after they decided to pass on the qualifying offers they received from their previous teams. Kyle Lohse said he’s had a pretty quiet off-season and he thinks it is because “teams value that draft pick and the money that comes along with it.” Jim Bowden reported during his show on Thursday that he is hearing no deals are imminent for Michael Bourn, Rafael Soriano or Kyle Lohse.
According to Ken Rosenthal, the Padres and D-Backs discussed a Justin Upton for Chase Headley swap since July … but those talks did not progress. Arizona continues to talk to the Rangers and Mariners about Upton.
Former Cub farmhand, Luke Sommer, signed a minor league deal with the Tigers. The Cubs selected the southpaw in the 30th round in the 2007 draft.
Pitchers and catchers report to Fitch Park in 35 days …