Baseball’s Other Season is Underway and Other Cubs News and Notes

Baseball’s off-season officially began as soon as the Series ended Wednesday night in Boston. The Cubs cleared three spots on their 40-man roster when Dioner Navarro, Scott Baker, Kevin Gregg and Matt Guerrier were allowed to hit the free agent market, as expected. The Cubs reportedly would like to bring back Scott Baker and Dioner Navarro and prior to the end of the season, Matt Guerrier indicated he would like to sign a minor league deal with the Cubs in the off-season and compete for a job in Spring Training.

The Cubs’ 40-man roster currently stands at 34 players but the front office will use the three spots they gained on Thursday for Arodys Vizcaino, Kyuji Fujikawa and Mat Gamel. All three players remain on the 60-day DL, which does not count against the 40-man roster, and must be reinstated from the 60-day DL by Monday, Nov. 4.

The Cubs have exclusive negotiating rights with Dioner Navarro, Kevin Gregg and Scott Baker until Monday at 11:00pm CST … at 11:01pm CST all big league free agents become eligible to sign with other teams.

Cubs Free Agents

The Cubs have four players that became free agents following the World Series … Dioner Navarro, Scott Baker, Kevin Gregg and Matt Guerrier. It is too early to predict which of the four, if any, the front office will try to retain. Scott Baker and Dioner Navarro would fit needs and holes in the Cubs’ roster. And if Matt Guerrier is willing to sign a minor league deal with an invite to big league camp in the spring, depth in the pen without using a 40-man roster spot would not hurt. As for Kevin Gregg, with the way both sides were acting at the end of the season, Gregg’s second stint with the Cubs could be over.

Dioner Navarro

Dioner Navarro is coming off a career year and figures to be a hot commodity this winter. The Cubs signed Navarro to a very affordable $1.75 million last winter that included $250,000 performance bonus. Navarro put together a .300/.365/.492 line in 89 games with seven doubles and a career-high 13 home runs. Navarro could be looking at a two-year contract worth $10-12 million, which would price him out of the Cubs range for a back-up. The Cardinals were reportedly very interested in Navarro prior to the Aug. 31 deadline but would not meet the Cubs’ asking price. Other teams, like the Detroit Tigers, could touch base with Navarro to find out what it would cost for him to suit up for their team.

The lack of catching in the system might make Navarro more valuable to the Cubs than another team, but the front office will likely find another catcher to back-up Welington Castillo before handing out big bucks to keep Navarro in the fold and on the 40-man roster.

Scott Baker

Scott Baker spent the entire year on the shelf after suffering a setback in his recovery from Tommy John surgery in Spring Training. The Cubs gambled $5.5 million that Baker would be healthy enough by May to build his value in order to deal him for prospects … and Baker looked at the Cubs as a way to rebuild his value that would lead to a long term contract. Needless to say, the plan did not work out for either side and he will enter the market with a lot of questions this winter.

Baker made three starts for the Cubs, two were solid and the third was not-so-good. Baker allowed six runs, all earned, on nine hits in 15 innings with four walks and six strikeouts.

Another one-year contract could benefit both Baker and the Cubs … and if the two sides can agree on a contract, maybe the front office could flip him for a Feldman-type return next July.

Kevin Gregg

The Cubs signed Kevin Gregg to a minor league deal in April and quickly added him to the big league roster. Gregg saved 33 games for a team that posted only 66 victories but he returned to the Kevin Gregg of old near the deadline and the Cubs were not able to turn a short term player into long term assets. Gregg finished the season with a 2-6 record with a 3.48 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP but he was 0-4 with a 4.08 ERA and a 1.61 WHIP after the break, that included a 0-2 mark in eight appearances in September with a 5.63 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP.

Gregg was a good short story for a near 100-loss team and could end up as a 2014 version of Shawn Camp if the front office re-signs him. Gregg does not figure to be in the Cubs’ plans with better internal options such as Pedro Strop, Justin Grimm, Hector Rondon, Daniel Bard, Blake Parker, Carlos Villanueva and even Chang-Yong Lim already on the roster for the backend of the bullpen.

Matt Guerrier

Matt Guerrier had a rough go with the Dodgers before he was traded to the Cubs in the Carlos Marmol deal last July. Guerrier was solid with the Cubs in a short time and posted a 2.13 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP in 12 2/3 innings before landing on the DL with a sore right elbow. Guerrier had season-ending surgery but expects to be ready to pitch in the spring. A minor league contract with an invite to camp would be the only way the veteran reliever should remain in the organization.

Jacoby Ellsbury

Scott Boras is looking for a big payday for his now two-time World Series Champion client. Jacoby Ellsbury figures to ink at least a $150 million deal this winter after posting a .298/.355/.426 line with 31 doubles, eight triples, nine home runs and 52 stolen bases this past season. The 30-year old outfielder is in line for a huge payday and continues to be linked to the Cubs … for obvious reasons.

The Red Sox will offer Ellsbury a qualifying offer ($14.1 million) and he will turn it down, so if the Cubs were to sign Ellsbury it would cost them their second round pick. While the Cubs’ front office drafted Ellsbury and developed him, Ellsbury does not fit their plan going forward. They would be paying Ellsbury for what he did in Boston.

Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo figure to have a number of the same suitors this winter (Yankees, Phillies, Reds, Cardinals, Nationals, Dodgers, Mets, Red Sox, Mariners) and Boras will maximize the value of both players … which could mean two contracts worth more than a quarter of a billion dollars combined.

Scott Boras told Nick Cafardo that he had already received 11 calls from GM’s inquiring about Ellsbury and Stephen Drew … less than 15 hours after the Red Sox clinched their third World Series trophy in ten years.

Off-Season Calendar

Here are the important dates over the last two months of the calendar year. The CCO will post an extended and updated off-season calendar throughout the winter.

  •  30 – Eligible players become free agents immediately after World Series
  • 4 – Deadline for clubs to make qualifying offers to their eligible former players who became free agents
  • 4 – Last date to reinstate players from 60-day disabled list
  • 4 – Eligible Minor League players become free agents (4:00pm CST)
  • 5 – First day free agents may sign contracts with a club other than their former club (11:01pm CST)
  • 5 – Minor League free agents may sign with all clubs (11:01pm CST)
  • 5 – BBWAA Awards Finalists Announced – MLB Network
  • 6 – Silver Slugger Awards Announced – MLB Network – 4:00pm CST
  • 10 – End of Waiver period
  • 11 – Last date for Article XX (B) free agents to accept a qualifying offer from a former club (11:00pm CST)
  • 11 – 13 – General Managers Meetings, Orlando, FL
  • 11 – Beginning of New Waiver period – waivers secured on or after November 11, 2013 remains in effect until February 15, 2014, exception: outright waivers
  • 20 – Deadline for clubs to file reserve lists for Major League club and all Minor League Levels (Rule 5 Draft protection)
  • 30 – Last Date to Tender Contracts to Arbitration Eligible Players

BBWAA AwardsAll Award winners announced at 5:00pm CST on MLB Network

  • 11 – NL and AL Rookie of the Year
  • 12 – NL and AL Manager of the Year
  • 13 – NL and AL Cy Young Awards
  • 14 – NL and AL Most Valuable Player Awards
  • 1 – Cubs New Spring Training Complex Opens
  • 2 – Last date to Tender Contracts to Arbitration Eligible Players
  • 5 – Last date to request outright waivers to assign a player prior to the Rule 5 Draft
  • 9 – Last date to outright a player prior to the Rule 5 Draft (4:00pm CST)
  • 9 – 12 – Baseball’s Winter Meetings – Orlando, FL
  • 12 – Rule 5 Draft

News and Notes

The qualifying offer for this off-season is $14.1 million, $800,000 more than a year ago, and the number is set by the average to the 125 most lucrative contracts.

The New Yorker posted why Adrian Cardenas quit playing Major League Baseball.

The Winter Meetings in Orlando begin in 38 days.

The Dodgers are 5-1 favorites to win the 2014 World Series followed by the Tigers (8-1), Nationals (9-1), Cardinals (10-1) and Red Sox (12-1). The odds on the Cubs winning the series is 60-1, eight up from the 250-1 odds put on the Houston Astros.

According to the Sun-Times, the Gold Glove voters committed an error when they did not vote for Darwin Barney.

And last, but not least, for those that have ever doubted the hype-machine that is Scott Boras. News surfaced on Thursday that the reason Stephen Drew struggled so much in the post season was that he needed contacts. Drew was fit for contact lenses prior to game six of the Series and hit the baseball (2-for-4 with a home run).

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