Reserve Lists, the Cubs Roster and Samardzija Rumors

Wednesday is the deadline for all 30 teams to file their reserve lists at the major and minor league levels to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 12. The Cubs 40-man roster currently sits at 37 players, so there are three empty spots the front office could use to protect players.

Of the eligible prospects in the system, Arismendy Alcantara is the only slam dunk to be added to the 40-man roster. Outfielder Jae-Hoon Ha and LHP Eric Jokisch are also candidates for a promotion to the big league roster. RHP Dallas Beeler, LHP Austin Kirk, RHP Matt Loosen and RHP Frank Batista would be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft if they are not added to the roster prior to Wednesday’s 11:00pm CST deadline, but each of the four pitchers could use more time in the minors and would likely not be selected in December’s draft.

Wednesday’s deadline is different from the tender deadline on Dec. 2. The Cubs can create a roster spot or two to add players today by deciding not to tender a contract to one of the 10 arbitration eligible players or automatic renewal players, but those decisions will likely be postponed for a couple of weeks.

Jeff Samardzija

Add the Baltimore Orioles to the list of teams interested in Jeff Samardzija. The Diamondbacks, Pirates, Blue Jays and Nationals have already been connected to Samardzija and the number of teams figure to increase as it gets closer to the Winter Meetings.

Jim Bowden reported on Tuesday that the Orioles are the latest team to show interest in Samardzija.

The front office is listening on Samardzija right now and is not expected to shop him until the Winter Meetings begin on Dec. 9.

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have been trying to lock up Samardzija to a long-term, team friendly contract since last off-season. And have not made it a secret they have been trying for well over a year. Samardzija is reportedly willing to go year to year with the Cubs over the last two seasons he is under club control.

If the Cubs cannot work out an extension with Samardzija, they are expected to deal him this winter in order to maximize his value. While his inconsistency last season raised questions, he would be a good addition to a contender’s rotation.

The Cubs realize the need for pitching, and would like to keep Samardzija, but they know his value on the trade market will drop if he begins the season with the team.

Raisel Iglesias and Erisbel Arruebarruena

Two Cuban baseball players defected, according to reports from Baseball America, and should soon be eligible to sign contracts with Major League teams. Raisel Iglesias and Erisbel Arruebarruena will be exempt from the international bonus pools due to their age and service time in Cuba. Both players are at least 23 years old and have played six seasons in Cuba’s top league.

Right hander Raisel Iglesias and shortstop Erisbel Arruebarruena will be represented by Jorge Soler’s agent, Bart Hernandez and Praver Shapiro Sports Management. According to Jesse Sanchez, Iglesias has established residency in Haiti and Arruebarruena has established residency in Mexico. Establishing residency in a third country is the first step of the process for a player to be eligible to sign with a Major League team.

MLB will have to declare both players free agents and they will have to acquire an unblocking license from the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) before they can reach an agreement with a MLB team.

The Cubs have not been connected to Iglesias or Arruebarruena yet, but they should be among the teams that try to sign both players.

Raisel Iglesias is 23 years old (turns 24 on April 1) and is 5-foot-11, 165 pounds. Iglesias was primarily used as reliever in Cuba and will likely end up as a reliever on a big league roster. Iglesias threw in the 88-92 mph range during the WBC last March according to Baseball America. But he has been clocked in the 92-95 mph range against the U.S. College national team. Iglesias throws a sweepy breaking ball in the 76-81 mph range to get swings and misses.

Baseball America thinks Raisel Iglesias would start at the Double-A level once he signs with a team.

Erisbel Arruebarruena is described as a defensive wizard. The 23-year old, 6-foot-1, 195 pound right-hander “has clean hands, quick actions and good body control.” BA described him as a below-average runner, with a quick first step and instincts that give him good range. Arruebarruena possess a plus-plus arm, with accuracy. According to BA, scouts have called Erisbel Arruebarruena a “magician in the field.”

The concern with Arruebarruena is whether he will be able to hit enough. He “has a long swing, struggles with pitch recognition, swings through breaking balls in the strike zone and is prone to chasing too many pitches out of the strike zone.” Arruebarruena has minimal power and has a pull-oriented approach.

Erisbel Arruebarruena turns 24 on March 25 and would likely start at the Double-A level once he is signed.

Renteria’s Coaching Staff

The Cubs are expected to announce Rick Renteria’s coaching staff at some point this week. The same coaches that have been reported remain in the mix for jobs with the Cubs.

Chris Bosio and Lester Strode will return and Mike Borzello is expected back as well. The Cubs have talked to Bill Mueller about the hitting coach job and a long list of coaches appear to be in consideration to fill out Renteria’s staff. Gary Jones, Bruce Fields and Jose Castro are thought to be in the running for base coach jobs. Alex Cora and Henry Blanco have been rumored as possibilities for weeks and Mariano Duncan is expected to be on the big league staff as well, possibly as assistant hitting coach.

Could the Cubs’ coaching staff include a defensive coordinator?

The Tigers are the latest big league team to hire a defensive coordinator. Matt Williams added the position to his staff when he landed the Nationals job and Brad Ausmus has done the same in Detroit. And while the Angels are not calling the position a defensive coordinator, it sounds like Rick Eckstein will have the same responsibilities in Anaheim.

News and Notes

Keep an eye on Grady Sizemore. The Cubs had rumored interest in Sizemore two winters ago and according to Nick Cafardo he is getting a lot of interest and should be ready for Spring Training. Sizemore is now 31 years old and has not played in the big leagues since 2011. Sizemore had an excellent four year run with the Indians (2005-2008) but has not played 100 games in a single season since 2009.

Josh Johnson signed a one-year, $8 million contract with the Padres on Tuesday night that includes additional performance bonuses bases on games started ($1.25 million if he makes 26 starts) according to Jerry Crasnick. And if Johnson makes less than seven starts in 2014, the Padres hold a $4 million club option on Johnson for the 2015 season. Johnson’s club option is similar to the one John Lackey signed with the Red Sox. Lackey’s Tommy John Surgery triggered a clause in his contract that pays him the Major League minimum for the 2015 season. The White Sox and Astros were among other teams that expressed interest in Johnson.

Report Edited – 12:31pm CST – Deadline to file reserve lists is 11:00pm CST, not 4:00pm CST as previously reported

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