Baseball’s Hot Stove is Heating Up and Other Cubs News, Notes and Rumors

The Winter Meetings are less than a week away and Monday was a good preview of what is expected to be a busy three days in Orlando throughout the game. There was more player movement on Monday and teams decided to part ways with several players prior to Monday’s deadline to tender contracts for the 2014 season.

The Cubs trimmed their roster to 37 players when they decided not to offer contracts to RHP Daniel Bard, IF/OF Mat Gamel and RHP Chang-Yong Lim. The front office avoided arbitration with both George Kottaras ($1.075 million, plus incentives package) and Donnie Murphy ($825,000, plus incentives package that could bring total value of contract to $1.175 million) and tendered contracts to the other seven arbitration eligible players on the 40-man roster.

Jeff Samardzija, Darwin Barney, Nate Schierholtz, Pedro Strop, Travis Wood, James Russell and Luis Valbuena were tendered contracts for the 2014 season, as were the other 21 players on the 40-man roster.

Rumors kept swirling on what the Cubs may or may not do with Jeff Samardzija and four non-tendered relievers could fill holes in the Cubs’ pen according to a report from the Tribune.

Jeff Samardzija

The Cubs lost a possible trading partner for Jeff Samardzija on Monday when the Nationals acquired RHP Doug Fister from the Tigers. The Nationals were one of the six teams thought to have interest in trading for Samardzija.

Dave Dombrowski, the Tigers’ GM, was looking to clear payroll according to multiple reports and did not receive what many felt Doug Fister was worth. The Nationals sent INF Steve Lombardozzi, LHP Ian Krol and minor league lefty Robbie Ray to Detroit for Fister.

The Cubs are believed to be working on a long-term extension with Jeff Samardzija, while listening to offers for him. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer would prefer to sign Samardzija to a contract extension but they are talking to other teams about Samardzija. According to Nick Cafardo, “The Cubs will continue to work on both fronts until the culmination of a long-term extension has been reached or if the extension is improbable.”

The Cubs asking price for Samardzija is believed to be very high, and the Doug Fister deal could have hurt his value somewhat due to the perception, by many, that Detroit gave Fister away in order to clear payroll.

At least seven other teams have talked to the Cubs about Samardzija, and five of those teams are believed to be the Orioles, Blue Jays, Diamondbacks, Pirates and Rockies. The Blue Jays and D-Backs are still thought to be the most interested in trading for Samardzija. And of course, the Cubs could wait to well after the first of the year to let the free agent starting pitcher market play out before they deal Samardzija.

Darwin Barney

Even with the Cubs tendering Darwin Barney a contract for the 2014 season, his days in a Cubs’ uniform could be numbered according to a report from the Tribune. Barney is coming off another excellent year in the field but a down season at the plate and he could soon give way to Javier Baez.

Javier Baez will receive a non-roster invite to Spring Training and is ticketed to be the shortstop at Iowa on Opening Day. Baez was expected to receive playing time at third and second base in the Arizona Fall League. But he needed a break and experience at the other two positions was delayed. Baez should see time at short in the spring and is expected to play other positions in big league camp until he is sent down to prepare for the season.

Logan Watkins and Arismendy Alcantara will also be in camp vying for playing time at second base in the big leagues and at Triple-A Iowa.

Dioner Navarro

Dioner Navarro took his talents North of the Border when he agreed to a two-year, $8 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday. Navarro will reportedly be the Blue Jays every day backstop. Navarro will make $3 million in 2014 and $5 million in 2015.

Navarro turned his career year as a backup with the Cubs into a full time gig with the Blue Jays. Will Matt Garza follow his catcher to Toronto? The Blue Jays are interested.

News, Notes and Rumors

Michael Bowden signed a contract to play for the Seibu Lions in Japan for the 2014 season.

Darnell McDonald re-signed with the Cubs on Monday, a one-year minor league contract. McDonald’s deal includes a non-roster invite to big league camp.

Jim Bowden listed the Cubs as one of the possible landing spots for Jacoby Ellsbury, along with the Red Sox, Nationals, Rangers and Mariners.

Two players that could be of interest to the Cubs were non-tendered by the Red Sox on Monday night … RHP Andrew Bailey and OF Ryan Kalish. Kalish turns 26 in March, can play all three outfield spots and has a history with both Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. Andrew Bailey is recovering from shoulder surgery and is not expected to be ready to pitch until at least June next year.

The Tribune reported that former Brewers’ closer, John Axford, could interest the Cubs as well as RHP Mitchell Boggs and RHP Ronald Belisario.

RHP Eduardo Sanchez, who spent a majority of last season in the Cubs’ organization after he was claimed off waivers from the Cardinals, signed a minor league contract with the Detroit Tigers that includes a non-roster invite to big league camp.

IF Alberto Gonzalez, who was on the Cubs’ Opening Day roster last season, signed a minor league contract with the Padres that includes a non-roster invitation to Major League Spring Training.

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Quote of the Day

"Build up your weaknesses until they become your strong points." – Knute Rockne