Pitching Staff Remains a Work in Progress and Other Cubs News and Rumors

Baseball’s Winter Meetings have come and gone but the Cubs’ off-season is far from over. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer made three changes to the big league roster over the last week. The Cubs acquired right-handed hitting outfielder Justin Ruggiano from the Marlins for lefty hitting outfielder Brian Bogusevic and picked up and intriguing arm in right hander Liam Hendriks off the waiver wire from the Twins.

The Cubs have not announced the signing of LHP Wesley Wright yet so officially the 40-man roster has 38 players on it but with the addition of Hendriks, the Cubs’ 40-man roster stands at 39 players.

Rick Renteria and his coaching staff are meeting in Mesa this weekend to start preparing for Spring Training. And while the staff is in Arizona, the front office is still working on the roster for next season.

The Cubs have offers on the table to a free agent reliever and a free agent starter.

The pitching staff remains a work in progress. Jed Hoyer thinks there will be a sense of urgency throughout the game leading up to Christmas for free agents to sign a new contract. And one of those free agents could be former Southsider and Padres’ starter Clayton Richard.

Clayton Richard

According to a report from Bruce Levine, the Cubs have discussed former White Sox and Padres’ hurler Clayton Richard. The Padres outrighted Richard off the roster at the end of October. The southpaw refused the assignment and elected for free agency.

Clayton Richard is coming off a bad year. A stomach virus forced him to miss three weeks before a shoulder injury ended his season in June. Richard made just 12 appearances, 11 starts, and finished with a 7.01 ERA and a 1.63 WHIP.

Clayton Richard was very consistent during his time with the Padres. Richard made a career-high 33 starts in 2012 and posted a 14-14 record with a 3.99 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP.

Levine indicated the Cubs have not made Richard an offer and see him as an option for the bullpen.

Junior Lake

Junior Lake has a very important season ahead of him. The Cubs’ front office is planning on Lake receiving a ton of playing time next year. Jed Hoyer addressed Lake’s future after the team acquired Justin Ruggiano on Thursday.

Hoyer said the very talented Lake is “going to get a ton of playing time.” Hoyer added the Cubs have the opportunity to give him playing time and pointed out he is going to get his at bats to continue his development. Lake turns 24 in March and created quite the buzz last season when he put up a .284/.332/.428 slash line in 64 games. Lake hit 16 doubles and six home runs for a .760 OPS with a .377 BABIP. Lake is raw but the talent is there and it is up to Rick Renteria and his staff to aid in his development.

Lake recently left his winter team in the Dominican Republic … and it was at the Cubs’ request.

According to a report from the Tribune, the front office invoked a fatigue clause in Lake’s contract and shut him down for the remainder of the winter. Lake was leading the league in hitting with a .343 average (.343/.386/.457/.843).

Jeff Samardzija

The Braves are reportedly pursuing Jeff Samardzija but it is unclear if the Braves will pay the Cubs’ price to acquire him. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are looking for three top pitching prospects in return for Samardzija and do not appear to be willing to settle just to make a deal.

For those thinking the Cubs’ front office is not looking for a package of top prospects for Samardzija, it appears you would be wrong … at least according to a report from Toronto.

According to Bob Elliott, the Cubs asked Alex Anthopoulos for the Blue Jays’ top prospects RHP Aaron Sanchez, RHP Marcus Stroman and a third player. Anthopoulos did not specify which deal he was referring to but said the acquisition price of the deals he has on the table doesn’t work for the Blue Jays right now. The Blue Jays’ GM added he is continuing the dialogue on the deals he’s talked to other teams about this winter.

The Blue Jays and Braves seem to have the most interest in Jeff Samardzija at this point, but don’t count out the Kansas City Royals or Arizona Diamondbacks.

Mark DeRosa thinks the Cubs “would be wise to hold onto Samardzija” and pointed out that his former teammate is the type of player “you build your team around.”

Brandon Hyde

The Cubs’ new bench coach is in Mesa this weekend with the rest of Rick Renteria’s coaching staff beginning their preparations for Spring Training.

According to the Tribune, Brandon Hyde and Rick Renteria spent a lot of time during the Winter Meetings “scripting Spring Training workouts, evaluating personnel and studying potential lineups.” The report explained Hyde emailed blueprints of the Cubs’ new facility to the coaching staff to get suggestions on how to improve efficiency in practice drills this spring.

News, Notes and Rumors

The Cubs are believed to still be in the mix for free agent relievers John Axford and Mitchell Boggs.

On the starting pitching front … Jason Hammel and Scott Baker remain possibilities for the Cubs.

Justin Ruggiano is a better fit in the Cubs’ outfield than Brian Bogusevic according to ESPN Chicago. The Cubs project Ruggiano’s power numbers to increase now that he no longer plays his home games in Miami.

Jack McKeon spoke highly of Brandon Hyde and thinks he has what it takes to be a big league manager.

One of the new additions to the Cubs’ minor league system, LHP Tsuyoshi Wada has a pretty cool nickname … Dr. K.

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Quote of the Day

"From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life." – Arthur Ashe