Catching Up Cubs News and Notes While Waiting on the Tanaka Decision

With the Cubs Convention in the rearview mirror, the countdown to Spring Training has begun. Cubs’ pitchers and catchers officially report to Mesa in 23 days (Feb. 13). Several of the players have already made their way to the Cubs’ new facility to prepare for the start of camp.

The City of Mesa is celebrating the opening of Cubs Park and the adjacent Riverview Park on Saturday (Jan. 25) in a free event called Double Play at the Park.

The Cubs remain focused on adding at least one starting pitcher to the mix before Spring Training. If the team is not able to land their off-season target the Cubs are expected to sign a veteran like Paul Maholm, Scott Baker or Jason Hammel. The front office has told Carlos Villanueva and Justin Grimm to report to camp prepared to start games.

The Cubs still have to work out contracts for the upcoming season with Jeff Samardzija and Travis Wood, along with Darwin Barney and Justin Ruggiano. The Cubs do not appear to be working on a long-term deal with Wood right now and Samardzija has made it known he wants a better idea of the team’s timeframe for winning before he signs on long term.

Chris Rusin and Jake Arrieta will have competition this spring for the last two spots in the rotation. But of course the plans could change if a certain right-hander decides he wants to pitch on the North Side of Chicago.

Jeff Samardzija

Jeff Samardzija reiterated on multiple occasions during the convention that he wants to stay and win with the Cubs. Samardzija feels he has invested a lot in the Cubs and wants to be a part of the team that wins again.

The Cubs and Samardzija exchanged salary arbitration numbers on Friday after the two sides were not able to agree to terms on a contract for the upcoming season. Jeff Samardzija submitted a $6.2 million number and the Cubs filed at $4.4 million. The Cubs and Samardzija can avoid an arbitration hearing at any point prior to walking into the room. Samardzija is in line to make $5-6 million in his second year of arbitration eligibility after earning $2.765 million last season.

The two sides have not moved any closer to a contract extension. But Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer stated over the weekend they would like for Samardzija to remain in a Cubs’ uniform for a long time.

Jeff Samardzija is looking to reach the 230-inning plateau this season after completing 213 2/3 innings a year ago. Only two pitchers completed 230 innings last season (Adam Wainwright and Clayton Kershaw) and if Samardzija reaches his goal he would become the first Cubs’ starter since Jon Lieber to pitch 230 innings in 2001.

Justin Grimm and Carlos Villanueva

The Cubs’ front office has told two pitchers that ended last season in the bullpen to report to camp prepared to start games. Carlos Villanueva is under contract with the Cubs for one more season for $5 million. The Cubs signed Villanueva to be a swingman and provide depth for the rotation last winter. That appears to be the team’s plan going into Spring Training again this year.

According to a report from the Tribune, the Cubs have also told Justin Grimm to report to camp prepared to start games. The Rangers used Grimm in their rotation prior to including him in the Matt Garza deal. Grimm went 7-7 in 17 starts with a 6.37 ERA and a 1.65 WHIP.

Justin Grimm has a big arm that many feel projects better at the back end of a bullpen than in a rotation. Grimm told the Tribune if the Cubs “have the role basically already set, they’ll look at other options” for him. Grimm said the Cubs value him as a starter. Grimm has two minor league option years left so the front office can try him at different roles in the spring before deciding how he may fit on the Cubs’ pitching staff.

Scott Baker

The Cubs spoke with Scott Baker’s agent around the Winter Meetings about re-signing his client this winter. The Cubs are thought to be interested in Scott Baker, Paul Maholm or Jason Hammel if they are unable to land Masahiro Tanaka.

Chris Cotillo reported the Mariners and Indians are among five-seven teams that have expressed interest in Baker.

Scott Baker is looking for a Major League contract but has received only minor league offers so far.

Matt Garza

Another report surfaced about Matt Garza’s health over the weekend and there is concern around the league about his medicals. Teams that are interested in him are not willing to meet his terms (four or five-year contract) right now.

The Angels are thought to be the front-runner to land Matt Garza but they are not willing to sign him to a four-five year deal. The Diamondbacks are also thought to have Garza on their radar if they don’t sign Masahiro Tanaka.

The two teams Matt Garza pitched for last season has not shown any interest in re-signing him this winter.

News, Notes and Rumors

FanGraphs posted a must-read Q&A with Cubs’ minor league RHP Pierce Johnson. Johnson spoke with FanGraphs “about his maturation as a pitcher, including the fine-tuning of his repertoire.” Johnson has learned how to pitch with help from Ron Villone and Storm Davis and said he’s “come leaps and bounds” from where he started.

The Cubs invited Greg Maddux and Ryne Sandberg to the Cubs Convention. The Hall of Famers had previous commitments and were unable to attend.

Theo Epstein labeled the mascot controversy “Clarkophony” according to Bruce Miles. Epstein admitted the backlash the Cubs received on Clark was a “natural byproduct of the vacuum that’s been created” in a slow off-season.

Free agent RHP Suk-Min Yoon returned to the United States over the weekend. Yoon is looking to sign on with a Major League team this winter. The Cubs were reportedly interested in signing him earlier in the off-season.

According to Bruce Levine, the Cubs are talking off the record that Bill Mueller is the only voice on hitting with the team. Jason McLeod caught the prospects attention while they were in Chicago during the Rookie Development Program when he showed the clip of Bill Mueller driving in Dave Roberts off Mariano Rivera in the 2004 ALCS. McLeod used the video to show the young players who their big league hitting coach is.

Former Cubs’ reliever Luis Vizcaino signed a minor league contract with the Orioles. Mike Fontenot caught on with the Nationals on a minor league deal. And Dontrelle Willis inked a minor league deal with the Giants.

According to Chris Cotillo, former Cubs’ reliever Jaye Chapman is drawing interest from seven teams … Blue Jays, Reds, Tigers, Giants, Dodgers, Mariners and Nationals.

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Quote of the Day

"People who write about Spring Training not being necessary have never tried to throw a baseball." – Sandy Koufax