A-Lot for the Cubs in the Week A-Head

The conversation throughout the game quickly shifted when the 162-game suspension for Alex Rodriguez was announced Saturday. Rodriguez is banned for the entire 2014 season and post-season but is planning to report to Spring Training with the Yankees. Rodriguez is going to fight the arbitrator’s decision and seek an injunction in Federal Court in the hope to prevent the suspension.

As for where the Yankees payroll stands in the wake of his suspension, Joel Sherman reported $3,155,733.70 of Rodriguez’s salary will still count against the luxury tax as they try to get their payroll below $189 million. With the savings on Rodriguez’s contract and Brian Roberts not officially in pinstripes, New York’s payroll for next season currently sits at $151.478 million according to the New York Post.

The Yankees’ desire to keep their payroll under $189 million has been thought to be the only reason Masahiro Tanaka would not sign with the Yankees. Now the Yankees have the room to add more high-dollar free agents to their roster.

After spending three days in Los Angeles meeting with teams, Masahiro Tanaka reportedly returned to Japan. Tanaka did not talk to the Japanese media about his trip to the States. Tanaka met with more than a dozen teams and had a physical while he was in Los Angeles.

The Cubs are among the teams believed to have the most interest in signing Tanaka and are reportedly prepared to make a nine-figure investment in the 25-year old right hander. The Yankees, Dodgers, Mariners, Angels and Diamondbacks are heavily involved as well and the White Sox should not be counted out of the mix for Tanaka.

The media speculation that has surrounded Masahiro Tanaka continued Saturday and actually increased after the one-year suspension for Alex Rodriguez was announced.

With the Yankees off the hook for the bulk of Rodriguez’s salary ($27.5 million counted against the tax, $25 million salary for 2014) for next season, the New York media turned their attention to the Yankees signing Masahiro Tanaka and Grant Balfour all while getting under the $189 million luxury tax threshold. And the Yankees could sign Michael Young or Mark Reynolds to fill their void at third base.

It will be a busy week for the Chicago Cubs. The front office has two arbitration deadlines (Tuesday and Friday) leading up to the convention. The Rookie Development Program takes place this week, plus their negotiations with Casey Close figure to intensify as the deadline to sign Masahiro Tanaka nears (Jan. 24, 4:00pm CST).

Salary Arbitration

The Cubs have eight players on their 40-man roster that remain arbitration eligible for the 2014 season. The front office has already avoided arbitration with Donnie Murphy (one-year, $825,000 plus incentives) and George Kottaras (one-year, $1.075 million plus incentives). The Cubs still have to work out contracts for Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood, Darwin Barney, Luis Valbuena, James Russell, Justin Ruggiano, Pedro Strop and Nate Schierholtz.

Tuesday (Jan. 14) is the deadline for players to file for salary arbitration and salary arbitration figures must be exchanged between the player and his team by Friday (Jan. 17) … the first day of the convention. Arbitration hearings will be scheduled between Feb. 1 and Feb. 21 this year. The Cubs are not expected to go through the ugly arbitration hearings with any of their players.

Jeff Samardzija is in line for a $5-6 million salary for 2014 after being paid $2.64 million, plus the $125,000 he earned for completing over 200 innings last year. Travis Wood is arbitration eligible for the first time and will be paid somewhere in the $3.2-4 million range next year after making $527,000 last season. Darwin Barney should more than triple his 2013 salary of $562,000 in his first year of salary arbitration to between $1.8 and $2.2 million in 2014. James Russell ($1.075 million in 2013 to $1.6-1.95 million in 2014), Luis Valbuena ($930,000 in 2013 to $1.4-$1.6 million in 2014), Justin Ruggiano ($494,500 in 2013 to $825,000-$950,000 in 2014), Pedro Strop ($503,000 in 2013 to $1-1.2 million in 2014) and Nate Schierholtz are all in line for significant pay increases. Schierholtz is arbitration eligible for the last year and should end up with a $5 million salary in 2014 after making $2.75 million ($2.25 million base, $500,000 bonus) last year.

Rookie Development Program

The Cubs Rookie Development Program will take place this week in Chicago leading up to the convention that begins Friday. The Cubs are bringing in several of the top prospects in the organization as part of their development to help prepare them for life in the big leagues.

Among the activities for the week, the players will participate in workouts with the coaching staff and will tour Wrigley Field.

Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Kris Bryant, C.J. Edwards, Jorge Soler, Kyle Hendricks, Pierce Johnson, Mike Olt, Arismendy Alcantara, Eric Jokisch, Neil Ramirez, Rubi Silva, Christian Villanueva, Armando Rivero and Arodys Vizcaino are expected to be in attendance.

Cubs Caravan

The Cubs annual caravan begins on this week. The team has altered their caravan plans for this year and it will not include several of their regular stops. The caravan is being labeled “100 Gifts for Service 2014 Caravan Tour” and will be a year-long event.

Thursday’s stop on the tour will be the players serving lunch to 250 military service personnel and veterans. According to Carrie Muskat, the caravan “will visit three schools, three hospitals and the 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Base” this week week.

The players and staff will also “paint murals, build benches and cabinets for reading spaces, and redesign a room for academic tutoring” at Casals School of Excellence in Humboldt Park.

News and Notes

Clarity on the Cubs radio and television contracts is expected to be announced during the Cubs Convention, along with the status on where the team stands in their negotiations with the rooftops.

The MLB Owners Meetings are Wednesday and Thursday (Jan. 15-Jan. 16) in Arizona (Paradise Valley). The owners will reportedly vote on the proposed replay system during the meetings.

Major League Baseball’s statement on Alex Rodriguez

Major League Baseball Players Association’s statement on Alex Rodriguez

And, as Peter Gammons reported if the Alex Rodriguez suspension is held up, which is expected, “MLB will have legally beaten the chemists who figured out how to beat the testing … 13 suspensions, zero positive tests.”

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO and @TheCCO_Minors

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  • Tony_Hall

    I love the rookie development program. It gives us a good snapshot of who the team believes will be playing in Wrigley, possibly as soon as this year. It is safe to say they expect that all of these players will be on the 25 man roster at some point in the next 2 seasons.

    • Brp921

      I could see as many as six to eight of them seeing the major leagues this year. Some for just a taste and a couple of them coming up for good. It’s been quite awhile since the Cubs have had that much talent in the high minors.

      • CubbyDenCritic

        Baez
        Hendricks
        Ramirez
        Olt
        Vizcaino
        Alcantara
        Szczur
        P Johnson
        Ha
        Don’t these guys out…..
        Hatley
        Almora
        Vogelbach
        Batista
        Beeler

        • Brp921

          I was just including the players mentioned in Neil’s article, but yeah there could be a couple more. But do you really believe we’ll see most of the other guys you mentioned?

          Edit: this year

    • GaryLeeT

      And on the positive side of fielding a bad MLB product. Each & every one of those players know that they are not blocked by anybody, and when they are ready, they will be up.

      • Tony_Hall

        You make it sound like there is no competition and as soon as they show they are ready they proceed to their position.

        Except.

        SS has Castro. So what is Baez to do then. Maybe he should go to 3B, step aside Luis. But, Olt, Villaneuva and a #2 pick in the draft, Bryant is saying this our spot. So maybe Baez should go to 2B, as Barney can’t hit enough. But if he blinks, Alcantara may already be entrenched there. So he should look to the OF. Well, Bryant ended up going to RF, and Lake is in CF with Almora telling him to step aside, so Baez goes out to LF. Long ways from his days catching.

        Not all of them will make it as All-Stars, let alone major league regulars, but their will be competition and maybe, just maybe, some of the guys at Wrigley now, will still be around holding on to their spot.

        • JasonOfTheBurbs

          I think the point is there is no competition, or anyone blocking them, from people already on the mlb club. Castro being the only exception.

          I don’t see Lake blocking anyone as Almora/Soler won’t be up anytime soon, and Bryant will just take whichever corner spot (assuming Olt or Villanueva are any good).

          The best bets to succeed are Baez and Bryant. None of the other guys are lighting the world on fire, so I would temper expectations on some sort of youth traffic jam. Or you can just put your Corey Patterson and Felix Pie posters back up if you prefer to live in a fantasy world.

          • Tony_Hall

            LOL

  • JasonOfTheBurbs

    MLB salaries are just ridiculously out of control, as are ticket prices to compensate for it.

    Only Travis Wood had a good year last year of this arbitration group, yet they all get raises. In any normal company or business, they would have got “needs improvement” on their yearly review, and would be lucky to still be employed.

    Cracks me up that we would trade Barney to the Yankees for just about any prospect if they would take him, yet we are expected to triple his salary after hitting about .210.

    I really should have taken tee-ball more seriously.

    • cubtex

      As Don King says……..Only in America!

      • CubbyDenCritic

        Don King ……..don’t get me started with him.

    • Tony_Hall

      You have to understand that 0-3 year players have their salary artificially held done. 4-6 year players, through arbitration get a percentage of their market value. That is why they get raises each year in arbitration. If all players were free agents first, individual salaries would be higher.

      • JasonOfTheBurbs

        thanks for the unnecessary education…I understand the process.

        Doesn’t mean it doesn’t defy logic in the real world.

        • Tony_Hall

          So artificially holding down wages is a normal practice in the real world?

          • No Baseball In Indiana

            Yes. Look at average US salaries versus company earnings and inflation.

          • Tony_Hall

            LOL. Not the same thing at all.

            All workers are free agents from day one. They don’t get drafted to a team, then controlled for 6 years in the minors, only to make the majors to then have 6 more years of control at the major league level. Major league players are the best of the best and get paid for it.

          • GaryLeeT

            Actually, wages are held artificially up with a minimum wage. After that, supply & demand is the determining factor. Want higher wages? Do something that is in high demand.

          • TheWrongGuy

            Be careful guys. Going off topic into politics and Neil don’t like that here. :)

          • CubbyDenCritic

            I think he is grabbing the Tylenol now!

          • No Baseball In Indiana

            Too bad that’s not true, my wife is a good example. She works for a large logistics firm is the only one in the company that negotiates carrier contracts and doesn’t receive annual raises. If she left that place would fall apart, demand has very little to do with compensation.

          • Tony_Hall

            Well to bring it back to baseball, be glad your wife is a free agent all the time and is not controlled for 6 years. That way she can shop herself to the highest bidder and watch that company fall apart after she leaves, just like in baseball.

          • CubbyDenCritic

            Do you know the number of American people with Masters Degrees who cannot find work because our politicians sent these people’s jobs over seas !
            And where does Tanaka come from?
            The land of the rising sun.

          • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

            Please keep the conversation to baseball. Discussions outside of baseball are not allowed. Thank you.

          • CubbyDenCritic

            Neil, hate to bother you, but can you stop that person who likes to do that “troll’ talk remarks……see his remarks at the top of the page.
            I think his smart ass remarks lower the standards of this baseball page.

          • Denver Mike

            Why should Neil have to patrol this board at all? Assuming most of us are actual legal adults, how about acting like one, and not “taddling” to the teacher like a child? If any of us doesn’t like something that is posted, how about suck it up, and move on with our day? IMO if it isn’t an outright personal attack, threat, or racism, who cares?

            BTW Critic, I’m not attacking you personally, but this seemed like as good an opportunity as any to speak up regarding people getting all ruffled over a “down arrow” or silly remark.

          • Dorasaga

            Yea, I have a soft spot for acting like that and toleration to actions like mine.

            No, not really. I lied.

          • Jose Cardenal

            Is this 3rd grade? Should we put our heads down on the desk too?

  • John_CC

    Has there been a greater fall from from grace in all of sports history?

    The ARod story is just amazingly sad and pathetic and ugly and everything that is wrong with professional sports in America.

    • CubbyDenCritic

      Pete Rose
      O.J.Simpson
      Tony Ayala Jr
      Tonya Harding
      Mike Tyson
      Mel Hall
      Dwight Gooden
      Darrel Strawberry
      Marion Jones
      Michael Vick (ruff, ruff)
      Lawrence Phillips
      Ryan Leaf
      Mercury Morris
      Willie Mays Aikens
      Sam Hurd
      to answer your question….yes !

      • John_CC

        OJ maybe, because of his greatness at one time and the magnitude of his fall…but it had nothing to do with his sport.
        Pete Rose would be closest to what I am talking about…an elite player that completely and utterly screws up so badly with lies, dishonesty, greed and cheating that the scars on the league itself will be deep and never fully heal.

        The rest of your list isn’t even in the same category. There will always be stupid, flawed, greedy, athletes.

        This scandal is both about a player and a league and so much coverup and corruption we will never know the full extent.

        When ARod was a 20 year old SS in Seattle he could have been the next Griffey Jr. He was amazing and loved by his fan base and the game. Sorry but Tyson was a degenerate thug used by Don King to get rich, Tonya Harding? Crappy reality TV. Mel Hall…what?

        • CubbyDenCritic

          You missed Vick….he was headline news and at the top of his game.
          Hall is in prison for raping teenage girls….it was ex-Cub factor for your question.

          • John_CC

            You missed the point. Mel Hall being a scumbag rapist after an average baseball career is not what this is about. How is MLB complicate in personal failure, crime, addiction (the majority of your list) brought on by poor choices?

            The MLB did not levy the arbitrary punishment against Hall for his actions.

  • Tony_Hall

    Who let the troll in?

    • Tony_Hall

      Nice to see stop by again.

    • CubbyDenCritic

      It is Sunday Morning……give it a rest.

      • Tony_Hall

        Why all the down arrows? I am not the one down arrowing you.

        • Tony_Hall

          And you want me to give it a rest?

          • paulcatanese

            Weird, why are “up arrows” able to be identified and the “down arrows” secret? All ups and downs should be able to be recognized.

          • Tony_Hall

            I agree Paul, but some reason Disqus doesn’t work like that. Bad enough that people can hide behind a screen name.

          • paulcatanese

            And you just got another one. I have to think it’s a guest. Any rate, it’s being abused. I know they don’t bother you as well as myself, just annoying.

          • Tony_Hall

            Guest’s can’t down arrow, just people logged in. It is our critic friend who has been down arrowing me for awhile now. I think it is hilarious that someone would spend the time he does just to give me down arrows. Yesterday he jumped on and off numerous times, without posting, just to down arrow my newest posts.

          • cubtex

            Who cares? I lead the league in receiving down arrows and I think Digger leads the league in giving them. I want the trophy :)))

          • Tony_Hall

            That would be an interesting stat to see a standing sheet. I just find it ironic, that the guy who just said in the last week, that the person who is down arrowing him, doesn’t have the “bxlls” to state an opinion, has spent all week down arrowing me on all posts. I don’t believe anyone has ever accused me of not being willing to state an opinion.

          • Tony_Hall

            Talk about trolling…2 minutes to down arrow.

          • Tony_Hall

            Now 2 seconds…cmon you can do it faster this time.

          • Tony_Hall

            LOL, you are pathetic!

            Back to football for me.

          • cubtex

            that is funny. you are getting to be like me. wear those down arrows with pride.

          • paulcatanese

            Don’t know about you two, but for the amount of posts and down arrows, I do pretty well
            percentage wise:)
            Edit: Meaning I get quite a few.

          • Jose Cardenal

            You’re a 2 yr old. Grow up. Sticks and stones, dude.

          • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

            Please do not call out posters on this site. It is not allowed. Thank you.

          • 2016 or Bust

            As soon as I see you tell Hall and Cubbydencritiic to stop whining about trolls & as noted above. Could you provide your legal info to deny freedom of speech.

          • Tony_Hall

            Freedom of speech give you the right to create your own blog and dictate what the rules for posting comments on your site.

            Funny, Jose and you sound familiar, what is this your 20th screen name?

          • John_CC

            LOL!

  • CubbyDenCritic

    I like to discuss a new subject………Cubs future pitching…..
    Top guys ready to move up soon will be Vizcaino, Ramirez, Batista, Hendricks, Beeler & P Johnson…..Edwards I still believe is a late 2015 arrival.
    I have a feel that P Johnson will show us that he might be a legit #2 pitcher for the Cubs……..I know he will be much better than Shark……
    Beeler…..I think his main problem is control…..throwing too many pitches to each batter…..maybe a 10-12 win starting pitcher…..
    Ramirez…….spot starter ….reliever….if he can be a #3 type of pitcher, that would help us.
    Hendricks…….can a clone of Greg Maddux be in our laps?
    Vizcaino…….if he can stay away from the DL, the Maholm trade can finally pay off.
    Batista…….would be a nice gift if we got a top notch reliever that was not in our top 20 prospect list.
    Edwards, Blackburn, Underwood, Wells……those guys will be talked about this time next year……..they all need more seasoning…..
    then there are the pitching prospects that will happen in a Samardzija trade……….
    and lets say if Baez is hitting the ball like Ernie Banks……would Theo trade Starlin Castro for even more pitching prospects?

    • paulcatanese

      Theo would trade anyone, any time, anywhere,
      it he gets his asking price. I don’t believe anyone is safe under that premise. If he thinks it will improve, he will do it. I do think however he will back off Tanaka as too much of a risk
      dollar wise ,contract length, and health projection wise.

      • SuzyS

        Agreed.

      • CubbyDenCritic

        Remember, the highest dollar amount does not mean you get Tanaka…….what the Cubs need is four Kershaw’s to put them on top of the division.

  • CubbyDenCritic

    I like to ask Tom U a question…….
    Which Minor League Cub is at his “crossroads” of their minor league career…….either he will be in a major league uniform or will have to be a Used Car Salesman…………….my list includes Vittters, BJax, Coleman, Golden, Cabrera. McNutt.

    • Tom U

      Those are all good candidates. I would like to add Taiwan Easterling, Zeke DeVoss, and Eddie Orozco.

      • coachdon

        What about guys like Tony Zych and Batista? Will they be passed by or will they get moved to AAA in 14?

        • Tom U

          You can possibly put Zych on that list. The front office likes him, but he has not been able to perform in the closer roll, and may gave been passed by Armando Rivero.

          Batista is performing well in the DWL, and may be making a case as a set-up man for Triple-A Iowa.

          • coachdon

            Thanks for the reply Tom. I have always felt that guys that once were closers but just don’t throw hard enough to close at the Big League level tend to make very good 6th or 7th inning guys. They have the moxie of a closer and good enough stuff to get some guys out, as long as they have someone to bail them out of trouble.

          • Tom U

            That is the way Batista is being used in the DWL this winter.

          • SuzyS

            Tom, what are ytour thoughts on Ryan Searle and Dillon Maples???

          • Tom U

            Jose, I’ve always liked Searle. The present front office has had a hard time getting a read on him, but his success in Australia may move him back into the rotation. He also looks like his is injury-free for the first time in a while.

            Maples has good stuff but seems to be a head case. There are some nasty rumors as to why he didn’t follow the Cubs’ conditioning program and got injured, but there isn’t anything of substance behind them. He may be able to move forward this season if his head is screwed on right.

          • SuzyS

            Thanks Tom…Jose?
            I’ve followed Searle a couple of seasons now, If he can stay healthy…he should move up.
            Maples is an enigma…with talent… I hope he can put it together.

  • Dorasaga

    Neil, is the Cubs Rookie Development Program formerly known as “Camp Colvin”??

    • Tom U

      Not Neil, but Camp Colvin (later Camp Bussie for Strength Coach Tim Buss) was a strength and conditioning camp that was held earlier in the off-season.

      The rookie development program brings a number of prospects to Chicago and get them used to the area, the facilities, the coaches, and the expectations. The idea is to ease the transition when a player is finally called-up to the big leagues.

      • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

        Thanks Tom …

      • Dorasaga

        Many thanks! Sounds like a nice tour. And I hope these young Major Leaguers won’t need to share a dorm room.

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      Dorasaga, sorry for not responding earlier. Working on content. Tom is 100% correct.

  • cubtex

    For you Paul! Johnny “Cub” Football

    Whatever his choices off of the field, Johnny Manziel sure knows his baseball teams: pic.twitter.com/wPOOnXEBRu

    • paulcatanese

      Cool! Thanks, a Cub hat and an Atlanta Falcons jersey, and a beer with a lime. He knows how to live.

      • cubtex

        the question is…was he 21 in this picture :))) It never stopped him before. Old Favre jersey from the Falcons?

        • paulcatanese

          Upon further observation, it look’s like he’s drinking an “Arnold Palmer” ice tea. Kids in College don’t drink:)))

        • jtrain23

          It is easy to forget Favre’s Atlanta career. He did complete 50% of his passes, however. He had 4 attempts and completed 2……to the defense, lol.