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.”

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Quote of the Day

"You can’t sit on a lead and kill the clock. You’ve got to give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game." - Earl Weaver