A large part of the baseball community will make their way to Nashville today for this year’s Winter Meetings, which get underway on Monday at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. Lou Piniella was on ESPN 1000 on Saturday morning discussing the upcoming meetings with Bruce Levine and Chet Coppock. Piniella said the Cubs have targeted 4 to 5 players they are interested in trading for. Piniella went on to say Jim Hendry has laid the groundwork with teams and Piniella seemed to think things would happen during the upcoming meetings next week.
Could one of those trades include Mark Prior? According to a report from the San Diego Union Tribune “the Padres are among the clubs trying to trade for Cubs pitcher Mark Prior.” Kevin Towers, the Padres GM, told the paper he “expects to revisit trade talks during the winter meetings.”
Here is the rest from the mill, including an addition, on the eve of the Winter Meetings…. The Cubs….
Lou Piniella was very informative on Saturday morning. He said he felt he had a really good first season in Chicago, that is was a good first step but did not like the way the season abruptly ended. Piniella thinks the early exit from the playoffs will make the team more-hungry next season.
Piniella mentioned how much Jim Hendry likes signing free agents and making trades. As mentioned, Hendry has laid the groundwork with teams and he is expecting to see some trades made in the upcoming week. Piniella said he would be pleased if one really good bat came out of the meetings.
Piniella told Levine, “I can’t wait to get to Nashville tomorrow night. Hopefully good things will happen for us in Nashville over the next few days.”
Piniella mentioned the Cubs have received a lot of interest in their young players. He went on to say they are not going to give up young kids for aging veterans but will include young players if necessary.
According to Piniella, Sam Fuld will compete with Felix Pie for the starting centerfielder job next spring if the Cubs do not acquire a player in Nashville. Piniella used the phrase “open competition.” Fuld has a better idea of the strike zone than Pie but both are good defenders. Piniella did say it would probably end up being which one of the two hits the ball….
Piniella ended by saying the challenge for the off-season is to put together a 90-win team and to go further in the playoffs.
Randy Bush was also on with Bruce Levine and Chet Coppock Saturday morning. Bush and his staff have spent a lot of time looking at each of the other teams “top 5-to-6-to-10 guys“. He said they must know all they can because at the meetings deals can happen very quickly. Bush said meetings are scheduled with other teams, the groundwork has already been done and the two teams will have a match before they ever sit down face to face.
Bush reiterated what Piniella and Hendry have been saying over the past few days that the Cubs are looking to add a lefty, or two, to compliment the right handed power in the lineup.
Bush and Levine talked about Felix Pie. Bush confirmed the possible competition that could take place between Pie and Sam Fuld in the spring. Bush said he spoke with Jim Hendry and he described Hendry as being “ecstatic” over the improvement Pie has made in winter ball. Bush mentioned Angel Pagan would be in the mix next season in the outfield. Bush mentioned Pagan is healthy and made a point to bring him up, Bush even said Pagan is often not mentioned.
Will Kosuke Fukudome make the move to Major League Baseball? According to Jerry Crasnick it is “highly unlikely” Fukudome will remain in Japan (Crasnick mentioned Fukudome in a report about centerfielders). Crasnick reported than Joe Urbon of Octagon told ESPN.com that he and Fukudome met last week in Japan and discussed the “multiple offers” Fukudome has received from teams. Urbon said, “Although staying in Japan is an option, it is highly unlikely.”
The Cubs will have competition in trying to sign Fukudome. The Dodgers and Rangers have shown interest but the Padres and the White Sox appear to be just as focused on signing Fukudome as the Cubs. According to the North County Times, Kevin Towers has had his eye on Fukudome since 1997….when he was attempting to sign Hideki Irabu.
Mark Prior and Kevin Towers are apparently neighbors and Towers thinks Prior “would be more agreeable to negotiating with them than most other clubs.” The report in The San Diego Union Tribune mentioned three prospects the Cubs have shown interest in the past but the report does not link those three players with a possible trade including Prior. A report in the Sun-Times, mentioned Prior “might be headed” to San Diego “for a prospect.”
Randy Bush told Bruce Levine and Chet Coppock that there has been a lot of interest in Mark Prior by other teams….Bush said “a lot of calls.” Bush said the Cubs would love to keep Prior but will listen to offers made by other teams.
Kaz Matsui has passed his physical according to a report on ESPN.com. The Astros are expected to officially announce the signing later today (Sunday).
According to Gordon Wittenmyer, Jason Marquis will be in the Cubs rotation next season….unless he is traded.
Bruce Levine stated on Saturday morning that Carl Crawford is “off the market.” According to Levine, the Rays are no longer interested in trading Crawford after dealing Delmon Young last week to the Twins.
According to Phil Rogers, “the Cubs quickly determined they were not a potential destination for Johan Santana.”
Maybe the Cubs are not out of the Hiroki Kuroda sweepstakes yet….according to a report in the Tribune, the Cubs “recently paid him a house call.”
From the Good News, Bad News Department….
Has anyone noticed the Cubs will have four pitchers that figure prominently in the clubs plans for next season going into the final year of their contract? Bobby Howry, Scott Eyre, Ryan Dempster and Kerry Wood will all be free agents after 2008. Baseball America did a study a couple of years back and there is a 20% average increase in productivity for a player on their walk year.
While the Cubs could have a lot of holes to fill this time next year, with all four playing for a new contract Lou Piniella should get their best effort on a daily basis….especially with the contracts Scott Linebrink and Francisco Cordero just signed.
From Around the League….
The Brewers appear to be very interested in trading for Scott Rolen but their deal with David Riske that appeared done was put on hold. The Brewers are expected to still sign Riske to a 3-year deal worth between $12-$15 million.
The Cardinals are very interested in Chris Capuano and a deal between the Cardinals and Brewers could involve Scott Rolen.
Richard Justice paid Theo Epstein a nice compliment.
Finally….the Pirates could non-tender Xavier Nady if they cannot trade him according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.