The Winter Meetings have come and gone….and the Cubs have plenty questions left to answer. Pitchers and catchers do not report to Fitch Park until February 14th….69 days if you’re counting. Jim Hendry said on Thursday he thought this off-season would be much easier than last year, because he does not have as many holes to fill. But his biggest target of the winter has yet to make up his mind where he is going to continue his baseball career. Hendry mentioned things just take time and the guys they would pursue in a ‘Plan A’ or a ‘Plan B’ are still available.
Kosuke Fukudome’s decision is expected any day now. On Thursday, Hendry stated the announcement could come within the next 24-48 hours. According to a report on Cubs.com, Hendry spoke with Joe Urbon, Fukudome’s agent, on Wednesday. Hendry was told Fukudome would decide soon whether he would sign with the Tokyo Giants or play in the majors. The Cubs are believed to have an offer worth $12-$15 million dollars annually for 3 years on the table for Fukudome. Ken Rosenthal mentioned on XM Radio after the Winter Meetings concluded Thursday afternoon, he believes the Cubs are the front-runner to sign Fukudome but the Padres are not far behind.
Here is the rest from the mill, more on Fukudome and Brian Roberts, plus a wrap on a quiet gathering in the Music City…. Winter Meetings Wrap-up
The Cubs made one move during the annual meeting….Tuesday’s trade that sent Will Ohman and Omar Infante to the Braves for Jose Ascanio. The Braves were very high on the 22-year old flame-thrower but needed a lefty in their pen and they feel Ohman will be very successful in Atlanta. The move for the Cubs freed up a roster spot and cleared payroll.
On Thursday the Cubs paid the Tampa Bay Rays $100,000 (the total cost of the deal was $150,000….$100,000 to the Rays and $50,000 to the Twins) to draft Tim Lahey with the first pick in the Rule 5 Draft. Tim Wilken was happy about the deal and Jim Hendry appears to be stockpiling young bullpen arms. Last season Hendry and Piniella moved young pitchers back and forth between Des Moines, East Tennessee and Chicago. Piniella loves right-handers that throw strikes in the mid 90’s and can keep the ball down. They could be anticipating a repeat performance of shuffling arms like last season….or having to unload a couple of farm hands to complete their “game plan”.
The Cubs did lose Randy Wells in the Rule 5 Draft to the Blue Jays, and he is thrilled about the opportunity.
The Sun-Times reported, “talks could heat up by early next week” with Fukudome. The Cubs have competition besides the Padres. The Royals are interested and there is a connection there with Fukudome….Trey Hillman. But the White Sox could offer the biggest challenge. Kenny Williams did not land two of his off-season targets and the Sox are rumored to be very interested in Fukudome….stay tuned.
A later report in the Sun-Times said the Cubs could focus on Fukudome now the Winter Meetings are over. Fukudome is supposed to meet with Joe Urbon and the two are scheduled to talk on Friday about the interest level Fukudome is receiving from U.S. teams. According to the Sun-Times, after this meeting he is “expected to declare his intentions to leave Japan and play in the U.S.“….the announcement could come on Friday. The recent signings of Torii Hunter, Andruw Jones and Jose Guillen will figure in the offer made to Fukudome.
The San Diego Union Tribune thinks the Padres offer to Fukudome is less than the Cubs and he would likely have to sign a smaller contract to play on the West Coast. The Union Tribune states Fukudome would be a good fit with the Cubs. They mentioned Fukudome could hit 20-25 home runs at Wrigley while those numbers would drop to 10-15 at Petco. As far as defensively, Fukudome could play center at Wrigley if Felix Pie cannot hold on to the job, but his “limitations” would be exposed in the spacious Petco Park.
Dave van Dyck said the Cubs are taking a “huge gamble” by putting all of their “eggs Kosuke Fukudome’s basket.”
According to a report in the Sun-Times, the Cubs are aggressively pursuing Brian Roberts. The package for Roberts “includes a starting pitcher and at least one other player.” Names that have been mentioned are Sean Gallagher, Sean Marshall, Ronny Cedeno, Eric Patterson, Matt Murton and Donnie Veal. The Sun-Times thinks Sean Gallagher is in the proposed trade along with Murton, who would fill a need in left field for the Orioles.
Jayson Stark reported the Orioles do not have much interest in moving Roberts. Stark said the Cubs tried and “might still be able to build a deal” around Sean Gallagher.
According to ESPN, “the Orioles have intensified talks with several teams” to trade Roberts, Miguel Tejada and Erik Bedard. An earlier report from the World Wide Leader stated “a trade for Brian Roberts has been back-burned“, they are concentrating on trading Erik Bedard and Miguel Tejada.
Ken Rosenthal thinks a deal with Roberts coming to the Cubs should include Felix Pie.
The Sun-Times reported Matt Murton would not be in a deal for Roberts but Sean Gallagher would, depending on what happens with Fukudome.
The clock is ticking for the Cubs to make a decision on Mark Prior. They have until next Wednesday (December 12th) to either trade Prior or tender him a contract for the 2008 season. The Padres are rumored to have “cooled” on Prior but the Reds, Rangers and Phillies have shown interest.
Bruce Miles said the Cubs “shot” down the rumors about Prior on Thursday.
According to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Cubs asked about Nick Swisher again during the Winter Meetings, but they were “firmly rebuffed” by the A’s.
The Cubs talked to former Pirates GM, Dave Littlefield, about becoming an advisor in the organization according to ESPN.
Today is the deadline for players to accept salary arbitration. Will Mike Cameron accept arbitration from the Padres or choose to test the market? The Padres have said they cannot afford both Fukudome and Cameron. But the question is….with the 25-game suspension looming for Cameron, would he risk losing a 1-year deal in hopes of getting a 2-year contract? According to the San Diego Union Tribune, the Padres have offered Cameron a multi-year deal.
The Padres have made an offer to Milton Bradley and he is expected to sign the 1-year deal rumored to be worth $4 million dollars.
From Around the League
According to a report in the New York Daily News, the Tampa Bay Rays are interested in signing Cliff Floyd.
According to Ken Rosenthal, the Padres “intend” to sign Michael Barrett to a 1-year deal and then try to trade him….the Rays are interested.
The Orioles were rumored to be close to a deal that would send Miguel Tejada to the Astros on Thursday afternoon. Houston would send Chris Burke and Adam Everett, along with a pitching prospect to Baltimore for Tejada. Ken Rosenthal said the trade could still happen but that the two sides are not close on a deal.
Glendon Rusch could end up back in the NL Central. The Reds, Cardinals and Astros are interested. Dusty Baker, Dick Pole and Rusch together again?