It’s the first day of February, there are 18 days until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training and Billy Williams said, “The Cubs will win as a team in 2015.” And Mr. Williams knows Ernie Banks would give his stamp of approval.
The Cubs are viewed as one of the most improved teams of the off-season and one of the winners of the winter. And for the Cubs to be successful and reach their goal in 2015, it will take a total team effort.
Jim Duquette thinks the Cubs are one of five teams that took the biggest step forward and could be “the most fun team to watch in baseball.” The Cubs “grabbed the baseball world’s attention by convincing” Jon Lester to sign with the team. And Duquette likes the way the front office bolstered its roster with Jason Hammel, Miguel Montero and Dexter Fowler. But it’s the kids that should be the difference with “the presence of dynamic young position players such as Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, Javier Baez and Addison Russell.”
While the off-season is not over yet and there is still plenty of time for the Padres to pull off another trade and James Shields remains unemployed, the Cubs had the second best winter of any team in baseball outside of their rivals on the South Side according to Jon Heyman.
Heyman said Joe Maddon is a perfect fit for the Cubs and is “worth every penny of that $25 million.” Like Duquette, Heyman pointed out signing Lester “showed how serious” the Cubs are about winning. Heyman also likes the additions of Fowler, Montero and Hammel.
In response to Jesse Sanchez’s report Friday night that Yoan Moncada received the necessary clearance from the government to sign with a team, Ben Badler reported Saturday morning that Moncada cannot sign with a team yet. Major League Baseball is “the hurdle and will not let him sign.”
According to Ben Badler, MLB sent “another memo to teams explaining that their policy for now remains the same, and to hold off on signing Cuban players until they figure out how to proceed.” The memo teams received clearly indicated in bold type according to Ben Badler, “do not enter into agreements with Cuban players until you receive further notice from the Commissioner’s Office.”
Yoan Moncada and several of the Cuban players including Andy Ibanez and Hector Olivera received notification from OFAC that the government “considers them to be unblocked but it is OFAC’s policy not to grant specific licenses authorizing transactions for which the provisions of an outstanding general license are applicable.”
Now the issue is in the hands of Major League Baseball and OFAC could provide “guidance by early next week” according to Jeff Passan.
Passan explained, “Baseball is seeking clarification from OFAC and other governmental offices to ensure it is protected in case Cuban players in the future use forged documents, achieve residency through illegal means of somehow run afoul of the law, which the league worries would expose it to prosecution under the Trading With the Enemies Act.”
News, Notes and Rumors
Comcast SportsNet reported Chicago said goodbye to Mr. Cub Ernie Banks.
According to Ken Rosenthal, the Padres’ A.J. Preller is not done shaping his roster this off-season. Preller has discussed INF Luis Sardinas with the Brewers. Preller and Sardinas have a history from their time in Texas. And Preller is “also in touch with the Phillies” for Cole Hamels. Rosenthal said there are doubts San Diego has enough to give Ruben Amaro Jr. for Hamels.
The recently released Lance Rymel signed a minor league contract with the Colorado Rockies according to Baseball America.
Pete Carroll and Scott Boras are close friends and have been since living in the same dorm together in college.
Jon Lester and Aces are one of the biggest winners of the off-season according to Jon Heyman.
Keith Law posted the 10 best prospects beyond his top 100 list … LHP Justin Nicolino (Marlins), LHP Sean Manaea (Royals), RHP Francelis Montas (White Sox), 2B Dilson Herrera (Mets), RHP Matt Wisler (Padres), RHP Miguel Castro (Blue Jays), OF Aristides Aquino (Reds), C Francisco Mejia (Indians), RHP Nick Kingham (Pirates) and Willy Adames (Rays).
A must read from Baseball America’s John Manuel … a question and answer with Rob Manfred. And the new commissioner acknowledged baseball adding a combine, similar to the NFL something Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have talked about publicly they would like to see added, is a topic for the next CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement).
This Day In Cubstory
2009 – Cubs signed free agent Paul Bako
2007 – Cubs signed free agent Cliff Floyd
2004 – Cubs signed free agent Charlie Greene
1986 – Cubs signed free agent Matt Keough
1976 – Phil Norton, born
1968 – Kent Mercker, born
1966 – Eddie Zambrano, born
1961 – Cubs signed amateur free agent Bob Raudman
1910 – Cubs traded Fred Liese and cash to the Boston Doves for Ginger Beaumont
1908 – Vince Barton, born
1894 – Walt Golvin, born
1858 – Lew Brown, born