Baseball’s Winter Meetings conclude today with the Rule 5 Draft (9:00am CST). The Cubs 40-man roster officially stands at 39 players. The front office could select a player but after dropping hints that was a possibility, according to Carrie Muskat the Cubs are not expected to take a player in the draft.
The Cubs will likely lose at least one player, RHP Corey Black, in the Major League phase.
With one spot open on the roster, the front office has decisions to make. The Cubs should announce the PTBNL in the Starlin Castro–Adam Warren trade as early as Thursday. And Trevor Cahill will have to be placed back on the roster once his contract is finalized.
It was a successful Winter Meetings for the Chicago Cubs. The front office signed a player they had coveted for a longtime in Ben Zobrist and acquired depth for the pitching staff in Adam Warren. But the Cubs had to say good-bye to Starlin Castro in order to add two players to the roster.
Jed Hoyer said Wednesday night the Cubs are not done. Hoyer did not think the front office would complete any more deals before the Winter Meetings ended. The Cubs have a need in center field and are still exploring trades and free agent signings.
Hoyer doesn’t think the outfield market has kicked off yet. Hoyer told the Sun-Times he feels it “will fairly soon.” Hoyer explained, “It’s just a matter of time before that market starts, but I don’t really have a feel for how it’s going to develop.”
The Cubs are believed to be working on more than finding a solution for center field. Multiple outlets continue to link the Cubs to the Padres and Indians on deals for a controllable starting pitcher.
The front office is “much more focused on the short-term” than they were. Hoyer explained it’s “more about rounding out the team.”
According to the Sun-Times, “The team already had moved into a stronger position to fill its outfield priority, thanks to a boost from the business department in recent weeks and the signing of free agent switch-hitter Zobrist this week.”
By trading Starlin Castro and the remaining $38 million he is guaranteed and signing Ben Zobrist to the four-year, $56 million contract, those moves gave the front office “some flexibility now to move in a couple of different directions.”
The Sun-Times reported that a “meeting with business operations since the General Managers Meetings last month resulted in at least a slight bump in the baseball budget.” A team source told the Sun-Times, “some of the increase came out of the $12 million windfall from the Cubs’ unanticipated playoff run.” The exact amount the front office has to allocate on the big league payroll for next season is unknown.
Having Zobrist on the roster, the Sun-Times explained, increases “the Cubs’ ability to consider more possibilities as fits for the outfield upgrade they seek because of his ability to play seven positions and bat near the top of the order.”
According to the Tribune “the Cubs talked Wednesday to several teams and agents about center field” but the front office was unable to sign another free agent or complete a second trade before the Meetings ended.
The Cubs top target appears to be Jason Heyward. And reports, including one from Jon Paul Morosi, have indicated the Cubs are willing to play Heyward in center field for a couple of seasons if they can land the player.
Heyward is the biggest name on a long list of outfielders the Cubs has shown significant interest in this off-season. As Hoyer and Epstein said during the Meetings, the Cubs are being connected to every available outfielder, but there is a small group the front office appears to be more interested in than the rest.
Jason Heyward is the outfielder the Cubs are pursuing followed by Alex Gordon with Denard Span, Carlos Gonzalez and Gerardo Parra well behind.
Denard Span is a viable option for center field. The Cubs tried to trade for Span last winter, but the Nationals were focused on winning The Series and were not going to deal Span. Scott Boras represents Span and he said Wednesday that his client is healthy and due to the interest he’s receiving will likely sign a multi-year contract.
The Cubs were not able to fill the hole in center field during the Meetings, but the off-season is not over. The Cubs outfield picture should come into focus in the next two weeks leading up to Christmas.
According to a report from Jon Paul Morosi, the Padres have interest in Javier Baez, but there does not appear to be any momentum toward a deal. It was reported Wednesday the Padres are being aggressive and will listen on anyone, including Tyson Ross. Ken Rosenthal indicated the Padres had at least one deal working Tuesday.
The Cubs have been linked to the Padres through media reports since last April. The Padres had interest in trading for Starlin Castro eight months ago. It’s believed the front office discussed multiple scenarios with A.J. Preller leading up to the July 31 deadline that would have netted the Cubs pitching.
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer would like to acquire a young, controllable starting pitcher. Tyson Ross is one of the starters the Cubs are interested in based on countless reports.
Javier Baez has been in the news a lot this week. Baez is going to see playing time in center field while he is playing ball this winter in Puerto Rico. And Baez was the player the Rays targeted in their discussions with the Cubs for pitching when the Meetings started on Monday.
Jed Hoyer addressed the team’s plans for Baez after Ben Zobrist’s introductory press conference. Hoyer talked about Baez being Zobrist-like in that the Cubs are “looking to play him all over the field, move him around the diamond.”
The Cubs may not want to trade him and Joe Maddon views Jorge Soler as part of the team’s future. But the Cubs are talking to teams about him.
Jon Paul Morosi reported Wednesday night that the Cubs had conversations with the Indians about Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco. The Cubs are believed to have both of the Indians’ starters high on list of young, controllable arms the front office would like to acquire this winter. Morosi said that Soler was part of a package of players that was discussed with the Indians for one of the pitchers.
Those conversations have stalled according to Morosi. There is no momentum toward a deal being completed.
The Cubs have “continued trade dialogue” with the Padres and Indians about Tyson Ross, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar.
News, Notes and Rumors
• According to Buster Olney, the Braves have no intentions of trading RHP Julio Teheran “at this point.” The Braves would like for him to anchor what will be a young pitching staff.
• The Padres are trying to sign RHP Fernando Rodney with an incentive-laden deal according to Jon Heyman. The Cubs are one of the other teams interested in the veteran reliever.
• Carlos Gonzalez’s trade value is going up by the minute according to Joel Sherman. Jon Paul Morosi reported the Rockies are willing to trade any of their three outfielders … Carlos Gonzalez, Charlie Blackmon or Corey Dickerson.
• Emilio Bonifacio signed a one-year, $1.25 million Major League contract with the Braves. Bonifacio’s deal includes an incentives package in which he can earn another $1.25 million. Bonifacio re-signed with the Cubs on a minor league deal last year after the White Sox released him. The Cubs dealt Bonifacio and James Russell to the Braves in July 2014 for catching prospect Victor Caratini.
• The Blue Jays and Darwin Barney agreed to terms on a one-year contract. Barney received a Major League contract from Toronto after spending the last month of the regular season with the Jays.
• The Players Union is handling Kris Bryant’s grievance against the Cubs.
• The Giants and Cardinals are interested in Wei-Yin Chen according to Jon Heyman.
• It doesn’t appear Mike Leake will be reuniting with Dusty Baker in D.C. The Nationals were reportedly pushing to sign Leake on Wednesday and made him an offer. Ken Rosenthal reported the Nationals have cooled on him and it’s unlikely he ends up there.
• The A’s signed veteran reliever John Axford for two years and $10 million.
• The Astros paid a huge price but Houston acquired RHP Ken Giles from the Phillies. The Astros sent RHP Vince Velasquez, OF Derek Fisher, LHP Brett Oberholtzer and RHP Thomas Eshelman to Philly for Giles.
This Day In Cubstory
2014 – Cubs agreed to terms with free agent Jon Lester
2009 – Cubs selected Mike Parisi from the Cardinals in the Rule 5 Draft
2003 – Cubs signed free agent Gary Glover
2001 – Cubs acquired Alex Gonzalez from the Blue Jays for Felix Heredia and a PTBNL. Cubs sent Jim Deschaine to the Blue Jays on Dec. 13 to complete the trade.
1996 – Cubs signed free agent Mel Rojas
1993 – Cubs signed free agent Roberto Rivera
1993 – Cubs released William Brennan
1993 – Cubs traded Chuck McElroy to the Reds for Mike Anderson, Darron Cox and Larry Luebbers
1991 – Cubs granted free agency to Steve Carter
1982 – Cubs signed free agent Wayne Nordhagen
1982 – Cubs traded Ty Waller to the White Sox for Reggie Patterson
1982 – Cubs acquired Chuck Rainey from the Red Sox for Doug Bird
1966 – Mel Rojas, born
1963 – Rick Wrona, born
1960 – Paul Assenmacher, born
1957 – Cubs traded Tom Poholsky to the Giants for Freddy Rodriguez
1944 – Steve Renko, born
1938 – Cubs released Tony Lazzeri
1933 – Cubs signed free agent Oscar Judd
1932 – Ed Donnelly, born
1925 – Cubs traded a PTBNL and additional compensation to Louisville (American Association) for Red Shannon. Cubs sent Pinky Pittenger to Louisville on Dec. 28 to complete the trade.