January 2011

1/10 Big Z, Berg & more

It’s a busy week in Chicago for the Cubs. The Cubs Caravan will be Wednesday and Thursday, and lead up to the Cubs Convention, which will be Friday through Sunday at the Hilton Chicago. New Cubs Carlos Pena and Matt Garza both are expected to attend. But wait, there’s more:

* On Wednesday, Cubs pitcher Justin Berg will join Lil’ Ed and the Blue
Imperials at Buddy Guy’s Legends in downtown Chicago. Showtime is 9
p.m., and tickets are $15. All proceeds go to the Ryan and Jenny
Dempster Family Foundation. The event will include a silent auction and
live auction of two electric guitars autographed by Berg, Lil’ Ed and
the Band, and Buddy Guy.

* On Saturday, Carlos Zambrano will host a party at 8fifty8, 858 W. Lake Street, Chicago, to raise money for the Big Z Foundation. There will be giveaways, a live raffle and silent auction. The event will start at 9 p.m. CT and the donation cover charge is $20. One hundred percent of the proceeds will go to the Big Z Foundation.

— Carrie Muskat

1/9 Winter ball update

Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro was hitless in three at-bats in Escogido’s 5-4 loss to Gigantes Saturday in the Dominican playoffs. Escogido dropped to 5-6.

— Carrie Muskat

1/8 Garza deal for present & future

GM Jim Hendry wanted to make it clear that giving up top prospects like Chris Archer, Hak-Ju Lee and Brandon Guyer to acquire Matt Garza was done not only to help the Cubs in 2011 but also for the next few years.

“Matt’s 27 and he’s going to be a Cub for awhile,” Hendry said Saturday. “We look at this as a great trade for the present and the future. For the Rays’ sake, they weren’t able to hold onto some of their talent through free agency that left because of their situation and look what they’ve done and the way they’ve re-tooled before and they have great young pitching in the Minor Leagues. I have no doubt they’ll re-tool again and be a factor in the American League East, and probably sooner than people think. This was a trade for not just now for us. We’re not giving away the farm to try to win in one year. That couldn’t be farther from the truth with a guy like Matt Garza.”

Why did Garza come at such a steep price? Because he’s heading into what will likely be prime time for the right-hander and he also will be under team control through the 2013 season.

Garza got his first look at Wrigley Field on Friday. He has never pitched there.

“I had the pleasure of seeing it yesterday in its snow-covered glory,” he said. “It was outstanding and I love it. As long as the dimensions are the same, I’ll be all right.”

He is coming from a team that won 96 games and the tough AL East. The Cubs finished fifth in the NL Central.

“Before the Rays won 96 games, they were in the cellar of the AL East,” Garza said. “We just went in there with all positives. We went in there [and said] ‘We’re in for a dogfight so let’s go get them.’ That’s the same attitude I take year in and year out. It’s going to be a dogfight no matter who you face. Our opponents are Major League ballplayers so nothing is going to be handed to us. Right now, it’s going to be a tough race and let’s see how we get ready and get it done. Why not?”

— Carrie Muskat

1/8 Perez eager to join Cubs

Outfielder Fernando Perez told the St. Petersburg Times he was “very excited” about going to the Cubs. Perez was reported to be one of the Rays Minor League players included in the deal in which the Cubs get pitcher Matt Garza. Chicago will send five players to Tampa Bay, including Chris Archer, Hak-Ju Lee, Brandon Guyer, Robinson Chirinos and Sam Fuld. The deal could be announced Saturday.
“I think there’s a lot of reasons I really liked the Rays, it’s the only place I’ve ever known,” Perez told the Times in a phone interview Friday. “I loved it there. And I’m prone to sentimentalism. … But the opportunity is probably better [in Chicago], so I’m excited. I would have loved for it to have worked out in Tampa Bay, and it was probably going to happen before I hurt my wrist [in Spring Training 2009] and everyone forgot my name.”

A switch-hitting outfielder, Perez came off the bench for the Rays in the 2008 World Series. He dislocated his wrist diving for a fly ball in Spring Training. He’s healthy now.

“I’m totally looking ahead,” he said. “Who wouldn’t want to play for the Cubs?”

Cubs GM Jim Hendry called Perez Friday and told him there were people within the organization who had wanted the speedy outfielder for some time.

“I’m really, really excited,” Perez said. “I’m sad to go. … I know this is a business, and that’s how it works.”

Perez has acknowledged the deal on his Twitter account, saying, “Getting traded is so distracting! Readin same pg over&over thinkin ’bout ivy and pena doing dugout dance b4 WS game garza starts & wins”

That may be a reference to the decisive Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on Oct. 19, 2008, between the Rays and Red Sox, which Garza, Carlos Pena and Tampa Bay won, 3-1. Garza gave up one run on two hits and struck out nine over seven innings, and was named MVP of the series.

Perez has appeared in 41 games with the Rays in 2008 and ’09, and was on the roster for the ’08 postseason. He appeared in the ninth inning of Game 5 of the World Series as a pinch-runner and stole second. But the Phillies won the game, 4-3, and the series.

— Carrie Muskat

1/8 Winter ball update

Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro and outfielder Brad Snyder were both hitless but Escogido got enough offense to beat Estrellas, 2-1, on Friday in the Dominican League playoffs. Both Escogido and Estrellas are 5-5. In Venezuela, Cubs prospect Marwin Gonzalez went 1-for-3 with a double in Caracas’ 3-2 loss to Aragua.

— Carrie Muskat

1/7 Cubs Caravan

The Cubs announced the players, coaches and front office personnel who will take part in next week’s Cubs Caravan. There will be two tour groups. On Wednesday, group No. 1 will include Randy Wells, Justin Berg, James Russell, Bob Dernier, DJ LeMahieu, Chris Carpenter, Oneri Fleita, Ivan DeJesus and Dave Keller. Bob Brenly and Dave Otto will take part in the morning sessions, and Len Kasper will join the tour in the afternoon.

Tour No. 2 Wednesday will include Mike Quade, Sean Marshall, Andrew Cashner, Koyie Hill, Jay Jackson, Lester Strode, Randy Bush and Mark Riggins. Kasper will take part in the morning session and Otto will cover in the afternoon.

On Thursday, Tour group No. 1 will include Pat Hughes, Blake DeWitt, Berg, Wells, Hill, Jackson, Carpenter, Fleita, Strode, Riggins, Dernier, and Keller. Group No. 2 will include Quade, Sean Marshall, Kasper, Bush, DeJesus, Russell, Cashner, LeMahieu. Elio Benitez will join the group at Strode School.

— Carrie Muskat

1/7 Len & Bob Bash

The last four years, Cubs TV broadcasters Len Kasper and Bob Brenly have hosted a fund-raising concert in Chicago before the Cubs Convention. This year, Kasper and Brenly are working with the Cubs on a summer date. The fifth “Len and Bob Bash” is coming. Stay tuned.

— Carrie Muskat

1/7 Archer key to Garza deal

The Cubs and Rays have talked since the Winter Meetings about a possible trade but the Cubs were reluctant to part with 22-year-old Chris Archer. Earlier this week, discussions broke off. But the Rays called again to say another team had entered the bidding. The Cubs decided to include Archer in the package. The Cubs will send five players to the Rays for Garza and two Minor Leaguers, and the deal will be complete once all undergo physicals.

Archer combined to go 15-3 with a 2.34 ERA in 28 games between Class A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee in 2010. Acquired from the Indians in December 2008 in the Mark DeRosa trade, he was 8-2 with a 1.80 ERA with the Smokies.

On Oct. 12, Archer struck out 10 and threw six scoreless innings for Team USA to help beat Cuba, 4-1, in the Pan American Qualifying Tournament in Puerto Rico. On Friday, he was attending the Rookie Career Development Program in Leesburg, Va., when he got news of the pending trade and left to get a physical exam.

— Carrie Muskat

1/7 Archer update

Chris Archer was attending a Rookie Career Development Program in Leesburg, VA, on Friday when he got the news about the pending trade. Archer and four other Cubs Minor Leaguers are headed to the Rays in exchange for pitcher Matt Garza and two Minor Leaguers, pending physicals. Archer is now scheduled for an exam and then hoped to return to the program.

— Carrie Muskat

1/7 Cubs to get Garza in 8-player deal

The Cubs apparently are close to acquiring Rays pitcher Matt Garza for five Minor League players, including 2010 Pitcher of the Year Chris Archer and 2010 Player of the Year Brandon Guyer. The deal will be finalized once the players undergo physicals.

Sources said Friday the framework is in place for the multi-player swap in which Chicago would get Garza in exchange for Archer, Guyer, shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, catcher Robinson Chirinos and outfielder Sam Fuld. The Cubs also would get two Minor League players from the Rays. According to the Arlington Heights (Ill.) Daily Herald, one of the players is outfielder Fernando Perez, 27, who batted .234 in 107 big league
appearances. He hit .223 at Triple-A last year.

Team officials would not confirm the trade. Earlier this week, the Chicago Sun-Times reported the Cubs were close to acquiring Garza but both teams denied anything was imminent. The Daily Herald reported Friday that a deal was in the works and had the names.

Garza, 27, would join a rotation with Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Randy Wells, Tom Gorzelanny, and Carlos Silva. The Rays right-hander was 15-10 with a 3.91 ERA last season, and would definitely give the team a boost and help counter moves made this offseason by the Brewers, who added starters Zach Greinke and Shaun Marcum. The Cubs have been looking for an innings-eater type pitcher.

Garza is arbitration-eligible for the second time and will get a raise from his $3.35 million salary in 2010. Archer combined to go 15-3 with a 2.34 ERA in 28 games between Class A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee. He was 8-2 with a 1.80 ERA with the Smokies, and also had a 10-strikeout game in the Pan-Am Qualifying Tournament this winter. Archer was acquired from the Indians in December 2008.

Guyer batted .344 with 39 doubles, six triples, 13 homers, 50 RBIs and a .398 on-base percentage. He was the Cubs’ fifth round pick in 2007.

Lee batted .282 in 122 games with Class A Peoria. Chirinos batted .318 with 15 homers and 64 RBIs at Tennessee and hit .364 with three homers and 10 RBIs with Triple-A Iowa. Fuld has a career .285 Minor League average and has hit .252 in 98 big league games with the Cubs.

— Carrie Muskat