October 2011

10/29 Dempster exercises option

Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster has exercised his $14 million player option for 2012. The Cubs were informed of his decision on Saturday. Dempster, 34, is coming off a 10-14 season in which did reach the 200 inning mark for the fourth straight year. However, he also posted his highest ERA in four seasons as a starter with the Cubs (4.80) and had one of the worst Aprils, posting a 1-3 record and 9.58 ERA in six starts.

“I’m excited,” Dempster said Saturday. “I had a chance to talk to Theo [Epstein, president of baseball operations]. I’m excited for the Cubs organization and not just for myself personaly. They want to be a place where they’re not trying to just win the World Series. They want a chance to be contenders every single year. I think that’s awesome.”

Dempster was impressed by Epstein, who left the Red Sox after nine years as the general manager to take over the Cubs baseball operations.

“He’s had some succes and that gives you a lot of confidence,” Dempster said. “As players we’ll go out there every year and try to do the best we can. I think they’re going to hold us to the highest standard. That’s important that we live up to that.”

The right-hander was selected as the Cubs’ Opening Day starter, and now joins Matt Garza, Randy Wells and possibly Carlos Zambrano. Dempster will be back in Chicago Thursday to host an event at The Palm Restaurant for his foundation. He definitely wasn’t happy with the 2011 season.

“I just want to go out and do better,” he said.

— Carrie Muskat

10/29 Winter ball updates

Bryan LaHair was 0-for-3 Friday in Magallanes’ 3-1 loss to Aragua in Venezuelan Winter League play. LaHair was batting .286 with six homers and nine RBIs. Here are some updates on other Cubs playing in winter leagues:

* Steve Clevenger was batting .211 in eight games in the Dominican.
* Marwin Gonzalez was hitting .314 in 12 games with Caribes in Venezuela.
* John Gaub has given up two runs in his last four outings, and did not allow a run or hit on Friday against Licey in the Dominican. He has four strikeouts over 2 2/3 innings.
* Scott Maine has a 3.86 ERA in four games in the Dominican, pitching for Estrellas. He has struck out three over 2 1/3 innings.
* Blake Parker has not given up a hit or run in 9 1/3 innings over nine games in relief for Hermosillo in Mexico. He has struck out 11 and walked two.

— Carrie Muskat

10/29 Roster moves

Free agency begins tonight. Major League Baseball and the Players Association agreed to a 24-hour delay to the start of free agency, and will officially begin at 11:01 p.m. CT Saturday. All team/player/mutual option decisions are due by 10:59 p.m. CT Monday. That means Aramis Ramirez and Ryan Dempster must decide by then whether they want to remain with the Cubs. Free agents will be able to sign contracts with new teams starting at 11:01 p.m. CT Wednesday.

Free agents: Carlos Pena, John Grabow, Kerry Wood, Rodrigo Lopez, Ramon Ortiz and Reed Johnson.

Options: Aramis Ramirez, $16 million mutual option ($2 million buyout); Ryan Dempster, $14 million player option

Arbitration eligible players: Randy Wells, Blake DeWitt, Geovany Soto, Matt Garza, Jeff Baker, Koyie Hill.

— Carrie Muskat


10/29 Cubs, Red Sox face deadline

Tuesday is the deadline for the Cubs and Red Sox to reach an agreement on compensation for Theo Epstein. If not, MLB commissioner Bud Selig will step in. On Friday, Selig said he may have to decide which Minor League players go to the Red Sox.

“They have until Nov. 1 … before this comes to me,” Selig said prior to Game 7 of the World Series in St. Louis. “If I had to guess it’ll be another thing that I have to deal with on Nov. 1.”

Epstein, who left Boston to become the Cubs president of baseball operations, has been negotiating with his replacement, new Red Sox GM Ben Cherington. The two teams were unable to settle on compensation before Epstein left Boston because the Cubs did not establish parameters as to what players would be available to the Red Sox. Boston aimed high, asking for Matt Garza or Starlin Castro.

— Carrie Muskat

10/28 AFL update

DJ LeMahieu was 1-for-4 in Mesa’s 10-3 win over Peoria on Friday in Arizona Fall League play. LeMahieu is batting .297 in the AFL. None of the other Cubs prospects played in the game. On Saturday, Mesa plays host to Peoria at HoHoKam Park. First pitch is 12:35 p.m. MT.

— Carrie Muskat

10/27 Junior Lake steals 2 in AFL play

Junior Lake increased his league-leading stolen base totals to 13 with two steals Thursday but it wasn’t enough as the Mesa Solar Sox lost 8-7 to Scottsdale in Arizona Fall League play. Lake’s 13 steals matches the 2009 and 2010 AFL season highs, set by Chase D’Arnaud and Ben Revere. Bryce Harper hit a three-run walkoff homer to lift Scottsdale to the win. Lake, who started at third and batted third, went 1-for-5, while Josh Vitters, who started in right and batted fourth, was 0-for-5. On Friday, Mesa travels to Peoria. The Cubs’ Andrew Cashner was expected to pitch in relief either Friday or Saturday. He’s been slowed by a sore oblique.

— Carrie Muskat

10/27 Bush expected to stay with Cubs

Although the Cubs are keeping quiet on announcements now that the World Series has resumed play, the team was expected to officially announce next week that Randy Bush will stay as an assistant general manager. Bush took over as interim GM when Jim Hendry was dismissed in August. Bush has been in the Cubs’ front office since January 2005. He also was the Minor League hitting coordinator in 1999.

Expect a news conference next week at Wrigley Field to introduce new GM Jed Hoyer and scouting and player development director Jason McLeod, who were the Cubs’ most recent hires.

— Carrie Muskat

10/27 Big Z to pitch in Venezuela – UPDATE

Carlos Zambrano’s next game could be this month in Venezuela. Zambrano was expected to pitch for Caribes in the Venezuelan Winter League. The right-hander’s season ended on Aug. 12 in Atlanta. He gave up five home runs in that game, then was ejected for throwing inside at Chipper Jones. Zambrano was placed on the 30-day restricted list and not paid during that time. He was eventually taken off that list, but there wasn’t enough time for him to get back in shape for the final few weeks of the season, and Zambrano never rejoined the Cubs.  Caribes also lists Tigers pitcher Joel Zumaya, Marlins infielder Omar Infante and Pirates outfielder Jose Tabata on the roster. Former big leaguer Julio Franco is managing the team.

— Carrie Muskat

10/26 AFL update

DJ LeMahieu had two hits, including a RBI double, and Chris Carpenter pitched two scoreless innings, striking out three, in Mesa’s 10-5 win over Scottsdale in Arizona Fall League play Wednesday. Marcus Hatley, another Cubs prospect, gave up two runs on three hits in 1 1/3 innings of relief for the Solar Sox. On Thursday, Mesa travels to Scottsdale. First pitch is scheduled for 12:35 p.m. MT. Andrew Cashner was slated to pitch in the game in relief.

— Carrie Muskat

10/26 Cubs add Hoyer, McLeod from Padres

Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod are together again, and they hope to do the same for the Cubs as they did for the Red Sox. The Cubs announced Wednesday that Hoyer and McLeod will leave the Padres front office to join Epstein’s baseball operations department in Chicago, effective immediately. The Cubs have agreed to send the Padres a player to be named later as compensation.

Hoyer, who was the Padres general manager, takes over as the Cubs’ GM, while McLeod will be the head of scouting and player development. Current Cubs player development director Oneri Fleita, who was given a four-year contract extension, and scouting director Tim Wilken, will report to McLeod. Both the Cubs and the Padres intend to hold press conferences after the World Series. At that time, the Padres intend to announce Josh Byrnes as Hoyer’s successor as general manager.

During Epstein’s introductory news conference on Tuesday, he said he wanted to bring in someone who is “one of the best and one of the brightest in the game and someone who can make a real impact or the Cubs.” That’s Hoyer, who rose from a baseball operations intern in 2002 with the Red Sox to an assistant the next year.

Hoyer was hired on Oct. 26, 2009, to replace Kevin Towers. Reading a slow-moving free agent market, Hoyer picked up two key pieces for the 2010 season – pitcher Jon Garland and catcher Yorvit Torrealba – at below-market value. He also added utilityman Jerry Hairston on the cheap as well. Before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline in 2010, Hoyer traded for outfielder Ryan Ludwick and shortstop Miguel Tejada, the latter being a pivotal acquisition for the stretch run. The results were a team that, built on the premise of run prevention, won 90 games, on a $37 million payroll and weren’t eliminated from the postseason chase until the final day of the regular season. There were other gains made during Hoyer’s two seasons in San Diego. He devoted more resources to player development, amateur and professional scouting and endorsed over-slot bonuses during the two First-Year Player Drafts he presided over.

Hoyer will be the 14th GM in Cubs history, taking over for Jim Hendry, who was dismissed in August.

— Carrie Muskat