November 2011

11/30 Pujols & Fielder, Wood & the CBA

What about the Cubs’ reported interest in free agents Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder? GM Jed Hoyer would not comment specifically on the team’s rumored link to the two first basemen.

“As I’ve stated in the past, we’re a major market team and we’re going to be involved across the spectrum,” Hoyer said. “I’m not going to address whether we’re on or off individual players other than the fact that we’re in contact with a lot of teams and a lot of agents and we’re doing everything we can to improve the team for next year and the future.”

What is not a secret is that Hoyer has been in contact with Kerry Wood’s agent, Pat Rooney, regarding a new deal for the pitcher for 2012.

“We’d love to bring Kerry back,” Hoyer said. “He had a great year last year and he’s an excellent ambassador for the Cubs. The stated goal of bringing Kerry back has been made very clear.”

As far as the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Cubs front office is still studying the new rules to determine how it will affect their plan.

“There are big changes, and Major League Baseball and the union made these changes for the greater good and it’s our job to figure out how it impacts our strategy,” Hoyer said. “It certainly will. I don’t think we’re at a place right now to say what we’re going to do because we’re still meeting on this. It is a significant topic of discussion in our office right now and it’s something we need to do a great job of adjusting to. The teams that adjust quickest will have an advantage there and we need to be among the teams that move quickly.”

– Carrie Muskat

11/30 Cubs have new RF in DeJesus

The Cubs have a new right fielder as GM Jed Hoyer made his first on-field transaction Wednesday, signing David DeJesus to a two-year contract with an option for a third year. DeJesus will earn $4.25 million each of the next two years, and the 2014 option year is for $6.5 million with a $1.5 million buyout.

“We don’t see him as a platoon player,” Hoyer said of DeJesus. “Does that mean he won’t get days off against tough lefties? I’m sure we’ll try to provide that support and flexibility for Dale [Sveum] but we’re not signing [DeJesus] as a platoon player.”

DeJesus has averaged 33 doubles, eight triples, 11 home runs and 70 RBIs per 162 games in his career, playing for the Royals (2003-10) and Athletics (2011). In 2010, he set career highs with a .318 batting average and .384 on-base percentage in 91 games but his season ended early because of a right thumb injury shortly after the All-Star break. Theo Epstein, the Cubs president of baseball operations, tried to acquire DeJesus prior to the Trading Deadline in 2010.

The outfielder was dealt to the A’s after the 2010 season, and last year, batted .240 with 20 doubles, five triples, 10 home runs, 60 runs scored and 46 RBIs in 131 games. He did hit .270 with a .342 on-base percentage after the All-Star Break last year.

“One thing you try to do whenever you acquire players is have a broader lens than just the previous year,” Hoyer said. “With David, he was one of the most sought after players in the trade market in 2010 before he hurt his thumb.

“We feel very good that he’ll come into Chicago and bounce back,” Hoyer said.

Hoyer said he likes DeJesus’ defense plus his ability to hit right-handed pitching well, make contact, and run the bases. In 2011, DeJesus had a 241-game errorless streak. He won’t bring much power but does give the Cubs a left-handed bat in the lineup, part of Hoyer’s efforts to get more balance. The team is still in the market for another left-hand hitter.

What about Tyler Colvin? The outfielder struggled to hit .150 with six homers in 80 games last season after hitting 20 homers and batting .254 in 2010.

“He’s certainly not out of the picture,” Hoyer said. “Tyler struggled in 2011. He has to come to camp and bounce back from last year. We’re trying to round out our lineup and do everything we can to put the best team we can on the field. I think Tyler, given the year he had, he needs to bounce back and that starts in Spring Training.”

One person ecstatic over the signing is DeJesus’ wife, Kim, who tweeted: “I was born a cubs fan, and now im married to one!!!!! COULDNT BE MORE EXCITED!!!!!!!!!!!!! GOOOOO CUBBIES!!!!!!!!!!”

– Carrie Muskat

11/30 Cubs sign David DeJesus

The Cubs and outfielder David DeJesus agreed to terms on a two-year contract with a club option for 2014. The team announced the deal Wednesday. DeJesus, who turns 32 next month, joins the Cubs after all or part of nine Major League seasons with the Royals (2003-2010) and Athletics (2011), posting a career .284 batting average with 207 doubles, 50 triples, 71 home runs, 436 RBIs and a .356 on-base percentage in 1,007 big league contests.  He has averaged 33 doubles, eight triples, 11 home runs and 70 RBIs per 162 games in his career. He’s primarily played the corner outfield positions the last three seasons.

– Carrie Muskat 

11/30 Hoyer on Maddux, Pena & Z

In an interview Tuesday with MLB Network radio on Sirius XM, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer addressed Greg Maddux’s departure, Carlos Pena and Carlos Zambrano:

* On Maddux joining the Rangers as a special assistant to the general manager, Hoyer said the family tie was strong. Greg’s brother Mike is the Rangers pitching coach.

“He’s talked to us about working with his brother and that’s something that’s obviously really important to him,” Hoyer said. “That’s something that’s awfully hard to disagree with that.

“He’s obviously a brilliant baseball mind,” Hoyer said. “I hope we can sometime work together. He’s an incredibly impressive guy and brings a lot of value to the Cubs. The ability to work with family is hard to stand in the way.”

* On the decision to offer Carlos Pena arbitration:

“When you look at Pena, he’s going to have a really big market,” Hoyer said. “I don’t think there’s any question about that. You look at the first base market and he stands out as a run producer. He’s likely to receive a multi-year deal and do very well in the market. That’s what drove our decision. People here talked highly about him last year but a lot of the decision was driven by the knowledge that he’ll have a big multi-year market.”

Which could mean the Cubs would bring Pena back, but did not want to commit to a long-term deal.

* As for Zambrano, Hoyer said he was impressed the pitcher flew to Chicago to meet with Theo Epstein.

“[Zambrano] expressed a lot of regret about what happened this year,” Hoyer said. “The challenge with Carlos is that this has happened multiple times, it’s not a one-time thing. We can’t just act like it was a one off situation. It’s been a little bit of a pattern. Internally, we’ve discussed the things he needs to do to apologize to his teammates and to make things right internally. I think he can certainly be back but there’s a list of things he needs to do and we’ll keep those internal. It’s been a trend and something that has to stop but he’s also immensely talented and had a lot of well-pitched games here in Chicago. It is a process and we’re just starting that process now.”

– Carrie Muskat

11/29 Ricketts on Wrigley, Z, the CBA & more

In September, Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said he had a hard time imagining Carlos Zambrano returning to the Cubs after the pitcher’s early exit in August. But Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein is giving Zambrano another chance to earn his way back. Ricketts said Tuesday he will defer to Epstein.

“What Theo said publicly is he’s willing to give Carlos a chance to earn his way back on the team,” Ricketts said. “It’s [Epstein's]decision and I support it 100 percent.”

* Baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement will cap the amount of dollars a team can commit to their Draft picks. That means a team’s front office will have to be creative.

“It’ll be a strategic change for some teams who were planning to spend more than what their caps would be,” Ricketts said.

The Cubs spent $12 million on players in last June’s First-Year Player Draft. In the two previous Drafts in 2009 and 2010, they spent a total of  $8.7 million combined. Did Ricketts see the changes coming?

“People knew this was an issue that would be discussed in the CBA,” he said Tuesday. “I was personally surprised at how far it went. I thought there might be some changes, but I wasn’t sure how far it would go. It’s a big shift, a bigger shift than I expected. We knew it was a possibility that something like this would come in.”

Will it change how the Cubs select players? Ricketts deferred to Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer on how their resources are allocated.

* Ricketts is talking to city officials on what they can do to get rennovations done at Wrigley Field. It’s unlikely they’ll have everything done by 2014, the ballpark’s 100th anniversary.

“There’s nothing concrete at this point — no pun intended,” Ricketts said.

* Ricketts met new manager Dale Sveum in Milwaukee during the GM Meetings and had a couple beers with him before he was hired.

“There was no litmus test kind of question that I wanted to hear,” Ricketts said. “I would be supportive of the decision of the baseball guys. I thought it would be good to sit down and talk to him and get to know him and I was very impressed.”

* The Cubs once again passed over Ryne Sandberg for the manager’s job, but Ricketts said the Hall of Fame second baseman will “always be a part of the Cubs family.”

* On Monday, the Cubs and family of late broadcaster and third baseman Ron Santo will find out if he’s going into the Hall of Fame.

“Obviously, Ron belongs in the Hall of Fame,” Ricketts said. “We’re doing what we can to get that message out to people who have the power to make that decision and we’re hopeful they’ll see it that way this weekend.”

* The Cubs hope for groundbreaking early next year on the new Spring Training facility in Mesa, Ariz.

* There is talk of the Cubs rebuilding. Usually that means going with youth. Can they win next year?

“Of course, we can win in 2012,” Ricketts said. “Like I said [at the end of the season], you get 25 guys playing hard, working together, and stay healthy, baseball tells you anything can happen when you get that. We’ll see how the offseason goes. I imagine we’ll be right in it next year.”

It seemed as if the honeymoon ended quickly for the Ricketts family, who took over the Cubs in October 2009. The team has finished in fifth place in back to back seasons.

“I really don’t think of it in terms of ‘Q ratings’ or honeymoons,” Ricketts said. “In the end, if we win, people will think we were good owners, and if we lose, we’re bad owners. As long as you focus on doing what you can to win, everything will fall into place.”

– Carrie Muskat

11/29 Pujols or Fielder? It’s up to Theo

The Cubs are reportedly in contact with agents for Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, and while chairman Tom Ricketts would not comment on either, he said it’s not out of the question that the team would offer a long-term deal to anyone. That call, Ricketts said, is up to Theo Epstein, the Cubs president of baseball operations.

The Cubs are currently saddled with Alfonso Soriano’s deal, which will pay him $54 million over the next three years, and at least one more year for Carlos Zambrano, who is owed $18 million in 2012. Those contracts were done under former GM Jim Hendry. Asked if the Cubs would offer a mega deal to another player, Ricketts deferred to Epstein.

“Like I’ve always said, there is one person responsible for making those decisions, and one person accountable for those results,” Ricketts said Tuesday. “So if [Epstein] believes strongly that’s what’s in the best interests of the team, then he’s got my support.”

According to ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick, the Cubs have contacted Pujols agent to express their interest in the first baseman.
Crasnick said talks between the team and Pujols’ agent Dan Lozano are in the early stages. The Cardinals and Marlins are actively pursuing the three-time Most Valuable Player and nine-time All-Star. The Cardinals, Nationals and Marlins also are bidding for Pujols, and the Cubs’ alleged involvement may simply be one way to drive up his price.

FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi reported Tuesday the Cubs were interested in both Pujols and Fielder, a favorite of new manager Dale Sveum. FOX Sports said restrictions on amateur spending will make it more difficult to build through the Draft, something Epstein wants to do in Chicago, which is why they are pursuing Pujols and Fielder.

– Carrie Muskat

11/29 Greg Maddux joins Rangers

It’s official. Greg Maddux will become a special assistant to Rangers GM Jon Daniels. The four-time Cy Young winner held that position with the Cubs since January 2010.

– Carrie Muskat

11/29 Quirk to be Cubs bench coach

Jamie Quirk, who has spent the last two seasons as the Astros bullpen coach, said Tuesday he’s going to join the Cubs as Dale Sveum’s bench coach.

“It’s just a great opportunity,” Quirk said. “When Dale Sveum was interviewing, he asked me if I’d be interested if he gets any of the jobs and he got the Cubs. I talked with Theo [Epstein] and passed that test and called [former Astros GM] Ed [Wade] for permission and all that. I was excited.

“It’s the Cubbies. Who wouldn’t watch that job? They have a very famous tradition in baseball, and it will be nice to be part of turning it around.”

The appeal of the Cubs was one factor, but Quirk is eager for a chance to get back on the bench and stay more involved in the game. Most of the work he did during the season as bullpen coach was done in pre-game meetings, and he worked in the bullpen during games.

“Pretty much, once the game started I was out of it,” Quirk said. “I was looking forward to the opportunity to get back in the dugout and having more one-on-one with the manager and feeling like you’re actually helping rather than sitting back and watching. I’ve done it many years before, and I kind of missed it.”

Quirk, 57, joined the Astros two years ago after working as a professional scout in 2009. Prior to that, he had served as bench coach for the Rockies for six years (2003-08) under then-manager Clint Hurdle. He began his Major League coaching career in 1994 as bullpen coach for the Royals and later served as bench coach.

– Carrie Muskat

11/29 Winter league update

Bryan LaHair rejoined Magallanes in Venezuela and delivered a two-run homer in the third in a 10-4 win over Caracas. Cubs prospect Rebel Ridling is also playing for Magallanes and he went 3-for-4 and drove in two runs with a double in the eighth.

– Carrie Muskat 

11/29 The Cubs, Pujols & Fielder

FOX Sports cites “Major League sources” saying the Cubs are showing interest in free agents Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder. The report says the Cubs are inquiring about both because there is a small amount of sluggers available in future free agent markets and because of the new restrictions on spending in the Draft under the new CBA.

New Cubs execs Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are trying to rebuild the team, but the reality is that Pujols and Fielder don’t seem to fit their goal to build “a foundation of sustained success.” When Epstein took over the Red Sox prior to the 2003 season, he did sign David Ortiz, but got him for $1.25 million. Pujols and Fielder are looking for long-term mega deals. Those are the kind of deals (ex. Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Zambrano) the Cubs are trying to avoid. Plus, Epstein’s philosophy is to pay for future performance, not past.

– Carrie Muskat

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