December 2011

12/8 What if Pujols leaves NL Central?

There are reports Albert Pujols has left the NL Central and the Cardinals and has signed a 10-year, $250 million deal with the Angels. Cubs GM Jed Hoyer did not want to talk about Pujols until it was done:
 
“I’ll comment on that when it’s official — I’d be foolish to jump the gun,” Hoyer said Thursday.
 
Theo Epstein, Cubs president of baseball operations, also wanted to defer comment until the Pujols deal was done:
 
“I’ll just say, if he left, it’d probably be a good thing for us in terms of developing young pitching,” Epstein said Wednesday. “You get a young pitcher up there and he’s working on his third pitch and working on his fastball command and you tell him to get ahead strike one and all of a sudden, instead of a Triple-A hitter he’s got Albert Pujols there and it leaves the yard 420 to right center field and it’s not good for his confidence.”
 
– Carrie Muskat

12/8 Cubs, Rangers reportedly talk re: Garza

ESPN reported late Wednesday the Cubs have talked to the Rangers about a possible deal involving pitcher Matt Garza. However, the price is likely very high. Theo Epstein has said Garza is the type of pitcher a team builds around. The Cubs sent five players to the Rays for Garza, including top prospects Chris Archer, Hak-Ju Lee and Robinson Chirinos. Early Thursday morning, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported the Rangers are not confident about their chances of acquiring Garza, saying the Cubs’ asking price is too steep.

– Carrie Muskat

12/8 Winter league update

Jay Jackson gave up one run on three hits and two walks over six innings in Caracas 5-1 win over Aragua on Wednesday in Venezuelan Winter League play. Jackson, now 3-2, also struck out two. Jackson got some offensive help from the Indians’ Asdrubal Cabrera, who went 3-for-4 in his debut for Caracas and scored three runs.

– Carrie Muskat

12/8 Boras on Prince, Pena

Agent Scott Boras, who represents Prince Fielder, downplayed what has seemed like a slow market for the 27-year-old slugger. Boras says teams with new GMs want to be thorough in what they do.

“When you’re talking about franchise commitments, they have to report to ownership as result of our meetings and get back with me on that,” Boras said late Wednesday at the Winter Meetings. “This is a negotiation that is really one of its own because he’s 27 years old. He has a different place in the market, and the demands on his services are broader because you have teams that are not as playoff-ready that are interested [and] you have clubs that are veteran that are interested. You have a whole variety of teams that are involved.”

The Brewers are still part of the process, Boras said, which means Cubs fans may not have seen the last of the first baseman.

“He’s had great success there, he enjoys his teammates, so certainly it’s a consideration,” Boras said.

What about the Cubs? New manager Dale Sveum was Fielder’s hitting coach in Milwaukee and has raved about the first baseman. The Cubs need a first baseman. Have they shown interest? Boras said to “ask the Cubs.”

“I think any team that wants to get better” will inquire on Fielder, Boras said. “Whether they’re a younger team or a veteran team or a team that wants to win now, there are not many teams not in need of a core player like this. There’s a few that aren’t, obviously, but most are certainly going to want to look into the situation.”

The Cubs are in more of a retooling mode right now under Theo Epstein & Co. Fielder has told Boras he’ll consider everything.

“Those are things that Prince and I need to talk about. He asked me to take an open view here and collect information from every club,” Boras said. “I didn’t meet with too many teams that said they thought they were three years away. That’s not something you hear too often.”

Any geographic preference?

“I just think he likes fences that are close to home plate,” Boras said. “That’s the geographics he likes.”

That would put Wrigley Field in the mix.

Boras also represents Carlos Pena, now on the market after declining the Cubs’ offer of arbitration.

“We’ve got interest on him, and I think that interest will increase as the other first basemen sign,” Boras said. “He certainly is a guy who is in the upper tier because he has power and he is such a good defender and held up by the teams to be good for his leadership and a good locker room guy.”

– Carrie Muskat

12/7 Cubs Caravan contest

For the second straight year, Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana schools can enter an essay contest to convince the Cubs to visit their school on the annual Cubs Caravan. The contest will reward one school with a visit from Cubs players, coaches and front office leadership on Jan. 12.

Teachers or principals, in cooperation with their students, can visit cubs.com to submit an essay of 400 words or less in support of their school as a Cubs Caravan destination. The entry period is open now and ends Dec. 16 at 8 p.m. CT. Schools must be located in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake or McHenry counties in Illinois, or Lake or Porter counties in Indiana.

The Cubs Caravan is a two-day excursion of Cubs personnel to schools, neighborhoods and communities throughout Illinois and Northwest Indiana. To enter the 2012 Cubs Caravan Visits My School Contest and to review official rules, visit https://secure.mlb.com/chc/community/caravan_contest.jsp.

– Carrie Muskat 

12/7 Ramirez declines arbitration offer

The agent for Aramis Ramirez told the Cubs Wednesday that the third baseman was declining the Cubs’ offer of arbitration. The deadline for players to decide whether to accept was 11 p.m. CT Wednesday. Both Ramirez and Carlos Pena were Type B free agents, and if they sign with other teams, as expected, the Cubs will receive a compensatory Draft pick between the first and second rounds. Pena already has told the Cubs he will decline the offer.

Ramirez may not go too far from Chicago. He is considering the Brewers as well as the Angels. There also is a third team, but Milwaukee’s advantage is that he could stay in the NL Central. Ramirez, who has met with both Brewers manager Ron Roenicke and Angels manager Mike Scioscia, has made it clear he wants to play for a contender. Ramirez, 33, won his first Silver Slugger award this season, batting .306 with 26 homers and 93 RBIs, and is considered the top free agent third baseman available.

– Carrie Muskat

12/7 Cubs, Rockies talk about possible deal

The Cubs and Rockies are reportedly talking about a trade in which third baseman Ian Stewart would go to Chicago in exchange for outfielder Tyler Colvin. Such a swap would make sense for both teams. Stewart, 26, batted .156 in 48 games with the Rockies, and .275 with 14 homers and 10 doubles in 45 games with Triple-A Colorado Springs. In August 2007, he was called up to the Rockies when Jeff Baker had to go on the DL. Stewart made his Major League debut on the day he was called up, Aug. 11, and hit a grand slam 10 days later for his first home run. This year, he got off to a rough start this year, and was sent down to Triple-A on April 19. Colvin, 26, batted .150 in 80 games with the Cubs and hit six homers and drove in 20 runs. In 2010, he hit .254 with 20 homers, 18 doubles and 56 RBIs. A change of scenery may be good for both players.

– Carrie Muskat

12/7 Are the Cubs a player for Pujols?

FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported the Cubs are still involved in talks with Albert Pujols on Wednesday. If they are, the Cubs are not believed to be offering the slugger a 10-year deal. Pujols has such received such offers from the Marlins and Cardinals. The Cubs may be dangling a shorter term contract — maybe five years? — to the three-time MVP.

One thing to keep in mind is one year ago, then Red Sox GM Theo Epstein was quoted as saying, “We’re not close to anybody,” and shortly after that, signed Carl Crawford to a seven-year, $142 million deal.

– Carrie Muskat

12/7 Pena won’t accept arbitration

Carlos Pena will not accept arbitration, according to a report Wednesday. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman said Pena will be going back on the market. In his one season in Chicago, Pena batted .225 with 28 homers and 80 RBIs. The deadline for players is 11 p.m. CT Wednesday. The Cubs also offered arbitration to Aramis Ramirez. If Pena and Ramirez sign with other teams, which was expected, the Cubs will receive a compensatory Draft pick between the first and second rounds.

Pena’s decision is not a surprise. Theo Epstein mentioned Pena was looking for a multi-year contract.

The Cubs did not offer arbitration to Kerry Wood, another Type B free agent, but they were expected to try to re-sign the reliever. Wood has had conversations with Epstein re: coming back.

The Brewers are reportedly interested in Ramirez, 33, who won his first Silver Slugger award this season, batting .306 with 26 homers and 93 RBIs, and is considered the top free agent third baseman available. Ramirez’s agent Paul Kinzer has said his client is looking for a multi-year contract.

The Cubs did not offer arbitration to four other unranked free agents for whom no compensation applies, according to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. That group includes John Grabow, Reed Johnson, Ramon Ortiz and Rodrigo Lopez.

– Carrie Muskat

12/6 Hoyer, Epstein share workload

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have divided the workload at the Winter Meetings, which Hoyer said has helped them be more productive. And at least one of them has apparently talked to representatives for free agents Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder.
Where Pujols and Fielder go isn’t holding up the Cubs, but the two sluggers are the top topic at the Hilton Anatole.

“There’s a curiosity factor, for sure,” said Hoyer, the Cubs’ GM. “They’re two superstar level players but I don’t think those guys have to sign somewhere to break some kind of logjam. I think that’s already been broken. I think it’s a mistake if you’re waiting around for that.

“Obviously, they’re two players we’re involved in,” Hoyer said, “but to wait around for things to happen, you can miss out. We’re working on a lot of fronts.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Tuesday that the Cubs made a “qualifying bid” for Pujols. Epstein, the Cubs president of baseball operations, did meet with Pujols’ agent Dan Lozano on Monday but Epstein said those discussions were about pitcher Rodrigo Lopez. The Post-Dispatch reported it had confirmed the Cubs did submit a bid for Pujols, but more in the five-year range and it would include a full no-trade clause.

Hoyer would not comment on specific players. However, he did say Tuesday that no-trade clauses are to be “avoided.”

Fielder would make more sense for the Cubs than Pujols if they did want a big slugger.  Although Fielder would still require a major financial commitment, it most likely would not be a 10-year contract, which is what Pujols was reportedly being offered by the Marlins. Plus, Fielder would be reunited with Cubs manager Dale Sveum, who was his hitting coach in Milwaukee.

“There’s rumors out there and all that,” Sveum said of the Cubs and Fielder. “I don’t see that we’ve started any talks or anything like that. … We’re not in any kind of process talking to him or anything like that.”

– Carrie Muskat

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