12/3 Winter meetings Day 2

* Teams are inquiring about Alfonso Soriano, and how much the Cubs might be willing to pay. Soriano is owed $38 million over the next two years. Theo Epstein wouldn’t comment on the rumors out of respect to Soriano.

“One of the things that comes with being a veteran is obviously, there’s going to be speculation, but veteran players appreciate when clubs don’t sort of fuel those fires,” Epstein said Monday in Nashville. “It’s the Winter Meetings and there will be lots of rumors, but they don’t need to come from the club. We really value what he’s done here and we’ve been open with him about the fact that ‘Hey, we’ll listen, and if there’s something that makes sense for everyone, we’ll come to you.”

* The Cubs are in the market for a right fielder. Epstein says they have been “really active” meeting with teams about possible trades and also were keeping an eye on the free agent outfielders available. One thing Epstein hasn’t had to worry about is selling a free agent on the possibility of playing in Chicago.

“Dale [Sveum] is making a name for himself as a manager,” Epstein said. “Players recognize we had a good clubhouse last year despite a difficult season. Free agents believe in the positive direction we’re going. Elite baseball players are really competitive and I think they like the thought of being part of the solution here and being a member of the team that finally wins a World Series with the Cubs. I’ve had a number of players tell that to me directly. We have not had to sell our situation much at all. Players, when we express interest, we’re hearing back, ‘Oh, that’s a place we’ve had our eye on.’ You don’t hear that often after a 101-loss season.”

* One free agent whom the Cubs were expected to add to the mix is Japanese pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa, who has reportedly agreed to a two-year, $9.5 million contract. Fujikawa needs to pass a physical before the deal can be completed, which could happen next week.

* Expect the Cubs to add a player on Thursday during the Rule 5 Draft. Chicago has the second pick overall, and Epstein said they have been checking the names available as well as getting interest from other teams trying to acquire their spot in the order.

– Carrie Muskat

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