December 2012

12/21 Holiday spending

Did you stay in your holiday shopping budget? The Cubs have been busy spending recently. Here’s a breakdown on their offseason shopping spree so far:

OF Nate Schierholtz – one year, $2.25 million
3B Ian Stewart – one year, $2 million
P Scott Baker – one year, $5.5 million
P Shawn Camp – one year, $1.35 million
P Scott Feldman – one year, $6 million
P Kyuji Fujikawa – two years, $9.5 million
C Dioner Navarro – one year, $1.75 million

The Cubs have yet to finalize deals with Carlos Villanueva (two years, $10 million) and Edwin Jackson (four years, $52 million).

– Carrie Muskat

12/21 Schierholtz signs; other moves

The Cubs have finalized their deal with outfielder Nate Schierholtz on a one-year, $2.25 million contract. The addition of Schierholtz, 28, fills one of the items on the Cubs’ wish list as they were looking for a left-handed hitting outfielder who could play right field.

Last season, Schierholtz batted .257 for the Giants and Phillies with six home runs in 114 games. Schierholtz began the year with San Francisco, and was dealt to Philadelphia on July 31 along with two Minor League players for Hunter Pence. He made a good impression in his Phillies debut, hitting a home run against the Nationals. His playing time was limited when he fractured his right big toe on Aug. 13. In six seasons, he has a .270 batting average, 24 home runs, 75 doubles and 123 RBIs. The Phillies decided to non-tender Schierholtz, who made $1.3 million last season. He would’ve received a raise, which wouldn’t have made sense for the Phillies because Schierholtz was projected as the fifth outfielder.

His addition would allow the Cubs to start David DeJesus in center. Schierholtz does have one of the best throwing arms in the league. However, general manager Jed Hoyer has indicated the team is still in the market for another outfielder who can play right and center.

* In other roster moves, left-handed pitcher Jeff Beliveau was claimed off waivers by the Rangers and right-handed pitcher Sandy Rosario claimed by the Giants. Left-handed pitcher Gerardo Concepcion also cleared waivers and was assigned outright to Class A Kane County. The Cubs roster is now at 39.

– Carrie Muskat

12/20 Jackson & Villanueva updates

According to reports Thursday, the Cubs have agreed with Edwin Jackson on a four-year, $52 million deal. He was 10-11 last season and compiled a 4.03 ERA in 31 starts. The Cubs and Carlos Villanueva also have reportedly agreed to a two-year, $10 million contract. Villanueva, 29, made 16 starts and 22 relief appearances last season for the Blue Jays, compiling a 4.16 ERA over 125 1/3 innings. He could be used as a swingman.

The Cubs would not confirm or comment on the reports but Matt Garza did. Garza was Jackson’s teammate in Tampa in 2008. He wondered out loud on his Twitter account what uniform number the right-hander would wear with the Cubs. Garza then welcomed Jackson on Twitter: “Like I said last night, EJax is my boy! I heard it from a cubs horse last night!! That horse being EJax! Nice to have another in the stable!”

– Carrie Muskat

12/19 Cubs talking to Jackson, Villanueva

The Cubs aren’t finished shopping for pitching, and are reportedly pursuing free agents Edwin Jackson and Carlos Villanueva. The Cubs lost out in their bid for Anibal Sanchez, who rejected a five year, $77 million offer and signed with the Tigers for $80 million. Now Chicago is apparently taking aim at Jackson, 29, who was reportedly seeking a three- to four-year contract after making $11 million last season with the Nationals. The Padres were among the teams believed to be in the mix for Jackson, but there were reports Wednesday that they would not offer more than a three-year deal. Jackson went 10-11 last season and compiled a 4.03 ERA in 31 starts. In his career, he’s 14-9 with a 3.95 ERA in 38 games (36 starts) against the National League Central.

The Cubs already have added free agent pitchers Scott Feldman and Scott Baker, signing both to one-year contracts. But the team wants more depth, especially if Baker and Matt Garza are not ready. Baker is coming back from Tommy John surgery and Garza has just started throwing for the first time since July 21. He was shut down then because of a right elbow injury.

On Wednesday, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com and MLB Network reported that the Cubs had signed Villanueva. However, a source told MLB.com that the two sides were still finalizing details and no deal was done. Villanueva, 29, made 16 starts and 22 relief appearances last season for the Blue Jays, compiling a 4.16 ERA over 125 1/3 innings.
The right-hander, who made $2.2775 million in 2012, has pitched for the Brewers and Blue Jays, making 29 starts in the last two seasons with Toronto. In his career as a starter, he is 16-22 with a 4.80 ERA in 56 games.

– Carrie Muskat

12/19 Rumors and reason re: Jackson

The Cubs’ pursuit of Anibal Sanchez was a little bit of a surprise considering the team’s approach to free agents has been to buy low. Now, there are reports that the Cubs are interested in free agent pitcher Edwin Jackson. ESPN’s Jim Bowden said the Padres refused to give Jackson a four-year contract, and it’s down to the Cubs and Rangers. Jackson is reportedly seeking $12 to $13 million per year after making $11 million last season with the Nationals.

Let’s look at the numbers. In the last four years, Jackson is 45-41 with a 3.98 ERA in 127 starts and one relief appearance. According to my MLB.com colleague T.R. Sullivan, there have been 63 Major League pitchers who have made at least 100 starts over the last four years, and Jackson has the 35th best ERA in that group. He’s 43rd with 8.99 hits per nine innings, 37th with 2.97 walks, and 34th with 7.29 strikeouts per nine.

More numbers to consider. Since Jackson joined the White Sox at the July 31, 2010, Trade Deadline, he has gone 26-22 with a 3.80 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in 74 starts (464 1/3 innings, two complete games) and averaged 7.6 strikeouts per nine innings. Teams have hit .264 against him. In that same span, Sanchez has gone 22-28 with a 3.79 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in 75 starts (462 2/3 innings, four complete games) and averaged 8.5 strikeouts per nine for the Marlins and Tigers. Teams have hit .257 against him.

The Cubs are looking for pitching. Jackson turned 29 in September; Sanchez turns 29 in February. The red flag is that Jackson has pitched for seven different teams, and six in the last five years.

The Cubs reportedly offered Sanchez $77 million over five years. Would they give Jackson four years and $50 million? Would you?

– Carrie Muskat

12/17 Stewart, Lim sign

The Cubs finalized their deal with Ian Stewart on Monday, signing the third baseman to a one-year, $2 million deal that includes $500,000 in incentives. The money is a slight drop from the $2.2375 million Stewart, 27, made last year, and also is non-guaranteed. Stewart was limited to 55 games before eventually undergoing season-ending wrist surgery July 10. He batted .201 with five home runs and 17 RBIs, then went on the disabled list June 14.

To make room for Stewart on the 40-man roster, the Cubs designated left-hander Jeff Beliveau for assignment. Beliveau made his Major League debut last season, going 1-0 with a 4.58 ERA in 22 appearances for the Cubs.

* The Cubs also announced Monday their Minor League deal with Korean pitcher Chang-Yong Lim is now official. Lim, 36, has pitched the last 17 seasons in Korea (1996-2007) and Japan (2008-12). He also helped Korea win the bronze medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics and the silver medal in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. The right-hander, nicknamed “Mister Zero,” joined the Yakult Swallows in Japan in 2008 and recorded 128 saves with a 2.09 ERA in 238 relief appearances. He posted at least 28 saves in four-straight seasons from 2008-11, including three seasons of 30 saves or more. His 2012 season ended after nine relief appearances because he needed Tommy John ligament replacement surgery, his second, from which he is currently rehabbing. Lim received a $100,000 signing bonus, and will receive monthly Minor League salaries for up to the next two seasons, unless his contract is purchased.

– Carrie Muskat

12/17 Winter ball update

Junior Lake hit a grand slam in the fifth inning Sunday to help Estrellas beat Gigantes, 5-3, in Dominican Winter League play. It was Lake’s fifth home run, and he was batting .324 overall with 23 RBIs in 41 games. Cubs pitcher Rafael Dolis picked up a hold in the game, striking out one and giving up one hit in one-third of an inning.

Tony Campana has finished his Venezuelan winter league assignment. He batted .231 in 16 games with Leones del Caracas, totaling eight stolen bases and compiling a .322 on-base percentage.

– Carrie Muskat

12/15 Winter League update

Tony Campana was 1-for-4 on Friday for Leones del Caracas in the Venezuelan Winter League. Campana was batting .231 overall with eight stolen bases in 16 games. Pitcher Hector Rondon, whom the Cubs acquired in the Rule 5 Draft, has given up 10 earned runs on 15 hits over 20 innings while striking out 11 in 22 games. Teams were batting .214 agaisnt him.

Luis Valbuena was 1-for-5 on Friday for Cardenales de Lara. He’s now batting .308 in 41 games in Venezuela.

Junior Lake continued to rank among the league leaders in the Dominican with a .326 average. Lake has seven doubles, one triple and four home runs over 39 games. He’s started in left field in six of his last 12 games.

12/13 Cubs and Sanchez – UPDATED

Anibal Sanchez apparently has decided to stay with the Tigers. The Cubs were one of the teams to make an offer to the free agent pitcher, but he agreed to a five-year, $80 million contract with Detroit. According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports and MLB Network, the Cubs did discuss a five-year, $75 million deal, and apparently raised the salary figure to $77.5 million early Friday. Sanchez, 28, would have given the Cubs a more competitive rotation next season. However, he had to decide whether to join a team still in rebuilding mode or stay with the defending American League champions.

– Carrie Muskat

12/12 Cubs claim Rosario

The Cubs added another arm to the bullpen mix when they claimed right-handed pitcher Sandy Rosario off waivers from the Red Sox. Rosario, 27, has been active on the transaction wire. The Red Sox acquired him off waivers from the Marlins on Oct. 17, and he was designated for assignment on Nov. 20. Eight days later, he was dealt to the Athletics for right-hander Graham Godfrey. The Athletics then designated Rosario for assignment two days later. On Dec. 10, the Red Sox claimed him again off waivers.

Last season, he combined for 17 saves and a 1.99 ERA in 31 Minor League games between the Marlins’ Triple-A, Double-A and Class A teams. Rosario missed nearly two months on the disabled list because of a strained right quad. He’s had limited appearances over the last three seasons with the Marlins, totaling 7 2/3 innings, and made four appearances in June with the big league team. At Triple-A New Orleans, Rosario posted a 1.04 ERA with 16 saves in 25 games, striking out 24 over 26 innings. This winter, he’s been pitching for Gigantes del Cibao in the Dominican, appearing in 12 games through Dec. 8. He has 13 strikeouts and issued five walks over 11 1/3 innings.

Cubs manager Dale Sveum may remember Rosario. Sveum was with Milwaukee when the pitcher made his Major League debut on Sept. 23, 2010, for the Marlins, and the Brewers’ Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder hit his first and third pitches for home runs.

Rosario is the third new arm added to the Cubs’ bullpen, joining Japanese pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa, who signed a two-year deal last Friday, and Hector Rondon, who was selected in the Rule 5 Draft. With the addition of Rosario, the Cubs’ 40-man roster is now at 40.

– Carrie Muskat

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