January 2013

1/18 Castro, Soriano say no to Classic

Starlin Castro would like to play in the World Baseball Classic someday but said no to the Dominican Republic team this year because it already has Jose Reyes on the roster.

“Every year I want to be better,” Castro said Friday at the Cubs Convention. “Every year, I work hard to be better than I was the year before. That’s why I’m working now, that’s why I’m not going to the World Baseball Classic. I won’t play for the Dominican because it’s more important for me to be ready for the [Cubs]. I want to help the [Cubs].”

Moises Alou, who is involved in the selection of the Dominican roster, had asked Castro during the season about playing in the Classic.

“I don’t want to be on the bench,” Castro said. “Jose Reyes is there, and I have respect for him, and I’d be on the bench. It’s better for me to be working and play every day in Spring Training. If I go, I’d play one day, two days a week. I don’t want that. I want to work.”

He said it was difficult to say no.

“It’s one of my goals to play for my country, and it’s tough for me [to say no],” Castro said. “But it’s not the last one. I know I’ll be there.”

Alfonso Soriano also said no to Alou because the veteran outfielder needs more time to prepare in Spring Training for the season.

“Moises called but I felt it was better for me to be with the Cubs,” said Soriano.

— Carrie Muskat

1/18 Samardzija, Russell sign

The Cubs avoided going to arbitration with either Jeff Samardzija or James Russell, and reached new one-year agreements for both pitchers on Friday. Samardzija signed for $2.64 million with additional money in the deal in player bonuses, while Russell agreed to a $1.075 million deal. Friday was the deadline for arbitration eligible players and teams to exchange figures. If no agreement was reached, the two sides would have had a hearing sometime in February. Samardzija, who was 9-13 with a 3.81 ERA in his first full season as a starter, made $2.64 million last season, while Russell, who appeared in a career-high 77 games, made $512,500.

— Carrie Muskat

1/18 Cubs Convention schedule

If you’re going to the 28th Cubs Convention at the downtown Sheraton this weekend, here’s a schedule to help you plan. Weekend passes are still available and will be sold on site.

2013 Cubs Convention

5-5:45 p.m. Opening ceremony
6-6:45 p.m. Autograph Hunt Game
7-8:30 p.m. Cubs bingo
7-10 p.m. WGN Radio’s “Sports Night”

9-10 a.m. Ricketts Family Forum
10-11 a.m. Meet Cubs baseball management
10:30-11:30 a.m. Cubs Jeopardy
11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. From Draft Day to the Big Leagues
12-1 p.m. Dale Sveum and the Coaching Staff
12:30-1:30 p.m. For Kids Only Press Conference, presented by Advocate Health Care
1:30-2:30 p.m. Restoring Wrigley Field
2-3 p.m. Not for Women Only
3-4 p.m. Cubs family feud
4-6 p.m. WGN Radio’s “Sports Central”
4:30-5:30 p.m. Meet the new Cubs
6:30-8:00 p.m. Movie “Rookie of the Year,” presented by the Cubs Kids Club
8-Midnight Cubs sock hop

9-10 a.m. Down on the Farm
10:30-11:30 a.m. Stats Sunday

1/18 Arbitration deadline day

Today is the deadline for all MLB clubs to exchange salary figures with their arbitration eligible players. With Matt Garza getting a new deal late Thursday, the Cubs have two arb eligible players remaining: Jeff Samardzija and James Russell. The two sides can continue to negotiate after today, but if no agreement is reached, they will each present their case before an independent arbitrator sometime between Feb. 4-20. This is the first year Samardzija and Russell are arbitration eligible. Samardzija, who was 9-13 with a 3.81 ERA in his first full season as a starter, made $2.64 million last season, while Russell, who appeared in a career-high 77 games, made $512,500. Theo Epstein said this week he prefers to avoid an arbitration hearing.

— Carrie Muskat

1/17 Garza gets new deal

Cubs pitcher Matt Garza avoided arbitration and agreed to a new $10.25 million contract on Thursday. Garza’s representatives at CAA announced the new deal on Twitter: “#Cubs Matt Garza (@Gdeuceswild) agrees to a $10.25M contract to avoid salary arbitration.” Garza himself revealed the contract on his Twitter account: “Business side over! Hooray! Time to focus on what really matters … 2013 #GoCubsGo.” The Cubs were expected to make a formal announcement on Friday.

Garza avoided arbitration last year, signing a one-year, $9.5 million contract with the Cubs. There had been some discussion regarding a long-term deal for the right-hander but that was tabled when he was limited to 18 starts because of a right elbow injury, which forced him to shut down after July 21.

Jeff Samardzija and James Russell were among the 133 Major League players who filed for salary arbitration on Tuesday. This is the first year Samardzija and Russell are arbitration eligible, while Garza is in his final year of arbitration and will be a free agent after this season. The two pitchers and the Cubs will exchange salary figures on Friday. If the two sides cannot reach an agreement, there will be a hearing sometime between Feb. 1-21 in front of an independent arbitrator. Samardzija, who was 9-13 with a 3.81 ERA in his first full season as a starter, made $2.64 million last season, while Russell, who appeared in a career-high 77 games, made $512,500.

— Carrie Muskat

1/17 Wood & Prior

Jason McLeod, the Cubs director of player development and scouting, made a point of asking Kerry Wood and Mark Prior to speak to a dozen top prospects during the team’s first rookie development camp. Prior spoke Thursday, which was the final day of the week-long program.

“Who better to know and understand having all the hype, having all the pressure, being the young guy coming up and then performing in this environment?” McLeod said of the two Cubs pitchers who had to deal with plenty of highs and lows in their careers. “”Who better than those two guys? Those had to have been two of the most hyped Cubs prospects of the last 15 to 20 years.”

McLeod knew Prior from his brief time with the Padres. The pitcher didn’t hesitate when asked to talk to the kids.

“He was fired up about it and said, ‘I’d love to talk to those guys,'” McLeod said.

— Carrie Muskat

1/17 Updating Cubs prospects

A dozen Cubs prospects completed a week-long rookie development camp on Thursday. The sessions included a workout at Northwestern University, a seminar, and some extra training. Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, David DeJesus, Theo Epstein and Tom Ricketts were among the people who addressed the group. The 12 players who participated included position players Javier Baez, Jae-Hoon Ha, Matt Szczur, and Logan Watkins, and pitchers Dallas Beeler, Marcus Hatley, Barret Loux, Trey McNutt, Zach Rosscup, Nick Struck, Robert Whitenack and Tony Zych.

Jason McLeod, the Cubs scouting and player development director, was asked about a few of the prospects. Here’s an update:

* How close is Baez to the big leagues?

“Javy’s still so young,” McLeod said. “He’s only played really three months of a full season and obviously, last year, he took the Midwest League by storm in a short time there and hit some bumps there in Daytona. Being that he just turned 20 years old [on Dec. 1], obviously, he’s a talented young man, he’s going to ultimately decide [when he’s ready]. He loves to work, he works extremely hard. The plan for him this year is to get a full season under his belt.”

* McNutt was used as a starter and reliever last season at Double-A Tennessee. What’s his future role? McLeod said that’s to be determined. The results were better when McNutt pitched in relief and that may be the best spot.

* Jorge Soler worked out in the Miami area this offseason, and had some sessions with new hitting coordinator Anthony Iapoce and player development director Brandon Hyde.

“He’s still getting used to being in the states and getting ready to coming into Major League camp,” McLeod said of the Cuban outfielder.

Where will Soler play in 2013? That’s also to be determined. He spent last season at Class A Peoria.

“He’s put himself in position to start at a higher level but we have to see how things shake out,” McLeod said, noting that they have an overload of outfielders, including Reggie Golden and Evan Crawford, who are both coming back from injuries.

* Whitenack has missed time after needing Tommy John surgery in 2011, but is now 100 percent.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing what everyone here saw two years ago,” McLeod said of the right-hander, who was 7-0 in 11 starts in 2011 before he was hurt.

* Junior Lake has played infield and outfield in the Dominican Republic Winter League. Where will he end up? McLeod said Lake will get most of his playing time at shortstop or third, but will also play in the outfield this spring.

“We want to maximize his ability and versatility,” McLeod said.

— Carrie Muskat

1/17 Rizzo, Searle & Wang in Classic

First baseman Anthony Rizzo headlines a short list of Cubs players who will participate in the World Baseball Classic. Rizzo will play for Team Italy, while pitcher Ryan Searle will play for Australia and prospect Yao-Lin Wang and former Minor Leaguer Hung-Wen Chen will pitch for Chinese Taipei.

Wang appeared in 37 games for Class A Peoria, and was 3-2 with 12 saves in 14 opportunities and a 3.19 ERA in 28 games, and went 1-3 with a 4.57 ERA in nine starts. Combined, he struck out 82 over 78 innings and walked 27. The right-hander, who turns 22 on Feb. 5, made one start on Nov. 15 for Chinese Taipei in the World Baseball Classic qualifier against New Zealand. He threw 3 2/3 shutout innings, giving up four hits and striking out three in Chinese Taipei’s seven-inning 10-0 win.

Chen pitched in the Cubs Minor League system from 2007-2011. He was on the Chinese Taipei national baseball team in the 2008 World Baseball Classic.

Searle, 23, spent most of the 2012 season with Class A Daytona, and posted a 6-3 record and 4.22 ERA in 32 games (three starts). He also pitched briefly for Double-A Tennessee and appeared in two games with Triple-A Iowa. for the year, he was 8-5 with a 3.87 ERA in 42 games (five starts). In 2011, he pitched for the Australian Baseball League in the Baseball World Cup, and was 3-1 with a 3.66 ERA in five games.

— Carrie Muskat

1/17 Coming soon: A Cubs hotel

The Ricketts family, owners of the Cubs, have reportedly signed an agreement to build a hotel across from Wrigley Field on the northwest corner of Clark and Addison streets. Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. announced Thursday that it will develop a boutique hotel affiliated with the Sheraton brand and the exterior design will fit within the current Wrigleyville neighborhood landscape and community.

The hotel would be built on the land that currently houses a McDonald’s restaurant, and would anchor a large scale entertainment and retail development. The Ricketts purchased the land in 2011 for $20 million. A McDonald’s restaurant would be included in any future redevelopment of the property, according to an agreement between the Ricketts family and the McDonald’s corporation.

The Ricketts family also own a parcel of land next to Wrigley Field but development of that property depends on a proposal to renovate the ballpark, which celebrates its 100th birthday in 2014. The family has been seeking state and local taxpayer incentives to help finance the proposed $200 million in renovations.

The Ricketts family was expected to discuss the Wrigley renovations this weekend during the Cubs Convention.

— Carrie Muskat

1/16 Baker, Garza ready to go

The Cubs feel they’ve added much-needed depth to the pitching staff with the additions of free agent starters Edwin Jackson, Scott Baker, and Scott Feldman, and have given the bullpen a boost with Japanese pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa. However, Baker is coming back from Tommy John surgery and Matt Garza is returning from a right elbow injury. Theo Epstein said Wednesday Baker’s plan calls for him to be throwing at least 75 pitches by the end of March. If Baker needs more time, the Cubs now have enough arms to give him extra rehab starts.

“Both guys are on a nice time table for the start of the season,” Epstein said of Garza and Baker.

The other Cubs starters include Jeff Samardzija, who appears likely to get the Opening Day assignment, and Travis Wood. The Cubs also have yet to finalize their deal with free agent Carlos Villanueva. The transaction has been delayed until the team can clear a spot on the 40-man roster.

— Carrie Muskat