December 2013

12/17 Report: Veras to Cubs

The Cubs have reportedly signed veteran right-handed reliever Jose Veras to a one-year, $4 million contract with a $5.5 million option for 2015. ESPN Deportes’ Enrique Rojas first reported the deal Tuesday, saying it included several incentives. The Cubs would not confirm the deal.

Veras, 33, has pitched for the Yankees, Indians, Marlins, Pirates, Brewers, Astros and Tigers, and compiled a 3.84 ERA with 26 saves in 42 opportunities. Last season, the right-hander totaled a career-high 21 saves in 25 opportunities with the Astros and Tigers combined. He was Houston’s closer before being dealt to Detroit in July for two players. Veras was used more in a set-up role with the Tigers.

The Cubs are in the market for a closer and Veras could compete for that job or provide more experience in the bullpen. Detroit turned down a $4 million option on the right-hander.

— Carrie Muskat

12/16 Cubs sign Wright

The Cubs and left-handed pitcher Wesley Wright officially agreed to terms on one-year, $1.425 million contract. The deal was first reported Dec. 4, but the free agent pitcher needed to undergo a physical before it was finalized. Wright, 28, who was non-tendered by the Rays, is under team control for 2015.

The Cubs were looking for another left-hander to share the workload with reliever James Russell. Wright has combined to post a 3.28 ERA in 168 relief outings over the last three seasons. He split the 2013 season between the Astros and Rays, and was a combined 0-4 with nine holds and a 3.69 ERA in 70 relief appearances.

In 302 appearaces in all or part of six Major League seasons with the Astros (2008-13) and Rays (2013), Wright has posted a 10-15 record with 50 holds, two saves and a 4.37 ERA. In the last three seasons, Wright has walked 41 batters over 118 innings, an average of 3.1 walks per nine innings.

The Cubs are still in the market for a closer, and were reportedly talking to John Axford, who signed with the Indians on Monday. Other free agent relievers looking for a job include Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit, Fernando Rodney, Joel Hanrahan, Kevin Gregg and Chris Perez. Gregg saved 33 games for the Cubs last season.

— Carrie Muskat

12/16 MLB, Japan league reach agreement

Let the bidding begin for Masahiro Tanaka. MLB announced Monday it has agreed to terms with Nippon Professional Baseball on revised protocols for the posting system shared by the leagues.

Here are the details:

* If a Japanese team wishes to make one of its players available to Major League clubs, the NPB shall notify the Office of the Commissioner. There will be a release fee to secure that player, and it may not go higher than $20 million.

* MLB will then post the player’s availability by notifying all Major League Clubs of the Japanese player’s availability. All postings must be made between Nov. 1 and Feb. 1. There is a 30-day window for teams to negotiate with the player. If the posted Japanese player fails to reach an agreement with a Major League club, teams do not pay the posting fee.

The question now is whether the Rakuten Golden Eagles will post their ace, Tanaka, 25. The Japanese team was hoping for a posting fee worth $75 million or more. The Rangers paid a $51.7 million posting fee for the right to negotiate with Yu Darvish. If Tanaka is made available, the Cubs are expected to be involved. During the Winter Meetings last week, both Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer said the Cubs will most likely be “one of 30 teams” to make an offer.

— Carrie Muskat

12/16 Sanchez and Wada

The Cubs are reportedly interested in pitcher Jonathan Sanchez, 31. The Chicago Tribune’s Mark Gonzalez reports the team is looking at the lefty for the bullpen. Sanchez appeared in five games for the Pirates this year, but it didn’t go well. He gave up 18 runs on 25 hits and eight walks over 13 2/3 innings.

According to another report, the Cubs are interested in lefty Tsuyoshi Wada, 32, who had a 2.76 ERA in 78 1/3 innings for the Orioles’ Triple-A team in 2013. Wade underwent Tommy John surgery in 2012.

— Carrie Muskat

12/16 Happy holidays


A student at Lawndale Elementary Community Academy in Chicago enjoys his visit with Santa, courtesy of Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood and the Wood Family Foundation.

(Photo courtesy of Wood Family Foundation)

12/16 Kerry Wood & holiday spirit


On Friday, Kerry Wood and the Wood Family Foundation treated students at Lawndale Elementary Community Academy in Chicago to an early Christmas on Friday. The school was chosen for the foundation’s Warm Wishes holiday adoption program where each student is gifted a coat and toy. Gov. Pat Quinn stopped by to help pass out presents.

“Measured by the number of smiles, this year’s ‘Warm Wishes’ was a huge success,” said Wood’s wife Sarah.

The Woods treated 482 students to gifts. The school was picked because principal Willard Willette impressed the Woods with his success in continuous improvements at the school. Most recently, Lawndale was selected as an OS 4 Reinvestment School in which teachers and faculty will receive comprehensive professional development tailored to the specific need of each school, providing every child with a rigorous and quality education to help prepare them for success.

(Photo courtesy of Wood Family Foundation)

12/14 O’Neal named PBATS prez

Congrats to Cubs athletic trainer Mark O’Neal who was named president of the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society at the baseball Winter Meetings last week in Orlando, Fla. O’Neal has been with the Cubs since 2004. He was promoted to head athletic trainer in ’07 and in 2012, was named director of athletic training. He spent 15 years prior to that with the Cardinals. O’Neal has been on the PBATS executive committee.

— Carrie Muskat

12/14 Roster moves

The Cubs claimed right-handed pitcher Liam Hendriks off waivers from the Twins. Hendriks, 24, is 2-13 with a complete game and a 6.06 ERA in 30 big league appearances (28 starts) with the Twins covering parts of the last three seasons (2011-13). He originally signed with the Twins as a non-drafted free agent in February 2007.

Last season, Hendriks split time between the Twins and Triple-A Rochester, posting a 1-3 record with a 6.85 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 10 big league games (eight starts). He made his first big league relief appearance Sept. 21 at Oakland, throwing 102 pitches, the fifth-most pitches in a relief appearance in Twins history. He made a second relief appearance Sept. 27 vs. Cleveland, striking out eight batters, the most strikeouts for a Twins pitcher in 2013, and tied for the third most in a relief appearance in Twins history.

The Perth, Australia native made the Twins Opening Day roster for the first time in 2012, going 1-8 with a complete game and a 5.59 ERA in 16 big league starts.

* The Cubs also have signed infielder Ryan Roberts, outfielder Ryan Kalish and catcher John Buck to Minor League deals with invites to Spring Training. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer were with the Red Sox when they drafted Kalish.

12/13 Coomer new Cubs radio analyst

Ron Coomer will join play-by-play broadcaster Pat Hughes as the analyst on Cubs’ radio broadcasts. Chicago media columnist Robert Feder first reported the news on Thursday, and WGN Radio made it official on Friday. Coomer will replace Keith Moreland, who decided he wanted to stay close to his Texas home.

Coomer, 47, who played for the Cubs in 2001, was working for Fox Sports North and KTWN radio in Minneapolis. He played six seasons with the Twins.

Asked via Twitter if that was him in a suit near the Tribune Tower last week in downtown Chicago, Coomer admitted it was, adding, “Happy to be coming home.” He grew up in the Chicago area.

Feder reported that Coomer agreed to a two-year contract with WGN Radio, which had trimmed the choices to the former first baseman and Todd Hollandsworth, who currently has a morning show on MLB Network Radio and handles the Cubs’ pre and post-game shows on Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

— Carrie Muskat

12/12 Rule 5 Draft

The Cubs selected catcher Charles Cutler from the Pirates’ Double-A affiliate on Thursday in the Triple-A Phase of the Rule 5 Draft. The Cubs did not have a pick in the first round of the Major League phase as they forfeited it to the Phillies, who had filed a grievance over Lendy Castillo, who spent most of the 2012 season on the disabled list. The Cubs did have a chance to pick a player in the second round of the Major League phase but passed.

Cutler, 27, batted .298 in 86 games at Double-A Altoona last season, hitting 16 doubles, three home runs and driving in 26. He was the Cardinals’ 14th round pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. This is the second time Cutler has been picked in the Rule 5 Draft. He was the Pirates’ pick in the Minor League phase after the 2011 season.

He began the 2013 season as the backup at Altoona behind Carlos Paulino. In 30 games behind the plate, he threw out 21 percent of base stealers and had no passed balls.

“He was a guy we targeted,” GM Jed Hoyer said of Cutler. “We’re always looking for catching. He’s a left-handed hitting catcher with some on-base skills. At that part of the Draft, we don’t have the strings attached and it’s nice to be able to acquire a player like that. He was a guy who stuck out.”

The Cubs lost four players in the Rule 5 Draft. Right-handed pitcher Marcos Matteo was taken in the Major League phase by the Diamondbacks. In the Triple-A phase of the Draft, first baseman Justin Bour was picked by the Marlins, outfielder Julio Borbon selected by the Orioles, and pitcher A.J. Morris selected by the Pirates.

— Carrie Muskat