Author Archive

12/17 Ruggiano to Mariners

The Cubs dealt outfielder Justin Ruggiano to the Mariners Wednesday for Minor League pitcher Matt Brazis, opening a spot on the 40-man roster. Ruggiano, 32, batted .281 with six home runs and 28 RBIs in 81 games for the Cubs last season, but missed time because of a left hamstring injury suffered in late April. His season ended on Aug. 22 when he fractured his left ankle.

Brazis, 25, is 8-6 with 14 saves and a 2.89 ERA in 100 Minor League relief appearances over three seasons for the Mariners. He split last season between Class A High Desert and Double-A Jackson, going 4-1 with six saves and a 2.36 ERA in 40 appearances. Brazis struck out 84 batters and walked 18 in 72 1/3 innings pitched.

The Cubs do want to add a veteran outfielder, but were looking for players with more experience to be what manager Joe Maddon calls “clubhouse dudes” and help mentor the young guys.

– Carrie Muskat

12/16 The Lester factor

SIcover

Jon Lester says he doesn’t believe in curses. Hopefully, he also doesn’t believe in the SI cover jinx.

12/16 Lester and Twitter

For more than three hours last week, Jon Lester responded on Twitter to fans who wondered why he was not returning to Boston and instead signing with the Cubs. Lester responded to nearly everyone.

“I guess they caught me at a good time,” Lester said Monday during his introductory news conference in Chicago. “It was tough. For me, the important part of that whole deal was to get the Boston fans that truly understood the decision and who truly support us, to try to give them a response. [I wanted] to let them know they’ll always be a part of our lives and a part of our hearts and we’ll never forget our times and our relationships and memories we’ve had there. That was the more important side of what we were trying to do there. Within that, you’re going to get a few people who will try to ruin it for everybody else. We felt we could be a little bit of a smart ass with the bad ones.”

In case you missed some of Lester’s exchanges last week, here’s a small sample:

From @RobMussi: “I don’t understand how you could chose Chicago who hasn’t won a damn thing in over 100 years YOUR HOME IS HERE IN BOSTON #regret”

Lester’s response: “I know its hard to understand Rob, but it was the best decision for me and my family.”

From @Boriqua982: “from a Red Sox fan in Cali thank you for everything … and congrats on ur next step … #NVRQT”

Lester: “thank you for the kind words!”

From @anthony_ferraro: “huge Red Sox fan wishing you nothing but the best in Chi Town; pure class through and through; we miss you but respect the choice”

Lester: “Thx Anthony, really appreciate it!”

From @Dylan_Foster: “never seen a guy take so long to decide between last place teams”

Lester: “haha fair enough!”

– Carrie Muskat

12/16 Cubs and A’s deal

The Cubs were owed a player to be named later from the July 4 deal with the Athletics. However, the Cubs will instead receive cash considerations from the A’s. That makes the deal: Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland for Dan Straily, Minor Leaguers Billy McKinney and Addison Russell and cash considerations.

– Carrie Muskat

12/15 Cubs to sign Motte; complete Doubront deal

The Cubs have an agreement on a one-year deal with free agent pitcher Jason Motte, pending a physical. According to reports, Motte, 32, will receive $4.5 million from the Cubs once the deal is finalized. The right-hander has spent his entire career with the Cardinals, including 2012 when he saved a National League-leading 42 saves. He has compiled a 3.03 ERA in 311 games over six seasons. A converted catcher, Motte missed the 2013 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in May that year. He appeared in 29 games with the Cardinals this past season, compiling a 4.68 ERA over 25 innings.

The addition of Motte will give manager Joe Maddon a much-needed veteran presence in the bullpen. Hector Rondon, 26, took over the Cubs closer duties last season, finishing with 29 saves in 33 opportunities.

* The Cubs also announced infielder Marco Hernandez was headed to Boston as the player to be named later to complete the Felix Doubront trade. Hernandez, 22, batted .270 at Class A Daytona last season with 22 stolen bases.

– Carrie Muskat

12/15 Lester picks No. 34

Jon Lester couldn’t get No. 31 with the Cubs, so he settled for No. 34 once he got the blessing from Kerry Wood. Wood was the last Cubs player to wear No. 34, and Theo Epstein asked the right-hander if it was OK for Lester to take it.

“[Wood] said it would be an honor,” Epstein said.

Lester, who wore No. 31 with the Red Sox and Athletics, said the link to Wood helped convince him it was a good switch. But there was more to the decision.

“Obviously, the Chicago tie of Kerry Wood — I remember watching him as a young pitcher,” Lester said of Wood, who spent 12 seasons with the Cubs. “Obviously, the Walter Payton aspect, and for me, the personal aspect of watching Nolan Ryan — or not necessarily watching [Ryan] but studying his career and being a part of that.

“It’s always been one of my favorite numbers other than 31,” Lester said. “I just felt like it was a good fit. It kind of keeps the same look to it.”

Payton, in case you didn’t know, was a legendary running back for 13 seasons with the Chicago Bears.

The Cubs retired No. 31 in 2009 in honor of Hall of Famers, Greg Maddux and Fergie Jenkins.

“Thirty-one was a pipe dream and clearly off the table,” Epstein said. “If multiple people want to volunteer it, I’m sure he would take it. I think he was leaning towards 33, but someone mentioned 34 might be of interest.”

– Carrie Muskat

12/15 Cubs sign Jon Lester

The Cubs formally introduced Jon Lester on Monday, and they can thank, Ryan Dempster, Kerry Wood, Anthony Rizzo, Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija for helping sell the left-hander on coming to Chicago. Lester agreed to a six-year, $155 million contract last Tuesday, but needed to pass a physical to make it official. He did that, and showed off his new No. 34 Cubs jersey for the first time at Spiaggia restaurant in downtown Chicago on Monday afternoon.

“This is a very, very significant day for the Cubs for a lot of great reasons,” Theo Epstein said. “Obviously, we get better on the field as Jon is the perfect pitcher to lead our rotation for where we want to go. We get better in the clubhouse with Jon’s character and work ethic and his ability to perform at his best when the games matter most, which sets a great example for our players.

“This signing really marks a transition of sorts for the Cubs, the start of a period where we are clearly very serious about bringing a World Series to the Cubs and the people of Chicago,” Epstein said. “It’s a great day for our fans. They’ve been so patient with us, incredibly patient, over the last few years and they truly deserve a pitcher and a person of this caliber to call their own.”

Lester, who picked No. 34 because he is a fan of Wood, admires Chicago Bears legend Walter Payton, and Nolan Ryan, did his homework, talking to everybody and anybody with a connection to the Cubs. What was the one thing Lester wanted to know?

“If everything I was hearing was true as far as winning,” Lester said. “Are these guys close? That was my question to Jeff. Are they close? Are they there? Getting information from him, getting information from Hammel, and talking to ‘Demper’ — obviously, ‘Demp’ has his roots here, this is his home.”

Not many free agents are willing to sign with a team coming off a last-place finish in the division.

“We wanted to sign Jon because of the great things we have going on here and we wanted to focus on the benefits of being a Cub, and not some of the liabilities of going elsewhere and some of the other destinations,” Epstein said. “It was about belief. We knew early on that if we signed Jon Lester it would be about belief — it was because he believed in us, believed in our future, and believed that winning a World Series with the Cubs was a unique opportunity and something special in his career.”

– Carrie Muskat

12/15 Extra bases

* The Cubs will introduce Jon Lester at a 1 p.m. CT news conference Monday. It will be broadcast on Cubs.com and Comcast SportsNet Chicago. Lester was at a Chicago Blackhawks game Sunday night. We’ll find out what jersey number Lester will wear as well. He has worn No. 31 in Boston and Oakland, but that number is retired by the Cubs.

* On Sunday, Javier Baez went 2-for-4, hitting a two-run homer in the third inning plus a double, in Santurce’s 4-2 win over San Juan in Puerto Rico winter league baseball. It was his third game in Puerto Rico.

* Kyuji Fujikawa has reportedly signed a one-year, $1 million contract with the Rangers. Fujikawa, 34, was signed by the Cubs prior to the 2013 season, but limited because of elbow problems. He eventually needed Tommy John surgery in June 2013.

* The Cubs reportedly met with Colby Rasmus and are one of several teams to show interest in the free agent center fielder.

12/13 Lester to be introduced Monday

The Cubs will formally introduce Jon Lester on Monday, and they can thank Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija for helping sell the left-hander on coming to Chicago. Lester agreed to a six-year, $155 million contract last Tuesday, but needed to pass a physical to make it official. He did that, and will show off his new Cubs jersey for the first time Monday at Spiaggia restaurant in downtown Chicago.

Lester, Hammel and Samardzija were teammates for two months on the Athletics. The Cubs had sent Hammel and Samardzija to Oakland in a July 4 package, while the Red Sox dealt Lester and Jonny Gomes to the A’s on July 31 for Yoenis Cespedes.

Hammel, 32, formally introduced on Friday after signing a two-year contract to return to the Cubs, said Lester was curious about Chicago. Lester, who turns 31 in January, knew Theo Epstein; the two were together in Boston.

“I think the Theo-Jon bromance was going to happen anyways,” Hammel said. “But [Lester] was definitely interested, and he was picking our brains all the time.”

The addition of Lester certainly gives the Cubs rotation an ace. A two-time World Series champion, Lester now leads a staff that includes Hammel, Jake Arrieta, Travis Wood, Kyle Hendricks, Tsuyoshi Wada, and Felix Doubront.

“You see a lot of things going on right now,” Hammel said of the Cubs. “It’s not just shtick. It’s not just flash. They’re making a commitment to winning here. It’s important that it’s not, ‘We’re just trying to surprise people.’ This is a commitment to winning.”

– Carrie Muskat

12/12 Cubs and WLS-TV deal

The Cubs and WLS-TV/ABC 7 Chicago announced a partnership for television rights to Cubs games. WLS-TV will carry 25 games per year through 2019, starting next year. The Cubs will soon announce the broadcast schedule for the team’s remaining games not currently under contract to WLS-TV or Comcast SportsNet. All Cubs games will be on the air in Chicago next season.

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