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11/16 Cubs in mix for Martin

Could the Cubs sign free agent catcher Russell Martin? FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal posted on Twitter that executives involved in bidding for Martin feel the Cubs are the “clear front runner.” Rosenthal said they project a deal in the four-year, $64 million range. The Cubs would like to upgrade at catcher after a disappointing offensive season by Welington Castillo. Martin reportedly met with Cubs officials at Wrigley Field earlier this month. Other teams reportedly pursuing Martin include the Dodgers, Blue Jays and Pirates.

The Pirates did extend Martin a qualifying offer, which he declined. The Cubs’ top pick in the June Draft (ninth overall) is protected, and they would have to give up their second-round pick if they did sign Martin.

– Carrie Muskat

11/16 Cubs acquire La Stella

The Cubs acquired infielder Tommy La Stella from the Braves, as well as Atlanta’s No. 4 international signing bonus slot, for right-handed pitcher Arodys Vizcaino and three international signing bonus slots (slot Nos. 2, 3 and 4).

La Stella, 25, made his Major League debut with the Braves last season and led NL rookies with 36 walks and a .328 on-base percentage. In 93 games, he batted .251 (80-for-319) with 16 doubles, one home run and 31 RBIs, and compiled a .984 fielding percentage in 88 games at second base. He began the year at Triple-A, his first time at that level, and hit .293 (49-for-167) with a .384 on-base percentage in 47 games for Gwinnett prior to his promotion to the Majors.

Vizcaino, 24, pitched in five September games for the Cubs last season and posted a 5.40 ERA in his first Major League action since undergoing Tommy John surgery in March of 2012. He was acquired from the Braves with right-handed pitcher Jaye Chapman, on July 30, 2012, for left-handed pitcher Paul Maholm and outfielder Reed Johnson.

With the moves, the Braves added $832,000 in international bonus pool money by trading La Stella plus the No. 4 slot to the Cubs for Vizcaino plus slots 2, 3 and 4.

La Stella did hit one home run in his first big league season, and that came off the Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg on Aug. 8.

“We have enough firepower around where we don’t need anything crazy,” Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said when La Stella was promoted in May. “We don’t need anybody to come in and win the batting title or the home run title. Get on base and give us an opportunity to lengthen our lineup.”

La Stella replaced Dan Uggla at second for the Braves.

“He’s a guy that’s going to split the gaps, get on base,” Gonzalez said of La Stella. “He’s got great plate discipline. It’s good to be able to have that in your lineup. It’s nice to have that change, and hopefully he gives us something.”

– Carrie Muskat

11/16 Rizzo addresses crowd

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Here’s Anthony Rizzo talking to the crowd at his third Walk Off for Cancer in Parkland, Fla.

(Photo courtesy of Chicago Cubs)

11/16 Rizzo Walk Off for Cancer

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Here’s the crowd of participants taking part in Anthony Rizzo’s third Walk Off for Cancer, held Sunday in his hometown of Parkland, Fla. Rizzo has raised more than $100,000 each of the first two years of his walk. You can still donate at http://www.rizzo44.com

(photo courtesy of Chicago Cubs)

11/14 Cubs season opener now April 5

The Cubs are moving up the start of the 2015 season. The Cubs and ESPN announced that the 2015 opener at Wrigley Field will be played Sunday, April 5, to accommodate Major League Baseball’s Opening Night and an exclusive national television broadcast. The game versus the Cardinals now will start at 7:05 p.m. CT and air on ESPN2. This will mark the first Opening Night in Wrigley Field history.

Due to the shift, the Cubs-Cardinals opening series will be as follows:

Sunday, April 5: 7:05 p.m. vs. St. Louis Cardinals

Monday, April 6: OFF DAY

Tuesday, April 7: 7:05 p.m. vs. St. Louis Cardinals

Wednesday, April 8: 1:20 p.m. vs. St. Louis Cardinals

Thursday, April 9: OFF DAY

– Carrie Muskat

11/14 Japan tour update

Cubs pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada gave up two runs on two hits and one walk in 1 2/3 innings pitching for the MLB All-Stars in an 8-4 loss to Samurai Japan on Friday. Wada served up Japan’s first home run of the series, a solo shot in the eighth by Nobuhiro Matsuda. There were 42,277 fans at the Tokyo Dome for Friday’s game. The MLB team has been outscored, 17-12, in the three games.

11/13 Rizzo finishes 10th in NL MVP

Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo finished 10th in the balloting for National League Most Valuable Player, determined by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw won the MVP award, announced Thursday. Rizzo received one sixth-place vote, four seventh-place votes, two eighth-place votes, three ninth-place votes, and four 10th-place votes for a total of 37 points.

It’s the most points by a Cubs player in MVP balloting since Derrek Lee finished ninth in 2009, receiving 66 points. In 2012, Alfonso Soriano finished 20th (eight points) and Starlin Castro was 23rd in 2011 (one point).

Rizzo, 25, led the Cubs this season with a career-high 32 home runs and 78 RBIs, batting .286 in 140 games.

– Carrie Muskat

11/13 AFL update

Dan Vogelbach hit a RBI double in the fifth inning Thursday but it wasn’t enough as the Mesa Solar Sox ended their season with a 4-4, 11-inning tie with Glendale at Cubs Park. Vogelbach ended the game when he lined out in the 11th, leaving the bases loaded. He finished with a .261 average. Jacob Hannemann also started, and went 0-for-5 and finished with a .279 average. The Solar Sox finished 15-14-2 in the East division. Salt River and Peoria will square off Saturday for the AFL championship.

11/13 Lester to meet with Cubs

According to reports, free agent pitcher Jon Lester will meet with Cubs officials next week. Lester’s agents have prepared a 200-plus page full color portfolio on the pitcher, along with a three-minute video. It features his charity work as well as his efforts on the field. Lester’s agent, Seth Levinson, met with Cubs officials as well as others, including Red Sox GM Ben Cherington, during the GM meetings in Phoenix. That’s standard procedure — agents touch base with all teams interested in their clients. But the bidding for Lester most likely will come down to the Cubs vs. Red Sox, who would like Lester to come back.

Just don’t expect the Cubs to sign Lester and Max Scherzer and James Shields to mega deals.

“It’s hard to acquire pitching. Period,” Theo Epstein said Wednesday in Phoenix. “It’s hard to acquire top-of-the-rotation pitching. I’ve seen us linked. People predict that we’re going to sign two top-of-the-rotation starters who both require nine-figure contracts. That’s not happening.

“Look at the history of nine-figure starting pitching contracts, and it’s a huge risk,” Epstein said. “So, to put an organization in the position to have two such deals immediately in the course of the same offseason, I couldn’t imagine something like that occurring.”

11/13 Scott Boras bits

Super agent Scott Boras held court in Phoenix on Wednesday during the GM meetings. Here are a couple of his Cub-related comments, courtesy of the Chicago Tribune and Comcast SportsNet Chicago reporters on site.

* On new Cubs manager Joe Maddon:

“I told Joe Maddon I want him to be my financial advisor,” Boras said. “He’s the only guy I know that goes on a vacation and while in his RV [he] makes $20 million. Yeah, they are making moves that are designed to help the team be competitive.”

* On his client, Kris Bryant, the Minor League player of the year after hitting 43 home runs in the Cubs Minor Leagues.

“Certainly [the Cubs] have made the statement,” Boras said. “‘We’re going to win a division’ is what I heard. And I know a guy that has 42 reasons why he can help you do that.”

* On the Cubs:

“If any fan base in Chicago deserves a ‘now’ and not a ‘tomorrow,’ I’d say it’s the Chicago Cubs,” Boras said.

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