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11/12 Cubs deny Zimmermann report – UPDATED

Cubs officials denied a report they were in contact with the Nationals regarding a potential trade for right-hander Jordan Zimmermann. On Tuesday night, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the two teams had mutual interest in making a deal, with the Cubs sending at least one of their middle infielders to the Nationals for the pitcher. However, a Cubs official told MLB.com later Tuesday that the report was not true. FOX Sports Ken Rosenthal also reported Cubs officials denying the Sun-Times report.

The Cubs are in the market for starting pitching, but are more likely to be exploring the free agent pitchers on the market, including Jon Lester, Max Scherzer and James Shields. If the price for those players is too high, they could wait for next year’s free agent market that will include Zimmermann, David Price, Zack Greinke, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija. Theo Epstein has said repeatedly that they are looking at players over the next 15 months, not just this offseason.

Zimmermann, who turns 29 in May, is due to make $16.5 million in 2015, the last year of his contract. He was 14-5 with a 2.66 ERA in 32 starts in 2014.

An update: On Wednesday, Nationals GM Mike Rizzo denied the Cubs and Nats were in talks regarding Zimmermann. Speaking in Phoenix at the GM meetings, Rizzo said the report “was somebody’s conjecture that had no basis to it and no facts. There was no interaction whatsoever on the subject. How do I react to it? What can you do about it, other than talk to the guy who wrote it and say, ‘What are you doing?’”

– Carrie Muskat

11/11 Season ticket sales hit limit

The Cubs have reached their season ticket sale capacity for the 2015 season. Julian Green, vice president of communications and community affairs, said the renewal rate for season tickets was 91 percent. The waiting list for season tickets has more than 50,000 names and is growing, Green said.

The renewal rate was close to 90 percent prior to the announcement on Nov. 3 that the Cubs had hired Joe Maddon as manager. Green said the excitement about the prospects, the improved play at the end of the 2014 season, and the start of the renovation work at Wrigley Field all contributed to the surge in sales.

– Carrie Muskat

11/11 Congrats to Kyle Hendricks

Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks received two third place votes in the NL Rookie of the Year balloting by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom won the award, followed by the Reds’ Billy Hamilton and the Cardinals’ Kolton Wong. Hendricks was 7-2 with a 2.46 ERA in 13 starts for the Cubs this season.

– Carrie Muskat

11/11 MLB investigates Cubs re: Maddon hiring

Theo Epstein said he welcomed an investigation by Major League Baseball into tampering allegations related to the team’s hiring of Joe Maddon. When Rays general manager Andrew Friedman left to take a job with the Dodgers, Maddon exercised an opt-out clause in his contract with the Rays, and was named the Cubs 54th manager in franchise history on Nov. 3.

Speaking in Phoenix, where the general manager meetings are being held, Epstein said the investigation was in the preliminary stages. The Cubs have yet to receive requests for phone or email records, he said.

“We welcome the MLB investigation,” Epstein said Monday night. “As we said last week, there was no tampering whatsoever. I’d rather they investigate, so we can clear our names and move on from this quickly. We’re giving our full cooperation.”

On Oct. 31, when the Cubs announced that Rick Renteria was dismissed as manager, Epstein detailed the events that led to Maddon’s hiring, saying they received an email from Maddon’s agent, Alan Nero, announcing his free agent status. Epstein first contacted Dan Halem, MLB’s executive vice president of labor relations, to confirm that Maddon had opted out before responding to Nero.

Maddon had a two-week window to make a decision, and he and the Rays did discuss a contract extension. But Maddon instead decided to see what else was available, and eventually signed a five-year, $25 million contract with the Cubs.

– Carrie Muskat

11/11 GM meetings

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer began face to face meetings with agents on Monday while in Phoenix for the GM meetings.

“We said we’re going to be aggressive over the next 15 months and look for opportunities to get better,” Epstein told reporters in Phoenix on Monday. “It’s probably the first time agents can come into our suites without having to look both ways to make sure no one sees them coming in. We’re no longer the runt of the litter, I guess.”

The Cubs possess both payroll flexibility and young talent. Other teams and agents want to talk. And the Cubs will be linked early and often to free agent pitcher Jon Lester, who Epstein and Hoyer know from their days together in Boston.

“Free agents in general, they’re going to make good decisions for themselves and for their family and try to find a place where they can win and be comfortable and find a contract that works for them,” Epstein said. “To the extent that relationships help reassure players about those different factors, then [our relationship] is relevant. It establishes a comfort and trust. But beyond that … he’s going to have his pick [of teams].”

– Carrie Muskat

11/10 AFL update – Monday’s game

Jacob Hannemann was 3-for-4 but it wasn’t enough as Mesa lost, 5-2, to Glendale in Arizona Fall League play Monday. The Solar Sox play host to the Saguaros on Tuesday at Cubs Park. The AFL season ends Saturday.

11/10 Qualifying offers

It appears none of the dozen players who received one-year, $15.3 million qualifying offers accepted them, including Michael Cuddyer, who rejected the Rockies offer and signed a two-year, $21 million deal with the Mets on Monday.

The others to receive qualifying offers include Max Scherzer, Victor Martinez, Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, James Shields, Russell Martin, Nelson Cruz, David Robertson, Ervin Santana, Francisco Liriano, and Melky Cabrera. The deadline to make a decision was Monday at 4 p.m. CT.

What does this mean? Here’s a primer, courtesy of MLB Trade Rumors: MLB no longer designates free agents as type A or B regarding Draft pick compensation. The new system allows teams to make qualifying offers to a player who has spent the entire season with an organizaiton. The offer is determined as the average salary of baseball’s 125 highest paid players.

If the player rejects the offer, the team that signs him is required to forfeit its top unprotected Draft pick to sign that player. The top 11 picks of the Draft are protected (the Cubs pick is protected — and they would give up a second-round pick if they signed one of the above). The player’s former team receives a compensation pick at the end of the first round.

Because of the depth in the Cubs system, they may be willing to part with a second-round pick. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a valuable piece in the Draft.

“[To give up a second-round pick] feels very different than giving up the 10th, 12th, 15th player [overall] in the Draft,” Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said. “You wouldn’t say all bets are off because [the second-round pick] is a valuable pick but it does change the calculus for those teams that are protected in the first round.”

Which means if the Cubs do sign Russell Martin, they would be giving up their second-round Draft selection.

In Cuddyer’s case, the Mets now will forfeit the 15th pick overall in next June’s Draft. The Rockies will get the 31st pick overall — and first pick of the compensation round.

– Carrie Muskat

11/9 AFL and Winter league updates

Bijan Rademacher went 1-for-3 and scored a run in Mesa’s 11-4 loss to Surprise Saturday night in Arizona Fall League play. A 13th round pick in 2012, Rademacher is batting .343 in the AFL. After an off day Sunday, the AFL begins it’s final week. Mesa has three games remaining: Monday at Glendale vs. the Desert Dogs, Tuesday at Cubs Park vs. the Surprise Saguaros, and Wednesday at Cubs Park vs. the Desert Dogs. The AFL championship game will be played Nov. 15.

In Puerto Rico Winter League play, Jonathan Mota was 1-for-4 with a double for San Juan in a 14-3 loss to Caguas. Mota is batting .333.

11/8 Joe says thanks

Joe Maddon and his wife Jaye took out a full page ad in the Tampa Bay Times to say thanks to Rays fans among others. Here’s the copy:

“Thank you to the Tampa Bay community for making your home, our home;

“To everyone who has helped make ‘Thanksmas’ a success and to those who will help us continue to grow it;

“To the Rays players for your hard work, belief and commitment to creating and maintaining a positive culture that will endure;

“To the Rays coaching, training, and front office staffs that are second to none;

“To Stu Sternberg, Matt Silverman, Andrew Friedman and the Rays ownership group for permitting me to grow and evolve as a manager;

“But most of all … Thank you to the Rays fans for their consistent loyalty and energy which allowed me to flourish on a daily basis.”

11/8 AFL update – Friday’s game

Dan Vogelbach was 1-for-3 in Mesa’s 5-2 loss to Surprise on Friday. Three Cubs pitching prospects were in the game. Ivan Pineyro started, and gave up two hits over three scoreless innings. Gerardo Concepcion allowed one hit over three scoreless innings. Zach Cates gave up one run, which scored on a wild pitch in the seventh.

On Saturday night, Mesa travels to Surprise for a night game, starting at 6:08 p.m. MT, and which will be televised on MLB Network and streamed on MLB.com. After an off day Sunday, the Arizona Fall League kicks off its final week of action. Mesa will travel to Glendale on Monday.

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