Even before Joe Maddon was hired as manager, the Cubs were rumored to be on the verge of signing nearly every free agent on the market. They do have money to spend but that doesn’t mean they’re going on a shopping spree this winter.
“One of the challenges we have right now is that we’re literally linked to every single free agent,” GM Jed Hoyer said Friday. “Some of that is agent driven to try to connect us to everyone because they realize we have some payroll flexibility. We’ve said all along if the right things line up, we could have an active offseason. We’re not going to force it.
“A lot of the reports we read make it seem we’re going to have some kind of a super-charged offseason and I think that’s over-stated,” he said.
The Cubs are in the market for starting pitching and are interested in upgrading other positions, including catcher. But Hoyer would neither confirm or deny reports that they had met with free agent catcher Russell Martin. Welington Castillo did well behind the plate in his second full season as the regular catcher but he struggled offensively, batting .237, which has prompted the Martin-to-Cubs talk.
“We want veteran leadership on the team, whether that’s one person or three or four people, so if we can find that combination of attributes that’s something that would be appealing,” Hoyer said. “All of that said, I don’t think ‘Welly’ had his best year last year, but I think he’s a good Major League catcher and showed in the second half of 2013 what he can do. Certainly we like ‘Welly’ as a catcher and as a person and as a potential leader down the road.”
Hoyer will be in Arizona on Monday for the GM meetings, and the chance to not only go over issues such as pace of game but also see if anyone matches up trade-wise.
“It’s always a really delicate balancing process,” Hoyer said regarding acquiring players through free agency compared to making deals. “Sometimes there might be a better fit in trade than free agency but you have to balance what you give up in talent and on your team to get that player you have to trade for.
“Sometimes that player you’re trading for is much cheaper than the player in free agency, and that helps you justify it,” he said in a conference call with beat writers. “But, candidly, if both of those players are exactly the same cost, and you have to give up talent to get one, and you don’t have to give up talent to sign the free agent, I think that often tips the scales over the course of the winter.”
The Cubs also feel the free agent market isn’t as deep in terms of overall talent and it’s tough to address a lot of holes on the roster that way. That could prompt more trades.
Despite another last place finish in the Central, Hoyer said the Cubs feel good heading into the offseason.
“We finished the season strong,” Hoyer said. “Our farm system and young talent has gotten a lot of recognition. We had good momentum going into the offseason anyway and people were starting to take notice. With Joe coming on board, it underscored that we had momentum, and that we’re a team that while possibly not fully formed, is moving in the right direction and has a bright future. I think Joe’s presence here underscores and illuminates that more than anything else.
* Maddon has yet to finalize his coaching staff, although pitching coach Chris Bosio and hitting coach John Mallee are expected back. The staff was announced early last month, but that was before Rick Renteria was dismissed and Maddon was hired.
– Carrie Muskat
According to Baseball America, Cubs Minor League free agents include:
Alberto Cabrera, Lendy Castillo, Eduardo Figueroa, Marcus Hatley, Marcos Mateo, Carlos Pimentel, Dae-Eun Rhee
Charlie Cutler, Nathan Maldonado
Edgar Gonzalez, Jonathan Mota; Chris Valaika
Manny Ramirez, Josh Vitters
On Friday, crews carefully moved what is known as the caretaker’s house away from Wrigley Field. The brick structure was built in 1923 and located at the northwest corner of Wrigley Field, outside of the ballpark. It’s temporary home will be about 200 feet away in a parking lot.
Construction crews needed the 470,000-pound building to be moved to complete modifications inside Wrigley Field’s Gate K. They are excavating for a new two-story basement level for the planned office building and plaza in the lots immediately adjacent to the ballpark. The caretaker’s house will be restored and returned to its original location by Opening Day 2015. When restored, the building will have a front porch with a combination of salvaged and new bricks. The house will be placed on a new foundation and will get a new roof.
Wolfe House Movers handled the delicate operation of moving the house, which was built for $6,000 during a major renovation of then-Cubs Park between the 1922-1923 seasons. Owner William Wrigley Jr. decided to build the home and offer it free of rent to Dorr, who was the ballpark’s grounds superintendent from 1919-57. Dorr and his family moved into the building in 1923, and he lived there until his death in 1957.
Long-time Cubs traveling secretary Bob Lewis use the building as his office and also called it home after Dorr left. Upon Lewis’ retirement, the building served as an office and also storage. Some players wanted to live there. Most recently, it was used as office space for the concessionaires.
– Carrie Muskat
Cubs pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada is on the roster for the MLB All-Star team that will face Japanese teams in a five-game series, Nov. 11-20 in Japan. The MLB team will be managed by Red Sox skipper John Farrell.
The 29-man roster consists of 14 pitchers, three catchers, seven infielders, three outfielders and two infielders/outfielders. Besides Wada, the pitching staff includes Jeff Beliveau (TB); Jerry Blevins (WSH); 2006 All-Star Chris Capuano (NYY); Randy Choate (STL); Jeremy Guthrie (KC); Tommy Hunter (BAL); Tokyo native and 2013 All-Star Hisashi Iwakuma (SEA); 2013 All-Star Mark Melancon (PIT); Franklin Morales (COL); Hector Santiago (LAA); Matt Shoemaker (LAA); Jose Veras (HOU); and Rob Wooten (MIL).
The three catchers are Drew Butera (LAD), Erik Kratz (KC) and two-time All-Star Salvador Perez (KC), while the position players consist of 2014 AL Batting Champion and two-time All-Star Jose Altuve (HOU); six-time All-Star Robinson Cano (SEA); Chris Carter (HOU); Lucas Duda (NYM); Alcides Escobar (KC); Dexter Fowler (HOU); three-time All-Star Evan Longoria (TB); 2014 NL Batting Champion and four-time All-Star Justin Morneau (COL); Eduardo Nunez (MIN); 2014 All-Star Yasiel Puig (LAD); Carlos Santana (CLE); and two-time All-Star Ben Zobrist (TB).
All-Star Series games will be hosted in Osaka (Kyocera Dome), Tokyo (Tokyo Dome) and Sapporo (Sapporo Dome). Two exhibition games will complement the five-game series, with one game in Osaka (Koshien Stadium) and the other in Okinawa (Okinawa Cellular Stadium).
MLB Network will exclusively televise every game of the Japan All-Star Series live in the U.S., beginning with the exhibition game on Nov. 11 at 4 a.m. ET. MLB.TV subscribers also will be able to watch every game live and on-demand across any of its supported devices, including via the MLB.com At Bat app. Each game will re-air later the same day at 9:00 p.m. ET.
Jacob Hannemann went 1-for-3 in the Mesa Solar Sox’s 4-2, 10-inning win over Salt River on Thursday in Arizona Fall League play. Astros prospect Mark Appel held Mesa to one hit over five innings, striking out four. On Friday, the Solar Sox play host to the Saguaros at Cubs Park. First pitch is scheduled for 12:35 p.m. MT. The AFL wraps up Nov. 15.
C.J. Edwards gave up one run on two hits over two innings, striking out four, in Mesa’s 11-2 win over Glendale in Arizona Fall League play on Wednesday. Dan Vogelbach had two hits and Bijan Rademacher drove in two runs for the Solar Sox. On Thursday, Mesa travels to Scottsdale to face Salt River for a 6:35 p.m. MT game. The game will be streamed live on MLB.com.
In the Dominican Republic, Manny Ramirez hit a solo home run to lift Aguilas to a 2-1 victory over Escogido.
MLB Trade Rumors has developed a model to project arbitration salaries. Here are the projections for the Cubs arbitration eligible players (remember, these are projections):
John Baker: $1.1 million
Wesley Wright: $2 million
Chris Coghlan: $1.4 million
Luis Valbuena: $3.1 million
Justin Ruggiano: $2.5 million
Travis Wood: $5.5 million
Pedro Strop: $2.4 million
Jake Arrieta: $4.1 million
Felix Doubront: $1.3 million
Welington Castillo: $2.1 million
Heading into the offseason, the Cubs have $35.5 million committed for 2015 to eight players (Edwin Jackson, Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, Tsuyoshi Wada, Jorge Soler, Ryan Sweeney, Jacob Turner, Gerardo Concepcion).
Dan Vogelbach hit a three-run single and added a double to spark the Mesa Solar Sox to a 3-1 victory Tuesday night over Salt River in Arizona Fall League play. On Wednesday, the Solar Sox play host to Glendale at 12:35 p.m. MT at Cubs Park. Right-hander C.J. Edwards is scheduled to start for Mesa.
Winter league update:
Junior Lake is batting .271 in 13 games with Estrellas de Oriente in the Dominican Winter League. Lake has one home run and one double, and has struck out 11 times in 48 at-bats. Jonathan Mota was 4-for-11 in three games in Puerto Rico. Also, Manny Ramirez is playing for Aguilas in the Dominican Republic, and batting .243 in 10 games with one home run, two doubles and eight RBIs.
Alfonso Soriano announced his retirement from the Major Leagues. The 38-year-old outfielder was a seven-time All-Star, and ranks 50th on the all-time home run list with 412.
“I’ve lost the love and passion to play the game,” Soriano said in a radio interview Tuesday in the Dominican Republic. “Right now, my family is the most important thing. … Although I consider myself in great shape, my mind is not focused on baseball.”
Soriano spent seven seasons with the Cubs before he was traded to the Yankees in 2013.
– Carrie Muskat
One day after signing free agent manager Joe Maddon, the Cubs are checking the list of free agent players and are reportedly looking at Russell Martin. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman said the Cubs are going to target Martin, considered the top catcher available this offseason. Sources also told Comcast SportsNet Chicago’s Patrick Mooney that the Cubs have Martin on their radar.
The Pirates extended the $15.3 million qualifying offer to Martin, but he was expected to turn that down. The Pirates want to bring Martin back, and are one of several teams interested in the catcher. The list also is believed to include the Blue Jays and Red Sox. Martin will most likely be looking for a five-year deal, especially after catchers Brian McCann, Yadier Molina and Miguel Montero each signed contracts of that length. McCann received $85 million, Molina $75 million and Montero $60 million.
Other players who received the one-year, $15.3 million qualifying offer on Monday include Max Scherzer, Victor Martinez, Melky Cabrera, Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, Nelson Cruz, Francisco Liriano, Michael Cuddyer and Ervin Santana. The players have until Nov. 10 to make a decision.
The Cubs would not have to give up a first-round Draft pick to sign Martin because of the team’s finish in the bottom 10 among Major League teams but instead it would cost a second-round pick. They also would have the amount slotted for that pick subtracted from the total amount of their Draft signing bonus pool, which governs how much a team can spend to sign picks in the top 10 rounds.
Martin’s slash line last season with the Pirates was .290/.402/.430, and he hit 11 home runs and drove in 67. He did miss time early in the season because of a left hamstring injury.
The Cubs had hoped Welington Castillo could pick up where he left off in the second half of 2013 when he hit .288 but instead batted .237 in 110 games. Castillo did set career-highs in home runs (13) and RBIs (46), but also was sidelined with a rib cage injury.
– Carrie Muskat