The Cubs did not plan on taking a player in next week’s Rule 5 Draft but have apparently lost that selection because of a grievance filed by the Phillies. In December 2011, the Cubs selected right-hander Lendy Castillo from the Phillies’ organization. Castillo spent most of the 2012 season on the disabled list with a groin injury, and appeared in 13 games for the Cubs. Any player selected in the Rule 5 Draft must stay on a team’s active roster for the entire season. To prevent abuse of the draft, the player selected must be active for at least 90 days. That keeps teams from selecting players and placing them on the disabled list for the majority of the season. Castillo missed 91 days in 2012, and spent all of the 2013 season in the Minor Leagues. The Phillies will have the Cubs’ selection in the Rule 5 Draft as compensation.
– Carrie Muskat
Junior Lake hit a RBI triple and scored a run but it wasn’t enough as Estrellas lost, 13-4, to Aguilas in Dominican Winter League play. Lake was ranked among the leaders in batting .357 in the Dominican, and has been inserted in the No. 3 or 4 spot this winter. Frank Batista pitched in relief for Aguilas, and has not given up a run in 5 1/3 innings over five games. He’s given up four hits, walked one, and struck out three. Batista posted a 2.60 ERA in 48 games in relief at Double-A Tennessee.
– Carrie Muskat
The bidding may start soon on Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. According to various media reports, Major League Baseball and Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball have reached a basic agreement on a new posting system. The Japan Times reports the new system will have a maximum posting fee of $20 million. Final details are still being worked out but FOX Sports and MLB Network’s Ken Rosenthal says if multiple teams submit the same bid, the player will be allowed to negotiate with all of those teams. Only the signing club would be required to pay the posting fee, which would not count against MLB’s luxury tax. Tanaka’s team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, opposed the $20 million max posting fee but the other 11 Japanese teams approved it.
During an interview on Comcast SportsNet Chicago Wednesday night, Theo Epstein said the Cubs were looking for “impact” pitching, and Tanaka would fit that. The 25-year-old was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in 28 regular season games with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.
– Carrie Muskat
The Cubs added another left-handed reliever to the bullpen mix on Wednesday, signing free agent Wesley Wright to a one-year deal. Wright, 28, was non-tendered by the Rays on Monday. He posted a combined 3.69 ERA in 70 games for the Rays and Astros this past season, striking out 55 over 53 2/3 innings pitched.
USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported the deal was believed to be $1.425 million for Wright. Major League sources confirmed the signing.
In his career, Wright has held left-handed hitters to a .231 average compared to .266 by right-handed batters.
Wright announced the signing himself by changing his Twitter profile @realweswright to say he’s now a relief pitcher for the Cubs.
Wright picked up his first career win on April 4, 2008, pitching in relief at Wrigley for the Astros. He entered the game with a man on first and two outs in the seventh, and the two teams tied at 2. He got Felix Pie to ground out and end the inning, and the Astros scored two in the eighth. Wright was the pitcher of record and picked up the win.
According to a story from that game, he planned on giving the game ball to his parents, who were expected in Houston for the home opener that year. It was special to get the first win at Wrigley Field. Growing up in Gosham, Ala., he watched Major League games on cable television. His father was a Braves fan but his brother, Derrick, watched the Cubs.
“You do what your older brother does,” Wright said at the time. “I was a big fan of Andre Dawson and Ryne Sandberg, Shawon Dunston, Sammy Sosa … all the guys that played here in the past.”
Needless to say, the young lefty, who was 23 at the time and pitching in his second career big league game, was excited.
“It was surreal for me to be out there on the mound and 30-some thousand people at Wrigley,” he said. “It was crazy. I wish my brother could have been here to share it with me because I know it would mean just as much to him.”
The Cubs were looking for bullpen help, and especially another left-hander to help southpaw James Russell, who ranked 10th in the National League in games (74). Chicago is still shopping for a closer to replace Kevin Gregg, who is a free agent.
– Carrie Muskat
During an interview Wednesday night on Chicago Sports Talk Live, Theo Epstein said the chances of Jeff Samardzija being in the Cubs Opening Day rotation are “pretty good.”
Samardzija has been the subject of trade rumors since July, and ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick wrote Wednesday that the Cubs will do some “serious listening” at the Winter Meetings to teams interested in trading for the right-hander.
In the show Wednesday night on Comcast SportsNet Chicago, Epstein repeated that the Cubs are hoping to sign Samardzija to a long-term deal. The pitcher is arbitration eligible.
“He’s our best pitcher and I’m really bullish on his future,” Epstein said on the Comcast SportsNet Chicago show. “He’s a guy who is a difference making starting pitcher for a long time.”
Epstein did say they want to get the most out of their assets, and although one way is a contract extension, another way is to trade that player for “mulitiple young impact assets.”
“With Jeff, I still have the belief that he can be the guy, he has the exact makeup we’re looking for,” Epstein said.
Samardzija is under team control for two more seasons, has shown that he’s durable, he’s a power pitcher, and he’s only 28 years old. The Cubs would have to be blown away by a package to deal Samardzija, who is arbitration eligible and projected to get a $4.9 million in 2014. Many teams looking for starting pitching consider him to be a better alternative than the free agent pitchers still on the market.
What could influence the Cubs decision on whether to part with Samardzija is if they can fill that spot in the rotation with Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. According to a report on Wednesday, Japanese baseball officials are willing to accept the $20 million maximum bid, which would be part of the new posting rules. Tanaka was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA for Rakuten this season.
Stay tuned. The Winter Meetings get underway Monday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
– Carrie Muskat
According to Crain’s Chicago Business, a Chicago city panel approved an ordinance Wednesday that reduces the maximum number of night games the Cubs can schedule but will give the team more flexibility. The ordinance, approved by the Commiittee on License and Consumer Protection, will trim the number of night games from 46 to 43. The Chicago City Council approved 46 night games in June. In exchange, the city has dropped its authority to veto days and times chosen for rescheduled night games.
Crain’s reports the ordinance also increases the number of security personnel outside Wrigley Field after Cubs games, and that the city must pay for 10 additional staffers. The Cubs also must expand the remote parking from 500 spaces to 1,000, and make it free.
The Cubs also will have to pay a fine if any concerts at Wrigley Field go beyond 11 p.m., according to Crain’s. This summer’s Pearl Jam concert went until 2 a.m. because of a weather delay.
The City Council will consider the new ordinance Dec. 11.
Two former Cubs players are apparently the top candidates for the job as color analyst on WGN Radio broadcasts. Todd Hollandsworth and Ron Coomer are the favorites for the job, according to a source. The Cubs have been searching for a partner for play by play man Pat Hughes after Keith Moreland announced he was leaving. A decision was expected to be finalized next week during the Winter Meetings, which begin Monday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
The source said there are other candidates being considered.
Hollandsworth, 40, played for the Cubs from 2004-05, and has done pre and post-game analysis for Comcast SportsNet Chicago since 2009. Coomer, 47, who grew up in Lockport, Ill., played for the Cubs in 2001. He was an analyst for Fox Sports North, the primary television broadcaster for the Twins.
The Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, Ill.) reported Coomer as a candidate last month. Media critic Robert Feder wrote Wednesday that Coomer and Hollandsworth were finalists.
Eric Hinske was the Cubs’ 17th round pick in the 1998 First-Year Player Draft but never got to play for the team. In March 2001, he was dealt to the Athletics for Miguel Cairo. On Tuesday, Cubs manager Rick Renteria completed his coaching staff by naming Hinske as the first base coach.
This will be Hinske’s first coaching stint. He wrapped up a 12-year Major League career last season that included 2002 American League Rookie of the Year honors with the Blue Jays and three-straight World Series appearances, bookended by championships with the Red Sox in 2007 and the Yankees in 2009. Hinske, 36, played 1,387 Major League games with the Blue Jays (2002-06), Red Sox (2006-07), Rays (2008), Pirates (2009), Yankees (2009), Braves (2010-12) and Diamondbacks (2013). He finished his career with a .249 batting average.
Hinske joins pitching Chris Bosio, bench coach Brandon Hyde, third base coach Gary Jones, hitting coach Bill Mueller, bullpen coach Lester Strode, catching coach Mike Borzello, assistant hitting coach Mike Brumley and staff assistant Franklin Font on Renteria’s staff.
– Carrie Muskat
The Cubs will hold a tree lighting ceremony at Wrigley Field on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. CT. Cubs board member Laura Ricketts and Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins will take part. The 24-foot decorated holiday tree, donated by Christy Webber Landscapes, is located near the Wrigley marquee at Clark and Addison streets. This year’s tree will help celebrate the ballpark’s 100th anniversary and feature “Wrigley Field 100″ ornaments and the number “100” as the tree topper. The tree-lighting ceremony will include free hot chocolate, cookies and photos with Santa.
The Cubs also will host a holiday toy drive Thursday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. CT. Fans can bring unwrapped toys to the administrative entrance located on Clark Street next to the Ernie Banks statue. All toys will be donated to Lawrence Hall Youth Services.
Cubs Charities and Christy Webber Farm & Garden are selling holiday greenery at Wrigley Field. A portion of all sales from the tree lot will be donated to Cubs Charities.
MLB and the Cubs have released “A Century of Wrigley Field: The official history of the Friendly Confines,” which commemorates the ballpark’s first 100 years. The book is available for pre-order on MLB.com and advance copies are for sale at the Cubs Store on Clark and Addison streets. Retail price is $50, and all orders must be placed by Dec. 19 to receive shipment by Dec. 24.
Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, did the foreward and there are more than 200 illustrated pages and images. Other Hall of Famers featured include Ryne Sandberg, Billy Williams and Andre Dawson.