1/11 Minor League transactions

According to Baseball America, the Cubs have reportedly signed the following players to Minor League contracts:

RHP Jorge De Leon (released by A’s Dec. 17)
RHP Andres Santiago
C Taylor Teagarden
2B Chris Valaika (re-signed)

Santiago, 25, threw a nine-inning no-hitter, striking out 12, against the Cubs’ Double-A Tennessee team in the last week of the regular season. He repeated in the Dodgers system at the Double-A level in 2014 prior to testing the Minor League free agent market. Santiago was 6-8 with a 4.47 ERA in 26 games (24 starts) last season, striking out 98 over 129 innings.

Teagarden, 31, spent most of 2014 with the Mets’ Triple-A Las Vegas team, batting .303 in 55 games. He also appeared in nine games with the big league team, and over seven seasons with the Rangers, Orioles and Mets, has a .202 career average.

Valaika, 29, batted .231 in 44 games with the Cubs, and hit .278 in 102 games at Triple-A Iowa.

De Leon, 27, appeared in eight games, all in relief, with the Astros last season, and gave up four earned runs over 7 1/3 innings, striking out four. He pitched at Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Oklahoma City in 2014, and was a combined 4-5 with a 3.01 ERA in 46 appearances, striking out 61 over 68 2/3 innings.

* Players from other organizations to sign Minor League contracts with the Cubs:

OF Adron Chambers – Blue Jays
SS Jonathan Herrera – Red Sox

* According to Baseball America’s Minor League free agent tracker, the following Cubs prospects have signed with other teams:

1B Lars Anderson (Dodgers)
RHP Alberto Cabrera (Tigers)
C Charlie Cutler (Angels)
RHP Marcus Hatley (Cardinals)
OF Ryan Kalish (Blue Jays)
RHP Marcos Mateo (Padres)
RHP Dae-Eun Rhee (Japan)
C Eli Whiteside (Braves)

* Cubs Minor Leaguers who are still free agents:
RHP Lendy Castillo
RHP Eduardo Figueroa
2B Edgar Gonzalez
C Nathan Maldonado
2B Jonathan Mota
RHP Carlos Pimentel
OF Manny Ramirez
OF Josh Vitters

1/10 Winter league update

* Javier Baez was 3-for-5, scored three runs and hit a double in Santurce’s 10-0 win over Carolina to improve to 5-1 in the Puerto Rican league playoffs. Santurce plays Caguas on Saturday.

* Christian Villanueva was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in Obregon’s 7-2 loss to Mexicali in the deciding seventh game of the best of seven playoffs in Mexico. Obregon had opened a 3-1 lead in the series.

* Junior Lake was 2-for-4 with one RBIs in Estrellas 4-3 win over Aguilas in the Dominican Republic. Lake delivered an RBI single with one out in the eighth. Estrellas faces Los Toros on Saturday.

1/9 Cubs sign Denorfia

The Cubs officially signed free agent outfielder Chris Denorfia on Friday. He agreed to a one-year, $2.6 million contract that includes $400,000 in incentives. Denorfia, 34, is a career .272 hitter over all or part of nine seasons with the Reds, Athletics, Padres and Mariners. He’s played all three outfield positions, and has a career .292 average against left-handed pitchers. He’s also had success in the National League Central (.298 career batting average) and at Wrigley Field (.339 career batting average).

To make room on the Cubs’ 40-man roster, left-handed pitcher Mike Kickham was designated for assignment. Kickham, 26, was claimed off waivers from the Giants on Dec. 23.

The addition of Denorfia gives the Cubs a veteran outfielder to go along with Ryan Sweeney, Jorge Soler, Chris Coghlan, Arismendy Alcantara and Junior Lake.

– Carrie Muskat

1/9 Cubs Convention schedule

Here is the Cubs Convention schedule. The event will be held Jan. 16-18 at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers in Chicago:

(All times Central Time)

Friday, Jan. 16
6-7 p.m.: Opening ceremony
7:30-10 p.m.: Friday night with Ryan Dempster

Saturday, Jan. 17
9-10 a.m.: Ricketts family forum
9:30-10:30 a.m.: Cubs Jeopardy
10:30-11:30 a.m. A recent look back: The Cubs of 2007-08
11 a.m.-12 p.m.: Meet Cubs baseball management
12-1 p.m.: Meet the new Cubs
12:30-1:30 p.m.: Joe Maddon and his coaching staff
1:30-3 p.m.: For Kids Only press conference
2-3 p.m.: Cubs business operations update
3:30-4:30 p.m.: New Kids on the block
4-5 p.m.: Cubs family feud
5-6 p.m.: What lies ahead
5:15-6 p.m.: #CubsSocial
8-10 p.m.: Cubs Bingo

Sunday, Jan. 18:
9-10 a.m.: 30 years of Cubs Convention memories
10:30-11:30 a.m.: Down on the Farm

Note: The schedule is subject to change

1/9 Cubs Convention update

Weekend passes for the 30th annual Cubs Convention Jan. 16-18 and hotel packages at the event’s location, Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers, are sold out, the team announced Friday. However, a limited number of room packages at the W Chicago Lakeshore Hotel with weekend passes are available. The packages at the W Hotel include passes at a discounted price of $20 per pass. For more information, fans should visit http://www.cubs.com/convention.

The 2015 Cubs Convention will feature new manager Joe Maddon, his coaching staff, current players, including Jon Lester, alumni, Minor Leaguers, broadcasters and team executives. There will be more than 100 photo and autograph opportunities, enhanced activities and traditional favorites.

The list of confirmed players, coaches, alumni, team executives and broadcasters includes:

Major League Players:
Arismendy Alcantara, INF/OF
Jake Arrieta, RHP
Javier Baez, INF
Dallas Beeler, RHP
Welington Castillo, C
Starlin Castro, INF
Chris Coghlan, OF
Justin Grimm, RHP
Jason Hammel, RHP
Kyle Hendricks, RHP
Edwin Jackson, RHP
Eric Jokisch, LHP
Tommy La Stella, INF
Jon Lester, LHP
Rafael Lopez, C
Miguel Montero, C
Jason Motte, RHP
Mike Olt, INF
Blake Parker, RHP
Neil Ramirez, RHP
Anthony Rizzo, INF
Hector Rondon, RHP
Zac Rosscup, LHP
Brian Schlitter, RHP
Jorge Soler, OF
Dan Straily, RHP
Pedro Strop, RHP
Ryan Sweeney, OF
Matt Szczur, OF
Jacob Turner, RHP
Luis Valbuena, INF
Tsuyoshi Wada, LHP
Travis Wood, LHP

Minor League Players:
Albert Almora, OF
Kris Bryant, INF
C.J. Edwards, RHP
Pierce Johnson, RHP
Addison Russell, INF
Kyle Schwarber, C/OF

Alumni:
George Altman, INF/OF
Glenn Beckert, INF
Ryan Dempster, RHP
Bob Dernier, OF
Mark DeRosa, INF/OF
Leon Durham, INF/OF
Bob Howry, RHP
Randy Hundley, C
Fergie Jenkins, RHP
Jay Johnstone, OF
Jacque Jones, OF
Les Lancaster, RHP
Jon Lieber, RHP
Ted Lilly, LHP
Bill Madlock, INF
Gary Matthews, OF
Dave Otto, LHP, Broadcaster
Milt Pappas, RHP
Glendon Rusch, LHP
Lee Smith, RHP
Tim Stoddard, RHP
Rick Sutcliffe, RHP
Steve Trout, LHP
Billy Williams, OF
Kerry Wood, RHP

Coaching Staff:
Joe Maddon, Manager
Henry Blanco, Quality Assurance Coach
Mike Borzello, Catching Coach
Chris Bosio, Pitching Coach
Eric Hinske, Asst. Hitting Coach
Brandon Hyde, First Base Coach
Gary Jones, Third Base Coach
John Mallee, Hitting Coach
Dave Martinez, Bench Coach
Lester Strode, Bullpen Coach

Team Executives:
Tom Ricketts, Chairman
Laura Ricketts, Board Member
Todd Ricketts, Board Member
Theo Epstein, President, Baseball Operations
Crane Kenney, President, Business Operations

Baseball Staff/Broadcasters:
Jed Hoyer, GM
Jason McLeod, SVP, Scouting & Player Development
Randy Bush, Assistant GM
Shiraz Rehman, Assistant GM
Pat Hughes, Radio Broadcaster
Ron Coomer, Radio Broadcaster, INF (2001)
Len Kasper, TV Broadcaster
Jim Deshaies, TV Broadcaster

Special Guest:
Clark, Team Mascot

1/8 Cubs and WGN-TV agree on 5 year deal

The Cubs and WGN-TV announced a five-year agreement Thursday in which the local station will televise 45 games annually, beginning with the 2015 season.
WGN-TV has been the Cubs television home since 1948, but the team had opted out of an agreement after the 2014 season ended. By doing so, there were 70 games available, which now will be split between WGN-TV (45 games) and WLS-TV/ABC 7 (25 games). The Cubs announced a five-year agreement with WLS-TV/ABC 7 in December. The other Cubs games will be broadcast on Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

The length of the contracts with WLS-TV/ABC 7 and WGN-TV are key because the Cubs would like to get their broadcast and cable rights in sync after the 2019 season. At that time, the team could launch its own regional sports network.

As part of the agreement announced Thursday, television broadcasters Jim Deshaies and Len Kasper will become employees of the Cubs after previously being employed through WGN-TV.

The Cubs are expected to release the television broadcast schedule next month.

– Carrie Muskat

1/8 Sloan Park

The Cubs’ Spring Training ballpark in Mesa, Ariz., now will be called Sloan Park. The team announced Sloan Valve Company, a 109-year-old company, as the new naming rights partner. A Chicago-area based company, Sloan has joined the Cubs as a Legacy Partner.

Sloan is a leading global manufacturer of water-efficient solutions. A fourth-generation family business, Sloan prides itself on promoting a healthy environment through water conservation. The Cubs will utilize Sloan’s products in the Mesa ballpark and target integration inside Wrigley Field and its surrounding facilities as part of the 1060 Project construction.

The 2015 Cactus League season will be the second at the ballpark, which had been known as Cubs Park. The Cubs’ first spring game will be March 5 against the Athletics. Pitchers and catchers report to Mesa on Feb. 19, and position players report Feb. 24. New Cubs manager Joe Maddon will hold his first full squad workout on Feb. 25.

– Carrie Muskat

1/7 Dave Martinez’s homecoming

Dave Martinez had hoped to be a big league manager in 2015 and take over the Rays. Instead, he’ll celebrate a homecoming as Martinez returns to the Cubs and Wrigley Field, where he made his Major League debut back in 1986.

Martinez was Maddon’s bench coach for seven seasons in Tampa Bay, and that relationship will continue with the Cubs. Martinez does have an edge over Maddon. The Cubs’ third-round pick in 1983, Martinez played four seasons with the team (1986-88, 2000) and knows Wrigley Field’s quirks. Maddon got his first look inside the Cubs’ ballpark during an Interleague series last June.

“I told him on the bus, ‘You’re really going to appreciate baseball once you see Wrigley,'” Martinez said by phone Wednesday. “After the first game, on the way back to the hotel, he looked at me and said, ‘That was impressive.'”

Maddon isn’t used to playing so many home day games and has said he’ll rely on Martinez, 50, for advice.

“One thing [Maddon] likes is to make sure is the guys get plenty of rest,” Martinez said. “He’d rather see quality not quantity, and we’ve been really good at that [with the Rays].”

When Maddon left Tampa Bay, Martinez interviewed for the opening. But Kevin Cash got the job, and Martinez resigned in late November.

“It was definitely disappointing,” Martinez said. “I felt like I was groomed for the job and I knew everything. I knew what needed to happen moving forward. They decided they wanted a totally different voice and a different face. That being said, I thought it would be best for me and my family to do something else and go somewhere else. I have no ill feelings about anything — we had a great run and I met some unbelievable people and a lot of those guys are like family to me. Moving forward, I’m a Chicago Cub and I know this will be a blessing for me and my family. Hopefully we bring a championship to Wrigley.”

Martinez predicted Maddon will make it very interesting with the Cubs. Could there be a blues band in the clubhouse? Who knows?

“Spring training is going to be a lot different than you’ve ever seen,” Martinez said. “We want guys to wake up and say, ‘Hey, I can’t wait to get to the ballpark.'”

Martinez has been watching video to familiarize himself with the players. Now a father of four, he’s eager to get back to Chicago.

“It’s really like me coming to my second home,” Martinez said.

– Carrie Muskat

1/7 Extra bases

* Javier Baez hit a run-scoring ground out with one out in the ninth to lift Santurce to a 4-2 victory Tuesday over Caguas in Puerto Rico. Santurce is now 4-0 in the round robin playoffs and faces Carolina on Wednesday.

* Wednesday is Jon Lester’s 31st birthday. The Cubs newest starter will get his first taste of the Cubs Convention next weekend in Chicago.

* Wednesday also is National Bobblehead Day. Dust off your bobbleheads and celebrate.

1/6 Cubs and WGN-TV

The Cubs will be back on WGN-TV. The Cubs are expected to announce a new five-year deal with WGN-TV to carry 45 games, completing the team’s television broadcast schedule, according to an industry source.

In December, the Cubs and WLS-TV/ABC 7 Chicago announced a partnership for television rights through 2019. The other Cubs games will be broadcast on Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

WGN-TV has been the Cubs television home since 1948, but the team had opted out of an agreement after the 2014 season ended. By doing so, there were 70 games available, which now will be split between WGN-TV (45 games) and WLS-TV/ABC 7 (25 games).

The length of the contracts with WLS-TV/ABC 7 and WGN-TV are key because the Cubs would like to get their broadcast and cable rights in sync after the 2019 season. At that time, the team could launch its own regional sports network.

Television broadcasters Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies will handle the Cubs broadcasts on all three stations.

– Carrie Muskat

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