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.

11/7 Cubs prep for GM meetings

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

11/7 Minor League free agents

According to Baseball America, Cubs Minor League free agents include:

Right-handed pitchers:
Alberto Cabrera, Lendy Castillo, Eduardo Figueroa, Marcus Hatley, Marcos Mateo, Carlos Pimentel, Dae-Eun Rhee

Catchers:
Charlie Cutler, Nathan Maldonado

1B:
Lars Anderson

2B:
Edgar Gonzalez, Jonathan Mota; Chris Valaika

OFs:
Manny Ramirez, Josh Vitters

11/7 Moving day at Wrigley

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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

11/7 Wada named to MLB team

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.

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