12/2 Congrats to Iowa’s Sam Bernabe

Triple-A Iowa general manager Sam Bernabe was named Minor League executive of the year by Baseball America, and will be honored next week at the baseball Winter Meetings. Bernabe will be presented with the award during a special ceremony hosted by Baseball America in San Diego on Dec. 9.

Bernabe has worked for the Iowa Cubs for 31 seasons, and became president and part-owner of the club in 1999. In addition to his duties overseeing the day to day operations of the ballclub, Bernabe is chairman of the Board of Trustees of Minor League Baseball as the Pacific Coast League representative. He also serves on the joint Triple-A Marketing Committee, the National Association of Professional Baseball Marketing Committee, and the Professional Baseball Playing Rules Committee. Bernabe was named the American Association Executive of the Year in 1993, the PCL Executive of the Year in 2008, and the John H. Johnson President’s Award winner from Minor League Baseball in 2002.

12/2 Jon Lester update

Will Jon Lester decide to go west and join the defending World Series champions? Will he return to Boston to pitch for the Red Sox? Or, will he pick the Cubs and rejoin Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer?

Lester met Monday in Atlanta with a delegation from the Giants, who pitched a return to the Bay area where the left-hander played in the second half of last season with the Athletics.

The Giants, Red Sox and Cubs can afford Lester, who was 16-11 with a career best 2.46 ERA in 32 starts last season for the Red Sox and Athletics. According to reports, the Cubs and Red Sox have made six-year offers to Lester worth $138 million and $130 million, respectively.

Lester, who turns 31 on Jan. 7, also met with the Braves, but they have reportedly dropped out of the bidding for the free agent pitcher, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

All the Cubs can do now is wait. Lester has two World Series rings from his days with the Red Sox, including one from 2007 when Epstein and Hoyer were in Boston’s front office. The lefty could be a key part of the Cubs’ bid to end a 108-year championship drought.

– Carrie Muskat

12/2 Arbitration deadline

The Cubs were expected to tender contracts to all of their arbitration eligible players Tuesday, including Travis Wood, who is coming off a tough 2014 season. Wood is one of 10 arbitration eligible players on the Cubs roster. The list also includes Jake Arrieta, John Baker, Welington Castillo, Chris Coghlan, Felix Doubront, Justin Ruggiano, Pedro Strop, Luis Valbuena and Wesley Wright.

Wood, 27, had an All-Star season in 2013, compiling a 3.11 ERA in 32 starts and reaching 200 innings for the first time in his career. But this past season, he went 8-13 with a 5.03 ERA in 31 starts, and gave up career highs in hits (190) and walks (76). In 2013, opponents batted .222 off Wood and the batting average of balls in play was .251; last season, teams batted .277 off the lefty and the BAPIP was .324.

– Carrie Muskat

12/1 Cubs to talk to Martinez

According to the Tampa Bay Times, the Cubs have asked for and received permission to talk to Dave Martinez, who was Joe Maddon’s bench coach. And, if the Cubs were to hire Martinez, it would not require any compensation. Martinez was dropped from consideration for the Rays managerial opening, and then told the team last week he was leaving. The Cubs would have to make room on the coaching staff for Martinez.

– Carrie Muskat

12/1 Lester to visit Giants

The Cubs will have to wait a little longer for a decision from free agent Jon Lester. The pitcher was to meet with the Giants Monday, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney. The Giants would be the fourth team Lester has talked to, joining the Red Sox, Cubs and Braves. There were early reports that Lester also would meet with the Cardinals but the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports GM John Mozeliak has no plans to bring the lefty to St. Louis for a visit. Mozeliak described the Cardinals’ interest more as due diligence.

“I feel we still have depth,” Mozeliak told the Post-Dispatch. “We don’t have to do something now.”

Lester was in Chicago on Nov. 18 to meet with Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer and tour Wrigley Field.

According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Cubs have offered Lester $138 million over six years. Heyman says the Red Sox are willing to go up to $130 million.

– Carrie Muskat

11/29 The holiday season

The Cubs are inviting fans to participate in a holiday toy drive to benefit children at Lawrence Hall Youth Services. Toys may be donated at the Cubs Store across from Wrigley Field from now until Thursday at 5:30 p.m. CT, when the Cubs will host a holiday celebration and tree lighting ceremony at the corner of Clark and Addison streets.

You can bring new, unwrapped toys to donate at the tree lighting event. The large tree, donated by Christy Webber Landscapes, will stand at the northwest corner of Clark and Addison to avoid conflict with the Wrigley Field renovation project.

Fergie Jenkins, Tom Ricketts and representatives from the organizations that benefited from the Cubs’ 100 Gifts of Service will attend the tree lighting. The 100 Gifts of Service represent a year-long program featuring Cubs players and associates engaging in community service in celebration of Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday season.

If you can’t attend the tree lighting ceremony, the Cubs Store will accept new, unwrapped toys as donations during its business hours of 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. CT. Lawrence Hall Youth Services has compiled a wish list of desired toys, including action figures, board games, dolls, educational toys, puzzles, sporting equipment, stuffed animals, toy cars and more.

In addition to the toy drive, fans worldwide can offer a monetary donation to Cubs Charities to support the toy drive and other programs targeting improvements in health, fitness and education for those at risk. Tuesday is the global day dedicated to giving back. The Cubs will participate in the #GivingTuesday social media campaign, and requests fans share both the #GivingTuesday and #CubsCharities hashtags when encouraging donations online. Donations to Cubs Charities may be submitted online at http://www.cubscharities.com.

11/28 Strop OK after accident

Cubs officials say reliever Pedro Strop was “doing fine” after being involved in a two-vehicle accident in the Dominican Republic Thursday night. Initial reports were “very encouraging” regarding Strop, a Cubs official said Friday.

According to reports from the Dominican, the accident occurred in the San Cristobal province, west of the capital of Santo Domingo. Strop and a friend were in a car that crashed into a wall, and their vehicle and another vehicle involved were both destroyed.

The accident is the third involving a baseball player in the Dominican Republic in the last month. St. Louis Cardinals prospect Oscar Taveras was killed in a car crash on Oct. 26, and Rangers prospect Ronald Guzman was uninjured in a fatal car crash earlier this week. In August, Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro lost a relative and three friends in a fatal car accident in the Dominican.

– Carrie Muskat

11/27 Happy Thanksgiving

Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday and takes time to count their blessings. Right now, I’m thankful that I got the turkey in the oven without any problems. Enjoy the day, your family and football.

– Carrie Muskat

11/26 Dave Martinez update

Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said they will talk to manager Joe Maddon about Dave Martinez, who announced on Tuesday that he was leaving the Rays after being eliminated from consideration for Tampa’s managerial opening. Martinez, 50, has spent the past seven seasons as Maddon’s bench coach. Hoyer and Theo Epstein are familiar with Martinez, having interviewed him for the Cubs managerial opening prior to the 2014 season. Martinez was a finalist, but Rick Renteria got the job, only to be dismissed Oct. 31 to make room for Maddon. The Cubs recently added Henry Blanco as a quality assurance coach.

Hoyer talked about Martinez during an interview on 87.7 FM The Game Wednesday.

– Carrie Muskat

11/26 Wrigley work delayed

The Wrigley Field bleachers may not be ready by Opening Day because of unseasonably cold weather and delays with related projects, but a contingency plan is in place for season ticket holders, a Cubs spokesman said Wednesday.

“It’s the nature of the construction business, being able to deal with timing issues and setbacks and delays,” said Julian Green, vice president of communications and community affairs. “[Delays] happen with any construction project. They’re compounded with restoring a 100-year old ballpark and trying to work within a 26-week timeframe, which as of Monday, is 19 weeks.

“This is an extremely challenging project given the environment that is the weather as well as the compressed timing we have,” Green said. “It’s going to be a challenge.”

The Cubs will have a better idea as to how long of a delay they expect before March 6 when single game tickets go on sale for the 2015 season, Green said. The Cubs are scheduled to open the season at Wrigley Field on April 5 with a nationally televised game against the Cardinals.

“We’ll make a decision well before [March 6] in terms of whether we’ll be able to have the bleachers ready,” Green said. “We’re still going to be playing a game April 5, Sunday night, at Wrigley Field, and that’s not going to change.”

Chicago has experienced frigid temperatures and some snow in mid November, which has created some work stoppages. Heavy wind on Monday also delayed the crews. There are other issues, Green said.

“There is ongoing work by the city of Chicago water department which is doing some work to install a new water main on Sheffield [street],” Green said. “Because of that ongoing work, which was supposed to be completed in early October, we’ve been delayed with some of the deep foundation and excavation work in the area of the bleachers.

“We’re still doing work out there but the speed in which we can move depends on the water crews finishing up that work,” he said.

It’s tough to predict Chicago weather, and this fall has been difficult with a record string of below freezing days.

“The first day of winter hasn’t even arrived yet — that’s Dec. 21,” Green said. “We expect some colder temperatures and snow. We don’t know what the winter may bring. All of that led us to put some contingency plans in place. We’re not throwing up the white towel yet. We need to put some plans in place to take care of our customers.”

Green would not give an exact number of bleacher season ticket holders affected, saying there are a few thousand people. They do have some options.

“If you’re a bleacher season ticket holder, we will be able to accommodate season ticket holders in the grandstands,” he said. “Given the attendance rates in April, or the past attendance rates in April, we have more than enough seats to accommodate season ticket holders who hold seats in the bleachers.

“If there are bleacher season ticket holders who do not want to sit in the grandstand, we are considering a plan where we could either refund season ticket holders for the games they miss, or apply a credit for the 2016 season,” he said.

Green said the bleachers will be ready at some point in 2015; it’s just too soon to say when. The new video scoreboards and advertising signage will be installed by Opening Day, Green said.

– Carrie Muskat


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