Cubs "lay groundwork", expect to make deals before the winter meetings

The GM meetings passed and the Cubs didn’t get anything done as far as addressing their key needs (SP, OF, 3B) on the roster.  That doesn’t mean we have to necessarily wait until the December winter meetings, however.

I don’t think there’s going to be a void of news between now and Nashville,” the Cubs’ Jed Hoyer said before departing the warm desert setting. “I think we’ll have some deals. (December’s) a long way off. It always seems things bust around Thanksgiving. I’m sure we’ll get some stuff done during the course of November.”

Think of these GM meetings as sort of like the first couple rounds of a heavyweight boxing match.  GMs are feeling each other out, trying to determine their best approach.  The Cubs have had many conversations and they’ve laid some groundwork, but nobody is ready to make that first strike…yet.

Here is a review of what some of that groundwork we’ve heard about so far. ..

Starting Pitching:


  • We haven’t heard much here.  Paul Sullivan mentioned Coco Crisp and that makes sense as long as the A’s are more interested in clearing his salary and creating roster space than getting a good prospect in return.  The Cubs strongly considered Coco Crisp last year. The Cubs, in general, seem to be looking for a good defender, preferably LH, who can switch positions, presumably in anticipation of the time when (and if) Brett Jackson becomes ready to take over.
  • Nyjer Morgan has elected free agency and fits the Cubs criteria as a LH hitter who plays good CF defense.  He could work as an inexpensive stopgap solution.
  • Theo Epstein has said not to expect a blockbuster deal, so we shouldn’t hold our collective breath that the Cubs will pursue Justin Upton.  Phil Rogers recently broached the subject of a Starlin Castro-Justin Upton deal.  That is not going to happen.

Third Base

Winter League Notes

Plenty of stuff happening on the field this offseason that may affect some of the Cubs decisions this winter…

  • Speaking of 3B, Junior Lake is performing well down in winter ball, though he’s likely to begin the year in AAA.  He could be a midseason solution along with Josh Vitters.
  • It turns out Josh Vitters will indeed play winter ball (h/t Cub Fan Paul).  The news is timely as yesterday I expressed concern that he was not on any roster despite the strong suggestion by manager Dale Sveum that he participate this year.  It’s good to see as Vitters needs the work on his defense and approach at the plate.  Tony Campana will also play.
  • The Mesa Solar Sox are 5-1 since Logan Watkins joined the team.  He is off to a good start.  He’s hitting .316/.409/.526 in his first 19 ABs.  He has walked 3 times and has even HR’d.  Watkins is certainly a player to watch at Iowa next year and could make Darwin Barney expendable before too long.  A grinder with good athleticism and OBP skills, it’s not hard to picture Watkins quickly becoming a fan favorite.


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  • I look at it this way....why would Theo want to show his poker hand?......if Theo want someone, he is just raising the other players value......Theo is just going through this trade / free agent process by flying under the radar.......every other team first request is always will be Castro.....not going to will take several years to get this team together.....not in one off season.

    Now the Bears......

    If Lovie does not win it this year....he will never win a Super Bowl.....once Old Lady McCasky is gone, so will be Lovie......

    By time Cutler is 50, he will be led around in life by a nurse, wearing "depends" and mumbling call out signals ...........

    Hester is over-rated as a WR.....I like to see him catch one ball when it means something.....

    I like to see the Bears defense take cheap shots at the other teams' QB when our QB goes down with a cheap head shot hit.....send the other team a message that cheap shots can happen both ways.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Indeed, it will take patience. Not going to happen this offseason but the Cubs will eventually take a shot at some blockbusters.

  • i wonder if there's a near ready starter the Cubs could take in the rule 5 for the 5th rotation spot. But the Astros are probably all over it with the higher pick

  • In reply to CubFan Paul:

    There may not be a near ready starter better than the one they may have to protect themselves -- Nick Struck.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Exactly.....and even Struck needs more seasoning at AAA. Cubs should probably protect him, and probably will. There is no rush to put him on the 40-man, just in case he blows out his arm or something in AFL

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I do think Struck starts at AAA and will be one of their depth guys.

    The most interesting guy to me is the infielder from Texas, Leury Garcia. Can fly and play good defense at SS and 2B. I think he can contribute right away as a utility IF'er as the Cubs don't really have anyone to back up Castro. Had a solid year at AA last year, has potential to be more than utility guy.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Why can't Barney back up Castro and then play Valbuena or Lake at 2nd? SS is Barney's natural position after all.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    barney is better suited for 2nd at this point

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    Why is that and why does that make it impractical to play him for a few games a year at short? Do you think he's forgotten all his coaching there? I'd rather have a proven defender at short than for a few games than someone who can also play 2nd and short come up from the minors. That way we can keep a roster slot open for someone who'll play more often than a couple games a year.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    I think the Cubs would carry 6 infielders anyway.

    I don't think it's lack of practice for Barney at SS. He simply lacks the athleticism and arm strength you like there. He's stretched out at the position, in my opinion -- though I know others who think differently.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Barney isn't a good SS, in my opinion. Range and arm not quite there.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Can he play 3rd?

  • In reply to Ibleedcubbieblue:

    He's 5'7", 155 lbs. He's not going to have the power you want from that position, especially since he's not an OBP type either. But he does have enough arm to play there defensively. May play there as a backup.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    i hope leury garcia is available in the rule 5 draft, id definitely take him. he makes campana expendable, and unlike most rule 5 guys he actually will have value on a team in a bench roll. all 3 of his plus plus skills are probably major league ready and they can work on his approach in batting practice and then send him to AA/AAA next year. i dont see him having a future with the cubs because we are so stacked up the middle, but i do know that if he doesnt he will have some type of value on the trade market and if he does then he makes other guys expendable, win-win.

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    Agreed. He'd be more useful than Campana because of his ability to play SS.

    I agree that I don't think they'd keep both Garcia and Campana if the Cubs were to pick pick Garcia. They're similar with Garcia having more value because he can play SS.

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    In reply to CubFan Paul:

    I can't think of a single starting pitcher that was drafted Rule 5 and immediately started effectively. Even Johan Santana took a couple years to become an effective starter, and you don't find guys like that in Rule 5 very often.

    It's very rare that Rule 5 players make an immediate impact.

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    Good update John......I have to say that Hoyer and Epstein have been about as up-front as they can be without giving away competitive information on what the plans are. So if Hoyer says "expect action by Thanksgiving", I'll take him for his word.

    IIRC, Nov 30 is the last day to offer arbitration; correct? That's an important date for the FA market. Usually there are a handful of interesting players that get cut loose at that deadline, and most are 1-year type of candidates. We'll also know what the plan is with Ian Stewart by then.

    If I am the Indians, I want more than Josh Vitters in return for Chisenhall.

    I also haven't heard any LaHair rumors, he strikes many as a trade candidate this winter. I don't think he has a ton of trade value, but he has some, enough IMO for a low-level prospect or releiver or something

  • In reply to Zonk:


    Hoyer's comment makes me think they had some productive talks with some team.

    Yes, on that date and we should see some players become available. I think the Cubs would love to have something resolved at 3B by then, but that is unlikely.

    As far as Vitters-Chisenhall, I don't think it's a straight up deal either. The Cubs have balanced deals out (i.e. Rizzo, Stewart) by having both teams add a 2nd player. In this case, the Cubs would have to add the better player in a 2 for 2 deal.

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    Winter Meetings start December 3rd. I'm ready for some acquisitions.

  • Agreed. I think we're all ready at this point.

  • Indeed, the Cubs seemed very ready to make some trades, which I good. I will be shocked if the Cubs don't swing a couple of trades.

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    I'll be surprised at this point if they don't make a trade or two, especially with FAs not as strong this year.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I expect Marmol to be traded and maybe Soriano.

  • I expect more Marmol than Soriano, but can't rule out either. Cubs will try to deal both.

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    I'd think at least some of the deals to be made before the Winter Meetings is to free up space for the Rule 5 draft -- both to take a Lendy Castillo arm and to protect guys like Watkins and Struck. Vitters for Chisenhall, for example, frees up a slot because not only is Vitters gone, but you immediately DFA Stewart. Marmol for low level prospects would accomplish the same.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Good point. I'm sure the Cubs would love to free up some space before rosters are due. And you hit the nail on the head, I think, with Stewart. Have the feeling they're just hanging on to him just in case right now and he'll be gone if they find a way to be creative.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    That is an interesting thought, that they're trying to clear 40-man space.

    But as long as Casey Coleman is still on the 40-man, though, i can't believe we're short of slots. He must be the next to go when we need one....

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    "A trade won't happen right now, but if problems continue, look for this rumor to resurface later, perhaps around the trade deadline if the D'Backs are in contention or next offseason."

    This could be really important, because, if he's healthy, Garza figures to be the best piece available at the trade deadline.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    All the more reason to root for the Diamondbacks this season!

  • Nice to see Vitters playing winter ball. Not sure how that works - are there team affiliates there, or are players just assigned to random teams? If it's the latter, are there any Cubs' coaches around to help them with what they're working on, or is it pretty much left up to the player?

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    Usually have a relationship with some teams more than others, but you just try and get them in where you can.

    There's some quality baseball down there and some good coaching, not necessarily any Cubs people though. I think Vitters really needs reps based on what he was taught during his stint in Chicago.

  • John, seeing how Yasmani Grandal was suspended for 50 games, do you think they'd be interested in Castillo? Who do you think we might get in return?

    As a replacement, do you know much about Raphael Lopez? Is he advanced enough to sit on the bench behind Clevenger?

  • In reply to SFToby:

    I don't think the Cubs are interested in trading Castillo. Why would they trade a starting caliber cost-controlled catcher when they're trying to build for 2014 and beyond? I also think the Reds would rather pick up a veteran stopgap until Grandal comes back.

    Lopez hasn't had a full season at high A ball yet. I suspect he'll start at AA this year and maybe have a chance to fill that role next year. He's a good defender, a catch and throw type, with a decent bat and some discipline. Definitely a backup, but has a chance to make it, albeit when he's a little older, much like Clevenger did.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    (I think Grandal's now with /suspended from the Padres.)
    Agree we must hang onto Castillo and give him a full year as a starter. And hope that Clevenger is recovered from his injury to give it a full shot as #2 backstop too

    There's one guy I wonder if we can DFA though....Phil Rogers. His trade notion belongs on Bizarro World..

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Agreed. Really hard to get good catchers so if you can develop your own, it's a big plus. Especially if you're rebuilding

    Clevenger can still be a solid backup, in my opinion.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Forgot about the trade, but same principle applies.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Just saw that Rafael Lopez is playing in the new Roberto Clemente League, which just began play in Puerto Rico this past week.
    IF Edwin Maysonet is also playing in that league.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    I'm sure they'd like to speed up his timetable. He was already old when drafted and injuries have slowed down his ascent through the minors.

  • Phil Rogers? His ideas should be posted next to the comics page!

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    He does like to throw out some strange trade ideas. There are some Cubs fans who think that's a good trade, so maybe he's pandering to those people.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    If he were "pandaring", he'd mention Pablo Sandoval...

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:


  • Doesn't it seem like everyone's a buyer this year? The Cleveland Indians and Colorado Rockies seem like the only sellers. The Marlins, Mets, and Phillies are all willing to make a trade but it doesn't seem like anyone wants any of their players. Of course, Tampa Bay is always willing to listen to offers.

  • In reply to WillieG1:

    Everyone is optimistic this time of year :)

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, new here posting, but been reading you for a while now... I have a question.

    Do you think the Cubs will go after Jonny Gomes? They could use a right handed power bat to platoon with DeJesus, Gomes also plays the game hard, which could set an example and has very good obp capabilities... With the A's trading for Chris Young, it means they won't be bringing back Gomes.

    Teams are focused on Torii Hunter, Josh Hamilton, Cody Ross, Angel Pagan, Bourn... But Gomes could actually slip through with little notice.

    I don't see many sources bringing him up as a source, what are your thoughts about that?

  • In reply to Caps:

    Meant that as a new comment, sorry lol.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Hey Caps,
    I agree with the things you said about Gomes and I think he could be a nice value signing for some team, but I don't think it will be the Cubs.

    My impression is that the Cubs will build with defense and having an OF of Soriano (despite his improvement), DeJesus in CF (where he's below average) and Gomes would be well below average.

    If the Cubs go after an A's OF'er, I think it will be Crisp.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Thank you for the input, John.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Who would be a good piece to trade for Crisp?

  • In reply to SFToby:

    I'm not one to make up trade scenarios, not really my thing. A's may be short on middle infielders, though Barney is too much for one year of Crisp and the Cubs don't have anything else to trade there. You have to hope the A's are happy with opening up a roster spot and saving some money, meaning they could take a non-rostered minor leaguer. If not, they may have to pursue another angle.

  • In reply to WillieG1:

    I'd take Giancarlo Stanton and would give up just about any player the Cubs have to get him.

    Always been a huge fan of Stanton... I've just got this Dave Kingman feeling about him. I told my dad when Kingman was playing for the Giants that he'd hit 50 if he were on the Cubs.

    And he damn near did!

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    Jason Bourgeois, anyone?

  • I think the Cubs have their own version in Tony Campana.

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    One name I haven't seen anywhere in MLB trade rumors or whatever is Franklin Gutierrez. He lost his CF job this year to Michael Saunders, and is in the last year of a 4-year deal. He is offensively challenged, but can pick it.

    The Mariners could use a LH-bat like LaHair, to hit DH some days when Montero catches, or fill-in at 1B and OF. Mariners need offense.

    Maybe there is a match here

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I think we've brought it up once a while back, but I'm glad you mentioned it. It's a possibility. The defense fits, he could be a good short term value. I like the idea. Only problem is he doesn't hit mujch, as you say, and that the Cubs prefer a LH bat, but I think overall there could be a match. It wouldn't surprise me if he's someone they've checked out.

  • Looking at the Dodgers attempt to go 7 or 8 deep in #1 and #2 pitchers, and Ned Coletti acting like a drunken sailor (sorry veterans) as far as acquiring any and all top notch position players still available, this might be a good year to tank for another season and hope we can get a shot at another good draft in 2014 and then go forward with a new tv contract.

    Which reminds me - when does Carlos Rodon become eligible for the draft?

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Rodon is eligible next year.

    I'm not convinced the Dodgers will win anything. They wouldn't be the first team to spend like crazy only to watch the WS at home.

    And I have to admit I'm rooting for that to happen...and then later for them to be up to their eyeballs in depth with payroll and luxury taxes.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I'm with you, John, and we all saw what happened after their big trade this past season. The Dodgers kept falling farther behind the Giants. I hope they keep losing.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    The Dodgers Ned Coletti / new flashy owners financial implosion in 2015 - 2016 when all these bad contracts really kick in just as everyone on them is even more old / terrible is going to be epic!

    Coletti really needs to hire Jim Hendry as a special assistant, lock in a few more out years with No Trades to make this something special!

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    In reply to Ryno2Grace:

    It really is astounding the money the Dodgers are spending. Taking A-Gon and Beckett I can see; also agreeing to take on Crawford, with Kemp and Ethier under long-term contract and $30 mil already committed to Puig, was madness.

    And, they are rumored to be going after Torii Hunter! And Youkilis! WOW!

  • The suspense is genuinely underwhelming.

  • I read that RHP Shoehei Otani wants to be the first Japanese high schooler to jump to the MLB. Are ther other international free agents that should spark a bidding war this off season? I hope the cubs can land a big one every year. Any 3b out there that are close to MLB ready on the international scene?

  • In reply to Break The Curse:

    Unfortunately there's nobody out there right now on the international scene -- at least not one who's looking to come to the U.S.

  • Anybody else notice that Justin Germano signed a minor league deal with Toronto? I didn't think he was worth much, but I salute him for his efforts.

  • In reply to elusivekarp:

    And former Cubs organization players C Juan Apodaca and OF Jim Adduci signed minor league contracts with Texas. I saw Apodaca catch at AA and liked his work behind the plate, but we can't keep everybody. Good luck to them.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Good for them. They weren't going to get their chance in Chicago. I'm sure the Cubs will have to sign some of their own guys to fill those spots.

  • In reply to elusivekarp:

    I did notice. Good luck to him. He did what he could with well below average stuff -- got to give him credit.

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