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We’ve passed the mid-point of August without hearing much about the Chicago Cubs’ efforts to put together an August waiver trade, something Jim Hendry was quick to say was more than possible when the Cubs did nothing at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

Unfortunately, it’s looking increasingly likely that the Cubs will once again do nothing.

According to Jayson Stark, the Cubs did place valuable pieces Kerry Wood and Reed Johnson on waivers this month, but each was claimed, and the waivers were subsequently revoked by the Cubs. As you know, the team(s) that claimed Wood and Johnson would have been able to put together a trade for those players had the Cubs and that team wanted to do so. Apparently, however, the Cubs were simply hoping Wood and Johnson would clear waivers, thus leaving the team options later in the month should a trade possibility arise.

None of that is particularly surprising.

But Stark also says Carlos Pena has not yet been placed on waivers. Now that’s surprising.

Pena is owed another $1 million or so this season, and then $3 to $5 million (depending on whom you ask) in January. The reason it’s surprising that the Cubs haven’t placed Pena on waivers yet? If those contract details are accurate, no team is going to claim Pena on waivers, risking the Cubs saying, “ok, he’s yours,” at which point the claiming team is on the hook for a really, really expensive month and a half of Pena.

So, does that mean the Cubs are absolutely keeping Pena? That’s a logical conclusion, but here’s the rub: even if the Cubs were certain they wanted to keep Pena through the end of the season, they could still place him on waivers – just as they did with Wood and Johnson – and revoke the waivers if, for some reason, he was claimed. At that point, he couldn’t be placed on waivers again, and the Cubs would have gotten their wish: Pena would be a Cub through the end of the year. But, in that scenario, the Cubs would have left open the possibility of a trade if Pena cleared, and someone wanted to knock their socks off.

What’s the deal, then? I honestly can’t say. Given what I know about Pena’s contract and about the waiver system, I cannot see the reason for waiting to put Pena on waivers until now.

In fact, the only explanation I can come up with is a real stretch: it’s possible that Pena’s contract isn’t exactly as has been reported, and he would be claimed by teams on waivers. If that’s true, I could see the Cubs waiting to place him on waivers, hoping that the standings change, which, in turn, changes the priority of teams claiming players on waivers. That is to say, the Cubs could be hoping a particular team with whom they believe they could work out a trade slips in the standings, and thus gains priority over a team that might claim Pena, but not be willing to work out a trade.

It’s also entirely possible that Stark’s source is wrong, and that Pena has already been placed on waivers. The waiver wire in August is one of baseball’s most strict secrets, so it can be hard to get a reliable read on just who is or isn’t on waivers.

  • CubFan Paul

    according to Hendry & Boras when Pena was signed to the Boras Pillow contract, pena received a $2million signing bonus that went on 2010’s payroll, a $3million 2011 salary and a $5million deferred payment due January 1st 2012 (the 2012 payroll)

    thats how Hendry himself explained it while he was patting himself on his back for signing a .198 hitter for $10million. I almost drank the KoolAid thinking Pena’s average would rise to .240 – .260 under Jaramillo. Ha!

    • Deez

      Join the club! I thought his injuries were the reason for the low batting avg, but the RBI production was there. Is he a good player? He’s ok, but is he a $10M/yr player? HELL NO!
      We grossly over paid for a feast or famine guy especially when you see Berkman was available.

      • BT

        You guys realize what a terrible, terrible metric Batting average is in order to figure out how valuable a guy is, right? And you can’t simultaneously say Pena sucks because his batting average is bad, and say the Cubs are morons for not signing Berkman who hit .248 last year.

        • CubFan Paul

          Pena’s 2010 OPS was .732
          Berkman’s 2010 OPS: .784

          Pena’s 2011 OPS: .809
          Berkman’s 2011 OPS: .988

          you dont give 1yr $10million deals to .198 hitters. Fact. enough said.

          • BT

            Right. Because when signing someone, the last thing in the world you want to do is take defense, age, on base percentage, injury history or career statistics into account. The ONLY thing that matters is their batting average from the previous year. Any idiot can see the 35 year old battling injuries with a 2 year precipitous decline in OPS is clearly the better option than the 33 year old gold glover who was healthy and was 2 years removed from the all star game.

            Fact. Enough said. Boom goes the dynamite. Yahtzee. You sunk my battleship. Jenga.

            • HotRuta

              Different thread; same argument … it’s apples and oranges.
              The question is: what are you trying to do NEXT year — just “compete” or “win it all”? If you want to “win it all”, you go after Pujols (unlikely to get him) or Fielder or Berkman — you HAVE to. If you just want to “compete” (while building the team for a couple of years) you can look at other options, like LaHair (who’s clocking in AAA), or Carlos Pena (who after a terrible start has probably been a .245 hitter since, and is a much better fielder than anybody else in the discussion). And Joey Votto is a FA in 2014, is the same age as Fielder (although a better fielder than Fielder), and might be 10 years younger than Puhols REALLY is.
              I happen to believe that Ricketts is in “compete/build” mode (others here think differently), so what I might want to do with his money doesn’t matter. I just don’t think that he’s interested in paying the extra $$$ for a Puhols or a Fielder while he’s in a 2-3 year rebuilding cycle. These are the kind of guys that can carry a good team — but the Cubs aren’t a good team. I’m thinking his plan is to strongly compete in 2013, and win it all in 2014. If that really is his timetable, then I don’t think there will be much FA activity this off-season; it’s the 2013 off-season when he would be aggressive, when he’s buying the last pieces he needs.

              • MichiganGoat

                If 2014 is the “year” wouldn’t Fielder be a great addition, he’d be 31/32. I don’t expect Pena to have value by then, Lehair is only a AAAA player, our draft picks won’t be ready, and waiting for Votto is a huge risk (he may extend with Cinncy or be injured). Simple fact is it hard to pass on a top 1B like Fielder and he’d be a Yank/RedSox if they didn’t already have a top 1B player. We have roughly 30M available this offseason and there isn’t any pitching or other big name to spend it on.

                • EQ

                  AMEN!!! This statement is very true! Sign Fielder to a 5-6 year deal, get a couple of innings eaters..(Maholm) or someone like that who can maybe keep us in some games.. then go out and get a good reliever to add to the mix.. Try like hell to trade Big Z and Soriano for whatever you can get… then let 2014 be a year to make a good pitching splash… when a good pitcher is actually available. With a little luck, maybe Cashner and/or Wells can produce and that will be a boost.

                  • MichiganGoat

                    It is completely possible to get Fielder and Maholm (or other reliable inning eating pitcher) and an additional long reliever/spot starter/#6 pitcher and then when the money comes off at the end of 2012 we can go after Kemp, Upton, Weaver, Cain and other quality players available. We can’t just take this year off and put the 30M in a “lockbox” and go crazy in 2013. You have to get the best player you can this year without over spending because if we “wait till next year” we may end up with nothing. We have to make a reasonable and competitive offer to Fielder.

                    • CubFan Paul

                      Wells has pitched himself out of the 2012 rotation in my opinion ..he was only given the opportunity to start the last few years because “spending was stagnant” (as Hendry put it back in July). having a $400k a year as the 5th starter is nice but that cheap spot in the rotation will go to Cashner ..sorry Wells, you failed, hopefully he can be a good long-man in the pen or maybe pitching in AAA next year will screw his head & stuff on right

                • HotRuta

                  Sure Fielder would be great to have around (if HE doesn’t get extended or injured), but he wouldn’t be much of a difference maker without a supporting cast — and he has his flaws, too, especially in the area of highlighting our fielding shortcomings. He benefits from having Braun in the lineup; we don’t have an equivalent.
                  I think Ricketts would rather have the $30M difference for those two years ($50M if we found out LaHair could play a little — which we should be doing right now …); he could use the money for facilities renovations, so we can work those extra pounds off our current “stars”. But there are tons of issues up in the air: can we unload Soriano and Zambrano (and do we want to pay the price to do so)? Will Ramirez be at 3B? Is Darwin Barney for real, or do we need to look for a 2B guy, too? Are our “top prospects” as “top” as we hope they are? How many OFs do we need — one? Two? Three? Is Wells an option going forward, and, if so, where does he fit in — #3? #5? Will Dempster still be a factor? What about Cashner? 1B may not be the only position we are looking to fill long-term. And the FA market for pitching may be thin (unless C.C. opts out), but it’s always possible you could get somebody good in a trade (although the odds are against this). If the goal is 1B now and Pitching a couple of years from now, how much do we have to overpay to get that 1B guy to turn down a better team and live with our rebuilding process? What if the 1B guy doesn’t want to take the chance that we NEVER put together a good enough team over the term of his contract, and he doesn’t want to blow his chance to get big bucks AND a WS ring? We tend to think that a top FA would WANT to be part of our quest to win a WS — but history doesn’t bear that out. The recent trading deadline experience tells us Ricketts is not big on over-paying to solve problems (I expect the recent Bradley/Silva fiasco left a bad taste in his mouth); if, as an owner, he is looking at long-term solutions — and stability — then I think he is going to be VERY careful about big-ticket FAs — and paying for them when the rest of the team isn’t ready. And the Soriano experience is enough to scare anybody off long-term contracts — although it’s just the worst example of a common problem.
                  Right now, we should be trying to answer those questions that we can: bring up Jackson and LaHair, and tell Quade to shut up and play them. Better yet — dump Quade, and persuade Brenly to finish out the season and evaluate the team — let him compete for the Managerial opening, too, or go back to the broadcast booth if he’s not interested going forward. Hell, you could probably let Greg Maddux manage the last 40 games, given the mess this season has turned into — we already know last year’s run under Quade didn’t mean anything …

  • CubFan Paul

    i think its been Bruce Levine who has reported the pena contract different from what Hendry&Boras said at the winter meetings

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Yes, it is.

  • MichiganGoat

    Every player should be placed on waivers its a zero risk. I wish I could be a fly on the wall when it comes to the Pena discussion, he must be an amazing guy kinda like that female friend you have that you “love” but that never returns the feeling but you just can’t say goodbye to.

    • CubFan Paul

      ugh@the female friend ..sore subject

      • hardtop

        i dont think we was referring to your special someone specifically there pauly… but sorry to hear about the departure of your drinking game partner. was the lack of cubs walks somehow responsible for your breakup? damn you rudy jaramillo! havent the cubs hurt enough people! take some walks and save a relationship!

        • CubFan Paul

          lol ..i’ll be sooo pissed if any free agent or player traded for has a OBP under .350 and now that the Jaramillo KoolAid has soured on me, i want him gone this offseason too ..the Cubs offense is horrendous & the “Guru” makes too much money for this embarassment

          ..although, since Castro has been leading off, he No longer swings at the 1st pitch in his at bats (he did sunday once & i was shocked). i take this as him being told to be patient, but he has seen more 0-1 counts than 1-0 counts because teams know he’s not swinging and his OBP hovers around .340 so its not working

          • Jeff

            Actually the Cubs are 7th in baseball in hits, and 8 in batting average, so the offense isn’t horrible, they just need to hit better when it matters (risp), they need to run the bases better, and manufacture runs. None of that will happen with Quade as manager. Jaramillo hasn’t been great, and his guys need to learn what walks are, but the problem hasn’t been the offense most of the year. I realize the offense is a problem, but it’s not the biggest problem. Dempster and Garza are the only guys that should be penciled in the rotation for next year. I think getting starting pitching and waiting on the offense makes the most sense right now. It won’t matter who’s on first if Ortiz, Russell, Wells, or Lopez are in the rotation again next year.

  • Toosh

    According to MLBTR, Soriano and Zambrano cleared waivers. No surprise. Maybe the lack of action by Hendry is, in fact, because Ricketts instructed him to run all moves past him first.

  • awesome

    so is Castro about 28?

  • auggie1955

    If Pena is back next season, I’m going to scream. It will be a signal that the Cubs will be throwing in the towel before the year even gets under way. Settling for Pena when Pujols and Fielder are available is unacceptable. Especially when the Cubs have $50M coming off the books.

    • CubFan Paul

      auggie we will scream together and hopefully Brett joins since he has an awesome national forum to scream louder from

    • ISU Birds

      That money could be used in a much more productive fashion rather than signing Pujols or Fielder. Re-sign Pena for a reasonable price and put the rest of the money towards pitching. That would help us much more down the road.

      • CubFan Paul

        pitching? WHAT PITCHING?? resign a .220 hitter over a .300 hitter? seriously?? ..Do you even know the Cubs payroll this year? Do u know how much money is coming off the book this year? next year?? probably not

        • ISU Birds

          The pitching for the team that has the fewest quality starts in the league. One player is not the answer. See: Alfonso Soriano, Milton Bradley, Kosuke Fukudome, etc.

          • CubFan Paul

            by pitching? WHAT PITCHING?? i was referring to your comment:

            Re-sign Pena for a reasonable price and put the rest of the money towards pitching. That would help us much more down the road.

            sooo what pitching won’t the Cubs be able to go after if and when they sign Prince Fielder?? I’ll answer it for you: the market is bare and of ALL the available pitchers the Cubs can sign any of them (cj wilson) and still after to upgrade at 1st base ..if you need help with the other questions let me know:)

            • EQ

              Yeah, people on here keep making those “get pitching” statements and there’s very little “pitching” to get.. next year’s FA class has nothing to get excited about… a bunch of washed up pitchers and some back end of the rotation guys..

              CJ Wilson is about the only pitcher to get excited about and who are we to think that the Yanks, Red Sox, etc. aren’t gonna offer him the moon. I’m afraid we’re either gonna suck again next year because the FA class and our needs aren’t a good match.

  • CubsFanatic

    Feilder, Reyes, Sabathia. The three names the Cubs show GUN towards. Pujols scares me with the year hes had.

    • MichiganGoat

      No, no, no to Reyes he is a bigger risk than Fielder over five year (the both will want five as a minimum), sabathia will just resign with the Yanks.

    • hardtop

      lets get sabathia, fielder, uribe, and sandoval (from last year) and have the fattest team in history! at least we’d have something to watch. bring silva back too! we’ll have to reinforce the benches in the dugout. im afraid we’d loose them all to a food overdose though… it’ll be too hard for the fattys to resist that premium chicago sausage.

      and dont give me this crap about fielder being a vegetarian. no way you hit 300 lbs at 5′-10″ without being a closet carnivore.

      • EQ

        I think Matt Stairs is available too.

        • hardtop

          ha, yes, good one! and i forgot dunn! he’s available. no way hendry would make it happen, he wouldnt want share his donuts.

      • CubFan Paul

        lol@closet carnivore

  • Toosh

    Ricketts followed through on one thing he said by letting Wilken draft who he wanted. Now, it’s time for the “big” announcement. Any idea when the press conference is going to be, Brett? I figure tomorrow or sometime during the homestand.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      No idea – I’d only be guessing. Seems to me, if it’s expected to be popular news, it would be tomorrow or early next week. If it’s expected to be unpopular news, it might be Friday afternoon or this weekend.

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