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Another roundup of transactionally-inclined news and rumors about the Chicago Cubs, including some from around MLB, and how the latter could impact the Cubs’ offseason plans…

  • The Phillies are on the verge of re-signing closer Ryan Madson to a contract in the range of four years and $44 million with a fifth year vesting option (the deal was agreed to earlier in the week, but has been pending high-level Phillies approval, so it might shrink), which strikes me as an enormous investment in a very good, but 31-year-old closer. And, if that’s the market for closers, you have to wonder: might Carlos Marmol and his two years and $17ish million deal look pretty darn attractive right now? Marmol had a rough 2011, but he’s two years younger than Madson, and has been just as dominant (if not more-so), excepting 2011. Given the Cubs’ relative depth at the back of the bullpen, dealing Marmol is something I hope Theo/Jed explore widely this Winter.
  • The Toronto Blue Jays are eagerly searching for a closer right now, by the way.
  • The Cubs, like many teams, are expected to be in the market for a starting pitcher or two this Winter, but, since the free agent market is thin, they may have to explore a trade. Among the possible starters available in trade, according to Ken Rosenthal: Rays right-handers James Shields and Wade Davis, Athletics lefty Gio Gonzalez and righty Trevor Cahill, Braves righty Jair Jurrjens, White Sox lefty John Danks and righty Gavin Floyd, Dodgers righty Chad Billingsley, and Astros lefty Wandy Rodriguez. The better names on that list would take quite a haul to bring in, and the Cubs might not have the upper-level prospects to get a deal done.
  • Speaking of which, Jon Heyman says the Braves have been asking for a Zack Greinke-like return for Jair Jurrjens. Recall, Greinke netted the top outfield prospect and two of the top pitching prospects in the Brewers’ system (and allowed the Royals to swap Yuniesky Betancourt for Alicdes Escobar) when he was dealt last year. The Cubs are listed among a group of teams that could possible land Jurrjens.
  • If the White Sox are unable to re-sign Mark Buehrle, they may instead decide to lock-up John Danks long-term. Danks is a free agent after 2012, and would otherwise be a trade candidate – one at whom the Cubs might look. Danks is just 26, but has declined in each of the previous three seasons. He’ll make $7 million or more in his final year of arbitration in 2012.
  • The Brewers have all but given up hope that they can re-sign Prince Fielder.
  • It’s been assumed for months – since he butted heads with management and was shockingly demoted to the minors – the Marlins’ outfielder Logan Morrison would be dealt this offseason. That’s still probably the case, but Jon Heyman hears the Marlins are telling folks they aren’t as eager to deal Morrison as we all might think. Heyman cites a Miami executive who says the Marlins would trade Morrison for James Shields (ha), but no one else. Morrison is just 24 and has huge offensive upside, but his unique personality has been something of a distraction for the Marlins.
  • In addition to Japanese stud Yu Darvish, there are a couple of other Eastern pitchers to keep in mind who might pop up in rumors: Taiwanese lefty, Wei-Yin Chen, and Korean righty, Suk-min Yoon. Chen, 26, is one of the top pitchers in Japan, though he doesn’t strike a lot of guys out (which tends to make me nervous about a pitcher’s “stuff” coming from another league to MLB). Moon, 25, is the reigning MVP in Korean baseball, but query how far that gets you in MLB. Chen is a free agent, but Moon would have to be posted before coming to the States.
  • Despite the development of a pro-2013 narrative, Buster Olney doesn’t think the 2013 free agent crop is all that much better than this year’s. And that could shrink even further if guys like Cole Hamels, Matt Cain, and Matt Kemp get locked up to extensions. Maybe grabbing a big money player or two this Winter isn’t the wrong move after all.
  • http://rooftop-view.com Jack Nugent

    I think Theo & Co. need to offer to eat a little bit of that $17MM, maybe $5MM or so, if that’s what it’ll take to land a good player for Marmol. The Cubs don’t have a ton of assets at the moment, and at $17MM, Marmol won’t provide much, if any surplus value at all, but at the same time, he’s one of the only interesting players on the roster. This team probably won’t have much use for a closer next year, and Sean Marshall is probably the better pitcher as it is, so if the possibility exists to get a nice prospect for their closer, the Cubs should jump at the opportunity.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Marmol is near the top of my list of Cubs players to trade this Winter, based on perceived value, utility to the team in the near future, contract, and depth at the position.

      • http://cubbiescrib.com Luke

        With those criteria, I’m guessing Soto and Byrd complete your top three?

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Nailed it.

          • Todd

            I agree. Marmol, Byrd, and Soto have the most value and it appears we have legitimate replacements to fill-in, if they are traded.

            • http://cubbiescrib.com Luke

              Moving Soto makes me a little nervous. Castillo didn’t get much playing time out of Quade, unfortunately. I might wait until July to move Soto, then bring up Clevenger to platoon alongside Castillo and see how it goes.

              I think we can add Blake DeWitt or Ryan Flaherty to that list. I’m not sure the Cubs need both of them. I prefer Flaherty, but either one should be a nice piece in a trade package puzzle.

              • Jeff

                I’ve seen a good amount of Clevenger in the minors, and he seems to be a pretty good under the radar prospect.  He has some versatility and is pretty good defensively.  He would make a pretty good bench player, especially considering he bats lefty.  It really would have been nice to see how Castillo handled the majors last year, but he got injured and Quade’d(I made him a verb!!), so we got robbed on him two years in a row.  I’m still pissed at that guy for not getting some of these guys playing time, he’s really set this team back.

                • BetterNews

                  Yes, very good comment.

  • Sam

    “Despite the development of a pro-2013 narrative, Buster Olney doesn’t think the 2013 free agent crop is all that much better than this year’s. And that could shrink even further if guys like Cole Hamels, Matt Cain, and Matt Kemp get locked up to extensions. Maybe grabbing a big money player or two this Winter isn’t the wrong move after all.”
    You can’t rely on players hitting FA to get them, especially after what happened with A-Gon

    • CubFan Paul

      Agreed. with no good “up the middle” free agents worth investing in, it would be nice to land a Kemp, b.phillips or another contract year stud now

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      It was always going to be a good idea to consider some of the bigger names this Winter, even if the Cubs’ prime competitiveness window was 2013-2015.

  • pfk

    I guess the huge incoming cash flow from BN allowed you to buy a new stove. NIce. I get the feeling this off season is going to be very interesting in MLB. The FA’s aren’t great so I see alot of interesting trades taking place. If so, I think the Cubs’ new front office will pull off some interesting ones themselves. I love this.

  • http://cubbiescrib.com Luke

    Chen doesn’t walk many, or give up the long ball. Sounds like the prototypical crafty-lefty. The Cubs need a lefty and are heavily invested in Taiwan. Sounds like the makings of a deal. I don’t think Chen will be terribly expensive, either. I like the idea.

    I’d be a little surprised if the Dodgers are able to get their issues and the team’s sale sorted out quickly enough to get Kemp extended, but that may just be wishful thinking. I wouldn’t mind seeing him sign with the Cubs next winter.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Chen is really interesting one, and it’s too early for me to come to a conclusion. His numbers – all of them except the strikeout numbers – are great, even for Japan. But, like I said, the lack of strikeouts makes me nervous. Not because I think a pitcher has to strike guys out to be successful, but because, when we don’t have an MLB track record to evaluate, I like to see that a pitcher at least has great “stuff,” and strikeouts are one of the best indicators of great “stuff.” I’m the same way with minor league pitchers.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Cubbie_Blue_13

        If we could get him at a decent price it wouldnt be a bad gamble. I hope Maddux is the skipper next year, maybe he could work with him. If we could get him at a decent price i say go for it.

  • Todd

    The more I read about free agents and trade possibilities, the more I wonder what Theo and Jed will actually be able to do in the next year or two. Despite the confidence I have in the new front office’s ability to turn this around, the Cubs are in a really bad spot. No high-impact talent in the upper levels of the minors and untradeable contracts in the majors is bad news. There’s only so creative you can get.

    Anyway, I clicked on the Buster Olney article, which led me to click on an article about Dan Duquette and the Orioles, which led me to an article about the Ravens and Redskins fighting over strippers! I love the internet!

    • Lou

      Haha. The Orioles–well at least we know the Cubs don’t have an owner of the crackpot variety.

  • BetterNews

    Brett—So we ARE talking a complete rebuilding of the team?

    Theo said no when asked. What gives>

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Not if by “complete rebuilding” you mean fielding a terrible, young, cheap team in 2012. The Cubs will try to move parts they don’t deem valuable or deem expendable, and will generally try to avoid big money deals on older players, while simultaneously trying to get younger.

      Depends on your definition. I call that a rebuild, but not a “complete rebuild.”

      • BetterNews

        Brett—If you have remodeled 3/4 of your house would you not
        complete the project?
        Just asking(LOL)

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          I genuinely do not understand that question.

          • BetterNews

            The Cubs are in the process of rebuilding the team yet
            you call it short of “complete rebuilding”.

            With that statement lies the analogy

            • Jeff

              They are rebuilding while trying to compete now.  They are rebuilding the infrastructure of the organization.  The stadium repairs and upgrades, the spring training facility, the DR facility, the expanding front office and scouting departments, the money spent on draft picks, these are all part of the rebuild.  They are not dismantling the team, there will be no fire sale.  The majority of the guys on the big league club will be guys that played there last year.  They are in the process of rebuilding, but they aren’t blowing up the team and starting from scratch.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              The Cubs aren’t going to tear the team apart and start from scratch. That would be completely unnecessary. So, to use your analogy, if 1/4 of my house were in fine condition, yes, I’d rebuild only the other 3/4.

              • BetterNews

                Your tough!

              • JulioZuleta

                Lawyered

              • BetterNews

                So if we consider 1/4 to be the foundation(management)
                and the remaining 3/4 (the team) this is a COMPLETE
                rebuild!

                Checkmate!

              • TWC

                See “tiresome”.  It’s in the FAQ.

                • BetterNews

                  Brett needs to be more precise.

                  • Katie

                    Last time I checked, it’s his website. He can do whatever he wants. If you don’t like it don’t let the proverbial door hit ya where the good Lord split ya.

                    • BetterNews

                      Sure he can,
                      but he needs to listen,
                      as I am a big cubs fan!

                      See I’m just as good at poetry as you are Katie!

                    • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

                      Well said Katie, you rock.

              • Lou

                I’ll agree with you on the foundation part, 1/4 that’s in good shape. It would be interesting though to see the Chicago media and their quotes about what the Cubs will or should do for next year. If one were to parse together statements from a variety of media members, I’d certainly get the impression that everyone wants pretty much everyone, save Brett Jackson, Starlin Castro, and Andrew Cashner, gone. (I’d go through the rundown but suffice to say it’d take up too much of people’s time.) So much so that you have to wonder just how many fielding spots LaHair can play at one time!

      • die hard

        understand plan is to and would hope they just use players from 40 man roster and minors at least until All-Star break to see what we have

        • BetterNews

          Fact is we don’t have much, and have to believe that Theo and Co.
          will lead to much.

          If you exclude Starlin Castro, Zambranos statement of “WE STINKS”
          is a very good summation.

          • http://cubbiescrib.com Luke

            That’s a little harsh. Garza doesn’t stink, and while Dempster isn’t ace, he isn’t a bad #3 guy. The bullpen is extremely strong, and the bench isn’t in bad shape either. Even with his down year in 2011, Soto is still a good catcher and there are two guys waiting in line behind him. Saying the entire roster other than Castro stinks just doesn’t seem realistic. Its not like we’re talking about the Astros here. Add two or three mid-rotation caliber starting pitchers and this probably an 80 win team. Check the numbers on how many wins the Cubs got from their 4 and 5 starters last season vs. league average. Fix the pitching (which Theo has said is a focus), this is about a .500 team.

            • Jeff

              “Add two or three mid-rotation caliber starting pitchers and this probably an 80 win team.”

              Wow, that’s a pretty bleak statement when it’s there in black and white.  Two or Three starting pitchers might improve the team by 9 games.

              • http://cubbiescrib.com Luke

                That’s not a bad starting point for a rebuilding team, though.

              • Chi-ville

                Once the other team hits the ball (and based on the pitching staff, they will, a lot) the defence has to catch it. That has been a BIG issue also. Sooo, a new 2/5ths of a rotation, new 1st basemen, new 3rd basemen, trade the closer, trade the catcher at the deadline, somehow deal Sori, and get something from Byrd. Wow. It look’s like my slowpitch softball team might find a way onto an MLB team afterall.

                That is what I call a rebuild.

              • Kyle

                The Cubs were 5 games over .500 in games started by their top four starters: Garza, Zambrano, Dempster and Wells.

                They were 25 games under .500 in games started by their motley collection of fifth starters and injury replacements.

                If anything, .500 is underselling what the Cubs can do if they add serious rotation depth.

                • CubFan Paul

                  wow ..wow ..this is why 2012 isn’t the throw away/noncompete year people think it will be

                • hansman1982

                  well to be fair to the 2010 Cubs we were down to pitching options #9 and 10 when Wells and Cash went down

                  4 – Wells | 5 – Cashner | 6 – Silva | 7 – one of the 300 ST invites | 8 – Jackson/McNutt

                  Tough for any org to be that deep with talent and non-asshats…

                  • CubFan Paul

                    they were deep before Ricketts went cheap/penny pinching

                    Gorzelanny ..he and Silva would of made a huge difference this year

                    • TWC

                      Gorz, sure, but Silva?  Really?  Don’t you think there might be a reason that no one else signed him this year?

                    • CubFan Paul

                      Silva was with the Yankees AAA team hanging around ..he was beat out by their other minor league free agents Garcia & Colon and maybe another guy because he missed spring training with them

                    • TWC

                      Yeah, exactly.  The Yankees released him in July, and no one else picked him up.  He wasn’t good enough to pitch in the ML.

                      Now don’t get me wrong, Pauly, I’m not suggesting Doug Davis was good enough.

                    • CubFan Paul

                      they released him because he was injured; no one is “good enough” when injured

                      i was Pissed when our “ball-less” organization released him instead of handling the situation like men ..but then again, had said organization not gave Cashner the 5th spot he didnt deserve over Silva, the situation would of been averted

                • Lou

                  Hard to say because you have to factor the major stat that’s part of Theo & Co game plan, runs scored. If you take away a run-producer like Aram (and I’m not advocating him particularly staying with the team), the 2011 Cubs were a 91 loss team. Without run producers, how many more losses can we expect? Considering you’ll have to win at least 85 games to think about making the playoffs and contending, we’re talking a potential 25 game turnaround for 2013 if people think the Cubs can be a competitive team that year. It’s probable but a lot to expect and it puts a lot of stress on the pitching staff. Oh, yeah, the Cubs also really need to think about that defense thing.

                  • Kyle

                    Replacing Ramirez’s bat will be difficult, no doubt. Replacing his defense will make up for a big chunk of what’s lost, though.

                    A 25-win improvement is not too much to hope for a team that was fairly unlucky with injuries, has $40 million to spend in the offseason, and has a couple of minor leaguers ready to contribute positively.

                    • Lou

                      I don’t know–injuries. When Ricketts made that statement last year, the media BBQ’d him for it. I wouldn’t factor that into play too much. I don’t think Randy Wells’ WAR is going to cut too much into that 25-win improvement.

            • BetterNews

              Luke—You make good points, however the fact is the Cubs were
              not much better than the Astros.

              Saying the bullpen is extremely strong is a balk.

              • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                If you don’t think the Cubs’ bullpen, as it ended, was strong, I don’t know that you watched the games in the second half or reviewed the stats. It was strong. It may have been the only thing that was strong.

                • BetterNews

                  Brett—I felt the bullpen was good. To say the
                  bullpen was “extremely” strong is a reach.

                  Marmol lost 10 games ,at least, for us.

                  • CubFan Paul

                    yea, you definitely didn’t watch very many games ..anybody with a keyboard can point out Marmol’s blown saves

                    • BetterNews

                      I was simply stating that a”extremely” good
                      bullpen is not what we have. Good, yes,
                      extemely good, no way, no how!

                    • CubFan Paul

                      smh@bandwagoners

                  • hansman1982

                    actually Marmol only lost 6 maybe 7 games – his other BS either resulted in an eventual Cubs win or the Cubs tied it and the loss was charged to another pitcher.

                    Elite, probably not, but an elite closer most years will have 2-3 games that you can hang on them so we are talking AT MOST 5 losses on Carlos this year above what your usual top of the line closer will allow.  When you finish 20 out, 5 games is not the difference maker.

                    • BetterNews

                      Hansman—Good points as always.

                      But My point was you cannot call the Cubs
                      “EXTREMELY” good at the backend as
                      Brett had posted.

                  • hansman1982

                    I think it was one of the better ones by the end of the season when Marmol regained some of his effectiveness – there are maybe 2-3 bullpens that were better and if Marmol can regain 2010 it will be too close to call for the best in the business

                    • BetterNews

                      hansman–Can’t agree with you on that one.
                      There is no way Marmol is, or can be considered
                      a “top notch” closer in the game anymore!

                      I can spout out statistics too, but I am not going to
                      waste your time and my time.

                      Marmol reminds of Mitch(Wild thing) Williams.

                      Except worse!

                    • Lou

                      Problem is his velocity has declined and with the difficulty of that arm motion (pitching is about replication). Also, you have to look at the amount sliders vs fastballs he throws. If that slider’s not working (again replication), his fastball with less velocity looks at times atrocious. He looked to me many games like he had difficulties getting his fastball over the plate.

  • Mike F

    First I think there is likely to be addition by subtraction. I can see several big names gone and a lot of salary eaten.

    Second, I agree Brett, Marmol is a very tradable piece in the puzzle along with a couple of the other back end guys they may or may not want to give up on. And I guess where I see this all a little differently is what they might or might not be willing to trade of the previous admin’s minor leagues.

    That’s kind of where I see things a little differently, especially if they are looking to build the pitching staff through trades, I don’t see how they can land a 15 win younger pitcher for veterans on the roster. If you trade for pitching, I think you end up having to give up some young pitching and higher level prospects. Not that that’s all bad, just that once again there is a large premium to be paid for pitching.

    Finally, I think we have to watch the Boston trade negotiations. I don’t think it has to, but can easily see that expanding into a larger deal, especially if both teams are willing to trade some salaries.

    • BetterNews

      What is it with the Boston attraction? Everybody seems to forget
      their”epic” collapse this season.

      • hansman1982

        and apparently you are looking past that even with 2 crappy months (that included the epic collapse) they still won 90 games.  The Red Sox have done that more times in the past 10 years (8) than the Cubs have in the last 50 (5).

        Also, under Theo they went to the playoffs the same number of times the Cubs have…in the past 50 years. (6)

        The Boston obsession is warranted.

        • BetterNews

          Hansman—To an extent I agree. But “over-passion” does
          not mean World Series!

          • Jeff

            I think they are, but I will take Theo and his guys over Cashman and Oppenheimer.  I do think the Cubs should copy their tv model, it’s definitely a way to improve the cash flow.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              That will be happening when the current TV contracts expire (not for several years, though).

          • hansman1982

            Correct, and having the highest payroll or best team in the game does not mean World Series – it means you get to or close to the playoffs every year which is all I am expecting out of Theo and Co.

            • Toosh

              Hendry had the highest payroll in his division during his tenure and finished 1 game over .500.

  • BetterNews

    Brett—Where do we have “depth” at the back of the bullpen?

    • Jeff

      Sean Marshall, Kerry Wood, Spellcheck, possibly Cashner, Carpenter

      • BetterNews

        Wood might not be back, Cash might not be Cash and Carpenter might
        not be here. Again, where is the depth.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Take the deepest bullpen in MLB, whichever you prefer, and I can raise those same kind of issues. That doesn’t mean the depth isn’t there.

          • BetterNews

            Brett—-Also, that does not mean the depth is there
            with the “certainty” you seemed to have given in
            your post! Not slamming, just saying!

            • duck

              jesus christ give it a freaking break man.

              • BetterNews

                Duck—Give what a break? Jeff Samardzija and Sean Marshall had very good
                years. But to say we have an excellent bullpen is a stretch. What are you saying?

        • Jeff

          Everything we’ve seen from Cashner says he’s still got the laser rocket arm.  Wood is either coming back or quitting, and it seems he and Theo clicked when they talked, so I would bet that he’s here next year.  You’re right on Carpenter, he could still be bouncing around, or he could be in Boston.  I think Samardzija is a viable setup option, and could be a closer in the future.  I think Marshall would be an upgrade over Marmol, and Russell is actually very good when he isn’t starting.   Jeffrey Beliveau and Rafael Dolis are both close to being ready, and both have good stuff.  If there is somewhere the Cubs have depth, it’s the bullpen.

          • CubFan Paul

            Has Cashner even pitched recently down there or another injury/strain that we’re not hearing about??

  • Jeff

    I think Danks would be a good buy low candidate for a trade, other than that, these teams are asking for a haul for guys who don’t have the track record to back up their “value”.  I haven’t seen much of the A’s guys, but their pitchers usually aren’t as good after they leave Oakland, Jurjjens has some red flags, Rodriguez flat out stinks sometimes and I dont’ think any of them except maybe Billingsley are on par with Garza.  So none of them are worth the cost.   I think Theo should be going after Mark Buehrle.  He’s consistent, he’s left handed, and I think he’s got a couple of really good years left if he moves to the NL.  He could be a huge boost to the rotation, and I don’t think he would cost much more than 10-15 million a year for a couple of years.

  • EtotheR

    Boston may have collapsed for a month, but they did succeed in building a system that consistently generates talent within their minor leagues, while competing for the division/post-season on a yearly basis. One month does not a regime make…good or bad.

    If we are going to go after any prime pitching talent, I’d be wary of trading Marmol. I promise…I’m not using Sandy Koufax as his model, but the baseball annals are filled with pitchers who were maddeningly inconsistent through their 20’s, and seemed to find more consistency as they began pushing 30.

    A good rotation is going to require a strong bullpen. If not Marmol as closer, we’re going to need to replace him with someone real. This is either going to further deplete our funds…or our available prospects.

    I think we ought to hang on another year…if we do march forward with some bigger signings. If we’re rebuilding, I’d be more open to trading him.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Anyone who wouldn’t gladly take the organizational model that the Red Sox have built – together with the attendant, annual success – is not someone I’m going to have an easy time relating to.

      • BetterNews

        Isn’t the Yankees organization something to emulate?

        • hansman1982

          Absolutely, but the Yankees are in a different world universe compared to the rest of the league.  If we go on a 10-15 year tear where we win 5-6 WS and make the playoffs every year, MAYBE then we can hope to begin emulating the Yankees.  To do so now would be entirely foolish due to the insane amounts of cash they have to pump into their MLB team.

        • http://cubbiescrib.com Luke

          The only real difference between the Yankees organization and the Red Sox organization is that the Yankees invest more heavily in scouting and international free agents in Latin America and the Caribbean than the Red Sox do. The Cubs are closing in on the Yankees level of spending in that area, so I suppose you could easily argue that the Cubs are already emulating the Yankees organization.

          So long as they build an organization that focuses on player development and building from within, you can call it the Barbie Sparkle Fun House Organization if you like. Results matter more than labels.

          But if your counting, Boston won more World Series during the Reign of Theo than the Yankees did.

        • Kyle

          Sure. We just have to triple the size of the Chicago metro area.

    • http://cubbiescrib.com Luke

      I’m not even sure the Cubs need to after prime pitching talent. St. Louis and Texas showed us in 2011 that you don’t need a staff full of aces, but you do need a full staff. If the Cubs can pick two or three good guys (Maholm and Jackson, maybe) on the free agent market, the won’t be in bad shape at all. I could handle a 2012 rotiation of:

      Garza, Cashner, Maholm, Dempster, Jackson

      Insert Wells, Samardizja, or Rusin if Cashner is in the pen, and that still isn’t a bad rotation. Its not the 2011 Phillies, by any means, but its not a bad place to start.

  • CubFan Paul

    i think ken Rosenthal draws a check from Scott Boras ..why would the Nationals sign ryan madson? they have Clippard AND Storen for practically Free ..talk about a grain of salt

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