Today was easily the most rumor-filled day of the offseason so far from a Chicago Cubs’ perspective – indeed, there was so much to cover that an individual post for everything proved impractical. I started putting this post together around mid-day, but it just kept growing. And all I could hear in my head was a doubly-appropriate song: “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…”
(which, of course, is the hymn of most Cubs fans)
So, here’s a round-up of some of the latest Chicago Cubs news and rumors:
- Early this afternoon, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick added more smoke to the Cubs-interested-in-Albert-Pujols maybe-fire when he reported that the Cubs have “reached out to the agent for Albert Pujols to express their interest in the three-time Most Valuable Player.” Here’s the thing. Until today, the Chicago Cubs front office had been the Fort Knox of rumor retention. Sure, I’ve broken a few things here and there, and so have some other folks, but, by and large, there has been a dearth of rumors. And then, suddenly, multiple sources are simultaneously reporting that Cubs have interest in Albert Pujols and have reached out to his agent. Hmm. Could it be legit? Sure. In fact, I’m sure the Cubs have reached out to Pujols’ agent. But could this info coming out be a controlled leak, either by the Cubs or by an agent, designed to do nothing more than increase Pujols’ asking price? Yup.
- The Cubs are being attached to two third basemen by various sources. Up first, San Diego Padres’ third baseman Chase Headley. The subject of previous rumors here, George Ofman and Bruce Levine both list Headley as a Cubs target this Winter, and I’ve heard the same from a West Coast source. The gist of my opinion on Headley as a target: prime age, cost-controlled, good plate discipline, good numbers away from Petco, and good defense. I’m very interested. Headley’s cost in trade is a bit tough to gauge, as he’s the kind of player two teams might value very differently. A couple of very good prospects seems like the price floor, though. Headley remains under control for three more years of arbitration.
- The second third baseman who popped up in rumors is Rockies’ on-and-off third baseman Ian Stewart. A Colorado source tells Troy Renck that the Cubs are interested in the lefty Stewart, though the level of interest is unknown. Stewart has carried the interest of a number of teams for many years, probably on the strength of a dominant minor league career (huge numbers at high levels at young ages), and a solid ML 2008 season as a 23-year-old. Since then, Stewart has been pretty average, bouncing up and down from the bigs to the minors. He’s still just 26, and may come at a cheaper price (in trade) than Headley. My understanding is that Stewart is thought of as about average defensively at third base. The rub with Stewart (if you don’t consider the lackluster performance to date and the average defense a rub): although he’s got three years of arbitration left, he was a Super Two last year, making about $2.3 million. That means, even with average performance, he’s in line to make something like $3 to $3.5 million next year, and increasing in the next two years from there. It may not sound like much, but if he’s truly just average, it’s hard to see him as a better option than the far, far cheaper in-house options (for whom the Cubs wouldn’t have to trade).
- Dave Kaplan joins a handful of prognosticators, attaching free agent outfielder David DeJesus’s name to the Cubs. Kaplan says the Cubs are “kicking the tires” (everyone’s favorite expression this year) on the soon-to-be-32-year-old outfielder. DeJesus, who’ll probably be seeking a two-year deal in the $8 to $10 million range, is a patient hitter who gets on base (career .356 OBP, though last year’s .323 mark was by far the lowest of his career (but a career-low .274 BABIP last year suggests he was a bit unlucky)) and plays above average defense all over the outfield. It’s easy to see why he’d be a Cubs target. Where he’d play without changes in the outfield remains to be seen (in theory, the current outfield consists of some combination of Alfonso Soriano, Marlon Byrd and Brett Jackson, though the latter may still need some seasoning at AAA). If the Cubs prefer to spend the bulk of this Winter’s money on the rotation and the corner infield spots, I’d be just fine with DeJesus being the only addition in the outfield.
- Cubs’ GM Jed Hoyer was on MLBN radio this afternoon with Jim Bowden dropping interesting bombs. Among the highlights: Hoyer says the Cubs’ clear needs right now are left-handed hitters, strong defense, and starting pitchers; the Winter Meetings (next week) are expected to be busy for the Cubs, offering a great deal for folks like me to report; the urgency of getting moves together at the Winter Meetings is real; and building out the farm and scouting is totally separate from constructing the big league roster, in terms of being able to do both simultaneously.
- Cubs’ Chairman and Owner Tom Ricketts made himself available for a number of interviews today, parts of which will be covered later in a dedicated post, but one important piece, relevant to this post: Ricketts said Theo Epstein has full authority to make a big-time signing like Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder. “Like I’ve always said, there is one person responsible for making those decisions, and one person accountable for those results,” Ricketts said. “So if [Epstein] believes strongly that’s what’s in the best interests of the team, then he’s got my support.” I cannot underemphasize how much that is what you want to hear from your owner, whether or not it actually results in a particular signing.
- The Mariners are interested in Prince Fielder, and, if they are successful in getting him, they’ll consider dealing young first baseman Justin Smoak. I don’t think you need me to explain why that’s relevant to the Cubs. Speaking of which, the Mariners are believed to want some pitching. Just sayin’.
- Bruce Levine can’t confirm the Cubs’ reported interest in Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols, but he does note that, if the Cubs are interested in both, it would be a sound strategy to play one agent off of the other. Given the fact that there are plenty of suitors out there for each, however, I’m not sure I agree with Levine on that one. Separately, it doesn’t sound like Levine would be surprised if the Cubs were shifting anticipated amateur dollars, squashed by the CBA, to the Major League payroll, something we’ve all suggested would happen.
- For what it’s worth, Phil Rogers says the Cubs won’t be pursuing Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols, despite today’s earlier reports. For that conclusion, he cites no sources, nor accounts for the changes in the CBA. I say: shrug.