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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.
  • Incredibad

    I love the steady flow of rumors today. It seems like every time I checked in, there was something new. Love it, Brett! Keep up the great work!

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks, man. The Cubs kept me busy today, and I loved it.

  • Cheryl

    Brett,

    just heard an unconfirmed rumor that bobby V. is now manager of the Red Sox.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I believe it’s been confirmed (and MC2 posted about it on the Message Board, for those inclined to check it out: http://www.bleachernation.com/forum/index.php?/topic/233-boston-has-a-manager/). That whole process was such a fiasco – I don’t care how they try to spin it. Cherington picked the guy he wanted, and was overruled. Then, the real bosses picked the guy they wanted, who wasn’t even on Cherington’s list.

  • die hard

    good to know other front offices read your blog….I proposed deal for Smoak days ago and that Fielder belongs on AL team…dots connecting before our eyes…

  • Oswego Chris

    dude…you are earning your money today Brett…

    I loathe the “kicking the tires” cliche as well…..baseball writers need some new analogies for inquiring on available players….

    “scanning the menu”

    “testing the waters”

    “smelling the cork”

    “checking the oil”

    these are bad…..but at least they are different

     

     

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I kind of like checking the oil. If I think of it as I type, I’m going to use it.

    • Ron

      “checking the oil” ha stop thinking with your dip stick!

    • Eric

      Let’s see. . . .

      Prattle the Flannel
      Hackel with the Jackals
      Cackle with the Panel
      Flip through the Channels
      Tangle all the Angles
      Look through the Telescope
      Spoke to the Folk
      Convoke the Gentlefolk
      Played Doctor with the Jockster
      Ran tests with Beacker
      Taking Notes
      Putting out feelers
      Taking a test drive

  • http://www.calliopevoices.com EtotheR

    I like the part when we make an arseful of moves, completely infuse the team with new blood…some of whom are so powerful that they shower the Wrigleyville apartments with enough baseballs to classify it as a war zone, and dance happily into Championshipland.

  • jr5

    If the Cubs could get Headley or Stewart, I’d be pleased. I know Stewart will cost more in terms of dollars, but it seems like that might drive his cost in prospects down, which is what I care more about. And his price would still be way less than what they had been budgeting at third with Aramis.

    DeJesus…eh. If they move Soriano and/or Byrd it makes sense. Otherwise I don’t see the point in playing him over Colvin and/or (sorry for using that twice) Jackson. But maybe Theo/Jed see those two prospects differently than I do. If they could move Soriano, and they picked up DeJesus, I wouldn’t mind a 5-man outfield of DeJesus/Jackson/Byrd, with Reed Johnson and Tyler Colvin on the bench. Hard to imagine that group not being an improvement offensively and defensively from last year, while not costing nearly as much.

  • Jordan

    I really don’t think Phil Rogers knows his ass from a hole in the ground.

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

    Let me just say, ESPN’s Wayne Drehs is the man. He just tweeted this, which was highly appreciated:

    Unsolicited plug: If you’re a #Cubs fan craving news, info, rumors & intelligent analysis, @BleacherNation is a must follow.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I should say, he’s the man for any number of reasons, but this was very cool of him.

      • Lou

        I liked his commentary on the ESPN documentary ” Catching Hell.” Great documentary about Bartman and the symbolism behind scapegoating.

        • Ol’CharlieBrown

          Completely agree with you, Lou. A great documentary about the whole Bartman situation.

          Wayne Drehs is a good dude. I sense many more new BN members on their way…

          People will come, Brett. They’ll come to Bleacher Nation for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll pull up your site not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your page as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, I don’t mind if you look around, you’ll say. It’s free of charge for every person. They’ll pass over their thoughts without even thinking about it: for it is opinions they have and peace they lack. And they’ll browse your articles and sit in their Cubs shirts on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have their username somewhere along one of the comment sections, where they commented when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll read your analysis and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The rumors will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Brett. The one constant through all the years, Brett, has been the Cubs. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But the Cubs have marked the time. This site, this team: it’s a part of our past, Brett. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh, people will come Brett. People will most definitely come.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            Haha. Nice. Thanks.

          • hardtop

            and people have come. missing some of the old regulars these days. its like an entirely new class. the veterans must be taking a break from a long year of constant cub chatter… i was actually pleasantly surprised to see jeff post yesterday.
            its good to get new readers and, as always, your readers seem to be above par in their analysis and understanding of the cubbies.

    • Dumpman

      I really appreciate the way you run this site Brett. Great rumors, good insight, smart, witty and civil with some on here that post jsut osme bad ideas really. Also willing to respond to each comment. Dont lose that, its what seperates you from the rest of the internet really. People can go a lot of places for rumors and chat or whatnot. They will choose to come here because of the atmosphere you have set.

      Good work. How do we get you to the insider level anyways?

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        Thanks, Dumper (is it all right if I call you Dumper?). I hope, like you said, that the comments/discussion continue to be a reflection of the tone in the writing, and, so far, so good. And I try to respond to as many comments as I can, but obviously, that’s becoming harder and harder.

        The insider level seems to come from having a high volume of sources. I have a few, including some really good ones – but far from many. So, in other words, hook a brother up with some sources.

        • Dumpman

          Dump, Dumper, Gobbler, Dumpgobbler.. doesn’t matter haha.

  • Cubnuts23

    Brett I am first and foremost worried about the starting pitching even if we keep Garza. Have you heard any rumors about us going after a top line starter or 2 via trade? I would love to see the Cubs go after someone like Felix Hernandez to anchor our staff for years to come. Oh and by the way my vote for the worst and most over used cliche….”where the rubber meets the road!”

    • BetterNews

      Most over used cliche—-IT IS WHAT IT IS! Boy, a lot of thought by the one who came up with that.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        Totally agree on that one. I refuse to say it.

        • http://www.calliopevoices.com EtotheR

          Fine. Whatever…do what you want, man…it is what it is.

          Yeah…you’re right. That sucks.

          I’m having it stricken from the planet.

      • Stinky Pete

        I recall when I had XM a few years back, Kevin Kennedy would say that at least five times an hour.

    • http://cubbiescrib.com Luke

      Top line starters don’t often get traded, and the Cubs probably don’t have the farm system to deal for more than one if they did find some available.

      They are said to be heavily involved on Darvish, and I believe they have… ahem… booted the wheels on C.J. Wilson. Those are probably the two biggest pitching names they have been linked to.

      • http://www.calliopevoices.com EtotheR

        You have to believe that a Garza trade would net them what they want…because they have leverage. His contract doesn’t run out tomorrow, they have the means to sign him, he’s young, and on the open market…he’s in high demand.

        If they don’t get the package they want…they can easily yank him back, and move forward.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Not too many top starters are expected to be available this Winter (outside Garza). Maybe James Shields, but I’m not sure the Cubs have the ammo to get him.

  • Cubs8ball

    Thank you Brett!! Good fill for me today. I’m stuffed. Appreciated. F*** Phil Rogers.

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

    Looks like I picked the wrong time to start a new job, I’m going to need to take a day off to keep up.

    • http://cubbiescrib.com Luke

      And we’re not even to the winter meetings yet!

  • Ol’CharlieBrown

    I live in Colorado and I keep up with the Rockies a fair amount, mostly because I live out here. By keep up, I mean that I go to an occasional game throughout the season (and 2-3 games when the Cubs come to town) and I probably watch a few games a week on TV if the Cubs aren’t on for me to watch. I live pretty close to where the Rockies Triple A team the Sky Sox play and go to quite a few of their games every season.

    I’ve seen Ian Stewart for several years, playing for both the Rockies and Sky Sox. He seems to be one of those guys who is always far more successful in the minors but hasn’t been able to be consistent at the major league level. Seems like even most of the Rockies fans have grown tired of him. I think very few out here in CO would be upset if the Rockies got rid of him. Stewart is one of those guys that I’m excited to see in the lineup when I go to a Sky Sox game and one that I’m disappointed to see in the lineup when I go to a Rockies game. If we’re going to settle for someone of Stewart’s caliber at 3rd, then we might as well give DeWitt or Baker a shot at 3rd.

    • CubFan Paul

      ouch bro. But i do like baker as 3B starter ..he’ll bat .225-.250 against Righties & .325 against Lefties over the course of the season; i’d give him a shot to start ($2million salary) if you acquire Fielder at $23million a year

      hell, batting 5th in a lineup behind Fielder his numbers would go up

      • BetterNews

        Paul—Ya, his numbers will go up in smoke! No chance mister.

  • bacboris
    • http://cubbiescrib.com Luke

      “The most significant new detail: If a team fails to sign a player in the first 10 rounds, its draft cap is reduced by the assigned value of his pick. It can’t reallocate that value to sign other players. However, it can reallocate the difference between a player’s bonus and the value of his choice.”

      Wow.

    • BetterNews

      Anything that is “expressly prohibited” in a contract means the party overseeing the issue has the right to either lay down the gauntlet or look the other way. More and more they choose to look the other way.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Very interested. Will get some attention tomorrow for sure.

  • Josh

    I love the updates! This is a great website and I greatly appreciate your hard work.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks, Josh.

  • KB

    I apologize if this seems to be a dumb question, but perhaps I can get clarification: Hoyer has specifically stated that we have a “clear need” for starting pitching. Anyone who watched the Cubs last year would certainly agree.

    So exactly why are we so intent on trading Garza?

    • BetterNews

      KB—Truthfully, I think the Garza thing is nothing more than trying to see where he stands by other clubs “opinions” as to his “value”. Garza is a long-shot in being traded.

    • Lou Cub

      @ KB, the reason Garza needs to be dealt is that he is a HUGE chip…He alone could bring 4-5 pieces possibly including a couple of top notch pitching prospects which are pretty non existent in the upper levels of the Cubs system. The Cubs havent had a proper rebuild in a long time probably since the mid 60′s when they unloaded vets to the Phillies and Giants for among others, Fergie Jenkins, Bill Hands and Randy Hundley….The Cubs haven’t been able to sustain success especially under Hendry because of lack of young talent, impact talent at various positions and get stuck with guys like Bradley, Burnitz etc… I for one would love a complete overhaul.

    • Kyle

      Simple.

      Garza has two years left on his contract.

      He has much more value to a team trying to WIN NOW than a team like the Cubs, who want to both win now and build for the future, but consider the latter more important.

  • BetterNews

    Lou—If the Cubs are doing a complete overhaul as your comment suggests, why in the world did they sign Dempster(or Dumpster as some call him) to a new and inexplicable contract and put Garza on the “chopping block”? Makes no sense.

  • Lou Cub

    Dempster got an extention?? That’s news to me..It was his option to stay, not the Cubs..Hendry also gave his little pet a no trade clause..Granted, I like Demp, but as a #3 or #4 starter. not as an ace and not at 14 million..He should be moved..I’ve said that since before the past deadline…Garza being dealt will give the Cubs a huge influx of ready or nearly ready major league talent and if Soto, Marmol, Byrd, Marshall, Demp, Z and Soriano get moved too look out!!!

    • BetterNews

      Lou—-I am not an expert on these things(never claimed to be) but the Cubs could have “declined” the option on Demp thus making him a FA?

      • CubFan Paul

        No. it was a ‘Player Option’ not a ‘Club Option’

      • Hangman

        For someone who has sources you have no clue what’s going on.

        • BetterNews

          I said a source. And that doesn’t make me an “insider”, sorry to disappoint.

  • MightyBear

    I don’t think Garza will be moved unless it’s a sweetheart deal for the Cubs. They still have control for several more years before Garza is a free agent. He could have easily won 16 games last year on a bad team. I don’t think he’ll be traded because Theo and the boys will ask for the moon and I don’t think he’ll be traded unless they get it.

    • BetterNews

      Bear—Yes, finally someone making sense on this issue. I have been “bucking” heads with BN fans for days now on why he should “not” be dealt.

    • Lou Cub

      @ Mighty Bear, they’ll get it…watch!! When the Cubs got Garza, there was no competition from the Yanks or BoSox cause the Rays would never trade him within the division..Now that the Yankees and Red Sox want him and Texas STILL wants him and maybe moreso since they have fallen short in the Series..I’d expect a great return

    • Hangman

      Ok from what I have read it would take a Deal like (let go with the Rangers, because they are the team I have heard the most about). Martin Perez LHP, Neil Ramirez RHP, Mike Olt 3B, and Mitch Moreland 1B. That would give them 2 Pitcher who are Close too or MLB ready and projected front of the rotation. It would also give them a 3B who should be ready by 2013 at the latest, with plus power, plus glove and an above average bat. Not to mention Moreland who can start at 1B or RF.

      • Lou Cub

        @ Hangman…I don’t think that would be an ureasonable deal for Texas to make, considering how close they actually have been to winning…I’d think the Cubs would want Sheppers as one of the arms in that deal though.

    • hogie

      Bear, I think this has been the general idea. The brain trust is listening to offers but aren’t aggresively pursuing trades. You are absolutely right, it would have to be a deal that would blow them away, but that doesn’t mean that some team isn’t willing to give up a ton for him. This has been the sentiment I have picked up from most reports right from the start.

      • Lou Cub

        @ Hogie, we really don’t know how agressive Theo and Co are in pursuing deals..they’re holding all their cards really close to their vests but a comment that Brett posted the other day about Bruce Levine talking about how Theo and Jed wanted to immediately know what deals were left on the table @ the deadline shows they intend on being proactive..A new regime can’t sit still with a 91 loss team

        • hogie

          Absolutely right, but they aren’t going to trade him just because there is an offer. That offer would have to kick some arse, I would think, for numerous reasons that have all been stated.

  • BetterNews

    Then the Cubs can deal him?

    • CubFan Paul

      No again. Dumpster has a No Trade Clause

  • Lou Cub

    @ Better News…Hendry gave his players the upperhand on everything..Including player not team options, lots of money (way over market) and complete no trades..It’s no wonder this team was hamstrung

    • BetterNews

      By God, where were the Cubs lawyers during all of this? I could pick up a “local” attorney that could have handled things better than what Hendry got away with! Now my blood is really flowing! I am just, just, plain disgusted!!!

  • Lou Cub

    @ Better News…I don’t know if the no trade got voided after Demp picked up his option or if it still exists..maybe Brett would know but Demp should never have gotten that deal that was touted as a hometown discount at the time..I’d love to see Theo and Jed move him..definately!!

    • BetterNews

      LC—I forgot about the “home” discount thing. I am getting more aggravated by the minute when I start recalling all the “outrageous” deals Hendry made, with no oversight!

    • Hangman

      Dempster doesn’t not have a full no trade, but it doesn’t matter because he is a 5 and 10 player so, he can’t be trade without his premission.

      • BetterNews

        Like I said, I could choke Hendry. Its like he was trying to the most damage he could before he left.

        • Lou Cub

          @ Better News..I don’t think Hendry wanted to do damage but he wanted to reward his own guys…To a fault it’s not the proper way to conduct business in pro sports as honorable as it may seem

          • hansman1982

            Dempster received 10/5 rights in 2009, the first year of his new deal so Jim Hendry could have given him any no-trade provision he wanted and it wouldn’t have mattered because the CBA gave Dempster a full no-trade clause.  This is one deal where Hendry didnt screw up and frankly, barring April and May of last year, he has earned nearly every dollar of his contract.

            And can we PLEASE stop with the Dumpster nickname, almost as annoying as the cliche’s listed above.

  • Mike F

    I think people grossly overestimate the value of prospects for a quality starter. I also think you have to get both Scheppers and Perez and even then, that deal could blow up in our faces. Prospectts, especially pitching are exactly that, and while both are good live arms, there are no guarantees there. So if someone wants them, they have to blow the Cubs away. Part of that is frankly the Cubs rotation absent Grarza is a bag of a crap and two or three prospects a year or two away don’t aid the situation.

    So this offseason has been brilliant by the Cubs, I think Rosenthal has it right, the Cubs have lots of alternatives which is what we see and completely run with causing us to misread. I think the Cubs desperately need two things. First no team in baseball needs a big bat more. I know this will piss off some, but that guy isn’t Mitch Moreland. He could be a compliment, maybe a 5 hole hitter, but he isn’t that big bat. I think they will legitimately make a run at Pujols and then in that order Fielder. They also need starting pitching, so I would expect they will try to sign 1 or 2 of the big 3 fa’s Jackson being the 3rd, especially if they intend to trade Garza. If they have any real intention of trading Garza it’s an absolute must to sign pitching before doing so. Finally, I find it fascinating that people freak at signing people like Pujols and then are ready to chase guys like Cespedes or Darvish. The kicker on both, pretty high risk when you look at these guys given all the adjustments and what you don’t know about both and how they will acclimate. I really thing Theo has done a brilliant job of misinforming us, and has several alternatives. I look for him to strike suddenly on a couple of free agents and depending on whether he can then make a couple of trades, with the big surprise being the free agent signings.

    And when I say people I’m talking pundits and writers, there’s a big disparity between even chicago media let alone nationals. Bruce mile was on the score and both he and Rogers contradict themselves.

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