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The Winter Meetings start tomorrow in Dallas, and today is probably your travel day for a number of executives and agents. The rumors won’t wait until tomorrow, though, and we’ll have a round-up of the latest later today, to prime you for the week ahead.

  • Perhaps the biggest rumor, however, gets a Bullet. Matt Garza showed up for the Cubs’ Christmas (er, Holiday) tree lighting ceremony last night (which is pretty awesome of him), and spoke to those around about the rumors he could be traded this Winter. “I’ve gone through it for the last six years of my career,” Garza said, suggesting he can’t let the swirling rumors bother him. More tellingly, he added that his agent told him, “it’ll be an active Winter Meetings, so watch TV.” As I’ve said repeatedly: the Cubs are very much considering trading Garza. All it takes is that one great offer (multiple top-of-the-line, ML-ready prospects), and they’ll pull the trigger.
  • For his part, Garza wouldn’t mind signing an extension with the Cubs, which is also a possibility. “I’m open to whatever,” Garza said. “I just like playing the game. My family lives here, if that’s any indication. I just want to play the game. I do love Chicago.”
  • That same article notes that Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, who was also present at the tree lighting, said to everyone in attendance that he “wants Wrigley Field to be here for the next century and beyond.” That’s not just a “thing you say.” Against the backdrop of a very public request for financing assistance to renovate Wrigley Field, the Governor knows the implications of what he said. Does that mean a deal is already worked out? I don’t know that I’d go that far (the city of Chicago is expected to be involved as well), but it’s a good sign.
  • Speaking of public funds for stadium deals, the SEC is investigating the use of public money to get the new Miami Marlins stadium built after years of intransigence. Jeff Passan thinks there was some shady dealing (noting that public officials agreed to fund 80% of the project without ever reviewing the Marlins’ finances), and the story could get a lot worse. From my perspective, I’m worried that the narrative coming out of the story will be “see what happens when you use public money for baseball stadiums? You should NEVER do it!” What happened in Miami has nothing to do with what happens in Chicago (literally-speaking), but I know many of you don’t approve of the Cubs using public dollars (collected at Cubs games, mind you) to help renovate Wrigley.
  • If you’re not yet convinced that Ron Santo belongs in the Hall of Fame, Phil Rogers does a convincing job of arguing his case. Let me add my own small point: Santo was a multiple Gold Glove winner, whose career offensive numbers are dampened by playing in an incredibly pitching-heavy era. The proof? He’s got a career 125 OPS+ (he was 25% better than the average player) despite what, on a mere glance, looks like a good-but-not-great career .826 OPS. For comparison, Sammy Sosa has a career .878 OPS. Career OPS+? Just 128. Santo was far, far better than his numbers looked.
  • Kevin Goldstein says potential Cubs’ third base target Ian Stewart is not an everyday player, and says Brett Jackson is not ready for the bigs. Goldstein also says he doesn’t think the compensation going to the Red Sox for Theo Epstein will be very much, saying it could simply be the Cubs taking someone for the Red Sox in the Rule 5 Draft. (For what it’s worth, I still can’t fathom the Red Sox settling for that little. I know I’ve said all along that the Red Sox have no leverage, and that they weren’t going to get nearly as much as they were hoping for. But a Rule 5 pick? Teams sometimes do that for other teams as a favor anyway (see, e.g., Cubs taking Josh Hamilton for the Reds). How much value is that really providing the Sawx? One year of Theo Epstein, which is what the Cubs got, has value. He’s worth a prospect.)
  • It’s no surprise, but big dudes don’t age as well as fit dudes when it comes to baseball-playing-ability. That FanGraphs article even suggests that Prince Fielder peaked several years ago.
  • Kansas Cubs Fan

    If Garza is not traded, when do you see the Cubs try to lock him up? For how much and how many years?

  • Michael Caldwell

    Well, to be honest, you shouldn’t use public money to “SUBSIDIZE” any private business, and that is exactly what public financing of stadiums is. I love the Cubs, but I’d rather see the Ricketts pay for improvements to “THEIR” business themselves. Besides, there is an underlying issue here that neither Governor Quinn nor Mayor Emanuel will acknowledge. Both the state and the city are broke from years of financial mismanagement. So how is it going to be payed for, or does the rest of the nation get to pick up the tab when Chicago and Illinois go belly up from all it’s glutenous years of corporate and social welfare? Well, I got news for you. I think we know the answer to that already, but I got more news for you. The rest of the nation is flat broke too, and it wouldn’t matter which set of idiots had been in charge. The result would have been the same, since, as Von Hayek put it so well, they’re both just two sides of the same coin.

    • bacboris

      Michael, I doubt many disagree with your general principle but I would look at Brett’s exact language.

      “Cubs using public dollars (collected at Cubs games, mind you) to help renovate Wrigley.”

      The Cubs are not a non-profit. And despite all the warm feelings and nostalgia Wrigley provides many of you, it is a substandard almost decrypt sports venue by any standard. It is surrounded with a community that soaks up its benefits while hampering any building expansion, night games, hell even affordable parking. We all joke about the small front office, but the real joke came when they didn’t know where to find offices for these new guys.

      I mean, look at the sweetheart deal the White Sox have gotten from the city (there should still be that tribune article about their new restaurant) as well as how much more modernized and updated their facilities are. The Cubs fork over to the City and the State TONS of money, which as you said has disappered due to “financial mismanagement”. Why shouldnt that money be directed to securing the future of the Cubs? Call it an investment if you want or just conceed it puts the Cubs on the same footing as the White Sox (After years of Daley favoritism).

    • hansman1982

      In all fairness, there are few businesses that impact the citys bottom line in quite the way the Cubs do.  Outside of the amusement tax and any local taxes the team pays there are also lots of people who visit Chicago on a regular basis who normally wouldnt because of the Cubs.

      There are studies that show the impact any way you want to show it.  The ideal situation would be, if the city/state were to give the funds, to somehow hold the Ricketts family personally responsible for a pro-rated amount of the funds if they sell the team before some future date.  Not sure if that is possible but it would then protect the city to some degree against the Ricketts running after getting the increased value of a new stadium.

  • Oswego Chris

    He is locked up for 2012 and 2013..both are ARB years….

    he makes 5.95 right now…..so what they could do is pay him a bit more than what he might make in arb…to get him to add one more year before free agency….

    so just an idea, playing GM, you could say  2012 8, 2013  9, 2014 10…3 years 27-30

    right now you are probably looking at 2 years and 15-18 depending on ARB…pay more for him to give you one more year before free agency…

     

     

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Can’t see him giving up a free agent year for just $10 million, let alone giving up that second arb year at just $9 million – he’ll make much more than that in 2013 if he went through the process. If you want to lock him up for 2014, I think you’d have to do something more like 2012 – $8 mill, 2013 – $11 mill, 2014 – $15 mill.

      (which is all to say, I’m not sure I see the value in locking up Garza to a long-term deal at this time, given how relatively expensive he is for an arb guy)

      • CubFan Paul

        wouldnt the value of locking up Garza now be 2014-length of contract? meaning garza would take less money in 2014 thru the length of contract because of a signing bonus &financial security

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Yes, but because he’s already set to make such a large amount in arbitration (relative to what “kids” usually make in arb), the offer of “security” is less enticing to him than it would be to a kid set to make his first million.

          • Oswego Chris

            yeah I probably low-balled him….you are a sharp dude Brett, could have been a lawyer

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              Hey, if you can get him to sign onto that deal, then you’re the sharp one.

      • MoneyBoy

        Completely agree on all counts Brett !!!

      • Oswego Chris

        more realistic would have been  8, 11, 15 so 3 years 34…..which may not be advantageous…

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Exactly.

  • EtotheR

    If nothing else…Jed and Theo have allowed the possibility of trading Garza remain publicly afloat. I wonder if it will result in the interested parties coming to the meetings with a deal in hand.

    While it’s better than nothing…and it isn’t nothing…the idea of a posthumous HOF election for Ronnie is pretty friggin’ rotten. Nothing has changed since last year. Nothing since the year before. (Same for Gil Hodges…whom my mom grew up watching. Similar players…and Hodges won an improbable WS as a manager.)

    Looking forward to the week. Six years ago, I woke up from some surgery to the Juan Pierre trade. I was excited. Hope this week is better.

  • Jeff

    I just posted something about the stadium deal on the message board.  It’s pretty crazy stuff.

    Garza almost seemed resigned to being traded.  Either that, or he’s just been through the ringer so much that it really doesn’t faze him anymore.  For what it’s worth, I really like the guy, and hope that he ends up pitching for the Cubs for a long time.

    • Kansas Cubs Fan

      Same here I’d like to see Garza stick around for awhile!

      I guess we will have to just wait and let this off season shake out and see what happens.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Whoa. For a long time, I thought there were, like, three Jeffs around here because this Jeff (i.e., you) doesn’t have an avatar, and the “Jeff” that I was thinking of (i.e., I guess, also you) used to have one.

      • Jeff

        Sometimes, the avatar shows up, sometimes it doesn’t.  I’m not really sure what the issue is.  There is another Jeff that posts, and I don’t think he has an avatar at all.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          If you use gravatar, it’s tied to the email address (the one used here has to be the same as the one listed on gravatar.com for you).

          • Jeff

            I have it set up, but it just doesn’t show up, trying to clear my cache and other stuff, maybe it will help.

            edit: it worked

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              Just started showing up for me, too – looks like you’re back to the “old” email address.

          • MrCub73

            My icon use to show up, can’t figure out how to get it back.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              The only way to get an icon here is using Gravatar.com – did you set things up there? If so, are you using the same email address here as you used there?

    • EtotheR

      I sort of got that, too, Jeff…

      I do wonder…I’m in Minneapolis, and the rumor on Garza was that he was traded because of attitude. While that was a while ago, has anyone else heard anything positive/negative about his makeup?

      • JasonB

        I think I remember a discussion in Jonah Keri’s book about the Rays (That Extra 2% or something like that – can’t remember the exact name).  They said that one of the things the coaches worked with him on was his composure on the hill and channeling his emotions.

        I remember a game last year where everything was going wrong for him in the 1st inning (couple of seeing eye singles and very questionable walk) but he wiggled out of it with no damage (I think it was a Saturday afternoon Cards game).  He seemed to show a lot of composure in that inning – not sure the old Matt garza would have gotten out of there unscathed like that.  I haven’t seen anything from him since he’s been in Chicago that would preclude me from offering a long-term deal if it worked out that way.

        I’m indifferent as to what happens to him – just want Thoyer to do what’s best for the Cubs.  I’d love to have him around because I think he’s a good pitcher but if we can get a haul of projectable ML ready or high minors talent, then I’m all for it.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        Back then, the story was the Garza was a hot-head, and couldn’t be controlled. He got better in Tampa (a fight here and there), and was a model citizen this year with the Cubs (the only exception being when he refused Mike Quade’s questionable order to strike out on purpose at the plate late in the year). Very excitable, which is a good thing, but unrestrained, can be a problem. When he was young, I believe the issue was that it was very unrestrained.

        • Jeff

          I think that cemented me as a Garza fan. I hate tanking on purpose, and I’m glad Garza is such a competitor that he took it personally. He does seem to have that crazy Zambrano gene though, might be something to look out for.

          • EtotheR

            Good stuff…the rumors up here had made me sort of indifferent to him, but if he’s working on the mental aspects, then that’s very cool…

            And, I agree…that Quade business was straight out of Little League. I always take more convincing when it comes to killing off a manager or GM, but that absolutely cemented things for me.

  • Dougy D

    If I were Garza, I would leave my cell phone back in the states (or at least turn it off while on vacation) and enjoy my trip. I would imagine that it would drive me crazy hearing about all of that talk. I really think that he and Castro should be the faces of the franchise and any one else can be moved. I thought it was pretty comical that the one comment on Muskat’s article said that Barney is untouchable or something like that. Now I like Barney and think he is a good player, but seriously?

    I look forward to seeing what this week brings. Hopefully a solid young first baseman that doesn’t require $20+ million per year. I would love to see a couple of solid MLB ready starters join the rotation and of course more solid gloves in the field. Hopefully Castro is working with someone in the off-season about every day. I know that if I blundered so many plays that I would be.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Barney? Yeah, not only is he “touchable,” I’d say he’s going to have to fight like crazy for playing time at 2B next year.

      That said, the Cubs should absolutely be shopping Barney – at shortstop, he’d have some value, but he can’t play there with the Cubs right now.

  • http://Bleachernation Bric

    I’ve thought all along that the compensation for Theo wasn’t going to be much. If it were a big name, it would’ve happened already. Reminds me of the “Player to be named later”. In these deals, if the player isn’t named right away, a few weeks go by and everyone forgets that the one team still owes the other someone. When the deal is finally completed, it’s usually such a low level player that it doesn’t even get written about.

    • hansman1982

      agree, Boston is probably going to wait as long as possible and the day some big news breaks for the Red Sox is the day they will “agree” on the compensation.

  • Dumpman

    Hey Brett,

    I think it would be fun for you to do a post of what you’d like from each “contending” team on the Garza front. IE

    Yankees – I’d like to see Montero, Banuelos, and Adam Warren.

    Or

    Toronto – I’d like to see Travis d’Arnaud, Nestor Molina, and Deck McGuire.

  • BFM

    I think Theo is right in entertaining offers for anyone.
    However, do you think that Garza (probably one of the best young players the Cubs have) is being dangled to other teams to entice other teams to look as some players the Cubs want to get rid of.

    For example, if team X comes to the Cubs and says we’ll give you this package of players for Garza. Theo and Jed come back and respond by telling team X that it isn’t enough, but that the package of players offered, will get them someone like another player (Soto, Marmol, Soriano, Z).

    It is an interesting scenario, but a good way to convince other teams to look at expendable players.

    What do you think Brett?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      It could happen, but most teams that are pinging the Cubs about Garza are doing so because they want a top-line starting pitcher, not a catcher, reliever, etc.

    • Jeff

      Wouldn’t that be like going to the flea market and trying get a pair of “Nike’s” and coming home with a pair of “Mike’s”?

  • die hard

    Santo also deserves election for putting up great numbers while playing disabled entire career in that he had to overcome the diabetes which eventually killed him.

  • BFM

    @Jeff……good point, but sometimes people WANT the Nike’s, but can be sold a decent pair of MIKE’s! any port in a storm.

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

    By the way, as I recently reported on Facebook and Twitter (*cough* follow *cough*):

    A source tells me the Cubs won’t trade Matt Garza for “less than a Greinke type deal the Royals got last year.” Greinke netted the Royals a fairly substantial return when he was dealt to the Brewers last Winter.

    • hansman1982

      Should take a Halls Lozenge for that cough you have…

    • Andrewmoore4isu

      What was that return and how’d they do last year

  • baseballet

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/04/sports/baseball/in-free-agent-shopping-temptation-and-remorse.html?_r=1&src=dayp

    Worth reading: NYT article about the buyer-beware nature of building a team thru free agency (and it doesn’t even mention Soriano; however it does mention Prince).

    • Lou

      The thing is–this article would be relevant if we’re talking about the Hendry regime of 2007….but since were not…. The first FA signing by Theo–David DeJesus….hardly buyer beware.

  • MoneyBoy

    Brett … The Fangraphs article gives voice to some of the things that have bothered me about Fielder … among them his fielding.   While the number of errors isn’t all that bad it’s the range thing that’s awful now and likely gets worse with age.

    I think it was spring of 2010 that CC came in down about 30 lbs … they were all back on by years’ end.  The pounds don’t seem to bother his effectiveness … yet!!!

    But if you think back – Horton, Luzinski and their ilk – for all the offensive pluses Fielder brings the weight AND (likely decline in) range don’t warrant a long term, big dollar contract Boras (the ultimate complicating factor) is likely to demand.

    The same article makes mention of the contract locking up your organization – lord knows Cubdom has seen the effects of that …

    • Kyle

      Unfortunately, Cubdom has also been experiencing the downside of not having any elite bats in the lineup.

      • Lou

        And Bryan LaHair isn’t the answer….sort of like putting Caleb Hanie in as Bears QB ;)

  • EtotheR

    I wonder if the Cubs would consider serious front-loading on a Fielder or Pujols contract? It’s rarely done…but, even if you overpay a bit on the front-end, it does help balance some of the risk/reward scenarios as they get older, fatter, lose bat speed, move closer to dementia, lose a testicle during a hunting weekend, get fatter, sink into an inevitable pit of drug-riddled crime and debauchery, join some sort of death cult, vote only for fringe-level presidential candidates named Larry, and are reduced to an OPS of .038.

    Just wondering…

    • die hard

      Problem is that Pujols and Fielder are at that point or 90% there..Their best years can be seen in the rear view mirror..

    • Kyle

      The problem with frontloading is that it actually costs you more because of the time value of money.

      A frontloaded $200 million deal costs the team more in real value than a backloaded one does, so the team doesn’t want to do that.

      Players like to have big, gaudy total value numbers, because they are competitive and each one wants to get the biggest total contract possible. So if they could get $200 million frontloaded, they’d rather have $225 million backloaded. It’s the same in terms of real value, and the latter seems more impressive.

      • EtotheR

        Excellent, excellent point, Kyle…it was the first financial lesson my dad ever taught me. I thought it might have some psychological value, but I think you’re right.

  • Stephen

    It is extremely easy to get all giddy about Albert and Prince. It’s like a shiny prize we all would like to get our hands on. Compounding it is the fact that its mid winter and we have no baseball to distract us.
    Theo was brought in to bring us a winner. Heck, Hendry could sign a guy to a big contract better than anyone….so why hire Theo and Hoyer to do the same short sighted thing?
    We have a pretty solid trio of relatively young(er) guys in Garza, Cashner, Marshall, Soto, Marmol and Castro. Jackson will be able to contribute soon, and Szczur could be right be right behind him.
    I totally agree with the idea of getting a knockout package for Garza. Capuano got a guaranteed 2 year deal for 10 million???
    Get 3 top ten porospects, stay away from another Soriano contract, and lets do this the right way! .

    • EtotheR

      The man makes another excellent point. I’m not sure we have the right core to build on, but a Garza haul could change that.

      I still see nothing wrong with going after a big fish…provided that everyone understands the risks. There are also risks associated with sending off a good pitcher for prospects. An awful lot of #1 ranked players fail big time.

      I guess that’s why I’d be more interested in Fielder. On age alone, he’s a closer match to our core, and could still be viewed as a true rebuilding block. Obviously…other risks exist, too.

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