As quickly as the hot stove heated up, it cooled back down. Monday’s at the Winter Meetings are frequently quiet, but it’s still a bit of a surprise, given how active this week is expected to be.

That’s not to say there aren’t rumors…

  • The Chicago Cubs today met with Albert Pujols’ agent, Dan Lozano, according to Ken Rosenthal. The Cubs have been connected to Pujols since, well, Spring Training, but steps are now actually being taken toward putting an offer on the table. The appearance of interest on the part of the Cubs could still be a vehicle by which to drive up the price on the Cardinals (though according to multiple reports, they’re sticking to their 9/$200M guns (though at least one report says the offer is now only eight years, with the ninth year having been 2011)), but the interest now appears to be moderately genuine. Earlier we learned that executives expect the Cubs to see whether they can entice Pujols with a short-term, but high annual value contract (for example, five years and $150 million). The precise nature of the Cubs’ meeting with Lozano, however, remains unreported – it could have been a prelude to an offer, or it could have been nothing more than the most preliminary of exploratory talks.
  • Add another potential third baseman to the Cubs’ list of options: Marlins prospect Matt Dominguez. With Jose Reyes going to the Marlins, thus moving Hanley Ramirez to third base, and other free agents potentially on the way, I mentioned this morning the possibility that the Marlins could look to move Dominguez for a pitcher. Well, Phil Rogers agrees that Dominguez is available, and thinks the Cubs will indeed consider Dominguez. It’s easy to see why: although the 22-year-old prospect has yet to put it all together in the minors, he’s always been quite young for his level, and is considered an excellent defender. He has been one of the Marlins’ top prospects since they drafted him out of high school in the first round in 2007 (taken nine spots after Josh Vitters, incidentally). Dominguez is, perhaps, the most intriguing of the various 3B options connected to the Cubs, but he’s far from proven. Chase Headley remains, to my mind, the “best” option yet mentioned – and there remains a great deal of smoke there.
  • ESPN’s Sahadev Sharma suggests the Cubs take a hard look at pitchers like Edwin Jackson and Hiroki Kuroda to bolster the rotation. He adds that Paul Maholm could be a good back-end addition, too. If Maholm demonstrates he can come back from his shoulder problems last year, I’m very much on board for taking a chance. Kuroda would be a fine addition, but, as noted yesterday, he wants a salary in the $12 to $13 million range, which seems steep for a 36/37 year old on a team with so many holes. Jackson’s market has been very slow to develop (he’s been on so many teams in such a short career – what exactly is the deal?), but he figures to get a three or four year deal in the $35 to $50 million range.
  • Another report, this from Jon Heyman, says the Cubs are getting some interest on Alfonso Soriano. Last week, it was reported that multiple teams were “kicking the tires” on Soriano.
  • Tom Haudricourt says the market on Prince Fielder is shrinking, which “shrink” may or may not include the Cubs.
  • Gordon Edes reports that Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes’ agent is telling teams he wants twice was Aroldis Chapman got two years ago. That is to say, Cespedes wants $60 million, presumably over six years. That’s a ton of money to commit to a guy – albeit a talented guy – who hasn’t yet faced professional, American pitching. Some say professional Cuban ball equates to High A minor league ball. Taking a 26-year-old, who’s already developed his approach, and telling him, “Ok, now you have to face pitching that’s miles better than what you’ve been seeing,” is a tough road. $10 million per year could be a steal, or it could be burning cash. The Cubs are theoretically still in it for Cespedes.
  • The Dodgers are approaching a two-year, backloaded agreement with Aaron Harang, making it the second time the Dodgers have signed away a theoretical Cubs target for (probably) more money than I’d have wanted the Cubs to spend anyway (Chris Capuano). I love the massive backloading the Dodgers are doing, by the way – ensuring the next owner has the burden on these contracts. Where have I heard that before… (Tribune Company…).
  • Matt

    Earlier this fall, the Marlins seemed like a good landing spot for Big Z, or so people kept saying. I haven’t heard much about that lately. Would it be feasible to see some kind of a deal including Z to the Marlins and Dominguez to the Cubs, or is that just a ridiculous idea?

    • Brett

      If the Marlins have any interest in Z, it’s not ridiculous, particularly given (1) Ozzie’s affection for Z, and (2) the Marlins’ affection for being in the news. That said, even if the Cubs ate $15M of the $18M still owed to Z, I’m not sure it would net Dominguez. It might. But a more realistic approach might be Z, a prospect (perhaps one who would be blocked by Dominguez), and cash for Dominguez. That doesn’t strike me as out of the question.

    • Kansas Cubs Fan

      How about Chris Carpenter+Z+14Mil for Matt Dominguez?

      Or am I way off?

    • Luke

      I’m not sure Miami is that desperate for pitching. They could stand to add an arm (who couldn’t?), but I get the idea they’re going to wait until they have their big dollar pieces in place. I think for Miami, a lot depends on whether or not they can sign Pujols. If they can, then trading for Zambrano in a deal in which the Cubs pick up the check in exchange for a nice prospect is certainly possible.

    • Matt

      I’d gladly let the Marlins “have” Zambrano, cash and a prospect (Vitters?) for a player like Dominguez.

      • Luke

        League Average OPS for the PCL in 2011 was .807. Dominguez put up just .743. Yes, he was young for the level, but that’s still not terribly encouraging. His strikeout rate (~14%) wasn’t bad, but I’m not encouraged by the walk rate (~6.7%).

        I’m not convinced. I’d take him in a deal, but I don’t think I’d give up any of the Cubs current upper level third base prospects to get him. Offensively, I think both Vitters and Lake have the brighter future. Defensively, Dominguez is the clear winner right now (reserving judgement on Lake until he gets some regular time at third). I don’t think Dominguez is ready to take over third base on Opening Day so it is doubtful that he would beat Vitters to the majors by more than a few months.

        In the interests of depth, I’d take the guy, but I don’t see him as a “can’t miss” by any stretch. His defense will ensure he has a job in the majors, but I’m not convinced his bat will ensure that job is as a starter. I have much more confidence in Vitters’ bat, in particular. Dominguez is a nice asset to have in the system, but he isn’t major league ready and the Cubs have at least two options just behind him in development. I think the Cubs can do better.

        • CubFan Paul

          sounds like Dominguez projects as utility middle infielder thanks

  • Oswego Chris

    so teams are “checking the oil” on Soriano at least

    Aaron Harang needs a big ballpark for success…so no thanks….

    day one is looking like another in the long line of Winter Meetings teases…I will settle for other teams making trades right now…



    • Brett

      Damn it! I missed a golden opportunity to use “checking the oil.”

      • EQ76

        With who’s dipstick?

      • EQ76

        With who’s dipstick?

  • Sam

    Hey Brett, have you heard anything on Roy Oswalt? I feel like he would be a solid bounce back candidate, not to mention he has a good knowledge of the other teams in the NL Central.

    • Brett

      I haven’t heard his name connected to Cubs. I assume it’s primarily an age/health/expected contract issue.

  • Fishin Phil
    • The Dodgers are approaching a two-year, backloaded agreement with Aaron Harang, making it the second time the Dodgers have signed away a theoretical Cubs target for (probably) more money than I’d have wanted the Cubs to spend anyway (Chris Capuano). I love the massive backloading the Dodgers are doing, by the way – ensuring the next owner has the burden on these contracts. Where have I heard that before… (Tribune Company…).

    Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

  • jfish1219

    Hey is anyone else having a problem signing in to word press while using Google chrome ?

    • Luke

      No problems here. I use Chrome exclusive both here and for my own writing and never have an issue, even on my CR48.

      What sort of problems are you having?

    • Brett

      I’m a Chrome user and I haven’t had that issue. I love both WordPress and Chrome, but there are some instances where they don’t play nice.

      • jfish1219

        I think it might just be my computer, first it said that I didn’t have cookies on, which i did and now it says my password is invalid even tho it was auto saved….

        • Luke

          My guaranteed method to ensure that any Windows based computer behaves itself.

          Step 1: Leave open in one tab.
          Step 2: Leave open in another tab.
          Step 3: Glare menacingly at the computer and say “You feelin’ lucky?”.
          Step 4: Go about your normal business.

          Windows is absolutely prone to intimidation, if you make it believable. You just got to make it believable.

          More seriously, it sounds like you may have some permission issues causing problems with Chrome. If that’s the case, a simple restart could clear it. If the restart doesn’t work, then I’d fall back on intimidation.

  • JasonB

    Dominguez has really disappointed with the bat but the glove is supposed to be as good as advertised.  I don’t think he will be as good of a hitter as Headley but he will be a premiere defender at the hot corner.

    No way I’d give Harang 2/10 but I would have given that amount to Capuano.  And depeding on the cost, I’d be all for Kuroda.  I’ve always thought he was an underrated pitcher.

  • The Next Theo Epstein

    No problem, Brett. You have access to a far greater audience, so I’m glad to pass along the information to you for mass dissemination. I just feel like that topic hasn’t gotten any play because everyone has assumed the Cards are offering 200 million. If the Marlins’ offer was indeed well short of 200 million, how could they even make a serious second offer? They can’t realistically beat that 200 mil offer. But what if indeed the Cards offer looks more like 8 years 170ish million? What then?

    Similarly, the Cubs also have no real horse in this race if the Cards still had a 9 year 200 mil offer out.

    It also matches up with some industry sentiment that Fielder could demand more total dollars than Pujols, and is simply waiting to see what Pujols signs for to top his deal.

    I’d have to imagine all this information should significantly affect how Cubs’ fans feel about Fielder vs Pujols.

    • Brett

      It definitely could. I’ve said for a long time that I can’t see any scenario in which the Cubs could beat the Cards’ 9/$200M offer in a meaningful way. Well, maybe that’s not the offer they have to beat.

      • CubFan Paul

        i’d offer that 9/$200M to Fielder (IF the 8th & 9th years are club options) ..damn good value for a 27yr old Fielder

        • The Next Theo Epstein

          I’m a huge fan of sabermetrics Paul (hence the handle). If you put any merit in advanced stats (not everyone does, but the Cubs do), there’s no universe that a 9 year/200 M deal for Fielder is a good value. But I also don’t think players will take club options like that. Basically they would never see that money, ever.

          • CubFan Paul

            “Basically they would never see that money, ever.” huh? what do you mean?

            Fielder has value to a franchise. i read on a ‘saber-head’ site (fangraphs?) that Fielder has been “worth” $22-$25million a year for the past several years ..7 years guaranteed to Fielder, paying him til he’s 34yrs old seems like a slam dunk

            • hansman1982

              I don’t think you want to go that far on guaranteed years.  Most I would do is 6 but prefer 5.  Odds are you would have to offer at least 6 to get him

              5 Years guaranteed – $25M per – $150M

              6 – Ramirez Option (he can override the team option) – $25M

              7 – 8 – 9 – Team Option for all 3 with obtainable vesting clauses if he remains near to where he is now and a “Ramirez” clause for year 7 – $22.5M – $22.5 – 20M – $215M

              The $ amounts are if Pujols gets $200M and Fielder demands a bigger contract overall but also offers some protection both ways.  If after 5 years he wants to try for a bigger contract (God only knows what the CBA will do to FA salaries) then let him go at 33 with a big man body.  If he is still highly productive but salaries don’t skyrocket then we keep a good player.  If he sucks in year 6 then bu-bye.

            • The Next Theo Epstein

              A club option would never be exercised. A player would never expect to see any money deemed a “club option”.

              If you’ve seen his value on FG, you probably also saw that he can fluctuate every other year. He can go as low as 7 million dollars, then jump back up to 27, then fall back down to 18. That’s not a safe option to give 22-24 million for 7 years. The only saving grace would thankfully be inflation if he’s signed to such a long deal.

              • CubFan Paul

                “saw that he can fluctuate every other year” yep. and the average of that fluctuation for Fielder is $22million a year, so “technically” he is worth it (7yrs guaranteed w/ 2 club options for $200million)

                ..and players get money for Club options all the time (either the negotiated buyout amout or it gets exercised)

                • The Next Theo Epstein

                  The last 4 years that average has been 18.6 million. Last 5 years, 19. Last 6 years, going back to his first full season in the league, it’s 16.7 million. It might be a good idea to observe his development arc because the tail end of his contract will look alot like the beginning of his career.

                  I don’t know where you’re getting 22 million. Also, no club has ever exercised a club option in the 20’s which is my point. Of course a team will exercise a smaller club option.

                  • CubFan Paul

                    if you say so..

                    • The Next Theo Epstein

                      lol. I don’t mean to dash your hopes.

                      I’m just pointing out that Fielder isn’t a guarantee to be awesome if signed. There’s alot of red flags there, sabermetrically, namely because he’s been the worst 1B defender in baseball since he’s come up (he’s given up 50 runs according to DRS), he’s likely to get worse as he gets slower, his offense fluctuates alot, and he’s a terrible baserunner. All of these aspects combine to partially negate the offensive value he builds up, which is a massive amount to be honest.

                      All it takes to see how good he is offensively is simply one glance at his regular stats and slash line. But the rest of his game is far from pretty, and there’s quite a bit of negative value from those other aspects.

  • jfish1219

    Theo will be on Intentional talk on the mlbn tune in now

    • Ol’CharlieBrown

      Thanks for the heads up. Tuned in just in time to see Theo chat with the fellas for a few.

  • Chris

    I am all for going after Domingez and Morrison, throw Z, Vitters plus one more prospect and cash. Link up with the Padres for Headley in a Randy Wells trade scenario. Then trade Marmol. Sign Kuroda and make a run at Buehrle. Convince Brandon Webb or Maholm to sign an incentive laden deal. you could also check on Pineiro and Marquis….

    • ferrets_bueller

      I think there would have to be significantly more than Randy Wells going to the Pads for Headley. Rumors are that Marmol would be in the vicinity of enough. They seem to actually have a realistic view on his value despite his home park, something most people don’t seem to have.
      I think the Marlins trade is plausible (if you mean Dominguez or Morrison…I doubt they would give up both, especially if they’re getting Z and another 3B prospect in return…I think Vitters is much more likely to end up in San Diego as part of a Headley deal. There would be no point for FLA in a deal that moves Vitters to FLA and Dominguez to CHI). LoMo is a very, very valuable player.

      Buehrle’s market seems justified, at least value wise. Whether the Cubs should invest in a veteran SP right now, though, is still a bit questionable. But I wouldn’t complain about Buehrle.

      Kuroda is old, and his rumored market is WAY, WAY more than he is worth. Let someone else pay him $10million a year, because he’s in no way worth it to the Cubs. At all.

  • Luke

    Brett, and anyone else who likes to dabble with the numbers, or who just can’t quite wrap their heads around WAR, might be interested in this.

    Wahoo’s On First, a Cleveland Indian’s blog, is now the home of a basic WAR calculator that uses fairly basic stats to compute a fairly reasonable WAR value. It won’t match up perfectly with FanGraphs or Baseball Reference, but it is still useful.

    Be warned, you can spend hours sticking in numbers and watching what happens. If you are doing any projections for players currently in the majors I strongly recommend you input their 2011 numbers first to get a baseline off which to interpret your 2012+ projections.

    • Brett

      Thanks for that, Luke.

  • Bryan

    This is completely a hypothetical by me, but if Hanley is willing to play third base could a Matt Garza and Hanley Ramirez centered trade potentially work? It would make sense I think personally. Hanley would give the Cubs their 3B and would be a huge addition to the lineup, and for the Marlins they get their #2 starter behind Josh Johnson as well as salary relief to step up continued pursuit of Pujols, Buerlhe, or other top free agents (Hanley has 3/46 mil left, Garza has 2 arbitration years probably around $20 mil total).


    • JK

      If Hanley Ramirez were a solid clubhouse guy on the uptick than yes. I am worried about both he seems to be a prima dona and his body is filling out in the wrong areas.

  • Jewish Mother

    I fail to see what’s so great about the Cards offer, which doesn’t even put Pujols in the top ten AAV. From everything I’ve read, that’s the most important thing to him. If the Cubs are willing to make him close to #1, I’m sure he can be moved to shaving a couple of years off. Does he even want to play to age 41?

    I also don’t understand the whole idea of the Cubs getting into this just to drive the price up for the Cardinals. How is that going to be effective when just about every single media outlet is trumpeting that they don’t believe Theo is serious and that this is just a ploy? Does anybody think Mozilek isn’t aware of this? The only reason the Yankees were successful on driving up the price for Carl Crawford was because the consensus throughout the league was that they were serious. When the opposite is the case, there’s no driving the price up. And so far Mozilek has shown zero inclination to raise his offer (and given how the Cards owner said that payroll won’t go above 110MM and how they already have 80MM committed to 8 players, it stands to reason they can’t afford to go much higher anyway), and there has been little hint that they will do so yet, and they likely won’t, not until Pujols gets an offer that beats theirs. Mere flirtations with Dan Lozano aren’t going to get them to blink.

    Hence, the only way the Cubs will successfully drive the price up for the Cardinals is if they honestly and truly make a serious offer. Screwing around and trying to fake everybody out is a waste of time when everybody already thinks all you’re doing is trying to fake everybody out. For my part though I believe that Theo is very serious about Pujols and that the media, as usual, has their collective head up their collective fundament.

    • Brett

      Great thoughts.

      • EtotheR

        Jewish mothers rock…

  • Gustavo

    Sign Cole Hamels to a 3yr/$35 million deal. Then sign CJ Wilson to a 4 yr/$58 million deal. Trade for Hanley Ramirez. Trade Garza and Soto for prospects. That opens you up to signing Prince to a 4yr/$96 million deal with team option for 2 more years at $23 million apiece (Make him work for it, his market is small). Entice him with good teamates.

    • JulioZuleta

      Hamels would get closer to twice that much in terms of years and average annual pay.

  • hansman1982

    If I were Theo, since this offseason seems to be one where teams throw absurd amounts of money at players – I would take the offseason off and let the new CBA play out a bit on some of the mid-level talent.  It is entirely possible that a year from now the Kuroda’s of the world won’t be making $3-4M over their actual value.

  • Frat Rat

    What happened to the Dodgers not being able to make moves, i.e. sign free agents, until the team was sold?

    • Brett

      Apparently that limitation applied only to “good” moves.

      • Rancelot

        Really bizarre what the Dodgers have done thus far…they have cornered the market on pedestrian utility infielders (Mark Ellis, Adam Kennedy, Jerry Hairston Jr.).  Did I miss the clause in the CBA agreement?

        • Brett

          Clearly, you did.

          Section II.A.3.iii:

          “For each aging, frequently-injured, overrated starting pitcher a team signs, the team must also sign a utility infielder of questionable roster value.”

          These infielder signings were merely a pre-emptive strike for the Dodgers, who knew they were just going to have to have Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang. They worried the crappy utility market would dry up before they ha a shot, and then they’d lose a first round draft pick for the next three years.

  • tex134

    Dodgers = All AARP Team

  • bacboris

    Was supposed to be a reply to Brett (Misplaced the reply button I guess)

    You left out:

    II. A. 3. iii (a): If the team is for sale, then all said contracts of the above clause shall be incredibly burdensome and backloaded.

  • Cheryl

    And will haunt that team for a minimum of four years.