I may have undersold the volume of rumors last night and this morning, because, man, this is a lot of stuff, and that’s not including the reported offer to Albert Pujols…
- At last check, various unnamed executives, Matt Garza’s agent, and Matt Garza, himself, suspected Garza would be traded by the Cubs this Winter. And now a Cubs source tells me that he, too, has finally capitulated, and swung from the “probably not” to “probably” side of things when it comes to a Garza trade, citing the kinds of offers the Cubs are seeing floated. Throw in Peter Gammons’ statement on MLBN last night that Garza would be traded “eventually,” and you’ve got an overwhelming amount of smoke. A trade may not result, but be assured: if the Cubs move Garza, they’re going to get a great return.
- Which brings me to CJ Wilson. Weird segue? It would be, but for this: last night, we learned that the Cubs had met with CJ Wilson’s agent to “gauge the market” on the lefty. We, reasonably, assumed that meant the Cubs were checking in to see if it was worth making an offer on Wilson. But the same Cubs source tells me that “gauging the market” for Wilson was actually all about helping the team figure out how valuable Matt Garza is on this market. If Wilson is set for a $100 million payday, for example, the market for Garza could improve even further – and the Cubs would be wise to be patient. Very crafty, Cubs. Very crafty, indeed.
- The Cubs continue to talk to the San Diego Padres, with the Cubs hoping to pick up third baseman Chase Headley, and the Padres hoping to pick up pitching. Bruce Levine reports that the Padres are interested in reliever James Russell, who was absolutely lights out (as a reliever) last year (2.19 ERA and 1.074 WHIP in 49.1 relief innings). While it would be hard to part with a young, effective, cheap, lefty reliever, getting Headley in a deal with Russell as the primary piece would very much be “selling high” from a position of strength.
- Note that Russell, alone, would not net Headley – the Cubs would have to include, at a minimum, a prospect, as well. There were multiple reports out of San Diego last night that the Padres were open to moving Headley, but were asking “for the moon.” That is, of course, a relative term, but given Headley’s cost (low), age (27), and 2011 OPS+ (120), you can understand their wanting a healthy return. I’m told the Padres might want the Cubs to take on an unattractive contract – like second baseman Orlando Hudson (owed $5.5 million in 2012, and an $8 million 2013 team option with a $2 million buyout) together with Headley. Hudson is coming off a down couple years and will be 34 next year, but is still adequate defensively, and can get on base a bit.
- Which possibility of adding a second baseman leads to … the Cubs are getting calls about Darwin Barney. I’ve got nothing more than that. I don’t know if the Cubs are interested in moving him, how much teams are willing to give up, or which teams are calling. I just know they’re calling.
- As for the other oft-rumored third base target, Ian Stewart, Gordon Wittenmyer reports the Rockies are asking for infielder DJ LeMahieu and lefty reliever Scott Maine. For relatively costly risk like Stewart, one whom the Rockies might non-tender anyway, the Cubs should be passing on this one, regardless of the Headley talks. Maine did not impress me this year, but he has value. LeMahieu is a good defender at third, adequate at second, and has the bat to be an above-average offensive second baseman. Will he ever get there? Maybe not. But I’m inclined to take my chances with LeMahieu as a young, upside second baseman, rather than Stewart as an older, upside third baseman. Bruce Levine says the Rockies are still interested in Tyler Colvin, for what it’s worth.
- Chicago Cubs’ President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein confirmed that he met with Albert Pujols’ agent Dan Lozano yesterday, but played off the meeting by quipping that Lozano also represents free agent Cubs pitcher Rodrigo Lopez. Too many in the media seized upon that line and made it out for more than it was. Obvious sarcasm: Yes – one of the biggest superagents in the game, who currently represents the biggest name free agent in the game, is going to spend a chunk of time during the most hectic and critical week of the offseason talking to Theo Epstein about a journeyman pitcher who is as likely to get a minor league deal as he is a Major League one. Yup. Totally. That’s exactly what happened. End obvious sarcasm. Might Lopez’s name have come up in a, “hey, by the way, we’d like to talk about bringing Lopez back at some point when it isn’t the most important week of the offseason,” kind of way? Sure. But that meeting was about Albert Pujols. Don’t let Epstein’s coyness fool you. How serious the Cubs are about Pujols is a legitimate debate, however, particularly in the face of reports that the Marlins have upped their offer to Pujols to 10 years (no word on the money – but reports just now in say the two sides are expected to meet for a third time (it’s getting serious)). A report out of St. Louis says the Cubs have officially made an offer for Pujols, but doesn’t give any details other than to say it was a “qualifying bid.”
- Epstein did confirm he’d like to have Lopez back on the Cubs next year for depth. Epstein also said recently that you have to know who your team’s ninth starting pitcher is. Now we know.
- Jon Heyman – now of CBS Sports, not SI – says the Cubs are “eyeing” Prince Fielder more than Albert Pujols, as the Cubs don’t want to go to nine or ten years on a 31-year-old (which, like, duh). I’m still waiting on word that the Cubs have actually met with Fielder’s agent (Scott Boras) about Fielder. Boras is believed to have met with teams interested in Fielder yesterday, and the Cubs have not yet been mentioned.
- On Carlos Pena’s possible return to the Cubs, Theo Epstein didn’t tip his hand, but pulled back a bit from Jed Hoyer’s previous suggestion that the Cubs were ready to move on. “I thought he did a really good job as a Cub, and from everyone I talked to, he lived up to the reputation he established in the American League East as a fine all-around player,” Epstein said. “I think he’s put himself in a position to have multiyear suitors. By offering arbitration we didn’t in any way close the door on Carlos, but we are exploring all our options at first base. My expectation is he’ll decline arbitration. but we’ll continue to have a dialogue, and he’d be an asset to the Cubs or any team.”
- Theo Epstein said he doesn’t feel the need to make a big splash this week, which everyone has turned into, “Cubs won’t be making any big moves this week.” Do I really have to point out the distinction? Here’s what Epstein actually said: “Five years from now, 10 years from now, if we look back on this and say we made any move for any reason other than it’s in the best short-, medium- and long-term interest of the Cubs, we’d have a hard time sleeping at night. This is hard enough. If you try to serve perception as well as reality, you’ll end up hurting yourself long term. We have to work really hard to figure out what’s in the Cubs’ best interests.” You know how many moves that rules out? Exactly zero.
- The Marlins are checking in with the Cubs on the asking price for Carlos Zambrano. Some salary relief and Matt Dominguez. That would do it for me.
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