The Winter Meetings end today, and it’s fair to say it’s been a modestly disappointing week for Cubs fans. That is not to say it’s been a “bad” week, as I can’t yet point to a move the Cubs made or failed to make that upset me (heck, Mark Buehrle is the only player of consequence that changed teams). Still, expectations for excitement were high. Maybe that was unfair…

  • The Rule 5 Draft is this morning (9am CT), and the Cubs have the sixth pick. The Draft could go several rounds, but it tends to be the case that teams stop picking by the third round. The Cubs, it should be noted, have the smallest 40-man roster in baseball right now (34), so they could pick up a few players, if they wanted. Don’t expect anyone who will knock your socks off. I’ll cover the Rule 5 here, live-ish.
  • Finally, we have confirmation that the $5 million delayed payment to Carlos Pena (recall, his $10 million contract for 2011 was paid in three parts: $2 million as a signing bonus, $3 million as 2011 salary, and a delayed $5 million payment), which will be paid in January, will count against the 2012 budget. That’s a bummer. It’s sort of an academic point, as Tom Ricketts could authorize whatever budget he wants (for example, he could bump it up $5 million if Epstein convinced him of the necessity). But, it will have to be considered when we say things like, “if the Cubs’ payroll for 2012 is $130 million, then they have $X left to spend.”
  • Theo Epstein shared his thoughts on long-term contracts and the value of available dollars yesterday, continuing to espouse his belief in building from within. “Just look at the history of long-term free-agent contracts – they tend not to work out,” Epstein said. “As tempting as they are and as great a way they are to improve your club in the short term, there’s two sides with free agency …. The most valuable commodity in the game these days is not dollars, it’s the prospects you project to be regulars or better and good young players under control. That’s the swagger, and the whole universe is open to you if you have those players to work with. … That’s the currency of the game, is good young players more than available dollars.” All good stuff. Keep in mind, this is a guy who just one year ago signed Carl Crawford to a seven-year deal. He understands the importance of free agency, but it’s also possible that he felt a little burned by that one, which looked ugly the day it was signed (and only looks worse after Crawford’s disastrous 2011 season). It is for these reasons that I simultaneously expect the Cubs to pursue Prince Fielder, but not offer a deal any longer than six years at the absolute longest.
  • The Theo Epstein compensation issue and the Jed Hoyer/Jason McLeod compensation issues are expected to be resolved soon (each was waiting for the Rule 5 Draft). On the latter, Epstein says the issue will be easy to resolve. “That one [with the Padres] is a little simpler,” Epstein said. “We have a list of players, lower-level guys, who we get to choose from. That will be done in a timely manner, hopefully.”
  • Much to their chagrin, Francisco Rodriguez accepted the Brewers’ offer of arbitration last night, putting them on the hook for a $13 or $14 million salary in 2012. He could still be cut at some point for 30 days’ pay ($2.5 to $3 million), or could be traded. But it certainly wasn’t something the Brewers were prepared for, budgetarily-speaking, and it deprives them of the compensatory pick they were expecting. How do you mix “schadenfreude” and “Brewers”?
  • Tim McCarver yesterday won the Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting excellence. (… too many jokes … head might explode … credentials … folksy … Joe Morgan … *BOOM*)


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