The rumor mill churns a bit more slowly after the Winter Meetings, but it still churns. On with the latest news and rumors from around the league…

  • Today is the deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players. A presumed target of the Chicago Cubs who could theoretically fall into this category is Los Angeles Angels first baseman Kendrys Morales. Morales, because of a bad leg break that robbed him of last season and a half, was already a non-tender candidate last week, when the Angels picked up a certain, notable first baseman on the free agent market. The move gave the Angels three first baseman on the roster – Albert Pujols, Mark Trumbo, and Morales. Given the logjam (which includes an extra outfielder who would presumably have DH’d), it was a relatively safe assumption that Morales had just gone from “possible” non-tender to “definite” non-tender. Not so, says GM Jerry DiPoto. Well, his exact words on Saturday were that the Angels “absolutely expect” to tender Morales a contract today, which is technically different from “we absolutely will tender Morales a contract.” My guess? The Angels have been getting a few hits on Morales over the past few days (including from the Cubs, who I have been told are very interested), but no team is willing to step up and make a substantial trade offer, believing there is a fair chance Morales will not get a contract. So, DiPoto stepped up and called their bluff. Make me an offer, he’s telling the interested teams. Will one step up today? Will the Angels make good on their threat to tender a contract?
  • Despite the year and a half absence from baseball, and the questionable health, you can understand why teams are interested in taking a chance on the former Cuban defector, Morales. He is a good defender, a switch hitter, and put up OPS around .900 in the 200 or so games before his injury. He’s still just 28, and is under team control for three years. Even if the Angels are willing to dump him and his expected $3 million-ish salary, other teams – like the Cubs – would be thrilled to take it on. As things stand, the Angels say they’ll move Trumbo to 3B, have Pujols play 1B, and leave the DH spot for Morales. We’ll see.
  • Speaking of excellent Cuban players, there is still no word on Yoenis Cespedes’ free agency (he set up residency in the Dominican Republic, and free agency was expected to be granted within a couple weeks – that timeline has long passed). That is not to say there’s any reason for concern, but it’s dragging on. The Cubs are expected to be among Cespedes’ many, many suitors.
  • There’s a rumor floating around that the Rangers are hoping to sign Prince Fielder so they can flip Mitch Moreland to the Rays for pitcher Wade Davis. If the Rangers do pick up Fielder – and they are expected to bid – I’d take a wild guess that they’ll first intensify their discussions with the Cubs about Matt Garza.
  • Speaking of Garza to the Rangers, the smart money says the Rangers probably aren’t going to accede to whatever high demands the Cubs may or may not have, if the two teams are discussing a trade at all (they are), until after the winner of the Yu Darvish post is revealed. Bidding ends Wednesday at 5pm ET, but Darvish’s team in Japan will have four business days to decide whether to accept the bid (they will, but they might wait), so we might not know who won the post until the middle of next week. Relatedly: the Cubs are expected to bid.
  • A side note on the Darvish blind bidding process – when Daisuke Matsuzaka was posted in 2006, the Red Sox won with a $51 million posting bid. Second place? Just $39 million by the Mets. The blind bidding process can really make you spend a ton more than you ultimately had to.
  • Another young starting pitcher might be on the market, as the Angels may be making Ervin Santana available after picking up CJ Wilson. Santana’s value is debatable. He’s 29 (today – happy birthday, chum!), and is owed $11.2 million in 2012 with a $13 million team option in 2013 ($1 million buyout). He’s got a career 101 ERA+ (102 and 112 the last two years), so it’s not as if he’s a stud. Could the Angels really demand a huge return for a expensive, slightly-above average pitcher, who might be a free agent after the year? Probably not. The question for the Cubs: would they consider trying to pick up someone like Santana on the relative cheap, or instead, do they view Santana’s presence on the market as one more obstacle in their efforts to get top dollar for Matt Garza?
  • The Tigers are talking to the Padres about Chase Headley, but there is currently “no momentum.”
  • If the Dodgers non-tender James Loney today, is anyone interested in him as a fall-back first base option for the Cubs? He was just arrested on suspicion of DUI, but, setting that aside, he’s 27 and has a career 108 OPS+ (110 in 2011). He’s average defensively, and provides almost no pop. Still, he’s a decent-ish hitter, and would come cheap (again, this is if he’s non-tendered). I say eh. Maybe a back-up-back-up plan.
  • EQ76

    Loney – pass.. Darvish – seems like a very expensive player to get having no idea if he’ll be worth the money in the bigs.. then again, they keep saying we need pitching and who else substantial is available?

  • Poopypants McGee

    Marmol for Morales and Kendrick.

    • ferrets_bueller

      I think the cubs would have to sweeten that deal considerably. Doubt the angels would give up either of those even straight up for marmol.

      • Hrubes20

        I think a Marmol – Morales trade gets it done pretty easily. Morales hasn’t played significant baseball in 2 years. His value is as low as it is going to get.

        • Pat

          Yes, but he’s only due about three million. There will be interest since he could well exceed that value. For Marmol, if he is able to close games successfully again, he might be worth his deal, if not he’s a eight and a half million dollar a year middle reliever. Basically there is a lot of risk with Marmol, and not very much at all with Morales. I can’t se the Angles making that deal straight up.

  • Sam

    I think that Fielder will remain a FA until Yu Darvish signs, what with the massive amount of $$ it will take to get him.

  • Luke

    I’d definitely offer Loney a minor league deal and a spring training invite. Other than that, I’d want to wait and see how some of the other options plays out. If we get to Feb 1 and the Cubs are left with LaHair as their best option, Loney might be a smart move.

    • kubphan82

      Loney was driving his Maserati, swiped 3 cars, claims his head hit the dashboard and doesn’t remember anything until waking up in the hospital. In between his blackout, he reportedly spit the breathalyzer at the police, attempted to flee, and resisted. I don’t want him in the clubhouse.

  • Andy

    It really worries me that the Cubs have next to no one with power in their as-is lineup. Soto might be the only power threat, and IMO hes not suited for the 3 or 4 hole. This is why I think they will make a very strong effort to sign Fielder.

    If the Fielder signing doesnt happen could it be possible they try to re-sign ARam or has that ship sailed? He would be one of the only power hitters left on the market, assuming he doesnt sign b4 Fielder.

    • Hrubes20

      Stewart has power. Soto, as mentioned, has power. Soriano still has power. LaHair has power (defacto 1B right now). Power isn’t a necessity. Good hitters are.

      • Lou

        But then there’s that pitching thing….Cubs led the NL in ERA. I have yet to see them making any pitching additions of value. Theo’s all about runs scored. I’m a firm believer in putting players in the batting order where they can be successful. There’s a reason why you bat someone in the #2 slot as opposed to batting him #4. Outside of Castro and an unproven full season of LaHair, I don’t think it’s a winning combination when your team consists of all #2, #6, and #7 hitters.

        • R.I.P. Santo

          IMO the new pitching coach alone will lower our ERA J/S

          • Lou

            That’s the hope. But then again Jaramillo hasn’t proven that we can score more runs with his presence on the staff.

  • SirCub

    I’m down for Loney. He comes cheap, and I think there is an upside there, even if it isn’t 30 HR’s.

  • MC2

    If, and it’s a big IF, the Cubs land Fielder and sign someone like Edwin Jackson, do they automatically become a top contender for the central title without moving Soriano? Seems we could tweak a few things here and there and still be in the hunt for one or more of the Cubans and a title shot with the way other things are shaking out.

    • Kyle

      Not even close.

      It’s a long, very inexact science, but using WAR I’ve got the Cubs at about 74 wins right now (To seriously oversimplify, we lose a few wins from last year without Ramirez and Pena, and we add that back and more because last year’s rotation was a perfect storm of bad luck, injuries and underperformance that is unlikely to happen again).

      Upgrading from LaHair to Fielder probably nets us another 3.5 wins (I used a very generous 1.5 WAR projection for LaHair just to avoid any arguments) and upgrading from replacement level fifth starters to Jackson probably nets us another 3.5.

      So those two signings, I’d estimate, would put us at 81 wins. That’s good enough that we can think about making the playoffs with good luck, but a long, long way from being favorites to make them.

      • Luke

        I’m in pretty much the same spot. With Fielder and Jackson and no other changes, I’m at about 84.

        The division will be weaker next season, but I still think it takes at least 90 wins to claim it. Cubs could be in the mix, but it will be a big mix.

      • Lou

        Great, that’s this season. What about into the future? I just hope you’re right about that perfect storm of pitching, because right now, it’s comprised virtually of the same cast of characters. I also hope that, looking back, Theo doesn’t think not signing Fielder was a mistake and a couple of years latter pulls the trigger on Votto because I would consider that move a head scratcher.

      • http://bleachernation ferris

        moves id like kuroda on a 1 yr 10m w option,…. jackson 3yr 30mil,…. wood 2 yr 5.5m……sherill 1 yr 4 mil w option……trading big z and 9 mil to fla for 2 prospects……………………..then marmol and 3m to laa for morales…..if they wont do that then go for fielder 6yr 150m.

        lf-soriano…if not dealt
        c-soto….if not dealt

        castro is a very good hitter not your proto. 3rd bat but will see more fastballs in front of prince and his power will improve…..315ba-16 hr is very realistic

  • baseballet

    The season before last, Morales and Fielder had an identical WAR according to Fangraphs: 3.4

  • Sam

    But there is no guarentee that morales can play at that level still

    • Lou

      Sam, you took the words right out of my mouth. No sense in making WAR comparisons before a substantial injury. Sometimes, stats can be spun.

  • BD

    I would rather give LaHair the opportunity to play than see Loney underachieve on the North side.

    • EQ76

      I 100% agree! LaHair may be our only power hitter next year the way this off season is going.

      • hansman1982

        Who exactly have we missed out on that you wanted the Cubs to sign?

        • Lou

          Well, at the very least they could have offered Bedard a contract, like Pittsburgh did, with the hope of trading him during the deadline for prospects.

          • JasonB

            Theo had Bedard in Boston last year – if he thought anything of him, don’t you think that he would have at least matched the Pirates’ offer?

            I find it humorous that Cubs’ fans ran Jim Hendry out of town because he signed too many free agents who are past their prime and now the same fans are mad at Thoyer for not signing free agents who are past their prime.

            • Lou

              Past his prime? Then why did Theo acquire him in the first place? When healthy he’s effective. I believe he especially will be in the NL. If you’re looking to restock the farm, you have to have multiple ways of doing it with new CBA rules coming into play. With the overpriced FA pitching market (Wilson and Buerhle getting WAY MORE than what they’re worth), Bedard could very well net the team a couple of decent mid-level prospects. Theo’s says this team is desperate need of SP, so you get it however you can, and if it involves the acquisition of a player solely for flipping him for prospects, it’s a smarter one than Hendry ever made.

              • JasonB

                “Then why did Theo acquire him in the first place?”

                Perhaps it took watching him pitch to realize that this was in fact the case?  I’m sure that he had his reasons because if Theo thought anything of him, he would have signed him for the same or more money.  Don’t have an answer – unfortunately, mind reading isn’t one of my strengths.

                • Lou

                  I would like to think Theo would have known this before consummating that trade. Then again, you’re the one who feels he’s washed up when Theo’s in the press targeting Kuroda.

                  • JasonB

                    I’d take Kuroda over Bedard – he’s a better pitcher and he’s healthier.  Need evidence?  Here

                    Career FIP – Kuroda 3.55, Bedard 3.65

                    Career xFIP – Kuroda 3.62, Bedard 3.83

                    Do you really think Bedard is going to miraculously morph into the Bedard of 2006-2007?  If you do, then FYI, it isn’t happening.  Notice the crappy September Bedard had last year?  Also notice the fact that the effectiveness of his curveball has fallen off the map?  Maybe those are two things that Theo witnessed when deciding not to re-sign him.  No offense, but if I have to choose between your opinion on a player and Theo’s, I’ll take Theo’s 100 times out of 100.

                    • MightyBear

                      I’d take Kuroda over Bedard too. Only thing is Kuroda’s going to cost 12 mil and bedard didn’t get that with the pirates. Personally I’m hoping they get somebody better than both. Preferably Darvish.

                    • JasonB

                      Kuroda is pricey but for a 1-year deal, I don’t really have a problem with it.  Depends on who else we get I guess and how much we would have to pay Kuroda, but he’s one of the most underrated pitchers around.

                      Back to Bedard, perhaps signing him wouldn’t have been a horrible idea but to me, it seems like there would have to be something that Theo didn’t like about him that scared him off, particularly when you consider that Bedard would seem to fit very well into the FO’s current plan of acquiring assets while their value is low.  Bedard pitched for him at the end of the year last year so it isn’t like he was a complete unknown or off of his radar.  But I obviously don’t have a definitive answer to the question as to why he isn’t with the Cubs – all I know foe certain is that he isn’t.

                    • Lou

                      I don’t think it’s a question though of him being washed up and the disparity between those stats isn’t all that far apart. If you had stated that Theo had reservations about Bedard’s injury history, I certainly would agree you, but you didn’t. When you’re looking for durability, Kuroda, like Bedard I suppose, isn’t the answer. I don’t expect a return for Bedard to 2006 but then I don’t expect Kuroda to be effective with Cubs, either. All I know is I don’t want Darvish and his posting fee. After all the talk I hear about Wrigley renovations, it’s just about nonsensical to give millions of revenue to another team.

                    • JasonB

                      Sorry I did not explicitly state anything about Bedards’ health.  Whenever discussing him, it seems like it should go without saying.  But yes, that is part of what I meant – I wonder if there is something he saw with Bedard’s arm at the end of last year that made him realize that he should not be looking to acquire him for another year.  Soreness, long recovery time between starts, bad arm angle, release point, something.

                      And we agree on Darvish – paying $50-$60 million just to have the rights to negotiate a contract with him seems expensive to me.  We could end up paying close to 9 figures to acquire him without seeing him throw a big league pitch.  At that point, best case scenario is that his contract breaks even with considerable down side risk.

        • EQ76

          Hansman 1982 – Obviously we don’t see the finished product and signing Fielder would more than make up for the lack of moves so far… but It’s not so much who we’ve missed out on as much as what we’ve done coupled with who’s left.. Stewart & DeJesus are average players coming off bad years.. they could be great, they could be busts..

          we don’t seem to have the prospects to make a huge trade so if we don’t get Fielder then who is there?? LaHair may very well be our best bet at 1B next year. I’d be more for him starting than Loney or Mitch Moreland.. at least LaHair could hit 20+ HR’s for us.

  • Cheryl

    LaHair can be a bridge until some of the players drafted this year are ready. I’d put the money toward Darvish and the two Cuban players and Jackson to begin.

  • ISU Birds

    BREAKING NEWS: ARam Brewers reach 3 year deal.

    • Cubbie Blues

      Any bets on if he will go the way of Theriot with comments?

      • Jim

        I certainly hope not, ARam provided a lot of thrills, I would hate to see him go out as a no-class punk like Theriot.

    • Luke

      That should check the Brewers out of the Fielder derby. I don’t think they could do both.

  • montellew

    Just got a news flash from Bleacher Report – ESPN Chicago quoted a source that Aramis Ramirez signed a 3yr deal to the Brewers.

  • oswego chris

    I am really high on Kendrys Morales….but a thought occured to me….the Angels would probably not like to deal him to the Cubs because that would take them out on Fielder…which would mean a better chance Fielder ends up on Rangers or Mariners…

    • Jeff

      It would surprise me if the Cubs even made a move on Kendry Morales until after Fielder has signed, or at least until he is out of the Cubs price range. I think the Angels would be best suited to wait to move Morales(if they plan on trading him) until after Fielder signs as well.

  • Odd

    Are the Cubs still interested in Headley after obtaining Stewart?

    • Brett

      The sense I’ve gotten – not strongly enough to report it, mind you (so this is just an off-the-cuff comment) – is that there is still some interest there.

    • ferrets_bueller

      I hope so. Headley is a guy that I love- elite defense at 3B, plus a severely underrated bat. His numbers for his career anywhere but Petco are great. Word has it the Pads want a lot, but hopefully the Cubs are still interested and make a deal so stewart can play 2B.

      • Pakman23

        Not sure where the elite defense perception comes from in terms of Headley. Stewart is better according to most defensive metrics. Albeit a tiny bit.

  • ReiCow

    I’d like to see both Halos come to the cubs (if we don’t get Fielder). I think Santana would do well in the NL (provided he can stay healthy, which is the reason his stats are so uneven), and Morales would be a great fall back option for first base.

  • die hard

    Whats wrong with this pitcher (sic)? Trade a proven ML pitcher in Garza and sign an unproven pitcher in Darvish? How can anyone be serious that Cubs to make these 2 moves?

    As to speculating about Cespedes and Darvish, one would think that this talk would demoralize the kids in the minors. They must think that no matter what I do Cubs will rather out source the position.

    • ferrets_bueller

      I would think that the reason would be obvious- the return for Garza.

    • MightyBear

      I don’t see how getting Darvish would demoralize anyone. If you’re good enough they will find a spot for you. There’ll probably be two rotation spots coming open next year no matter what. Dempster and Zambrano. Maybe if Jay Jackson, Coleman, McNutt etc would pitch better, they wouldn’t have to go outside.

  • MichCubFan

    I wouldn’t mind Loney.  I have also seen Chris Getz, Tom Gorzellany, Chris Volstad, and Luke Scott as possible non-tender candidates.  I would give a good look into all of them.

    As far as Loney goes, he is a solid hitter.  He does not many home runs but he does get a decent amount of doubles.  He has walked between just above 10% to 7 percent of the time over the last three years, even though not in the right direction.

    If we would sign Loney i think it would make since to have LF open for another power bat, though.

    Another 1B to look at is Daric Barton.  We could also go into camp with LaHair, a guy like Barton, Rebel Ridling, and maybe a minor league free agent or spring invite to compete for the 1B job or a bench job.

  • MichCubFan

    Oh, and Loney also happens to be decently athletic left handed bat who is a decent fielder…and who also walks a decent amount and doens’t strike out a whole lot…kinda would make sense.

    • EQ76

      So we’d have a bunch of average hitters at best, playing slightly above average defense. yawn.. we’ve lost our top 2 in HR’s & RBI.. We’ve so far brought in a .240 hitter and a .145 hitter from last year who play “slightly above average” defense.. I sure hope we have some better moves coming or we will be a 100 loss team next year. Not to be crabby here, but I’m just not thrilled with the moves so far. Hopefully the “Theo Trio” prove me wrong.

      • matt3

        start reed johnson in center.. seriously

        • die hard

          platoon with Campana could work…Move Byrd to left and Soriano to 1B…represents least expensive patch work quilt of a team over next 2-3 yrs

          • live soft

            I like die hards idea, The day either sorryanus, or chipmunk aren’t starting at first maybee we could use them as pictures (sic)

          • live soft

            hey how about we pick up Micah Owings to platoon with our other guys to play first and pitch. at least that guy has a bat

        • MoneyBoy

          Matt … RJ is a FA … best he/we can hope for is a non-roster spring training invite like last year

  • Lou

    Well, if Theo and the boys are into signing players on the rebound, we may have a potential 1b candidate in Luke Scott. Orioles just non-tendered him.

  • paul

    casey mcgehee just sent to pirates

    • MoneyBoy

      the Pirates have a whole lot of “meh” in their infield … he can add some pop … but remember – Jerry Hairston Jr played for the PooCrew in the playoffs b/c McGehee was so awful in the field (beware the Prince signing at 1b!!!!)

  • Oswego Chris


  • http://bleachernation calicubbi

    im sooooo glad theo is running the team and not me!!! i want a tital so bad id probably screw us for decades to come>>>> go get em theo…you have my faith and support….ive been a fan for 30 years and ill be a fan with or without a tital….well… it be alot easier with one….cubs fans are loyal…and a cubbie moto is “we,ll get em next year” remember harry carry died without a tital in the windy city…rip harry

  • MoneyBoy

    tital?  moto????    dude ….