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[Site note: This morning my daughter is getting tubes put in her ears, so the Bullets will be delayed. There is also a chance that the winner of the Yu Darvish post will be announced this morning (the Cubs put in a bid, and a Cubs source tells me it was sufficiently high that "I wouldn't be surprised if we won"). If that happens, I'll try to get something up - but feel free to put it in the comments if you get the news before I'm able to post about it.]

The Chicago Cubs continue to show interest in middle tier (read: cheap) options this offseason. The latest rumors have them looking at a trio of players, none of whom is quite as sexy – in the baseball rumor sense, that is – as Prince Fielder or Yu Darvish.

First, the Cubs are reportedly interested in outfielder Coco Crisp to play left field in 2012. Crisp, 32, had his first healthy season in years in 2011, but hit just .264/.314/.379 while making $5.75 million with the A’s. Noted for his outfield defense, most metrics have him average or below average last year.

Taken together, Crisp looks like the kind of “buy low” candidate the Cubs have pursued this offseason – both David DeJesus and Ian Stewart are coming off of markedly down years. Crisp played for Theo Epstein in Boston from 2006 to 2008.

But what about that “to play left field” part? Don’t the Cubs currently have a left fielder named Alfonso Soriano? Soriano is under contract with the Cubs for three more years at $18 million per, but has seen his defensive performance decline to the point that few have really expected him to break 2012 as the Cubs’ starting left fielder – even if we had no idea how exactly the Cubs planned to move him. He still has value offensively, but, so far, that hasn’t translated into much interest from AL teams looking for a DH on the cheap. If the Cubs signed someone like Crisp and were unable to deal Soriano, it’s possible the team could utilize an outfield rotation or a platoon in left field (Crisp, who is a switch-hitter, has a higher career OBP as a left-handed hitter (.332 versus .325), but slugs better as a righty (.420 versus .401). Or maybe Soriano is dumped outright, something Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have been told they have the authority to do.

Crisp isn’t the only former Red Sox player interesting the Cubs right now, according to Phil Rogers. He’s got the Cubs also looking at veteran Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek, each of whom is not expected to return to the Red Sox next year.

Wakefield, 45, is a long-time, moderately-successful knuckleballer, who, at this point in his career, can give you one thing: innings. He hasn’t been a better than average pitcher since 2009, sporting ERAs well over 5 the last two years. He made $2 million last year.

Varitek, who turns 40 in April, still puts up decent offensive numbers for catcher (in limited duty his line hovers around .220/.310/.450), though his defense has waned as he’s aged. With Koyie Hill out the door, the Cubs could be looking for a veteran back-up – though I’ve actually heard Varitek’s name connected to the Cubs for a few weeks now. Epstein has apparently always liked Varitek’s presence in the clubhouse and leadership (insert picture of Chemistry Cat). Like Wakefield, Varitek made $2 million last year.

If Varitek were to come in, and starting catcher Geovany Soto were to stay, it’s hard to say what would happen with young catcher Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger, who are about as ML-ready as they’re going to be. That is not to say either will ever succeed in the bigs, but it’s high time to see what they’ve got. The other possibility, of course, is that the Cubs are considering dealing Soto, and want to make sure to have a good, veteran back-up catcher in place if, for example, Castillo is to get his shot as the starter.

Rogers notes that, in both Wakefield’s and Varitek’s cases, nothing is imminent, as the Cubs explore “options with more shelf life.”

 

  • Dumpman

    Dont mind Wakefield due to our real limited options at the backend right now. I doubt he’d want to go to the pen, that wouldn’t it be amazing to see Wake come in and throw some knuckleballs after seeing Cashner blaze fastballs for 6 or 7 IP?

    No to Varitek. We have options in house at back up catcher.

    Coco is interesting because of the defense he plays. The mention of Coco is mroe interesting because we already have a logjam in the OF. If we want Coco, that means were looking to deal an OF. We all know Soriano could be had. But I still think we end up dealing Byrd.

  • Eric

    Or, options with less shelf life, if you know what I mean.

  • ferrets_bueller

    I like all parts of this article- Crisp, Tek, and Wakefield.  I’d love to have all three, especially if it results in moving Soriano and getting something in return for Soto.

    • Toosh

      Epstein is sticking to his word. Keeps showing interest in getting younger.

      • Robert

        Please tell me you didn’t just say that? getting younger? REALLY? wakefield is 45 & varitek is 40. yahh thats reall young!

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          I think he’s being sarcastic.

          • SweetJamesJones

            Yeah, that sounds like sarcasm to me as well. :)

      • ferrets_bueller

        While getting younger is a goal, you still need role players.  Preferably, veteran roles players who have been here.  The goal is to get THE CORE younger, not necessarily the whole team.  These are guys who still have value, and should come cheaper than their value.  Plus great intangibles, something very hard to find definitively in young role players.

        This would be getting value, without mortgaging anything.

        • njriv

          Totally agree, you need veteran role players. They can still build around core of young players like: Castro, Garza, Prince (hopefully), Brett Jackson, Castillo/Clevenger, Marshall, Samardzija, all the young relievers, and every up and coming prospect.

  • Fishin Phil

    Hey, while we are checking out geriatrics, maybe we can get Mark Grace to come back and play 1st base.

    I was fine with DeJesus.  I’m willing to give Stewart a chance.  But a 32 year old outfielder who’s sole asset is speed?  Pass.   As for the other two old fogies, No. No. No.

    • EQ76

      I agree.. and, I’m sorry, but Crisp is going to put up worse numbers than Byrd or Soriano. Crisp isn’t a better defender than Byrd.. this only makes sense if we deal Soriano and still only view Crisp as a 4th outfielder/platoon player.

    • Lou

      I was thinking more like Charlie Hough…is he still available…

  • Fishin Phil

    Almost forgot:  Brett, good luck with your daughter!

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks. Currently in the waiting room while it’s being done. I’m sure this is harder for us than it is for her. It’s easy to keep reminding yourself that it isn’t a big deal, they do it all the time, etc., but you can’t help but worry.

      • paul

        morning Brett, good luck with busy day. here is a thing to think about for you…
        When my daughters were young we were told by way to many different specialists that my daughter needed a similar procedure done. long ago it wasn’t as common. My wife and I researched, and asked more than a million questions. We worried for months, and then worried for years after the procedure. now, many many years later if it comes up we I say something like hey what was that procedure we had done? sorry this is rambling, but the point is…. todays medical treatments are top notch, everything will be awsome, many years from now you will be glad you had it done, and it wont be a big deal at all. Worrying just is part of the deal, but relax, it will all work out!!

      • Hcs

        I had tubes put in my ears twice in my youth… There was quite a bit of pain coming out of the operation, but that subsided within an hour, and it definitely made a big difference going forward. That is, until about 2 years later, my pediatrician apparently forgot that they were there, and during a checkup, pulled them out. Side note, that pediatrician was the father of former Yankee/Red/Royal first baseman Hal Morris.

        Best of luck, Brett and family.

      • http://casualcubsfan.blogger.com hansman1982

        My son had tubes put in on his 1st birthday, probably the best birthday present we gave him.  We suffered through 6 months of Dr. visits, antibiotics, more Dr. visits, more antibiotics.  He was lethargic and disinterested in things before it and within 2 hours of the operation he was actually responding to sounds (Dr. said that he had about an 80% hearing loss due to the fluid in his ears) and by the time we had the birthday party he was a completely different child.

        The worst part was at the time the only word he knew was Mom and as they took him away he was balling saying “Mom, Mom, Mom”.

        Best wishes!

      • CubFanBob

        Had tubes placed in both my two 20 month old kids over the summer. No more ear infections, more sleeping, and less doctor visits. Best of luck…

      • Ron

        Almost needed tubes for the first one, if you have problems going forward I found the most important thing is to teach them how to blow their nose. I know she is young but sooner the better. My kids haven’t had an ear infection after I taught them. Good luck.

    • Packman711

      Ditto. I had tubes put in my ears when I was younger too. Really pays off in the long run.

  • John

    Can someone explain defensive war? I was looking at stats for cubs players and Soriano actually had a positive dwar and Carlos Pena had a negative dwar. I’m kind of confused because I know that Soriano is crappy at best and there was a lot of talk of Pena’s great defense.

  • Oswego Chris

    ahhh tubes….hope it helps with the dreaded ear infections…although my friend who is a doc says that when they aren’t quite sure whats wrong with a kid…that’s their go to thing…..good to know there are slackers in all jobs….I am sure all of our college readers loved that little parenting talk…so here goes

    Gammons(I know his cred is not what it once was, but maybe he and Theo have kissed and made up) said he still thinks Z to the Marlins is a real strong possibility and that the Cubs have told teams they will eat at least 15 of the 18 on Soriano….

     

    • CubFan Paul

      i saw that gammons interview, he’s even more of a kook if he thinks theo&co are gonna pay soriano $18M to play elsewhere in a trade ..between the cubs being broke & that idiot bombshell i’d say gammons is a liar/just makes up stuff

  • EtotheR

    Seems to me that if they’re willing to eat almost all of Soriano’s salary to move him to another team…but can’t find a taker, they’d be willing to let him be a platoon/utility/bench player. Either way…you’re stuck with the salary, but not committed to putting him in the field.

  • Cubbie Blues

    Good luck brett. Hope all goes well and it helps with her ear infections.

  • MC2

    Wow dedication, hope everything works out with your daughter. Wakefield I don’t mind as much, as long as he keeps the balls on the ground and the walks low. Crisp is gonna have to steal 60 bases to impact with the bats we have right now, RISP for the Cubs should be limited to someone having a lead 20ft. down 3rd baseline. Varitek should retire then we can make him that coach like they talked about early w/Kendall. Last but not least I wanted to be the 1st to caption your picture of Coco this morning, “O’tay SvPanky!”… …

     

  • CUB5

    Ugh. Another couple of washed-up ex-Red Sox players possibly coming to town. I don’t know what would be worse – the Cubs getting them or the fact that it would significantly upgrade this team!

    • Toosh

      Jamie Moyer is available, as well.

      • ferrets_bueller

        Honestly, I would love to see Moyer in the system as well.  Look at how many Championship teams have had to lean on players like Moyer and Wakefield before- instead of guys like ortiz, lopez, coleman and russell.

  • MoneyBoy

    Hmmmm … Crisp and Polamalu doing Selsun Blue commercials ????

  • patrick

    please no, i don’t think Boston re-treads are the way to turn Chicago around.

  • Cedlandrum

    Meh all the way around. If we have an outfield of Crisp, Byrd and DeJesus we may set a record for the fewest HR’s from an outfield.

  • Edwin

    Is there any chance, depending on price, that the Cubs take a flier on Rich Harden? If they can get him for cheap, he’s another solid lottery ticket. I know Boston had some interest last year, but then declined after looking at his physical.

    Maybe he’s just too broken down, but if the cost is right, he’d be an ok pickup. He still has good stuff when healthy. He made 15 starts last season, with about 80 innings pitched. He was 11th among all pitchers in 2011 with at least 80 innings pitched with a K% of %25.1. His walk rate wasn’t good, but it wasn’t so bad that it makes him totally ineffective. The big thing that hurt him is that he had a 1.85 HR/9. Considering his career HR/9 is closer to 1, I’d say he got a bit unlucky last season.

    I’m not expecting Harden to pitch 180 or 200 innings next season. I’m not even expecting him to pitch 150. But it looks like he still has the talent to be an effective starting pitcher. If he can be had for the right amount, I think it’s a good risk/reward.

    • http://cubbiescrib.com Luke

      I’d absolutely take him on a cheap deal. There are guys higher on my wish list, but if the price is right giving Harden another look just makes sense.

  • http://Ehanauer.com Clark Addison

    Hope all goes well with your daughter.

    Thanks from this San Diego Cubs fan for the great blog.

  • die hard

    Crisp is Jose Cardenal redux….in hairdo and skills…would have more good days than bad days but not much more….on balance, could do worse….Cubs 100 losses would be a successful season as of now the way team looks…Can Hendry be sued for malpractice?….

    • Brian

      Cardenal is a good example actually, but I’m hoping more for a Daily Double of Dernier and Sandberg…. errr… I mean Crisp and Castro.

      • http://Bleachernation Bric

        Hendry was on top until the Milton Bradley signing. Please tell me Epstein is not going to sign the next worst name in baseball. What’s next? World B. Free? Someone remind Theo real quick you don’t need flash to atract fans to Cubs games- just a plan and something to root for.

        And for anybody that says “what’s in a name” just think about Ocho Cinco’s rapid rise and decline. If you change it to make a splash then it speaks to what you’re all about. If it was given to you by your parents, then that speaks to their character. And they’re the ones that raise you, which still makes what you’re all about.

  • http://cubbiescrib.com Luke

    Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Cubs may have interest in working a trade for Hiroyuki Nakajima. The Yankees won the posting bid for the infielder, but were planning to use him as a backup infielder. Nakajima is thought to prefer a starting position, and some apparently believe he won’t sign with the Yankees if he’ll be coming off the bench.

    If the Yankees did sign him and trade him to the Cubs, he’d have a pretty good shot of becoming the starting second baseman. It won’t take much to beat Barney for the job, and there really aren’t many good options other than Barney on the roster or in the farm system until you get to Logan Watkins, who will be starting the year in Tennessee.

    • ottoCub

      Nakajima sounds good. It’s always hard to guess at how hitting stats will translate from Japan to the U.S. (he’s hitting .313 with a healthy .880 OPS in Japan) But he’s only 27, and if he can hit .280, get on base, hit 8-10 hrs/yr, and play good solid defense at 2B… We need that!

      • Deer

        Nakajima at 2B sounds good to me too, but if the Cubs wanted him, why didn’t they just bid for him? Now you have to return the bid $ in value/money to the Yankees.

        • CubFan Paul

          im quite sure the cubs did bid on him ..with power-less infielders getting $5M a year, the posting fee for nakajima couldnt be high. the yanks won his rights w/ $2.5M …should be able to give the yanks that cash & a mediocre prospect for nakajima

  • cubsklm

    Yes on Coco.

    He can lead off and will steal 70 bases. If my memory is correct he also can play 2B and 3B.
    We can’t have all of our eggs in the Stewart basket.

    Coco could also be needed if Byrd is traded.

    Coco
    Barney
    Castro
    Prince
    Stewart
    DeJesus
    Soriano
    Soto

    • http://cubbiescrib.com Luke

      You might be thinking of someone else. Crisp has never played anywhere but the outfield in the majors, and his career high in steals is 49 (2011). That number is much higher than his second highest of 32. I think 70 would be a stretch for him.

      http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/c/crispco01.shtml

      • CubFan Paul

        coco & dejesus batting 1 and 2 with castro, maybe fielder, stewart batting behind them will look genius in april and may

        • SweetJamesJones

          Can we stop with the Castro batting third. Better suited as a number two….for now.

          • Lou

            Why? We already have a glutton of #2 hitters–Byrd, Barney, DeJesus, and Campana if he gets some play in LF. If Castro hits 15-20 hrs this season, that’s #3 hitter on this team. And it’s pretty well known he won’t be leading off–DeJesus is going to be the Cubs lead-off man.

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  • Bren

    I wonder if they’d ever give serious consideration moving Soriano to 1B; i know he was atrocious at 2B, but 1B doesnt require much more than the ability to stretch and dig out errant throws, it’d certainly save his legs.

    • JB88

      If the Chicago Cubs were run by Billy Beane, I might see Soriano at 1st base, but Epstein and Hoyer value defense too much to put Soriano at 1st.

      • Fishin Phil

        I would rather put Michigan Goat at 1st base.

        • BetterNews

          I’ll second that.

      • Lou

        With the signings and the names of interested FAs, it sure seems like we’re being run by Beane this year.

    • die hard

      Sorry..day late and dollar short as I have credit or blame for Soriano idea as I have posted for last week….but you have potential as a think outside the box fan..keep up the good work…theres room for fans like you at the table…

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        People have been suggesting Soriano at first base for a long time.

        • BetterNews

          I don’t think Soriano has ever played first. Has he? I’ll take my chances with him in left again. Considering Coco Crisp over Soriano in left is mind-boggling even with Soriano’s declining defensive skills. Maybe Sweum can wake/shake Soriano up a little bit.

          • die hard

            As I posted before, Soriano played 800 games at a much more difficult position-2B….Ernie Banks went from SS to 1B at an older age….just try it…if it works it solves 2 major problems…1B and remaining yrs of his contract…

            • BetterNews

              Actually Banks made the switch to first at age 30, and Soriano I do believe is 35. Also, I think Soriano hasn’t played 2nd since 2005, that’s 6 years ago, whereas Banks made the transition from ss to first within a year.

              • die hard

                Ernie made switch at 30 after trying OF once clear couldnt handle SS… OF didnt suit him and then moved to 1B….he and Soriano have comparable middle IF experience …and lastly todays 35 is equiv to yesterdays 30…worth a try is all I am saying…..Cubs should have instructor hitting ground balls to Soriano as we speak….

  • MikeL

    For those of you being a little overdramatic about Crisp being a horrible signing, he had a 2.1 WAR last year and 2.9 the year before that, both better than any of the Cubs outfielders from last year.

    • die hard

      WAR is over rated measure of players ability to get job done…

      • KB

        In your opinion, what is a better measure?

        • die hard

          willingness to give up oneself for team even though will hurt stats…run out every ball, hit behind runner, sac bunt, take a good pitch to let runner steal, fly ball with man on 3rd, slide hard, etc…in field, always back up play, make correct throws, and be ready every pitch etc..

          • Kyle L

            Die Hard for the win!

            BAM!!!!!!!!!!!

          • Lou

            Gotta say I agree with die hard on this one.

    • EQ76

      WAR? huh.. good gawd y’all, what is it good fo’? absolutely nuthin’..

      • JasonB

        Jim Hendry didn’t believe in stats like WAR either – it worked out well for him in the end I think.

        • Lou

          Why Crisp though when you’ve got Byrd, Campana, Barney and DeJesus? I’m fine with the WAR argument–it’s the overabundance of the same type of player in the batting order, that is where I have problems with a Crisp signing..

          • JasonB

            That’s definitely a more logical argument.  The short answer is that offense is about creating runs and it doesn’t matter how those runs are created because a 2 run HR is worth the same as a 2-run 2B.  It’s easier to score runs when more people are on base which is something that the guys we are acquiring are good at doing.  Guys like Soriano are not – he’s basically a two result hitter (HR or strikeout) at this point in his career and that is not very valuable.

            Also, there is not much of a comparison between Barney and Campana and the other three guys that you mentioned.  Crisp, Byrd and DeJesus aren’t exactly beacons of power, but their IsoP numbers are double Barney’s and in the case of DeJesus and Crisp, so are their walk rates.  If we sign Crisp, we have a 9-10 win OF next year that will probably cost $15-$16 million.  That’s a lot better than the crap we put out there last year.

        • EQ76

          well my post was meant as a play on words joke that i assumed people would get. apparently i was wrong to assume.

          • paul

            I got it Eq76, you forget, most of these readers a very young

            • Lou

              Actually, I get the joke and was responding to JasonB.

          • TWC

            When you assume, you make an ass out of you and you.

            Something like that.

            • EQ76

              :)

  • Michael Vazquez

    I like Coco’s defense & speed but why not wait to trade Soriano (they will try hard to move him this offseason) & wait for Cespedes or Soler? Unless if they consider Crisp as a fourth outfielder, i have no problem with it but starting left fielder, FORGET ABOUT IT!!

    • Lou

      Definitely, especially Cepedes and Soler. Not sure if there’s a market for Soriano.

  • Ashley

    Would say yes to Crisp and Wakefield! We have backup catchers in place that deserve a chance to be in the bigs!

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  • tex134

    Soriano is to stuborn to teach him to play first base. His inability to be open to change has been his downfall since becoming a Cub. His past shows that he’s not very coachable, examples-had to hit leadoff, the hop, catching the ball one handed, watching the ball bounce off the wall while standing at home plate and getting a single, etc. To me, first base is not a very good solution for are problem with Soriano. Either keep him in the outfield or get rid of him. Preferably get rid of him by any means nescesary.

  • john

    Sounds like prelude to other moves. Varitek Soto gone Wakefield horse
    Crisp Soriano/Byrd gone Hello Cespedes! Crisp Cespedes Dejesus + Sor/Byrd
    If you’re stuck with Soriano might as well sit him and add a better option.

  • john

    Not a god? Kenny Williams? He got Chicago a Championship. Look at him now. Be carefull what you wish for Theo. Win then lose Chicago has short memory.

  • CUBBIE BLUE

    Please Theo don’t sign Wakefield & Varitek! I don’t want to watch a cubs game where the starting pitcher & catcher have a combined age of 85! Wakefield could only throw 60 mph in his prime & 45 is not a prime age for a pitcher since your arm speed slows down with age. And Veritek? Really? We have Soto, Castillo, and Clevenger…..need I say more. Prince Fielder….if it is more that 3 or 4 years MAX I say pass. He (and Pujols) are way overpriced. Sure in a HR derby Fielder would be great but let’s face it mobility is not a tools he brings to the team. How many errors did Pena save Starin last year…..Fielder won’t. No more huge contracts to cripple the team. (ie: Soriono, Zambrano, etc…)

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