Back at it after the Thanksgiving holiday. Hope yours was good. We’re now in the run-up to the winter meetings. I’ll head for Orlando Sunday and meet daily with Cubs GM Jim Hendry and Sox GM Kenny Williams, going right up to the Rule 5 draft a week from Thursday.
This figures to be a busy week, with a couple of key dates. Let’s take a look at things, as well as review some things we wrote about last week:
--Free agents offered salary arbitration by their most recent clubs have until tomorrow to accept or decline. This does not affect the Cubs, but it does affect the Sox, with first baseman Paul Konerko and reliever J.J. Putz. If the players accept arbitration, they’re back with the Sox for at least one more year at a salary to be determined. If they decline, they still can negotiate with the Sox.
--Thursday is the deadline to tender all players contracts. That should help define things at the winter meetings a little better. There figures to be a glut of free agents on the market after Thursday, with teams “non-tendering” a whole bunch of players. Partially for that reason, I don’t expect any Cubs announcements about signings before then.
--Speaking of non-tenders, the Cubs most assuredly will tender contracts to relievers Carlos Marmol and Sean Marshall, both of whom are in line for nice raises as second-year arb-eligibles. I figure lefty Tom Gorzelanny gets tendered a deal. The two interesting cases will be catcher Koyie Hill and infielder Jeff Baker. The Cubs would prefer to have both signed by Thursday so that arbitration would be out of the question. Hendry figures to step up talks with both players’ agents early this week. If the Cubs are getting signals from the players and/or their agents that their contract demands are not to the club’s liking, I can see the Cubs non-tendering either or both Hill and Baker. Of course, the Cubs still can negotiate with players they non-tender. Those players become free agents and are no longer subject to arbitration. A few years back, the Cubs traded for Michael Barrett, non-tendered him and then re-signed him.
--The decision on the new pitching coach will come soon, but it may not be this week. The Cubs will hire from within, and minor-league pitching coordinator Mark Riggins is the apparent front-runner.
--The name of free-agent first baseman Carlos Pena has been in the news of late. We wrote last week he was a name the Cubs strongly were considering, ahead of, say, Adam LaRoche. That’s still true. However, the Cubs are not going to go out too many years on a contract for a guy like Pena, who had a down season this year for Tampa Bay. The Cubs would be quite happy to sign Pena for one year. As a baseball guy pointed out to me recently, Hendry has not been averse to taking chances on guys coming off down years or injuries one one-year deals. You risk rehabbing the guy for somebody else, but Hendry has shown he’s willing to take that chance. See Ryan Dempster. That one worked out pretty well. See also Xavier Nady. That one, not so hot. Lance Berkman remains a name in play for the Cubs, but much will depend on Berkman’s salary demands.
--As far as pitching goes, I’ve also seen the name Vicente Padilla out there. You can pretty much forget that one. The Cubs weren’t keen on him in the past, and it that seems to be the case today. Some of the other names are still in play. Of course, the Cubs are interested in Cliff Lee _ who wouldn’t be?_ but it’s not realistic to think they’ll come up with a large long-term deal for the lefty.
We’ll be around all week. Have at it.