It’s a busy Saturday at the Cubs convention. We’ll get to the long of it for the paper tomorrow, but we’ll try to get to the short of it here. I’m currently sitting in on a session with manager Dale Sveum and the coaching staff. Sveum just said the Cubs should have the deal done today for pitcher Carlos Villanueva, whose signing was reported weeks ago. The Cubs will have to make a roster move to accommodate Villanueva on the 40-man.
Wrigley Field and Sammy Sosa were two hot topics this morning. Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said it’s probably time to revisit the idea of inviting the former Cubs slugger to events such as the Cubs convention.
“It’s a great question,” Ricketts said when I asked him about it after the fan session with the family. “Maybe we should revisit that. When we got here, there wasn’t much communication. We just really hadn’t focused on it. Maybe it’s an issue we pick up this year and see what we can do about it.”
I’ve written about this issue a couple of times, especially in light of the Hall of Fame vote, in which Sosa got a scant 12.5 percent.
The Cubs will talk about planned renovations for Wrigley Field this afternoon. This morning, Ricketts said the Cubs are a business and “not a museum” and that they want to have the freedom to make changes within the park. Getting city money has been a roadblock, as has been the landmark status of the ballpark. Ricketts has all but given up on amusement taxes funding renovations, but he wants something in return.
“The fact is, if you look at all the limitations that we have, whether that’s signage in the outfield, which we’re not allowed to do, or whether that’s what kind of stuff we do in the park or around the park, I think we’d just like to have a little more flexibility to have some options on that kind of stuff,” Ricketts said. “We have an opportunity cost there that’s tremendous. Just give us some relief on some of these restrictions and then we’ll take care of Wrigley Field.”
In other words, the Cubs appear ready to fund most of any renovations if they’re allowed to do some revenue-generating things in and around the park. They’d also like to take advantage of closing Sheffield Avenue, beyond right field, to have game-day activities, much the same way the Red Sox do with Yawkey Way around Fenway Park. Having seen Yawkey Way, I can say it works.
On the baseball front, Ricketts said he believes the Cubs have “the smartest guys rebuilding a championship team.” Those guys, of course, would be Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod. Ricketts, as well as Epstein and Hoyer, stressed that the rebuilding process will take time and that there are no shortcuts.
Hoyer said he didn’t understand people using the word “botched” for the deal this past fall that would have sent closer Carlos Marmol to the Angels for starting pitcher Dan Haren. Hoyer said no deal was done.
The Cubs have a number of young shortstops in the system. Assistant GM Shiraz Rehman said there is no rush to move players such as Junior Lake or Javier Baez off short because Starlin Castro is there at the major-league level. “We’ll deal with that problem later,” Rehman said.
Speaking of later, we’ll have more info later.