Couple of administrative notes first:
The Cubs said today that the Brewers have claimed infielder Casey McGehee off waivers. McGehee had a cup of coffee with the Cubs this year after several years in the minors. He's a good kid, and here's wishing him well.
In another move, the Cubs outrighted right-handed reliever Billy Petrick to Class AAA Iowa. Petrick battled shoulder problems in the minors this year after getting into a few games last season. The moves leave the Cubs' 40-man roster at 37.
Jim Hendry heads to the GM meetings in California over the weekend. He'll try to lay the groundwork for a deal or two. Such a deal could take place in the coming weeks or at the winter meetings, which take place in Las Vegas in early December.
Let's clear up a couple things. First, the Cubs aren't trading third baseman Aramis Ramirez. Yes, he's had two bad playoffs, but he's on his way to becoming the most productive third baseman in team history. During the season, a lot of people were singing his praises as the Cubs' most "clutch" perrformer after some late-inning heroics. Ramirez also has no-trade protection in his contract.
Speaking of no-trade clauses, the same thing applies to first baseman Derrek Lee, whom everybody wants to deal this winter. I got news for you _ the Cubs aren't trading Lee, who took a lesser deal to stay with the Cubs a couple years ago in exchange for that no-trade clause. That's not to say there aren't some red flags about Lee and where his career is headed. Among first basemen in the NL Central, he ranked sixth in OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) behind St. Louis' Albert Pujols, Houston's Lance Berkman, Milwaukee's Prince Fielder, Cincinnati's Joey Votto and Pittsburgh's Adam LaRoche. That should be a major concern to Hendry, but the Cubs don't seem to be panicked over Lee's drop in slugging (even though his on-base was good this year). On top of it, Lou loves Lee's quiet leadership in the clubhouse. And although Micah Hoffpauir appears to be the flavor of the month among many observers, there's no evidence he can produce every day at the big-league level. The bottom line, like it or not, is that Lee will be the Cubs' first baseman come Opening Day 2009.
Lou was at it again this week, talking to his old buddy Bill Madden, a noted New York scribe:
Lou told Madden the Cubs will move embattled right fielder Kosuke Fukudome to center and platoon him with Reed Johnson. There might be something to that. When it all shakes out this winter, the Cubs will add a left-handed bat in the outfield. It might mean somebody who can play the corners or a center fielder. The Cubs could very well move Fukudome to center and platoon him, just as they did with Jim Edmonds this year. They aren't ready to give up on him, but they will get some insurance. Late in the season, Lou told Madden the grind was getting to him, setting off speculation Lou would retire at season's end. That didn't happen, and Lou signed a contract extension.
When and if the World Series ends, the hot stove should heat up even more.