Thursday, December 14, 2006

Bits and Pieces From the Cubs Front

It's been a little slow the past few days for the Cubs, but that doesn’t mean that nothing is happening. Here are a few things in the works:

*** The deals for Jason Marquis and Daryle Ward are still not completed. The only hang up for both appears to be completing the player physicals. Both players are supposed to have their physicals done by the end of next week.

I have to admit, I don’t understand the delay. If I was being offered a big contract, I would be completing my physical right away. What if either player suffers some sort of career-ending injury? Would they be out of luck? For so much money, that’s not a risk I would be willing to take.

*** The Jacque Jones saga continues. During the Winter Meetings, the Sun-Times reported that Jones had requested a trade at the end of last season. Jones was interviewed on ESPN 2 and asked about the report. He danced all around it, but didn’t deny it. When Hendry was asked about it, he didn’t confirm it, but said that his policy is to try to accommodate a player that no longer wants to be part of the team. He then went on to state that he empathized with Jones’ struggles early in the 2006 season and that the Cubs had been very supportive of him. Despite this, Carrie Muskat from reported that Jones never asked for a trade. Okay, I’m confused…

*** Speaking of Muskat, she reported today that Felix Pie could be the starting CF for the Cubs in 2007. Her reasoning for this news was a bit puzzling to me. Pie is playing in the Dominican Republic and is batting .216 with 1 HR and 16 RBI. He’s not exactly setting the league on fire. But as Muskat explained, the Cubs are only concerned with Pie working on his defense. And according to Oneri Flieta, the Cubs player development director, Pie is doing a great job.

Even so, I don’t see any reason to rush Pie. He’s only 21-years old. There’s no urgency to move him up to the big club. What the Cubs need is a reliable stop gap to play CF in 2007.

At the moment, my vote goes to Jones. The team already has him, he’s reasonably priced, he’s an above-average fielder (albeit with a weak arm), and he bats left-handed. Jones is the perfect candidate. And when Pie is ready to move up, then the Cubs can trade Jones. Trust me, I like Vernon Wells, Andruw Jones and Carl Crawford, but according to Hendry, Pie is the CF of the future and his plan is to not do anything to block his path to the big club. If Pie is off limits in trade talks, then let Jones play CF this year and let Pie get more at-bats at AAA.

***Hendry made the rounds of the radio shows today. One of the most interesting things he said was that he very much dislikes signing free agents. He said that the Cubs were in a desperate situation and that he was forced to sign free agents this off-season, but that he would much prefer staying out of the free agent market.

He also spoke about the signing of Alfonso Soriano. He said that if the Cubs didn’t give Soriano an 8 year/$136 million contract, then someone else would have. Hendry said that he didn’t want to give Soriano an 8 year contract, but he was determined to do whatever it took to sign the outfielder, so he reluctantly offered 8-years.

*** Are the Cubs done signing free agents? Probably, but that doesn’t mean they won’t make any trades. Unfortunately, it still looks like they will trade Jones. But so far, it looks like they won’t get much back for him. In addition to being their best option for CF, this is another reason the Cubs shouldn’t trade the outfielder.

The Cubs also have too many bullpen arms. There are no rumored trades in the works, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Will Ohman, Michael Wuertz, Roberto Novoa, and/or Juan Mateo pitching elsewhere next year.

*** The Astros picked up P Jason Jennings from the Rockies in exchange for CF Willy Taveras and pitchers Taylor Buckholz and Jason Hirsch. The Astros also received P Miguel Ascencio in the deal.

The Cubs coveted the former Rockies pitcher this off-season, but could not put a deal together to acquire him. The 28-year old pitcher was 9-13 last year with a 3.78 ERA.

If the Cubs wanted to see more of Jennings, they are going to get their wish. Unfortunately, he’ll be wearing an Astros uniform when they do.


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