Chicago Cubs: Hot stove

Time is here for Cubs to pitch to Tanaka

January, 9, 2014
Jan 9
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
CHICAGO -- Here comes the pitch.

[+] EnlargeMasahiro Tanaka
Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty ImagesJapanese star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka is in the United States and ready to hear offers from MLB teams.
No, not the type that put former Chicago Cubs pitcher Greg Maddux into the Hall of Fame on Wednesday, it's the one the current front office will be throwing towards Japanese star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. Can the Cubs convince the 25-year-old to sign with them over his many other suitors?

"We're going to be part of the process," general manager Jed Hoyer said in November. "We've done our work on him and plan on being part of it."

The time has come. As this report out of indicates, Tanaka’s discussions with teams -- including the Cubs -- are heating up. As the process is considered confidential it’s not quite clear when and where the Cubs will meet with Tanaka and his representatives, but sources say it’ll be sometime before next weekend’s Cubs Convention.

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Cubs sign LHP Sanchez, 3 others

December, 19, 2013
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs signed former San Francisco Giants left-handed pitcher Jonathan Sanchez to a minor league deal, the team announced on Thursday.

They also signed left-handers Tsuyoshi Wada and Tommy Hottovy along with outfielder Mitch Maier to minor league deals with spring training invites.

Sanchez, 31, will be invited to spring training as a reliever while Wada will come as a starter. Sanchez won 13 games with the Giants in 2010 before pitching for Kansas City, Colorado and Pittsburgh over the last two years. He has a career record of 39-58 with a 4.70 ERA.

Wada, 32, was most recently in the Baltimore Orioles organization recovering from Tommy John surgery performed in May 2012. He went 5-6 with a 4.03 ERA in 19 starts for Triple-A, Norfolk last year.

Hottovy, 32, bounced around the minor leagues last season after pitching for Boston and Kansas City in 2011-2012. Maier, 31, has spent his entire six year career with the Royals producing a .248 batting average with 10 home runs and 93 career RBI.

The Cubs also announced their minor league coaching staff for 2014, adding eight new coaches including former Cubs pitcher Angel Guzman. He'll be the pitching coach in the Venezuelan rookie league. Former major league pitcher Bruce Walton was named pitching coach at Triple-A Iowa.

Ruggiano a better 'fit' in Cubs outfield

December, 12, 2013
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- It might not be the big trade fans were hoping for at the winter meetings but the acquisition of right-handed outfielder Justin Ruggiano from the Miami Marlins, for lefty Brian Bogusevic, finally provides an even distribution from both sides of the plate in the outfield heading into 2014. Last season the Cubs were too left-handed and the mix never really felt right.

“It’s a better fit for our roster,” general manager Jed Hoyer said Thursday morning after the Rule 5 draft. “He can platoon with one of several guys that we have.”

Junior Lake, Ryan Sweeney and Nate Schierholtz are holdovers from last season and are the presumptive starters going into the next one. The former hits from the right side, while the latter two are lefties. The immediate question after the acquisition of Ruggiano was how it affects Lake.

“Junior Lake is going to get a ton of playing time,” Hoyer said. “A player like that needs to be out there getting at-bats and developing.”

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Cubs active but might need to wait

December, 11, 2013
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
Lake Buena Vista, Fla. -- As the winter meetings wind down, the Chicago Cubs are still hopeful to make some impactful moves for 2014 but might have to wait until later in the winter.

“We have offers out for a starting pitcher in free agency, we have offers out for a relief pitcher, we have a trade offer out for a position player,” team President Theo Epstein said Wednesday afternoon. “We’re doing a lot. We’re not just hanging out at the ‘ole Dolphin (hotel). Teams that have less currency often times execute things later in the winter.

“We’ll probably be active later than earlier.”

It’s believed that the trade offer involves an outfielder.

The Cubs have inquired about many available second tier players both in free agency and through the trade market. They’ve also fielded a lot of calls.

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Will Braves be favorite to land Samardzija?

December, 10, 2013
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The lobby at the Swan & Dolphin hotel was full of energy -- and rumors -- on Monday night as the winter meetings got underway. It's the only time all year that executives, scouts and media members will mingle with tape recorders off and ties loosened.

[+] EnlargeJeff Samardzija
AP Photo/John BazemoreThe list of interested teams in Jeff Samardzija appears to be growing.
Not surprisingly, one topic of conversation was Chicago Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija. The list of contending teams not interested in him is growing smaller. Toronto, Atlanta, the New York Yankees, Washington, Arizona and Pittsburgh have all been linked to Samardzija at one time. And there are probably more teams lining up knowing they have two years of control over Samardzija before he becomes a free agent. These teams are in win-now mode.

Two National League observers said Monday that they believe the Braves could emerge as the favorite, either during this offseason or closer to the July trade deadline. The Braves potentially match up well as a trade partner because their top prospects come from their pitching ranks, although some of that pitching is very young and not major league ready. Additionally, the Braves already have a young staff which used Julio Teheran and Alex Wood in the rotation in 2013. A veteran like Samardzija would help. It remains to be seen if the Braves' package is enough for a Cubs front office more interested in quality than quantity to pull the trigger on a deal.

The Samardzija story could take a new turn as his agent, Mark Rodgers, arrives in Orlando on Tuesday for a 36-hour stay. There's no "summit" meeting scheduled between the Cubs and Rodgers, although the sides will undoubtedly talk. Trading Samardzija is still much more likely than extending his stay in Chicago via a new contract. It's still a matter of when and to whom, not if.

While the Cubs try to figure out what to do with Samardzija, they're also waiting to see if Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka will be made available this offseason. General manager Jed Hoyer was asked Monday if the Cubs could only spend on one of the two players.

"They're not attached," Hoyer said. "It's not an either/or type thing. ... What people are speculating about isn't based on any kind of facts. There are very few people who know exactly what we have the resources to do. We'll keep that internal."

Meetings changing: Hoyer lamented the fact that the winter meetings have become less and less about face-to-face meetings between teams. With communication just a touch away on a smartphone, teams don't need the long sitdowns as in previous years or decades. The week before the meetings easily saw more flurry of activity than there likely will be this week.

"When it comes to deal-making and contact, both at the GM meetings and winter meetings, they lack a little bit of what they did in the past because we're on the phone and text," Hoyer said. "You know so much more on the Internet and Twitter. We comment all the time. It used to be you'd sort of have team road trips (in the hotel) to other teams. You have three to four people go to another team and talk a half an hour and 45 minutes."

Big year for Barney: Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney is coming off a season in which he hit .208. There are several infield prospects who could push him in 2014, making it a big year for the veteran.

"It's a big year for him no matter what," Hoyer said. "It doesn't have to do with competition among young players. I think he simply wants to bounce back and get back to where he was."

Barney hit .276 in 2011 and .254 in 2012 while playing Gold Glove-caliber defense. Hoyer says the Cubs' plan is for him is to be the starter, but his numbers need to improve.

"With him, mechanically and approach-wise, he got caught in between some things last year," Hoyer said. "He brings aspects [defense] to our club that are pretty much impossible to find."

Cubs bullpen: 'One of our biggest regrets'

December, 9, 2013
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Improving the Chicago Cubs’ bullpen might not be the top priority for the organization at the winter meetings, but it should get more attention than it did last year at this time.

“That was one of our biggest regrets from last year,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer bluntly stated on Monday.

The Cubs' bullpen imploded right from the start of the season. It ranked third to last in the National League with a 4.04 ERA and blew 26 saves -- third most in the league. Only two pitchers, James Russell and Hector Rondon, lasted the entire season on the roster. And Rondon was forced to be there due to Rule 5 draft status, though he threw well as the season progressed. The same can’t be said of the rest of the group.

“We have spent a lot of time thinking about the bullpen, thinking of ways to get better,” Hoyer said.

Reports on Monday indicated the Cubs might be interested in relievers Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard of the Washington Nationals. And there are several free agents with closing experience, including John Axford and Kevin Gregg, who saved 33 for the Cubs last season. He’s not expected back. The team already agreed to terms with left-handed pitcher Wesley Wright, formerly of the Tampa Bay Rays. The Cubs will look from within, as well.

“We should have been a lot closer to .500 at the beginning of the season,” Hoyer said. “A lot of the trades over the last year will help that bullpen.”

The case to keep Jeff Samardzija

December, 8, 2013
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- For the first time since the rebuilding process began, Chicago Cubs team President Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer have a decision to make – if it hasn’t been made already – on a core player.

Make no mistake, as the winter meetings commence in Orlando, Fla., there is no bigger issue currently confronting the rebuilding process than what the Cubs will do with pitcher Jeff Samardzija. Unless the Cubs shock the baseball world, whoever else they sign or trade for this offseason probably won’t be part of the long-term future. This isn’t the year for those kinds of additions, unless they are very youthful ones. Figuring out Samardzija’s fate is more important than anything else the Cubs do.

[+] EnlargeJeff Samardzija
David Banks/USA TODAY SportsThe Cubs have a decision to make on Jeff Samardzija, and they might be best served locking him up now before he is eligible for free agency.
Until now, the front office has been slowly adding and, in some cases, locking up core players. Shortstop Starlin Castro and first baseman Anthony Rizzo have long-term deals. Catcher Welington Castillo is now part of that group, as is pitcher Travis Wood. So is Samardzija. But Samardzija might be days away from being an ex-Cub. If not days, then he’s likely no more than a few months away from being traded.

As has been well documented, the sides are far apart on a long-term deal for the arbitration-eligible right-hander who will become a free agent after the 2015 season. Basically, he wants to be paid like he’s a free agent now to keep him from becoming one in two years. Should the Cubs ante up?

The short answer is yes.

The Cubs rebuild is going to take long enough. Trading a core player like Samardijza means he has to be replaced. If the Cubs do that with youth, then there is no guarantee or timeline. If they do it through free agency, then the Cubs are going to have to spend some money anyway. Why not do it on a guy they like, who’s a leader and hopefully has his best days ahead of him? Yes, they might have to spend it before they want to, but that’s sometimes the price you pay for a long, rebuilding process in order to keep a few players you like.

Based on last season, Samardzija is an average No. 2 pitcher or a very good No. 3. But there’s room for improvement, and everyone knows it. It’s not a stretch to believe Samardzija is a better pitcher throwing with a little more adrenaline for a contending team. The Cubs hope to be one in the coming years.

Right now, if he was on the open market, Samardzija probably commands the going rate of $10-14 million per season. If Phil Hughes can get $8 million a year with a 4-14 record and 5.19 ERA, then Samardzija certainly deserves more with his 4.34 ERA. Samardzija is big, strong, healthy and now has 200 innings pitched in a season under his belt.

Make no mistake, he’s nowhere near an ace based on last season, but he’s reliable and has shown ace stuff at times. Five years at $60 million has a nice ring to it, but it sounds like Samardzija wants more. The Cubs are probably getting the right value in Years 3-5. It’s in Years 1 and 2 that they’d be overpaying him, as he’s still arbitration eligible.

But there are plenty of ways to internally justify paying him, even if you have to go as high as $70-75 million. First off, unlike most other players in similar arbitration positions, Samardzija isn’t as desperate for that first big payday as Castro and Rizzo probably were. You’re just not going to get a team-friendly deal from him. He’s willing to wait for free agency, so knowing that means accepting that. Second, the whole idea of building your core to win means needing to keep that core together. Getting rid of him means replacing him, and that’s going to cost assets or money or time. Or maybe all three.
Here’s one thing the Cubs can insist on: Samardzija doesn’t get a no-trade clause. If the rebuilding process stalls and Samardzija is still pitching alright, he can be moved in a year or two.

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Cubs Notes: No Rule 5 pick

December, 6, 2013
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs introduced new manager Rick Renteria to the local media Thursday while the front office also held court in advance of the winter meetings in Orlando, Fla., next week.

Here's some news and notes as the Cubs head to Disney World in search of talent:

[+] EnlargeTheo Epstein
David Banks/USA TODAY SportsTheo Epstein says the Cubs are in search of a starter, bullpen help, an outfielder and looking to "round out the bench" during the winter meetings.
No Rule 5 pick: The Cubs won’t be as busy next Thursday when major league baseball holds it’s annual Rule 5 draft which exists so teams aren’t allowed to stockpile talent in their minor leagues. Their pick will go to the Philadelphia Phillies to resolve a grievance regarding former Rule 5 pick of the Cubs, pitcher Lendy Castillo.

Castillo wasn’t active for the required number of days for a Rule 5 pick in 2012, so the Cubs are giving their pick to Philadelphia this year. Team President Theo Epstein said the club wasn’t going to select anyone with their selection anyway.

Winter meetings: Epstein says the Cubs are in search of a starter, bullpen help (closer), an outfielder and looking to “round out the bench” during next week’s meetings. He expressed some jealousy over a flurry of baseball activity earlier this week and wants to be part of that when his club is ready. It also means keeping a level head next week.

“It’s important to have people around you reminding you it’s important to do the right deal not just to do a deal,” Epstein said. “There’s deal momentum at the winter meetings unlike anything you’ve ever seen before so it’s important to make sure you keep your perspective.”

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Tendering Barney was the right move

December, 3, 2013
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs made the right choice in tendering second baseman Darwin Barney a contract for 2014. If there was any angst over the decision, there shouldn't have been, because Barney deserves another chance.

[+] EnlargeDarwin Barney
AP Photo/Al BehrmanThe Cubs have to hope Darwin Barney can regain his 2011 form when he batted .276.
Make no mistake, if No. 1 prospect Javier Baez was ready for the big leagues and the Cubs believed second base was where he needed to play, that would mean a different story for Barney. Same goes for rising prospect Arismendy Alcantara. Some may even think Logan Watkins deserves a real chance at second base. Watkins was an on-base machine in the minors before being recalled last season, but he barely got off the bench. And for all we know, he'll push Barney this spring or summer.

But until further notice, Barney gets another chance to rebound from a rough season at the plate in which he hit just .208 and got on base only 27 percent of the time. The simple reason is Dale Sveum and the old coaching staff. If Sveum and Co. are going to be blamed for the "regression" of Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, then Barney fits into that category as well.

In fact, going back to last offseason, Sveum may have worked more closely with Barney than Rizzo or Castro. The bottom line is Barney hit .276 the season before Sveum arrived. He hit .254 and .208 in the two years under him. It would be way too simplistic to put that all on Sveum, but Barney deserves a fresh start with a new coaching staff just like Rizzo and Castro.

And even with some poor numbers, he has shown some signs. He'll battle an opposing pitcher with the best of them -- he was third in the league in foul ball percentage at 43.6 percent, according to ESPN Stats and Information. With two strikes he fouled a pitch off 47.6 percent of the time, tops in the league. It's a good reason why he's only struck out an average of 63 times in three full seasons in the big leagues.

But those foul balls don't mean much -- other than driving up a pitch count -- if the at-bat ends in an unproductive out. And Barney actually fouls off more pitches (46 percent) outside the zone than inside (42 percent). Maybe that's where his upside lies or perhaps his deficiency. All players get hits off pitches outside the zone, or at least take more walks than Barney's 36 last season. So a few more balls that go forward instead of backward could make the difference for him as will laying off a few of those outside the zone. And Barney's seven home runs and 41 RBIs in 2013 aren't bad for a hitter who mostly bats in the eighth spot in the lineup. In fact, only Matt Dominguez of the Houston Astros had more runs driven in from that position in the order than Barney.

Of course, Barney doesn't get another chance at the plate without his work in the field. As bad as he was on offense, he was a Gold Glove winner as well as a finalist at second base in two years under Sveum. That counts for more than just a passing mention. If Sveum gets some blame for Barney's offense then his coaching staff gets some credit for mentally keeping him in the game on defense. FanGraphs basically has Barney as the best defensive second baseman in the game over the past two years. So for Barney to be an effective overall player he only has to return to respectability at the plate.

Unless something unexpected happens, expect the Cubs to sign him for 2014. After that, there are no guarantees. But he deserves another chance to improve at the plate.

At least for a while.

Roster shaping

There were no major surprises during Monday's tender deadline.

The Cubs signed their new backup catcher in George Kottaras after Dioner Navarro joined the Toronto Blue Jays. Navarro wanted a multiyear deal and the Cubs wouldn't give more than one. That has basically been their philosophy lately. If you're not part of the core for the future the Cubs aren't going to be locking you up.

Infielder Donnie Murphy fits into that category and between his signing and the Cubs tendering Luis Valbuena a contract, it made Mat Gamel expendable. According to sources, Murphy had a lucrative offer from Japan after hitting 11 home runs in less than two months last season. An arbitration hearing would have been unique considering his short but successful stay in the majors in 2013, so instead, both sides decided to lock him up. But again, it's for one year.

With prospects Baez, Alcantara, Kris Bryant, Mike Olt and others getting ready to break into the majors, one-year deals is the norm right now. And that's the right thing to do.

Rebuilding could lead to Samardzija split

November, 26, 2013
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
Jeff SamardzijaAP Photo/Lenny IgnelziThe Cubs' Jeff Samardzija could be pitching elsewhere in 2014.
As the Dec. 9-12 Winter Meetings near, it's becoming more likely that Chicago Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija will be available to the highest bidder. Although he is under team control for two more seasons, maxing out on a trade for him means moving him sooner rather than later.

Nothing has changed in terms of the negotiations. Both sides are amenable to a long-term deal, but they remain far apart in terms. That can change at any moment, but only if one side changes its mind. Otherwise, Samardzija's career in Chicago will come to a close.


Should the Cubs trade Jeff Samardzija before the 2014 season?


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If the popular starter is traded, some will blame the Cubs while others will undoubtedly say Samardzija is asking for too much money. In this situation, the blame might fall on timing more than anything else. This isn't about one side being unreasonable. It's more complicated than that.

Samardzija, who made $2.64 million last season and is arbitration-eligible this year and next, could be a victim of the Cubs' rebuilding efforts more than anything else. He will be 29 in January, and he wants to be on a winning team. That's the elephant in the room. The Cubs want to win as well, but they can't put an exact date on the calendar when that might happen, hence the impasse between the sides.

If the Cubs want to pay Samardzija like he's a free agent now, they may be able to get him to overlook how long the rebuilding effort might take. Or if they can speed up the process, he might be willing to take a hometown discount in exchange for a chance to be part of something special. But Samardzija wants one or the other, and it's hard to blame him.

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The case against Cubs signing Ellsbury

November, 21, 2013
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
Jacoby Ellsbury AP Photo/Steven SenneThe 30-year-old Jacoby Ellsbury has struggled to stay healthy in two of the past four seasons.
The shocking mega-trade of Detroit Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers for second baseman Ian Kinsler is a good example why the Chicago Cubs should not sign free-agent outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury to a long-term deal.

Fielder is one of the best left-handed hitters in the game, signing a nine-year, $214 million deal with Detroit in January 2012. He hit 30 home runs with 108 RBIs and a .412 on-base percentage in his first season in Detroit. As one of the few slugging free agents who actually panned out, he became the poster child for fans wanting their team to spend in the same fashion.


Should the Cubs sign Jacoby Ellsbury?


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But as is so often the case, a decline can come quickly. Last season Fielder "only" hit 25 home runs while driving in 106, but with an on-base percentage of .362. There's nothing wrong with those numbers, unless it's the start of that decline. The Tigers got ahead of Fielder's inevitable decline, even though he surely has some productive years left in him. And this all happened before Fielder turns 30 next May. While the Tigers are taking back a 31-year-old Kinsler in the trade, the financial risk with the second baseman, who is owed $62 million over the next four seasons, is not nearly as great.

Fast-forward to Ellsbury. The Cubs have given no indication that they will try to land one of the big-ticket free agents such as Ellsbury or Cincinnati Reds outfielder Shin-Soo Choo this offseason. But if they did, the Cubs wouldn't have to spend Fielder's $214 million price tag on Ellsbury. But let's assume it would take a minimum five-year deal worth $100 million to land the center fielder. He's already turned 30, so how and when will his decline come?

Last year he stole 52 bases while getting on base 35.5 percent of the time. That's his game. His WAR (Wins above replacement) was off the charts at 5.8. But was that a peak? It was a free-agent year, and he played for a championship team. It's easier to predict a decline in the coming years than an uptick in production.

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Samardzija rumors flying at GM meetings

November, 11, 2013
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ORLANDO -- Another day, another trade rumor regarding Chicago Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija. This time a report out of Washington has the Nationals interested in the arbitration-eligible pitcher. General manager Jed Hoyer says get used to it.

“Teams know we’ve had discussions with him and we haven’t signed him,” Hoyer said Monday. “That’s part of it.”

The Cubs still have two years of control of Samardzija before he becomes a free agent, and they say they’re staying in touch with his agent. The sides will meet again this winter to see if a deal can be struck -- otherwise a deal could be made with another team.

“I think teams will certainly inquire about him,” Hoyer said. “He’s really proved over the last two years he has great stuff and is a tough competitor. I think teams will ask us about him so to that extent there could be rumors. I think Jeff has a perfect mentality for that. I think he doesn’t pay attention to it. It’s somewhat the nature of being in a big market.”

• Though the Cubs aren’t in the market for a slew of veteran players, they know they need replacements for leaders like Alfonso Soriano and David DeJesus.

“We know we need more player leadership,” Hoyer said. “I think it’s unfair to put all the leadership aspects on the manager and the coaching staff. We’ve traded a lot of those guys away. We know that and so I do think we need to replenish that.”

The ideal scenario would be a veteran who can actually start and not just lead from the bench. Center field is wide-open but free agents Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo are probably too pricey for the Cubs.

• Hoyer indicated the Cubs would announce new manager Rick Renteria’s coaching staff all at once in the coming days. He intimated the important role of hitting coach won’t be an internal hire but an external one. Former hitting coach James Rowson signed to be a coach in the New York Yankees organization over the weekend.

Manager search over; Cubs need pitching

November, 10, 2013
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ORLANDO, Fla. -- As general managers gather for three days of meetings, the Chicago Cubs are quickly turning the page from their managerial search to their player search.

"We’ve been doing all of our research and strategizing for the winter, trade possibilities and analyzing the free-agent market," president Theo Epstein said over the weekend in Chicago. "Coming up with some plans. That’s all been going on, but we haven’t been able to dedicate 100 percent of our attention to it, obviously, with the managerial search. So we’re re-immersing ourselves in that."

The first order of business won’t have anything to do with other general managers as the Cubs need to hire a coaching staff. That will happen in the coming days and weeks, but, on a lateral level, so will player acquisition. Traditionally, the general manager’s meetings lay the groundwork for the winter meetings in December. The Cubs are looking for pitching.

"We need to add some quality," Epstein said. "I think we’re in a little bit better position than we’ve been as far as quantity."

They added three pitchers -- Corey Black, CJ Edwards and Ivan Pineyro -- at the Class-A level last season, and all three helped them to a championship, but that was at the lower levels and none of those players necessarily project to be an ace. The Cubs are probably still looking for a pitcher of the caliber of a World Series Game 1 starter. That’s a long-term view.

In the short term, they need a bullpen -- especially a closer.

"We have guys that could close, but I think that’s an opportunity for us where if you go to market with the closer’s role ready to bestow on somebody, that can help you sign a pretty good pitcher," Epstein said. "We are going to hit the market with a full closing opportunity to offer the right pitcher we acquire, either through free agency or trade and with the knowledge we have some options that are interesting in-house."

In-house means Pedro Strop, acquired for Scott Feldman last season, and probably not Kevin Gregg.

"We don’t have a full bullpen," Epstein said. "We could add some players with more established track record and some upside."

Epstein added "one more rotation piece" as a need after Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson and Jake Arrieta. Scott Baker will be given another look after his decent finish to the season after returning from Tommy John surgery, but Baker will look around as well.

Epstein said the Cubs are still in acquisition mode for young players -- at least for one more season -- but that doesn’t mean he’ll take it easy this week.

"We’re going to pursue trades for the very best players in the game," Epstein said.

But only if they fit the Cubs' long-term plans, both economically and on the field.

Cubs coach McKay joins Arizona

November, 1, 2013
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
The Chicago Cubs' prolonged search for a new manager might have cost them one of their best coaches.

Former first-base and outfield coach Dave McKay accepted the same position with the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday.

"It was the right time," McKay said via phone. "The Cubs were great in keeping me up to date with things, and the Diamondbacks were patient, but the time was right."

McKay joins Arizona on the same day the Cubs interviewed their sixth managerial candidate, former catcher Brad Ausmus.

McKay is considered one of the best in the business at teaching outfield defense. He was one of Tony LaRussa’s most trusted coaches for more than two decades before joining the Cubs when LaRussa retired after the 2011 season. He’s credited with improving former Cub Alfonso Soriano’s defensive play, as well as many St. Louis Cardinals, who swear by his teachings.

"Chicago was great, but I live in Arizona and this was a good opportunity," McKay said.

McKay was told he would have a chance to return to Chicago after the Cubs hired a new manager but the manager would have final say. He understood the process but didn’t want to wait any longer, hence signing up with Arizona on Friday.

With a group of young outfielders making their way to Wrigley Field -- including converted infielder Junior Lake -- the loss of McKay could have a bigger impact than first thought.

Losing one of the best in the business at what he does isn’t something the Cubs can afford in their rebuilding project. Without knowing who McKay’s replacement will be, the Cubs' coaching staff took a step backward on Friday.

Offseason questions: Who's the manager?

October, 31, 2013
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
With the conclusion of the World Series begins the official offseason for Major League Baseball, though the Chicago Cubs' winter started the day after their year ended with the firing of manager Dale Sveum.

Undoubtedly, hiring his replacement is the first order of major business.

Boston Red Sox coach Torey Lovullo's credentials may never be better, as his team just completed a worst-to-first scenario. As of Thursday afternoon, Lovullo had not been contacted by the Cubs, but it’s been only hours since he helped his team win the World Series. Things on the managerial front should move fast now that the baseball season is over.

If the Cubs don’t hire a manager by the end of the next week, they’re bucking up against their timeline of doing so by the general manager meetings, which take place Nov. 11-13 in Orlando, Fla. Expect final interviews and a decision in the coming days as owner Tom Ricketts and president Theo Epstein are to meet fans in a question-and-answer session next week at the Bank of America Theatre in Chicago. Having a manager in place would eliminate plenty of queries.

The next order of business will be dealing with free agents. The Cubs have four of their own: pitchers Scott Baker, Kevin Gregg and Matt Guerrier and catcher Dioner Navarro.

After a career year, a source familiar with the situation says Navarro is already drawing strong interest from other teams to be their No. 1 catcher. That means the prospects of the popular Navarro returning to the Cubs are slim.

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Jason Hammel
8 2.98 104 108
BAS. Castro .286
HRA. Rizzo 30
RBIA. Rizzo 71
RA. Rizzo 81
OPSA. Rizzo .889
ERAT. Wood 4.72
SOT. Wood 131