Here’s the latest to the start of the Hot Stove season:
* According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Cubs will be players in the Prince Fielder sweepstakes. The report also mentions that the Angels and the Rangers could have interest in the slugging 1st baseman too. It says the Cubs will be willing to offer 20 million or a little more per year, but won’t go too high in years, especially not into the range of seven-to-eight years. An American League team could have a better chance of landing Fielder because they could move him to DH as he ages. NBC sports also mentioned the Cubs as the team expected to land Fielder.
* Expect Kerry Wood to return in 2012, either as a player or as a coach. Wood had a 10-minute conversation with Epstein in the clubhouse. Both are prepared to meet again sometime soon. Wood said the bullpen is not a big need and doesn’t know what will happen. If the price is right, expect Wood to be a part of the bullpen in 2012.
* The Blue Jays have reportedly inquired on the availability of pitcher Matt Garza. It’s not known whether the Cubs will listen to offers or not, but why not? It would be wise to see what Toronto may offer. But if your the Cubs, the offer will have to blow you away in order to accept it. I don’t see a Garza trade happening, as the Cubs are not likely to get a good enough deal to decide to part with him.
* Also, the Cubs have scouted two Japanese pitchers, 25-year old Yu Darvish and 30-year old Tsuyoshi Wada. We have heard of Yu Darvish and it is logical to pursue him. Darvish has been a stand out in Japan, posting 93-38 record and a 1.99 earn run average with 1259 strikeouts. However, the New York Yankees have been connected to Darvish more than the Cubs have thus far. Wada has not been talked about much, but he is sure to be soon. Wada is a lefty and posted a career 91-56 record with a 3.37 earn run average. I would be fine with the Cubs signing either pitcher, as long as don’t overpay and/or get into a bidding war.
* Bruce Levine says the Cubs will not trade Marlon Byrd this off-season. He would be a good 4th outfielder. I agree that he would make a fine fourth outfielder, but is not worth $6.5 million. I would try to trade him and save as much money as possible.
* The Cubs may go after Prince Fielder, but he may not want to come to Chicago, according to Bruce Levine.
* It is very unlikely that the Cubs will pursue CJ Wilson or Roy Oswalt.
* The Cubs could pursue outfielder Nick Markakis of the Baltimore Orioles. He is expected to be available and wouldn’t be a bad choice. However, his contract isn’t too friendly, as Markakis will make $12 million in 2012, $15 million in 2013, and $15 million in 2014, with a $17.5 million club option with a $2 million buyout for 2015. The only way I would see a trade happening if the Orioles were to take on a portion of his salary (and would receive better prospects in return) or if the Cubs send a bad contract in return. If the rumors do heat up, let’s just hope it won’t be like the Brian Roberts scenario from a couple of years ago.
* The Athletics reportedly are willing to trade anybody on their team besides Jemile Weeks and they have pitchers the Cubs could look into.
* The Cubs will interview Brewers’ hitting coach Dale Sveum for the managerial opening on Monday.
* After that, the Cubs will interview Rangers’ pitching coach Mike Maddux.
* The Boston Red Sox will interview Mike Maddux on Tuesday and Sandy Alomar Jr. for their own managerial opening on Wednesday.
* The Cubs have Sandy Alomar Jr. on their list of managerial candidates, but have not received permission to interview him yet.
* The Cubs scouting department continues to get better as they signed Joe Bohringer to be their new Director of Professional Scouting. Jim Callis of Baseball America chimed in and called Bohringer “another terrific hire”.
The rumor/hot stove season has just begun. Keep your ears open and it should be a fun off-season.