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Alfonso Soriano hit his 30th home run of the season last night, reaching the threshold for the sixth time in his career and for the first time since 2007. The 36-year-old now has a .261/.317/.499 batting line in 568 plate appearances this year. He'll earn $18MM per season through 2014 on a contract that no longer seems as unmovable as it once did. Here are some Cubs-related notes from Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune…
- The idea of spending $150MM-plus on an impact player such as Josh Hamilton isn’t part of the Cubs’ plan, Sullivan reports. He notes that David DeJesus’ $10MM contract and Paul Maholm’s $4.75MM contract were the largest deals the Cubs signed a year ago.
- However, the team expects to be able to spend. "Right now it's kind of hard to say,” manager Dale Sveum said. “You just don't know who will be available. But yeah, we'll spend money somewhere."
- The Cubs need multiple starters, multiple relievers a center fielder, and a third baseman in Sullivan’s estimation. It appears that the Cubs will give Brett Jackson another look in center field despite his poor contact rate.
- Luis Valbuena will be tendered a contract, but Ian Stewart is expected to be non-tendered, Sullivan writes. "Valbuena is going to be part of the organization, and he does one heck of a job himself," Sveum said. MLBTR's Steve Adams discussed Stewart as a non-tender candidate last month.
- Josh Vitters appears to be a long shot at third base, according to Sullivan.
Here's the latest from Wrigleyville….
- "We need more talent. We lack impact talent,” Theo Epstein told reporters (including MLB.com's Carrie Muskat) in regards to his team's minor league system. "We have a number of interesting guys, especially at the lower levels. Every organization has interesting guys at the lower levels….We need some more impact talent and we need some guys who have the ability to break through. It'd be nice to get a breakthrough player or two this year and have someone move from that interesting prospect category to that potential impact category."
- If the Cubs trade one of their current outfielders, there is no guarantee prospect Brett Jackson will be automatically called up to fill the spot, writes ESPN Chicago's Bruce Levine as part of an online chat with fans. The Cubs want to make sure Jackson is "completely ready" to play in the majors, and Levine says the Cubs may also be thinking about service clock considerations.
- The Cubs have spent the last few weeks looking to acquire a left-handed reliever, writes Levine.
- Also from Levine, he predicts Matt Garza is looking for a five-year, $65MM contract extension akin to John Danks' new deal with the White Sox. The Cubs said they wanted to discuss a multiyear deal with Garza during Spring Training, though there has been little news about the status of these negotiations.
The Cubs made some cuts today, sending Jason Jaramillo to minor league camp and optioning Alberto Cabrera, Jeff Beliveau, John Gaub, Josh Vitters, Junior Lake and Matt Szczur to the minors. Here are some Cubs-related news items as the countdown to Opening Day continues…
- Right-hander Aaron Kurcz has been told that he is going to the Red Sox as part of the Theo Epstein compensation package, reports ESPN's Jerry Crasnick (Twitter link). Kurcz, an 11th round pick in the 2010 amateur draft, posted a 3.28 ERA and a 9.9 K/9 rate in 32 games for Class A Daytona last season. After months of negotiation, the Cubs and Sox agreed to righty Chris Carpenter and a player to be named later (Kurcz) as the price for the year remaining on Epstein's Boston contract. The Red Sox still need to send a player to the Cubs to complete the deal.
- The Cubs will take the time to get to know Matt Garza before determining whether to sign him long-term or trade him, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney tweets. The right-hander's on track to hit free agency following the 2013 season.
- There's no everyday job for Cubs outfield prospect Brett Jackson, but he has impressed his new manager nonetheless, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. "It’s been pretty impressive, every part of his game," manager Dale Sveum said. Jackson figures to open the season in the minors and work on his approach at the plate.
- Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune wonders what the Cubs will do with left-hander Travis Wood if he doesn't make the rotation. The Cubs could put Wood in the bullpen or send him to the minor leagues.
- Sveum added that Rule 5 selection Lendy Castillo has been "throwing great," Sullivan writes.
The Rangers are set to introduce the recently signed Yu Darvish at a press conference tomorrow night, reports Jeff Wilson of The Fort Worth Star-Telegram (on Twitter). Here's the latest from around the league…
- Some MLB executives say Matt Garza’s filing number of $12.5MM “greatly complicates” interest in him as a trade target, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney tweets. The right-hander filed for $12.5MM and the Cubs countered at $7.95MM as our Arbitration Tracker shows.
- Ryan Braun's appeal hearing for his failed drug test was today, reports Bill Madden, Andy Martino, and Teri Thompson of The New York Daily News. The three-person panel consists of union head Michael Wiener, MLB executive Rob Manfred, and independent arbitrator Shyam Dos. A decision is not expected this weekend, and no player has ever successfully appealed a positive test.
- "Of course we'd consider Prince Fielder," said Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski to Angela Wittrock of MLive.com in the wake of Victor Martinez's torn ACL. "But realistically, it's probably not a good fit … I would just say that the fit is really not there at this point."
- ESPN's Jerry Crasnick wrote about the abundance of aging hitters still available on the free agent market. "Some of these guys have made so much money in their careers, the $2 million-and-less contracts don't sound very appealing,'' said an AL exec. "It's a supply and demand issue. When you have a lot of guys out there, the prices are going to get driven down.''
- Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com checks in with top Cubs prospect Brett Jackson and hears that the 2009 first rounder doesn’t get rattled by the possibility of a trade. “All players are tradable at any time,” Jackson said. “That doesn’t put me on edge." People in the Cubs organization have lots of good things to say about Jackson and the Cubs made him untouchable in compensation talks regarding president Theo Epstein, Mooney writes.
Mike Axisa contributed to this post.
The Red Sox and Cubs are working toward an agreement that would send Theo Epstein to Chicago and one or more prospects to Boston. We learned earlier in the week that Epstein could bring former colleagues and current Padres executives with him to Chicago in a separate deal. Jed Hoyer, Josh Byrnes and Jason McLeod of the Padres worked with Epstein in Boston. Here's the latest on the negotiations with the most recent updates up top:
- "A lot would have to happen" for a final deal to be announced tomorrow, a source tells Scott Miller of CBSSports.com, though it's still possible. Miller also reports that Hoyer will receive a five-year contract, just like Epstein, and the Cubs will send the Padres "one or two lower-level minor leaguers" as compensation for Hoyer.
- The sides have agreed to "nothing" in terms of compensation, according to Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com.
- Epstein has been working at his Red Sox office all day, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (on Twitter).
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that Padres assistant general manager Jason McLeod will join Hoyer and Epstein in Chicago. McLeod was Boston's amateur scouting director under Epstein before leaving for San Diego with Hoyer after the 2009 season.
- The Red Sox are less optimistic than the Cubs that a deal for Epstein is near, according to Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. "There seems to be a fundamental divide in the way the two clubs look at this," said Silverman's source.
- The Red Sox and Cubs are "finalizing" the deal, according to Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago.com. They're expected to announce the deal tomorrow. It would not include Brett Jackson, Trey McNutt, Matt Szczur or cash. MLB has told the Cubs they can have a news conference tomorrow, a World Series travel day, according to Levine.
- However, Red Sox assistant GM Ben Cherington told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that reports of a deal are "premature" (Twitter link). Cherington says there's nothing new to report this morning.
- The Cubs will name Jed Hoyer their GM within a few days, according to Levine (Epstein would be the club's president of baseball operations). However, the Cubs have not officially asked for permission to interview Hoyer. The Padres will make Josh Byrnes their GM and won't demand compensation for losing Hoyer, according to Levine.
- The Red Sox and Cubs are making progress and the sides could announce a deal by tomorrow, according to Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe. Commissioner Bud Selig may allow the teams to make an announcement during the World Series so they can proceed with their offseason planning. The Red Sox are optimistic about reaching a settlement soon.
The latest on the Cubs' attempt to add Red Sox GM Theo Epstein to their front office…
- Epstein is actively looking to hire a general manager to join him in Chicago, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The 37-year-old is exploring GM candidates while he waits for the Red Sox and Cubs to work out compensation for his departure. The Cubs would bring Epstein in as their president of baseball operations and he would hire a general manager to assist with the daily grind of the job.
- The Red Sox are "holding tough" on their asking price and don't anticipate resolution tonight, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (on Twitter).
- Hoyer told Marty Caswell of XX1090 Sports Radio that he's not going to comment on media speculation (Twitter links). "I'm excited about what we continue to build here in San Diego," he said.
- The Cubs haven't asked for permission to talk to any Padres executives, according to Dan Hayes of the North County Times (Twitter link).
- Carrie Muskat of MLB.com points out that obtaining Hoyer could prove difficult, as he is under contract through 2013 with an option for 2014 (Twitter link). But Tom Krasovic of Inside the Padres doubts owner Jeff Moorad would hold up a deal if it meant Byrnes became the Padres' next GM (Twitter link).
- Current Padres GM Jed Hoyer is being considered by the Cubs and Epstein, tweets SI's Jon Heyman. In that scenario, Josh Byrnes would become the Padres' GM. Heyman notes that the Cubs are also looking at Padres executives Byrnes and Jason McLeod for themselves, should Hoyer stay. All the executives were once members of the Boston front office with Epstein.
- Yesterday we learned that the Red Sox started out the Epstein compensation discussions by asking the Cubs for righty Matt Garza, which CSNNE.com's Sean McAdam says was "rejected out of hand." Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe says that "the sides slowly have moved their position to a more realistic center" as they discuss Cubs prospects.
- Cafardo says the Red Sox have been focusing on Trey McNutt, Brett Jackson, Matt Szczur, and Josh Vitters, the latter three labeled as unlikely by Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com yesterday. McNutt and Andrew Cashner are unlikely as well, writes Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune, while McAdam says McNutt's inclusion is "far from guaranteed at this point."
- An announcement today has been ruled out, writes McAdam, with "significant work" remaining to reach an agreement on compensation. He says Friday's World Series off-day is the earliest possibility, assuming the teams come to terms and get Bud Selig's permission for an announcement. McAdam says that although progress has been made, the Cubs feel that precedent calls for minimal compensation while the Sox think this situation defies precedent.
- McAdam writes that the issue of Epstein taking Red Sox employees with him is not an issue, with a mutual understanding in place that he will not raid Boston's baseball operations department.
- Most reports, including this one from Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times, suggest that the five-year, $18.5MM deal between Epstein and the Cubs is not in jeopardy. Still, as Cafardo notes, both teams have a lot of team-building to do.
It's been three days since Red Sox GM Theo Epstein agreed to a five-year contract worth $18.5MM to take over as GM of the Cubs, and now the two teams are discussing compensation for Boston letting Epstein out of the final year of his contract. Yesterday we learned that the Cubs would like to complete the deal with just cash, but the Sox want "something real" in return. Let's keep track of today's compensation talk news here, with the latest up top…
- Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe hears from a source that talks are "business-like, civil and moving forward over the weekend." (Twitter link)
- Brett Jackson will not head to Boston as compensation, tweets MLB.com's Carrie Muskat.
- At the moment, no other Red Sox personnel will be joining Epstein in Chicago, tweets Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.
- David Kaplan of CSNChicago.com reports that talks between the two sides have grown "increasingly contentious." A source told Kaplan that Boston president Larry Lucchino is "trying to make it very difficult for Epstein to accept his dream situation in Chicago because of his fractured relationship with his one-time protege."
- The Red Sox "are believed to be requesting at least two top players from the Cubs’ farm system," according to Scott Lauber of The Boston Herald.
- Paul Sullivan of The Chicago Tribune says talks are not expected to be completed this weekend.
MLBTR's Mark Polishuk also contributed to this post
ESPN's Keith Law gave his thoughts on a number of prospects during a chat with readers today, and also expounded on a few Major League items. The highlights…
- Cubs fans should be excited about Theo Epstein's "ability to turn the Cubs' baseball ops department into a process-oriented, professionally run organization. You can't run a baseball team the way they were run 20 or 30 years ago. It's a business now, one where smart decisions based on sound processes are necessary and innovation is increasingly critical."
- Law describes Brett Jackson (taken 31st overall by the Cubs in the 2009 amateur draft) as a "non-star prospect" and thinks he would be fair compensation for Epstein.
- Law doesn't think Grady Sizemore can remain healthy as an everyday center fielder. The Indians have a $9MM club option on Sizemore next season but will take their time in deciding on it, given that Sizemore just underwent knee surgery.
- Between Joey Votto and Yonder Alonso, Law would deal Alonso and "look to win" in the remaining two years that Votto is under Reds' control. Cincinnati GM Walt Jocketty recently shot down rumors that the Reds were listening to offers for the reigning NL MVP.
- Law hears from his sources that J.P. Ricciardi isn't currently on the Orioles' short list of general manager candidates, as was reported on Tuesday by Law's ESPN colleague Buster Olney. Law worked for the Blue Jays' front office from 2002-06 when Ricciardi was the team's general manager.
- The Mariners "might have the best rotation in baseball by 2013 or so."
- If given a choice of signing either Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols to a seven-year contract worth the same money, Law says he would choose the younger Fielder. "Pujols is the better player right now, but even at his listed age I worry about his durability and potential decline," Law says.
- Despite Alex Avila's breakout 2011 season, Law said he still prefers Matt Wieters as the better long-term player.