- Free agent Rich Harden wants to return to the Cubs. His agent is likely to meet with Cubs GM Jim Hendry soon.
- The Cubs are expected to sign lefty reliever John Grabow to a two-year deal with an option for 2012.
- Agent Barry Praver says there's been no talk of waiving Carlos Zambrano's no-trade clause.
- The Cubs are likely to move Kosuke Fukudome to right, so they will be looking for a center fielder.
Cubs GM Jim Hendry told Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune that he doesn't feel like he's "on the clock" this year, even though new owners are taking over and the Cubs are coming off a disappointing season. Instead, Hendry says he's focused on building a strong team for 2010.
The Cubs are working on re-signing John Grabow and they'd also like to acquire a speedy leadoff hitter.
The club's direction depends on its ability to move Milton Bradley and the $21MM remaining on his contract. Sullivan speculates on a possible trade that would send Bradley to the Rays for Akinori Iwamura and Pat Burrell.
The Cubs are still discussing a new contract with lefty reliever John Grabow, according to ESPN Chicago's Bruce Levine. Levine says they're talking about a two-year deal in the $6.5-7.5MM range (plus incentives), with Grabow's agent pushing for a third-year vesting option.
I still don't understand the Cubs' infatuation with Grabow, who turns 31 in a few days. He managed a 3.36 ERA in 72.3 innings, but walked 40 and had an xFIP over 4.90. If you're tight on payroll there are better ways to spend $3-4MM.
- Both writers agree that unloading right fielder Milton Bradley (owed $21MM) is at the top of GM Jim Hendry's to-do list. Wittenmyer's sources suggest the Cubs might be able to move Bradley without eating 80% of his contract. Sullivan believes the Cubs could kill two birds with one stone by trading Bradley for their desired "RBI guy," one who carries an equally poor contract. Magglio Ordonez and Jose Guillen come to mind for me. However, the Tigers would have no motivation to make the swap and the Royals are not interested (it's a poor match on money and handedness anyway).
- Sullivan says lefty reliever John Grabow wants a three-year deal, and the Cubs "are likely to give it to him." That'd be overpaying, based on last year's market for lefty relievers.
- Sullivan believes Jake Fox and Mike Fontenot are trade candidates. Fox might be a good fit with an American League club.
- Will the Cubs opt for a cheap backup outfielder in Sam Fuld, or will they re-sign Reed Johnson?
- Neither writer expects the Cubs to trade Carlos Zambrano.
The Cubs have four players headed for free agency this winter: reliever John Grabow, outfielder Reed Johnson, reliever Kevin Gregg and starter Rich Harden. Thanks to Carrie Muskat of MLB.com, we already have news on two of them…
- John Grabow has begun "preliminary talks" with the Cubs about returning for the 2010 season. He wants to come back, and has made that known. "It's just a matter of finding common ground," said the left-hander, acquired from the Pirates on July 30. "It won't happen until the season is over."
- Rich Harden has also made it known that he'd like to return. "I like this team and the organization, and I'm very happy with my time here," he said Saturday. "Yeah, I'd like to be here next year, but we'll see what happens." Of course, Harden will require a much stronger financial commitment than Grabow. He's likely to shop around, if only to drive up his price. And the Cubs have hinted that they might not even want him back.
The Pirates have money to spend in free agency and a desire to be more aggressive than last year, GM Neal Huntington told Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Huntington admitted that former Pirates may be of interest, leading Kovacevic to speculate that lefty reliever John Grabow could be a target. Kovacevic also learned that outfielder Rick Ankiel is on the Pirates' radar.
A few weeks ago, we discovered that the Pirates will have less than $30MM committed heading into 2010 after beginning this season with a $48.7MM payroll.
Grabow may re-sign with the Cubs before reaching free agency. But if not, it's pointless for a team like the Pirates to spend even a few million on a walk-happy 32-year-old lefty reliever. The situation would only be compounded if the Cubs offer arbitration to Grabow, who projects as a Type A free agent.
Kovacevic suggests Ankiel's "superb athleticism is a potentially fine fit for PNC Park's spacious left field," and I agree. It's been a brutal year (.234/.286/.390), but Ankiel has suffered through groin and shoulder injuries. He'd be intriguing on a one-year deal in the $3MM range. Plus, such a signing would prove the Pirates can deal with Scott Boras despite last year's Pedro Alvarez drama (Chris Bootcheck's minor league deal notwithstanding).
A few 2010 Cubs notes…
- ESPN's Buster Olney says Cubs manager Lou Piniella "has told others that one way or the other, 2010 will be his last season managing." Olney wonders if Piniella may have just been speaking out of frustration.
- Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times says Piniella wants a "top-of-the-order speed guy" as well as a "middle-of-the-order run producer." However, the Cubs' 2010 payroll under new owner Tom Ricketts is not yet known. Wittenmyer says Piniella and GM Jim Hendry will be back next year. Which players would you like them to target?
- Wittenmyer says the Cubs want potential free agents John Grabow and Reed Johnson back on the right terms, but may be less inclined to retain pitchers Rich Harden and Kevin Gregg. Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune has a headline saying Johnson wants to return next year, but doesn't address it in the body of his article.
- Wittenmyer and Sullivan both reject the report from ESPN's Bruce Levine yesterday saying the Cubs have begun extension talks with Grabow. Pet peeve: Wittenmyer and Sullivan elected not to cite Levine's report specifically. Anyway, Sullivan says the Cubs "are expected to re-sign the left-hander to a two- or three-year deal" even if they're not talking yet.
The Cubs have started discussing a two-year contract extension with John Grabow, according to ESPN.com's Bruce Levine. The lefty, who is scheduled to hit free agency after the season, would be a setup man to Carlos Marmol and occasional closer in the Chicago 'pen.
Grabow has allowed just 55 hits in 66 innings this year with the Pirates and Cubs. He has 53 strikeouts, but has walked 39 along the way. If the extensions to Trever Miller and Ryan Franklin are any indication of the market for relievers, Grabow, who made $2.3MM this year, could be in line for about $4MM over the course of the next two years.
Time for another round of links…
- John Grabow tells Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times that he enjoys playing for the Cubs and likes the city of Chicago. Grabow, who becomes a free agent after the season, sounds open to re-signing with the Cubs.
- Manager Ken Macha thinks the Brewers could use some power arms, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- Tyler Hissey of Around the Majors argues that the J.D. Drew contract- $70MM over five years- isn't quite as bad as people think.
- Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi tells Mark Zwolinski of the Toronto Star that he takes full responsibility for the Blue Jays' disappointing play. The club has faded steadily since its 27-14 start.
4:54pm: Tracy Ringolsby of FOX Sports says the Rockies also have an eye on Washington's Nick Johnson as a bench bat. A .410 OBP bench bat.
11:00am: Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post wrote earlier today that the Rockies "increased their pursuit" of Orioles southpaw Mark Hendrickson (.253/.303/.422 against lefties this year). Renck confirms that the Rox balked at the asking price – Eric Young, Jr. – for John Grabow and Joe Beimel. By the way, in case you missed it, Renck notes that the Rockies signed 43 year-old righty Mike Timlin to a minor league deal.
Via Twitter, Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun throws another name into the mix for Colorado: Blue Jays closer Scott Downs. Downs, signed through 2010, would certainly exact the highest price of all the relievers linked to the Rockies.