The winter meetings have begun. For many Baseball followers, the next four days will consist of constantly refreshing their twitter feed and reading too much into the comments made from team executives, general managers, and agents of free agents. With Theo Epstein at the head of the Chicago Cubs’ baseball department, the Cubs are always one of the teams to watch at events such as the winter meeting. Day 1 of the winter meetings certainly did not lack any rumors or news in relation to the Cubs.
The Cubs entered the winter meetings by already making an impressive move over the weekend. That move was the signing of Japanese closer Kyuji Fujikawa to a two year contract worth $9.5 million. Epstein gave a “wink-wink” response when asked about the potential signing of Fujikawa as the the reliever still has to take a physical before the deal can be completed. Though, the expectation is that the Cubs will announce the Fujikawa at some point later this week.
Fujikawa is expected to be the team’s closer for the 2013 season, for that reason, Gordon Wittenmyer reported on twitter that the Cubs told Carlos Marmol that he is trade bait. Though, Marmol should have realized that he was trade bait after almost being traded to the Los Angeles Angels for starting pitcher Dan Haren. While the Cubs are not going to simply trade Marmol for the mere purpose of making a trade, it would seem highly unlikely that Marmol is with the Cubs when pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training. The Angels may renew their trade interest in Marmol.
Fujikawa may not be the only effort that the Cubs make in improving their bullpen. After signing starting pitchers Scott Feldman and Scott Baker, Epstein indicated that the team will begin to focus on improving the bullpen. That process started with signing of Fujikawa, and the Cubs likely will look to add at least one more veteran reliever. Bruce Levine tweets that the Cubs have expressed interest in veteran reliever Jason Grilli. Grilli has posted a sub-3 ERA with the Pittsburgh Pirates in each of the past two seasons. Grilli would certainly serve as a nice compliment for left handed reliever James Russell.
Multiple reporters took to twitter to report that David DeJesus will be the Cubs’ starting center fielder in 2013. The decision to move DeJesus to center field stems from Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer valuing the free agent right fielders available higher than the free agent center fielders available. Both markets are relatively thin, though, three names that may interest the Cubs are Nyjer Morgan, Cody Ross, and Ryan Sweeney.
Speaking of thin free agent markets, that is how the market for third base free agents can be described. The Cubs are still in need of a third baseman for the 2013 season. Epstein indicated that the team will continue to evaluate the free agent and trade market for third baseman, but the position could be filled from within the organization. Though, Epstein may be implementing a negotiating ploy by suggesting the the Cubs could fill the third base position from within the organization. Epstein indicated that the Cubs would be interested in bringing back Ian Stewart, though Stewart would have to be willing to accept a Minor League deal.
Overall, the consensus from reporters after listening to Epstein on Monday night is that the Cubs expect–potentially closing in on?–to make a deal or two before the winter meetings conclude on Thursday. If that is the case, then it will be a successful week for the Cubs in Nashville. Especially if the Cubs are able to sign a right fielder before they leave the meetings on Thursday.
The Cubs did announce a signing on Monday as the team announced that former Houston Astros‘ pitcher Jim Deshaies will replace Bob Brenly as the television color analyst. Deshaies operated in the same capacity for the Astros, and the length of his contract to be the Cubs’ color analyst is for four years. By all accounts, Deshaies is one of the best color analysts in all of baseball. It certainly creates excitement as Cubs’ fans eagerly wait to hear Deshaies and Len Kasper in the same television booth calling Cubs games.