ESPN: Wuertz to A's for 2 fielders

ESPN.com reports RHP Michael Wuertz has been traded to the Oakland Athletics for outfielder Richie Robnett and infielder Justin Sellers.

The A's selected Robnett, 25, in the first round (26th overall) of the 2004 draft. In five seasons in Oakland's minor league system, he has hit .256 with 14 doubles, 58 home runs and 252 RBIs in 449 games. He was limited to 82 games last season after surgery to remove a rumor from his stomach.

Sellers, 23, was taken in the sixth round of the 2005 draft. In four seasons in the A's minor league system, Sellers has hit .256 with 70 doubles, 15 triples, 15 home runs and 145 RBIs in 417 games. He has played 285 games at shortstop and 128 games at second base.

Robnett has been added to the Cubs' 40-man roster and will report to major league spring training. Sellers will report to the minor league camp.

Rich Hill to Baltimore, Bako's back

Lefty Rich Hill was traded to Baltimore today for a player to be named later.

On Friday, free agent Paul Bako returned to the Cubs with a one-year, $725,000 contract. Bako played for the Reds last year, he previously played for the Cubs from 2003-04.


Newest Cub: Aaron Heilman

The Cubs have received RHP Aaron Heilman from Seattle for Garrett Olson and Ronny Cedeno. The Mariners previously acquired Heilman from the Mets in the J.J. Putz 12-player trade. Heilman, 30, was the 18th Overall pick in the 2001 draft.

Will he battle Sean Marshall for the fifth rotation spot?

Will he join the bullpen?

Or is he a player the Padres would like in a trade for Peavy?

I don't profess to know anything about building a baseball team and GM-ing, but Cedeno's inclusion in the trade perplexes me... unless perhaps we're cutting payroll and clearing a roster spot for a blockbuster trade with the Padres. The Padres are trying to get younger and cut payroll, so maybe Heilman and a young prospect, for Peavy and an infielder (maybe a lefty/switchhitter, like Luis Rodriguez?).


The Umpteenth Peavy-to-Cubs post

Cubs.com says that, assuming the Cubs sale to the Ricketts family goes through, the oft-rumored Peavy deal could follow.

Such a deal likely would include newly-acquired Garrett Olson (via the Orioles in the Felix Pie trade), a player Padres GM Kevin Towers "likes". Olson was also a piece of the three-way trade the Cubs, Orioles and Padres attempted to get done during the Winter Meetings.

Here's more from the article.

A Peavy trade would address a priority for the Padres to acquire promising young prospects in return for expensive veteran players, as clubs such as the Athletics, Rays and Twins have done successfully in the recent past. Moores instructed management to decrease last season's $73.6 million player payroll to about $40 million in 2009.

With Peavy's $11 million still on the books for this season, the current projected payroll is at about $45 million. Beyond '09, Peavy is owed another $52 million in a deal that runs through 2012 and includes a club option for 2013. The option is for $22 million with a $4 million buyout.

Towers said he last spoke with Cubs GM Jim Hendry on the phone about a week ago, but he added that there had been no substantive trade talks since a four-way deal that included the Phillies and Orioles broke down in December as the Winter Meetings closed.

Towers did say on Monday that Olson was a player he likes and was "identified" as part of the deal that was considered last month.

Regarding the payroll, Towers said that he isn't yet at the appropriate total.

"But we're not forced to dump players," he said. "There are ways of getting where we need to be so John's comfortable by the end of the season. I didn't want to feel like I was being leveraged on Peavy. I didn't want that to happen."


Tribune selects Cubs buyer

UPDATE: Washington Post reports that Tom Ricketts has some serious ties to Wrigleyville... read on.

Tom Ricketts grew up watching the Cubs on WGN, once lived in an apartment above a bar across the street from Wrigley Field, and met his wife in the bleachers at a Cubs game.
Well-played, sir, well played. I bet he was completely sober at the time, too.

The Chicago Tribune reports that their parent company, Tribune Co., has selected Tom Ricketts as the winning bidder to buy the Chicago Cubs. The $900 million offered also includes Wrigley Field and a quarter of Comcast SportsNet.

The Ricketts family made their billion-plus fortune "building a discount brokerage brokerage in Omaha." The family's patriarch, J. Joe Ricketts, founded what later became Ameritrade Holding Corporation. The family has also independently confirmed that they have been selected to buy the team.

But the deal isn't sealed just yet.

The family will have to hammer out a final agreement with Tribune Co. and secure financing amid the worst credit markets since the Depression. Once a contract is inked, the deal must be approved by 23 of Major League Baseball's 30 owners. Cubs officials have said they hope to have the new owners in place by the start of the season in April.

Paul Sullivan talks about the future/upgrading of Wrigley Field

Rick Morrissey gives the Ricketts family some advice.

And a Tribune reporter gets the voice of the fans. Shockingly, they say don't tear down Wrigley Field and spend money getting better players.


Blanco, Harden, and a Closer Competition

Catcher Henry Blanco has signed with the Padres,

Rich Harden's shoulder will keep him from representing Team Canada in the WBC,

The Tribune Co. has picked a favorite to buy the Cubs - but no one knows who it is,

and Lou Pinella hasn't named Carlos Marmol the closer yet.

It would seem logical that Marmol would inherit the role.

Not so fast, Lou Piniella says.

The Cubs acquired Kevin Gregg from Florida this offseason, and Piniella doesn't want to declare Marmol the closer until he sees both pitchers this spring.

"Let them compete," Piniella said. "I feel comfortable with Marmol, there's no question. But we traded for this other young man, and he was a closer over there with success. Give him a chance, too."




Cubs sign Fukudome's teammate and Wuertz, invite 20 to spring training.

Via the Tribune.

The Cubs have inked Ken Kadokura to a minor league contract. Kadokura, a pitcher, previously played with Kosuke Fukudome in Japan.

The Cubs also invited 20 players to spring training. Those invited reportedly include former reliever Mike Stanton (last appeared in '07 with Cincinnati) and outfielder So Taguchi.

Michael Wuertz also signed with the team; he was the last arbitration-eligible player to re-sign (joining Kevin Gregg and Ronny Cedeno).


New President... and Old-ish Cubs News

On this day, here's a fun website where you can make your own Shepard Fairey-esque poster.

Marmol, Fukudome, Lilly, Ramirez, Lee, Soto, Zambrano, Guzman, and Jose Ascanio all on World Baseball Classic provisional rosters. The WBC starts this March.

However, Zambrano may miss the WBC; he is planning to undergo LASIK surgery.

Kevin Gregg signed a one-year contract worth $4.2 million, avoiding arbitration in the process.

Felix Pie was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for two pitchers, lefty Garrett Olson and righty Henry Williamson.

Kerry Wood took out a full-page ad
in the Tribune and Sun-Times, thanking Chicago fans, his teammates, and the Cubs organization.


Cedeno re-signs one year deal

Cubs.com reports infielder Ronny Cedeno and Cubs management have come to terms on a one-year, $882,000 contract.

This leaves pitchers Kevin Gregg and Michael Wuertz as the two arbitration-eligible players the Cubs have left to sign to contracts.


Takahashi No?

Cubs deny they are near a deal to sign 40-year-old Japanese lefty Ken Takahashi, despite contrary reports from Japan-based Sports Hochi.

As Drudge would say, DEVELOPING...


Dawson misses HoF, Grace won't be on next year

Andre Dawson received 67% of votes for the Hall of Fame (361 votes), he needed to be listed on 75% of all votes to be elected to the Hall. Rickey Henderson (511, 94.8%) and Jim Rice (412, 76.4%) both passed the benchmark and will be inducted together into Cooperstown as the Class of 2009.

Mark Grace received only 22 votes, or 4.1%, not enough for his name to be placed on the ballot next year.

I could go on and on about how good Dawson and Grace were, but the stupidity of Baseball's Hall-of-Fame process has been discussed ad nauseum elsewhere. Suffice it to say that, behind Ryno, Hawk and Gracie were cornerstone of the 80s-90s Cubs, and I can't imagine my childhood without them.

So guys, if it's any consolation, you're in my personal Hall.

Japanese Invasion v2.0?

Cubs.com reports (via Japan's Sports Hoshi) the Cubs are close to signing Japanese lefty Ken Takahashi to a one-year contract.

Takahashi is 40, but (as the article points out) the Cubs currently only have two left-handed pitchers in the bullpen, Sean Marshall and Neal Cotts. If the Cubs want to move Marshall into the starting rotation (alongside Zambrano, Dempster, Harden and Lilly), signing another southpaw to replace him in the bullpen would be a wise move.


Hendry searches for one more pitcher

The Sun-Times talked to Cubs GM Jim Hendry, and still it appears the plan is to pick up one more starter. While Hendry doesn't mention him by name, Jake Peavy is still widely regarded as the best possible addition to the Cubs starting rotation.

After the Cubs' last deal with Peavy fell through, numerous factors (largely economic) changed, some perhaps making the deal more likely, others making the deal tougher.

The biggest payroll obstacle in taking on the $63 million Peavy is guaranteed for the life of his contract remains the Cubs' 2010 projections. None of the payroll-clearing deals of the last week did anything for 2010, and that means the flexibility to add Peavy probably doesn't exist without a nod from the team's new ownership group.

Selection of a winning bid for the club is said to be close -- perhaps by the end of next week -- and that might be just in time for the Cubs' front office to make a deal before spring training.

Also, the Cubs acquired three well-regarded pitching prospects from the Cleveland Indians in the Mark DeRosa trade last week, giving them deeper reserves of young talent to help pull off a trade.

But the biggest impediment to a deal might be the Padres' willingness to trade their ace, considering their own potential sale to Jeff Moorad's group of investors. Under financial pressures related to a divorce, the Padres' owners had ordered payroll cuts that led to aggressive shopping of Peavy. Some have speculated Moorad won't want to trade one of the team's most valuable commodities.

Other options available?

If Hendry can't land Peavy, plenty of free-agent pitchers remain on the market, although Derek Lowe is pricing himself beyond reason. Productive innings-eaters such as Braden Looper and Tim Redding more likely would fit the Cubs' needs.

Is Looper or Redding really that much better than Sean Marshall/Chad Gaudin/Angel Guzman/whomever else?


Who's #5?

In a move that surprised no one, Jason Marquis was traded to the Colorado Rockies for reliever Luis Vizcaino and cash. The deal was long rumored and allows the Cubs more flexibility with their payroll after acquiring Milton Bradley. This year, Vizcaino costs about $5 million less than Marquis.

Sean Marshall will likely replace Marquis in the rotation [joining Zambrano, Dempster, Harden, Lilly]. Other possible candidates on the Cubs roster include Angel Guzman, Kevin Hart, Chad Gaudin and Jeff Samardzija.


Sale "close?"

Cubs.com is reporting the Tribune Company is "close" to selecting the winning bid for Cubs ownership.

From the article (emphasis mine):

The Chicago Tribune reported on Tuesday that the company had been evaluating bids since early December and could make a decision within a week to 10 days.

The three prospective buyers include Chicago real estate investor Hersch Klaff; the Ricketts family, founders of online brokerage TD Ameritrade Holding Corp.; and a group led by Marc Utay, a New York-based private equity investor.

The buyer would still have to be approved by a three-quarters vote of baseball owners. A bankruptcy judge also may have a say in the process because the Tribune Co. filed for Chapter 11 protection on Dec. 8. The Cubs were not included in that filing.

I just hope the sale gets done, and the organization is in good, capable hands.


Milton's Here!

http://www.rotorob.com/2007/09/25/out-of-left-field/ [4 San Diego]

It's Milton, Chicago's brand new son!

According to the AP, the contract is a cool thirty million over three years, pending a physical.
Can we have our trophy now?

But seriously, this gives us one less excuse for this year's inevitable collapse.

Also, TV ratings in Japan just shrunk. Or is it shrank?

Happy 2009!

UPDATE: I must have been totally confusing Aaron Miles with someone else, so I erroneously stated him as an outfielder. He's an infielder (obviously) and will be giving Theriot an occasional breather.

What happened while I was away?

Most importantly, on New Year's Eve the Cubs acquired switch-hitter Aaron Miles (from the divisional rival Cardinals, natch) and jettisoned Mark DeRosa for three minor-league pitchers. The Miles contract is reported to be two years at just under $5 million. Right now, the likely left-handed bats in the lineup are Miles, Fukudome (replaced by Bradley if he signs?), Fontenot, and Joey Gathright off the bench.

The best prospect in the DeRosa trade, meanwhile, is Jeff Stevens, a right-handed pitcher who pitched at the AAA and AA level for the Indians last year. Via Cubs.com. (emphasis mine)

Stevens was a combined 5-4 with six saves and a 3.24 ERA in 36 games, all in relief, last season at the Double-A and Triple-A level for the Indians. Left-hander John Gaub appeared in 34 games, all in relief, for Class A Lake County, and compiled a 3.38 ERA, while right-hander Chris Archer was a starter for the Captains, going 4-8 with a 4.29 ERA in 27 games.

Meanwhile, The Winter Classic happened. Tribune. NYT.

And today, the Era of Jay Mariotti at AOL Sports began. (via Deadspin.com) Your move, Sun-Times.