The Chicago Cubs’ front office, mainly President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, General Manager Jed Hoyer, and Vice President of Scouting and Player Development arrived at the General Manager meetings on Tuesday ready to get to work in re-building the organization from the ground up. These meetings are the appetizer to the Hot Stove season as this is generally the time when rumors begin to develop and the first wave of transactions are made. If the Cubs’ front office play their cards right, they should be no stranger to either area this week. While Hoyer and Epstein push their way closer to the decision-making stage of the managerial search, Epstein is expected to meet with Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington in an effort to resolve the long-standing compensation conflict between the Cubs and Red Sox. Here is the latest news from the General Manager meetings in Milwaukee, including more on the meeting between Epstein and Hoyer.
- In his adress at the General Manager meetings, Cherington told reporters it is his hope that he and Epstein “will talk tonight or in the next couple of days.” Cherington also seems to believe that commissioner Bud Selig will not have to enter the negotiations, as the Red Sox general manager feels that both he and Epstein should be able to reach a deal in the near future. Cherington also suggested that the two teams could work out a trade as resolution to the compensation conflict. That would certainly be an interesting scenario. One deal that many reporters may suggest is one that will send left fielder Carl Crawford to the Cubs for Alfonso Soriano. Of course a Crawford for Soriano trade would not happen straight-up, there would have to be other pieces involved in the deal. The issue with this deal is that after the 2012 season, Crawford is scheduled to make $20+ million for the next five seasons. Lets just say that the 30 year old Crawford has a lot of reasons to be thankful for Epstein’s kindness. Though once you look deeper into the potential trade, it would be determined that the Cubs likely will want no part of that deal. Crawford is already in his 30s, meaning there are only two or three more seasons left where the outfielder would be considered to be in his prime. Hoyer and Epstein have already stated that the the key is to pay for the future and not the past, something they wouldn’t be doing if they acquired Crawford. Crawford is almost in the same position that Soriano was in when he signed his eight year, $136 million contract with the Cubs prior to the 2007 season. Given the rapid decline of Soriano’s production, I can’t imagine the Cubs would take the same risk with Crawford.
- There has also been the notion that the Cubs’ and Red Sox managerial search is linked to the compensation conflict between the two. The idea that has been thrown out there by various reporters is that the Cubs are allowing the Red Sox to have first pick, as the two teams share the same list of managerial candidates. Cherington dispelled this notion saying that the two positions are not linked anyway. Having said that, the Cubs and Red Sox both appear to be zeroing in on the same finalist. The Red Sox are scheduled to conduct a second interview with Milwaukee Brewers’ hitting coach Dale Sveum on Wednesday, and no other candidate is expected to recieve a second interview. Meaning that Sveum is likely the candidate that the Red Sox front office have chosen. However, the Cubs are expected to conduct a second interview with Sveum as well. Meaning it will likely be Sveum’s decision on whether he wants to the manager of the Cubs or the manager of the Red Sox. Meanwhile, Texas Rangers’ pitching coach Mike Maddux is still contemplating between potentially being the Cubs’ manager or spending time with his family while remaining with the Rangers. Philadelphia Phillies’ bench coach Pete Mackanin, Cleveland Indians’ bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr remain candidates for the Cubs position with Terry Francona, and Red Sox bench coach DeMarlo Hale appearing to be long shots.
- Speaking of Red Sox connections, there seems to be a growing belief that free agent catcher Jason Varitek will sign with the Cubs at some point this winter. Bruce Levine has pushed this idea multiple times already this off-season, and given Epstein’s and Hoyer’s respect for Varitek, it seems likely that the veteran catcher will find his way on the Cubs for the 2012 season. This of course will mark the end for the much hated–at least on Cubbies Crib–Koyie Hill‘s time with the Cubs. Varitek, 40, is capable of catching 30 to 40 games next season. Though the qualities that Varitek would bring would likely be seen in the clubhouse rather than on the field. Varitek has a strong presence in any clubhouse he is in. Not to mention Varitek would be a good mentor for the younger catchers during Spring Training, and over the course of the season.
- The Cubs may be big-spenders this winter, though, it will likely be on players that were not a part of any organization last season. The Cubs have serious interest in both Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, and Japanese starting pitcher Yu Darvish. Jason McLeod, himself will be flying down to the Dominican Republic along with a handful of other Cubs’ scouts to put Cespedes through a private workout. If there was any confirmation needed that the Cubs are interested in the Cuban sensation, this is it. The Cubs would not be sending their Vice President of Scouting and Player Development to put Cespedes through a workout if they were not seriously interested in signing perhaps the best player to come out of Cuba. The Cubs are also expected to be serious bidders for the services of Japanese ace Yu Darvish. Darvish is expected to be posted at some point this winter, and it could cost the Cubs $50 million just for the right to negotiate with Darvish, on top of the expected $50 million contract he is expected to sign. Epstein has been bit by a similar bug in the form of Daisuke Matsuzaka, but all indications are that the 25 year old Darvish is a much more progressed pitcher than Matsuzaka was when he made the transition. If both Cespedes and Darvish reach or come close to the high ceilings that they possess, the Cubs could have a bright winter if they sign one if not both of the top international players.