Tag:Chicago Cubs
Posted on: December 8, 2011 1:53 am
 

Cardinals continue with company in Pujols talks

DALLAS -- The skies seemed to clear ever so briefly for the Cardinals on Wednesday when they learned that the Marlins were out of the Albert Pujols talks. Then the Los Angeles Angels jumped in, according to sources, and the fog has moved back in.

Also in the mix are an unidentified team that reportedly has offered 10 years and more than $200 million, and a Chicago Cubs' offer believed to be shorter term -- four or five years.

It is not clear when Pujols will make a decision. But multiple sources familiar with the talks said the Angels, rumored to have been involved with Pujols 24 hours earlier when they really were not in the mix, entered the bidding aggressively and seriously Wednesday.

Question is, for how long? The Angels also were working feverishly Wednesday night to wrap up a deal with free agent starting pitcher C.J. Wilson. If they come to terms with the left-hander, that almost certainly will preclude them from being able to add Pujols as well.

The agent for Pujols, Dan Lozano, could not be reached for comment. USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported that the Angels made what is believed to be 10-year offer worth at least $210 million. On Tuesday, the Cardinals came in strong with their first new offer since last February, reportedly 10 years at $220 million.

Rookie Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto was evasive earlier Wednesday afternoon when asked directly about Pujols, saying "We're trying to improve our club in a variety of different ways. Speculation is what speculation is. Our net is spread wide, but that's not necessarily where our focus is."

Dipoto said the Angels would like to add a starting pitcher, bullpen depth and a bat that would make the Angels deeper and more versatile.

While deep in talks with Wilson on Wednesday night, the Angels added free agent setup man LaTroy Hawkins on Wednesday night, agreeing to a one-year deal worth $3 million.

Meantime, sources said, the Angels had the pedal to the metal with Wilson and were hard after Pujols.

"We'll continue to have parallel talks, and that's not solely limited to a starting pitcher," Dipoto said earlier in the day. "You have to have the ability to break off and move in a different direction."

The entry of the Angels and an unidentified club into the Pujols sweepstakes had to add to the Cardinals' frustration over not being able to close this deal.

Talks between the Pujols Camp and the Marlins ended sometime around midday Wednesday, which sent the Marlins successfully recruiting in the direction of free agent starter Mark Buehrle. It was around that time that it became publicly clear that the Marlins were out on Pujols, and maybe the Cardinals thought they were home free.

You would think maybe they should be. As the Prince Fielder negotiations proceed slowly, agent Scott Boras held an informal media briefing late Wednesday night in which he dismissed the idea that the Pujols negotiations in any way would affect what he is doing with Fielder.

"The reasons St. Louis are interested in Albert are unique to Albert Pujols," Boras said. "He's dynamic, he has a history there, he's a franchise player, he's a great player ... he's the kind of player [of which] you should probably build a statue while he's playing. He's that kind of guy. He's a really unique player."

Clearly looking to plant seeds for Fielder as well while paying tribute to Pujols, Boras argued that retaining franchise players such as these two first basemen provides value to a club beyond what the player himself does.

"Certainly, the retention of players, I know Matt Holliday came to St. Louis and stayed in St. Louis because Albert Pujols was there," Boras said. "And I know another client of mine, Kyle Lohse, a big reason he wanted to win and go to St. Louis is because Albert Pujols was there.

"So those are two great examples of my clients who were attracted to and stayed in St. Louis because of an iconic player."

In his first foray into free agency, the question remains whether that iconic player will stay in place or move to greener pastures -- or, at least, pastures filled with more greenbacks.
Posted on: December 1, 2011 8:58 pm
Edited on: December 1, 2011 9:52 pm
 

Angels, others, pursuing Aramis Ramirez

Having already acquired catcher Chris Iannetta from the Rockies, the Angels are in discussions with free agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez this week as they look to boost their offense, according to sources.

There is no indication that a deal is near. Ramirez is talking with multiple clubs, according to sources, and is said to be whittling his list down to a final few. He will probably make a decision next week during the winter meetings in Dallas. The Brewers also are in the mix according to Foxsports.com.

Working under new general manager Jerry Dipoto, the Angels are targeting players with good on-base percentages being that they ranked 11th in the American League in that department last summer. Ramirez, 33, had a .361 OBP for the Cubs last summer and has a career .342 OBP over 14 big league seasons.

The Angels inquired about him at the trade deadline last July, but Ramirez had no-trade powers and did not want to move his family. He was vocal enough about that a trade never was put to him for approval.

Third base is one of the few areas where the Angels have versatility in what they do this winter. With Alberto Callaspo and Maicer Izturis there last summer, it was one of the lineup's weak links. The Angels asked Mark Trumbo to work out at third base over the winter while anticipating the return of first baseman Kendrys Morales next season. But as we saw last year, Morales, who suffered a badly fractured ankle two Mays ago, is no sure thing.

Izturis was discussed with the Rockies in the Iannetta trade this week -- the Angels instead wound up dealing young right-hander Tyler Chatwood to Colorado. He also has been reportedly discussed in a potential deal with Detroit.

The Brewers currently have Casey McGehee at third base, though he lost favor last season and was replaced at third by Jerry Hairston Jr. in the postseason.


Posted on: November 29, 2011 11:29 pm
 

Cubs, Marlins, Cardinals talking Pujols

Albert Pujols has new company in his fireside chats this winter: The Cubs have expressed interest in the iconic, free agent first baseman, joining the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals as Pujols' three primary suitors, according to sources with knowledge of the talks.

It remains early in the process and it is not known how serious the Cubs' interest is. But new president Theo Epstein's desire to turn things around quickly combined with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement draft rules plus weak free agent classes the next two winters could spur them to action.

Pujols' only offer thus far is believed to be from the Marlins, a reported nine-year offer for less than the $200 million bar the slugger is thought to be seeking. The Cardinals, while continuing to talk with Pujols, are not believed to have made a new offer since last spring.

Industry speculation continues to put Pujols back in a Cardinals uniform in 2012. But St. Louis failed to make much of a move during its exclusive negotiating window with him following the World Series. Maybe the Cardinals think the market simply will not materialize as much as Pujols hopes, or maybe they're simply thinking nine years is too long to commit.

Whatever, the staredown is on, and the intensity is expected to pick up significantly next week as baseball convenes for its annual winter meetings in Dallas.

Pujols already has visited Miami and received a tour of the Marlins' new stadium. And though the Marlins' offer is said to be light, it also is the only one in Pujols hands right now.

The Cubs are an interesting case. General manager Jed Hoyer said on SiriusXM radio Tuesday that they're specifically looking for a left-handed hitter, which, among the top-shelf free agents, would be Prince Fielder, not Pujols. New manager Dale Sveum is the former Brewers hitting coach and was tight with Fielder, so for those looking to fuel speculation, there's your entree.

They're also one of the handful of clubs in the game that can play in Pujols' financial league. Their payroll currently is some $50 million lighter than it was in 2011 after Aramis Ramirez and others dropped off.

And they have nothing to lose by entering the negotiations because at the very least, even if they do not sign Pujols, they perhaps can drive the price up for the Cardinals and sting their NL Central rivals -- and defending World Series champions -- that way.

Stay tuned.


Posted on: November 29, 2011 10:51 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2011 10:51 pm
 

Valentine Day coming this week for Red Sox

During the past decade, Bobby Valentine has almost managed twice as many big-league clubs as he's actually managed.

He was ticketed to manage the Florida Marlins two summers ago until that blew up.

Now he's on-deck to manage the Boston Red Sox.

Every indication Tuesday night was that Valentine will be calling the shots from the dugout when the Red Sox open their 2012 season in Detroit on April 5. But hey, when you're romancing Bobby V, as Yogi B. would say, it's never over 'til it's over.

And given the downright shameful way the Red Sox let runner-up Gene Lamont twist into Tuesday night without even the courtesy of a phone call as Valentine speculation became deafening, there were still a few loose ends to tie up before what is expected to be a Thursday press conference to introduce the new manager.

Valentine is charismatic, energetic, whip-smart, passionate, arrogant, enthusiastic, old-school, new-school, inquisitive, condescending, confrontational, sharp-tongued and hard-edged in one blinding, kaleidoscope of a package.

How that mixes with the New York Yankees will be riveting. How that mixes with the rest of the American League -- especially with Baltimore manager Buck Showalter -- will be highly entertaining.

How that plays within the Red Sox's own organization eventually will be the stuff of pure drama. There is no way the egos of Valentine and club president Larry Lucchino won't eventually clash and spark like positive and negative electrical currents. There is no way Valentine won't steamroll young rookie general manager Ben Cherington -- or, at least, try.

Fenway Park isn't nearly big enough to contain Valentine's out-sized ego. It isn't small enough to limit the possibilities of what this man and this team, together, could accomplish.

The process that led the Red Sox to this day was nearly as tortured as their fall-off-the-cliff September. Valentine's personality profile is not even in the same country as the group of candidates the Red Sox paraded through for a first round of interviews.

Three candidates from that first group had zilch for managerial experience: Sandy Alomar Jr., Torey Lovullo and Dale Sveum (OK, so he had 16 games' worth of of interim managerial experience in 2008). One more had just two interim managerial stints under his belt (Pete Mackanin). The fifth, Lamont, actually had experience in managing the White Sox (AL manager of the year in 1993) and the Pirates.

All of those guys are quiet. Thoughtful. Each of them fell under the category described by Cherington when he said of Sveum, "He's somebody we know we can work with."

Then, Sveum picked the Cubs and the Red Sox took a hard right.

No matter how they spin it, clearly, ownership took the managerial search steering wheel away from Cherington.

The only guarantee from here is that the ride will be an adventure neither side will ever forget.
Posted on: November 28, 2011 10:15 pm
Edited on: November 28, 2011 11:29 pm
 

Astros obtain permission to talk with Friedman

It's a long way from job offered and job accepted, but the Astros on Tuesday obtained permission from Tampa Bay to speak with general manager Andrew Friedman, sources with knowledge of the talks confirmed to CBSSports.com.

New Astros owner Jim Crane, wasting no time after a firing GM Ed Wade and president of baseball operations Tal Smith, is setting his sights on the man widely considered to be one of the top executives in the game. That Friedman is only 35 and is a Houston native are both happy coincidences -- and, as for Friedman's hometown, one huge chip the Astros apparently hope they can cash in.

With Friedman in the GM's seat, Tampa Bay has won two AL East titles in the past four seasons. The Rays also earned an American League wild-card berth another of those years. The Red Sox, by comparison, have won only one AL East title in the past 16 seasons.

Friedman also spoke with the Angels earlier this winter, though he never reached the point where he waded too deeply into the interview process in either place. He absolutely loves his situation in Tampa Bay with owner Stuart Sternberg, club president Matt Silverman and manager Joe Maddon, according to multiple sources, and is not looking to leave.

Whether the pull of his hometown Astros would be enough will be determined in the near future, though sources indicate that it still would be a surprise if Friedman does leave his current situation. With the baseball winter meetings convening next week in Dallas, Houston is looking to move quickly -- though the Astros almost certainly will not have a new man on the job by then.

News that the Astros have obtained permission from the Rays to speak with Friedman was first reported by Houston Chronicle columnist Richard Justice.
Posted on: November 18, 2011 6:21 pm
Edited on: November 18, 2011 6:28 pm
 

Red Sox look directionless in talking Bobby V

News that the Red Sox are talking with Bobby Valentine appears to mean one of two things for the flailing Bostons, who now are the only major-league team without a manager:

1. There is a total lack of direction and the Red Sox don't even know what they want anymore.

2. Ownership has seized the steering wheel from rookie general manager Ben Cherington and now is controlling the process.

Either scenario is not good, a far cry from the well-oiled machine that won the World Series in 2004 and 2007.

The first scenario is evidenced by the dramatic contrast between Valentine and the initial group of candidates they interviewed: Dale Sveum, who was named Cubs manager Friday, Sandy Alomar Jr., Gene Lamont, Pete Mackanin and Torey Lovullo. Of that group, only Lamont has prior major-league managerial experience (Mackanin was the Pirates' interim manager in 2005 and the Reds' interim pilot in 2007). All of those guys veer toward the quiet and unassuming and, to an extent, could be controlled by management. Valentine is brash, has years of experience and is his own man.

The second scenario is evidenced by the fact that Sveum veered in the Cubs' direction in short order following a lunch with Red Sox ownership on Wednesday. He was the only candidate brought back for a second interview. Clearly things did not click between Sveum and Boston's ownership. What we don't know is whether Sveum told Boston the Cubs were his first choice or whether Red Sox ownership pulled the plug on him.

Either way, it speaks volumes.

Obviously, Cherington did not think experience was a necessity when this process started. Valentine was on the shelf, available, when Terry Francona was let go. If the Red Sox were that interested in Valentine, they could have had him in place weeks ago. Why waste time first-dating all those first-timers?

Unless ... they arrived at Valentine once ownership lost confidence in Cherington.

Now there are more questions than answers:

-- Has aggressive president Larry Lucchino been turned loose by co-owners John Henry and Tom Werner to do his thing after being kept away from baseball operations during Theo Epstein's last few years in Boston?

-- By hiring Sveum, did Theo and Co. sting the Red Sox enough that Lucchino and Co. looking to one-up the Cubs with a splashy hire?

-- With his outsized personality, how much fun would Valentine be managing the Red Sox mixing with the outsized egos of ownership, the outsized coverage of the local media and the outsized noise from the New England fans?

-- How does Cherington regain his balance after his legs were cut out from under him this week and command authority going forward? Is it even possible?

At this rate, the Red Sox may take until Valentine's Day to have a manager in place. Or maybe (Bobby) Valentine's Day will come early to Boston.
Posted on: November 17, 2011 12:03 am
Edited on: November 17, 2011 2:41 pm
 

Cubs make it official: Dale Sveum is new manager

Dale Sveum is in place as the new manager of the Chicago Cubs. The club made it official Thursday and will formally introduce him at a Wrigley Field news conference on Friday.

As the Red Sox prepared for an 11th-hour expansion of their managerial search, sources said late Wednesday night that the Cubs had offered their position to Sveum. By midday Wednesday, he had agreed to a three-year contract with a club option for a fourth to replace Mike Quade in the Cubs dugout as the Red Sox regrouped.

Sveum was brought back for a second interview by both the Cubs and the Red Sox as the two venerable franchises lurched toward Thanksgiving looking to fill managerial vacancies. He met with Boston's brass in Milwaukee, site of the general managers' and owners' meetings this week, a second time over lunch on Wednesday.

While there were growing indications in recent days that Sveum preferred the Cubs' job to that of the Red Sox, Boston officials acknowledged late Wednesday night that they will expand their search. Sveum had been the only candidate invited back for a second interview by the Red Sox.

Sveum, who was Boston's third-base coach in 2004 and 2005, will re-join new Chicago president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer as the Cubs look to dig out of the mess of a 91-loss season that left them fifth in the NL Central last summer.

Sveum has been on Milwaukee's coaching staff for the past six seasons, and has served as the Brewers' hitting coach for the past three seasons, and his choice could be viewed as odd given that Milwaukee twice bypassed Sveum when its own manager's job was open.

In 2008, during one of the strangest finishes to a season for a playoff team in memory, the Brewers fired Ned Yost and replaced him on an interim basis with Sveum with just 12 games remaining.

However, instead of making Sveum their full-time manager, general manager Doug Melvin instead hired veteran baseball man Ken Macha. Then, when he fired Macha following the 2010 season, Melvin hired Ron Roenicke.

Reasons? Back in '08, the Brewers weren't sure Sveum, now 47, was ready for a managerial gig. Plus, Melvin philosophically is not a fan of hiring interim managers. The Brewers still weren't convinced that Sveum was ready after the 2010 season.

They are now.

"I think Dale's ready to manage," Melvin said Wednesday afternoon. "He's well-prepared, organized and conscientious. He's someone the players will like."

Both the Cubs and Red Sox viewed Sveum as being ready. And the Brewers have only good things to say about a man who has been loyal throughout when others may have fled the organization after being bypassed for the full-time manager's job.

"It was a very unfortunate situation at the time," Sveum said when we talked in mid-September about his brief interim gig in '08 and his reasons for staying in Milwaukee afterward. "I only managed for 12 days and then the playoffs. It wasn't like I was there for three months or something. It wasn't the norm where you think you deserve the job."

He said in September that he still wanted to manage and thought, given the right situation, he was ready to do so.

The Cubs may not be perfect, but they're the right situation. While Boston's roster is far more talented, Sveum lives in the off-season in Scottsdale, Ariz., not far from the Cubs' spring training base in Mesa. Boston trains in Florida.

Also, as a rookie manager, because the Cubs are not expected to win in 2012, Sveum will not face the same pressure he would have faced in Boston. He will have time to get his feet under him and break into the job (though Cubs fans who suffered while Mike Quade did the same in 2011 surely will not want to hear that).

During Sveum's 12-year major-league playing career, he spent time in Milwaukee (five seasons), Philadelphia, Chicago (White Sox), Oakland, Seattle, Pittsburgh and New York (Yankees). A cousin of former big leaguer John Olerud, Sveum managed Double-A Altoona in Pittsburgh's organization from 2001 through 2003 before joining the Red Sox coaching staff.
Posted on: November 13, 2011 6:09 pm
Edited on: November 13, 2011 6:50 pm
 

Matheny replaces La Russa as Cards manager

The Cardinals on Sunday named former big league catcher Mike Matheny as their new manager and will formally introduce him in a news conference on Monday morning in St. Louis.

Presumably, they've already handed Matheny a guidebook blueprint for replacing an all-time legend (Tony La Russa), taking over a World Series champion as a rookie skipper and making a managerial debut in the big leagues -- not in the minor leagues.

The truth? The only way Matheny's debut job could be any more difficult is if the club loses icon Albert Pujols via free agency.

Wait, hold that thought!

While Pujols was being wined and dined by the Miami Marlins over the weekend, the Cardinals whittled their short list of La Russa replacements to a final one.

The contrast between him and La Russa could not be more stark:

La Russa managed more games than any manager in major-league history after Connie Mack.

Matheny, 40, spent part of last season as a roving minor-league instructor for the Cardinals, and part of it in the St. Louis broadcast booth. He has never been a manager.

He has, however, managed games from behind the plate as a catcher for 13 years in Milwaukee, Toronto, St. Louis and San Francisco. He spent five years behind the plate for La Russa's Cardinals, from 2000-2004, and during that time forged a solid relationship and earned a tremendous amount of respect from La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan.

How much? As Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote earlier this month, La Russa once described Matheny "as the only big-league ballplayer he'd let one of his daughters marry." As Strauss noted then, the fact that the Cardinals would consider allowing Matheny to become their next manager might be nearly as impressive.

Matheny was said by industry sources to have been very impressive when he went through the Cardinal interview process earlier this month. That surely came as no surprise to general manager John Mozeliak and the club, given that Matheny was a clubhouse leader during his time in St. Louis whose leadership qualities were unquestioned.

That, and Matheny's familiarity with the Cardinals organization are the qualities that the club hopes make for a smooth transition. As a player, his attention to detail was evident, among many other areas, in the four Gold Gloves he won -- three of them while wearing a Cardinals uniform. He also helped mentor a young Yadier Molina, a relationship that should grow further and work as one of St. Louis' strengths in 2012.

One key for an inexperienced manager is his staff, and with Duncan expected to return, Matheny will have the game's most respected pitching coach at his right hand.

Another important hire will be Matheny's bench coach, presumably a veteran man with managerial experience. Colleague Danny Knobler is hearing that former Red Sox and Dodgers manager Grady Little is a possibility to join Matheny in St. Louis.

Matheny was chosen ahead of five other candidates: Terry Francona, who most recently managed the Red Sox; Chris Maloney, who managed St. Louis' Triple-A affiliate in Memphis last year; Ryne Sandberg, the Hall of Famer and former Cubs star who managed Philadelphia's Triple-A affiliate; Joe McEwing, who managed the White Sox Triple-A affiliate, and Jose Oquendo, the Cardinals' third-base coach.
 
 
 
 
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