A few details and updates on players of interest - or rumored interest - to the Cubs from this morning's Sun-Times, based on dozens of conversations in recent days with agents, Cubs officials and other major league sources:
-- Unless the landscape dramatically changes, forget free agent outfielders ADAM DUNN, BOBBY ABREU and Padres outfielder BRIAN GILES. In Giles case, not only has he been adamant about having no desire to waive his no-trade clause, but the Cubs and Padres did not so much as discuss him during all those Peavy-to-the-Cubs talks in recent weeks. That's according to sources on both sides. Dunn and Abreu, for now at least, are too expensive for the Cubs' limitations, and in Dunn's case, the Cubs love the person and the bat but cringe at the thought of an outfield with Soriano and Dunn at the corners - not the mention the possibility of that same outfield including the platoon center fielder Kosuke Fukudome at a second-best position. The Cubs have not contacted the agents for either player.
-- MARK TEAHEN? Don't believe everything you read. The Cubs included him as one tree in a vast forest of names they threw out very early in the off-season and have not pursued anything on this front. A very general discussion in passing, weeks ago, between officials from each club included a question about the Royals' intentions with a handful of their players, including Teahen and DAVID DEJESUS. That's it. Nothing since, and it would take a series of off-season dominoes falling the wrong way for the Cubs for them to get aggressive about a guy who is neither the middle-of-the-order bat or the top-of-the-order bat they seek.
-- Leadoff man RAFAEL FURCAL, the Dodgers' free agent the Cubs nearly acquired the last time he was a free agent, is a guy the Cubs like again, if they can make him fit into their payroll plans. His agent, Paul Kinzer, is in town this week on unrelated business and had no meetings scheduled with the Cubs, which obviously could change by the time he leaves town several days from now. Meantime, Kinzer said about a half-dozen teams have inquired about Furcal, including the Cubs, although he said ``nothing serious'' has been discussed with GM Jim Hendry, whom Kinzer chats with on various topics on a regular basis. The Cubs will probably have to act quickly to be a serious player for Furcal if Kinzer's not exaggerating about two or three teams already being serious (with one reported offer of three years, $39 million out there). ``It's starting to pick up,'' he said.
-- Leadoff men? Yes, BRIAN ROBERTS might be out there again. And, yes, the Cubs would salivate at the chance to nab him for the final year of his contract if they haven't already finished their winter shopping by then. But the Orioles want to try to sign Roberts to a contract extension, with the intention of trading him if he doesn't agree. And the feeling in Baltimore is Roberts is waiting out some of the early moves by notoriously deliberate GM Andy MacPhail this winter to gauge the team's direction before deciding to re-up. After last year's never-ending Roberts saga, the Cubs already have decided they won't go through that again. So if Roberts becomes available, one of three possibilities figure to be at play (and two don't get it done): 1, It's so late in the process that the Cubs will already have that need filled and little room to work with the make it happen; 2, It's early enough in the process that the Cubs and O's negotiate - but with the Cubs requiring a quicker time frame on the talks than is comfortable for MacPhail; or 3, It's late in the process, and the Cubs still haven't filled that spot, making for fertile territory to explore. In any case, a long shot as it stands today.
-- RAUL IBANEZ has been contacted by the Cubs and would probably be the ideal fit if they can make his salary demands work. A couple of years for $7-9 million each would be a nice fit, but Ibanez is said to be seeking three years and $30 million or more, so Hendry might have to get creative on this front. Newsday of New York is reporting that the Mets, Phillies and Dodgers also are pursuing Ibanez - although the Phillies and Mets, at least, would seem to have less motivation here than the Cubs.
The bottom line, in the immediate wake of the Dempster signing, according to multiple insiders, is that the Cubs are only now turning their full attention and energies to the many potential ways they can address their left-handed hitting needs.
As of this morning, their target list was fluid and filled with variables and contingencies with no clear-cut priority order. I.e., if they can trade for Player A, does that leave enough stock to trade for Player B if he becomes available? Or enough money for Free Agent C? Would a fallback combination of Player D and E fit the short-term payroll better while providing enough options to still improve the lineup?.
Or, for example, can the Cubs move Jason Marquis by picking up a portion of his salary ($9.875 for 2009) to free up more payroll to acquire a free agent they covet? Would they have to shed the one before adding the other? Are there other multi-player - or even multi-team - possibilities that could send enough contract each way to get the Cubs what they want without giving up other essentials?
Almost anything is in play as the historically aggressive Hendry approaches the winter meetings Dec. 8-11 in Las Vegas.
Talk about loose slots.