It's a serious long shot from happening, but the Cubs on Thursday acknowledged they've had one low-level, informal discussion with longtime former Cub pitcher Ryan Dempster about a return to the team as a free agent - barely three months after a messy trade-deadline saga eventually ended with him being traded to the Texas Rangers on July 31.
Dempster, 35, doesn't fit any of the Cubs' requirements for an ideal free agent other than the fact he's a positive, known commodity in the clubhouse and pitched well this season.
If he can't be signed on a short-term deal at a steep discount from this year's $14 million salary, he doesn't fit at all - leaving the already unlikely scenario a non-starter if his value in a thin free agent market rises quickly this month.
But if it happened, it wouldn't be the first time a longtime Cub gave the team a hometown discount to stay (read: Dempster's pal Kerry Wood).
General manager Jed Hoyer said the club has had a preliminary conversation with the former All-Star but downplayed the level of interest for either side at this point.
``Obviously there's mutual respect there,'' Hoyer conceded, adding that the difficult process in July of working with Dempster on waiving his no-trade rights left ``no hard feelings at all, and that wouldn't preclude us from bringing him back at all.''
--Top prospect Javier Baez had his Arizona Fall League season cut short because of a non-displaced fracture on the tip of his right thumb, apparently suffered during an on-field celebration move. Hoyer said there are no long-term concerns.
-- Arbitration-eligible pitcher Matt Garza - the most tenured starter remaining - is scheduled for another scan on his elbow later this month, ahead of an anticipated throwing program. Garza has been shut down since late July after being diagnosed with a ``stress reaction'' in a bone near his elbow. Club officials say this month's scan has long been on the schedule, and they remain optimistic Garza will be at full strength when spring training starts.
--The Cubs announced Feb. 9 as reporting date for pitchers and catchers (earlier than usual because of the World Baseball Classic).
--The Cubs announced the hiring of former Toronto Blue Jays minor league hitting coordinator Anthony Iopace as a special assistant to the GM for player development.