NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Landing a third baseman in an increasingly scarce market is looking even tougher for the Cubs than expected.
But they assured they won't leave the winter meetings Thursday empty-handed by agreeing to terms Wednesday on a one-year, $2.25 million deal with free agent right fielder Nate Shierholtz.
Schierholtz, 28, is a strong defensive outfielder with a .270 career average, who has yet to start a full season in six big-league seasons.
The deal, which awaits a physical before becoming final, would shift David DeJesus to center, where he played much of last year after opening the season in right. Schierholtz, who made $1.3 million for the San Francisco Giants and Philadelphia Phillies last season, was non-tendered by the Phillies.
Cubs officials would not comment on the subject Wednesday night, but a source said the team may not be done seeking outfield depth.
Meanwhile, the Cubs' modest wish list to fill a gaping third base hole is disappearing fast with targeted free agents Jeff Keppinger (White Sox) and Eric Chavez (Diamondbacks) signing with other teams Wednesday, the same day another target, Yunel Escobar was traded by the Marlins to the Rays.
``Obviously, we were part of some of the negotiations that ended [Wednesday],'' general manager Jed Hoyer said. ``We have a lot of irons in the fire when it comes to third base, and we're confident we'll land someone that we feel good about. But it's certainly a position of scarcity, no question.''
Top free agent third baseman Kevin Youkilis is beyond the Cubs' willing reach. And as of late Wednesday, his agent had not so much as met with the team. Swing-and-miss specialist Mark Reynolds is a poor fit; ex-Cub Casey McGehee has not been approached; and despite several reports of interest in Yuniesky Betancourt, a source insists he's nowhere near the team's radar. Even non-tendered Cub Ian Stewart is fielding enough offers from other teams to look like a long shot.
Non-tendered Cleveland third baseman Jack Hannahan, 32, appears to be the best bet left on the board.
OTHER CUBS MEETINGS BUZZ:
NO DEMPSTER NEGOTIATIONS -- A report Wednesday that the Cubs and pitcher Ryan Dempster talked this week about terms of a possible reunion grossly misrepresented the nature of those talks, according to a source with knowledge of what amounted to a courtesy meeting.
THREE MORE MONTHS FOR MARMOL? -- The Cubs Tuesday night assured Carlos Marmol he'll be the closer when the season opens but have prepared him for the likelihood he'll be asked again to waive his limited no-trade rights for a trading-deadline deal next summer. That's when they project sliding Kyuji Fujikawa into the role. The signing of the Japanese closer to a two-year, $9.5 million deal is expected to finally be officially announced Thursday.
RULE 5 MADE TO BE BROKEN -- The Cubs, who pick second in Thursday's Rule 5 draft, planned to discuss late Wednesday night whether to use the position in a draft-and-trade deal. They've been approached by multiple teams about doing that. If the Cubs decide to use the pick to acquire pitching, one possibility is Class A right-hander Miguel Celestino, 23, from the Red Sox organization.
CUBS QUOTE OF THE DAY: Jed Hoyer, roughly 24 hours after revelations that manager Dale Sveum had been shot by Robin Yount during an off-season hunting accident: "If things we did here don't lead to progress down the road, it wasn't productive. But I don't think you have to walk out of here with deer antlers or anything.''