October 2009

10/31 Trick or treat?

A Toronto newspaper is reporting a possible swap between the Blue Jays and Cubs in which Milton Bradley goes north and Chicago lands center fielder Vernon Wells. The Toronto Sun quotes an unidentified Cubs official saying, “It’s early on, but we think this one has some legs. But they aren’t the only team we are talking with.”

The Cubs have made it clear they want to move Bradley, and there has been interest. The outfielder batted .257 in his first season in Chicago, which ended early when he was suspended for the final 15 games of the season because of detrimental conduct. Bradley has two years remaining on his deal at $21 million. But the catch here is that Wells has six years left on his contract extension, which he signed in December 2006, and $107 million remaining. That includes an $8.5 million installment on his signing bonus due in March.

The deal simply doesn’t make much sense for the Cubs, already saddled with Alfonso Soriano’s contract, which runs through 2014. A Cubs source told the Chicago Tribune on Saturday that the Bradley-for-Wells deal had “no legs.”

Expect a flurry of Bradley rumors this offseason. If we’re talking about swapping one bad contract for another, the Cubs may want to consider Gary Matthews Jr., who wants out of Anaheim. He signed a five-year, $50 million contract in 2007. That year, he batted .252 in 516 at-bats. This season, Sarge Jr. hit .250 in 316 at-bats.

The only thing certain is the Cubs plan on moving Bradley, despite hiring his former hitting coach, Rudy Jaramillo.

— Carrie Muskat


10/31 AFL & winter ball update

Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija threw six shutout innings in Mexicali’s 8-1 win over Hermosillo in Mexican League action Friday night. Samardzija struck out seven and walked one, giving up four hits. His ERA now is 2.25.

In Arizona Fall League action, the Mesa Solar Sox played to a 5-5, 11 inning tie against Scottsdale. Starlin Castro did not start, but entered as a defensive sub in the 11th at second base. The infielder is leading the AFL with a .419 batting average. Cubs prospect Blake Parker threw two scoreless innings, walking three. Mesa plays host to Phoenix on Saturday at HoHoKam Park.

In Venezuela, J.R. Mathes served up three home runs over 4 2/3 innings in Caracas’ 7-2 loss to Aragua. Mathes gave up seven runs (six earned) on eight hits and three walks.

Andres Blanco went 4-for-5 with one RBI in Magallanes’ 13-5 win. Robinson Chirinos also drove in two runs and hit a double.

— Carrie Muskat

10/30 AFL & winter ball update

John Gaub blew a save, serving up two runs on two hits in one inning of relief as the Mesa Solar Sox lost 3-2 to the Peoria Javelinas on Thursday in Arizona Fall League action. Gaub entered the game with a 2-1 lead. Starlin Castro started at second base, and went 1-for-3, and third baseman Josh Vitters was 1-for-4. The Solar Sox play at Scottsdale Friday night.

In Mexico, Brad Snyder had two hits, including a two-run homer and a double, and drove in three runs to power Mexicali to a 6-4 win over Culiacan. Brian Schlitter picked up his fourth save.

— Carrie Muskat

10/30 News & notes from Ricketts session

Tom Ricketts and his family were formally introduced Friday in a news conference at Wrigley Field that was spoiled only by the rain. The Ricketts family paid $845 million to purchase the Cubs, Wrigley Field and a 25 percent share in Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

Some highlights of the news conference:

* Tom Ricketts will be chairman of the board with his sister Laura and brothers Pete and Todd on the board of directors. Crane Kenney, who was Cubs chairman, now is team president.

* Tom Ricketts said there could be a “slight” increase in team payroll, and suggested there may be “slight” increase in ticket prices.

* Fans can expect changes to the concourse, restrooms and concessions to improve the experience at Wrigley Field. There has been no talk about PSLs (personal seat licenses) or selling the naming rights of the ballpark.

* They are exploring options for Spring Training, and emphasized that they want to have “world class facilities” for the Cubs. The cities of Mesa, Ariz., and Naples, Fla., are competing for the team. “We’re going to get the best facilities,” Tom Ricketts said.

* They want Lou Piniella to remain as Cubs manager. “I haven’t spent a lot of time with Lou personally,” Ricketts said. “We strongly believe he’s one of the best managers in baseball and he’s the right guy to take us to the next level in 2010.”

* They will explore developing the Triangle building on Clark Street, just west of the ballpark, with the hope of upgrading the facilities.

* The Ricketts family’s goal is to win a World Series.

“I’ll be honest, I think we have a team that can do it next year,” Tom Ricketts said. “I’m not going to promise anything; I don’t think that does us any good. The fact is, we have the talent and this team next season can go all the way to finish line. The key is, every season, to be able to stand up in complete honesty and say, ‘We believe we have enough talent to get it done.’ To do that, and be sincere about it and consistent with it, you’re going to get it done.”

— Carrie Muskat


10/30 Welcome Ricketts family


 The marquee at Wrigley Field says, “Welcome” to the Ricketts family, who were introduced at a news conference Friday. The only thing that ruined the day was the rain, and that didn’t dampen their enthusiasm.

— Carrie Muskat

10/29 AFL & winter ball update

Josh Vitters hit a RBI single in a five-run first inning to back Andrew Cashner and lead the Mesa Solar Sox to a 12-5 win over Scottsdale on Wednesday in the Arizona Fall League. Vitters, the Cubs’ No. 1 Draft pick in 2007, and Starlin Castro each had two hits and one RBIs. Cashner, the Cubs’ top pick in ’08, did not give up a run over four innings, striking out four and walking two.

In Venezuela, Robinson Chirinos had three hits including a three-run homer, to help Magallanes beat Caracas, 6-3, on Wednesday. Former Cubs pitcher Sean Gallagher, now with San Diego, picked up the win, pitching five innings.

— Carrie Muskat  

10/28 Zell bids goodbye to Cubs

The Ricketts family will be introduced on Friday at Wrigley Field as the new owners of the Cubs. They purchased the team, Wrigley Field and a 25 percent share in Comcast SportsNet Chicago from Tribune Co. and Sam Zell for $845 million.

In an interview with Bloomberg Television, Zell was asked whether buying the Tribune Co. was the worst business decision he had ever made.

“It’s certainly the most amount of money I’ve ever lost in a single deal,” Zell said.

As for the Cubs, Zell apparently was unaware of Tuesday’s closing date. He did say he was happy for the Ricketts family.

“I think the team should be owned by somebody who is local, somebody who is really passionate about baseball,” Zell said. “I happen to be local. I’m not passionate about baseball, so I wish them all the best of luck. And maybe we’ll break the 101-year curse.”

— Carrie Muskat

10/28 AFL & winter ball update

Cubs prospect Robinson Chirinos drove in four runs, scored two, and finished a triple short of the cycle in Magallanes’ 11-7 win over Aragua in Venezuela Tuesday night. Chirinos was batting .455 in 10 games. Andres Blanco added a three-run homer for the Navegantes.

In the Arizona Fall League on Tuesday, Blake Parker was the losing pitcher in Mesa’s 6-5 loss to the Peoria Saguaros. Zack Cozart doubled and scored on a sacrifice fly off Parker in the ninth for the walkoff win.

— Carrie Muskat

10/27 AFL update

Starlin Castro had two hits and Josh Vitters had a double in the Mesa Solar Sox’s 9-5 loss to Phoenix on Monday. Rays prospect Nevin Ashley hit a grand slam in the ninth to give Phoenix the win. Cubs pitching prospect John Gaub threw a scoreless eighth in relief.

— Carrie Muskat

10/26 Winter ball update

Jeff Samardzija gave up four runs, five hits, and four walks over five innings in Mexicali’s 9-4 win over Navojoa on Sunday. Samardzija struck out three, and left with the game tied at 3. He did not get a decision. Brad Snyder hit a two-run single in the first and a RBI single in the eighth. Mexicali rallied with five runs in the eighth for the win. Samardzija was expected to make two more starts in the Mexican League.

In the Arizona Fall League, the Mesa Solar Sox play Phoenix on Monday. The AFL was off on Sunday.

— Carrie Muskat