Agent Scott Boras, who represents Prince Fielder, downplayed what has seemed like a slow market for the 27-year-old slugger. Boras says teams with new GMs want to be thorough in what they do.
“When you’re talking about franchise commitments, they have to report to ownership as result of our meetings and get back with me on that,” Boras said late Wednesday at the Winter Meetings. “This is a negotiation that is really one of its own because he’s 27 years old. He has a different place in the market, and the demands on his services are broader because you have teams that are not as playoff-ready that are interested [and] you have clubs that are veteran that are interested. You have a whole variety of teams that are involved.”
The Brewers are still part of the process, Boras said, which means Cubs fans may not have seen the last of the first baseman.
“He’s had great success there, he enjoys his teammates, so certainly it’s a consideration,” Boras said.
What about the Cubs? New manager Dale Sveum was Fielder’s hitting coach in Milwaukee and has raved about the first baseman. The Cubs need a first baseman. Have they shown interest? Boras said to “ask the Cubs.”
“I think any team that wants to get better” will inquire on Fielder, Boras said. “Whether they’re a younger team or a veteran team or a team that wants to win now, there are not many teams not in need of a core player like this. There’s a few that aren’t, obviously, but most are certainly going to want to look into the situation.”
The Cubs are in more of a retooling mode right now under Theo Epstein & Co. Fielder has told Boras he’ll consider everything.
“Those are things that Prince and I need to talk about. He asked me to take an open view here and collect information from every club,” Boras said. “I didn’t meet with too many teams that said they thought they were three years away. That’s not something you hear too often.”
Any geographic preference?
“I just think he likes fences that are close to home plate,” Boras said. “That’s the geographics he likes.”
That would put Wrigley Field in the mix.
Boras also represents Carlos Pena, now on the market after declining the Cubs’ offer of arbitration.
“We’ve got interest on him, and I think that interest will increase as the other first basemen sign,” Boras said. “He certainly is a guy who is in the upper tier because he has power and he is such a good defender and held up by the teams to be good for his leadership and a good locker room guy.”
— Carrie Muskat
The agent for Aramis Ramirez told the Cubs Wednesday that the third baseman was declining the Cubs’ offer of arbitration. The deadline for players to decide whether to accept was 11 p.m. CT Wednesday. Both Ramirez and Carlos Pena were Type B free agents, and if they sign with other teams, as expected, the Cubs will receive a compensatory Draft pick between the first and second rounds. Pena already has told the Cubs he will decline the offer.
Ramirez may not go too far from Chicago. He is considering the Brewers as well as the Angels. There also is a third team, but Milwaukee’s advantage is that he could stay in the NL Central. Ramirez, who has met with both Brewers manager Ron Roenicke and Angels manager Mike Scioscia, has made it clear he wants to play for a contender. Ramirez, 33, won his first Silver Slugger award this season, batting .306 with 26 homers and 93 RBIs, and is considered the top free agent third baseman available.
— Carrie Muskat
Carlos Pena will not accept arbitration, according to a report Wednesday. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman said Pena will be going back on the market. In his one season in Chicago, Pena batted .225 with 28 homers and 80 RBIs. The deadline for players is 11 p.m. CT Wednesday. The Cubs also offered arbitration to Aramis Ramirez. If Pena and Ramirez sign with other teams, which was expected, the Cubs will receive a compensatory Draft pick between the first and second rounds.
Pena’s decision is not a surprise. Theo Epstein mentioned Pena was looking for a multi-year contract.
The Cubs did not offer arbitration to Kerry Wood, another Type B free agent, but they were expected to try to re-sign the reliever. Wood has had conversations with Epstein re: coming back.
The Brewers are reportedly interested in Ramirez, 33, who won his first Silver Slugger award this season, batting .306 with 26 homers and 93 RBIs, and is considered the top free agent third baseman available. Ramirez’s agent Paul Kinzer has said his client is looking for a multi-year contract.
The Cubs did not offer arbitration to four other unranked free agents for whom no compensation applies, according to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. That group includes John Grabow, Reed Johnson, Ramon Ortiz and Rodrigo Lopez.
— Carrie Muskat
Free agency begins tonight. Major League Baseball and the Players Association agreed to a 24-hour delay to the start of free agency, and will officially begin at 11:01 p.m. CT Saturday. All team/player/mutual option decisions are due by 10:59 p.m. CT Monday. That means Aramis Ramirez and Ryan Dempster must decide by then whether they want to remain with the Cubs. Free agents will be able to sign contracts with new teams starting at 11:01 p.m. CT Wednesday.
Free agents: Carlos Pena, John Grabow, Kerry Wood, Rodrigo Lopez, Ramon Ortiz and Reed Johnson.
Options: Aramis Ramirez, $16 million mutual option ($2 million buyout); Ryan Dempster, $14 million player option
Arbitration eligible players: Randy Wells, Blake DeWitt, Geovany Soto, Matt Garza, Jeff Baker, Koyie Hill.
— Carrie Muskat
Matt Garza, who is making his last start of the season Tuesday, has the seventh-best ERA in all of baseball since the All-Star break at 2.44. The Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw is tops with a 1.31 ERA.
* Garza is 9-10 in 30 starts this season despite a 3.35 ERA. He’s one of four pitchers in the NL’s Top 14 in ERA with as few as nine wins this season, joining the Nationals’ Jordan Zimmermann (eight wins, 3.18 ERA) and the Mets’ R.A. Dickey (eight wins, 3.28 ERA).
* Garza endured an eight-start stretch from July 2-Aug. 9 during which he was supported with run tallies of 0, 0, 2, 2, 3, 1, 1, 0, going 1-3 with a 3.38 ERA in those games. This year, he has left seven starts with a lead and not factored in the decision, plus a complete-game, 1-0 setback July 2 vs. the White Sox.
* Carlos Peña drew his 100th walk of the year Monday. It’s the 12th such campaign by a Cubs player in the 136-season history of the franchise. Peña is only the 10th different Cub to ever reach the mark, the first since Sammy Sosa did so in 2002 (103) and 2001 (116). In the last 80 years, only four Cubs have reached 100 walks in a season: Peña, Sosa, Gary Matthews (103 in 1984) and Richie Ashburn (116 in 1960). Pena’s career high in walks is 103 in 2007. However, Pena also has struck out 160 times this season. His career high is 166 Ks in ’08.
* In the season finale Wednesday, Ryan Dempster (10-13, 4.53 ERA) will face lefty Wade LeBlanc (4-6, 4.83 ERA). Dempster is 8-4 with a 3.73 ERA in 21 games (12 starts) against the Padres. The Cubs are batting .264 vs. lefties, .254 vs. right-handers this season. Dempster is 0-3 with a 3.34 ERA in five starts in September. He has not won since Aug. 11.
* Sean Marshall has 33 holds, the most by a Cubs pitcher since Carlos Marmol totaled 30 in 2008.
— Carrie Muskat
It’s Kids Day for the Cubs as Mike Quade starts young players, although he’s keeping Carlos Pena in the mix. Pena has a chance at 30 homers this season, and with a lefty in the season finale, Monday and Tuesday may be his best chances. Starlin Castro is batting third — a preview of things to come? Steve Clevenger will be making his Major League debut, catching Casey Coleman. Here’s the lineup:
— Carrie Muskat
Albert Pujols is usually the one in Cardinals’ red launching balls out of the ballpark, but he went 0-for-4 in what could be his last home game for the team. The crowd of 41,469 saluted the free agent to be in each at-bat with a standing ovation. Cubs starter Randy Wells stepped off the mound in the first to let the fans acknowledge Pujols, then got him to line out to second base, igniting a double play.
“I respect Albert, I think everybody respects Albert,” Wells said. “It’s a nice moment for him. To be honest, I thought he was getting his regular cheers [in the first]. When I saw he was tipping his hat, I’m not going to say, ‘Let’s go.’ This is his town and he definitely deserves it.”
“It’s a tribute to a great player,” Mike Quade said. “No matter what city you’re in, people appreciate quality. I’m just glad he didn’t do damage today. Wells handled him well.”
Carlos Pena said he got goosebumps when the crowd rose to salute Pujols.
“That was a special moment for baseball,” Pena said. “You’re talking about arguably the best hitter who has ever existed. Not only has he done that on the field but he has also been an unbelievable citizen here in the city of St. Louis. He’s been a great guy in the community. You can’t ask anything more from him.”
Pena drew two walks and had a chance to chat with Pujols at first. Did he ask the Cardinals slugger what’s next?
“No,” Pena said. “That’s the question of the ages. I wish him the best. He deserves the best. The fans don’t want him to leave. It is truly a pleasure to watch him play, hit and try to beat him. Every chance you get, you try to neutralize him. What a fierce competitor, but most importantly a well-respected professional and hands down, one of the best guys in baseball.”
The multi-million dollar question now is whether Pujols will stay in St. Louis or leave. There have been rumors circulating about him possibly switching sides and going to the Cubs.
Said Pena: “I see him in a St. Louis uniform.”
— Carrie Muskat
Heading into the series finale against the Cardinals, here are some pre-game Cubs notes and tidbits:
* Aramis Ramirez may not play until Tuesday, and there’s a possibility he may be done for the season. He did some exercises in the field on Sunday to test his strained right quad.
“I think it’s solely up to him and if he feels he can help us or not,” Mike Quade said Sunday. “We’ll let him determine how he feels physically.”
* Starlin Castro leads the National League with 202 hits, 12 more than the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp. Castro could become the youngest player (and first 21-year-old) to lead the NL in hits. He will be 21 years 188 days when the season ends. Before this season, the youngest NL hits champ was the Cubs’ Charlie Hollocher in 1918, who with 161 hits was 22 years 83 days at the end of the season. Thanks to Elias and Ed Hartig for the info.
Castro would be the third Cub in the last seven seasons to win the NL hits crown, joining Juan Pierre in 2006 and Derrek Lee in 2005. However, he would only by the fifth Cub in the last 70 seasons to win the hits title, joining Pierre, Lee, Billy Williams (1970) and Phil Cavarretta (1944).
Castro would be the 15th Cub to lead the NL in hits (dating to 1876), the most different players to lead the league for any NL franchise. It would be the 16th overall hits title for a Cub, tied with the Phillies for second-most in the NL and trailing only the Cardinals (20).
* Castro has reached base safely in a career-high 36-straight games. That breaks the 82-year-old club mark for a shortstop. Woody English had owned the mark by reaching base safely in 34-straight games streak in 1929. He’s hit safely in 45 of his last 50 games since July 31 (70-for-217/.323). The last Cubs player to have a longer streak was Jerome Walton, who had a 43-game streak in 1989.
* Jeff Samardzija has eight relief wins this year, the most in a single-season by a Cubs reliever in 25 years when Lee Smith won nine games in 1986.
* Alfonso Soriano has recorded his 10th-straight season with 20 homers and his eighth overall campaign with 25 blasts, his first since 2008. He has 85 RBIs this year, his most since 2006 with Washington (95). Soriano has 24 RBIs starting Aug. 27, tied for the most in the Majors by any player in that span.
* Carlos Peña has 97 walks, third-most in the NL. That sets a modern day record (since 1900) for most walks in a season by a Cubs first baseman. Mark Grace had 95 walks in 2000. Since 2001, only Sammy Sosa has drawn more walks in a Cubs campaign than Peña. Sosa had 116 free passes in 2001 and 103 in 2002.
Peña enters the day with a .229 batting average. Only one player has ever recorded at least 97 walks and a batting average of .229 or less: Ken Harrelson in 1969 with Cleveland and Boston (99 walks, .221 batting average).
* Carlos Marmol will be happy to say goodbye to Busch Stadium and the Cardinals. He has a 5.79 ERA against St. Louis this year, with two saves in four opportunities. He is 0-1 with a 8.53 ERA in six games at Busch, and 1-for-3 in save opportunities. Against the NL Central, he has a 5.72 ERA.
* Thinking out loud: Interesting that Ramirez says he wants to play for a contender. At the Trading Deadline this year, didn’t he say he would not waive his no trade clause when contending teams were inquiring?
— Carrie Muskat
Carlos Pena drew two walks Friday, and now has 96 for the season, a modern day record for Cubs’ first basemen. The old mark was 95, set by Mark Grace in 2000. Since 2001, only Sammy Sosa has more walks in a single-season for the cubs. He drew 116 walks in 2001 and 103 in 2002.
— Carrie Muskat
Marlon Byrd got Saturday off and Mike Quade said he’s “99 percent sure” he’ll give Aramis Ramirez Sunday off. But Quade is keeping the veterans in the lineup as the season winds down.
“I’m mixing and matching,” Quade said Saturday. “They deserve an opportunity — they don’t deserve to be shelved. I don’t think we’ll be successful in a lot of areas if I shelve all thoseguys.”
DJ LeMahieu will likely start at third if Ramirez sits. Carlos Pena is getting at-bats as he aims for 30 homers. He’s reached that figure in three of the last four years, missing last season with the Rays when he hit 28.
“You got a guy driving toward 30 home runs who has been a huge part of this ballclub both on the field and off the field — we need him in the lineup to win ballgames and he’s been a big part of that this year,” Quade said of Pena.
The first baseman is hitting .278 with 14 doubles, two triples and eight homers i his last 39 games since Aug. 3.
Said Pena: “It’s kind of cool that he’s looking out for me. I respect that — that’s awesome.”
— Carrie Muskat