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The Cubs and Russell Martin

One day after signing free agent manager Joe Maddon, the Cubs are checking the list of free agent players and are reportedly looking at Russell Martin. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman said Tuesday the Cubs are going to target Martin, considered the top catcher available this offseason. Sources also told Comcast SportsNet Chicago’s Patrick Mooney that the Cubs have Martin on their radar.

The Pirates extended the $15.3 million qualifying offer to Martin, but he was expected to turn that down. The Pirates want to bring Martin back, and are one of several teams interested in the catcher. The list also is believed to include the Blue Jays and Red Sox. Martin will most likely be looking for a five-year deal, especially after catchers Brian McCann, Yadier Molina and Miguel Montero each signed contracts of that length. McCann received $85 million, Molina $75 million and Montero $60 million.

Other players who received the one-year, $15.3 million qualifying offer on Monday include Max Scherzer, Victor Martinez, Melky Cabrera, Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, Nelson Cruz, Francisco Liriano, Michael Cuddyer and Ervin Santana. The players have until Nov. 10 to make a decision.

The Cubs would not have to give up a first-round Draft pick to sign Martin because of the team’s finish in the bottom 10 among Major League teams but instead it would cost a second-round pick. They also would have the amount slotted for that pick subtracted from the total amount of their Draft signing bonus pool, which governs how much a team can spend to sign picks in the top 10 rounds.

Martin’s slash line last season with the Pirates was .290/.402/.430, and he hit 11 home runs and drove in 67. He did miss time early in the season because of a left hamstring injury.

The Cubs had hoped Welington Castillo could pick up where he left off in the second half of 2013 when he hit .288 but instead batted .237 in 110 games. Castillo did set career-highs in home runs (13) and RBIs (46), but also was sidelined with a rib cage injury.

<em>– Carrie Muskat</em>

Teams looking for dance partner

Cubs GM Jed Hoyer has had plenty of conversations with other teams prior to Thursday’s Trade Deadline but said they may not make another deal.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if we made no moves,” Hoyer said Tuesday. “I expect to be active, we’re having a lot of conversations. It’s still early. [Wednesday] is sort of moving day. I expect things will get more serious as we move into tomorrow. People have some reluctance on the last day.

“[Wednesday] evening is when a lot of people hone in on the deals they want to make,” he said.

The Cubs made their blockbuster move on July 4, trading starting pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Athletics for four players, including highly touted shortstop Addison Russell and outfielder Billy McKinney.

Other teams are still trying to find the right match.

“People try to find a dance partner on the 30th and 31st,” Hoyer said. “As you get to [Wednesday] evening, people want to make deals and they’re more willing to pair up, and I expect that to be the same thing.”

There has been some interest in the Cubs’ left-handed relievers, James Russell and Wesley Wright.

– Carrie Muskat

Cubs checking list of who to keep, deal

On Friday, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported on Twitter that the Cubs may hang onto Justin Ruggiano and Luis Valbuena at the Trade Deadline even though both have drawn interest and could help a contending club. On Wednesday, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein told Chicago media that they are evaluating the current roster and trying to decide who to keep. What they want to determine is which players now will help the next generation make the transition.

“There’s value to keeping players who have roles here for the sake of continuity and leadership and performance on the field,” Epstein said at Wrigley Field. “We’re not in any rush to make trades for the sake of making trades.”

– Carrie Muskat

Epstein: No rush to make moves

The Trade Deadline is approaching, but Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein says he is not frantically trying to make changes to the roster.

“We’re not in a rush to make moves,” Epstein said Wednesday.

The Cubs made their splash on July 4 when they dealt Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the A’s. Epstein said they are evaluating the current roster to determine who they’d like to keep, who can help the team going forward, and what they can do on the field with the next generation coming up.

“There’s value to keeping players who have roles here for the sake of continuity and leadership and performance on the field,” Epstein said. “We’re not in any rush to make trades for the sake of making trades.”

– Carrie Muskat

7/22 Cubs GM expects more calls

The Cubs have already dealt two-fifths of their rotation, and on Tuesday, designated second baseman Darwin Barney for assignment. GM Jed Hoyer expects more movement before the Trade Deadline.

“We’ve gotten a lot of calls on guys,” Hoyer said Tuesday. “Call traffic, if you will, picks up over the next week or so. I expect we’ll be on the phone a lot. Not sure if we’ll make any moves but we’ll be active looking to better the team.”

The Cubs have gotten interest from teams in some of their relievers, including lefties James Russell and Wesley Wright and right-hander Carlos Villanueva.

They aren’t afraid to make moves. One year ago on July 22, the Cubs traded Matt Garza to the Rangers for Mike Olt, Justin Grimm, Neil Ramirez, and C.J. Edwards. Olt, Grimm and Ramirez are currently on the big league roster. Edwards is a top pitching prospect.

– Carrie Muskat

Cubs not ready to pay for Price

At the All-Star Game, Tampa’s David Price said Chicago “would be the coolest city to win a championship in right now.” Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer feel the same way, which is what enticed them to join the Cubs.

On Monday, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal wrote that the Cubs should pursue Price and deal some of the team’s top prospects for the pitcher. The Cubs do need starting pitching, but they are not contenders this year, and most likely not in 2015 either. How does Hoyer feel about the rumors?

“I don’t really pay attention,” Hoyer said Monday in a radio interview on The Game 87.7. “There are going to be a lot of rumors about our players and our acquiring good players because of the good talent we have in the Minors. I think we’ll be lumped into the rumors. We just sort of ignore them.”

The Cubs got a jump on the market by dealing Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel on July 4 to the Athletics for a package of prospects, including talented shortstop Addison Russell, who hit two home runs Sunday, including a grand slam, and finished with six RBIs at Double-A Tennessee.

The Cubs do have depth at middle infield in the Minor League system. But there also are no guarantees as to how the prospects will develop, and when they’ll be ready. Hoyer would not comment directly on the Price talk; it’s the Cubs’ policy not to discuss other teams’ players.

– Carrie Muskat

Starlin Castro rumors

The Cubs have plenty of depth as far as middle infielders go, and fans often ask what the team is going to do with all of them. According to FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi, other teams are inquiring as well. Morosi said the Cubs’ Starlin Castro has drawn some trade interest. But Morosi says sources tell him the Cubs do not plan on moving the shortstop before the Trade Deadline. Castro is in the second year of a seven-year, $60 million contract with the Cubs. Javier Baez did move from shortstop to second base on Thursday for Triple-A Iowa, and was expected to play there a little more regularly, according to manager Marty Pevey. The Cubs also have talented infielder Arismendy Alcantara, and acquired shortstop Addison Russell in the trade with the Athletics. As of today, Castro is the starting shortstop.

“The nice thing about having impact players who are athletic and can play in the middle of the field and can hit is that you have options,” Theo Epstein said when the Cubs acquired Russell. “You can never have too many shortstops. If you look around baseball, you see some of the best outfielders in the game came up as shortstops, some of the best third basemen in the game came up as shortstops, some of the best second basemen in the game came up as shortstops. Heck, some of the best first basemen in the game came up as shortstops.”

– Carrie Muskat

7/8 A’s wanted Cubs’ Valbuena, too

According to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the Athletics tried to get the Cubs to include Luis Valbuena in the deal that eventually netted Oakland both Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. The A’s wanted Valbuena as a potential upgrade at second base. But Rosenthal says the Cubs are reluctant to trade him because he’s controlled through 2016. Valbuena is earning $1.7 million this season.

Valbuena has a slash line of .256/.339/.420, and has hit five home runs with 22 RBIs. He’s started 44 games at third, 17 at second.

– Carrie Muskat

1/16 Cubs and Tanaka

Could Masahiro Tanaka pick the Cubs? According to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the Cubs are “pushing hard” for the Japanese pitcher. Rosenthal also reports the Angels, Yankees and Dodgers are involved with the right-hander. The White Sox have confirmed that they met with Tanaka and his agent in Los Angeles. Tanaka, 25, was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in 212 innings last season for the Rakuten Golden Eagles, who posted the right-hander for a $20 million fee. The bidding for Tanaka will end at 4 p.m. CT on Jan. 24.

– Carrie Muskat

12/11 Cubs and Samardzija

Jeff Samardzija’s agent was expected to meet Wednesday with Theo Epstein, Cubs president of baseball operations, at the Winter Meetings. It’s more a chance for the two to touch base. The Cubs would like to extend Samardzija, but he will be a free agent after the 2015 season and is most likely to politely reject their offer. The right-hander has been the subject of trade rumors, and if the Cubs do not deal him now, they could move Samardzija at the Trade Deadline in July.

The three-way trade between the Angels, the Diamondbacks and the White Sox may have had an impact on what the Cubs do with Samardzija. The Cubs were believed to be looking at lefty Tyler Skaggs as part of the package for the right-hander, but Skaggs was sent to the Angels.

One team that could be in the market for Samardzija is Toronto. The Blue Jays have gotten inquiries on right-handed pitchers Marcus Stroman, 22, and Aaron Sanchez, 21, and also are trying to move Colby Rasmus, 27, a left-handed hitting outfielder. Rasums batted .276 in 118 games with the Blue Jays last season, hitting 22 home runs but also striking out 135 times. Stroman was 9-5 with a 3.30 ERA at Double-A New Hampshire, striking out 129 over 111 2/3 innings, and Sanchez compiled a 3.34 ERA in 22 games at Class A Dunedin, striking out 75 over 86 1/3 innings.

– Carrie Muskat

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