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12/9 Cubs, Nationals talking

The Cubs are looking for bullpen help and one name they are believed to be interested in is Nationals’ right-hander Drew Storen. In four seasons with the Nats, the right-hander has a 3.40 ERA in 232 games. Last season, he appeared in 68 games, finished 20, and averaged 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings. Storen, 26, was a first-round pick in 2009, and is arbitration eligible for the first time. His best season was 2011 when he totaled 43 saves and posted a 2.75 ERA over 75 1/3 innings. The Nationals are interested in finding some help for the bench and looking for a young, versatile player in return.

The Cubs are looking for a closer. So far this season, they’ve added lefty Wesley Wright to the bullpen, although that deal has not been officially announced. Wright still needed to take a physical to complete the deal.

– Carrie Muskat

12/6 Jeff Samardzija and Cubs

The Cubs are still hoping to lock up Jeff Samardzija to a long-term contract. You’ll hear Samardzija’s name mentioned a lot next week during the Winter Meetings as teams seeking a starting pitcher try to pry the right-hander away from the Cubs. Where does the team stand in talks with Samardzija?

“I’m not going to provide a running play by play,” Theo Epstein said Thursday. “It’s in the same place it’s been. There’s mutual interest [to get something done]. The situation sometimes makes things tough.”

Samardzija has made it clear he wants to stay with the Cubs, but is under team control for two more seasons and will be a free agent after 2015. Considering the salaries starting pitchers are getting these days, he may decide to wait. He’s coming off his first 200-inning, 200-strikeout season.

– Carrie Muskat

12/4 Cubs sign Wesley Wright

The Cubs added another left-handed reliever to the bullpen mix on Wednesday, signing free agent Wesley Wright to a one-year deal believed to be $1.425 million. Wright, 28, was non-tendered by the Rays on Monday. He posted a combined 3.69 ERA in 70 games for the Rays and Astros this past season, striking out 55 over 53 2/3 innings pitched.

USA Today’s Bob Nightengale first reported the deal. Major League sources confirmed it, pending Wright undergoing a physical.

In his career, Wright has held left-handed hitters to a .231 average compared to .266 by right-handed batters.

Wright announced the signing himself by changing his Twitter profile @realweswright to say he’s now a relief pitcher for the Cubs.

The Cubs were looking for bullpen help, and especially another left-hander to help southpaw James Russell, who ranked 10th in the National League in games (74). Chicago is still shopping for a closer to replace Kevin Gregg, who is a free agent.

– Carrie Muskat

12/4 Jeff Samardzija – UPDATE

During an interview Wednesday night on Chicago Sports Talk Live, Theo Epstein said the chances of Jeff Samardzija being in the Cubs Opening Day rotation are “pretty good.”

Samardzija has been the subject of trade rumors since July, and ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick wrote Wednesday that the Cubs will do some “serious listening” at the Winter Meetings to teams interested in trading for the right-hander.

In the show Wednesday night on Comcast SportsNet Chicago, Epstein repeated that the Cubs are hoping to sign Samardzija to a long-term deal. The pitcher is arbitration eligible.

“He’s our best pitcher and I’m really bullish on his future,” Epstein said on the Comcast SportsNet Chicago show. “He’s a guy who is a difference making starting pitcher for a long time.”

Epstein did say they want to get the most out of their assets, and although one way is a contract extension, another way is to trade that player for “mulitiple young impact assets.”

“With Jeff, I still have the belief that he can be the guy, he has the exact makeup we’re looking for,” Epstein said.

Samardzija is under team control for two more seasons, has shown that he’s durable, he’s a power pitcher, and he’s only 28 years old. The Cubs would have to be blown away by a package to deal Samardzija, who is arbitration eligible and projected to get a $4.9 million in 2014. Many teams looking for starting pitching consider him to be a better alternative than the free agent pitchers still on the market.

What could influence the Cubs decision on whether to part with Samardzija is if they can fill that spot in the rotation with Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. According to a report on Wednesday, Japanese baseball officials are willing to accept the $20 million maximum bid, which would be part of the new posting rules. Tanaka was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA for Rakuten this season.

Stay tuned. The Winter Meetings get underway Monday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

– Carrie Muskat

12/3 Could Cubs bid for Tanaka?

According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the Yankees and Dodgers are expected to be the most aggressive in pursuit of Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka when the posting system is finalized. Major League officials and the Japanese league are still working on details.

Sherman said executives from two clubs expect the Cubs to be in the mix as well, with one saying they will be “really aggressive.” Sherman notes that the Cubs have several impact position players (Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, Albert Almora) but not enough pitching.

Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer have been involved in the posting process for Japanese players before. They were with the Red Sox when they gave $51.1 million posting fee to land Daisuke Matsuzaka. If the Yankees, Dodgers, Rangers and Red Sox are in pursuit of Tanaka, it will be expensive.

The posting fees are still to be resolved. According to Sherman, MLB officials have been trying to lower the fees transferred from their teams to Japanese teams as part of the process to gain negotiating rights. The Rangers paid the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters $51.7 million posting fee to get Yu Darvish, then signed him to a six-year, $60 million contract.

MLB has a current proposal that involves a limit of $20 million, Sherman writes.

Why is Tanaka so highly regarded? Tanaka, 25, was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in 28 regular season games with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, that’s why.

– Carrie Muskat

11/24 Samardzija rumors

Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija struck out 200 over 200 innings in his first full season as a starter, and has drawn interest from teams looking for a young pitcher, especially one who would be under team control for two more years. The Diamondbacks, Nationals and Blue Jays have reportedly inquired about Samardzija and on Sunday, there was a report that Toronto was putting together a package of young players for the Cubs right-hander.

During an interview on MLB Radio on Sunday, Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos was asked if there was any truth to the rumor about the Blue Jays pursuing Samardzija.

“You know what, I just saw that [rumor], too,” Anthropoulos told MLB Radio. “I’m in the office [Sunday] just going through some things. I’m going to try to be a little more candid than I may have been in the past. I won’t comment on specific rumors and things like that but I will say that we’re definitely exploring starters with teams. But also, just like a lot of stuff that’s out there that is false, we have not made an offer to anybody with respect to a starter. So if there is something out there that [says] we’ve actually made an offer to someone for a starter, that is not accurate. It doesn’t mean we’re not inquiring.”

MLB Radio host Jim Duquette asked if anything was imminent regarding either adding a free agent or making a trade.

“You know what, we’re talking to one club about a smaller trade and maybe it’ll move the next few days, or maybe it won’t happen,” Anthropoulos said. “But, no, I don’t think, not right now there isn’t anything imminent. We’re not necessarily waiting on someone to get back to us but, again, at any time that can change and I hope it does. I think, and you guys both went through it, before the Thanksgiving holiday sometimes there’s that last little push [when] teams want to get some things off their plate. So maybe things happen here in the next two or three days. If not, we’ll take it to the [Winter Meetings], I guess, at that point.”

The Cubs have approached Samardzija, 28, about a possible contract extension. The pitcher, who was the Opening Day starter this year, has not been in a hurry to something done.

“I have two more years of arbitration so there is a lot of time to get something done,” Samardzija said in early November.

As for all the rumors, GM Jed Hoyer said Samardzija had the right attitude because he doesn’t pay any attention to the reports.

Teams shopping for starting pitching may be comparing the cost of acquiring Samardzija with another 28-year-old, David Price, who also is under team control for two more years. However, Price has more innings and experience as a starter, and won the AL Cy Young in 2012 when he went 20-5 with a 2.56 ERA for the Rays. Price did miss time this season because of a left triceps strain. Samardzija, who ranked fifth in the National League in strikeouts per nine innings, has been healthy. Price was paid $10 million in 2013; Samardzija $2.6 million.

The Cubs don’t have that much depth pitching-wise, with Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson, Jake Arrieta set for the rotation in 2014.

– Carrie Muskat

11/6 Cubs and Samardzija

There were reports that the Diamondbacks were talking to the Cubs about pitcher Jeff Samardzija. The right-hander says he doesn’t pay attention to the talk. Samardzija also is not in a hurry to sign a contract extension with the Cubs. The right-hander told CSNChicago.com’s David Kaplan that he’ll wait. “I have two more years of arbitration so thre is a lot of time to get something done,” Samardzija said.

– Carrie Muskat

11/5 Cubs and Samardzija

Jeff Samardzija and the Cubs have talked about a possible long-term deal, but have been unable to reach a resolution. Could Samardzija be traded? According to a tweet by ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Cubs and Diamondbacks are talking about a possible deal involving the right-handed pitcher. This season, Samardzija set personal highs in innings pitched (214 2/3), starts (33), quality starts (19), strikeouts (214), and complete games (two). He finished 8-13 with a 4.34 ERA. The price tag would likely be high. Samardzija has two years before he is eligible for free agency.

– Carrie Muskat

7/31 Cubs rumors: DeJesus, Schierholtz

According to FOX Sports and MLB Network’s Ken Rosenthal, the Cubs are expected to move either David DeJesus or Nate Schierholtz today. The Pirates are interested in both. The Pirates, who have a 1 1/2 game lead in the NL Central over the Cardinals, could use a left-handed bat. They’re hitting .241 against right-handed pitching compared to .251 vs. lefties. Schierholtz was batting .283 against right-handers with a career-high 14 home runs. DeJesus, who just returned from the DL, was batting .282 against right-handers. Money-wise, DeJesus has a $6.5 million club option for 2014, while Schierholtz was only signed for this year and would be a less expensive option.

– Carrie Muskat

7/30 Samardzija rumors “far-fetched”

The Trade Deadline is Wednesday at 3 p.m. CT, and manager Dale Sveum doesn’t expect Jeff Samardzija to be doing anything but prepping for his next start with the Cubs. Rumors continue to swirl about the Cubs listening to offers for Samardzija.

“If somebody asks, sure,” Sveum said on whether the Cubs were keeping an open mind. “That’s not my job, so I don’t know what goes in those kind of meetings. It’s not realistic [to deal Samardzija].”

The Cubs would have to be offered a lot to part with the 28-year-old right-hander who is under team control for two more years.

“This is me speaking, but I would think it’s very, very far-fetched to think that you have a guy under control for that long and possibly a No. 1 guy to do anything with him,” Sveum said. “Those are things that pop up and somebody will say, sure you’ll listen. But are you going to want to trade half your team [to get Samardzija]?”

Meanwhile, Kevin Gregg and Nate Schierholtz wait to see if they will stay with the Cubs past the deadline.

“It is a compliment to be rumored,” Sveum said. “Some people get to be part of a pennant race and get to the playoffs and do some fun things.”

– Carrie Muskat

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