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12/19 Cubs shopping for pitching

The Cubs aren’t finished shopping for pitching, and are reportedly pursuing free agents Edwin Jackson and Carlos Villanueva. The Cubs lost out in their bid for Anibal Sanchez, who rejected a five year, $77 million offer and signed with the Tigers for $80 million. Now Chicago is apparently taking aim at Jackson, 29, who was reportedly seeking a three- to four-year contract after making $11 million last season with the Nationals. The Padres were among the teams believed to be in the mix for Jackson, but there were reports Wednesday that they would not offer more than a three-year deal. Jackson went 10-11 last season and compiled a 4.03 ERA in 31 starts. In his career, he’s 14-9 with a 3.95 ERA in 38 games (36 starts) against the National League Central.

The Cubs already have added free agent pitchers Scott Feldman and Scott Baker, signing both to one-year contracts. But the team wants more depth, especially if Baker and Matt Garza are not ready. Baker is coming back from Tommy John surgery and Garza has just started throwing for the first time since July 21. He was shut down then because of a right elbow injury.

On Wednesday, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com and MLB Network reported that the Cubs had signed Villanueva. However, a source told MLB.com that the two sides were still finalizing details and no deal was done. Villanueva, 29, made 16 starts and 22 relief appearances last season for the Blue Jays, compiling a 4.16 ERA over 125 1/3 innings.
The right-hander, who made $2.2775 million in 2012, has pitched for the Brewers and Blue Jays, making 29 starts in the last two seasons with Toronto. In his career as a starter, he is 16-22 with a 4.80 ERA in 56 games.

– Carrie Muskat

12/19 Cubs & Jackson?

The Cubs’ pursuit of Anibal Sanchez was a little bit of a surprise considering the team’s approach to free agents has been to buy low. Now, there are reports that the Cubs are interested in free agent pitcher Edwin Jackson. ESPN’s Jim Bowden said the Padres refused to give Jackson a four-year contract, and it’s down to the Cubs and Rangers. Jackson is reportedly seeking $12 to $13 million per year after making $11 million last season with the Nationals.

Let’s look at the numbers. In the last four years, Jackson is 45-41 with a 3.98 ERA in 127 starts and one relief appearance. According to my MLB.com colleague T.R. Sullivan, there have been 63 Major League pitchers who have made at least 100 starts over the last four years, and Jackson has the 35th best ERA in that group. He’s 43rd with 8.99 hits per nine innings, 37th with 2.97 walks, and 34th with 7.29 strikeouts per nine.

More numbers to consider. Since Jackson joined the White Sox at the July 31, 2010, Trade Deadline, he has gone 26-22 with a 3.80 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in 74 starts (464 1/3 innings, two complete games) and averaged 7.6 strikeouts per nine innings. Teams have hit .264 against him. In that same span, Sanchez has gone 22-28 with a 3.79 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in 75 starts (462 2/3 innings, four complete games) and averaged 8.5 strikeouts per nine for the Marlins and Tigers. Teams have hit .257 against him.

The Cubs are looking for pitching. Jackson turned 29 in September; Sanchez turns 29 in February. The red flag is that Jackson has pitched for seven different teams, and six in the last five years.

The Cubs reportedly offered Sanchez $77 million over five years. Would they give Jackson four years and $50 million? Would you?

– Carrie Muskat

12/13 Cubs talk to Sanchez

The Cubs are one of the teams to make an offer to free agent pitcher Anibal Sanchez, but reports that the deal is done are not true. According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports and MLB Network, the Cubs did discuss a five-year, $75 million deal with Sanchez. However, the Tigers are still in the mix. Sanchez, 28, would give the Cubs a more competitive rotation next season, and the team does have money to spend. However, what Sanchez has to weigh is that the Cubs are still in rebuilding mode. He began the 2012 season with the Marlins and was dealt to the Tigers in July. Sanchez finished 4-6 with a 3.74 ERA, and was 1-2 with a 1.77 ERA in the postseason. If he joined the Cubs, he’d be inserted into a rotation that includes Jeff Samardzija, Matt Garza, Travis Wood and newcomers Scott Baker and Scott Feldman. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported the Cubs and Sanchez deal was done, but sources have confirmed that’s not the case.

– Carrie Muskat

12/11 Report: Phillies interested in Soriano

According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com and MLB Network, the Cubs and Phillies have discussed a deal that would send Alfonso Soriano to Philadelphia in exchange for Domonic Brown. Heyman notes the Phillies may be more inclined to sign a free agent, such as Cody Ross. The Cubs are reportedly willing to pay $10 million of the $38 million remaining on Soriano’s deal if they can get top prospects in return. Soriano, who turns 37 in January, batted .262 with 32 home runs lsat season. As a player with 10-and-5 rights, he would have to approve the deal.

– Carrie Muskat

11/30 Cubs reportedly ask about Bourn

ESPN.com Chicago reported Friday that the Cubs have inquired about free agent center fielder Michael Bourn. He rejected the Braves’ qualifying offer earlier this month, and by doing so, the Braves would receive Draft pick compensation if he signs with another club. That signing club would lose a first-round pick unless it was one of the Draft’s first 10 selections. In that event, the team would lose its second-round selection. The Cubs do have the second pick overall in the Draft, so they would hang onto that, but lose their second-round selection in this case.

Bourn batted .274 with nine home runs, 42 stolen bases and a .739 OPS last season. However, he also batted .225 with a .335 on-base percentage after the All-Star break and struck out 155 times as a leadoff hitter. Bourn did lead the National League in stolen bases in 2009, ’10 and ’11 but he will turn 30 on Dec. 27.

The Cubs are in the market for another outfielder. But if Bourn, who is represented by agent Scott Boras, is looking for a monster long-term deal, the Cubs would not appear to be a good match. They are high on prospects Albert Almora  and Brett Jackson, and Bourn’s numbers are not as consistent as they were earlier in his career.

– Carrie Muskat

11/10 Cubs miss in bid for Ryu

The Cubs apparently fell short in their bid for South Korean left-handed pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu. According to reports Friday night, the winning bid was $25,737,737.33. The numbers three and seven are considered lucky in Korea, which explains the bid. The Cubs did bid aggressively, according to CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman, but they did not win Ryu’s rights. The Dodgers and Rangers also bid for Ryu.

Ryu, 25, is believed to be ready to be inserted into a big league rotation but could begin in a team’s bullpen. Ryu’s team, the Hanwha Eagles, have four business days to determine if they will accept the highest of the sealed bids. The team they pick would then have to negotiate a contract with Ryu’s agent, Scott Boras.

– Carrie Muskat

7/31 Dempster to Rangers

Ryan Dempster apparently said yes to the Rangers. The Cubs’ makeover continued Tuesday when they reportedly traded Dempster to the defending American League champions, finalizing the deal minutes before the 3 p.m. CT Trade Deadline. The Cubs have yet to confirm the deal but multiple reports said it was done.

The 35-year-old right-hander, who ranks among the National League leaders with a 2.25 ERA, had favored a deal to the Dodgers but apparently altered his wish list. The Yankees also were believed to be in talks with the Cubs. <p> The Cubs thought they had a deal last week which would’ve sent Dempster to the Braves but the right-hander exercised his 10-and-5 rights (10 years of service, five with the same team) and rejected that move. He had given Theo Epstein, Cubs president of baseball operations, a list of teams he would prefer.

Dempster will be a pure rental. Players must be with a team for an entire season in order to qualify for draft-pick compensation. This is in the last year of his four-year contract with the Cubs, which was paying him $14 million this season. His career has come full circle. Dempster was selected by the Rangers in the third round of the 1995 First-Year Player Draft by the Rangers, then traded in ’96 to the Marlins.

– Carrie Muskat

7/31 Dempster to Yankees?

USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports Ryan Dempster has told the Cubs he would accept a trade to the Yankees if they can’t work something out with the Dodgers. Los Angeles is believed to be Dempster’s first choice. He has the right to pick as a player with 10-and-5 rights — 10 years in the big leagues and five with the same team. Dempster would be reunited with pitching coach Larry Rothschild, and, of course, former Cubs GM Jim Hendry, who is a special assistant to the Yankees. The Dodgers apparently don’t want to move one of their top prospects for a rental player. As of 1:45 p.m. CT, Dempster is scheduled to start for the Cubs against the Pirates.

– Carrie Muskat

7/31 Dempster & the Dodgers

The Dodgers acquired outfielder Shane Victorino from the Phillies on Tuesday but FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal says they’re not done. Rosenthal reports the Dodgers are focused on Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster and want him before today’s 3 p.m. CT Trade Deadline. Dempster was scheduled to start Tuesday night for the Cubs against the Pirates. However, the Cubs were expected to have pitcher Casey Coleman in Chicago as a contingency plan. Dempster has hinted he’d prefer to go to the Dodgers. As a player with 10-and-5 rights, he has veto power.

– Carrie Muskat

7/31 Soto to Rangers

It’s now official. Geovany Soto moved up in the standings, traded by the Cubs to the Rangers for Minor League right-handed pitcher Jake Brigham and a player to be named or cash consideration. Soto, 29, has been in the Cubs system since he was drafted in 2001. The trade was reported Monday night as Soto was pulled from the game after the Pirates sixth inning, but wasn’t finalized until Tuesday morning. As he left Monday night’s game, Soto was greeted in the dugout by handshakes and hugs from his teammates. He was batting .199 this season in 52 games this season. He missed time because of a torn meniscus in his left knee. The 2008 National League Rookie of the Year, Soto was being paid $4.3 million this year, and on track to go to arbitration for the third time this offseason.

The defending American League champion Rangers lead the West division by 3 1/2 games.

The Cubs were expected to call up catcher Welington Castillo from Triple-A Iowa on Tuesday with Clevenger taking over as the regular catcher. Clevenger was in the weight room, preparing in case he was needed to pinch hit when he got word that he had to get into the game to catch.

Brigham, 24, was 5-5 with a 4.28 ERA in 21 starts for Double-A Frisco this season. He went 3-1 with a 3.60 ERA (16 ER/40.0 IP) in 21 relief outings last season. In 2012, Brigham was named to the mid-season Texas League All-Star team. He was selected in the sixth round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft out of Central Florida Christian Academy in Orlando, Fla. In 135 Minor League appearances, Brigham is 27-42 with one save and a 4.40 ERA.

– Carrie Muskat

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