Minor progress made as Winter Meetings conclude
Cubs cross off checklist items with signings, Rule 5 selections
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Cubs head home from baseball's Winter Meetings to the cold of Chicago with a few more items done on their checklist.
With the addition of Justin Ruggiano, acquired in a trade with the Marlins on Thursday, the Cubs were able to add a right-handed-hitting outfielder in the mix with lefties Nate Schierholtz and Ryan Sweeney.
How excited was Ruggiano? He said via Twitter: "@Cubs Let's do this! Excited about my new city, and most of all the fans! I've always loved this city and feel blessed to call it home!"
That kind of deal may not excite the fans or make Scott Boras happy -- the agent took a swipe at the Cubs for having a "small market approach" -- but the team is continuing the rebuilding process one step at a time.
The Cubs have offers out to free agent pitchers in hopes of adding more depth. General manager Jed Hoyer said he expected some resolution to offers before Dec. 25 as players try to get business done before the holidays.
"Christmas is a really important date for free agents mentally," Hoyer said. "Guys want to sign before Christmas. Even agents admit there's a mental hurdle for a player to go past Christmas. That's coming up fairly soon and because of that, I think there's a sense of urgency for guys to get stuff done."
On Thursday, the Cubs traded Brian Bogusevic to the Marlins for Ruggiano. Before arriving at the Walt Disney Swan & Dolphin Resort, the Cubs gave Ryan Sweeney a two-year, $3.5 million contract, acquired catcher George Kottaras from the Royals, and signed several free agents to Minor League deals, including Darnell McDonald and Eli Whiteside.
Rule 5 Draft activity:
The Cubs selected catcher Charles Cutler from the Pirates' Double-A affiliate in the Triple-A Phase of the Rule 5 Draft. They lost four other players, including pitcher Marcos Mateo, who was the only one taken in the Major League Phase. Outfielder Julio Borbon, first baseman Justin Bour and pitcher A.J. Morris were picked in the Triple-A Phase. The Cubs did not have a pick in the first round of the Major League Phase as they forfeited it to the Phillies, who had filed a grievance over Lendy Castillo, who spent most of the 2012 season on the disabled list. The Cubs did have a chance to pick a player in the second round of the Major League Phase but passed.
The Cubs wanted a veteran right-handed-hitting outfielder, and they got that in Ruggiano. They accomplished more behind the scenes. New manager Rick Renteria was able to spend time with the Cubs front office, met with bench coach Brandon Hyde to go over their Spring Training plans, and mingled with other baseball people. Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein met with Jeff Samardzija's agent in what was described as an "amicable" session and continued their discussions about the right-hander's future with the Cubs. Epstein and Hoyer also continued their search for more pitching. In Chicago, the City Council approved more items on Wrigley Field's renovation plan.
The Cubs are waiting for clarification regarding the posting system for Japanese players so they know whether they can get involved in bidding for Masahiro Tanaka. They also are dangling the closer's job to free agents and waiting for responses. There will likely be transactions in the next few weeks, just nothing that will make fans say, "Wow." This weekend is important for Renteria, who will meet with his staff face to face in Mesa, Ariz., for the first time.
Team's bottom line:
"You probably have to work harder and have more ideas and more meetings," Hoyer said of the Cubs' approach. "I think good things will come out of these meetings over the next few weeks. I'd be surprised if that didn't happen given the contacts we've made and discussions we've had. There's always a nice feeling having done some big stuff and made significant strides and putting some of the pieces of your team together. We're not there right now, but I think we leave here and hope some of the things we started will get done quickly."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.