Results tagged ‘ Winter Meetings ’
Former Cubs reliever and MLB Network analyst Dan Plesac (center) joined Brian Kenny and Tom Verducci for on-site reporting from the Winter Meetings.
NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Here are more Dale Sveum dispatches from the sprawling Gaylord Opryland Resort, where the halls have been buzzing on this last full day of the Winter Meetings.
• Sveum made it clear the bullpen is getting attention in the Cubs front office. The team already re-signed Shawn Camp, their lone free agent, and may look to add more.
“Upgrading the ‘pen is something we wanted to do. … Whatever happens from here on out—we’re talking to a lot of people, and hopefully things work out. But [Carlos] Marmol is our closer, and we’ve got to get better at the back end. We signed Shawn Camp back, James Russell, so that’s a start. But we have to get better in that seventh, eighth inning.”
Sveum wouldn’t directly comment on Japanese pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa, though the Cubs’ pursuit of the reliever attracted plenty of Japanese reporters to the manager’s press conference. Fujikawa, a free agent who saved 220 games over 12 years with the Hanshin Tigers, clearly intrigues Sveum.
“I think he can fill any kind of role. He’s got that kind of stuff. Those numbers and that ability to do things with three, four different pitches just doesn’t come around very often. So he can set up, he can close, do anything he wants with the baseball. He’s got four quality pitches and can add and subtract with his fastball. Yeah, I mean, he can pitch in the seventh, pitch in the eighth, pitch in the ninth, he can get left-handers out—so he can pitch in any kind of situation.”
• Sveum spent about a week in Arizona to see Cubs prospects, including highly regarded shortstop Javier Baez, who just turned 20 last week. Many have compared Baez’s bat speed to Gary Sheffield’s.
“Incredible bad speed. Didn’t get to see any results, but the bat speed was pretty good. I didn’t go to his best games. But he had a heck of a minor league season—the combination of the home runs and everything. He was a bigger kid than I thought when I saw him in person. I saw him without a shirt on one day, and I was like, wow, he’s a pretty big kid. But a lot of tremendous, tremendous tools at that age. That kind of bat speed just doesn’t come around at 19 years old.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Cubs manager Dale Sveum met with the media today at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and shared a number of interesting tidbits in his first full availability in several months. No topic—from starting pitching, to the back end of the bullpen, to offseason work, to offensive needs—was off limits. We’ll cover them all in a few posts this week.
• While Sveum said he appreciated the front office’s praise of the job he did this season, he also said his staff holds the entire clubhouse, including themselves, accountable. He echoed recent comments by Theo Epstein that clubhouse character and reputation matters around the league.
“We have to be better and do a better job. We knew going in we were changing the culture of an organization, changing the culture of the 25 guys on the baseball field every day. I think we accomplished a lot of things like that. To get the people that come to this organization, the kids that come up, very comfortable knowing that myself and my staff are guys that are going to hold guys accountable—and to get character-type, good players in the organization—it makes a big difference when free agents can find out that a manager and staff are doing the right things.”
• Brett Jackson and Darwin Barney were among the Cubs players who recently got targeted work with the coaching staff in Arizona.
“It’s obviously not a major league pitcher out there, but [Jackson] made huge strides in his batting practice. [He] completely overhauled his swing, changed a lot of things. It was a completely different swing. Using his hands much, much more, staying behind the ball—a lot of things that are definitely going to help going into the season. I think he has a good base to work with going the rest of winter into Spring Training to understand the art of hitting, so to speak, that sometimes gets lost or taught the wrong way.”
Sveum offered praise for Barney’s glove work and said the second baseman didn’t need to make any major swing changes.
“He didn’t have to make huge, drastic swing changes or anything like that. A few things we brought up—with him, it’s more about driving the ball. I think his on-base percentage is going to gradually get better just with experience. We all know the glove he has, the Gold Glove, but we have to get that OPS up, and he realizes that. He’s capable of both.”
Many of you probably have heard by now that the Cubs declined to offer arbitration to any of the club’s free agents. As was mentioned yesterday, the team still can negotiate with these players under the current Basic Agreement (which eliminated the restriction that a club must re-sign a player or offer him arbitration before the deadline else lose his rights until May 1).
The entire baseball operations department is at Wrigley Field and preparing for next week’s Winter Meetings. Those run from Dec. 8 to 11 in Las Vegas, Nev.
Some other notes:
? For those of you who have voiced your support for more Stephen Green photos on the blog, the longtime team photographer has heard your call. He is currently assembling some photos so that we can pepper them on the front page throughout the off-season.
? Charitable foundation Cubs Care funded and supported the annual National Runaway Switchboard Thanksgiving dinner at a local church last week. Play-by-play announcer Len Kasper and WGN Executive Producer Bob Vorwald helped prepare and serve food along with 20 members of the Cubs front office.
? Geovany Soto visited Wrigley Field a couple weeks ago and said that he has been back from San Juan Puerto Rico since late October. He, his wife, Luzem, and his daughter, Gia Leizan, enjoyed Gia’s first birthday on Oct. 24.
? Geo autographed hundreds of photos as gift items … including some Vine Line Cubs Convention prizes! Be on the look out for signed, uncut sheets of our exclusive 2008 Rookie of the Year cards at the Vine Line booth from Jan. 18-20.
? We offer our condolences to Henry Blanco and his family after the reported shooting of Henry’s brother, Carlos, in Venezuela.