Cubs figure to make more of a ripple than a splash at the winter meetings
BY GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com December 5, 2011 9:38PM
ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 5: Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrates his walk-off home run against the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium on June 5, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Cardinals beat the Cubs 3-2 in 10 innings. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) R:\Merlin\Getty_Photos\GYI0065025846.jpg
Updated: January 7, 2012 8:16AM
DALLAS — Cubs president Theo Epstein admitted he met with the agent for Albert Pujols on Monday. Which seemed to mean, more or less, nothing.
“You see someone going into someone’s room, it’s not always that you’re there to talk about the Big Kahuna,’’ Epstein said.
In fact, Dan Lozano also represents Cubs free-agent pitcher Rodrigo Lopez, and, says Epstein, “We are trying to bring Rodrigo back for pitching depth.’’
This is more likely the way it will go for the Cubs this week during the winter meetings at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas: listening to talk involving their players, trying to get “creative’’ to add pitching depth and looking for a solution at third base.
It might not excite or inspire the home crowd, but the new Cubs’ front office is more concerned with following their blueprint for a long-term organizational buildup than landing a Kahuna in their first winter in charge.
If they do anything involving a big-name player, it’s more likely to involve ongoing attempts to move Alfonso Soriano and as much of the remaining $54 million on his contract as possible.
Actual talks of substance, according to major-league sources, included continued talks with the Colorado Rockies to acquire third baseman Ian Stewart — a lefty hitter with pop who has above-average defensive skills but who’s widely considered a player who would benefit from a change of scenery.
Talks have stalled over the Rockies’ unwillingness to take Blake DeWitt in return. Sources say the Rockies are more interested in left-handed relief prospect Scott Maine and promising infield prospect DJ LeMahieu.
Stewart, 26, remains available and is expected to be traded this winter. If he winds up with the Cubs, that could ultimately be a relative Kahuna for a Cubs front-office team that has exactly this much drive to make a splash during their first winter meetings for Chicago:
“Zero,’’ said Epstein.
“We’ve got to work really hard,’’ he added, “to figure out what’s in the Cubs’ best interests, be disciplined about that, even if it’s unpopular — sometimes it’ll be popular and sometimes it won’t — and work toward pleasing the fans in October.’’
So it’s probably not surprising that Epstein told 29-year-old prospect Bryan LaHair in their first meeting Monday that he anticipates giving the slugger a chance to win at least a major share of the first-base job next spring.
LaHair was in Dallas to receive an award for leading the minor leagues in home runs (38).
The Cubs also offered arbitration to free-agent first baseman Carlos Pena but anticipate him declining by this week’s deadline, considering the likelihood of a multiyear deal from somebody.