Hendry looks ahead to 2006

Hendry looks ahead to 2006

This will be another busy offseason for Chicago Cubs general manager Jim Hendry. There are needs to be addressed following a year in which the Cubs fell short of expectations. Hendry got a head start on one item on his to do list on Saturday by signing closer Ryan Dempster to a three-year contract extension through 2008.

The Cubs have scheduled an organization meeting in early November in Phoenix, but Hendry will get a jump on that as well when he meets with his top scouts. They need to establish a game plan for the offseason. Who stays? Who goes? Who's ready? On Saturday in Houston, Hendry discussed some of the issues to be addressed.

MLB.com: What will the Cubs' payroll be for 2006?

Hendry: I don't know exactly what the payroll number will be. I'm not worried about it. Since I've been the GM, Andy [MacPhail, team president] and the Tribune have shown me they want to win as bad as I do. Our payroll has never been a detriment to us being successful.

MLB.com: Nomar Garciaparra is a free agent after this season. What are your plans regarding him?

Hendry: Ryan [Dempster] was the one I wanted to do before he could get out on the free-agent market. The pitching market last year for free agents was off the charts high. Now that he's proven to be a quality closer, we wanted to make sure we tied him up. There's nothing about the guy we don't like.

I'll treat the rest of the situations just like I always do. We'll bring in our scouts next week -- Gary Hughes and [Ken] Kravec and Keith Champion and Randy Bush -- and we'll start to hash out how we want to try to reshape the club a little bit and see who may fit and who doesn't. We'll see what we have in-house and who is possibly available, and go from there.

MLB.com: Kerry Wood is coming back from shoulder surgery and Mark Prior was hurt this year. Would you like to add another top starting pitcher as insurance?

Hendry: I think Prior is going to be fine. I think we all forgot how severe that line drive off his elbow was [on May 27]. I think you saw before that signs of Mark pitching like he has in the past. I think he had a tougher time with that injury, as he should have, than people realize. I don't think there were a lot of days when he felt perfect. I fully expect him to be 100 percent in Spring Training.

Obviously, we want Woody to come back and be the Woody we saw at the end of '03. He went to a great doctor in [Tim] Kremchek, and the early prognosis is outstanding. But at the same time, I'd be foolish not to prepare for a potential snag or what if he's running behind a couple weeks or he tweaks something in a rehab. We have to also evaluate that.

Who might possibly be available that makes sense? Glendon [Rusch] has a decision to make to come back or not. I hope he chooses to stay. Then you have to evaluate in your own house -- how far along is Rich Hill? Where does Jerome [Williams] fit in? We've got some issues that I need to have all the information from our own people, who see our guys more than I do even, especially the high-level guys in the system.

MLB.com: Among the other players to be evaluated are rookies Matt Murton and Ronny Cedeno. Are they ready?

Hendry: These are good issues. These are issues that we've wanted for a while -- to have our own young position guys come. Corey [Patterson] was a guy on the come and has hit a big speed bump in the road this year with the kind of year none of us expected, including himself. Murton and Cedeno have proven they're going to be everyday Major League players. Nothing would make me happier if they could come to camp and fulfill that obligation soon, and that would enable us to put other resources elsewhere.

We're not going to hand it to them. Sometimes in this game, you can't base all your evaluations on September callups. The thing I like about them is they've handled themselves in clutch situations, like Murton did [Friday night against Houston]. You don't get to Brad Lidge very often. [Murton] started that [ninth] inning. He's worked hard. He had a couple poor defensive games, and the last week or so he's been out there killing himself working on his defense. I think he's got all the intangibles to be a quality player.

MLB.com: The 2006 season is the last year of Cubs manager Dusty Baker's contract and he has said he doesn't want to talk about an extension. What are your thoughts on that?

Hendry: He and I never talk about contracts, just like I don't talk about my own situation with Andy [MacPhail]. It's just something I don't put a lot of stock in. When you sign a deal, that's what the deal is. There was never any intent of Dusty to leave, there was never any intent on my part of wanting him to leave, there was never any thought of him not coming back next year. It's really something that the two people involved in it -- him and myself -- we never talk about it. It's not even an issue.

We're coming off a year we didn't expect. It doesn't feel good, and the two of us together have to make us better for '06.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.