Cubs may fill in missing pieces at Meetings

Cubs may fill in missing pieces at Meetings

Cubs may fill in missing pieces at Meetings
DALLAS -- Will the Cubs trade Matt Garza? Will they pursue free agents Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder? And who will play third base for the team in 2012?

Those questions could be answered this week at baseball's Winter Meetings, which begin Monday at the Hilton Anatole.

The Cubs may need name tags. This will be an early organizational meeting for Theo Epstein, new president of baseball operations, and general manager Jed Hoyer, who will gather with the rest of the player development and scouting staff. It may be the first face to face meeting for some.

The goal, Epstein and Hoyer have said repeatedly, is to build for the long haul, mainly through scouting and player development and with the acquisition of young players. Plus, Epstein said, you try to take advantage of every opportunity possible.

"We're not going to do anything to serve the second priority that disrupts the first," Epstein said last week. "If there's a move that makes us much better in the short term but it's at the expense of doing things the right way and building it for the long haul through a core of young players, we're not going to make that move.

"I'm not saying we're not going to make a move that might be unanticipated or catch people by surprise or might not on its face fit perfectly into that little box," he said, "but generally that's our philosophy and that's how we're evaluating moves to build this thing."

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It will be interesting to see how Epstein & Co. handle Garza. Acquired last January from the Rays for five prospects, including top-rated Chris Archer and Hak-Ju Lee, Garza has two years remaining of arbitration eligibility. That's an attractive option for a team. He's a durable pitcher and Epstein has seen first-hand what Garza can do, having watched the right-hander beat the Red Sox a few times.

Epstein says Garza is "exactly the type of guy we'd like to build around." But what if a team offers a package which would improve the Cubs that's too attractive to pass up? There are areas that need to be addressed on the roster as the Cubs head into the Winter Meetings needing a first baseman, third baseman and starting pitching.

The Cubs have about $73 million already committed to seven players for 2012. Alfonso Soriano's contract is for three more years, $54 million. Can they find a taker for the left fielder? We'll see. Hoyer will meet with the media each day, so check back often on cubs.com, especially the blog and Twitter, to keep up to date on the latest moves.

New Cubs manager Dale Sveum will meet the press on Tuesday. He's one of three rookie managers making their debuts at the Meetings, joining the Cardinals' Mike Matheny and the White Sox's Robin Ventura.

Sveum's coaching staff could be finalized this week. Jamie Quirk will be the bench coach, Chris Bosio will take over as pitching coach, Rudy Jaramillo returns as hitting coach and Lester Strode and Pat Listach are expected back as well.

The Cubs are hoping for good news on Monday at the Meetings when they'll find out if Ron Santo made it into the Hall of Fame. The former third baseman, who died one year ago, is one of the candidates on a Veterans' Committee ballot representing the Golden Era of the sport from 1947-72.

Santo's competition includes former players Gil Hodges, Ken Boyer, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, Jim Kaat, Allie Reynolds, Luis Tiant, and executives Charlie Finley and Buzzie Bavasi.

Santo failed to make the Hall of Fame in his 15 years of eligibility on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot and also in numerous forms of the Veterans Committee. He missed by nine votes in a 2008 ballot of a post 1943 committee, and his highest vote total on the BBWAA ballot was 43.1 percent in 1998.

Hall of Famer Billy Williams, Santo's former teammate, is on the 16-member Golden Era Committee, along with Hank Aaron, Al Kaline, Ralph Kiner, Tommy Lasorda, Juan Marichal, Brooks Robinson and Don Sutton. Major League executives Paul Beeston, Bill DeWitt, Roland Hemond, Gene Michael and Al Rosen, and veteran media members Dick Kaegel, Jack O'Connell and Dave Van Dyck are on the committee. A 75 percent vote is needed, which, in this instance, would be 12 votes.

The Meetings wrap up on Thursday with the Rule 5 Draft. Last year, the Cubs selected right-handed pitcher Mason Tobin, but traded him for cash considerations to the Rangers. The deal had been pre-arranged before the Draft began.

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.