Cubs stay patient at Winter Meetings

Cubs stay patient at Winter Meetings

INDIANAPOLIS -- Cubs general manager Jim Hendry had hoped to make at least one trade this week at the Winter Meetings. On Thursday, he predicted it may take until mid February before he finds the right combination.

The Cubs left the Indianapolis Marriott with Milton Bradley still on the roster, a new right-handed pitcher from the Rule 5 Draft and nearly all of the players acquired prior to 2009 being fitted for new uniforms.

It's early December and there will be ice skating at Wrigley Field before the Cubs play a game. But Hendry would have preferred to take care of a couple items on his wish list.

"I thought there would be more trading," Hendry said, when asked to summarize baseball's annual winter gathering. "I hoped there would be, obviously, for us. I talked to a few guys [Thursday], and they felt like they were going to make a deal in the next couple days.

"For us, obviously, we would've loved to have made one here, but I don't think it'll be a detriment. I think we'll make a deal or two before the holidays. It was a little slower pace and not as much action as I think all of us who sit in our seats would've liked."

Bradley has been the focus. Even though the Cubs say the outfielder's status is not holding them up, it seems as if a decision has to be made on where he'll play before any new names are added. Hendry would not address Bradley specifically, saying, "We don't talk about potential trades of our own players."

The switch-hitting outfielder remains linked to Tampa Bay, but the Rays on Thursday added pitcher Rafael Soriano in a trade with the Braves. One Rays employee said they don't feel any obligation to help the Cubs find Bradley a new home.

Hendry did meet with agents for several free-agent center fielders, such as Marlon Byrd, Rick Ankiel, Scott Podsednik and Mike Cameron. On the drive back to Chicago on Interstate 65, Hendry and his copilot can analyze who fits the Cubs' needs the best.

There is no sense of urgency.

"I think we'll try to make a deal trade-wise and sort it out," Hendry said. "I think there will be opportunities to get a right fit in the outfield before we go [to Spring Training]."

The next baseball-related deadline is Saturday, when the Cubs have to decide which of their arbitration-eligible players to tender contracts to. The list includes Jeff Baker, Neal Cotts, Mike Fontenot, Tom Gorzelanny, Angel Guzman, Carlos Marmol, Sean Marshall, Koyie Hill and Ryan Theriot. Only Cotts, who had Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery on his left arm July 2, is not expected to be tendered, but he is expected to re-sign with the Cubs.

There are a large number of free agents still looking for work. Perhaps teams are cost-cutting and developing their own players because they face tough economic times?

"I'm not very smart projecting how economics affect every little move for every club," Hendry said. "I see free agents who wait longer. Their expectations are high. There was a period in our game where a lot of people got paid a lot of money. The great players still will.

"But there will be a lot of the next tier down [free agents], and I think their expectations are higher. When reality sets in and they realize some clubs are going with their own guys and young kids coming up -- it just goes in cycles. Right now, it seems like a lot more free agents are getting signed in January, and this year seems to be one of them."

Deals done: The Cubs made moves before arriving in Indianapolis, trading Aaron Heilman, Aaron Miles and Jake Fox. Think about it: Heilman, Miles and Kevin Gregg, a free agent, all were signed prior to the 2009 season.

Rule 5 activity: Chicago selected right-handed pitcher Michael Parisi from the St. Louis Cardinals organization in the first round of the Major League phase. Parisi is insurance in case Ted Lilly is delayed in his comeback from arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder and if someone is hurt.

Goals accomplished: The Cubs laid the groundwork with agents and teams regarding possible deals to acquire a center fielder, veteran right-handed reliever and some bench help. They got to watch the pregame drills of Sunday's Indianapolis Colts game from the sideline.

Unfinished business: Bradley is still on the roster, and they're still looking for a center fielder, a veteran right-handed reliever and some bench help.

GM's bottom line: "We paved the way for some potential bullpen deals. We had a lot of talks. We caught up on talks about some free agent outfielders [Wednesday]. We'll have some conclusions about what we want to do by spring." -- Hendry

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