Cubs

Ramirez locked up; Cubs outright Guzman

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Ramirez locked up; Cubs outright Guzman

Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010
4:21 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

As the Cubs continue with their organizational meetings in Arizona, reviewing their prospect base and free-agency options, small details are emerging before the front office has to make the major decisions that will shape the 2011 roster.

As expected, Aramis Ramirez has exercised his 14.6 million player option for next season. The Cubs officially received the paperwork before Thursdays deadline and there might not be a player more critical to their success.

Nagging injuries limited Ramirez to 124 games last season, and he went through an inexplicable slump that lasted for months, yet still finished with 25 home runs and 83 RBI, numbers that led the team in both categories.

Ramirez will turn 33 next year, and though he has said that he wont play much longer, he could be motivated to secure his next contract. By not opting out, the third baseman is also guaranteed at least a 2 million buyout of the 16 million club option for 2012, which would be automatically triggered if he was traded.

Quite simply, the Cubs as currently constructed do not have another offensive force like Ramirez. Here are the only other players with six or more seasons with at least 25 homers in a Cubs uniform: Sammy Sosa; Billy Williams; Ernie Banks; Ron Santo; and Ryne Sandberg.

Ramirez is wired differently than those five, but there will be few players on the open market with his potential to generate runs, and its uncertain how hard the Cubs will pursue them.

If the Cubs allocate their resources toward pitching and a modest upgrade at first base, they will need Ramirez more than ever.

Guzman agrees to minor-league deal

The Cubs once rated Angel Guzman as high as Carlos Zambrano in their minor-league system, but a series of injuries nearly shattered his career. Surgery to repair a significant ligament tear in Guzmans right shoulder wiped out his 2010 season just as he was being viewed as a reliable setup man out of the bullpen.

The Cubs outrighted Guzman off their 40-man roster, which stands at 37 players. The reliever who will turn 29 next month and missed most of 2007 and 2008 because of Tommy John surgery cleared waivers and agreed to a minor-league contract with an invitation to major-league spring training.

The Cubs are planning to eventually add right-hander Chris Archer who at 22 is supposed to be the next big thing to the 40-man roster.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

If you can't wait for baseball to be back, take a look at the Cubs' spring training schedule

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USA TODAY

If you can't wait for baseball to be back, take a look at the Cubs' spring training schedule

Set your alarm, there are only three more months till baseball is back.

The Cubs announced their spring training schedule Monday, getting folks all amped up for the 34 exhibition games in February and March.

Spring game action gets started Feb. 23 out in Arizona, with the Cubs taking on the Milwaukee Brewers to kick off Cactus League play. The Cubs' first home spring game at Sloan Park in Mesa comes the next day, Feb. 24.

In addition to a 32-game Cactus League slate, the Cubs will take on the Cleveland Indians in a pair of exhibition games in Las Vegas. That 2016 World Series rematch comes March 17 and 18.

And of course, there will be three meetings with the White Sox, as both Chicago teams play their spring schedule out in Arizona. Those "Cactus Crosstown" games will be played Feb. 27 and March 10 in Mesa and March 16 in Glendale.

Here's the full schedule:

What if Jake Arrieta stays in the NL Central and repeatedly haunts the Cubs?

What if Jake Arrieta stays in the NL Central and repeatedly haunts the Cubs?

Jake Arrieta in a Brewers uniform?

That's not a sight Cubs fans would like to see, but the North Siders' I-94 rivals are apparently keen on trying to add Arrieta, the free-agent pitcher who's been one of the National League's top arms for the past several seasons.

The Cubs have their own decision to make on whether or not they're going to pursue re-signing Arrieta, a guy who over the past three seasons has posted a 2.71 ERA and struck out 589 batters, winning 54 games in 94 starts for a team that won the 2016 World Series and has advanced to three consecutive NL Championship Series.

The downside to losing Arrieta is obvious, as the Cubs would lose a huge part of their formidable starting rotation, but there would be an added downside if Arrieta were to remain in the NL Central and repeatedly haunt his former team.

Given Arrieta's track record, adding him would make sense for any team in the majors, but the Brewers in particular could use a front-of-the-line starting pitcher to boost their chances of besting the Cubs for the Central crown. The Brew Crew staged a surprising threat to do just that in 2017, perhaps proving that their rebuilding effort has yielded fruit ahead of schedule.

But there are questions in that rotation, with Jimmy Nelson expected to miss time next season after having shoulder surgery. Chase Anderson was great last season, and Zach Davies was solid, too. Brewers starters posted an ERA of 4.10 on the season, good for fifth in the NL. The four teams ahead of them, including the Cubs, all made the playoffs. Adding an arm as good as Arrieta's could make the difference in jumping past the Cubs in the Central and getting the Crew to the postseason for the first time since 2011.

And it'd be a plus for the Brewers to make it so Arrieta couldn't shut down their hitters anymore. In 15 career starts against the Crew, Arrieta is 8-4 with a 2.74 ERA. However, they'd surely love to have him call Miller Park home. He's never lost there in five starts, boasting a 2.03 ERA with 30 strikeouts.

There's an argument to be made that Arrieta would be able to seek revenge on the Cubs no matter what team he ends up pitching for, be it an NL team facing off against the Cubs in the playoffs or an American League squad meeting the Cubs in the World Series. After all, as Scott Boras put it, signing Arrieta is a ticket to "Playoffville."

But should Arrieta make the short drive to Wisconsin and set up shop in America's Dairyland, turning the Brewers into a legitimate playoff contender and challenger to the Cubs' grip on the NL Central crown? Well, consider the Cubs-Brewers rivalry cranked up to 11.