Cubs

Cubs, Boras and the art of the Pena deal

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Cubs, Boras and the art of the Pena deal

Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010
Posted 9:13 AM Updated 8:11 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Ideally the Cubs wanted a left-handed first baseman to hit for power and improve their overall defense. They needed someone who would make a short-term commitment and be flexible enough to fit within their budget.

From the start, Carlos Pena matched that description. And during a series of meetings this week at the Swan and Dolphin resort, Cubs general manager Jim Hendry and agent Scott Boras reached an agreement in which neither side is exposed to too much risk.

They finalized a one-year deal worth 10 million in a negotiation that stretched from late Tuesday night into early Wednesday morning. Pena received multi-year offers elsewhere, and said he heard interest from the Nationals, Braves, Mariners, Orioles and Blue Jays.

Pena, who studied engineering at Northeastern University, analyzed the chance to become a free agent all over again after the final out of the 2011 World Series.

"This was the perfect fit for me," Pena said Wednesday at a news conference. "I also like the fact that this is a platform year for me (to) come in, be part of a great organization (and) have the opportunity to just go out there and play my game.

"Who knows? After a great season, then the future will look even brighter."

The contract was structured so that the money is spread over 13 months and 5 million will come in January 2012 to give the Cubs some financial flexibility. Pena received multi-year offers elsewhere, and said he heard interest from the Nationals, Braves, Mariners, Orioles and Blue Jays.

The Cubs are betting that Pena's offensive numbers last season in Tampa Bay were an aberration and not - at the age of 32 - the beginning of a sharp decline.

Pena hit .196 with a .325 on-base percentage, though his 28 homers and 84 RBI would have led the Cubs in both categories. Pena knows Rudy Jaramillo well from their days together in the Rangers organization, and they hope the hitting coach can help fix his swing.

"When you look at collectively over a four-year window - (the) power numbers, the RBIs, the walks and the defense - it's a package that's still appealing," Hendry said.

Pena has a reputation as a good defender - he won a Gold Glove in 2008 - and that should help a Cubs team that finished last in the National League in fielding percentage. Pena averaged 39 homers and 108 RBI per season between 2007 and 2009, but he entered free agency off a down year.

Boras negotiated Jayson Werth's seven-year, 126 million score, which had heads spinning at the winter meetings. But the powerful agent has also shown that he's willing to get a client a one-year deal to restore market value and position himself for the next big contract.

Adrian Beltre became the premise to this deal. Last offseason Beltre turned down a long-term offer from the A's to play one year with the Red Sox for 10 million. Beltre hit .321 with 28 homers and 102 RBI and established himself as one of this winter's most coveted free agents.

"(This) really had all the flavor of what we call a 'pillow contract'," Boras said. "There's a lot of comforts. It's a one-year situation. It's a dynamic that you can't really expect the marketplace to address - the values of Carlos' ultimate abilities (and) the issues of what happens to major-league players during every career. That is, they have seasons where they have maladies that arise in the short term."

That is how Boras talks, and reporters surrounded him for nearly an hour after the Pena announcement to ask questions about other players he represents. It is a long way of saying it will either work out or it won't.

They'll give a year to find out. Pena - who said he's 100 percent healthy and called the plantar fasciitis that limited him last season a "non-issue" - feels his fortunes are about to turn.

"I don't tend to look back on my failures and dwell upon them," Pena said. "All of those difficulties have made me stronger and a better player (and) a better man."

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

Cubs sign oft-injured reliever Brandon Morrow to minor-league deal

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USA TODAY

Cubs sign oft-injured reliever Brandon Morrow to minor-league deal

Brandon Morrow hasn’t pitched in a big-league game since July 2018, but he’ll get a shot at making a comeback next season.

Morrow is set to sign a minor league deal with the Cubs, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today. It’s worth $1 million if he makes the Cubs' roster and could reach $2.25 million if Morrow makes 65 big-league appearances. 

Morrow hasn’t pitched since July 15, 2018, missing the second half of that season with right biceps inflammation. He underwent a debridement procedure on his right elbow last offseason, which was supposed to keep him out for the first month of the 2019 season. But Morrow suffered several setbacks and never pitched in 2019. 

Morrow’s agent, Joel Wolfe, told Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times last month that the right-hander feels a sense of loyalty to the Cubs after they stuck by him through thick and thin. He said Morrow was open to a minor league deal.

When he last pitched, Morrow was one of the most dominant closers in baseball. He posted a 1.47 ERA in 35 games in 2018, converting 22 of 24 save tries. He provided the Cubs with a power arm in the back of the bullpen, striking out 31 batters in 30 2/3 innings compared to nine walks.

For the Cubs, Morrow is a low-risk addition with high-reward potential. He told ESPN’s Jesse Rogers that his arm feels great. If he’s healthy, he could be a major contributor to the Cubs' bullpen.

This time, the Cubs won’t place such high expectations on the 35-year-old. They expect closer Craig Kimbrel to bounce back in 2020 with a normal offseason ahead of him. Kimbrel signed a three-year, $43 million deal with the Cubs last June and struggled mightily, posting a 6.53 ERA in 23 games.

If healthy, Morrow could prove to be a lethal weapon in front of Kimbrel. If he can’t stay healthy, it’s not like the Cubs are investing a lot of money in him, as they did two offseasons ago when Morrow signed a two-year, $21 million deal.

Simply put: if Morrow pans out, great. If he can’t stay healthy, the Cubs can move on without losing a large investment.

If Rangers sign Nicholas Castellanos, it could lead them to Kris Bryant deal

If Rangers sign Nicholas Castellanos, it could lead them to Kris Bryant deal

After losing out on free agent third baseman Anthony Rendon, the Texas Rangers have spoken to agent Scott Boras about Cubs free agent outfielder Nicholas Castellanos, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News.

Castellanos played third with the Detroit Tigers from 2014-17, but considering he posted a -64 Defensive Runs Saved mark in four seasons, he won’t be moving back there. Interestingly, however, Castellanos is willing to consider playing first base, according to Grant.

The Cubs — who are reportedly still pursuing Castellanos — obviously would be affected if the 27-year-old signs with Texas, as they'll lose one of their most productive players from 2019. But besides that, Castellanos landing with the Rangers would impact the Kris Bryant trade market.

The Rangers are looking for a consolation plan at third base after missing out on Rendon. They have a three-year offer on the table for Donaldson, according to Grant, and signing him would cost them only money. The same cannot be said about acquiring a third baseman via trade, like Kris Bryant, who would cost several assets.

But if Donaldson doesn’t sign with the Rangers, they might be more inclined to pursue Bryant. Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said at the Winter Meetings they’ll address third base this offseason, and the Cubs' third baseman would be the best option left. That is, unless Texas calls the Rockies about Nolan Arenado.

Daniels also indicated that the Rangers are unlikely to trade for a player with only a few years of team control left (like Bryant) without making other major additions.

“There are some trade options [that] would have quite frankly made more sense in our mind if we had landed the free agents at the top of our list,” Daniels said. “I don’t love the idea of half measures. I don’t love the idea of taking a chunk out of the system if it doesn’t really make sense. Trading for somebody with a year or two of control makes more sense if the club is a little more filled out.”

So if the Rangers land Castellanos, a pursuit of Bryant could follow. But the same might also be true if they sign Donaldson, thanks to Bryant’s positional versatility.

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