Free agency officially began today, and the window for players to negotiate exclusively with their former clubs ends when the calendar turns to Thursday this week. As for Sunday Stovetop, I’ve decided to focus primarily on the Chicago Cubs. I’ll still mention big moves by other NL Central teams, but in order for these weekly offseason recaps to be quality, they need to be focussed.
We’ll start with the other teams in the NL Central.
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
Fresh off of another World Series victory, the Cardinals have exercised starting pitcher Adam Wainwright’s options for 2012 and 2013. He will make $21M in the next two seasons. Other big free agents include Edwin Jackson (SP) and Albert Pujols (1B).
The Brewers have declined their $6M option for Yuniesky Betancourt, giving him a $2M buyout. Other big free agents include Prince Fielder (1B) and Francisco Rodriguez (RP), whose option was also declined.
The Reds have two big options to decide on in the next few days. Brandon Phillips (2B) and Francisco Cordero (CL) both have club options for $12M. Coco saved 37 games with a sub-3.00 ERA this season, while Phillips hit .300 with 18 home runs in 2011. Also, Phillips’ on-base percentage was .353, a career high.
$26,750,000: That’s the total amount of club options the Pirates have going into the 2011-2012 offseason. That’s almost 60% of their $45,000,000 payroll from 2011. Ronny Cedeno’s is the cheapest at just $3M. The other options are for two catcher, Chris Snyder and Ryan Doumit, and starting pitcher Paul Maholm.
Nothing to report yet on the Astros’ front. Their two free agents are Clint Barmes (2B) and Jason Michaels (OF).
~ The big news here is that Ryan Dempster (SP) picked up his $14M player option on Saturday. He was waiting to chat with Theo Epstein, new Cubs President of Baseball Operations, before making a decision on 2012. A Chicago Tribune article last week said that Dempster “would like to hear … that he’s wanted beyond 2012″ prior to making a decision. As a Dempster fan myself, I’m glad Dempster is back, and since he did pick up his option, he might be back past 2012 as well. The comical starting pitcher has been consistant since switching to the rotation in 2008, pitching at least 200 innings and starting 31 games each year. Like most Cubs players, 2011 was a down year for Dempster. He served up 200+ hits, 100+ earned runs, and had a losing record for the first time since the switch.
~ Kerry Wood (RP) will either pitch for the Cubs in 2012 or watch them on TV at home. I hope it’s the former, it’s just a matter of whether Theo and Jed Hoyer want him in the ‘pen next season. After Wood took a discount to pitch for the Cubs in 2011, I don’t see why he wouldn’t be sitting down the left field line in 2012.
~ One of the Cubs’ top offensive producers in 2011, Aramis Ramirez (3B), likes what he sees in Theo Epstein. This may open up a possible return to the Cubs for Ramirez. I don’t know how I feel about this with the interesting set of quotes that have been coming from the third baseman the past few months. Ramirez was 2nd in runs scored (80), hits (173), home runs (26, tied with Alfonso Soriano), total bases (288), batting average (.306), and lead the team in RBIs (93) and OPS (.871).
~ Carlos Pena (1B) took over 100 walks and hit 28 homers while playing good defense at first for the Cubs in 2011. Like Ramirez, Pena likes Epstein, and may return to the North Side if his job isn’t taken by someone like Pujols or Fielder, like some fans hope.
~ I can only hope that Reed Johnson (OF) gets at least a minor league deal this offseason. Even with Kosuke Fukudome gone, the Cubs still have Tyler Colvin, Alfonso Soriano, Marlon Byrd, and Tony Campana in the outfield, with Brett Jackson waiting in the minors.
~ I wouldn’t lose much sleep if John Grabow (RP) threw his last pitch for the Cubs. The past two years, while making five times what Kerry Wood did in 2011, Grabow gave up 54 earned runs in 88 innings.
~ Rodrigo Lopez and Ramon Ortiz (SPs) were thrown into the Cubs’ rotation roulette this season and are both free agents. They will turn 36 and 39 in 2012, respectively.