CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs introduced new manager Rick Renteria to the local media Thursday while the front office also held court in advance of the winter meetings in Orlando, Fla., next week.
Here's some news and notes as the Cubs head to Disney World in search of talent:
No Rule 5 pick: The Cubs won’t be as busy next Thursday when major league baseball holds it’s annual Rule 5 draft which exists so teams aren’t allowed to stockpile talent in their minor leagues. Their pick will go to the Philadelphia Phillies to resolve a grievance regarding former Rule 5 pick of the Cubs, pitcher Lendy Castillo.
Castillo wasn’t active for the required number of days for a Rule 5 pick in 2012, so the Cubs are giving their pick to Philadelphia this year. Team President Theo Epstein said the club wasn’t going to select anyone with their selection anyway.
Winter meetings: Epstein says the Cubs are in search of a starter, bullpen help (closer), an outfielder and looking to “round out the bench” during next week’s meetings. He expressed some jealousy over a flurry of baseball activity earlier this week and wants to be part of that when his club is ready. It also means keeping a level head next week.
“It’s important to have people around you reminding you it’s important to do the right deal not just to do a deal,” Epstein said. “There’s deal momentum at the winter meetings unlike anything you’ve ever seen before so it’s important to make sure you keep your perspective.”
Wesley Wright: Though Epstein couldn’t talk specifically about recently signed lefty reliever Wesley Wright -- since it’s not official yet -- the Cubs can check one need off their wish list.
“Sometimes the non-tender market allows access to a player you might like more than some of the free agents out there at a reasonable price,” Epstein said. “We’ve been looking to add a second lefty to the bullpen.”
Wright was non-tendered by the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday and signed by the Cubs on Wednesday.
No change with Samardzija: Epstein reiterated there has been no movement in talks to sign pitcher Jeff Samardzija to a long-term deal.
“(There’s) mutual interest but no real change,” Epstein said. “Sometimes the economics of the game makes things difficult. Just the situation can create a gap there.”
Long story short: Samardzija wants to be paid like a free agent now instead of in two years when he actually can become one. Samardzija’s agent will be in Orlando for a short time next week but no formal talks are scheduled though the sides will undoubtedly meet.
Call me Ricky: Renteria explained his name change from Rich to Rick: While he was a player with the Florida Marlins a writer did a “cream puff piece” on him where Renteria told him his family calls him Ricky instead of Rich. The writer ended the story by saying “let’s all be Ricky people,” according to Renteria.
“The next day I had a pinch hit at-bat and all of a sudden I heard everyone calling me Ricky,” Renteria explained.
Epstein didn’t make news by saying No. 1 prospect Javy Baez will start his minor league season as a shortstop. Cubs front office people said at the end of last year Baez would be moved around the infield in spring training but would remain a shortstop once the season started -- at least until further notice. Scouting Director Jason McLeod said in September Baez had the ability to “play anywhere in the infield.”
Epstein gave the same answer about his prospects making it to the major leagues in 2014 that he’s given all offseason. This is a question that needs not be asked for a while:
“There will be players from our system that will come up at some point during the year and provide depth and make an impact,” Epstein said. “I think some of our more high profile prospects are more likely to debut sometime in the future. We’ll see. It’s all about the development path and where it takes them.”
And he indicated many of those top prospects probably won’t debut in the majors at all in 2014.
Right-handed flame thrower Arodys Vizcaino is slowly making his way back from Tommy John surgery in 2012.
Epstein said his fastball is up to 98 mph. According to Baseball America, Vizcaino is the Cubs 10th rated prospect in the organization heading into 2014. He was acquired from the Atlanta Braves in July 2012.
Epstein called new bench coach Brandon Hyde “a difference maker” when it comes to dealing, relating and connecting with players.
Epstein wasn’t fazed by his first time manager meeting Cubs media for the very first time:
“Normally when you hire someone new and they meet the media for the first time you’re kind of holding your breath to make sure he doesn’t put his foot in his mouth,” Epstein joked.
“Now that we’ve worked with Ricky for a month now, I was totally comfortable. I was checking my email while he was talking because I feel an innate trust in who he is as a human being.”