'Round And 'Round We Go

Sammy Sosa

'Round and 'round the rumors go, where they stop, nobody knows.<br>

INSIDE PITCH

Right fielder Sammy Sosa and setup man Kyle Farnsworth have been headaches to the Cubs organization, and there were rumors last week that the team was about to get rid of both in one trade.

The hot rumor was that Sosa and Farnsworth would be dealt to Baltimore for reliever Jorge Julio and infielder Jerry Hairston Jr.

The New York Mets have cooled their interest in Sosa and put him toward the bottom of their list after signing Pedro Martinez.

Other teams, such as Atlanta, Kansas City and Washington, were believed to have approached the Cubs about Sosa, but it's doubtful those teams had more than a passing interest.

For a while, the red-hot speculation was that Washington was going to be a big player in this deal because bringing a huge name like Sosa's to the team would create a big splash in the team's new town.

However, Nationals general manager Jim Bowden said he was not going to pay for Sosa, and the team's location in the D.C. area was in limbo because of financing.

So, the attention then focused on Baltimore.

Sosa, who is scheduled to make $17 million in 2005 and, if he is traded, $18 million in 2006, burned fans, teammates and management when he left two games early during the final month of the 2004 season without permission--including the season's final game against Atlanta.

Farnsworth, meanwhile, has been erratic both on and off the field and figures to be great trade bait because he can throw 100 mph.

NOTES, QUOTES

Sosa drew the interest of five teams during the winter meetings, but it's doubtful that he will be dealt because of his contract. Sosa is scheduled to make $17 million in 2005, and an automatic $18 million option for 2006 is activated if he agrees to a deal.

Matt Clement, who was offered arbitration, got offers from several teams before signing with Boston.

Former Red Sox manager Grady Little was named special assistant in player development and roving catching instructor. The Cubs hired Little last off-season as a special assistant to general manager Jim Hendry with the proviso that he could leave if he got a major league manager or bench coach job. Hendry expressed surprise that Little was still available but was happy to have him on staff.

Former Minnesota first baseman and outfielder Randy Bush was also named special assistant to Hendry. Bush, the head baseball coach at the University of New Orleans the last five seasons, will evaluate the minor league system and scout some major league players for potential midseason trades.

BY THE NUMBERS: $100 million--The potential payroll of the Cubs to open the 2005 season.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's a Hall of Fame player and I'll treat him like one." --Hendry, on not accepting a bad deal for Sosa just to get rid of the slugger and his salary.

ROSTER REPORT

The Cubs' post-season expectations fell short thanks to a 3-7 finish to the 2004 season. They are still looking for a closer and will try to get into the Carlos Beltran sweepstakes if they can unload Sosa.

ARRIVALS: C Henry Blanco (free agent from Minnesota).

DEPARTURES: Clement (free agent, signed with Boston).

BIGGEST NEEDS: With Joe Borowski's shoulder injury and LaTroy Hawkins' nine blown saves, the Cubs are keeping an eye open for a reliable closer for 2005.

FREE AGENTS: LF Moises Alou, C Paul Bako, OF Tom Goodwin, 2B Mark Grudzielanek, OF Ben Grieve, OF Todd Hollandsworth, INF Ramon Martinez, LHP Kent Mercker.

The Cubs offered arbitration to Clement, banking he would go elsewhere so they could pick up a draft pick. They also offered arbitration to Hollandsworth with the hope of bringing him back, but they parted ways with Alou, Goodwin, Grudzielanek, Grieve, Martinez and Mercker.

ARBITRATION ELIGIBLE: Farnsworth, C Michael Barrett, INF-OF Jose Macias, OF Corey Patterson, 3B Aramis Ramirez, RHP Carlos Zambrano.

The Cubs have never gone to arbitration since Andy MacPhail took over as the team president in 1994. They are attempting to pin down Ramirez to a long-term deal. Farnsworth could be trade bait, while Barrett, Patterson and Zambrano will be tendered contracts. The versatile Macias could be tendered one as well.

IN LIMBO: Sosa left the team without permission during the season finale against Atlanta, and the Cubs are still looking to unload him. There are reports that Farnsworth also left that game early and that the Cubs are also dangling him out there. Meanwhile, Hawkins could also be mentioned in some trade proposals.

MEDICAL WATCH: RHP Joe Borowski (partially torn right rotator cuff) hopes that a few months off will help strengthen his arm for 2005. Surgery was not needed for the shoulder, but Borowski underwent arthroscopic surgery to clean out his left knee.

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