Hendry: Sky Isn't Falling

Jim Hendry (AP)

Although Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry expressed disappointment at not being able to make a trade or sign a free agent at the winter meetings, he cautioned that the winter is far from over.

The Cubs in recent years have come away from the meetings empty-handed only to get things done in late December and early January.

"I thought there would be more trading," Hendry said as the meetings ended. "I was hopeful there would, obviously for us. I talked to a few (GMs), and they felt like they were going to make a deal in the next couple of days. Maybe a lot of it was they're getting closer and maybe they can tie it up.

"For us, obviously we would have loved to make one here, but I don't think it's going to be a detriment. I think we'll make a deal or two before the holidays."

Most of the Cubs speculation, and activity by the team in Indianapolis, centered on right fielder Milton Bradley, whom the Cubs have felt since September that they must trade because of his perceived attitude problems.

The Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers and New York Mets were the teams most often mentioned. The key sticking point is how much of the $21 million owed to Bradley over the next two seasons the Cubs are going to have to absorb.

Outside of that, they are seeking a free agent center fielder. The names of Mike Cameron, Marlon Byrd and Rick Ankiel have come up.

Hendry also wants to fill out his bullpen with a veteran right-hander, and he said talks have progressed well on that front.

The GM also insisted that the Cubs don't have to move Bradley before doing something else, as long as their payroll is in line with budget needs by opening day.

NOTES, QUOTES

--LHP Neal Cotts, who had Tommy John surgery on July 2, was non-tendered by the Cubs. He had been eligible for arbitration this winter.

--RHP Michael Parisi, 26, came to the Cubs in the Rule 5 draft from the Cardinals organization. Parisi has limited big-league experience, in 2008, and the Cubs liked what they saw in the Arizona Fall League this year. Parisi had Tommy John surgery late in the '08 season. The Cubs see him as a possible fifth starter or long reliever if he were to make the team. Last season, they took and kept RHP David Patton, who had little impact out of the bullpen.

--SS Ryan Theriot is the most likely candidate to lead off, manager Lou Piniella said at the winter meetings. That could change if the Cubs sign a center fielder who can bat first. Theriot's on-base percentage dropped from .387 in 2008 to .343 this year. Piniella blamed himself for Theriot playing in a career-high 154 games. He said injuries prevented him from resting Theriot more, but he promised to get Theriot a few more breathers next season.

--C Koyie Hill is all but assured of the job as backup to Geovany Soto in 2010. Hill beat out veteran Paul Bako in spring training this past year, but he did enough to nail down the job for 2010, barring injury. Hill threw out 20 of 50 attempted baserunners, and pitchers like throwing to him. The Cubs might sign a veteran catcher as a non-roster man for spring training, but that catcher will not compete with Hill and likely will open the season at Class AAA Iowa (Des Moines).

--RHP Carlos Zambrano is spending most of his offseason in Chicago and not in Venezuela. The Cubs say Zambrano is working out regularly and has lost about 15 pounds. Piniella wants big things from Zambrano next year.

"He's working hard, and Carlos has something to prove this year," Piniella said. "He's coming off of a nine-win season. Everybody knows that he's a lot better than that. In fact, truthfully, I don't want to put any pressure on him, but this is a young man that should approach 20 wins every year with his stuff and with his physique, and hopefully this is the year he gets to that."

--LHP Ted Lilly might not be ready until May 1, according to Piniella. Lilly underwent surgery this fall to clean up his shoulder. The Cubs say they hope Lilly can be ready to pitch sometime in April, but they will be cautious with the cold weather, and Piniella said at the winter meetings that May 1 is the more likely date.

BY THE NUMBERS: 6 -- Leadoff hitters used by the Cubs in 2009. LF Alfonso Soriano led with 70 games in the leadoff spot. SS Ryan Theriot, who figures to lead off next year, was at the top of the lineup 41 times in 2009.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've had three winning seasons since I've been there in Chicago, two divisional titles. But we haven't had success in the postseason. That probably has been my biggest disappointment." -- Piniella.

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