Hendry on Cubs' off-season

Jim Hendry (AP)

Jim Hendry didn't make any trades at the general managers meetings, and he didn't expect to, but he came away feeling good about the groundwork he set for the Cubs' offseason.

Hendry will be working with a tight budget, but he stressed that the Cubs are not in need of any major rebuilding after missing the postseason for the first time after two years of winning the NL Central.

"Like I've always said, we need a few moves," Hendry said. "We don't need mega-moves. We feel there will be some things that will help some other clubs, but you just have to grind it out. I've had really good meetings."

It's been a big month of meetings for Hendry, and the winter meetings in Indianapolis are just a few weeks away. Hendry chaired the Cubs' organizational meetings in early November in Arizona before heading home to Chicago for the GM meetings.

His centerpiece move will be trying to trade troubled right fielder Milton Bradley. Hendry spoke with several teams at the GM meetings, and the Rangers and Rays surfaced as possible takers for Bradley, who has two years and $21 million left on the three-year, $30 million deal Hendry gave him last January. The Cubs remain adamant that they won't simply release Bradley or eat most of the money, so an exchange of "bad" contracts might have to be Hendry's only way to go.

Aside from that, the Cubs appear interested in Texas free agent outfielder Marlon Byrd. If the Cubs can move Bradley and sign Byrd or obtain another center fielder, they could move Kosuke Fukudome back to right field, which is where all parties would like him to be.

NOTES, QUOTES

--LHP John Grabow appeared close to re-signing with the Cubs at the general managers meetings, butHendry still had more meetings scheduled with Grabow's agent. Grabow figures to be the top left-handed setup man to closer Carlos Marmol if the Cubs can get the deal done. Grabow appeared in 30 games with the Cubs after his July 30 arrival from Pittsburgh. He set a career high with 75 relief appearances.

--RHP Jeff Samardzija was home from Mexico after finishing his stint of five starts, a number the Cubs had predetermined for him. Samardzija went 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA with eight walks and 22 strikeouts in 24 innings. Hendry said all the reports were good about Samardzija, who figures to compete for the fourth or fifth starter's job in spring training.

"Threw well," Hendry said. "The command of his fastball was better. His secondary pitches were better. Command in the strike zone was better, not just throwing strikes but location in the zone was much better."

--LHP Tom Gorzelanny figures also to get a shot at the rotation with LHP Ted Lilly rehabbing until sometime in April from left shoulder surgery. Gorzelanny, who came over from the Pirates in the Grabow deal, went 4-2 with a 5.63 ERA in 13 games, seven starts, with the Cubs. Also in the mix to start is LHP Sean Marshall, the Cubs' key swingman the past two years.

"You've got Samardzija; you've got Marshall; you've got Gorzelanny," Hendry said. "Those are three quality guys, and we feel good about the progress Samardzija made in Mexico, and Gorzelanny did a respectable job when we got him."

--2B Mike Fontenot became the last player eligible for arbitration, when he won a tiebreaker with Orioles OF Adam Jones and Reds RHP Micah Owings. All had been in the majors two years and 139 days. Fontenot suffered a down year in 2009 after showing promise in 2007 and 2008, and the Cubs are looking for a bounce-back season. They feel that new hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo can help. Fontenot fell from .305 to .236 in batting average with an on-base percentage (once thought to be a strength) of .301.

Fontenot is a left-handed hitter, and with right-handed-hitting INF Jeff Baker on the club, the Cubs may be able to mix and match more.

"Fontenot a year ago played well, and we'd like to think he's going to come back and be what he was for two years before that," Hendry said.

"It's going to be (manager Lou Piniella's) call who plays and who hits where, but Baker, certainly, has earned the right to be included in all positive discussions no matter how the team looks now compared to when we get to camp. We need Fontenot to hit."

--LF Alfonso Soriano and 3B Aramis Ramirez figure to be stepping up their rehab efforts. The Cubs said trainer Mark O'Neal made a stop in Puerto Rico to see C Geovany Soto, whom the Cubs want to see report to camp in better physical shape. From there, the trainer was headed to the Dominican Republic for sessions with Soriano and Ramirez.

Soriano is coming off left knee surgery, and Ramirez suffered a dislocated left shoulder in May, an injury that put him out for two months and bothered him most of the season. Ramirez opted for strengthening exercises over surgery.

BY THE NUMBERS: 4.71 -- At-bats per RBI this year for Ramirez, the second-best figure among big-league third basemen. He trailed only the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez (4.44). Ramirez's two-month absence because of a shoulder injury was a big reason the Cubs' offense sputtered.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think it's going to be OK. If we can make one or two moves in the next couple weeks, that would probably be helpful. Then it would kind of give you a little better direction of where you wanted to go. We don't need a lot of marquee type guys. We've got a lot of good players. As we've been saying from Day 1, we need them to play better." -- Hendry.

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