Jim Hendry and Lou Piniella were on Chicago Tribune Live last night, and provide probably the best look we've had in a while as far as what the club is thinking right now. Here's a recap - commentary to follow.
Hendry says this year seems to be developing later than usual, and that the Cubs still have something they need to do.
He said the Cubs asked about Santana, and the Twins told him that Johann Santana wouldn't waive his no trade clause unless he was traded to a big-market team out east that trained in Florida for spring training. So the Cubs did inquire on Santana, which is something people were complaining about. [This also explains why the bidding on Santana went down from where it was at the winter meetings - teams figured out that they were bidding against, basically, themselves.]
Hendry says the Cubs are very happy with the infielders at present, and are only looking to add one if its a "marquee player." He says they will definitely add a right-hander who can play the outfield, not a marquee player, to compliment the lefties in center.
Mark DeRosa can, according to Hendry, play anywhere "except for center and catcher" - note that shortstop was not mentioned. The Cubs have no interest in trading him.
One of the reasons the Cubs added Lieber was to get more right-handed in the rotation, because "the division - especially Milwaukee - is so right handed." He noted that Lieber was "not in his prime," which... well, at least you know that.
When asked about power pitching, he says that Hill and Lilly aren't "soft-tossing lefites." Talks about Zambrano and how they're hoping he'll improve this season. He said that Gallagher is a guy that is asked about regularly by other clubs, and that he'll be a great pitcher "for years." Didn't commit to him in the rotation. Also said that he thinks Dempster will pick up some velocity this year, lord knows where from.
Pie and Fuld is going to be a competition. Says Fuld plays "just as good of defense as Felix," which I don't believe. "Everybody in the industry would love to have" him, and the organization feels he can hit, but he won't be simply handed the spot and allowed to take his lumps for a whole season. But he says that Pie could "hit .260" and still provide value to the club.
Then they cut in with Lou for a bit. He says that he won't have to "tinker" as much in spring training, due to familiarity with the players and the players being for familiar with the staff. He says he wants to get off to a better start, and (uh) thinks that may have to do with the early losses in the playoffs.
Lou says center field is the only spot where there will be competition in spring training. (Then again, shortstop wasn't an open job at the start of last season either.) He says the Cubs will also take a look at Dempster and Lieber in the rotation, and he will experiment with Fukudome in both the two and six spots in the lineup.
Lou thinks that if Soriano had stolen bases, nobody would be talking about Soriano leading off. Lou plans on keeping him at the top of the lineup.
Back to Hendry - he also feels that Soriano will return to form with stolen bases, and will be a fine leadoff hitter "in a different style."
He says that when you chase free agents, you can "sell your club," and that players like coming to Chicago. Trades, on the other hand, revolve around the needs of both ballclubs. Some GMs are easier to work with - he says the Ohman to the Braves trade took two hours.
When asked about OBP, he says "you'd like to have both," which leaves out... what's the other element? Adds that Fukudome is viewed as a player that hits lefties well and will complement the lineup. Also blathers about sac-fly RBIs in eighth innings - I kinda tuned that part out.
[EDIT: Going to clarify the above because what he said is getting roundly mocked around the Internet, a bit undeservedly. If I had to guess at what Hendry was trying to say, it wasn't that he doesn't - per se - value OBP. (I don't think he quite does weight it properly, but that's a topic for another day.) It's that you also need guys to knock in runs as well. Had he magically tripped upon the words "slugging percentage" in there somewhere I think people would leave him alone on the topic for now.
That could be me drinking the Kool-Aid, but whatever.]
As far as Fukudome - he says the Cubs are trying to acclimate him to play in the US, and have gotten a strength and conditioning coordinator that speaks Japanese in addition to his translator. They're also providing a translator and English tutoring to his family.
Back to Fuld and Pie - it'll be a full-on competition, Thunderdome style: two men enter, one man goes back to Iowa. Talks about how there will be competition in the bullpen, specifically mentions Lahey and Hart.
What wasn't mentioned interests me almost as much as what was. Marquis came up about once in passing, which makes me wonder if the Cubs aren't trying to downplay him in anticipation of something happening later.
Obviously there were a lot of other things not touched on, but a lot of those are bench player issues that I think Hendry and Lou are leaving until they finish making their trades and seeing how people like Cedeno and Patterson look in camp.
And of course Brian Roberts loomed over the proceedings, and Hendry seemed to dance around the topic without moving in to actual tampering. I get the feeling that Roberts is viewed as a luxury, not a must-have, by Hendry and Lou, which is comforting.