Ramirez locked up; Cubs outright Guzman

274216.jpg

Ramirez locked up; Cubs outright Guzman

Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010
4:21 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

As the Cubs continue with their organizational meetings in Arizona, reviewing their prospect base and free-agency options, small details are emerging before the front office has to make the major decisions that will shape the 2011 roster.

As expected, Aramis Ramirez has exercised his 14.6 million player option for next season. The Cubs officially received the paperwork before Thursdays deadline and there might not be a player more critical to their success.

Nagging injuries limited Ramirez to 124 games last season, and he went through an inexplicable slump that lasted for months, yet still finished with 25 home runs and 83 RBI, numbers that led the team in both categories.

Ramirez will turn 33 next year, and though he has said that he wont play much longer, he could be motivated to secure his next contract. By not opting out, the third baseman is also guaranteed at least a 2 million buyout of the 16 million club option for 2012, which would be automatically triggered if he was traded.

Quite simply, the Cubs as currently constructed do not have another offensive force like Ramirez. Here are the only other players with six or more seasons with at least 25 homers in a Cubs uniform: Sammy Sosa; Billy Williams; Ernie Banks; Ron Santo; and Ryne Sandberg.

Ramirez is wired differently than those five, but there will be few players on the open market with his potential to generate runs, and its uncertain how hard the Cubs will pursue them.

If the Cubs allocate their resources toward pitching and a modest upgrade at first base, they will need Ramirez more than ever.

Guzman agrees to minor-league deal

The Cubs once rated Angel Guzman as high as Carlos Zambrano in their minor-league system, but a series of injuries nearly shattered his career. Surgery to repair a significant ligament tear in Guzmans right shoulder wiped out his 2010 season just as he was being viewed as a reliable setup man out of the bullpen.

The Cubs outrighted Guzman off their 40-man roster, which stands at 37 players. The reliever who will turn 29 next month and missed most of 2007 and 2008 because of Tommy John surgery cleared waivers and agreed to a minor-league contract with an invitation to major-league spring training.

The Cubs are planning to eventually add right-hander Chris Archer who at 22 is supposed to be the next big thing to the 40-man roster.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

With Ben Zobrist sidelined by sore wrist, Cubs move Ian Happ to second base

With Ben Zobrist sidelined by sore wrist, Cubs move Ian Happ to second base

LOS ANGELES – The Cubs drafted and developed Ian Happ with the idea of turning him into a Ben Zobrist-type player who would move quickly through the farm system and surface as a versatile big-league contributor and/or legitimate trade chip.

With Zobrist sidelined because of a sore left wrist, the Cubs got their first look at Happ playing second base in The Show during Saturday’s 5-0 loss at Dodger Stadium. That kind of depth – plugging in a 2015 first-round pick while a World Series MVP rests – should ultimately propel the Cubs over the course of a 162-game season.

Even as the Cubs stutter-step through a 25-23 start, there are enough choices for the best defensive second baseman on the team and a National League Championship Series co-MVP (Javier Baez) to sit on the bench.

“We know that the talent’s there,” Zobrist said. “It’s not like having any one or two guys out of the lineup is a big drop-off for us because of the talent that’s there. And we know that just because we have a lot of young players doesn’t mean that they’re not extremely capable of doing the job as well.”

Zobrist – who’s reached base in 23 straight games and emerged as a new leadoff option with Kyle Schwarber struggling – felt something on an awkward swing in the first inning of Friday’s 4-0 loss to the Dodgers. Zobrist played through it that night and called it a “day-to-day thing” that didn’t require an MRI.

[MORE: Is Joe Maddon turning Kyle Schwarber into a platoon player?

Facing Clayton Kershaw on Sunday after back-to-back shutouts will be a game-time decision.

“It’s tough,” Zobrist said. “We just haven’t strung together enough quality at-bats to score runs the last two games. It’s not just because of us. They’ve pitched well. Their pitchers are pretty hot right now. They’ve spotted up. They’ve gotten early strikes where they needed to and then gone to work pretty well on us.

“The task doesn’t get any easier tomorrow with Kershaw. We just got to keep trying to chip away.”

Preview: Cubs look to avoid getting swept by Dodgers today on CSN

5-28_dodgers_matchup_mlb_chc_blank.jpg

Preview: Cubs look to avoid getting swept by Dodgers today on CSN

The Cubs take on the Los Angeles Dodgers today, and you can catch all the action on CSN and live streaming on CSNChicago.com and the NBC Sports App.

Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 2:30 p.m. Then catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Ryan Dempster. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Jon Lester (3-2, 3.19 ERA) vs. Clayton Kershaw (7-2, 2.01 ERA)

Click here for more stats to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the Cubs: All of the most recent news and notes.