News and Notes: Walker's Future Still Uncertain

Todd Walker was one of the bright spots on Dusty Baker's 2004 Cubs team. His future with the club remains uncertain, however.

Walker could be offered arbitration by the Dec. 7 deadline, but the Cubs are still deciding. Walker, who hit well as a backup to Mark Grudzielanek in 2004, is also being looked at by Texas and the White Sox.

Matt Clement told reporters that several teams - including the White Sox - are interested in him. The Cubs have not shown interest in re-signing him but might offer him arbitration so that if they lose him, they might be compensated with a draft pick.

Kent Mercker, who was involved in two altercations with departed TV color man Steve Stone, told the Dayton Daily news that he never screamed at Stone on a flight to Montreal in September. "It was a calm discussion--no voices raised," Mercker said. "There were more than 40 people on that plane and nobody heard a word but me, Stone and (former play-by-play man Chip) Caray, who was sitting next to Stone."

FUN WITH NUMBERS: 15 -- Losses for the Cubs in 2004 after they were leading or tied heading into the ninth inning.

SAY WHUT?: "I'm a baseball junkie -- I guess I'm whatever the equivalent of a baseball gym rat would be." --New Cubs play-by-play man Len Kasper.

ROSTER REPORT

The Cubs, whose postseason expectations fell short thanks to a 2-8 finish to the 2004 season, will be looking for a closer, shortstop and second baseman. They will try to get into the Carlos Beltran sweepstakes if they can unload RF Sammy Sosa.

ARRIVALS: None.

DEPARTURES: None.

BIGGEST NEEDS: With the shoulder injury to Joe Borowski and the struggles of LaTroy Hawkins (nine blown saves), the Cubs are keeping an eye open for a reliable closer for 2005 and are looking at free agent Troy Percival.

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

The Cubs are considering bringing back Garciaparra and Walker, but other teams will be bidding for those two as well. The Cubs would love to bring back Alou at around $6-7 million for 2005, but he is seeking a two-year deal. Grieve and Bako could also be returning candidates, but Goodwin, Grudzielanek, Hollandsworth, Martinez and Mercker appear to be gone.

ARBITRATION ELIGIBLE: C Michael Barrett, RHP Kyle Farnsworth, 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. The Cubs are considering pinning down Ramirez to a long-term deal. Farnsworth could be trade bait. Barrett, Patterson and Zambrano will be tendered contracts, and the versatile Macias could be tendered one as well.

IN LIMBO: RF Sammy Sosa left the team without permission during the season finale against Atlanta, and the Cubs are looking to unload him. There are reports that RHP pitcher Kyle Farnsworth left that game early as well, and the Cubs also might be dangling him out there. Farnsworth can throw 100 mph, but his consistency has always been a problem. RHP LaTroy Hawkins could also be mentioned in some trade proposals.

MEDICAL WATCH: RHP Joe Borowski (torn right rotator cuff) hopes offseason surgery is not needed and that a few months off will help strengthen his arm for 2005.


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