Cubs figure to be busy at Winter Meetings

Cubs general manager Jim Hendry is trying to align his outfield pieces, but the puzzle is proving to be a difficult one.

Hendry's first order of business still is to try to trade right fielder Milton Bradley, and he had several feelers during the general managers meetings earlier this month.

The two years and $21 million left on Bradley's contract are major stumbling blocks, as is Bradley's troubled history.

All the while, reports began surfacing that the Cubs would have interest in outfielder Curtis Granderson if the Tigers put him on the trading block. Cubs front-office people acknowledge liking Granderson, but if top prospects such as shortstop Starlin Castro, third baseman Josh Vitters or right-handed pitcher Andrew Cashner make up any of the asking price, Hendry will say no thanks.

The Cubs would like to move Kosuke Fukudome from center field to right, his better position. Granderson could play center if the Cubs could get a deal done. Neither Granderson nor Fukudome hits left-handed pitching all that well, so Lou Piniella would have to do plenty of mixing and matching when the Cubs go against a left-handed starting pitcher.

Hendry figures to be working the phone plenty between now and the winter meetings next month in Indianapolis.


--RHP Aaron Heilman was dealt to the Diamondbacks for a pair of minor league prospects, RHP Scott Maine and 1B Ryne White, Thursday. Heilman, 31, was an arbitration-eligible reliever who did not fit into the Cubs' 2010 plans after a up-and-down 2009 season. The move saves the Cubs a few million dollars as they prepare for the winter meetings. Heilman was 4-4 with a 4.11 ERA in 70 relief appearances.

--LHP John Grabow and the Cubs closed in on a two-year deal, something that Hendry had been working on since the end of the season. Grabow, 30, came to the Cubs in a July 30 trade with Pittsburgh. He appeared in a career-high 75 games between the two clubs, going 3-0 with a 3.36 ERA overall. He figures to anchor the left side of the Chicago bullpen in the late innings.

--2B Mike Fontenot has been awarded "Super 2" status based on service time, and he will be arbitration-eligible this winter. The Cubs likely will tender Fontenot a contract even though he suffered a down year in 2009 after opening eyes in '08. Fontenot's batting average fell from .305 to .236, and he put up only a .301 on-base percentage. The Cubs thought that Fontenot could handle everyday chores in the field after they traded INF/OF Mark DeRosa, but Fontenot wasn't always up to it. With INF/OF Jeff Baker on the team, Fontenot can get more rest in 2010.

--RHP Randy Wells finished sixth in the balloting for NL Rookie of the Year after making a strong case for winning the award early in the season. As of now, Wells is the Cubs' No. 3 starter behind RHPs Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster, what with LHP Ted Lilly set to open the season on the disabled list after undergoing shoulder surgery. Wells went 12-10 with a 3.05 ERA after his call-up in May and easily was the most pleasant surprise on the team. He worked a career-best 191 1/3 innings between Class AAA Iowa (Des Moines) and the Cubs, and there was some concern about his workload late in the year. Wells says he'll be ready to go 200 innings next season.

--Shortstop Ryan Theriot is in the Cubs' plans to open the season at that position, but if minor league phenom Starlin Castro comes to camp and impresses, it's possible Theriot eventually could move to second base. That's a long way off, considering Castro has just one full year of pro ball in the United States under his belt. The Cubs would like Theriot to rebound from a season that saw his on-base percentage fall 44 points and his walks-to-strikeouts ratio get turned on its head the wrong way.

BY THE NUMBERS: 9 -- Hits Fukudome had against left-handed pitching over 55 at-bats in 2009, a .164 average.

HE SAID IT: "I'm looking forward to Indianapolis. I think it'll be an exciting time for the game." --Hendry, as he anticipates a flurry of trade activity at the winter meetings.

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