ORLANDO, Fla.-- By this time in past off-seasons, the Cubs had much of their business already accomplished.
But things have progressed much more slowly this off-season. However, general manager Jim Hendry expressed some optimism things could start happening soon, if not at the winter meetings, then shortly afterward.
The Cubs reportedly had interest in first baseman Adrian Gonzalez before the San Diego Padres traded him to the Boston Red Sox.
Another report had the Cubs talking with the Dodgers about first baseman James Loney, who had a hitting line of .267/.329/.395 this year with 10 homers. Insiders said the Cubs like Loney but that the Dodgers did not appear interested in moving him.
Hendry confirmed Monday that he plans to talk with agent Scott Boras, most likely about free-agent first baseman Carlos Pena, late of Tampa Bay.
"I think things got a chance to get a little more active, whether it's the rest of this week or the next couple weeks," Hendry said. "The last couple years, there seemed to be a lot of people that made some good deals in January, the second-tier guys or guys that used to make a higher salary. I see a lot of that being moved up now, and I do see a very strong participation in trade talks and free-agent talks by all clubs since I've been here."
The Cubs continue to look for a left-handed hitting first baseman, a starting pitcher and a reliever. Hendry said the first baseman did not have to be acquired first, that if a pitcher came the Cubs way, he could be signed or traded for first. Until then, the Cubs also will consider entertaining the notion that outfielder Tyler Colvin can play first base.
The new guy:
New pitching coach Mark Riggins will provide a fresh voice after Larry Rothschild oversaw the pitchers for the past nine seasons.
One pitcher who could possibly benefit is right-hander Jeff Samardzija, who opened the season in the Cubs' bullpen before finding success as a starter at Class AAA Iowa.
"I think Jeff got the opportunity to go out there and pitch every five days on a consistent basis," Riggins said. "He got into a routine at Iowa. Obviously, when you get called up to Chicago, as any pitcher, you may have to do some different roles. I thought he was comfortable in Iowa.
"He requires confidence. He requires a lot of work to stay in his form. (Iowa pitching coach Mike Mason) did a great job with him down there. I only went in there once every 6-7 weeks to see him. I talked with him on the phone, trying to build confidence in him. I think there's a lot of talent there, and I think he's got a lot of things to look forward to."
Jim Hendry said lefty Sean Marshall would continue in his role as the eighth-inning setup man in 2011 after competing in past springs for a spot in the rotation. The Cubs are leaving open their options on hard-throwing righty Andrew Cashner, who started and relieved in the minor leagues before coming up and working out of the pen for the Cubs this year.