The Cubs don't appear to be serious players for free-agent first baseman Albert Pujols.
That didn't stop them from getting involved in the process at the winter meetings in Dallas.
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Reports Tuesday had team president Theo Epstein and his crew meeting Monday night with Dan Lozano, Pujols' agent.
Other reports had the Cubs making a qualifying offer to Pujols. Team officials, during their daily media briefing, would neither confirm nor deny the reports.
Epstein deftly talked around the Pujols situation, noting that Lozano also represents Cubs pitcher Rodrigo Lopez.
Even if the Cubs aren't serious bidders for Pujols, give Epstein credit. The Miami Marlins seemed poised to land Pujols with the St. Louis Cardinals deciding whether they wanted to keep their superstar.
The presence of the big-market Cubs in the fray might serve to drive up the price of Pujols for National League rivals.
It also might segue nicely into a pursuit more suited to the Cubs: left-handed hitting first baseman Prince Fielder.
The Cubs, wisely, don't seem inclined to offer Pujols a 10-year, $200 million deal as the Marlins reportedly are ready to do. But they might be willing to go out shorter on years for Fielder.
Although Fielder weighs about 275 pounds, he's only 27 years old. Pujols turns 32 on Jan. 16, and there have been some calls in the media for Pujols to produce a birth certificate because of questions about his age.
"They have to be great players," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer told Chicago reporters Tuesday. "You only do deals for great players. And you want to make sure you're paying for the future not for the past.
"But if you're going to talk about a long deal, it better be for a great player and an elite talent. Otherwise, those are recipes for disaster."
New Cubs manager Dale Sveum is both familiar and friendly with Fielder, having worked with him as a coach on the Milwaukee Brewers staff.
"Like I said in my original press conference, he's just one of those special guys that comes around once in awhile, once in a lifetime," Sveum said Tuesday during his media session at the winter meetings.
"The way he plays the game, he should have played the game in the 1950s and '60s and '70s when guys played every day.
"They played as hard as they possibly could every single day. They cared about winning. They cared about their teammates. And Prince is all those things."
Closing in on coaches:
Dale Sveum said his new coaching staff is all but filled out.
The Cubs recently have added (although not officially announced) bench coach Jamie Quirk and pitching coach Chris Bosio to a staff that includes Rudy Jaramillo (hitting), Lester Strode (bullpen) and Pat Listach (moving from bench to third base).
"Yeah, we're pretty much done now," Sveum told reporters. "We've just got one last thing, our first-base coach. Everything else is pretty much done. Hopefully in about 24 hours.
"But I think I said that about a week ago, too, and it didn't happen. We'll probably announce it in a few days."
On Bosio, Sveum said: "I know his due diligence that he puts in. He's a baseball rat and he's got a lot of passion for being a pitching coach. He's always been a good friend of mine."
All about the pitching:
If the Cubs are to contend in 2012, it will depend heavily on one thing, said Dale Sveum.
"I think it all starts with pitching," he said. "And we definitely have the pitching to go out there and compete … And you need to manufacture runs, if we don't have the power. If we do have the power, then you can do other things.
"But competing and winning all comes down to your pitching. And if you have (Carlos) Zambrano and (Matt) Garza and (Ryan) Dempster and fill in with the other two guys and have a bullpen like we do, you have a chance of winning. You put some runs up on the board and you get hot."