Hendry says trades could be aplenty

Cubs general manager Jim Hendry says he's feeling no déjà vu about going back to Orlando for the winter meetings.

The last time baseball people gathered for the winter meetings in that Florida city, Hendry found himself hooked up to an EKG machine while signing pitcher Ted Lilly to a four-year contract.

That was in 2006, when the Cubs were trying to rebound from a disastrous season. Lilly gave the Cubs almost four good seasons before Hendry traded him this past July.

Hendry emerged OK after undergoing an angioplasty while in Orlando.

“I haven't thought about it that way,” Hendry said with a laugh. “Teddy was an outstanding pitcher for us. I'd like to come away with another good player, but I don't want to go about it that way again.”

But seriously, the Cubs are coming off another poor season, and Hendry has some work to do heading into this year's winter meetings.

Unlike 2006, Hendry won't have an unlimited checkbook to work with, but there might be a couple of things working in the Cubs' favor.

Major League Baseball and the players association accelerated the calendar this off-season, allowing free agents to declare earlier and moving up the deadline for clubs to tender their players contracts.

As a result, the free-agent market has been fully established, and all teams know who's available one way or another before the winter meetings even start.

Perhaps for the first time in a long time, teams will feel free to sign free agents and make trades at the meetings and give this confab even somewhat the look and feel of the swap meet it was years ago.

“I'm looking forward to it,” Hendry said. “It's pretty much well-established what we're trying to do. We'll have a combination, hopefully, of free agency and trades. We plan on getting down there and getting into it.”

The Cubs' needs have been openly stated by Hendry: a left-handed hitting first baseman, a starting pitcher and a relief pitcher.

The White Sox just nabbed the most exciting first-base free agent when they signed Adam Dunn, who has hit well in Wrigley Field.

The Cubs are talking trade with several clubs for a first baseman. They're also looking at free agents such as Carlos Pena (Tampa Bay) and Adam LaRoche (Arizona).

As of late this past week, the Cubs were not far down the road with any free agent, whether it be at the first-base or pitching positions.

With pitching, the Cubs don't figure to be a player for marquee free agent Cliff Lee. Insiders also say they haven't had serious talks with former Cub Kerry Wood, who could fill a right-handed vacancy in the bullpen.

The free-agent market became flooded Thursday as teams failed to tender contracts to a host of players. For midlevel players, that could result in a buyer's market, something that could help the Cubs, who are cutting payroll this winter.

Either way, Hendry would like to see some action at the winter meetings in what has been a slow-developing hot-stove league.

“From earlier conversations, and even early results, it looks like a lot of clubs are interested in trading strength for strength,” Hendry said. “I think that's good for the game. I've always wished there were more trades.

“I think in this next week or two, you're going to see some of that. The free-agent market, in some areas, doesn't have the depth that it's had in the past. It might be more enticing to make some trades.”