Cubs' Hendry ready for action at GMs' meetings

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella, left, and general manager Jim Hendry

    Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella, left, and general manager Jim Hendry Associated Press

 
 
Published11/2/2008 12:01 AM

If Jim Hendry seems eager to get to the general managers meetings, maybe it's because the hot-stove season began much too soon for the Cubs general manager.

"I'm looking forward to it maybe more so than the last couple," Hendry said of the meetings, which begin Monday in California. "I think that it'll be nice to talk to a lot of GMs to see what their appetite is going to be for free agency or possibly trades."

 

Hendry's Cubs got knocked out of the National League playoffs by the Dodgers in the first round, so Hendry has had plenty of time to throw a few logs on to the hot stove.

Even though getting swept was tough for Hendry and the Cubs to accept, especially when they had World Series dreams, Hendry doesn't head into the winter looking to tear things apart.

"This isn't a club that needs an overhaul," Hendry insisted. "It's a 97-win club that just played very poorly for three games in the postseason. When things settle in and a few weeks go by, it's not like you need 15 new guys.

"You want to add three or four more guys or shuffle the deck a little bit. It's the nature of the game. You make roster changes. People come, people go. It's certainly not an overhaul club. It's just a club that our goal is to make it better than it was at the end of the regular season and get ready to take another shot at it."

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In other words, Hendry isn't looking to trade first baseman Derrek Lee or third baseman Aramis Ramirez, even though Lee's offensive numbers took a tumble during the regular season and Ramirez had his second poor playoff series in two years.

Both have no-trade protection in their contracts, but that hasn't stopped some speculation, even though Hendry has no appetite to trade either of his corner-infield cornerstones.

Instead, Hendry will look to settle things with free-agent pitchers Ryan Dempster and Kerry Wood.

Right now, Dempster looks the better bet to remain a Cub. He and Hendry have a good relationship, and both sides seem to want to make a deal even though Dempster has filed for free agency.

Wood and Hendry go back to 1995, but if Wood is looking for a multiyear deal to finish games for the Cubs after saving 34 this year, the Cubs may be willing to let him go and promote Carlos Marmol from setup man to closer.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Cubs seem more inclined to want Wood back with a one-year deal plus an option year or two. But with many clubs needing relief pitching, Wood may find his three- or four-year deal on the open market.

"I've had some conversations with both their agents," Hendry said. "That'll probably pick up in the next week."

Hendry probably will be looking for same middle- to late-inning pitching help, with Bob Howry seemingly on the way out via free agency.

Left-handed hitting is a huge priority, and veterans Jim Edmonds and Daryle Ward probably won't be back.

But with right fielder Kosuke Fukudome collapsing down the stretch, Hendry has little choice than to pursue a left-handed hitting outfielder who can play at least three or four days a week.

If that outfielder can play right field, there's a good chance Fukudome will have to share time in center field with Reed Johnson, who platooned successfully with Edmonds this year. Johnson is arbitration eligible, and the Cubs will offer him a contract.

And no doubt Hendry will run into old friend and Orioles boss Andy MacPhail and talk about second baseman and leadoff man Brian Roberts even as MacPhail talks to the Baltimore media about tying the switch-hitting Roberts up with a new long-term extension.

Also in the mix is first-baseman Micah Hoffpauir, who had a monster season at Class AAA Iowa and hit 2 homers and 8 doubles in 33 games with the Cubs. Hoffpauir isn't a kid, at 28, so he may be able to handle playing part time.

"Hopefully, Hoffpauir gives us a lift, too," Hendry said. "Who knows? Maybe he's the guy.

"There are a lot of different ways you could go with certain things, whether it's free agency or trades. So we're going to keep an open mind. I think it'll become a little clearer after the GM meetings."

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