Cubs ready to go at Winter Meetings

Cubs ready to go at Winter Meetings

ORLANDO, Fla. -- General manager Jim Hendry has yet to meet with the agent for free-agent pitcher Ted Lilly, to whom the team made an offer last week.

On Sunday, Hendry would not go into specifics about any possible negotiations, and would not comment on a rumored offer to free agent Barry Zito. The team was not believed to have made an offer to the left-hander.

"I'm interested in anybody who will make us better," Hendry said.

The Cubs arrived on Saturday at the Dolphin Hotel to get set up for the Winter Meetings. The team already has made a splash by acquiring free agent Alfonso Soriano, who signed an eight-year, $136 million deal, and by signing Aramis Ramirez, Mark DeRosa, Kerry Wood, Henry Blanco and Wade Miller.

Soriano and Carlos Lee, the top two sluggers on the market, both got new deals before Thanksgiving, which is unusual. The pace at which the Cubs inked Soriano amazed Hendry -- the team met with Soriano on a Wednesday at the Ritz-Carlton in Naples, Fla., and the contract was done by the following Saturday.

"I think it's one of those years where a lot more clubs were pursuing the same kind of player, a lot of clubs are pursuing starting pitching, a lot of clubs were pursuing that marquee bat," Hendry said. "I don't know if they're waiting for the high-end guys, the Zitos and the [Jason] Schmidts -- I don't know how it will affect the next-tier guys."

It's no secret that the Cubs are in the market for starting pitching, and Hendry hopes to fill the gaps this month. It's unlikely he'll finish the roster by the end of the meetings, which close on Thursday.

One player who is set is outfielder Matt Murton. Soriano is expected to take over right field, and Murton will see plenty of playing time, Hendry said.

"I'm very happy with Murton and have no intention of trading him," Hendry said of the young outfielder, who hit .297 in his first full big-league season with 13 home runs and 62 RBIs. "I think Murton is going to be a quality player.

"I'd like to augment the outfield situation with some left-handed help, but not in any way is that a negative thought process toward Matt," Hendry added. "We're obviously a little too right-handed now. Hopefully, we can add some left-handed help, whether it be in the outfield or off the bench. There's absolutely no negatives to Murton. We all feel his better days are ahead of him, and he's got a chance to be a really, really good player. I don't plan on doing anything but giving him a chance to play a lot."

The Cubs' lineup has only one left-handed regular, Jacque Jones, who would likely move to center field to make room for Soriano.

New manager Lou Piniella said that he had some ideas about what he needed for the bench, and finding some left-handed hitting is one of them.

"It's no different than what you always try to do," Hendry said about building the bench. "Unfortunately, the last couple of years, we've been in a spot where you have glorious dreams about a great bench, but if you're always at 12 pitchers, you're one short."

The Cubs would like to add a left-handed bat to complement the right-handers, and find someone who can play two or three outfield spots, or all three. In addition, a clutch pinch-hitter who can come off the bench in late-inning situations is on Hendry's wish list. Ryan Theriot is valuable and versatile enough that he can play in the outfield and fill a spot on the roster.

As for other free agents on the market, Chicago native Cliff Floyd is a left-handed hitter who's available, but he's also coming off a sore left Achilles. The Cubs were not believed to have inquired about the outfielder, who hit .244 in 97 games for the New York Mets.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.