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New outfielder won’t affect Lake’s development

Cubs reel in Ruggiano

Published: Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013 11:50 p.m. CDT
Caption
(AP)
The Cubs traded for right-handed hitting outfielder Justin Ruggiano on Thursday, sending left-handed hitting outfielder Brian Bogusevic to the Marlins. Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer expects more deals to come through before Christmas.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – After balancing the Cubs’ lineup Thursday morning, general manager Jed Hoyer said the team could receive some gifts for Christmas.

“There will be good things that come out of these [winter] meetings over the next few weeks,” Hoyer said after acquiring right-handed hitting outfielder Justin Ruggiano from the Marlins for left-handed hitting outfielder Brian Bogusevic. “I’d be surprised if that didn’t happen, given the discussions you have.

“We hope some of the things we have started [here] will get done quickly.”

The latest deal is for the 31-year-old Ruggiano, who joins left-handed hitters Ryan Sweeney and Nate Schierholtz in the outfield. Ruggiano has batted .281 with a .365 on-base percentage and .589 slugging percentage the last two seasons against left-handers.

Ruggiano should benefit playing outside of Marlins Park, where he hit only three of his 18 home runs last season. Ruggiano batted .222 last season, thanks largely to a 42 at-bat hitless streak.

“We like Bogusevic a lot, but we think [Ruggiano is] a better fit for our roster,” Hoyer said. “We get a guy who really hits left-handed pitching well. He can platoon with one of several guys we have, and play all three outfield positions.”

The trade won’t affect the development of 23-year-old outfielder Junior Lake, Hoyer stressed.

“Junior Lake is going to get a ton of playing time,” he said. “A player like him needs to get at-bats and develop. I just think we didn’t have kind of a veteran right-handed bat who can platoon and hit lefties.

“The only way Junior is going to get better is by playing.”

Lake, who batted .284 in 64 games for the Cubs after a midseason promotion, is hitting .343 with 13 RBIs in 27 games for Estrellas de Oriente in the Dominican Winter League.

“Depth is important,” Hoyer said. “Those guys will play a ton. Junior is going to get playing time. He’s a young player, and we’re in the middle of a phase of our development where getting at-bats is important.”

Hoyer senses free agents will feel increased urgency to sign before Christmas. The Cubs have expressed interest in free agent starting pitchers Jason Hammel and Scott Baker, and relievers John Axford, a free agent, and Josh Roenicke, in the Twins farm system, remain available.

Trade talks involving Jeff Samardzija could resurface as the Cubs chatted with several teams. The Braves could entice the Cubs’ preference for young power pitchers with a surplus that includes J.R. Graham, Mauricio Cabrera (the younger brother of Cubs reliever Alberto Cabrera) and David Hale.

The Braves “have been pushing hard,’’ for a starting pitcher, a top scout for an American League said, adding a match with the Cubs makes sense.

Six of the Braves’ top 10 Baseball American prospects are pitchers, so they have the depth to absorb a trade for a pitcher of Samardzija’s caliber.

Meanwhile, a decision on whether Major League Baseball and the Nippon Professional Baseball League will agree to a cap of $20 million for a posting fee and whether Rakuten will post top pitcher Masahiro Tanaka should occur soon.

The Cubs and several teams are interested on Tanaka, but his destination likely won’t be known until late January – if Rakuten agrees to post him.

Meanwhile, the Cubs lost reliever Marcos Mateo to the Diamondbacks in the major league phase of the Rule 5 draft for $50,000.

Mateo, 29, has struck out 22 in 19 innings for Estrellas in addition to an 0.98 ERA in the Dominican Winter League. Mateo had a 1.74 ERA with 30 strikeouts in 31 innings at three minor league levels last season. With the Cubs in 2010-11, he struck out 51 in 44 2/3 innings.

“There’s a lot of angst when you set your [major league] roster,” said Hoyer, who was happy that some of the Cubs’ younger players weren’t selected.

In the minor league phase, first baseman Justin Boar (Pirates), outfielder Julio Borbon (Orioles) and pitcher A.J. Morris (Orioles) were selected, but the Cubs picked left-handed hitting catcher Charlie Cutler from the Pirates’ organization.

Cutler, 27, batted .298 with a .397 on-base percentage in 301 at-bats at Double-A Altoona.

Hoyer said fans will see a lot of shortstop Javier Baez, third baseman Kris Bryant and outfielder Albert Almora and Jorge Soler – four of the Cubs’ top prospects – in spring training. But he declined to say whether those players would receive invitations as non-roster players.

Manager Rick Renteria and his coaching staff will visit the new spring training complex in Mesa, Ariz., this weekend.

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