The Rundown: Russell Martin Rumors, Soriano Retires, Yankees Not in on Big Free Agents?

The first full day of free agency is in the books, with most Cubs-related rumors pointing toward the usual suspects.

Jon Heyman and Buster Olney both think the Cubs will be targeting catcher Russell Martin.

There will be a lot of competition for Martin, as he’s really the only decent free-agent catcher available, so the Cubs will need to decide if he will be worth a bidding war. As long as the numbers don’t get too crazy, he could be behind the dish in Chicago for the next few years.

Patrick Mooney says James Shields, David Robertson and Martin are possibilities, and Gordon Wittenmyer adds outfielder Jonny Gomes to the mix.

One interesting development is a report out of New York that claims that the Yankees won’t be pursuing big names like Pablo Sandoval, Jon Lester or Max Scherzer, this winter. Instead, they will be focusing on some of their own free agents, Brandon McCarthy and Chase Headley.

This could be good news for the Cubs, as it would eliminate a rival suitor for a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher. We’ll have to see if this report holds any water as the off-season goes on. This is the Yankees we’re talking about, after all.

Soriano retires

After a 16-year MLB career, former Cub Alfonso Soriano is retiring. Soriano came to the Cubs with an exclamation point — signing an eight-year, $136 million contract before the 2007 season.

Soriano drew a lot of ire from fans. Because of the hop, because of his shaky defense, because of his penchant for swinging at every single pitch in the dirt, because he occasionally stood at home plate and admired a hit that knocked off the wall instead of going over it…

But the criticism was probably overblown because of his hefty contract. Was Soriano overpaid? Yes. But it wasn’t his fault the Cubs paid him a dump truck of money.

He also did some great things for the Cubs. In 2007, batting lead-off (that was another whole issue), he hit .299/.337/.560 with 33 home runs. And in 2008, he went .280/.344/.532 with 29 home runs in only 109 games. The Cubs made the playoffs both seasons, and were one of the best teams in baseball in 2008.

Soriano was always classy toward the fans, even when they booed. He was a mentor to young players toward the end of his Cub career. And he even worked to improve his defense.

I’m glad that Soriano was able to go out on a high note with the Cubs. He deserved it. How do you all look back upon Soriano’s career with the Cubs?

Other notes

* Dan Vogelbach came up to the plate with the bases loaded on Tuesday and knocked in three with one swing of the bat — with a single. That was all the Mesa Solar Sox needed, as they went on to beat Salt River Rafters 3-1. Vogelbach added a double later in the game to finish 2-for-4. Ivan Pineyro pitched one scoreless inning with two strikeouts.

* Former Cub DJ LeMahieu won a Gold Glove at second base for the Rockies. LeMahieu was part of the disappointing trade that brought Ian Stewart over from Colorado (shudders).

* The Cubs activated Justin Ruggiano and Ryan Sweeney from the 60-day DL. The 40-man roster stands at 37.

* Jeff Sullivan writes over at FanGraphs that the Cubs are one “splash” away from looking like a .500 team, and they could make more than one splash this off-season. It’s a very optimistic, yet still realistic, look at what next season could look like.

* The Dodgers have named Farhan Zaidi as the team’s GM. Zaidi comes over from Oakland, where he served as assistant GM. Former Padres GM Josh Byrnes also will be named a senior executive. Teaming up with new president of baseball operation Andrew Friedman, this will be an impressive front office. Should be fun to watch them go against the Cubs’ front office in the upcoming years.

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