The Rundown: Cubs Reportedly Meet with Russell Martin, Hoyer Tempers Free Agency Expectations

Russell Martin, the top free-agent catcher available, has been connected to the Cubs lately. A lot.

The rumors heated up even more on Friday, as Bruce Levine reported that the Cubs “rolled out the red carpet” during a meeting with Martin earlier in the week.

Martin is also set to meet with the Pirates, Dodgers and Blue Jays. Levine points out that the Yankees signed catcher Brian McCann last year for five years, $75 million, and that Martin may use those numbers as a starting point.

Overall, I’m in favor of bringing in Martin, but I say if the price or number of years is too steep, the Cubs should pass.

Jed Hoyer tells everybody to chill out

It’s funny how quickly expectations can change, isn’t it? As recently as the end of the 2014 season, basically the most optimistic view from Cubs fans would’ve been “Hope for improvement, playoffs unlikely, and possibly make a run at the Wild Card with a solid off-season and good luck.”

Then came Theo Epstein’s proclamation that the goal for 2015 is to win the Central Division. It upped the enthusiasm, but how realistic was it?

Now that Joe Maddon is in the fold, expectations have grown and free agent rumors are racing around like crazy. Cubs fans may need a reality check to keep things in perspective.

Jed Hoyer may have been thinking the same thing. He conducted a conference call with members of the media  on Friday, saying the Cubs could have a big off-season “if things line up.”

“We’re not going to force it, and certainly a lot of the reports we’ve read makes us seem like we’re going to have some supercharged offseason and I think that’s probably overstated.” Hoyer said.

Hoyer’s comments serve as a reminder: The front office said it would be adding major pieces over the next 15 months. Not just this off-season.

So if the Cubs don’t get Jon Lester — or Russell Martin — let’s not freak out.

Wada to represent MLB in Japan All-Star Series

For the first time since 2006, MLB will be sending a squad of 29 players to play in the Japan All-Star Series. A group of players, including Robinson Cano, Jose Altuve (how great a story was this guy in 2014, by the way?) and Yasiel Puig, will take on the Japan national team in a five-game series.

The MLB team also will feature newly re-signed Cub LHP Tsuyoshi Wada. He is the lone Cubs representative.

Games will be shown on MLB Network and MLB.TV. The series begins on Tuesday.

Minor-league free agents

Fifteen Cubs players have become minor-league free agents, according to Baseball America:

* RHP: Alberto Cabrera (AAA), Lendy Castillo (AA), Eduardo Figueroa (High-A), Marcus Hatley (AAA), Marcos Mateo (AAA), Carlos Pimentel (AAA), Dae-Eun Rhee (AAA)
* C: Charlie Cutler (AA), Nathan Maldonado (High-A)
* INF: Lars Anderson (AA), Edgar Gonzalez (AAA), Jonathan Mota (AAA), Chris Valaika (AAA)
* OF: Manny Ramirez (AAA), Josh Vitters (AAA)

Vitters, a former first-round pick, is probably the biggest name on the list, and could be leaving the organization. It’s a shame he was never able to put things together.

I would have to think Manny Ramirez will be brought back by the Cubs, but I suppose we will have to wait and see.

Other notes

* The Mesa Solar Sox lost to the Surprise Saguaros on Friday, but received some nice contributions from Cubs prospects. Outfielder Jacob Hannemann was 1-for-2 with two walks and a run, Dan Vogelbach went 1-for-3 with a walk, and Danny Lockhart was 1-for-3 with an RBI. On the hill, starter Ivan Pineyro went three scoreless with three strikeouts, and Gerardo Concepcion added three scoreless innings of his own.

* Jesse Sanchez writes that the Cubs could be in on promising Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada if he becomes eligible to sign after June 15. At 19, Moncada has been compared to Yasiel Puig at the same age, according to Sanchez.

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