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Prior still a Cub as winter meetings end
By Bruce Miles | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 12/7/2007 12:15 AM

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Apparently, the reports of great interest in Cubs pitcher Mark Prior have been greatly exaggerated.

The Cubs were unable to deal their former ace during the winter meetings, and it looks now like they will go all the way to the Dec. 12 deadline to offer contracts with Prior in their possession.

Cubs people were busy Thursday shooting down reports that the right-hander was headed everyplace from San Diego to Texas to Cincinnati to Philadelphia.

Prior missed the 2007 season after undergoing surgery on his right shoulder in April. He made $3.575 million to rehab this year and can become a free agent after the 2008 season.

Because Prior has five-plus years of major-league service, the Cubs can cut his salary up to only 20 percent if they decide to tender him a contract and go to salary arbitration.

There are two scenarios pleasing to the Cubs: They can non-tender Prior on the 12th and sign him back the next day as a free agent at a lesser salary (other clubs also are eligible to sign Prior then), or the Cubs and Prior can agree to a one-year contract plus a club-option year.

Cubs insiders say they aren't getting any indication Prior's side will go for an option year. The Cubs also say they have no idea when Prior will be able to pitch again.

Draft doings: The Cubs traded up in Thursday's Rule 5 draft to get the top pick. They sent cash to the Tampa Bay Rays for the No. 1 selection and then took right-handed pitcher Tim Lahey from the Minnesota Twins' organization.

Lahey went 8-4 with a 3.45 ERA and 13 saves in 16 chances this year for Class AA New Britain.

The Twins drafted the 6-foot-4, 250-pound Lahey as a catcher in 2004. They converted him to a pitcher beginning with the 2005 season.

"We feel it's a good opportunity to add again to the bullpen candidates for the club," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. "He has tremendous life on his fastball, a great sinking fastball and the makings of a good slider.

"His stuff on paper seemed to play like what you want in Wrigley Field, a groundball-type guy, a big, strong fellow who throws it up to 92-93 (mph), very durable. The Twins people have told us he has outstanding makeup, a real hard worker, full throttle once the conversion was made."

The Cubs must keep Lahey on the major-league roster all season or offer him back to the Twins.

"He was the one guy we felt was really worth the gamble," Hendry said. "He was clearly the only guy we really wanted that we thought had a legitimate chance. I don't think since I've been a Cub that we've gone way up to the top to try to get somebody."

The Cubs lost pitcher Randy Wells to the Toronto Blue Jays in the Rule 5 draft. Wells was 5-6 with a 4.52 ERA this year at Class AAA Iowa.

Earlier this week, the Cubs traded reliever Will Ohman to the Braves in a deal that brought young reliever Jose Ascanio. The moves give the Cubs' bullpen depth and could set the stage for trades to come.

Theriot a camper: Cubs shortstop Ryan Theriot will close out the weekend of the annual Cubs convention with a hitting and fielding camp.

Top Tier Baseball and Prep Baseball Report will conduct the camp Sunday, Jan. 20, from 5-9 p.m. at the MVP Baseball Center, 28427 N. Ballard in Lake Forest. Cost for the camp is $100, and it's advertised as being for "serious players looking to improve in physical and mental aspects of hitting and fielding."

For more information, call (847) 281-9790 or visit prepbaseballreport.com.