OK, after all the hoopla over the Cubs moves in late December and early January, things have slowed down quite a bit lately. But that's not to say there aren't some interesting things going on, you just have to dig a little harder to find it.
While the signing of Jason Jaramillo doesn't amount to much (he's likely just organizational depth), it appears that the Cubs and Red Sox have decided to let Commissioner Bud Selig decide what constitutes the "valuable compensation" that the Red Sox were promised in exchange for Theo Epstein.
Basically there is no precedent for this. There have been managers "traded" to other teams, Ozzie Guillen is the most recent example, but its rare for a GM to be traded. The Cubs are thinking that a low ranking prospect (somewhere in the 20-30 range) should suffice, whereas the Red Sox have apparently been trying to get Brett Jackson or Matt Garza. Chances are that Selig will put the compensation somewhere in the middle (perhaps a guy like Junior Lake).
Another interesting tidbit is that Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes is saying that the Cubs "have been most interested in me" (Spanish link). Cespedes, best known for his workout video (Jane Fonda has nothing on him), is an outfielder with tremendous upside and could be a great addition to the Cubs. The only problem is how his skills will translate in the states.
But Cespedes is not the only Cuban defector the Cubs are after, as they have also been linked to 18-year-old lefty Gerardo Concepcion. Concepcion was recently declared a free agent and is free to negotiate with any team.
Finally, the Cubs signed nearly all of their arbitration eligible players: Geovany Soto ($4.3 million), Jeff Baker ($1.375 million), Blake DeWitt ($1.1 million), Ian Stewart ($2.237 million), Chris Volstad ($2.655 million) and Randy Wells ($2.705 million), leaving only Matt Garza unsigned. Based on my rough calculations, and estimating a $9 million salary for Garza, that puts the Cubs at around $105 million in payroll (give or take a few million), considerably less than the 2011 opening day payroll of $134 million.
The Cubs are probably using that extra cash to pursue Cespedes and Concepcion. Cespedes is expected to sign for more than Aroldis Chapman's 6 year, $30 million contract. But, at 27 years old, Cespedes is younger that most American free agents are when they first hit the market and thus makes more sense for the rebuilding Cubs. Cespedes is expected to become a free agent soon and is currently playing in the Dominican Winter League.
In any case, the Cubs still have some unfinished business left before pitchers and catchers report in a month.