The Cubs aren’t exactly aiming high on the free agent market

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Cubs fans envisioning Jayson Werth or Adam Dunn in the fold can put those thoughts to rest, it seems, because according to the Sun-Times, Jim Hendry isn’t thinking that big:

With a payroll budget that figures to leave little room for big-shot free agents, indications are that general manager Jim Hendry is focusing more on the likes of lefty-hitting Nick Johnson — if the medicals look good enough — for first base and is keeping an eye on former Cub Kerry Wood’s status for a possible bullpen job.

Kerry Wood would be a feel-good thing, I suppose, but the Cubs don’t exactly need him with Carlos Marmol hanging around. And after his successful stint with New York, you figure that Wood would want to close, um, woodn’t you?  As for Nick Johnson: I defended him just as long if not longer than anyone, but at this point, anyone who thinks he’s going to hold up as a starting first baseman probably needs his head examined.

Ultimately the big issue in Chicago is money. As in, they lost with a $145 million payroll in 2010, and Mr. Ricketts wants to cut it back some.  With Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Zambrano, Aramis Ramirez, Kosuke Fukudome and Ryan Demptser under contract to the tune of nearly $80 million for next year alone, there’s not going to be a lot of room to improve the roster via free agency.

Report: Dodgers, Orioles to complete Manny Machado trade

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The Orioles and Dodgers are expected to finally complete involving SS/3B Manny Machado, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports. The Orioles will receive five prospects from the Dodgers. We’ll have more details about the other players involved later.

Machado, 26, is in the final year of his contract, so this is currently a rental for the first-place Dodgers. Machado ended the first half batting .315/.387/.575 with 24 home runs, 65 RBI, 48 runs scored, and eight stolen bases in 413 plate appearances. In Los Angeles, he will handle shortstop, allowing Chris Taylor to move over to second base.