Tagged: Anibal Sanchez

Don’t Say Mid-Market Like It’s A Bad Thing

Theo Epstein spoke today, and like all times when Theo has something to say, it’s generated some buzz.

“A million here, a million there, that’s what we can afford.  We’re not in position to throw around hundreds of millions of dollars in free agency. But if we can do it in that (international free agency) market, we might as well try to monopolize it as best we can.”

That line from Theo has started the “mid-market” talk among fans and media, alike.  Patrick Mooney put out a great piece which explicitly called the Cubs just that.  Then again, knowing the Cubs’ history of flushing money down the crapper and how the landscape of baseball is changing with the new labor agreement, is that such a bad thing?

At the risk of repeating myself, the way the Cubs are going about their business is the best way to do it.  Free agency is not going to produce a team that goes from the bottom of the division to the top after just one winter, like the Cubs managed to do between the 2006 and 2007 seasons.  There are no quick fixes.  So spending “a million here, a million there” on international free agents and by acquiring a load of talent to retool from within is the last best option.  Minor league talent is currency.  Teams can develop and field that talent when it reaches the point major league ready (unlike the Cubs have…see Patterson, Corey; Pie, Felix) , or they can use it to acquire established players…which is the “new free agency.”  Teams who are selling off veterans like the Cubs have the last couple of seasons are essentially teams of free agents who can be had if the price is right.

Drafting and development hasn’t been a strength of the Cubs in the past.  Bleacher Nation had a piece yesterday that should make the former front office want to huddle in a corner and cry.  You think the team we’re watching is bad?  Take a look at that roster.  It makes me cringe.  The good news is, the article BN referenced is linked, showing all 30 teams…including the Red Sox, which was led by Theo Epstein.  In a weird, mid-market sort of way, a number of the major pieces of what made the Red Sox good over the second half of his tenure were homegrown…like Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholtz, and Jonathan Papelbon while players like Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez were used as currency to obtain other useful parts.

The era of big market supremacy has passed.  In all reality, it never really existed.  Even the Yankees in the ’90s were mostly homegrown with some complimentary free agents sprinkled in.  It is time to embrace the “mid-market” philosophy of spending wisely and developing players…because it works.

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TRADE DEADLINE: Garza Could Fetch a Core Piece At Deadline

As the deadline approaches, the Cubs are in a full court press, trying to make moves to improve the overall talent level of the organization.  The good news is, they are actually well positioned to add one or more core pieces to the roster.  While it will probably take more than one of the Cubs’ chips to get a piece that would be significant enough to add to the big league roster right away, the Cubs do have Matt Garza, who can fetch a player who has upside and is Major League ready.

There are some destinations where Matt Garza could turn into a piece who is part of the team that Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and presumably, Dale Sveum are looking to push into the playoffs.  And those teams could all use a player like Garza to make a push in the second half of this season.  While it remains to be seen what happens, Garza is the player who will net the biggest reward, and it is he who should be watched the closest as the next month unfolds.

Rangers

Last year, it was reported that the Rangers were in on Matt Garza before being scared off by his medicals and settling on a deal for Ryan Dempster.  They were also the team that took Geovany Soto and sent Barret Loux when Jacob Brigham had a medical issue.  The point is, the Cubs and Rangers are no strangers to making deals, and the magic could be rekindled this year.

3B Mike Olt:  It is only a guess that Olt was the piece the Cubs were in on when trying to move Garza to Texas last summer.  He has the potential to be a nice core piece, especially if Kris Bryant has to move off the hot corner.  Keith Law rates him as a plus defender.  He probably won’t hit for a huge average, but he’ll get on base with his fair share of walks (12.4 walk rate at AAA this season).  He also has the power to hit the ball out.  The consensus is that all he needs is at-bats, and if he were to come to Chicago this season, there is no good reason why he couldn’t get his share of them immediately.

Padres

The Cubs have been rumored to be discussing a Matt Garza trade to the Padres.  A deal here would make some sense, considering Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod came to the Cubs from San Diego.  Familiarity can breed success, so being familiar with the players as deeply as the front office knows these players make the likelihood of a successful trade a little greater.

2B/3B Jedd Gyorko:  One thing the Cubs have done successfully is add big bats who will hit for a ton of power.  Gyorko isn’t one of those guys.  While he is playing second for the Padres this season, he is a natural third baseman, who will hit for good average, but will not put up gaudy power numbers.  He has a .284/.341/.461 so far this season, to go with eight long balls and 25 driven in while playing at a park and in a division that is not conducive to big time hitting numbers.  Coming to the more hitter friendly NL Central could really help his offensive game blossom, while giving the Cubs a good hitting third baseman to compliment the power that is already in the organization.

Dodgers

The Dodgers are eight under .500.  They are also only a mere seven games out of first place.  You know they’re not afraid to spend money and to take on as many good players as they can.  Anything short of the playoffs would be a disaster for the Dodgers and their obscene payroll.  And, after having too much starting pitching as the season started, are now in a position where another arm couldn’t hurt.

RHP Zach Lee:  While Lee is not ready for “The Show,” he is an athletic pitcher who has some solid middle of the rotation potential.  At the AA level, he would be the most developed Cubs’ prospect who is pitching this season.  It would be a surprise if he were the only piece coming back in return for Garza, but he would be a strong centerpiece if the Dodgers were so inclined to try to bring Garza out west.

Indians

The Indians haven’t been good recently, but are in the hunt this season.  They also have terrible pitching.  This is a match made in heaven.

RHP Trevor Bauer:  He is pitching much better in the early going in his Indians career after being traded from Arizona last off-season.  He would be a heavy price to pay for half of a season of Matt Garza.  Veteran pitching with his playoff experience is hard to come by, though.  While this is the least likely of any scenario, there is no denying the mid to upper 90s fastball to go with a very good curve ball.  Pairing the 22 year old Bauer up with Jeff Samardzija at the front end of the Cubs’ rotation for years would make for a solid 1-2 punch.

Cubs

The last destination for Garza is one where he doesn’t actually leave.  He’s had some injury issues the last couple of seasons, but throughout his career, he’s been durable, he’s been tested, and he’s had success as a player who’s gone to the World Series with the Rays.  Extending him for a contract similar to the one the Cubs dangled to Anibal Sanchez would be a good move, especially if the Cubs don’t get a deal they like at the deadline.

The Cubs Will Be Sellers…But Won’t Empty the Store

I think we’re all sure that there is going to be a sell off at the deadline this season again.  The extent of that sell off is yet to be determined, but in comparison to last year, it will likely be pretty minor.  The reason for that is simple…there is less there for the Cubs to sell.  That’s not to say this team is less talented than last year’s team.  Actually, the opposite is true by a wide margin.  Looking at “the plan,” though, and what the Cubs have on their roster, who is likely to go is pretty limited.

STARTING PITCHING:

NOT GOING ANYWHERE:

Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson, Travis Wood

The only player in this group who has any chance of being dealt is Travis Wood.  Jeff Samardzija is a stud who is under team control through 2016.  That type of pitcher is someone you don’t let go of if you’re lacking impact pitching talent in the first place.  Travis Wood has an outside shot of being traded because of his hot start to the season, with nine quality starts in his first ten outings.  He, too, is under team control for a long time.  He won’t hit free agency until 2017.  He is exactly the type of young, cost controlled asset the regime has said to want to keep around.  Dealing him at the deadline would be a huge shock to me, and I don’t see it happening without some type of high end prospect coming back in return.  And because Travis Wood is still only a good 4-5th starter, I can’t see a team willing to cough up that much for him.  Edwin Jackson’s not going anywhere.  He was signed to be a piece for when the Cubs compete.  And he will get ample opportunity to figure out what troubles him.

MAY BE GOING SOMEWHERE:

Matt Garza

He’s only been back for a week, so I think it is entirely too early to tell whether or not he is fully back from his arm/ lat injuries.  And it is too early to tell what kind of value he has.  I know that the Cubs are looking to get back impact prospects for Garza, and if they get the right package of them, he’ll be packing his bags and headed to another city.  It is just too early to tell if any team is going to be willing to ship the Cubs the right package of prospects for a pure rental player, who is due to become a free agent at season’s end.  It would figure to be just as likely that Garza stays in Chicago all season and the Cubs slap a qualifying offer on him.  If that happens, it would be entirely possible that Garza would return to the Cubs after watching Kyle Lohse wait until just before the season to be signed.  There is an outside shot that the Cubs extend him for a contract similar to the one they offered Anibal Sanchez.  He is worth that kind of money when healthy, and if he shows that he is, he’d be worth the investment.

DON’T GET COMFORTABLE:

Scott Feldman, Carlos Villanueva

Both of these guys are attractive pieces at the deadline.  Neither makes all that much money.  Both can come out of the pen.  Both can give you a good start every five days.  That makes them the two best candidates to be out the door this July.  Feldman was asked about being flipped at his introductory conference call, so none of this should come as news to him.  Villanueva, however, signed a two year deal, so he would likely net a bit more than

Photo: Rob Carr, Getty Images

Photo: Rob Carr, Getty Images

Feldman in a trade, simply for the extra year of inexpensive control.

BULLPEN:

NOT GOING ANYWHERE:

Hector Rondon, Shawn Camp, Kyuji Fujikawa, Carlos Marmol

I know you’re all upset that Marmol is on this list.  I am, too.  He’s not worth a day old hotdog, though.  At the deadline he’ll be due about $5M, and his numbers aren’t going to make that a good investment for a team looking for a quality reliever.  The only way he comes off this list is if he has a turn around like last year and the Cubs eat most (…or all) of his remaining contract.  And he won’t bring back very much in return.  The most likely scenario with him is finishing the season and walking away in free agency.  Shawn Camp is much more likely to be released than traded.  Kyuji Fujikawa has been injured too early to have any chance at being dealt, and Hector Rondon is a Rule 5 player who the front office likes.  That makes all of them mostly untradeable.

MAY BE GOING SOMEWHERE:

James Russell, Kevin Gregg

James Russell has proven to be a valuable commodity in the bullpen the last couple of years, which increases his value immensely, but since he is under team control through 2016, it stands to reason that the team would like to keep a controllable asset like him.  There are good teams looking for left handed relievers who can get guys out on both sides of the plate, though.  And if one of them offers up a good package for James Russell, it would not be outside of the realm of possibility that he gets shipped off for multiple pieces.  Kevin Gregg is having a bit of a resurgence with the Cubs, which makes him attractive.  He’s a cheap piece who could fit into a bullpen and occasionally close for a team looking for that type of player.  He probably wouldn’t net a whole lot, but considering the Cubs were just throwing a line in the water to see what he had, any return would be a nice profit on their low risk investment.

INFIELDERS:

NOT GOING ANYWHERE:

Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, Wellington Castillo

Rizzo and Castro both signed long term extensions.  Those are obvious.  Castillo is a talented young catcher who is going to get every opportunity to win this spot long term.

MAY  BE GOING SOMEWHERE:

Darwin Barney, Luis Valbuena, Cody Ransom, Dioner Navarro

The most attractive piece in this group is obviously Darwin Barney.  His glove makes him an attractive trade piece for someone looking for a really good utility infielder.  Remember, he came up as a short stop and played some third base when he was initially called up.  If his bat keeps coming along, he could be a really good long term starter at second base for a contending team with a shortage in that spot.  He’s 27, so the Cubs may not see him as a long term piece of the core group of players.  He is under team control until 2017, though.  And if he continues to make progress with the bat, he is every bit the kind of player you want at 2B on a contending Cubs team.  Luis Valbuena and Cody Ransom both offer the same kind of value for a team that Jeff Baker added last year.  They are both utility players who can swing the bat some.  They may not bring a lot in return, but that probably wouldn’t stop the front office from sending them away for some intriguing young players.

OUTFIELD:

MAY BE GOING SOMEWHERE:

Alfonso Soriano, David DeJesus, Nate Schierholtz, Scott Hairston, Ryan Sweeney

The safest bet for any of the outfielders to go anywhere is David DeJesus.  A veteran, left handed hitter who can take pitches and work counts  while offering solid defense at all three outfield positions is always in demand.  If the price is right, DDJ is out the door.  It’s just not clear what his value is.  It can’t be too much higher than it was last year, and he wasn’t traded then.  I sense that he would have been traded last year if there was a market for him, which gives me some reason to think he’s not the slam dunk to be traded that some are calling him.  Soriano is going to be shopped aggressively, and if the Cubs find a team willing to package some good pieces together and Soriano is willing to waive his no trade rights, he likely goes at the deadline.  There is too much uncertainty with Soriano, though.  He’s picky.  And he has that right.  If the Cubs get a call about the other three players, I am sure they will listen, and if they can get a prospect of two that they like, there is almost no chance they refuse.

None of this is to say that the Cubs will stand pat at the deadline.  It just isn’t clear who will or will not be going anywhere.  There are not the sure things this season, like Ryan Dempster last season.  There are attractive pieces on this team for others to look at, but none of them are necessarily special.  Matt Garza would net the most in return, theoretically, but if Jed and Theo don’t get a package they like, it is hard to believe they will trade him for the sake of trading him.  That actually applies to pretty much everybody on the roster short of Feldman.  He is a true rental, even for the Cubs, so if they can squeeze a prospect out for him, they probably wouldn’t hesitate to do so.  They may be a little more choosey with Villanueva only because they have him next season, too, and if they plan on being in the hunt next year, he’s a nice piece to have.  Or, if we’re looking at another cold assessment that leads to selling, he has value then, too.

Expect some movement from the Cubs.  Just don’t expect them to send away everything not nailed down like last year.  This is year two.  It’s time to start hanging on to some of the talent.

Early Spring Notes

While we all sit and laugh as Ryan Braun tries to continue convincing people outside of Wisconsin (because people here are delusional and still think he’s innocent) that he didn’t use synthetic testosterone, some Cubs Spring Training bullets…

  • Today, on Twitter, I discovered Meghan Montemurro, Cubs (and Sox…but who cares) beat writer for the Northwestern Herald, is all over it.  She’s been dropping knowledge from Cubs’ Camp all day.  Follow her @M_Montemurro.  You won’t be disappointed.
  • Among her topics covered are Jorge Soler and Javier Baez, and how they will be used this spring.  She says that they will likely play together during spring games.  That should make for an interesting opportunity to see the two biggest names in the Cubs’ system on the field at the same time.  Soler is expected to play in both corner outfield slots.
  • Soler says he’s going to be in the majors next year.  That’s a lofty goal, and some serious talk out of a guy who hasn’t played much in the last couple of years and is likely going to Kane County to open 2013…but I love the fire and confidence.  Based on the show that everyone in Mesa is reporting he put on today in batting practice, it’s an exciting thought.  With him working in left and right field, he could be a legitimate option to replace Alfonso Soriano when his contract expires after 2014, should Soriano be on the roster that long.  Dale Sveum says Soler is not on a fast track to Chicago, though.  That seems to fit the “they’ll be up when they’re ready” approach the organization is taking with its prospects.
  • Carlos Villanueva thinks he can throw 200 innings this season…which is a lot more than he ever has.  For what it’s worth, Dale Sveum says he’s in better shape and has a more mature attitude than he did in Milwaukee.  I can see the conditioning part of it.  Beer and cheese curds tend to hurt the physique (speaking from experience more than my knowledge of his diet), but it’s great news on attitude.  I think we all know he’s going to be a key guy out of the ‘pen.  Travis Wood throwing well seems to work to his favor.  Wood would be the only lefty in the rotation.
  • Dale Sveum acknowledged 3B Ian Stewart was away from the team after surgery (which anyone who follows Stewart on Twitter already knew a long time ago), but didn’t think it was a big deal.  Sveum did say he told Stewart that he could have been around a bit more.  As far as rehab goes, a lot of players stay (like Garza) and a lot of players like to go off on their own (like Stewart).  I don’t think it’s anything to be worried about from a character standpoint.  Some players go away because it bothers them to be around and not be able to contribute.  It really boils down to “to each their own” when it comes to rehabbing injuries.  Sveum also said he thinks Stewart can hit 15-25 HRs and drive in between 75 and 100 runs.  That would be in the Aramis Ramirez zone of production…so we would all take it.  Gladly.
  • Some of the people who have seen Brett Jackson’s reworked swing are saying his hands are lower, especially his back hand, and his bat speed seems to be just as good as it’s always been.  That’s good news for his power.  It’ll take live pitching to see how well he’s done with reworking his swing, but early reports seem to be positive.  Bleacher Nation has video of the swing posted, here.
  • Dale Sveum said Matt Garza looked better today than he did the other day.  Hopefully, his elbow issue is behind him.  I am still in the corner of extending him for a reasonable (Anibal Sanchez like) contract.  He’s a great teammate and he’s a pretty good pitcher, too.  Plus, if you listened to him at the Cubs Convention at all, the man is hilarious and loves to have fun. At the moment, the Cubs need to have enough a veteran or two on the roster that help keep a young team loose.

There is a lot of info circulating about position players at Cubs camp…which is great news, since they’re not due in camp until tomorrow.

Theo Epstein Talks to Boston Radio, Bruce Levine Chat Recap

Theo Epstein was on WEEI Boston today, where he spoke about a number of topics.  He spoke about the signing of Edwin Jackson and him having years left in his prime, Anthony Rizzo, and draft pick compensation being at a premium when considering signing free agents that would cost a draft pick, in addition to a number of other topics related to the Cubs and Red Sox.  The interview is lengthy, but it’s worth a listen if you’re so inclined to do those types of things.  Hear Theo Epstein’s interview with WEEI  here.

Bruce Levine had a chat today, which covered a number of topics.  Some of the highlights, with some of my own commentary are as follows…

  • He was asked about the potential of a Soriano trade to the Phillies, and he said that was a “tremendously old rumor.”  That doesn’t say good things about the potential about it actually happening, but Soriano might be a better alternative to the Phillies with the free agent market for Michael Bourn.  With the Cubs willing to eat a significant portion of Soriano’s deal, he could be a cheaper alternative for a team looking to acquire an outfielder, without wanting to give up a valuable draft pick.  The Cubs will look to see if they can move Fonsi, but I would be a little surprised if he were moved before Opening Day.
  • When asked if Jeff Samardzija had a chance at 200 strike outs, 15 wins, and a sub 3.2 ERA and said that he had spoken to scouts who said Samardzija was the most improved pitcher last season between April and September.  He also said there is no reason to think those numbers can’t be approached.  I would be inclined to agree to a certain extent, but I would caution against expectation.  Samardzija is a young pitcher and any growth would be a good thing from him in 2013.  Since the team does not figure to contend, it would be wise not to burden a good young player with big expectations too early.
  • Bruce was also asked about the leaks, to which he said that the Cubs are pretty accessible, but they don’t let information get out that they don’t want out.  He also pointed out that agents are a factor in free agency.  I’m inclined to agree.  It seems like the Cubs have had leaks happen to them, but haven’t been the source.  The Dempster leak came from the Braves, the Marmol leak from Marmol himself, and the Sanchez leak was from an agent trying to leverage a team.  Really…there’s nothing that could be done there from the Cubs’ side of things.
  • He outright dismissed the idea of trading for Justin Upton and Giancarlo Stanton.  Amen.
  • Matt Garza trade rumors to the Rangers came up for a heavy package, and he said it was possible.  I agree that the Rangers could use the statement addition of Garza after missing on Greinke, and that could drive up the return value for him, but with Garza having been injured, I would be surprised if he were traded before the season.  It would be a risk for any team to send the Cubs a package of prospects without seeing the guy pitch after last July.  His elbow is the reason he didn’t get moved at the deadline last year, so I have a tough time seeing him getting moved before he pitches.  That’s just my feeling.  A desperate Rangers team (or someone else) could change that, though.
  • The speculation about political bitterness between the Ricketts and Mayor Emanuel made an appearance.  Honestly, get over it and do what’s best for the ball club.  I know Wrigley is a historical landmark, but it is still a functioning ballpark and will need renovations, so the gamesmanship and BS need to stop.  A successful Cubs team is good for the Ricketts and the city of Chicago, and a modernized Wrigley is a key to that.
  • Conversation about prospects came about with Bruce saying he thought Brett Jackson was the most likely to come up to the majors this season.  Javier Baez will play short where ever he is in the minors this year, and Josh Vitters and Junior Lake could see themselves moved to the outfield, or at least it is time to consider it.  I think Vitters could be a good left fielder.  Hide his defense, and continue to develop his bat in that spot.  If Soriano is traded, I think he would be a good choice to get a crack at the position first.

 

 

 

The NL Central Arms Race

For those of us who treat this as more than a hobby, the coverage of the off-season has been significantly more extensive.  Since this is only a hobby for me (because of my other actual obligations…all to varying degrees less interesting and fun than following baseball), there have been few and far between since the end of the season.  With some time, though, now is a perfect time to talk about the thing that has dominated the Cubs’ off-season…PITCHING!

Photo: Charles Rex, Arbogast

Photo: Charles Rex, Arbogast

Today, Edwin Jackson was introduced at Wrigley Field.  With the additions of Scott Baker, Scott Feldman, Carlos Villanueva, Kyuji Fujikawa, resigning Shawn Camp, and having Arodys Vizcaino coming off of surgery and being ready for 2013, it seems as though the Cubs will have a surplus of pitching talent to get them through this season.  That is something they did not have last season, especially after losing Matt Garza, who is progressing nicely though his rehab from a stress injury last July, and trading Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm at the deadline.  At the end of the season, LHP Travis Wood was the ace, after the team sat Jeff Samardzija in early September.  That wasn’t an ideal situation, and it was a key reason why the Cubs lost 101 games.

The flip side to the off-season is the stunning lack of movement in the rest of the division.  The Brewers have not done much with their staff, adding journeyman lefty and former Cub, Tom Gorzelanny, who I like as a solid reliever and spot starter, but let’s not kid ourselves into thinking he is anything more than pitching depth for a team who had all kinds of trouble in the bullpen last season, and ended up losing Francisco Rodriguez this off-season.  They also added Burke Badenhop, who has had an up and down (as in between the majors and the minors) career with the Marlins and Rays.  No world beaters.  They seem to be enamored with Mike Fiers, who was very good after debuting with the club last season.  My own analysis of him is that he reminds me a lot of Randy Wells.

I wish I could say something bad about the Cardinals and their pitching.  I really do.  They haven’t done much (anything?..I haven’t seen any moves at all from them in the pitching department this off-season), but they seem to grow pitchers as well as anyone in the game.  With Chris Carpenter coming back, I’m sure they’ll be fine.  It makes me physically ill.  Seriously.

The Reds still have a lot of arms.  They still, in my estimation, have the best bullpen in the majors, even though they’re moving Aroldis Chapman to the rotation.  They, too, have a nice strong staff that, in my opinion, keeps them the favorite to repeat as the division champions in 2013.  Again, it makes me sick…but not as sick as the Cardinals make me.  Nothing makes me that sick.

The Pirates confuse me.  I genuinely thought they were trying to compete…and then they went and traded Joel Hanrahan to the Red Sox.  They also resigned Jason Grilli, who the Cubs were in on.  Without being too familiar with who the Pirates have coming up, they’re current rotation and bullpen screams average, and their back end looks shaky with the loss of Hanrahan.  I can only muse that this season they don’t want to disappoint their fans by playing well for the first four months before imploding with the uncanny appearance of controlled demolition for a third year in a row.

The Astros are gone…for those that forgot.  They’re off the the AL West to play for 110 losses at the hands of the Angels, Rangers, and A’s.  Good Luck, ‘Stros…you’re going to need it.  Desperately.

What it all means…

I can’t for the life of me see how the Cubs win this division next season.  I just can’t.  They do figure to be considerably better than their 101 losses last season.  They could make a strong push at third with the Pirates and Brewers regressing.  All of this is interesting in early January, but the off-season is by no means over, so something could cook up between now and the time pitchers and catchers report next month.  The Cubs have a much improved corps of pitchers.  That group would have been made much more potent had they actually signed Anibal Sanchez.  Theo Epstein and Tom Ricketts went to visit him personally, and the deal was reported, but like others for the Cubs, was prematurely reported and ended up not to be.  GM Jed Hoyer, today, revealed that he went to visit Edwin Jackson, who actually did sign.  At 29, he is on the side of 30 that the Cubs are looking for in players to add and build with,  and having pitched in the division with the Cardinals in 2011, there is familiarity with the NL Central, and he pitched well while with St. Louis.  Teaming him up with Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija, there is a solid top three, and there is a good group of Baker, Feldman, Wood, and Villanueva competing for two spots at the back end of the rotation.

The Cubs have to know they can’t lose like they did last season and expect fans to turn out.  The fans stopped coming last season because it was nearly pointless to go watch them give up runs in bunches.  This season figures to be different.  Even if they trade some of their pitching  (GARZA!), they’ll have some fall back pieces to lean on so they don’t fall off the side of the Earth.  The off-season has gone to plan to this point.  It remains to be seen if the offense will be potent enough to push this team to .500.  The Cubs are not a finished product by any stretch, but this off-season is the next step to contention.

 

Catching Up on the Off-Season

There has been some news surrounding the Cubs lately, so now seems to be as good a time as any to update it.

  • First, the best news of the off-season is that Matt Garza can return to his normal off-season routine, which the team announced today.  Garza last pitched in July, before the trade deadline, which effectively killed his trade value at the deadline last year.  This is the last off-season in which Garza is eligible for arbitration, so there shouldn’t be any surprise about trade rumors involving Garza to surface again.  For his part…Garza seems to be mildly pleased about his clean bill of health…  “I’m cleared for takeoff!! Strap it on tight cause we are going on one helluva ride… #getitdone#freedom#2013”  Matt Garza, via Twitter, @Gdeuceswild
  • The Cubs did manage to sign starting pitcher Scott Baker this week, too.  Not to blow my own horn too much, but I did speculate in August that he would make some sense for the Cubs. I also speculated Ryan Dempster would make some sense, and the possibility of his return hasn’t been ruled out, yet.  Just saying…  Anyway, Baker is 31, missed last season after having Tommy John Surgery, and got a $5.5M deal for this season, with some incentives. The short and sweet on Baker is that over the course of his career, he’s been steady, if not good, with the Minnesota Twins.
  • The team has been in contact with 3B Ian Stewart, which could mean a decision on his return could be forthcoming in the next few days.  Stewart may still be non-tendered, but if all really is well with his wrist (Stewart, for his part, has insisted that it is), he could find his way back to third base to start 2013, especially with the limited options available within the organization and free agency.  Speaking of Ian Stewart, he just had a baby girl.  So, Congratulations Ian and now bigger family.
  • Theo Epstein suggested the Cubs may open the pocket book a little for a starting pitcher.  Obvious speculation is Anibal Sanchez with a very outside chance of talks with Zack Greinke.  I would be surprised if either were a Cub on Opening Day, which is only a mere 136 days from today.
  • For what it’s worth, Bud Selig said at the owners’ meetings today if he were running an organization, he would do it the same way Theo Epstein is going about it with the Cubs.  If I recall, he did run a franchise (Brewers).  And they sucked.  A lot.  Until he left. And for a long time afterwards.  Until his family completely ceded control.  Just food for thought.

The Winter Meetings will probably bring about more of a flurry of activity.  They typically do.  I would not be surprised, however, if the Cubs make a number of moves before that time.  It is nice to have a quiet off-season, to this point.  Last year was very chaotic with the changes in the front office, the managerial search, and the volatile changes in the roster.  This year, it seems like it will be much more “normal.”