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.”
Quick…somebody name the player that the Cubs sent to the Minnesota Twins when they hired Andy MacPhail. Come on…I’m waiting. I’ll give you a hint…that’s his Minor League card from 1992 off to the left. Still waiting. Don’t know? Huh. Well, I guess I can’t blame you. Have you ever heard of pitcher Hector Trinidad? No? To be honest, I hadn’t either until after Theo Epstein was hired and I googled “player sent to Twins when Cubs hired Andy MacPhail.”
At the time, in 1994, Andy MacPhail was every bit the star Theo Epstein is among baseball executives. He was also on good terms in Minnesota. The compensation for the Twins however, would have been more valuable if it were something the Twins could have sold…say a case of beer and box of peanuts.
When Theo Epstein was hired, the Red Sox, naturally, set the compensation bar high. I can’t say I would have done anything differently in a negotiation. But when the Cubs said they weren’t stupid enough to send Matt Garza to Boston for Epstein, they should have come back to earth, at least a little. Names like Brett Jackson and Trey McNutt were floated, as top level prospects. Those, too, were shot down without much thought.
Alas, we thought a deal was struck shortly after Spring Training began. The Red Sox got Chris Carpenter, and a player to be named for Theo and a player to be named. He wasn’t a top level prospect, but he was a B level prospect that was expected to contribute in the Cubs’ bullpen with the 100+ MPH fastball this season. Since, the players to be named have been named; everything is done and all is well, right? Wrong. Even though Carpenter went on the DL with a forearm strain last season, was given a physical by the Red Sox, and had his medical records reviewed by the Red Sox, they’re crying foul over the fact that Carpenter needed elbow surgery this week.
We’re not revealing state secrets when we say that Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino and Theo Epstein didn’t see eye to eye. Is that prompting the move to explore their options and keep the compensation issue open? In my opinion, maybe. I think it probably has something more to do with the fact that the Red Sox don’t want to be second fiddle to the Yankees in anything, and if that means being as ruthless and as arrogant about their place in the baseball hierarchy, fine. The Yankees would never allow for the public to even get the chance to think they’ve been taken for a ride, and the Red Sox are doing the same here, even though they’ve acknowledged that the Cubs probably acted in good faith.
I agree with ESPN Chicago’s Bruce Levine when he says Bud Selig needs to step in. I disagree with his assertion that Selig should have the Cubs cut the Red Sox a check and call it a day. I think Selig should tell the Red Sox that baseball players are like used cars. When you get one, it comes “as is.” If they did their homework, knew about his injury history, and admit they think the Cubs acted in good faith, that should be the end of the discussion. A pitcher’s elbow is like a car’s brakes. Eventually, it is probably going to need some work.
The Sawx should thank their lucky stars that they got a B level prospect out of the deal. They could have gotten RHP Michael Jensen. Don’t know who he is? That’s alright…not many people outside of the Cubs’ Organization or Boise, ID would know who a guy who hasn’t been assigned a number on the lower Single A affiliate is.
As posted earlier today, the Cubs have sent RHP Chris Carpenter to the Boston Red Sox to complete the compensation to hire former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein. Discussions between the teams had been on and off since Epstein was hired in October, and reports say that one of the major hold ups has been a power struggle continuing between Theo and Red Sox President Larry Lucchino.
Chris Carpenter had been ranked the number five prospect by MLB.com in a farm system that is not exactly stocked. He made his major league debut on June 14 (shown left) and had ten appearances with the major league club last season, all in relief, while not recording a decision in any of the games he pitched. His three earned runs allowed in 9.2 innings was good for a 2.79 ERA. Overall, the 26 year old third round pick in the 2008 amateur draft made 42 appearances last season, his fourth professional season, between AA Tennessee, AAA Iowa, and the major league ball club. Carpenter features a power slider and a 100 mile per hour fastball that now travel to Florida to meet his Boston teammates, as he tries to make their roster.
“I am relieved that this process is over and particularly pleased that the teams were able to reach agreement on their own without intervention from MLB. I truly hope and believe that this resolution will benefit both clubs, as well as Chris, who is an extremely talented reliever joining a great organization at a time when there’s some opportunity in the Major League bullpen.”
There are some interesting things to take away from this resolution. The first is that Bud Selig didn’t have to resolve it, even though the teams asked for intervention last month. The more important take away is that both sides actually lost in this case. The Red Sox had insisted that compensation should be significant, going as far as asking for RHP Matt Garza at the outset of negotiations. The Cubs countered that there is nearly no precedent for significant compensation when an executive leaves for another city, citing the single A prospect that never reached the majors the Cubs sent to the Twins when they hired Andy MacPhail. In the end, the Red Sox did not get their idea of significant compensation. Although, I would bet many Cubs’ fans would have been fine with a certain high-priced outfielder heading east. The Cubs lost a major league ready prospect that figured to contribute to the major league bullpen this season, and one of the few power arms in the organization.
In any event, the deal is done. Time will tell who got the better of the deal. If the Cubs end up winning it all in a few years, regardless of what the other Chris Carpenter does, it will be viewed as a great move. If Carpenter turns into a good pitcher in Boston, and the Cubs keep waiting for that elusive World Championship, it may not be seen as fondly.