Tagged: Zack Greinke

Rainy Day Theater

For a day without a game, there sure is a lot of drama surrounding the Cubs today…

  • For starters, David Kaplan has an interview posted on CSN with Theo Epstein that will air tonight at 10 PM.  For those that don’t live in Chicago or don’t get CSN or don’t want to click the link, the short of it is: they’re sticking to the plan.  Bleacher Nation has a number of great quotes posted from the interview if you want a little more depth.  My two cents remain the same.  This is the right way to do it.  In an era with free agency yielding weaker classes, draft slotting, international spending limits, etc, it’s going to be tougher to get good overnight, so trading veterans when the team is out of it, developing a stockpile of talent, and making them a cohesive team that grows together and learns to win together is the best way to be a contender for a long time.  There was some great action on Twitter and the linked BN post’s comment section from people who want the checkbook to flop open, but none of it is realistic.  The good news is that as this season wears on, we should see improvement, and going into next season, the team could play winning baseball.  I’ve said before that last season was as much fun watching the Cubs as I’ve had since 2008…because we could see players get better and what was building.  The last two months were brutal by design.  The long term value of getting Jackson, Vitters, Rusin, and the
    Brian Kersey/Getty Images

    Brian Kersey/Getty Images

    other youngsters up was off the charts, though.

  • I Tweeted a few moments ago that I hope the goat’s head that was sent to Wrigley today was actually allowed in the park.  It would be silly to renew the curse on a rain day.
  • Patrick Mooney and Bruce Levine both have posts about Starlin Castro out today.  I keep saying when that kid grows up, he’s going to be really good at baseball.  It’s still true.  The best part of both stories is that it seems like Castro himself wants to meet his off the charts potential.  There is no debate about how good he can be.  For those who forget, he’s 23.  He is a week YOUNGER than Jean Segura, who was in town with the Brewers this week, and Segura didn’t make his way to the majors until the Brewers got him in the Zack Greinke deal and they were basically giving up on the season.  Castro, in his fourth season, is a legitimate 20/20 threat with great range (ask Carlos Marmol about this), and want to.  Not a bad deal.
  • Hooray for not having a deal!  Sort of.  Lots of sources for the information from last night’s meeting about the renovation that was closed to media, but Bleed Cubbie Blue does the math for the alderman.  I’ve said all along that the Cubs should explore the suburbs.  A number of different stories have said Tom Ricketts’ siblings agree.  I think if the city had a credible reason to believe the Cubs would pack their balls and bats and go to Rosemont, they’d be a lot more willing to cough up some night games.  It’s good to know the Cubs and the city have some agreement on 40 games and four concerts.  I’m with the crowd that says the Cubs should get the six flexible dates for TV on top of the 44 night events that have been agreed to.  Mostly because the Cubs are willing to pay for all of this themselves.  At some point, the neighbors need to suck it up and know who butters their bread…and it’s not the alderman or the mayor, in spite of what those individuals think.
  • Last night, I had a tweet (among the others with his truly not good stats) that I think David DeJesus saw, “.@David_DeJesus3 needs to go. Bottom of the order. Bench. Somewhere. He’s awful. #Cubs  After that point, he went 3-3, which caused me to say, “Remember all that stuff I said about @David_DeJesus3 earlier tonight? David, I’m so, so, so sorry. Seriously. My bad. Do you need a maid?”  While I am not easily swayed, DDJ was terrific last night in the clutch.  And I’m sorry I doubted him.  Until the next time I do it.

The Giants are in tomorrow afternoon to start a four game series after smacking the Rockies around a little bit.  Let’s hope they got all that hitting out of their system and Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner miss the plane to Chicago and can’t get flights to anywhere but Milwaukee (which is where they play starting on Monday).  Hopefully, the Cubs can manage to win their now nine game homestand, but that won’t be easy with the Rangers following the Giants.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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.”

Names to Keep in Mind This Winter

With the season winding down, the off-season stove is going to start to heat up in front offices around MLB.  To think Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer aren’t putting together a list of names to go after this winter would be foolish.  Theo said earlier this year that he made some mistakes in making big slashes in Boston, and when accompanied by the team’s “bottom up” approach to building, don’t expect any big names to be added to the roster this winter.  Any clamoring for Zack Greinke, B.J. Upton, or Brian McCann should be toned down dramatically.  It is highly unlikely that it happens.  Think starting pitching, relief pitching, and veteran players that can help develop players and may have trade value down the line…like Paul Maholm last winter.  With all that said…ON TO THE SPECULATION!!

Photo: Jerry Lai, US Presswire
Don’t expect Theo and Jed to be getting too close to any big name free agents this winter.

1. RHP Scott Baker, Twins
Scott Baker is exactly the type of free agent that would interest the Cubs.  He has had some success in the major leagues, and probably will not command a big price.  The Twins do have a club option on Baker, so he may not even be available, but if he is, I would anticipate the Cubs to give him a look.  He’ll be 31 next season, so he won’t be too old, and would be a good candidate for a contract similar to what Paul Maholm got last winter.

2. RHP Ryan Dempster, Rangers
I know, I know.  He’s barely out the door and now I’m talking about bringing him back.  Why?  First, because he said he wouldn’t rule out coming back.  Second, he pitched very well for the Cubs this season.  Third, he has strong ties to the city of Chicago.  I can keep going on and on about why Dempster is a logical target, but it’s pretty obvious.  He didn’t want to leave, his teammates love him, and he loves Chicago.  A reunion shouldn’t be out of the question.  It is very possible.

3. RHP Colby Lewis, Rangers
He’s another Ranger who has some success at the major league level.  Before this season, he has pitched over 200 innings and kept his ERA respectable in the bam box in Arlington.  He’s another second tier free agent that can make starts and eat some innings.  And he will probably have some trade value at mid-season.  While it is unlikely that every free agent will be traded, they should at least have the ability to bring something back via trade, and Lewis will.  His 4-1 record and 2.34 postseason ERA proves that October isn’t too big for him, so that gives him value to teams looking to acquire him, but an injury history and average numbers will keep his free agent value marketable.

4. OF Reed Johnson, Braves
Reed is basically in the same boat as Ryan Dempster.  You know what you’re getting.  A versatile  outfielder that plays excellent defense, can make a start and give four good at bats, and is always ready.  There wouldn’t be a better man to have on the bench for a young team than Johnson, and he proved that during the first half of this season.

5. RHP Jair Jurrjens, Braves
Jair Jurrjens is arbitration eligible, but has struggled mightily in 2012 and was sent to the minors and currently resides on the disabled list.  He has pitched his way, this season, to non-tender contender, which would make him a buy low candidate for any team looking to sign him.  He is a 26 year old, who has been excellent until this season.  The Braves have arms in their system and may not want to deal with a Jurrjens arbitration, so he could be an odd man out.  If he’s available, he is exactly the type of player Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein would target.  He’s young, got a good arm, and has a ton of upside.  Unless he commands big money, he would be a great pick up for the Cubs.  There is a lot of low risk, high reward potential to grabbing a non-tendered Jurrjens.

Without knowing who is going to be available for sure until the winter, this was an exercise of trying to get an idea of what the Cubs could look for.  The front office is going to center their efforts around adding starting pitching, especially after trading Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm.  While Dempster could come back and fill a rotation spot, there are going to be openings for free agents to step in and contribute.  There will not be any big names coming to the North Side, but there are some nice players that could be available at a reasonable price.  After trying so hard for years to fill spots with free agents to contend right away, these names may not make anyone sit up and take notice, but they are names that can help the rebuilding process move along.

 

 

 

New Prospect Rankings/ Roster Moves

So…that was an eventful few days.  To sum it up, Ryan Dempster, Paul Maholm, Geovany Soto, and Reed Johnson are out. Arodys Vizcaino, Jaye Chapman, Jacob Brigham, Christian Villanueva, and Kyle Hendricks are in the system to replace them.  The major league roster picked up Casey Coleman, Adrien Cardenas, and Wellington Castillo for last night’s one hitter from AJ Burnett.  Today’s game brings back Chris Volstad and Alberto Cabrera from Iowa, and sees Coleman headed back to Iowa.  Got all that?  No?  Don’t blame you…here it is more simply stated:

OUT BEFORE 7/31 vs. Pirates: RHP Ryan Dempster, LHP Paul Maholm, C Geovany Soto, OF Reed Johnson
IN FOR 7/31 vs. Pirates: RHP Casey Coleman, C Wellington Castillo, IF Adrien Cardenas  (Roster stands at 24)

OUT BEFORE 8/1 vs. Pirates: RHP Casey Coleman
IN FOR 8/1 vs. Pirates: RHP Chris Volstad, RHP Alberto Cabrera (Roster at full 25 man limit)

Now that we sorted out all of the roster formalities, onto the fun part of talking about who the Cubs added at the deadline!  Baseball America rated the Cubs’ farm system 14th this past May.  That was quite a bit better than I expected to it to be because of how many pieces have been shipped out for parts the last few years.  That system became weaker by default when 1B Anthony Rizzo was called up to play every day.  At this point, he is no longer a “prospect” so much as he is a “rookie.”  Considering what is going on with the Riz-kid at the big league level, it is difficult to believe that he is going to be sent back to Iowa any time soon.  This week, though, the system got an infusion of talent.  Two Top 100 prospects from Baseball America were added to the system; RHP Arodys Vizcaino and 3B Christian Villanueva.  In addition, Kyle Hendricks  and Jaye Chapman have some upside, and both project to be major league pitchers.  Jacob Brigham has major league potential depending on what source you ask.  He can range from a system arm who is perpetually stuck in the minors to a guy who can contribute as a middle reliever.  Regardless, he is more than what anyone should have expected for Geovany Soto.  ESPN’s Keith Law says Arodys Vizcaino is the best prospect dealt at the deadline.  Others say Jacob Turner in the Marlins/ Tigers deal and others still say Jean Segura in the trade sending Zack Greinke from Milwaukee to the Angels.  Scouting is a very subjective topic, and Law clearly values the pure stuff and command that Vizcaino can bring to the mound.  Others may disagree with Vizcaino being the best, but it is unanimous that all three are very good.

The new prospects rank within the system (Place in Top 100), according to MLB.com

#3 Arodys Vizcaino (40)
#6 Christian Villanueva (100)
#17 Kyle Hendricks

The other two fall outside of the top 20 in the organization.  Jaye Chapman may find his way to Chicago this season, while Brigham may take until next year before he gets to Iowa and subsequently, to Chicago.

The Deadline Day Dempster Thread

3:21 PM: It is confirmed that the Cubs have gotten Villanueva, who Baseball America rated in the Top 100 before 2012, and Hendricks, who has great numbers at high A this season.

3:16 PM: Sources are saying that the Cubs have acquired 3B Christian Villanueva and RHP Kyle Hendricks for Ryan Dempster.

3:06 PM: The Cubs are getting two players in Single A, one position player and one pitcher, according to Ken Rosenthal.

3:02 PM: Everyone is confirming Dempster to the Rangers.  We’ll see what the return ends up being.

3:00 PM: Jon Heyman reports that the Rangers have acquired Ryan Dempster.

2:58 PM: Ryan Dempster possibly to the Rangers.  Again, no confirmation.

2:51 PM: The Dodgers are officially out on Dempster, according to multiple sources.  Jim Bowden reports that the Yankees may have acquired Dempster, but was trying to gain confirmation.

2:30 PM: The Yankees are not the leaders in the Ryan Dempster sweepstakes.  MLB Network reports that the Dodgers have all but given up on acquiring him.

2:01 PM: Harold Reynolds just said his “favorite rumor” is Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza for Justin Upton.  That would be a huge move for the Cubs.

1:44 PM: Dempster has told ESPN Chicago’s Bruce Levine that he will waive his no trade rights, and accept a potential trade to the Yankees or Rangers.

1:35 PM: The leaders to acquire Dempster in the last 85 minutes before the deadline appear to be the Yankees.  The Cubs have tried to accommodate Dempster and send him to LA, but without the package the Cubs want, it appears the Cubs will send him out east.

1:09 PM: Yankees and Diamondbacks are discussing acquiring Ryan Dempster.

9:54 AM: The Rangers may wait until August to look for starting pitching, according to Ken Rosenthal.  With the Yankees, and now the Rangers, not being motivated…doesn’t that just leave the Dodgers again?

9:30 AM: Kaplan is saying the Yankees have spoke to the Cubs about Dempster, but are not as motivated as Rangers or Dodgers.  All this time, I thought the Dodgers were not very motivated.

9:25 AM: Jayson Stark is reporting that the Yankees are telling teams they are not in the running to acquire Ryan Dempster.  Jon Heyman confirms this report, but also says that Dempster is only willing to accept a trade to the Dodgers.  There is a ton of information out on Dempster.  Almost none of it makes any sense at all.

9:14 AM: Contrary to what David Kaplan reported, Ken Rosenthal reported that Dempster was still only willing to accept a trade to the Dodgers…so there’s that.

8:46 AM: David Kaplan is reporting that the Rangers and Yankees have emerged as suitors for Ryan Dempster.  The Rangers are looking for starting pitching after Roy Oswalt was rocked again last night and the Angels sold the farm for Zack Greinke last week.  The Dodgers are still Dempster’s preferred destination, it is believed that he would approve a deal to either the Rangers or Yankees.  He also says that the backlash at Dempster for not approving the Atlanta deal is over-blown.

How Greinke Going to the Angels Helps the Cubs

When I saw that Zack Greinke was headed to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, I could not have been happier.  First, because he was not going to Atlanta or to the Dodgers.  Second, because he was in the AL West for the rest of the season, and potentially longer if he is signed in free agency by his new team, or their rival, the Rangers.

The market for Ryan Dempster is unchanged by this trade.  The Angels were not in the number of rumored suitors for him, and he can still wind up in either Atlanta or with the Dodgers, and since it is becoming more and more clear that the Cubs have no alternative but to trade Dempster before the deadline, Greinke not taking away a possible landing spot is about the best possible news.  Also, with the Angels getting a pitcher of Greinke’s quality, the Rangers may pony up for Matt Garza (unlikely with him not being available until after the deadline) or Paul Maholm.

As far as Dempster is concerned, not a lot has changed in the last day.  He could go to LA, but has apparently said that he is open to other potential destinations.  (That leaves my wondering why in the world he didn’t approve the deal to the Braves on Monday.) Rumors have floated about the inclusion of Alfonso Soriano and Bryan LaHair, about a deal centered around Dempster for reliever Josh Lindblom, and a number of other scenarios.  Regardless, it is a mess that looks to last until the very last minute.

Cubs Getting Shut Out at the Deadline

The certain addition of Zack Greinke to the trade market today does nothing to help the Cubs unload either Matt Garza or Ryan Dempster.  Never before have I heard a General Manager come out and say that a player would be dealt, but that is exactly what happened with Brewers’ GM Doug Melvin today in regard to his ace pitcher.  And I could not have been more upset about it.

With the Braves being in the running for Greinke, it all but kills the chances that a deal with the Braves for Dempster is resurrected.  The chances were slim to begin with since Dempster has made it clear that he wants to go to the Dodgers.  There has been some positive speculation that a deal could be consummated either between the Cubs and Dodgers or with the help of third team.  The best opportunity for this deal to be completed is to add a third team, allowing the Cubs to get additional prospects back.  With the Braves “moving on,” the Cubs have no leverage.  The Dodgers have reportedly turned down an offer that would have sent Dempster to LA straight up for prospect pitcher Allen Webster.  All in all, the Dempster scenarios are a mess.  And the mess was made by whoever, reportedly on Atlanta’s side, leaked the details of the  deal and upset Dempster.  While the leak sent the media into a Tweet-splosion of reports, which even prompted Cubs TV play-by-play man Len Kasper to tweet a good bye message, Dempster napped and woke to find out he had been dealt without waiving his 10/5 rights.  And here we are…

As I have said before, it seems less than 50/50 at this point that Matt Garza goes anywhere with his arm trouble and pushed back start.  I would doubt a contender is going to pony up the big time prospects required to obtain a guy that left his last start with “arm discomfort” without seeing his next outing, and I would doubt the Cubs are going to take a smaller return on a guy they’ve said repeatedly that they wouldn’t mind extending.  None of it adds up to a deal going down before the deadline, but stranger things have happened.  I have had random musings with myself about the potential of a massive Dempster and Garza to the Dodgers for Zach Lee, Allen Webster, and other parts trade, but that is not going to happen.  Garza seems to be limited to going to the Dodgers at this point with the Red Sox falling out of contention in the AL East, the Tigers acquiring Anibal Sanchez, and and Orioles being hot on Francisco Liriano.

Depending who you ask, the Dodgers interest in Dempster ranges from “they’ll get something done” to “they would rather have Garza.”  The latter is the desirable scenario, mostly because they could get the most back for Garza.  Dempster staying around, however, would not net anything more than a draft pick, as the potential for resigning him this off-season seems slim, at best.

All this talk about Garza and Dempster is probably killing the possibility of trading Paul Maholm.  It didn’t look likely that he was going anywhere to begin with, but with Dempster/ Garza talks still on-going, it seems increasingly clear that Paul Maholm will be wearing Cubs’ pinstripes until the end of the season.

On the bright side…multiple national reporters have reported that OF Reed Johnson is likely on his way up I-94 to Detroit, probably for some low to mid level prospects.  So there’s that…

The Cubs’ Bizzare Stove Is Making One Hell of a Mess

With the Brewers imploding faster than the roof of the Metrodome a couple of years ago, it seems more and more apparent that the Brewers are going to sell.  And with Zack Greinke pitching out of his mind tonight, it would seem that teams looking to acquire him (quite a few based on tonight’s scout count) would probably try to do so sooner rather than later.  That little nugget of information, coupled with the Marlins, Rays possibly joining a seller’s market with the likes of Josh Johnson and James Shields, and Astros trading Wandy Rodriguez to the Pirates tonight, the market for starting pitching could shrink on the Cubs, who are looking to deal Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, and Paul Maholm.

Photo: Rob Grabowski /US Presswire

As it stands with Dempster, he appears to be holding out to join former Cub and friend, Ted Lilly in Los Angeles.  Exercising his 10/5 rights to veto a trade could be a detriment to the Cubs because now that it is public knowledge that the Bravos are willing to part with Randall Delgado for a rental player, other teams might try to sweeten the pot for them or try to swoop in a get Delgado for a player of similar stature to Dempster.  Meanwhile, the Dodgers are still refusing to part with Zach Lee in a deal for Dempster, which would make losing out on the 22 year old Delgado a tough pill to swallow for the Cubs.

Matt Garza will not pitch until Monday, at the earliest, it appears.  From my perspective, that makes it more unlikely that he gets moved before non-waiver deadline at 3:00 PM central time on Tuesday afternoon.  As it stood before, it was widely reported that it was about 50/50 that Garza got moved anyway.  With his “arm discomfort” and delayed start until after the weekend, the price might come down on him to a point where the Cubs are more interested in trying to extend Garza than using him as a pawn to add young arms to the minor league system.  Rumors floated that the Cubs were looking for two major league ready pitching prospects for Garza, similar to what the Rockies got for Ubaldo Jimenez, which may be too steep a price.  Reports today were that the Rangers were looking for an ace type pitcher, and that they don’t see Garza that way.  That again, shrinks his market, and I predict he is a Cub for the duration of 2012, if not longer.

Paul Maholm was never going to net a big name prospect.  With the Pirates getting Wandy Rodriguez, it seems less and less likely that Maholm gets moved at all, since they were said to be his biggest suitor.  It is still possible that he gets moved in the week between now and the deadline, but it doesn’t seem likely that he will during the season.  He could be a trade chip for this winter, with a modest $6.5M option for next season.  Teams looking to add a back of the rotation lefty might be willing to part with a decent prospect in January for a player like Maholm after the bulk of free agency has concluded.  As it stands now, it is hard to envision him going anywhere with so many new names being added to a market that has so few suitors.

The Cubs do have some nice bats on the market, led by Alfonso Soriano, who hit his 19th HR of the season in tonight’s win at Pittsburgh.  Calling Mr. Friedman, Mr. Andrew Friedman…we have something Joe Maddon might like to plug into his line-up, ranked 27th in slugging.  The Rays sorely need a right handed bat, and Soriano could be had if they’re willing to part with some solid prospects and pay about $4M over the next two years.  He clearly has some pop in his bat and when he was a DH earlier this season, he was pure magic at the plate, highlighted by some of the bombs he launched at Target Field.  Others include Bryan LaHair, who would make a nice platoon player at either a corner infield or outfield position, or DH in the American League.  He probably won’t net more than a middle of the pack prospect, which wouldn’t be all that bad for a 29 year old minor league reclamation project.  Reed Johnson is said to have a number of suitors as the guy he is for the Cubs; a veteran bat and solid defender off the bench that can pinch hit, play defense, and give you four good at bats when asked to start.

The most unfortunate part of all of this seems to be the foiling of the plan to get better for future years by sacrificing some on field production this year.  Being 16 under .500 and 16 back in the division means it’s over in 2012.  While they could conceivably fight for 4th in the division, being four behind the Brewers, that does nothing but make the holidays a little more palatable for me this winter.  If the last few days are any indication of things to come, there will be a lot more movement before the deadline.  The Cubs will likely make some moves and the team will not look the same next Wednesday when the Cubs square off with the Pirates as they do tomorrow when they square off with the Pirates.  As is the case every year at this time, stay tuned…

Player Focus: Matt Garza

There are a lot of players with the Cubs getting a lot of attention lately, most of it because they are the names surfacing in trade speculation.  Of all of those players, the one that has gotten the most press is Matt Garza, hands

Photo: Hunter Martin, Getty Images

down. What makes him so interesting, and so valuable, is his age, his experience, and his pure stuff.  The last pitcher the Cubs have had that has as much talent as Garza is Mark Prior.

Biographical Information:

Height: 6’4″
Weight: 215 lbs
Age: 28
Drafted: 2005 First Round by the Minnesota Twins
Debut: August 11, 2006 vs Toronto Blue Jays (2.2 IP, 8 hits,  7 runs, 7 ER, 2 K, 2 BB)

Cubs’ Statistical Analysis:

In 39 starts with the Cubs, Garza is an even 12-12.  He has pitched much better than his numbers indicate, with a 3.72 ERA this season.  That includes his seven run debacle on Monday night in Houston.  Before  that, his ER A was in the 2.50 range.  He had been down right dominant until his last start, with his worst starts coming immediately after returning from illness.  For the season, he has given up 2 or fewer earned runs in six of his eight starts.  He averages 3.0 BB/ 9 IP during his time with the Cubs, which is strong in comparison to the rest of the staff.  His 14 home runs allowed last season were the lowest of any full season in the majors for Garza, who acclimated himself well to the National League.  After a stint on the disabled list last season, Matt Garza was arguably one of the best pitchers in the National League during the second half of last season, when he gave up only 50 earned runs in his last 22 starts, spanning 139.1 innings, and anchored a resurgent Cubs’ pitching staff after the injuries to himself, Randy Wells, and Andrew Cashner, and the late season suspension of Carlos Zambrano.  The important things to note about Garza’s numbers are that he leaves the Cubs in position to win just about every time he takes the mound.  His record is far less indicative of how good he’s been than the way he leaves the game, which is typically with a lead or very close to it.

Player Comparison:

My player comparison for Matt Garza is the other big name pitcher that came to our division last winter…Brewers’ pitcher Zack Greinke.  I do this because they are basically the same age and made the same transition from the American League to the National League’s Central Division a little over a year ago.  In his 37 starts, Greinke is 21-7, which goes to show what being on a significantly better team will do for a win-loss record.  Garza has pitched 18 more innings in his two extra starts, given up one fewer home run, and his ERA since the start of 2011 is 0.15 less than Greinke, which is a statistical push.  In 2011, Garza’s ERA was about one half of a run lower than Greinke and he gave up 5 fewer home runs in 28 more innings, and his home and road record and statistics have less variation than Greinke.  Aside from those numbers, Greinke and Garza have been nearly identical, which makes this comparison fair.  The other thing that makes this fair is that Greinke is also rumored to be trade bait this summer.  My very amateur analysis is that Garza will be more valuable.  He has another full season of control after the season, and the road numbers for Greinke cannot be ignored.  He is simply not the same pitcher outside of Miller Park since the beginning of 2011.   (A different measure of fairness would be comparing Garza to Shaun Marcum, who came from the AL East with Garza last winter.  While Garza has been overall better than Marcum, Marcum has been outstanding away from Miller Park and is another pitcher that could be on the block this summer.)

The BIG Question:

Will the Chicago Cubs trade Matt Garza and begin to restock a less than over-whelming farm system or extend the contract that is due to run out after the 2014 season?

The Answer:

To Be Determined.  Sorry.  That’s all you get.  Actually, that’s the answer for basically everyone, but for different reasons.  What we have learned about Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein to this point is that nobody is off limits, especially if Starlin Castro’s name is being floated in trade rumors.  For Garza, I would expect the Cubs to keep him around and build a rotation around him with guys like Jeff Samardzija, who is another power righty, and some left handed starters like (but not necessarily, beyond this season and next) Paul Maholm, who can capably fill the back end of a rotation, and other free agent additions in the coming years.  Garza is set to become the undisputed ace of the staff with the likely departure of Ryan Dempster, either via trade or free agency at season’s end.  At 28, Epstein has said he is the kind of pitcher to build a staff around.  That can mean one of two things…either Epstein was being totally honest, or he was trying to inflate Garza’s price tag for potential trade suitors.  With the speculation that extension talks have started, I would guess the former holds some weight.  It’s just too soon to rule out the latter.