Archive for November, 2007

Cubs Acquire Omar Infante for Jacque Jones & Cash

Monday, November 12th, 2007

From the Cubs Media Dept:

CHICAGO – The Chicago Cubs today acquired right-handed hitting infielder Omar Infante from the Detroit Tigers for outfielder Jacque Jones and a cash consideration.

Infante, 25, batted .271 (45-for-166) with two home runs and 17 RBI in 66 games with Detroit last season. Versatile in the field, Infante played six positions last season, most often at second base (20 games). He also appeared at shortstop (14 games), third base (nine), center field (12), right field (six) and left field (one).

The Venezuela native hit .281 (18-for-64) off left-handed pitching and posted a .413 batting average (19-for-46) with runners in scoring position in 2007. Infante batted .309 (25-for-81) with a .341 on-base percentage in 32 games in May and June.

A member of the 2006 American League pennant winners, Infante has spent part of the last six seasons with the Tigers after the club signed him as a non-drafted free agent in April of 1999. He owns a .253 career batting average (403-for-1,592) with 81 doubles, 17 triples, 32 home runs and 154 RBI in 494 contests with Detroit.

In 2004, his first full season with the Tigers, Infante set career marks with 142 games played, 69 runs, 133 hits and 16 home runs while his career-best nine triples ranked fourth in the American League. That marked the second of three seasons in which Infante was managed by current Cubs bench coach Alan Trammell (2003-2005).

Jones, 32, batted .285 (281-for-986) with 32 home runs and 147 RBI in 284 games for the Cubs after he signed with the team as a major league free agent in January of 2006. Last season, Jones batted .285 (129-for-453) with five home runs and 66 RBI in 135 contests.

TSN Scouting on Infante:

  • A very intense and driven player, with superb defensive skills up the middle. At the plate, he’ll poke the ball the other way and has occasional power. He’s got quick feet on the base paths.
  • Can’t catch up to tight heat, resulting in too many strikeouts. Has some trouble against southpaws.
  • Strong utility infielder.Tigerblog Weighs In – (Source)

    I’ve always been a big fan of Omar Infante but it just didn’t seem like it was going to work in Detroit. He had a breakout season in 2004 when Fernando Vina went down with an injury and he earned the starting second base job in 2005 but he struggled early. He then lost his job when the Tigers traded for Placido Polanco and since then, he’s spent time both in the minors and as a utility player (he can play outfield and infield). He fell out of favor last year and the Tigers eventually went with Ramon Santiago down the stretch and after they signed Santiago yesterday, it was probably just a matter of time before Infante was gone.

    Still, Infante is only 25 and while that breakout season is three years removed, it’s there. I don’t know what the Cubs have planned for Infante but you wonder if Alan Trammell’s presence on the team had anything to do with this deal.

    While this deal does make room in terms of salary, as Jones was set to earn $5 million in 2008 and Infante figures to make roughly $1.5 based on his previous contract, it doesn’t make a lot of sense in filling needs for the Cubs. Infante can’t possibly give us an upgrade anywhere. Rotoworld speculates that he could be the platoon partner in CF with Pie against the lefties. Great, except for the fact that he has a career average against lefties of under .250. Am I wrong, or do we not already have that hitter in Felix Pie? I’m just speculating here, but I have a feeling that Infante is either part of another deal that Hendry has in the works or that he will not be offered arbitration and will be non-tendered. My guess is the latter, as it simply works similar to the deal that the Cubs had in place with the Marlins earlier in the year that fell through. However, if I had to pick a team to deal for Infante, it would be the Devil Rays.

    Other Blogs

  • Cub Town is waiting for the other shoe to drop – (source)
  • Goat Riders of the Apocalypse is praising Jeebus over the move – (source)
  • The Cub Reporter was sceptical of the deal being finalized but is less than impressed. – (source)
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    From Right Field – Hats, hats, hats

    Monday, November 12th, 2007

    I was going through my hat collection a few weeks ago, while cleaning out part of one of our closets. Man, I forgot how many baseball hats I have. Next to my shoe fetish (I know I’m slightly girly), baseball hats are my next vice. I think I pulled out more than thirty ball caps relating to all sorts of baseball teams, and all of the major local sports franchises here in Chicago. The Blackhawks not included as I’m not sure they’re still in existence. Ha ha.

    I’ve got two Cubs hats (1969, and the present home cap), three for the Louisville Bats (one for each visit I made), an Indians hat, a Schaumburg Flyers cap, some odds and ends minor league caps…..good grief. If I wore a different hat a day, you would not see the same hat in over a month. I’d also had permanent hat head, a very sexy look.

    It got me to thinking on why I bought so many hats. As a kid, I fell in love with the Montreal Expos. I somehow decided that the hat looked really cool, and managed to get my parents to buy one for me. I’d spend hours in the front yard throwing the ball up in the air and catching “deep drives” to the outfield in that hat. I guess I figured Montreal was the most realistic way to make it to the Bigs. Not a bad thought process for a eight or nine year old. I think it was that hat that started the whole mess. How many kids in your neighborhood has an Expos’ hat? Exactly. I had something no one else did. Which is where this train ran itself right off the tracks. Most of my hats are for that exact reason. I must have a hat I’ve never seen anyone in.

     

     
      Chunichi Dragons outfielder Kosuke Fukudome declared for free agency Monday, opening the way for a possible move to the Major Leagues. (source) The Minnesota Twins plan to ask the Yankees for Robinson Cano in the event that they were to move Johan Santana to New York. My guess is that Phillip Hughes would also be part of the deal to help fill the pitching void. (source)  

    In high school, I bought a Dolphins hat (which I still have), in Indianapolis of all places. It’s turquois with a Miami player actually riding on top of the dolphin. I can see wildlife people freaking out at that very visual. I’d never seen anything like it, and I never have since. I’ve actually been offered money for that hat one or two times. I could care less about the Dolphins….what was I thinking?

    It was about six or seven years ago when I visited a friend in Louisville, where the hat frenzy caught on again. He took me to a Bats game, or River Bats as they were called that year, and I just had to have a hat. It’s really quite atrocious. It’s bright green with a purple bill, and this silly little purplish cartoony bat holding a baseball ball. Of course, they changed names the next year to the Bats, and the whole process started over again. Need new hat….must have new Bats hat. At least that one is pretty cool and mimics the Batman logo a bit. I won’t get into the reasons of why I decided to buy a jersey as well that year.

    So here I sit, with a slightly silly collection of baseball hats. I typically wear the same two or three, while the others sit nicely packed in this box, but I take a gander at them occasionally. Once again wondering why I have all of them, and then I remember. Each of them has some sort of memory. Whether it was sitting in the third deck of Jacobs Field waiting for the rain delay with local family, or sitting in the bleachers at Slugger Stadium with a good friend, or that Sox hat I bought so I could go to a game on the southside without fear of being beaten up. It’s all in the memories, or as my wife likes to point out now, it all about covering up that thinning hair.

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    Sunday Morning Webtopia

    Sunday, November 11th, 2007
  • Steve Stone is a favorite of many in the Cub fan base, though my love for him has waned the more I listen to him on the Score. He still has excellent insight, but his arrogance at times turns me off. Nonetheless, he maintains his own blog at stevestone.com. In his latest post, he mentions some prospects in the farm system. (Source)
  • The Hardball Times took a look at the last 25 postseasons and ranked them from best to worst. Not surprisingly, this year’s postseason was near the bottom and 2003 near the top. (Source)
  • John Heyman of SI.com takes a crack at predicting with some of the top free agents this off-season should command on the open market. It’s nice to go back and look at this once the players sign to see how he did. My guess is that he won’t do very well, because no one ever does. (Source)
  • The Cub Reporter had a great post about what the payroll looks like for the Cubs in 2008 and 2009, courtesy of Arizona Phil. It’s well worth the read. (Source)
  • Michael Lewis (Not the Moneyball guy), submitted an Op-Ed piece for the NY Times entitled, Baseball’s Losing Formula in which he took a look at the problem with revenue sharing the way it currently works. (Source)
  • Murray Chass talks about if the owners are engaging in collusion against Scott Boras and A-Rod this year. I know it’s “against the rules”, but this might be an instance where Bud Selig needs to step in and do something to fix this. If not, we could be looking at Rodriguez signing a deal worth more than 17 of the MLB franchises according to Forbes.com. (Source)
  • Carrie Muskat did a piece on Josh Vitters, the Cubs recent first round pick and his adjustment from the high school life to the life a professional ballplayer. (Source)
  • John Donovan presents five burning questions of the hot stove. (Source)
  • Nothing better than a nice bottle of perspiration soda, or perhaps field turf is your soda of choice. Seriously, this is gross. (Source)
  • Rick Reilly tossed out an article about Colorado baseball fans and their wait for a team and mentions that Cub fans didn’t suffer near as much as they did. (Source)Every Sunday morning, we’ll highlight some good writing around the web and beyond. Feel free to send me submissions of things you run across, whether it be good YouTube videos, sports related blog posts, or good columns. Send all submissions to:
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    Breakfast on the Farm

    Saturday, November 10th, 2007

  • The Hardball Times put out a post on the most improved minor league hitters of 2007 (Source) and mentioned Geovany Soto in it. In the article, Soto was mentioned in the most improved player category, which made me very happy to see. It’s good to see that we weren’t the only ones to notice his breakout year. Others around the Majors noticed as well. Unfortunately, all they really say is that Geo will compete for the starting job in 2008. Personally, the job is his out of camp, if you ask me. Who takes it from him? Henry Blanco? I think not.
  • Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus mentioned one of my favorite prospects in the system in his Monday Ten Pack article (Source). Kyler Burke, who came over in the trade that sent Michael Barrett to San Diego. He’s playing in the Hawaii Winter Baseball League for the Honolulu Sharks. Goldstein had the following to say:

    Burke was acquired during the season by the Cubs in the Michael Barrett trade, and he may have gone from highly regarded to slight sleeper. Entering the year as the ninth-best prospect in the Padres system, the 19-year-old outfielder proved to be unprepared for a full-season league, batting just .211/.305/.268 at Low-A Fort Wayne before the deal. The Cubs dropped him back down to the Northwest League, where he started off 1-for-27 before taking off, batting .284 the rest of the way with 10 home runs in 197 at-bats. Burke went 0-for-4 for the Sharks on Saturday, ending a six-game multi-hit streak in which he went 14-for-24 with seven doubles. He’s now batting .355/.412/.516 in 18 games. Burke is ready for another shot at a full-season league, and scouts have always been enamored with his tools; keep an eye on this one.

  • Inside the Ivy mentioned that Donald Veal, has been learning to relax a little more in the Arizona Instructional League camp. (Source) There were a couple of interesting quotes from the article.

    ìDefinitely in the first month of the season,î Veal said, ìI was trying to prove that I was ready (for Chicago) when I wasnít.î

    ìEarly on in the season, I think I was trying too much to prove that I could pitch at the Double-A level and was just trying too hard,î Veal re-iterated. ìI started to relax and it became a little easier. Guys werenít overwhelmingly harder to get out; it was more just about myself.î

    ìNot trying to be perfect all of the time, knowing you have good stuff and just to work with it,î he said of his goals.

    ìHeís got tremendous upside and the sky is the limit for him,î said [Pat] Listach. ìWeíre really looking forward to him putting it together pretty soon.

    ìHeís only 23 years old, but itís time for him to step up and become what type of pitcher he really is,î Listach added.

  • MiLB writer, Lisa Winston broke down the Cubs farm system now that the year is over and took at look back. (Source). It’s a very interesting read and covers a wide amount of names, including Josh Vitters, Kyler Burke, Donald Veal, Jeff Samardzija, Sean Gallagher, Tyler Colvin, Kevin Hart, and Eric Patterson.
  • MiLB writer, Michael Avallone took a look at the memorable performances down on the farm this season. (Source) Some of the more interesting ones were:- April 5 – Ryne Sandberg leads Peoria to a win in his first game as manager.
    - June 21 – Mark Holliman tosses a No-Hitter for Tennessee
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    Scouting Japan 101, The Four Letter Word and Protective Gear.

    Friday, November 9th, 2007

    Cubs Scouting East
    When the free agent market is weak, it is time to put plan B into action, and apparently during the organizational meetings this week, that is exactly what the Cubs are doing – scouting Japan.

    According to the Chicago Sun Times, sources say the Cubs have heavily scouted left-handed hitting corner outfielder Kosuke Fukudome, who is expected to file for free agency this month, right-handed starter Hiroki Kuroda, who filed for free agency Monday, and left-hander Hitoki Iwase, considered Japan’s top closer.

    Fukudome, 30, is known for his sharp eye and consistency. He has hit 192 home runs and has a .305 batting average during nine seasons with the Chunichi Dragons. Kuroda, 32, whose fastball has been clocked at 95 mph, went 103-89 with a 3.69 ERA in 11 seasons with the Hiroshima Carp. Iwase, who turns 33 on Saturday, has had 40 or more saves in each of his last three seasons with the Dragons, including 43 in 2007. His 46 saves in 2006 broke Kazuhiro Sasaki’s single-season record in Japan.

    Sam Fuld, the outfield prospect who got a brief stint with the big club late in the year, is playing out of his mind down in Arizona. Fuld is one of the Cubs six Arizona Fall League representatives this year and currently sports some pretty hefty numbers. Through 11/8, here were his numbers..400 / .495 / .659 with 3 HR, 12 RBI, 9 SB, and 18 R.As of right now, he is clearly ahead of Felix Pie for a starting spot in CF in 2008. Baseball America had this to say about Fuld coming into last year:

    “He has the best strike-zone discipline in the system, which led to a 17-game hitting streak and a 33-game on-base streak in 2006. He doesn’t have much pop, but he stings line drives all over the field. He has slightly above-average speed and basestealing savvy. He gets good breaks and plays a solid center field, though his arm is below average.”

    Let’s break down the Cubs interest in Fukudome. SI.com reports he has had great success in his career, twice hitting better than .340 for a season (he hit .351 in 2006) and twice leading the Central League in hitting. He has a career on-base percentage of near .400 and a career slugging percentage of better than .500.

    It has been said Fukudome is sort of a cross between the Mariners’ Ichiro Suzuki and the Yankees’ Hideki Matsui. Sounds good to me. He is also a very patient hitter. Again, sounds good. He is however, coming off an injury plagued season and of course there is no way to know for sure his talent will translate in America. My major concern is Fukudome is going to want a long-term safety net to get him out of Japan. Is a 30 year old, unproven talent in America worth the gamble?

    The Four Letter Word A-Rod
    I have avoided writing about all things A-Rod because quite simply, that is all everyone talks about. Also, the figures 10 years and $300 million, really do sicken me. It now seems like Boston has jumped in the mess. I mean would this saga really be complete without Boston in the mix?

    As Red Sox fans in Denver chanted Re-Sign Lowell, Don’t sign A-Rod, Boston’s General Manager Theo Epstein met with the man everybody loves to hate, A-Rod’s agent, Scott Boras. Of course Epstein said he was just checking in with Boras because you know, that is what buddies do. Spin it however you want Theo, we know the first item on the agenda in that meeting. And I don’t think Boston fans are liking the idea. Can you see Alex Rod in a Red Sox uniform?

    In other A-Rod news, (why does it seem like A-Rod could have a whole blog devoted to him) Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told Newsday Tuesday that the Yankees would offer arbitration to A-Rod. If A-Rod accepted, he would be contractually bound to the Yankees for 2008, and in line for a significant raise from his 2007 salary of$27 million.

    The top contenders in my mind are the Los Angeles Angels and the the Los Angeles Dodgers. Lets not fool ourselves, A-Rod is going to play in a big city market. What better place for off-field endorsements than Los Angeles. Also, guess who happens to have season tickets to both the Angels AND the Dodgers? Yep, you guessed it, Scott Boras. That leads to snarky, weasly sports agent heaven.

    The New York Mets have made the rumor mill but I am not feeling it there, they have enough to worry about without adding A-Rod to the mix. The Cubs have been talked about, but that has died down as of late. The long shot in all of this? The Baltimore Orioles. It may seem excessive and out of nature for the Orioles but maybe not. By the way, I feel like I am writing about the Kentucky Derby not baseball. Stay tuned while the A-Rod saga continues.

    Base Coaches to Wear Protective Gear
    General managers decided Thursday that first and third-base coaches will wear some sort of head protection during games next season, an action taken four months after the coach for the Colorado Rockies minor league team, Mike Coolbaugh was killed when he was struck in the neck by a line drive while standing in the first-base coaches box. I am assuming the protective gear wont cause that much controversy, at least it shouldn’t. If wearing a batting helmet can prevent freak injuries I am all for it. I just wonder if it will affect their ability to see the whole field.

    Name that Quote
    Barry Bonds did not make the news this week so I found a quote that sounded like something Barry would say. Who said it?

    “The only reason I don’t like playing in the World Series is I can’t watch myself play”

    Think late 60s to late 80s. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993. He played for five different teams and was he was recently featured in The Bronx Is Burning, portrayed by Daniel Sunjata. Yeah, that gave it away.

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    2008 MLB Draft Order and other notes

    Thursday, November 8th, 2007

    With the season now complete and free agent period set to begin, I thought it might be important to take a look at the process as a whole, which affects the June draft.

     

     
      Felix Pie – General manager Jim Hendry said Tuesday that manager Lou Piniella will give Felix Pie a chance to claim the starting job in center field during spring training. This is good news in my opinion because it means Hendry understands the importance of giving the farm a chance to produce Major League talent, which ultimately frees up the funds to patch holes in the off-season and via trade near the deadline.

    Ryan Dempster – Cubs manager Lou Piniella has gotten clearance to move Ryan Dempster into the rotation next season. Dempster would battle Jason Marquis and Sean Marshall for one of the final two spots in the Cubs’ rotation. If this is the way the team wants to play it, then it’d seem to rule out a Hiroki Kuroda signing and maybe open the door for a run at Francisco Cordero. Both Carlos Marmol and Bobby Howry could handle closing duties, but the Cubs have the money to upgrade if they want. It’s also possible that they’ll bypass those two and use the closer’s role to entice free agent Kerry Wood to stick around.

    ~ For more player news, visit Rotoworld.com

     

    Each year the Elias Sports Bureau ranks the players in the AL and the NL by groups and assigns the top 20% as type A free agents and the next 20% as type B. Not all of the players ranked are actually free agents, but the ones that are come with a compensation type system for the team that loses them. Here is a look at the rankings for the AL / NL for this year.

    If a team loses a type A free agent via free agency, they receive the first round pick of the signing team, provided they offer the player they are losing arbitration before December 1st as well as a sandwich pick (described later). There are a couple of exceptions to the rule, though:

    1. If the team that signs the type A free agent selects in the top 15 of the amateur draft in June, the compensated team receives their 2nd round pick instead.

    2. If the team that signs the type A free agent has a draft pick in the first round of draft due to failing to sign their first round pick the previous year, that pick cannot be lost.

    3. If a team signs two type A free agents from different teams, the team that lost the higher ranked free agent receives the signing teams first round pick.

    In the event that a team signs a type B free agent, the team that loses that player receives a “special” pick, which is known as a sandwich pick. It basically precedes the second round and extends the first round. It begins with pick number 31 and goes for as long as needed due to signings.

    Special Draft Choices – This comes right from the Collective Bargaining Agreement of MLB.

    The Special Draft Choices described in subparagraph (c) above shall be additional draft choices to be made immediately following the first complete round of the draft and preceding the commencement of the second round. Clubs that have lost a Type A Player shall receive the first selections, in reverse order of their won-lost percentage in the preceding season. Following these selections, Clubs that have lose a Type B Player shall receive selections, in reverse order of their won-lost percentage in the preceding season. Ties shall be broken by lot.

    Now, that being said, what is the draft order for this upcoming draft, and who are some appealing Type A and Type B free agents?

    2008 Draft Order
    1. Devil Rays
    2. Pirates
    3. Royals
    4. Orioles
    5. Giants
    6. Marlins
    7. Reds
    8. White Sox
    9. Nationals
    10. Astros
    11. Rangers
    12. Athletics
    13. Cardinals
    14. Twins
    15. Dodgers
    ____________

    16. Brewers
    17. Blue Jays
    18. Braves
    19. Cubs
    20. Mariners
    21. Tigers
    22. Mets
    23. Padres
    24. Phillies
    25. Rockies
    26. Diamondbacks
    27. Angels
    28. Yankees
    29. Indians
    30. Red Sox

    That means teams like the Rays and even the Dodgers can’t lose their first round pick, while teams like the Cubs, Yankees and Red Sox can.

    Interesting Free Agents of Note (Type in Parenthesis)

  • Michael Barrett – (A)
  • Jason Kendall – (B)
  • Jorge Posada – (A)
  • Alex Rodriguez – (A)
  • Barry Bonds – (A)
  • Andruw Jones – (B) – Don’t ask me how he’s a type B and not an A.
  • Francisco Cordero (A)Hopefully that helps a little with understanding why a club might do the things they do when it comes to offering arbitration or signing free agents this off-season.
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    Beginning to look ahead

    Wednesday, November 7th, 2007

    I have been surprised by recent reports about potential moves that the Cubs might be trying to make at this time, especially with the gm meetings this week. By the way, I am sure you heard that the teams decided like 26-2 to vote yes on approving instant replay for home run calls beginning this year. I think this is a good move. This is a black and white call. It is not affected by rule interpretation. It has black and white results. It either left the park or it did not. The runners either stay where they are or everyone scores. I think this makes sense and will not really change much of the fabric of the game. How many times would you guess this instant replay would be used this year? My guess is at most once a day…not in every game, once per day total. (Probably less).

    You can take a look around at different newspapers and find the sources for some of these stories about who the Cubs are interested in and what some of their plans are for the coming season. Please comment on what you think about these moves and what other things they might need to address:

    Starting Pitching
    Unlike our fearless leader Joe, I believe that the Cubs do need to make a move at starting pitcher. I am distressed by the bad numbers that Jason Marquis put up in the second half of the season. Once again there might have been serious discussion about leaving Marquis off the post season roster. They did drop him from the starting rotation in the playoffs and he did not make an appearance.

    Ted Lilly did a solid job last year, but also seemed to have ups and downs towards the end of the season. I wonder if his second year in the National League will result in a production drop. I think Lilly is a solid number three, borderline number two. But he has always been a career .500 pitcher and I wonder if this year was an anomaly.

    As I look at our rotation we have an “Ace” who we think is one of the best pitchers in baseball, but sometimes goes off the deep end. Having said that, Zambrano is our ace. He is clearly a number one and I am glad to have him. Less walks and less pitches would be nice. Come to think of it, less blow ups would also be nice. Lilly is the number two. Rich Hill is the number three. Which I also don’t love. I know that not everyone can have solid pitching one through five and everyone has some bottom of the rotation issues. But I do ask the question: Is there any way that I could envision Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, and Rich Hill winning a World Series? It’s hard to imagine. And the thing is, I am no longer hoping for something serviceable. I want the Cubs to win a World Series. We all do. So when we evaluate players we must think with that question in mind.

    So I think we have pretty shaky four and five pitchers. Marquis is OK at 5 but not at 4 to me. Even if he is 4, who is 5? Does Sean Marshall have what it takes? He hasn’t shown the long term reliability. Kevin Hart looked good, and maybe he gets a shot. Maybe there is another young guy out there.

    According to the papers the Cubs are looking at moving Ryan Dempster to starter. I wasn’t overly impressed with him for one inning let alone six. They are also one of the main bidders for Japanese pitcher Hiroki Kuroda. In an 11 year career Kiroda is 103-89 with a 3.69 ERA. One other potential name is out there. A guy by the name of Mark Prior. According to the Sun Times the Cubs might offer prior a one year contract with a club option for the following year.

    Bullpen
    With Dempster potentially being a starter the Cubs will use either Howry, Marmol, or Kerry Wood as closer. Dempster might balk at this idea, and with the Cubs potential closer depth, might be a trade candidate. The Cubs are very high on resigning Kerry Wood, which they would be best to have done by November 12. The rest of the pen remains pretty solid, unless you want to add a left handed relief guy. But a bullpen of Marmol, Wood, Howry, Eyre, and Wuertz looks like a pretty good start.

    An update today said that Dempster is more than OK with the move to the rotation and would even welcome the idea.

    Catcher
    It seems like Geovany Soto will get his shot. Jason Kendall will not be given a new contract. Henry Blanco is still under contract. So Soto will be your everyday catcher. There are some rumblings about his surprising offensive numbers this year, and whether or not they will be repeated playing everyday at the Major League level.

    Infield
    Do you think the Cubs would like Alfonso Soriano’s contract back so that they could make a run at A-Rod?

    The Cubs are pretty set at infield. The corners are locked up, barring injury, for years to come. The middle infield of Theriot and DeRosa would be a place where you could do something, but I think that most people would place that down on the list of things that need to be changed. There are rumors a plenty about some potential moves for the Cubs here, including signing Kaz Matsui or a trade with the Padres for Khalil Greene. Following my last article there was some discussion about just how good is Ryan Theriot anyway? Are you comfortable with him solid everyday?

    Outfield
    The most likely place to see some changes. Undoubtedly the Cubs are looking for at least one guy, and have an absolute need to be better on defense in the outfield. Some big names have been thrown around Torii Hunter has no interest in running into a brick wall, and Aaron Rowand will end up somewhere else. There has been some talk about acquiring Coco Crisp but I don’t think that is likely. The move that has been picking up steam is a deal with Tampa Bay for Carl Crawford. If this is true, sign me up…I’ll take it. This will cost the Cubs a fortune of prospects, but Tampa seems willing to listen. Another possible scenario that is talked about often is the Cubs getting another Japanese player, outfielder Kosuke Fukudome. He is an outfielder with some pretty good power numbers.

    Then there is the enigma that is Felix Pie. Reports say that the Cubs have Gerald Perry working with Pie in the Fall Leagues to help him develop as a hitter. It is possible that Pie is on his final season of opportunity with the Cubs. He would be a likely first prospect that teams would seek in a trade. Up until now the Cubs have been extremely hesitant to trade him. That hesitancy might be diminishing.

    I must admit I am relieved that the team understands a need to upgrade. I am unsure if they will put out the resources to do so. All of these things hinge on the sale of the team and how much payroll they will be willing to add. The news is out that Jim Hendry believes that the Cubs will raise their payroll this year.

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    Breaking Down the Cubs Mailbag

    Tuesday, November 6th, 2007

    Each week we take a look at the questions posed to Carrie Muskat, the Cubs beat writer and see if there is a way for us to expound on the answers or provide a contrasting point of view. I meant to have this posted this morning, but life got in the way. However if you subscribe to our site, which is free of charge, you would have known that already. I can’t stress the subscribing thing enough, as the off-season is a weird time for bloggers. That being said, let’s get to the mailbag.

    What are the Cubs going to do in center field for 2008? Nothing personal against Jacque Jones, but he has a terrible throwing arm and his offense wasn’t stellar this year either. Is Felix Pie a possibility or could the Cubs sign a big free agent like Andruw Jones or Aaron Rowand?
    – John S., Park Ridge, Ill.

    The Cubs tried to deal Jones earlier this year, and they will likely try again this offseason. He did hit .332 in the second half, but had a career-low five homers for the season. This was an interesting year for Pie. The Cubs were 58-29 when he got in a game, but this was the first time he had a part-time role, and the first time he didn’t have success. There’s no doubt he has speed, which manager Lou Piniella covets, and can play defense. Pie has to show he can contribute at the plate — a .111 average against left-handers won’t do it. Who starts in center may depend on who starts in right, and that’s up in the air. Rowand could be an option, but I also can see him crashing headfirst into the brick wall in center at Wrigley Field.

    In my opinion, the Cubs don’t go after a centerfielder on the open market. There is no point in spending big money on a guy when you have been grooming a player over the past few years. Felix Pie is one of our top five prospects in the system right now and deserves a chance to take the job. But, if he gets his shot, he needs to play every day to really be credited with a legit chance to take the job. If you know anything about me, you know I’m a big fan of the farm system and producing from within. Felix Pie is home grown and we need to look to him before spending money. Last off-season we didn’t do that. Let’s give it a shot this year, especially considering what our payroll is quickly blossoming to.

    I was wondering how former Notre Dame wide receiver Jeff Samardzija did this season, and do you think he’ll be on next year’s roster?
    – Mike S., Marion Heights, Pa.

    Samardzija was 3-8 with a 4.95 ERA in 24 games (20 starts) at Class A Daytona, giving up 142 hits, 35 walks and striking out 45 over 107 1/3 innings. He was promoted to Double-A Tennessee in August, and was 3-3 with a 3.41 ERA in six starts, giving up 33 hits, nine walks and striking out 20 over 34 1/3 innings. He will be on the Cubs’ 40-man roster, but as to when he’ll be in the big leagues, I can’t say. This is probably a strange time for Samardzija because it’s the first time he’s had the fall off from football, and he can focus on training for baseball.

    Samardzija did announce on his Web site that he is donating Under Armour football uniforms to Valparaiso (Ind.) High School, starting in 2008. He also said in a blog entry that he “learned a ton about the game, and more importantly, how to really ‘pitch’ from the great pitching coaches I had.” That’s a good sign.

    I saw Jeff pitch in Carolina against the Mudcats on the last day of the season. He was less than impressive and I’m not seeing him with the big club till mid to late 2009 at the earliest. He has to learn how to pitch. Because he focused so heavily on football, which is understandable considering he was on scholarship, he wasn’t able to fully devote himself to learning how to be a baseball player. He’s a good athlete and a good prospect. He’s one I’m following closely. On a site note, the site Carrie mentions is Jeff’s blog, which can be found at: http://www.jeff-samardzija.com/blog.asp

    Just curious about what you may have heard about Ryne Sandberg’s future plans. Do you know if there is any talk of him moving along in the system or will he stay put for a while?
    – Dave A., Lexington, S.C.

    One of the issues to be discussed at the Cubs organizational meetings was the Minor League assignments. Sandberg wants to continue to manage, and Cubs player development director Oneri Fleita has to find the right spot.

    He’ll be behind Jody Davis, due to experience, and from what I’ve seen, Jody Davis wants to manage as well. If Davis moves up, Sandberg would probably move up.

    I thought the Cubs had a better approach at the plate during the middle of the summer. I believe Gerald Perry was a big part of that. What are the stats on OBP and walks compared to the last couple of years?
    – Tim D., Du Quoin, Ill.

    This year, the Cubs had a .333 on-base percentage and 500 walks while hitting .271. The last time they had an on-base percentage above this year’s was 2001, when it was .336 (577 walks). In 2006, they had a .319 on-base percentage, 395 walks, and batted .268. In 2003, when they also won the NL Central Division, they had a .323 on-base percentage, 492 walks, and hit .259.

    Here were the league ranks in OBP for the teams Perry has coached in his career: 2nd, 1st, 2nd, 5th, 12th, 12th, 7th. Those come with Seattle, Pittsburgh, and Oakland.

    With the 100th anniversary coming in the 2008 season [since the Cubs last won a World Series], would it not be fitting for the Cubs to bring back Greg Maddux so he might have the incentive to retire as a Cub?
    – Eugene K., Des Moines, Iowa

    Maddux has been around for a while, but I don’t see the link between him and the 1908 team. He’s not that old. The Cubs, I hope, are thinking more about winning than reunion tours.

    Seriously? Eugene, do you not remember the fact that we already brought Maddux back for a reunion tour? You guys know how I feel. I don’t think we need another starting pitcher.

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    Lee Wins Gold Glove

    Tuesday, November 6th, 2007

    from the Cubs Media Relations dept:

    CHICAGO ñ Chicago Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee today was awarded the 2007 National League Rawlings Gold Glove for defensive excellence at first base. The honor is Leeís second as a Cub and the third in his major league career, as he also received the N.L. Gold Glove at first base in 2003 and 2005. Lee received the honor by a vote of league managers and coaches at the end of the season.

    Lee is now the seventh Cub in franchise history to win multiple Gold Glove Awards and the second player to do so at first base. Mark Grace won four awards at first base in 1992, 1993, 1995 and 1996, joining Lee as the only winner at first base in club history.

    Lee also joins second baseman Ryne Sandberg (nine Gold Gloves as a Cub), pitcher Greg Maddux (six), third baseman Ron Santo (five), outfielder Andre Dawson and shortstop Don Kessinger (two) as Cubs with multiple Gold Glove wins.

    The 32-year-old wrapped up the 2007 campaign with a .994 fielding percentage, committing only seven errors in 1,259 total chances in 147 games (146 starts).

    Leeís career .994 fielding percentage at first base ranks sixth among active players while his 1,352 games at the position rank third, trailing only Carlos Delgado (1,588) and Todd Helton (1,537).

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