Archive for November, 2009

Cubs Trade Aaron Heilman

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

From the Cubs Media Dept:

CHICAGO – The Chicago Cubs today acquired left-handed pitcher Scott Maine and first baseman Ryne White from the Arizona Diamondbacks for right-handed pitcher Aaron Heilman. White is a native of Chicago and is a 2005 graduate of St. Rita of Cascia High School.

Maine, 24, combined to go 4-5 with seven saves and a 2.90 ERA (20 ER/62.0 IP) in 48 relief appearances between Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Reno in 2009, reaching Triple-A in only his third professional season. The southpaw struck out 61 batters and issued 22 walks in 62.0 innings pitched between the stops, an average of nearly one strikeout per inning and 3.2 walks per nine innings. He allowed only two home runs in 62.0 innings pitched. Maine last month also made a pair of appearances for the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League, allowing three runs in 1.2 innings.

Drafted by the Diamondbacks in the sixth round of the 2007 Draft, Maine is 8-7 with 13 saves and a 3.29 ERA (44 ER/120.1 IP) in 88 relief appearances covering three professional seasons. The six-foot-three, 195-pounder pitched for three seasons at the University of Miami before joining the Diamondbacks organization.

White, 23, batted .266 (111-for-418) with 18 doubles, six home runs, 52 RBI, 65 walks and a .371 on-base percentage in 116 games for Single-A Visalia last season. He was especially strong against right-handed pitching, batting .298 (78-for-262) with a .405 on-base percentage compared to a .212 (33-for-156) mark and a .313 on-base percentage vs. left-handed pitching. He is a career .275 hitter (194-for-705) with 13 home runs, 103 RBI and a .366 on-base percentage in 186 professional games the last two seasons.

After graduating from St. Rita of Cascia, White attended Purdue University and was a 2007 Big Ten Conference All-Star after batting .452 (90-for-199) with a .521 on-base percentage in 53 games for the Boilermakers. The five-foot-11, 205-pounder was selected by the Diamondbacks in the fourth round of the 2008 Draft.

Heilman, 31, went 4-4 with one save and a 4.11 ERA (33 ER/72.1 IP) in 70 relief appearances for the Cubs last season. He was acquired from Seattle for left-handed pitcher Garrett Olson and infielder Ronny Cedeno January 28, 2009. The righthander is 26-37 with 10 saves and a 4.22 ERA (245 ER/522.2 IP) in 375 major league appearances (25 starts) with the New York Mets (2003-08) and Cubs (2009).

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State of the System: Left Field

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

Morning Rumor Roundup

  • The White Sox are interested in bringing in former Cub, Henry Blanco, and are reportedly not the only team interested in his services. (Chicago Breaking Sports)
  • The Cubs are not one of the teams that have inquired about Mark DeRosa. (LA Times)

If you’ve missed the first few editions of the series, here are some links as well as the schedule for the week:

C / 1B / 2B / SS / 3B / CF / LF / RF (Fri) / Righty SP (Mon) / Lefty SP (Tuesday)

Contract Info for 2010

Alfonso Soriano – signed through 2014 at a rate of $18 mil annually. That includes a full no-trade clause and the following perks: suite on road trips, 6 premium tickets for each home game (spring training – post-season) and All Star Game (if Soriano is selected)

John Ford-Griffin – Minor League FA

Positional Summary

Today we take a look at the left field position, as much as it pains me to do so. It means we need to talk about a topic that I would rather not discuss, bad contracts.

Soriano, Alfonso 33 MAJ 522 64 25 1 20 55 9 2 40 118 .241 .303 .423 .726
*Griffin, John-Ford 29 AAA 386 39 29 3 5 40 5 2 36 87 .268 .342 .415 .757
Wright, Ty 24 AA 497 66 23 2 9 58 5 3 35 60 .290 .349 .412 .761
*Wyatt, Jonathan 24 H-A 435 44 10 1 2 33 9 5 35 67 .232 .295 .278 .572
*Rundle, Drew 21 L-A,H-A 280 29 13 2 3 23 3 3 37 82 .214 .328 .325 .653
*Andersen, Cliff 21 L-A,SS 139 9 7 1 0 11 0 0 7 45 .235 .273 .303 .576
Davis, Burundi 20 SS,ROK 209 25 7 4 2 23 11 1 17 66 .246 .325 .361 .686
Figueroa, Darlyn 19 ROK 183 26 8 1 0 15 6 5 23 44 .216 .344 .281 .625
*Cook, Glenn 24 ROK 103 11 4 1 0 8 1 4 11 32 .167 .311 .238 .549
Valdez, Rander 17 ROK 60 3 0 0 0 1 3 1 1 24 .052 .067 .052 .118
Damian, Alejandro 19 ROK 27 4 1 0 0 3 1 0 7 7 .158 .370 .211 .581
*Williams, Sean 18 ROK 11 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 3 .364 .364 .364 .727

Looking at the table above, I see a reason why Jim Hendry felt like it would be a good idea to sign Soriano for a multi-year deal. There simply isn’t much talent at the LF position in the system. The only top prospect from the Baseball America top 30 from last year was Ty Wright, but he’s basically a decent contact hitter with minimal home run power and average speed. He’s been a decent hitter in his three years in the system, but he really isn’t someone I could see being an impact bat in the lineup from a starter standpoint even if Soriano wasn’t around. His minor league breakdown is as follows:

2007 22 2 Teams A_ss-A 303 45 13 2 10 49 11 3 28 37 .308 .387 .487 .874
2008 23 Daytona A_adv 480 60 21 1 8 72 7 2 41 71 .300 .370 .411 .781
2009 24 Tennessee AA 497 66 23 2 9 58 5 3 35 60 .290 .349 .412 .761
3 Seasons 1280 171 57 5 27 179 23 8 104 168 .298 .366 .429 .795

Other than Wright, what is there? Honestly stop and thing about this for a second. If Soriano doesn’t come back and come back in a big way in 2010, what other options do we have in LF? We could try Jake Fox out there. He can’t be worse from a fielding standpoint that Soriano. Other than that, what else is there? This is a position that is sorely lacking in talent and needs to be improved. You can look at the free agent crop and see a few options. I think Marlon Byrd and Reed Johnson are potential targets that could be plugged in as that guy who can be versatile in their role in the OF. Other than that, you have guys that are either too pricey, too good for a backup / platoon role, or just plain bad. Say some prayers that Soriano comes back big.

2010 Free Agents at LF
Scott Boras clients in Bold

Garret Anderson (38) – Type B
Marlon Anderson (36)
Jason Bay (31) – Type A
Emil Brown (35)
Marlon Byrd (32) – Type B
Johnny Damon (36) – Type A
David Dellucci (36)
Cliff Floyd (37)
Joey Gathright (28)
Matt Holliday (30) – Type A
Reed Johnson (33)
Greg Norton (37)
Wily Mo Pena (28)
Dave Roberts (38)
Gary Sheffield (41)
Fernando Tatis (35) – Type B
Marcus Thames (33)
Randy Winn (36) – Type B

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State of the System: CF & Minor League FA

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Before we take a look at the outfield personnel in the system, here is a breakdown of the guys in our system that were granted free agency in the minor leagues due to Rule 55.

RHP: Vince Perkins (AAA), Jose Pina (Hi A)
LHP: Casey Fossum (AAA)
C: Mark Johnson (AAA)
1B: Matt Craig (AAA)
2B: Luis Rivas (AAA), Bobby Scales (AAA), Nate Spears (AAA)
OF: Doug Deeds (AAA), John-Ford Griffin (AAA), Brad Snyder+ (AAA)

Other Notables: Bobby Brownlie (ATL), Josh Kroeger (CHA), Mark Bellhorn (COL), Tim Raines Jr. (KC), Jason Dubois (NYM), Jerome Williams (OAK), Rocky Cherry (SD), Ryan Freel (TEX), Daryle Ward & Freddie Bynum (WAS)

If you’ve missed the first few editions of the series, here are some links as well as the schedule for the week:

C / 1B / 2B / SS / 3B / CF / LF (Thur) / RF (Fri) / Righty SP (Mon) / Lefty SP (Tuesday)

Contract info for 2010

Kosuke Fukudome – Signed through 2011 with a salary of $13 and $13.5 mil respectively

Reed Johnson – Free Agent

Sam Fuld – Auto Renewal at league minimum

Positional Summary

A look at the system probably needs to be summarized based on the position, considering that most of the OF don’t have the range that allows them to play all three OF spots. We’ll break it down with guys classified based on the table below that qualified at CF.

*Fukudome, Kosuke 32 MAJ 603 79 38 5 11 54 6 10 93 112 .259 .375 .421 .796
Johnson, Reed 32 MAJ,L-A 194 25 10 2 4 22 2 1 14 27 .257 .337 .409 .746
*Fuld, Sam 27 AAA,MAJ 485 79 23 11 3 35 25 6 55 34 .287 .370 .414 .784
*Adduci, James 24 AA 534 63 21 4 4 51 35 12 58 76 .300 .377 .388 .765
Guyer, Brandon 23 H-A,AA 510 62 28 5 3 46 30 7 34 67 .282 .339 .385 .724
*Campana, Tony 23 H-A,L-A 531 70 9 3 0 30 66 18 39 84 .284 .336 .315 .651
*Jackson, Brett 20 L-A,SS,ROK 249 50 6 3 8 36 13 2 31 56 .318 .418 .488 .906
#Valdez, Jose 21 SS,L-A 245 30 4 2 0 16 25 8 15 36 .313 .360 .348 .708
*Guzman, Francisco 21 ROK,L-A,SS,H-A 298 58 3 2 0 20 37 10 53 52 .238 .378 .268 .645
*Ramirez, Alvaro 23 ROK 238 40 7 4 2 30 24 7 21 17 .372 .457 .477 .935
#Robles, Gregorio 18 ROK 212 27 4 2 0 12 10 9 18 45 .222 .297 .265 .561
Pestana, Manuel 19 ROK 108 18 3 2 0 6 5 7 9 13 .239 .340 .315 .655
*Gonzalez, Eduardo 17 ROK 7 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 .333 .429 .333 .762

Looking above, I see a guy in Fukudome who is essentially a RF that was forced to play CF and did an acceptable job doing so. Was he outstanding from a fielding standpoint? No, but that’s probably because he’s not a natural CF by nature. Assuming Bradley is slated to be traded, that puts Fukudome back in RF at this point unless the Cubs upgraded that position instead. Judging by the Granderson rumors, it’s safe to say that CF is the priority for Hendry this off-season. While I’m not thrilled about what Fukudome turned into, especially if he ends up playing a corner OF spot, you can’t really say he’s been terrible. We saw a few weeks ago that he outplayed his contract, according to the Fan Graphs value system, each year he has been in the league. (Fan Graphs)

I see a free agent in Reed Johnson that I’d like to have back in the money was right, but who is coming off an injury that took a lot longer to heal than expected, is aging, and wasn’t really all that productive when he was in the game.Remember that we got Johnson off the scrap heap early in 2008 and caught lightning in the bottle all year. I don’t know what he’ll command in free agency this year, but my guess is it’s money we could save in an effort to give a guy like Fuld a shot.

I see a guy in Sammy Fuld who is a fan favorite and can probably fill the role Johnson filled as the 4th outfielder at a cheaper price. He plays hard, is a very disciplined hitter that draws walks and runs the bases well. He’s an intelligent player that knows the game. He’s paid his dues and deserves the shot Johnson has had over the past two years.

I see dead people.

I see a guy in Brett Jackson that excites the crap out of me. Baseball America recently said “More than just a slugger, Jackson is the best athlete in the system. His quick bat and the loft in his swing give him well-above-average raw power. He uses his plus speed well on the bases and in center field, and he also has solid arm strength with good accuracy on his throws. He plays with constant energy.” (Baseball America) These were the things we heard about a can’t miss prospect that missed in Felix Pie and Corey Patterson. You know what they say, third time’s a charm.

I see a guy that can be a future all purpose guy that plays with wreck-less abandon in Brandon Guyer. Arizona Phil mentioned “Guyer has above-average speed, and is an aggressive base-runner and a good base-stealer (he had 30 SB and only 7 CS combined at Daytona and Tennessee in 2009).” (The Cub Reporter)

2010 Free Agents at OF
Scott Boras clients in Bold

Rick Ankiel (30)
Rocco Baldelli (28)
Marlon Byrd (32) – Type B
Mike Cameron (37) – Type B
Endy Chavez (32)
Coco Crisp (30)
Darin Erstad (36)
Jeff Fiorentino (27)
Ryan Freel (34)
Joey Gathright (28)
Jerry Hairston Jr. (34)
Reed Johnson (33)
Andruw Jones (33)
Corey Patterson (30)
Scott Podsednik (34)
DeWayne Wise (32)

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Like I Was Sayin’…

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

This one is by Mike Royko, is titled “Like I was Sayin’…”, and features his likeness on the cover, decked out in Superman garb complete with red cape and boots. I was in a Chicago branch library and it jumped out at me as one I hadn’t read yet, at least not lately. It is a compilation of 100 of his newspaper columns, originally published between 1966 and 1984.

The first conclusion I arrived at while reading this book is that Mike Royko is a helluva good writer. As the Albuquerque Journal is quoted on the inside front jacket cover:

– “Newspaper columnists fall into five general categories. Those categories, in ascending order, are: 1) Bad. 2) Good. 3) Very Good. 4) Outstanding. 5) Mike Royko. And that, as they say, is that. Royko is the best; nobody comes close to Royko; God made only one Royko and that’s too bad.”

The second conclusion I arrived at while enjoying Mr. Royko’s Chicago-centric view of the world is how proud I am to share his Native Chicagoan’s outlook. As Tom Waits once observed: this “allows us a perspective that’s unique”.

Although few of the topics covered in these columns are appropriate for discussion on a sports blog such as this, as couple of them are.

The column originally published on April 5, 1979 concerns opening days at Wrigley Field. With regard to the 1969 season Mr. Royko reminisces:

– “We all remember what happened that season. It was the best Cub team in thirty years. No 4-Fs. No strange mutants. For the first time in three decades, the players were better athletes than the grounds crew.
“It didn’t help. When the crunch came, the Cubs swallowed their tongues, and New York, in its greed, had another championship. Since that season I have made a point of seeing the movie “Fail Safe” every time it is on TV because the movie ends with New York being nuked.”

The January 25, 1980 column concerns the military draft (ie., “Selective Service”). Mr. Royko, speaking for us all, proclaims:

– “If this country has to start the military draft again, I hope that this time we do it right.
“Please, no more professional athletes and sons of politicians being magically jumped to the top of the list for stay-home service in the reserves.
“There was nothing as ludicrous during the Vietnam War as the sight of magnificent physical specimens throwing seventy-five-yard passes while being cheered by people whose own spindly legged sons were slogging through rice paddies.”

– “First of all, a draft should be run as a hundred-percent lottery system…. The lottery should also apply to to the reserves. Let luck decide who will be a weekend warrior. That way a punch-press operator will have as much a chance to sit it out at home as a star quarterback or the sons of a Chicago mayor.”

– “Before anyone writes me any outraged letters, let me say that I’d rather not see the draft restored. I have two sons who will have to register.
“I just want it run fairly.
“If it is done my way, we might some day see Hamilton Jordan, John Travolta, Bob Dylan, and almost the entire Cub team in military uniforms.”

And regarding our currently downtrodden Chicago Bears, Mr. Royko presciently observed in a column published twenty six years ago today, (November 17, 1983):

– “…I’ve never seen any point in sitting in a movie theater or in front of my TV set for two or three hours just to wind up depressed when the hero lies crumpled in the dust or the heroine coughs her fragile life away.
“That’s why I never watch Bears games anymore. The average Bears fan doesn’t realize it, but he’s reducing his life expectancy by the stress and depression brought on by watching these weekly tragedies.”

The Washington Post referred to Mike Royko as “a national treasure”. I’d go along with that.

We miss you, Mike.

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State of the System: Third Base & Granderson

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

Before we take a look at the third base position, I wanted to point out a few things I’ve read over the last few days to make sure we stay somewhat current on the hot stove rumors.

Curtis Granderson Rumors

I’ve been hearing Granderson rumors like they’re going out of style. It’s as if the media locks in on one guy each off-season for this team and beats it like a drum until something happens. We saw it with Brian Roberts and we saw it with Jake Peavy. We even saw it way back when with guys like Mike Hampton, Barry Zito, Carlos Beltran, etc. We lock onto a guy and never want to rest. That being said, here are the notes I’ve found on it.

Jim Callis of Baseball America said:

“I’d rank them Cubs 1, Yankees 2, Angels 3.
“A huge factor in this is how far the clubs would be willing to get him, but the Cubs would be in a better position to put together a Granderson deal than the Yankees and Angels. If the Cubs wanted to include Starlin Castro, which might be a little crazy but they do have a lot of middle-infield talent on the way up, they could easily get a deal done. Even without Castro, they could put together a bat like Josh Vitters with an arm like Andrew Cashner, Jay Jackson or Chris Carpenter. If the Tigers were willing to take a talent further away from the majors, they could ask for Hak-Ju Lee, if the Cubs didn’t want to part with Castro.
“The Cubs have enough interesting young players to put together a package and still have talent remaining. The Yankees’ best prospect is slugger Jesus Montero, but I’m not sure they’d part with him. Even if they would, I don’t think he’s going to be a catcher, so you’re betting 100 percent on his bat. The Cubs could offer someone with much more positional value as a centerpiece and better secondary players in the deal.
“The Angels don’t have the same depth as the Cubs. I assume they’d try to build a deal around Brandon Wood, but I don’t think they could match the Cubs if the Cubs decide they have to have Granderson. And the Angels already have Torii Hunter, so I don’t think they’d want him as badly.”
Maybe I’m missing something here, but Granderson doesn’t seem to be the player that solves all of our woes. There is not a question in my mind that he would be a great fit from the standpoint that he would provide a lefty power stick that can play a great CF, but I’m not sure that he’s worth the price tag of some guys that I consider core parts of the infield in the next 3-4 years. It’s not that I’m that guy that never wants to deal prospects to get talent. That’s not the case at all. I simply don’t see the worth in Granderson to merit a guy like Castro or Vitters. If you want to look at a package that includes someone like Cashner or Jackson or even someone like Jeff Samardzija, I’m fine with that. I’m just not touching the other two for Granderson. Am I being too shrewd?
Carrie Muskat mentioned “Granderson would fill the leadoff spot”. How do you figure? Why is it that just being fast means you’re the best candidate for the leadoff spot. Granderson’s on base % was a mere .327 last year where he spent the majority of the time in the leadoff position. If we did bring him in, he’s NOT my leadoff man. Give that spot to Fukudome or Theriot with the other hitting 2nd.
Speaking of Castro and Vitters, Project Prospect mentioned both of them in their AFL Rundown – Week 5 post:
Starlin Castro is silky smooth at the plate and on defense. I’ve quickly become enamored with his balanced swing and quick wrists. You don’t need to be a swing mechanics expert to appreciate it his stroke — it really is a thing of beauty. And while his swing won’t lead to high home run totals, so long as he’s playing strong defense at an up-the-middle position and hitting a lot of line drives, he’ll continue to move quickly.
After watching Josh Vitters take infield closely last night, I do not expect him to stick at third base. He has decent hands, OK footwork and a solid arm, but he looks stiff when he fields the ball. Maybe he sticks at the position a bit longer. But he’s the Tin Man in need of oil compared to some of the other third basemen out here.

Now we continue our state of the system series today with the final infield position, third base. It was a sore spot for the team when Aramis Ramirez went out with the shoulder injury. We were shown the lack of depth at the position at that point and played just about everyone over there in an effort to piece things together while Ramirez healed. Let’s take a look at what the system looked like at the position for 2009 and moving forward.

If you’ve missed the first few editions of the series, here are some links as well as the schedule for the week:

C / 1B / 2B / SS / 3B (Tues) / OF (Wed) / Righty SP (Thur) / Lefty SP (Fri)

Vitters, Josh 19 L-A,H-A,win 536 67 22 4 18 71 6 3 14 72 .291 .321 .457 .778
Smith, Marquez 24 AA,H-A 505 65 35 1 15 67 5 1 38 95 .278 .337 .457 .794
#Scales, Bobby 31 AAA,MAJ 498 56 23 3 8 54 8 8 57 93 .267 .360 .391 .751
*Spears, Nate 24 AAA 411 48 20 4 2 37 6 5 35 43 .253 .319 .345 .665
Ramirez, Aramis 31 MAJ,L-A 351 48 15 1 15 66 2 1 31 43 .321 .396 .519 .915
Pena, Juan 19 ROK 287 48 18 5 5 40 2 2 32 53 .258 .352 .434 .786
Rohan, Greg 23 SS 258 34 14 1 4 21 1 0 16 36 .249 .315 .369 .684
Altagracia, Joel 17 ROK 255 28 17 0 5 25 3 1 21 82 .206 .283 .346 .630
Matheus, George 20 SS 234 22 5 1 0 22 2 4 20 41 .229 .299 .262 .561
Petraitis, Jordan 22 ROK,SS 193 22 9 0 3 18 4 2 15 53 .201 .285 .308 .593
Contreras, Willson 17 ROK 130 13 5 2 1 6 2 2 10 26 .205 .305 .313 .617
Weimer, Chris 22 ROK 56 10 3 0 0 6 2 1 5 11 .239 .357 .304 .661

Contract info for 2010

Aramis Ramirez – Signed through 2011 with a club option for 2012. (2010 salary – $15.75mil)

Bobby Scales & Nate Spears – Eligible to become a minor league free agent (Rule 55)

Positional Summary

I mentioned above that I’m not about trading a guy like Vitters. Here is where we see some of the reason I take that position. In my mind, he’s more untouchable that Castro, if I had to choose, despite the fact that Baseball America ranked him lower that Castro in their most recent top prospect list for the system. The reason I am of this opinion is because of the stark lack of depth at the hot corner in our system coupled with the fact that prior to Ramirez, third base was a black hole for this organization. I don’t want that to happen again, so I’m keeping Vitters. Could he be Kevin Orie? Sure, but you’ll never know unless you give him a chance. For all we know, Granderson could be Soriano. Outside of Vitters, what do you honestly see in this system at the position that can supplant Ramirez? Marquez Smith is the only name in the system that would be a possibility, but he’s not someone that can be an impact bat for this team for years to come. His ceiling is simply not that high. Take a look at his numbers so far since coming to the system:

2007 22 A_ss-A 308 50 14 1 8 55 1 2 44 48 .280 .380 .436 .816
2008 23 A-A_adv 506 71 27 5 17 66 1 3 47 94 .278 .354 .475 .830
2009 24 AA-A_adv 505 65 35 1 15 67 5 1 38 95 .278 .337 .457 .794
3 Seasons 1319 186 76 7 40 188 7 6 129 237 .279 .354 .459 .813

I’m not overwhelmed and neither are you. Vitters has to be untouchable right now.

2010 Free Agents at SS
Scott Boras clients in Bold

Rich Aurilia (38)
Brian Barden (29)
Adrian Beltre (31) – Type B
Aaron Boone (37)
Craig Counsell (39)
Joe Crede (32)
Bobby Crosby (30)
Mark DeRosa (35) – Type B
Pedro Feliz (35)
Chone Figgins (32) – Type A
Nomar Garciaparra (36)
Troy Glaus (33) – Type B
Adam Kennedy (34)
Mike Lamb (34)
Mark Loretta (38)
Melvin Mora (38) – Type B
Pablo Ozuna (35)
Robb Quinlan (33)
Miguel Tejada (36) – Type A
Juan Uribe (31)

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