Archive for October, 2010

Offseason Outlook: Shortstop

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

What We Have

Starlin Castro -I think it’s clear we have a star in the making, right? I’ll be the first to apologize for saying the Cubs should not have rushed him. I was wrong. Castro is the clear cut starter at SS for this team for next year and years to come. His fielding improved once he got his confidence that he belonged in the league and he made a strong case for rookie of the year, though I think his late season slump may have taken that award away from him.

The only things I need to see from him going forward in terms of improvement are better base running instincts, better plate discipline (which comes with age), and the power that will come as he matures. Once those skills develop, I could see him make a strong case for being one of the elite SS in the game. He’s that good.

What is on the Horizon


Hak-Ju Lee - It’s important not to be discouraged by the regression from Lee in 2010. He dominated Low-A Boise in 2009, his first season in pro ball coming over from Korea, but struggled in comparison to those numbers this year at Peoria. When all was said and done, two things need to be remembered. First, he still hit very well, especially considering the language barrier and his age (19). He finished the season with a line of .282 / .354 / .351 with 1 HR and 32 SB in 122 games.

Lee is a guy who, if he can continue to progress into the player the Cubs think he is, can supplant Castro at SS because of his glove. That would give us a middle infield loaded with talent and even more exciting: speed. Be patient Cub fans, but keep an eye on this kid in the next few years. He’s a good one.

Junior Lake - He’s another foreign born youngster, hailing from San Pedro, DO. He’s not a high praised prospect, but he did show some improvements in a few areas he needed to work on. In 2009 he put up a putrid strike out rate of 28.2%. To put that in perspective, that’s Adam Dunn range without the walks to go with it. He basically doubled his walk output and cut down a respectable amount of his K’s. He’s going to need to continue to work on that if he is going to have any shot at making it to the Majors. I don’t have high hopes.

Notable Names Available via Free Agency

Craig Counsell – Can’t hit a lick, but it’d be fun watching that funky stance all year.

Cesar Izturis – He makes this list because as long as Jim Hendry is the GM and Izturis is still playing, there is always the danger he’ll wind up on our team.

Derek Jeter – There is no way he leaves the Yankees and no where to really put him with Starlin locked in as the starter of the future, but it would be cool to have his bat as the leadoff man, wouldn’t it?

Jose Reyes – The Mets have a club option on him for 2011 so there is a chance he’d come back with them. I’ve heard rumblings that they would exercise his option and look to trade him.

Jimmy Rollins – He’s signed with a club option for 2011 at a very cheap $8.5 mil. He’s going back to Philly, but he makes this list because there is always the chance he goes to free agency if Philly goes in a different direction.

Joe’s Best Course of Action

I think it’s pretty clear that Starlin is the SS of the future for this team. There is the potential there for him to be a bonafide star in this game. That being said, the only real decision that needs to be made from there is who will fill in for him in the event of a day off. I don’t anticipate there being too many days off, so I don’t see the position being one that warrants addressing via free agency. At this point, there really isn’t anyone in the system with the exception of Darwin Barney that can fill that role with any competence. Barring a minor league contract signed by a veteran, Barney has that spot. I save my money go in house for the SS position.

Three Questions for Discussion

1. Starlin had some slumps and streaks where he was on fire. What do you expect from him for 2011 for the following numbers: Avg / OBP / Slug / HR / SB

2. How important is the backup SS role on this team, given Starlin will play just about every day? Is it a position that should be addressed via trade / free agency or filled from within?

3. What is your plan for the SS position as a whole moving forward?

Joe’s Roster So Far

C – Geovany Soto /  Robinson Chirinos

1b – Adam Dunn / Micah Hoffpauir

2b – Blake DeWitt / Jeff Baker / Darwin Barney / Akinori Iwamura

SS – Starlin Castro

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In the News: Offseason Priorities, Prospects, and 40 Man Roster Moves

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Carrie Muskat’s Inbox is posted on Cubs.com and she addresses the Cubs needs this off-season:

Top priorities after the Cubs name their new manager will be adding a left-handed bat, most likely at first, and possibly another starting pitcher (Source)

Unfortunately, she all but rules out Cliff Lee due to contract demands so if you had your hopes up that the Cubs would sign him, especially after what we’ve seen from him in the post season, you probably just got kicked in the baseballs.

The Top Corner OF Prospects (Source) was posted by Project Prospect the other day and for once, we’ve got a guy on the list. Never mind the fact Brett Jackson comes in as an honorable mention, the fact is that he’s gotten recognized for his play since being drafted in the 1st round of the 2009 draft. Since that time, he’s hit, hit and hit some more. I’m excited about this kid and you should be too. We’ll talk a lot more about him in the coming months as we delve into the minor league system a little deeper.

Paul Konerko is probably not leaving the White Sox, or at least that’s what was tweeted Sean McAdam of Comcast Sports Net Northeast in response to someone on Twitter that was asking about him. We talked the other day about the off-season outlook for first base this season and Konerko was one of the names mentioned. I hadn’t anticipated the Sox letting Konerko go, but I felt like I had to mention him on that list. I’m curious to see what they will offer him to re-sign.

Bye Bye Bobby – In case you missed it the other day, the Cubs released Bobby Scales and removed both him and Blake Parker from the 40 man roster. Parker has been sent to waivers ans Scales has been granted his release, making him a free agent. (Source)

Ted Lilly Contract Details – The details came out on the Ted Lilly contract with the Dodgers that I mentioned the other day. He received a 3 yr, $33 mil deal. That’s probably more than the Cubs would have given, and less than he probably gotten on the open market should he have tested free agency. (Source)

2010 Draft Report Card Note – Jim Callis of Baseball America answered a question in his most recent chat on Baseball America about the Cubs most recent draft:

Q: I know you just released the Draft Report Cards, but I would grade the Cubs 2010 Draft as a C. No stand out performances so far…Hayden Simpson has not pitched so the jury is still out on whether Tim Wilken was correct on selecting him that high. Tough to be a Cubs fan these days as usual.

A: The jury is still out on Simpson, and I wouldn’t have taken him as high as the Cubs did. That said, I did like a lot of their later picks. Outfielder Matt Szczur (fifth round) and righthander Ben Wells (seventh) could be flat-out steals. I also thought they really cleans up in round 10-16 with guys like righties Aaron Kurcz, Austin Reed and Ryan Hartman, lefty Eric Jokisch and second baseman Pierre LePage. Don’t be surprised if this draft turns out to be a B in the long run. – (Source)

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Offseason Outlook: Second Base

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

What We Have

Blake DeWitt – Acquired in the deal that sent Ted Lilly to the Dodgers, Dewitt played better in LA than he did in Chicago. We didn’t see much from him once the calendar rolled over to September. Once that happened, he hit to the tune of .220 / .294 / .341, which is not acceptable at all for a starter. The question going forward is which guy did we get. Did we get the one that was a pleasant surprise when he first came over or the guy that finished the year? I’m not sure why, but I believe in him enough to give him first crack at the starting job. I have no stats or logical reason to feel that way other than a hunch. He was considered one of the top prospects in the system coming through the LA organization and it’s a team that usually does a good job at developing and scouting young talent. For 2011 he’s scheduled for auto-renewal on his contract, so his price tag is dirt cheap.

Jeff Baker – He signed a one year deal to avoid arbitration this past year at a price of just under a million. He’ll be eligible for arbitration again, so we’ll need to make a decision on if we’re going to offer or just cut him loose. I tend to think he’s a guy worth keeping around because of his ability to play multiple positions, similar to the role that was filled by Mark DeRosa a few years ago. He’s not as productive as DeRosa, but a guy with that ability to move around is a valuable piece to the puzzle.

Darwin Barney – Man, he came on an made a difference down the stretch, right? That was what I would see being saying all throughout comments and other blogs. The fact is, Barney wasn’t very good at all. His 54 OPS+ was 56% worse than league average. He’s never been considered a top guy in our system so to count on him because of a few flashes last year would be a mistake. Give him a look in spring training, but there should be the understanding that he’s probably going to be headed to AAA to start the year.

What is on the Horizon

Tony Thomas – I’ll be honest with you. I don’t know what we have in Thomas. He was picked in the 3rd round of the 2007 draft class. It’s a class that has…how should we say…underperformed. The first round selections (Josh Vitters and Josh Donaldson) have not done anything. The only names out of the class that have made any kind of impact are Darwin Barney (if you wanna count his play as impactful) and James Russell. I dubbed 2010 a year for him to put up for shut up. He didn’t overwhelm, but he did do just enough to remain relevant. He’s got to start excelling, expecially if he starts the year in AA for the third time, or he’ll be out of the picture.

Ryan Flaherty – Boy, I felt like this guy was on the cusp of being a player for the Cubs. He completely bombed out in 2010, leaving me at a loss as to where we go from here. At this point all we can hope for from Flaherty is some sort of rebound from him in 2011 or he may be in danger of being cut because of his age.

DJ MaHieu - A 2nd round pick in 2009, he’s quickly becoming one of the top infield prospects in the system. He’ll probably begin the 2011 in AA. He’s hit at every level he’s been at since being drafted, so AA shouldn’t be an exception. He’s a college guy so if he hits, he’ll move through the system quickly.

Notable Names Available via Free Agency

David Eckstein – Older than dirt and really not all that good. For some reason this guy has been overrated for years in people’s minds. I see one year in his career (2002) where he was really good. Other than that, marginal at best.

Mark Ellis – My guess is that a lot of people don’t know a thing about him because of where he’s played for his career. Guys out west just don’t get noticed. I don’t know that I consider him a reliable everyday second baseman.

Orlando Hudson - For some reason this guy can’t stick with a club very long. Minnesota signed him for a one year deal and didn’t really get what they had hoped out of him.

Akinori Iwamura - Came over from Japan to sign with the Rays in 2007. Since leaving Tampa, he’s not performed the way many had hoped. In fact, he’s been downright awful at the plate. He’s got a tremendous glove and has shown he can hit ML pitching in the past.

Julio Lugo -The Rays sold high on him in 2005 and haven’t looked foolish for doing so. He doesn’t steal bases like he used to, which takes away a significant portion of his value.

Joe’s Best Course of Action

Blake DeWitt is my starter right now going into the season. With him locked in, I look to bring back Jeff Baker on another one year deal to avoid arbitration to platoon all over the field when guys need rest. He can be used to back up the corner outfield spots, second base, first base, and third base. Darwin Barney also makes my roster for the simple fact that he can play SS in the event that Starlin Castro needs a day off, which I don’t anticipate to be often, as well as third base and second base. The more versatility the better.

Where my plan takes a weird turn is in the one free agent on the list I’d like to see Jim Hendry make a serious play for, and that’s Aki Iwamura. I watched him play in Tampa when I was blogging about the Rays and this guy can play. I don’t believe that 2010 was evidence of the player he is. I believe in him. He should be able to be signed for relatively nothing considering the year he had in 2010. If it doesn’t work out, fine. If it does, he could either replace Ramirez at third after this year or at the very least be yet another versatile guy in the field with the ability to play third and second. It’s a risk worth taking at this point given the amount he’d require to sign.

Three Questions for Discussion

1. What were your impressions of Blake DeWitt last year? Is he a guy we should be looking at to be the starting 2B?

2. Do you see Jeff Baker the way I see him, as a poor man’s Mark DeRosa, or am I way off base?

3. How would you tackle the 2b position this off-season?

Joe’s Roster So Far

C – Geovany Soto /  Robinson Chirinos

1b – Adam Dunn / Micah Hoffpauir

2b – Blake DeWitt / Jeff Baker / Darwin Barney / Akinori Iwamura

Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the SS position.

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They Call Him “Q”

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

I have to be honest, until August I didn’t really notice Mike Quade.  I mean, I knew he was our Third Base coach but outside of that……nothing.

However, after watching him manage the final quarter of the season on the northside, I count myself a fan.  That’s right, I am starting the “Q” club! Charter member!

I know, I know, the prodigal son (AKA Ryne Sandberg) got left out in the cold by his beloved Cubbies.  Brushed aside for a guy who never took a swing in the majors.  You know what? Boohoo!

Oh and Girardi? Please, he is busy winning championships with the Yankees.  By the time he figures to manage for the Cubs it will be to cap off his farewell tour.

Ryno felt he served his time and did his minor league chores at the Cubs beckoning.  Back in ’07 he wanted the job that would eventually go to Lou Piniella.  They told him he needed more seasoning and to come back when he got it.  So, after four years of managing minor league ball came the expectation of reward.  The reward went to another guy.

What does it take to manage?

Ryne’s career  spanned 16 years, all but a small sliver of games  with the Chicago Cubs,  and to this day nobody has matched his play in a Cub uniform at the second base position.  With his number flying on a foul pole and his name etched into the holiest of baseball holy,  he has been granted a permanent home in the hearts of Cub fans.

But the question still remains to be answered, can he manage at the big league level?

It seems many Cub fans feel this is but a minor obstacle or none at all en route to a sure World Series.  With all the accolades over his playing career and the wonderful, yet relatively short, minor league managing career the Cubs must be insane for not tapping him as the next manager? right?

Wrong.

Managing is different then playing folks!  The history of great baseball managers is littered with short and lackluster playing careers.  I will give you three off the top of my head…..Sparky, Tommy, and Billy…..As in Anderson, Lasorda, and Martin.   We know them so well their first names carry cache throughout baseball, but not because of the playing days.

Now yes, Ryno did a wonderful job in his four years in the minors.  However, managing the minors is not quite the same as managing the majors.  First of all, the players in the minors just want to make everybody happy.  They want to get to the show!  What happens when they get there? They make money and low and behold they lose that charming desire to please, at least some of them.  This is where it takes a special person to manage.  In the minors, a player can still learn a thing or two, in the majors they better know it.  In the Minors a manager does a lot of coaching.  In the Bigs a manager actually manages.  The orchestration of egos, checkbooks, attitudes and desire actually mean more then teaching the subtle nuances of fielding or hitting.

But why? There must be a good reason?

Okay , you want a reason?  Here’s one……Quade has earned it.  If Sandberg did everything the Cubs have asked then Quade has done everything the Cubs and baseball have asked three times over.  Quade managed minor league ball for almost 20 years!!!!  10 different teams over that span and most recently three years as a coach in the majors for your Chicago Cubs.  Not too mention he cleaned up one of the most ramshackle bunch of misfits down the stretch of a season that meant nothing!

A lot of people will say, ” Don’t be fooled by that late season stretch run”……….well guess what, if it is so easy, then how come every team doesn’t thrive in the last month or so of the season?

I will give you another reason……the players play for Mike Quade.  They like and respect his managing style and it produces results as we saw down that final 40 games of 2010.    I mean seriously, they could have lost all those games.

Just because he didn’t play at the top level does that mean he doesn’t know baseball or the players who play it?

Give the guy a chance……

I say as Cub fans we give the guy his chance.  What if he is the chosen one? What if he is successful? Will anybody care whether it is Mike Quade or Ryne Sandberg managing this team if they have “World Series Champs” next to their name?

There will be some people who will care at all costs that Ryno is not the Cubs manager.  These are people who are caught up in the fantasy of watching Ryno, once again in a Cub uniform, trotting out onto the field.  Only this time, it won’t be to field his position at second base.  This is your garden variety Cub fan at it’s finest, screw what is good for the team it will just be cool to have Ryno out there.

I know a perfect place for Ryne, on the bench next to Quade as a bench coach…..learning all over again at the major league level.  Only this time he is learning to manage well paid men and not desperate kids.

In the meantime, lets give Mike the chance he has waited for, let’s give him the same chance somebody gave Sparky, Tommy, and Billy.

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Offseason Outlook: First Base

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

What We Have

Xavier Nady (Eligible for Free Agency) – After the Derrek Lee trade to Atlanta, Nady played the majority of the time to close out the season at first base. There has been talk of moving a guy like Tyler Colvin to first, but his glove in the OF is a lot more valuable at this point than a move to a position fielders go to die.

Nady had a good experience in the field at first. He had just one error in his time there this season. In his career, he’s an above average guy at the position. The issue becomes his bat and his price tag. At 31, he’s probably looking at one more potential pay day. The question is if he did enough this year to give someone enough confidence in him to pay that big contract. My guess is that he didn’t. That gives the Cubs the option to at least approach him to see what his salary demand is. He made $3.3 mil in 2010 so you’d have to guess that he’d command about that again. He has shown in the past that he can hit for power and a decent average. He’s not an all star type player, but for a position that sorely needs warm bodies, he may be a possibility work investigating for the short term.

What is on the Horizon

Be afraid. Be very afraid. We use this section to highlight a few names in the system that may have a future at the position.

Bryan LaHair – He’s eligible to become a minor league free agent unless he’s added to the 40 man roster or agrees on another minor league contract by the 4th day after the World Series. He spent half his time in AAA playing LF and the other half playing first base, but the majority of his time in the minors has been at first. He’s a guy that has wallowed around in the minors, spending the majority of his days at the AAA level but never getting a legit shot at the Majors. In 2010, he hit .308 / .385 / .557 with 25 HR and 81 RBI for the Iowa Cubs. It’s clear that he has some power, and he does hit from the left side as well, which is something the Cubs covet at that position.

Micah Hoffpauir (Pictured) – Believe me, I hate including him in this section just as much as you hate reading his name in this section. The system is just that bare at this spot. Hoffpauir actually had the 2nd highest OPS among qualifiers in the system behind LaHair. He’s a year younger than Nady and has shown he can play both first base and the corner OF spot. As far as production at the Major League level, there are two schools of thought on him. Either you subscribe to the Hoffpauir that hit fairly well in 2008 and 2009 or you are a believer that 2010 is a better estimation on who he is. I tend to lean toward the school that believes he’s not a very good hitter at the Major League level, but that’s not to say I’m right. I’d certainly love to be wrong. Like LaHair, he’s a question mark with potential upside, but probably not a guy you wanna use as a long term solution.

Ryan Cuneo – I don’t know much about him other than the fact that he was selected in the most recent draft for the Cubs in the 20th round out of the University of Deleware. He spent time between both rookie levels (Boise and Arizona) and hit a respectable .296 / .363 / 486 combined. He didn’t hit for a lot of power in college his first two seasons (7 HR total), but grew into his power his Junior and Senior year, combining for 33 HR in those two seasons. He’s definitely not a guy that can be a piece to the puzzle next year, but he may be someone worth keeping an eye on.

Honorable Mention (Just cause I like them) – Blake Lalli and Rebel Ridling

Notable Names Available via Free Agency

Lance Berkman – His power numbers have taken a pretty steady decline since his career year in 2006 and he didn’t really show much after being traded to the Yankees. He’ll be 35 next year so the length of contract wouldn’t be long. I’m curious to see if the Yankees make a play to bring him back.

Adam Dunn – This is the elephant in the room. Some people here want him and some want no part of him. Where do you stand? Of all the players on the free agent market for this year, Dunn is definitely the top of the class along with Paul Konerko. The Cubs are in need of a big power bat to protect guys like Aramis Ramirez and Marlon Byrd.

Aubrey Huff – He signed a one year, $3 mil deal to play with the Giants and had a real nice bounce back year after a disappointing 2009 that saw him traded from the Orioles to the Tigers. I don’t know what it would take to get him or if San Francisco will even let him go to free agency to begin with. What I do know is that he’s driven in at least 85 runs in 6 of the last 8 years. He hits for power and hits from the left side of the plate. He’s probably the most serviceable option that isn’t really a crap shoot but also won’t break the bank on this list.

Nick Johnson – Want a guy that just flat out knows how to get on base? Johnson’s your man. A career OBP of .401, he’s posted an OPS over .400 five times in his career. He’s not going to drive the ball out the park with any regularity, but he knows how to hit. He’s a below average fielder otherwise I’d compare him a lot to Mark Grace.

Paul Konerko - If there was a better time for Konerko to essentially have a career year, I can’t think of it. At 34 years old, Konerko had the type of year that will force the White Sox to have to re-sign him. Right? He’s one of the faces of the franchise and showed he can still put up big numbers. I don’t know what type of contract he’s going to command. He’s made $12 mil for the last few years so you’d have to imagine it will be more than that.

Derrek Lee – I put him on here to be kind, but the fact remains that Derrek Lee isn’t coming back. He served his time here and I don’t think Hendry would go that route again.

Adam LaRoche – Power lefty that can hit 20+ HR with an average that usually hovers in the .270 range. He’s got the potential to regress into the player we’ve seen up until 2009. I’m a little leery of going with LaRoche, but I’d accept him on the team.

Carlos Pena – This guy can flat out hit the ball out of the ball park. Unfortunately, that’s all he does. Last year his average was under .200, despite the fact that he hit 28 HR. He joins Mark Reynolds (2010), Mark McGwire (2001) and Rob Deer (1991) as the only players to ever hit more than 25 HR in a season while hitting under .200.

Joe’s Best Course of Action

This is a position that must be addressed in free agency or via trade. We simply cannot go into the season with either Nady, LaHair, or Hoffpauir as the main option. We don’t necessarily need to spend big money on a guy like Dunn or Konerko, but we need a bat and this is the other position I see where the bat can be acquired. I’d like to see the Cubs make a serious run at Adam Dunn. If not Dunn, then I go hard and heavy toward Aubrey Huff and look for him to be a guy that help this lineup. Dunn instantly offers the protection for Ramirez and Byrd that these other guys just can’t bring. He’s got to be the priority if we can get him at a reasonable amount of years. I’m not going more than 5, and no more no trade clauses.

As for the backup option, someone like LaHair or Hoffpauir should have enough talent to fill that role while also playing some in the OF to spell one of those guys when needed as well as to keep their bats sharp considering the fact that whoever the starter is, they’ll be playing 145-155 games. I’d probably be inclined to give the job to Hoffpauir to lose in Spring Training and go from there.

Three Questions for Discussion

1. If you had to go all in with one of LaHair, Hoffpauir, or Nady as the starter without going to the free agent market to address the need, which one would you gamble on and why?

2. Would you re-sign Derrek Lee to play first base?

3. Assuming the Cubs are going to the free agent market to address this need, which player to you target and how would you rank the others in order of priority?

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In The News: Angels, Managers, and Lefties…Oh My

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Angel Guzman Update – The other day someone mentioned Guzman and another comment questioned his inclusion in future plans. While I agree that he shouldn’t be included in plans going forward, we need to remember that he’s still alive and rehabbing. Carrie Muskat provided an update the other day on his rehab. It sounds like it’s going very well for him. Since he’s rehabbed so much in his career, at this point he’s not afraid to let loose and throw. When asked his time table for return, Guzman said “”By [Spring Training], my goal is at least be throwing off the mound,” I like Guzman. I really hope he gets over the hump because it was really nice to see him finally figure things out. He was just coming into his own and was a guy the bullpen really could have used this past season. (Source)

Manager News (When will it end?) – I’m growing tired of the managerial search. At this point, I’m rooting hard for the Rangers so the Cubs can talk to Girardi. I have to believe that perhaps the Cubs are hoping for the same thing. You’d have to think it would be silly not to wait for a rejection from him. At this point, in my mind, he’s the best guy for the job. I don’t see anyone seriously giving a look to Sandberg or Quade, so you’ve got both of them in your back pocket should Girardi not want to sign. Wait him out and get an answer.

Chris De Luca of the Sun Times recently wrote about how Sandberg was the man for the job:

But Sandberg knows these young players. He knows what it’s like to play day baseball — and play it well — at Wrigley Field. He knows this market. And, more important, this market knows him. The Cubs no longer have a face of their franchise. With ticket sales suddenly a concern, they need a prominent face. Sandberg’s will come cheaply.

There is no other fit for Sandberg.

And this is a team — maybe taking a page out of the Blackhawks’ playbook — that will spend more time honoring its former star players. Remember, Harry Caray’s statue was relocated to make room for Hall of Famer Billy Williams’ statue last month.

Forget Quade’s 24-13 record down the stretch. The Cubs were playing a bunch of kids, facing no pressure. This was not a legitimate test for the next Cubs manager. And he has no major-league playing experience. That’s a fact that shouldn’t figure into this equation, but it’s a key commodity in dealing with today’s players.

Sandberg isn’t just a former player, he’s a Hall of Famer. And no one knows the 2011 Cubs better than Sandberg.

This process should be over by now. (Source)

Meanwhile, Gordon Whittenmyer feels like Quade is the favorite for the job, but notes that Girardi is still in the mix.

The most interesting nugget came from Phil Rogers:

In any case, Wedge has been telling his confidantes that Jim Hendry was going to hire him to manage the Cubs if Joe Girardi wasn’t available. But rather than wait to see what happened, he took the bird in hand: an offer from the Seattle Mariners. (Source)

Notes from the Farm – Josh Vitters, who broke his hand late in the year, is back and playing in the Arizona Fall League to make up for some of the time that he missed due to the injury. The interesting note that Muskat mentions is that the Cubs are beginning to consider giving him more of a look at first base. The reasons aren’t really directly stated, but we all know it’s because he’s not a very good fielding third baseman (18 errors in 91 games in 2010) and the first base position in bone dry in terms of organizational depth. The move, at this point, can only help his chances of getting to the Majors and making an impact sooner than later. Right now, I need to see better discipline at the plate from Vitters. He’s slowly moving down people’s lists in terms of being a legit prospect and that’s discouraging. 2011 is a big big year for him. It’s put up or shut up and maybe the move to first will help. He’s currently playing third in Arizona, but that should change once he does things more inter-organizationally.

Former Lefties Alert - For those who thought there was a good chance that Ted Lilly may return to the Cubs this off-season after the Dodgers placed him on waivers in September after trading for him can put those thoughts to rest. Lilly signed a 3 year deal with the Dodgers. (Source)

Rich Hill has apparently had discussions with the Red Sox about pitching for them in 2011. (Source) Hill pitched in AAA last year for the Cardinals and Red Sox and didn’t fair too bad. I’m not sure what happened to his career, but it’s a shame. He looked to have so much promise and that curveball was a thing of beauty.

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Offseason Outlook: Catcher

Monday, October 18th, 2010

The goal of this series is to take a look at what we have in the system for each position as well as what might be available this off-season. We’ll start with the catcher position. Enjoy.

What We Have

Geovany Soto: (1st year arbitration eligible) – You’d have to imagine that Geo is locked in for the future with this organization. He had a nice rebound year after a bit of a sophomore slump and is among one of the best offensive catchers in the game at this time. He’s low priced and entering the first year of arbitration. The Cubs have a history of not taking things to that level, with the exception of Ryan Theriot last year, so you’d have guess that Geo will either get a one year deal to avoid arbitration or a deal that would buy out the three arbitration years. (Ranked: 6th in MLB in VORP among catchers with at least 200 plate appearances)

Koyie Hill: (2nd year arbitration eligible) – It’s tough to say what we’ll see happen with Hill this off-season. On one hand, I could see the Cubs bringing him back to serve as the backup catcher, but in 2010 he made $700k. A way to shed a small amount of payroll would be to decline to offer arbitration on Hill, essentially making him a free agent, then either discuss a lower salary or even a minor league deal. If he doesn’t want to do that, which I can certainly understand if he feels he can get a Major League job somewhere else, then you move on. At this point, for what he brings offensively, I think we’d be better off conserving money at the backup catcher position and going with youth from the system.

What is on the Horizon

Wellington Castillo – The top catching prospect in the system got a look at the Major League level late in the year when Geo went down, but didn’t see as much action as I’d have liked to see. He’s got power, but needs to work on hitting for average at a better rate. In under 300 plate appearances over the course AAA and ML, in 2010, he hit 14 HR and drove in 64. The drawback to those numbers is the low average and on base % (.259 / .318) and a 3 to 1 strike out to walk ratio.

Robinson Chirinos – Spent his 4th year in AA this year, hitting .318 / .412 / .580 before a promotion to AAA where he hit even better, .364 / .465 / .600. He’s not a top prospect in the system but probably deserves a look at this point.

Steve Clevenger – Versatile catcher that can also play 1B and 2B. Doesn’t hit the ball out of the park with any regularity, but has a decent arm and can hit the ball in the gap.

Notable Names Available via Free Agency

Brad Ausmus – Older than dirt, but still in the league.

Rod Barajas – Spent time with the Mets and the Dodgers in 2010. Nearing the tail end of his career, but may not be worth the money it would take to get him to serve as a backup.

Victor Martinez – One of the better offensive catchers in the game. He’ll probably be re-signed by Boston.

A.J. Pierzynski - I’m a big A.J. fan for the simple reason that he plays the game balls to the wall every minute he’s out there.

Jason Varitek – It’s hard to believe it, but this guy has been in the league for 14 years and has gotten old in a hurry.

Joe’s Best Course of Action

Overall, I’m satisfied with what we have in house at this position. I’d like to see Jim Hendry work out a deal with Geo to buy out his three arbitration years and go from there. He’s going to be the starting catcher for the next few years, at least until Castillo has a chance to fully develop his craft down on the farm. At that point you can evaluate what you have with Geo and either commit to him long term or go in a different direction with Castillo and look to move Soto before his contract his up. As far as the backup spot is concerned, I look to Chirinos to fill that spot for next year, not because I think he’s better than Castillo, but because he’s less valuable long term to the organization. This would allow Castillo to continue to get his at bats while giving a guy like Chirinos a chance to show he can hit at the Major League level. It would also allow us to at least have a shot at having some offensive ability behind the plate when Geo is off. For the last few years, when Soto has taken a day or two off, we’ve basically had to hope we got something from Koyie and that rarely happened. He handles the pitching staff well, but I’m going to save the money at this spot and go with youth to fill that backup role.

Three Questions

1. Do you believe in Geo as the future of this organization at the catcher position?

2. Would you like to see the Cubs bring back Koyie Hill as the backup? If not, who?

3. How good to you feel about the catcher position going into 2011?



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GirlieView (10/18/2010)

Monday, October 18th, 2010

“….. and she’s on the move again!!!!” Yes indeedy, here I am occupying GirlieView’s new and exciting Monday morning time slot! I’ve always been a morning person so this feels like it’s right where I belong. Not to mention it’s a pretty cushy slot for a blogger. Gracias, Joe!!!

We wrapped up the Annual VFTB Reader Survey thrilled with our 65 responses. (Well, 64. One person answered twice.) Today I’ll review some of the more objective results, then next week we’ll talk about some of the other responses including the great commentary and suggestions we received and how we’ll be using them.

These are pretty straightforward and we’ll use the results to make decisions about scheduling etc. And we’ll do a BTS game next year. :-) We’ll talk about the less-straightforward survey questions next week.

On to the week in review!

Lizzies

  • I’m the spawn of a maple tree.
  • If I hear one more announcer tell me that James Russell is the son of former big leaguer Jeff Russell, I may chop off my ears.
  • To say that Grabow was awful would be an insult to all things awful.
  • Bullschlit.
  • Giant Pile of Schlitt.
  • What a motley collection of stiffs.
  • The fact that Arizona parted with Scott Maine to get the great Aaron Heilman scares me.
  • I found it odd that Ricketts did the interviews.
  • Any day is a good day that starts with cold pizza!
  • Mexican, pizza, and Asian all take back seat to cold chicken.
  • How do I loath you? Let me count the ways.
  • I’m all for Lilly coming back, on a one- or two-year deal of course.
  • If the Cubs happened to land any of these guys for next year I would have an orgasm, stroke and heart attack simultaneously.
  • Lee is by far the best guy on the market and he would be a fool not to take the semi full of Benjamins the Yanks will gladly back right into his Arkansas estate.
  • Notta lotta good on that list…
  • Are you guys taking your morning cups of joe with kahlua?
  • Reason number 278 why the Cubs weren’t very good.

Lizard

  • Nothing more satisfying in the morning than a bran muffin. Of course that would be the bran muffin that you eat the day before.

Monday Morning Discussion Question

(Well, maybe more a prediction than a discussion!) With both league championship series’ tied at a game apiece, who will play in the World Series?


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Management updates

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

Earlier in the week Joe reported on an interesting interview that Cubs owner Tom Ricketts had. In this interview Ricketts seemed to indicate a course change insofar as the direction of the team. Rather than continue the trend of higher and higher spending on team salaries, it appears that the Cubs will attempt to grow more of their own talent and augment their needs (less) in free agency.

I’m in favor of this new approach – recently we’ve seen the Cubs throw money at players and what to we have to show for it? The best ballplayers we got were good deals – Ted Lilly and Myron Byrd to name two. And look at the guys we shelled out big bucks for – Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Zambrano, Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome and Carlos Silva (translate Milton Bradley.) Have they contributed anything near what their salaries seemed to command? No way.

There comes a time when management has to wright the ship – the Cubs must get better bang for their buck when it comes to their development system. Every year the Twins field a competitive team and they don’t do it through free agency. Here in Nashville we have a hockey team that has made it to the playoffs every year since 2003 with one exception – they do it by watching their wallets and developing players. Why can’t the Cubs do that? They won’t have to trade eleven players to stay under the salary cap like the Blackhawks did, they just have to develop the talent. So I’m in favor of Tom Ricketts’ approach – if what you’re doing doesn’t work then try a different approach. So let’s give the new ownership a few years to straighten this team out.

In other news it appears that Eric Wedge is going to accept the Seattle Mariners’ job and Bobby Valentine is on the outs. Phil Rogers has speculated that the Cubs are holding out to see what Girardi will do, but Will Carroll predicted that Mike Quade would be named next week as the Cubs manager and that Ryne Sandberg will be promoted to bench coach (Sun-Times writer Gordon Wittenmeyer disputes this prediction.) It’s very likely that Sandberg is holding out for a managerial job, as well he should. But would it be in his best interests to take the Pittsburgh or Toronto job if offered in instead of an internal promotion inside the Cubs organization? Methinks not – managing the Pirates is as close to career suicide as one can get and I don’t like the Blue Jays’ chances in the same division as the the Yanks, Rays and Bosox. Ryno should heed the advice of Kenny Rogers (the singer, not the ballplayer:) You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em. I like Ryno but it’s not his turn to manage the Cubs; hopefully he’ll play his cards right and sit next to Quade next year in Wrigley Field.

Update (Saturday 10/16:) It is being reported that Ryne Sandberg is being considered for the Toronto job.

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