Archive for October, 2011

Theo, Tebow, and Pauly

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Strike One – Obviously the first thing we need to talk about is Theo Epstein. There is nothing official yet, but it’s pretty clear that this is gonna happen if Theo wants it to happen. I’m excited about it, but I’m also trying to maintain an even keel because I know that it doesn’t automatically mean a World Series. Here’s an interesting question for you. If the Cubs are discussing compensation with the Red Sox, who is doing the negotiating on the Cubs and Red Sox behalf? The Cubs don’t have a GM and the Red Sox GM is going to be coming to the Cubs.

Strike Two – John Fox announced that his starting QB will be Tim Tebow going forward. Is that the right decision? It seems like there are two camps on Tebow, the ones that love him and the ones that hate him. There is no in between.

Strike ThreeKenny Williams, responding to the hiring of Robin Ventura as manager, indicated that they considered making Paul Konerko a player-manager. Immediately, I had a ton of thoughts go through my head. First, isn’t this a shot at Ventura by discussing other choices? Secondly, doesn’t it show how little Kenny values the manager to think he’d heap that responsibility on a player? And lastly, this whole Ventura signing has got to piss off Ryno something fierce. He’s paid his dues and still hasn’t gotten his call. Ventura has zero experience and has gotten his chance.

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The Bargain Bin: Infielders

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Sometimes teams make a big difference by bringing in the big money free agent.  But sometimes the most important move is finding the guy who has hit a rough patch, faced some injuries or is trying to reestablish his value.  The biggest bargains in free agency can often been found with these players.

Nearly all Cub fans know the Cubs have a lot of holes to fill before the 2012 season.  Third base and first base don’t have a clear incumbent, and the in house options are players with very little major league experience.  The Cubs also have other positions where they could definitely use some improvement from last year, especially at second base and in the outfield.

When fans typically think of free agents, they think of the big names.  Coming into this offseason, fans will think of players like Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, C.J. Wilson and C.C. Sabathia.  But it’s often other players that make the biggest impact.  Think of the best free agent signings prior to the 2010 season.  Adrian Beltre, who took a one year deal with the Red Sox to re-establish his value, Kelly Johnson, who was non-tendered by Atlanta before being signed by Arizona, and Colby Lewis, who was signed by Texas from Japan, would be on that list.

Bargain free agents can be a very good investment.  A team can typically sign them to a one year deal for a relatively low salary.  If the player doesn’t work out, it doesn’t have an effect on the budget in future seasons.  But if the player succeeds, the team has a wide array of options: it can trade him for prospects, try to re-sign that player to fill the role long term, or ride the player for that season and hope to collect draft picks when he signs with another team the following offseason.  It is worth noting, though, that there are strong odds that the next collective bargaining agreement will end draft compensation for departing free agents in the very near future.

Now, clearly for the point of a post regarding bargain players that are worth the Cubs looking at, I clearly needed to set some admittedly artificial guidelines, which are: (1) the player must be 30 or younger on opening day 2012; (2) the player must have had some prior success, which I’m defining by having at least one year with a 2.0 or higher fWAR (fWAR is FanGraph’s version of WAR); and (3) the player must have had either a performance slide, injury or a combination of both where he’s likely looking at a one year contract next season.  With those guidelines set, here is the list of bargain basement infielders for the Cubs to consider:


The only catcher who fills my criteria is Dioner Navarro, who will be only 28 on opening day and had a 2.5 fWAR season in 2008 with the Rays, when he posted a .330 wOBA.  The problem is that he hasn’t posted a wOBA higher than .261 since then, leading to three years of negative WAR.  FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference both view him as essentially an average defender.  Navarro will likely never fulfill the promise he showed in 2008, but his negative WAR seasons have still been better (or is less bad the right phrase?) than Koyie Hill.  He’d also probably be dirt cheap.  He was given a 1 year, $1 million dollar contract by the Dodgers for 2011, and they released him before the season was up.  He’d likely have to take less for 2012.

So Navarro would likely be a slight upgrade over Koyie Hill at the back up catcher position at similar cost.  With that said, I’d only encourage the Cubs to look at him if they are going to keep both Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger in the minors to get regular at bats.  If the new GM determines that either of them are destined to be a career back up catcher, I’d prefer to see either Castillo or Clevenger filling that role in 2012 over Navarro.

First Base

This might be a bit of a frightening thought, but after Pujols, Fielder and Carlos Pena, Casey Kotchman is probably the best 1B available in free agency.  Kotchman doesn’t strike out a lot (10% career K rate), but also doesn’t walk that much (8.3% for his career) and doesn’t hit for power (.130 career ISO), but is a very good defensive 1B.  He will be 29 on opening day 2012, and has surpassed the 2.0 fWAR mark twice, first in 2007 with the Angels (2.9) and again this past season with the Rays (2.8).  However, he’s also had three seasons with negative fWAR, and his lack of power means the high 2’s are likely the best he will do.  Since he doesn’t walk a lot, he’s also very batting average dependent, which is difficult for a 1B who does not hit for power or run well.

The Rays signed Kotchman to a minor league contract last offseason, and purchased the contract about a week into the season, paying him $750,000 this year.  If the Cubs are not going to sign Pujols or Fielder, are not going to bring back Carlos Pena, and are not going to trade for someone to fill the 1B spot (think LoMo or Yonder Alonso types), Kotchman would be worth looking at… if he could be brought in on a similar deal that the Rays brought him in on last year.  His strong 2011, though, makes it unlikely that someone won’t give him a guaranteed major league contract for a few million dollars.  If Kotchman requires a major league contract, the 2012 Cubs will probably be better off going with a Bryan LaHair type.  If LaHair is an unmitigated disaster, at least he will be a very cheap one.

Second Base

Second base holds the two biggest prizes on this list: Kelly Johnson and Aaron Hill.  For the past several season, Johnson has been pretty up and down. After a 2009 campaign that saw him struggle, the Braves non-tendered Johnson and the D-Backs signed him at a bargain price.  Johnson, who bats left handed, rewarded the D-Backs, having an absolutely massive 2010 by hitting 26 HRs, putting up a .377 wOBA, and a 5.9 fWAR.  He slid back this season to a .316 wOBA and 2.2 fWAR, but he still hit 21 HRs.  He walked a little less and struck out a little more in 2011 than he did in 2010, but it seems like the biggest difference between those seasons may have been his BABIP.  He posted .339 average on balls in play in 2010, but only a .277 in 2011.  As with any time you seem two extremes, his true talent is probably somewhere in the middle, and his .311 career BABIP agrees with that statement.  FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference both place him in the average range defensively.  He is a Type B Free Agent, although it’s not clear that Toronto will offer him arbitration, and will be 30 on opening day 2012.

Aaron Hill, who will also be 30 on opening day 2012, looked like he could have been on the verge of being a star, posting seasons of 2.7, 3.5 and 4.1 fWAR prior to his 28th birthday, including a 36 HR campaign in 2009.  The last two seasons, however, have been more of a struggle, at least until he was traded to the D-Backs this season, interestingly for Kelly Johnson in a pure change of scenery move for both clubs.  In his last season and a half in Toronto, Hill posted a 0 fWAR over 241 games.  Since being traded to the D-Backs, however, he’s been great, posing a .376 wOBA and accumulating 1.6 fWAR in just 33 games.  He’s also a significantly above average defender.  The D-Backs do, however, have a team option for $8 million on Hill for both 2012 and 2013.  Considering how strong he was as a D-Back, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them exercise the 2012 option.  Hill is a Type B free agent, but if the D-Backs don’t pick up his option it’s pretty unlikely that they’ll offer him arbitration.

With that said, either Hill or Johnson would likely be a significant upgrade over any of the Cubs current possibilities to play second base in 2012.  However, they also will not be near as cheap as most, if not all, of the other players listed here.  But they by far also have the biggest upside.  Also, while I noted that Hill and Johnson are Type B free agents, the Cubs would not have to give anything in return for signing a Type B.  I’m just noting that because an offer of arbitration to either Johnson or Hill by their current teams would raise their salaries too high to consider either of them a bargain.

Another option would be Jose Lopez, but Lopez has just been awful offensively for the last two seasons, posting wOBAs of .268 and .269 in 2010 and 2011 respectively.  And he played in Colorado in 2010.  Lopez doesn’t walk at all, either, with a career 3.7% BB rate.  At most, Lopez would be worth a minor league contract, but I’d rather see D.J. LeMahieu or Ryan Flaherty in Wrigley next season than Jose Lopez.

Third Base

Edwin Encarnacion barely makes this list, having posted exactly a 2.0 fWAR once in 2008, but is also one of the most interesting players listed here.  Encarnacion, who will be 29 on opening day, is essentially the definition of an above average but not great hitter.  He’s doesn’t strike out a lot, he walks a fair amount but doesn’t hit the career 10% rate, and hits for pretty good but not great power with a .193 career ISO.

Of course, he might also be described as a combination of the some of the worst traits of both Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Zambrano.  Athletically, there is no reason why Encarnacion shouldn’t be at least a near average defensive third baseman, yet he is awful.  He is reportedly prone to both laziness and bursts of bad behavior.  But he has  raw talent, and if he gets his act together he might become a good ballplayer.  The Blue Jays have a $3.5 million club option for next season which they might take following a strong second half of 2011.  If Toronto rejects the option, he would be worth looking in to if he could be had for at or less than that $3.5 million figure.  He is likely not a guy fans will love, but he probably is a better player than any of the Cubs’ current options at the hot corner in 2012.

Next week I’ll look at the bargain options in the outfield, where a couple of former All Stars await, followed by pitchers the following week.

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Could He Be A Cub: Javier Vazquez

Monday, October 10th, 2011

It goes without saying that the 2011 Cubs were starting-pitching challenged. Assuming the new GM won’t get suckered into the C.J. Wilson bidding war, where can the Northsiders find help on the mound?

One intriguing option is free agent starter Javier Vazquez. 2011 was a tale of two seasons for the 35-year-old Vazquez.  His first half numbers were dreadful: 18 starts, 5-8 (if you care about record), 5.23 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 1.94 K/BB ratio.

I watched more than my share of Marlins games last year, and Vazquez looked like he was done from April to July.  His missing velocity returned in the second half, and the results followed: 14 starts, 8-3 (again, if you care about record), 2.15 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 6.00 K/BB ratio.

The current rumor is that Vazquez plans to retire, but could he be enticed by a one-year pay raise? He made $7 million in 2011, so it might take $8 to $10 million to bring the veteran righty to Chicago. Will that be too rich for the Cubs’ blood?

Vazquez is under appreciated in my humble opinion. Early in his career he racked up impressive “under-the-radar” numbers in Montreal. A couple forgettable campaigns for the Yankees and White Sox tagged him with the label of “choker.” Former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen went out of his way to publicly rip Vazquez. Classy!

Is Vazquez a Hall of Famer? Of course not. But he’s racked up 2,800 respectable big-league innings during his 14-year career. Vazquez is a strike-throwing machine who always takes the ball (he’s never made less than 26 starts in a season). Not too shabby for a potential third or fourth starter.

The next GM has many important decisions to make. From a philosophical standpoint, he has to decide if 2012 is a complete rebuilding year or a quick-fix opportunity. If he goes with option B, a pitcher like Vazquez could be the perfect fit.

I’m certainly not smart enough to predict the future, but I’m willing to bet that the Cubs new GM won’t sit on the sidelines this off season. Prince Fielder is almost certainly leaving Milwaukee, which obviously weakens the NL Central. Albert Pujols could leave St. Louis, but I honestly don’t see that happening. The Cardinals should be competitive either way. The Reds could be in the hunt, but Dusty’s team has plenty of weaknesses. The Pirates and Astros? Well, they’re the Pirates and Astros.

In this era of baseball parity, the Cubs are unlikely to give away the 2012 season. In order to compete, they have to drastically improve the starting rotation. Signing the under appreciated Javier Vazquez to a club-friendly deal could be a big step in that direction.

Javier Vazquez Career Numbers

1994 17 WSN-min 5 2 2.53 11 67.2 56 0.768 4.9 0.0 2.0 7.4 3.73
1995 18 WSN-min 6 6 5.08 21 102.2 87 1.519 9.6 0.7 4.1 7.6 1.85
1996 19 WSN-min 14 3 2.68 27 164.1 173 1.187 7.6 0.7 3.1 9.5 3.04
1997 20 WSN-min 10 3 1.86 25 154.2 147 0.989 6.6 0.6 2.3 8.6 3.68
1998 21 MON 5 15 6.06 32 172.1 139 69 1.532 10.2 1.6 3.6 7.3 2.04
1999 22 WSN-min 4 2 4.85 7 42.2 46 1.430 9.5 1.5 3.4 9.7 2.88
1999 22 MON 9 8 5.00 26 154.2 113 90 1.332 9.0 1.2 3.0 6.6 2.17
2000 23 MON 11 9 4.05 33 217.2 196 119 1.415 10.2 1.0 2.5 8.1 3.21
2001 24 MON 16 11 3.42 32 223.2 208 130 1.077 7.9 1.0 1.8 8.4 4.73
2002 25 MON 10 13 3.91 34 230.1 179 109 1.268 9.5 1.1 1.9 7.0 3.65
2003 26 MON 13 12 3.24 34 230.2 241 139 1.105 7.7 1.1 2.2 9.4 4.23
2004 27 NYY 14 10 4.91 32 198.0 150 92 1.288 8.9 1.5 2.7 6.8 2.50
2005 28 ARI 11 15 4.42 33 215.2 192 101 1.247 9.3 1.5 1.9 8.0 4.17
2006 29 CHW 11 12 4.84 32 202.2 184 98 1.293 9.1 1.0 2.5 8.2 3.29
2007 30 CHW 15 8 3.74 32 216.2 213 126 1.140 8.2 1.2 2.1 8.8 4.26
2008 31 CHW 12 16 4.67 33 208.1 200 98 1.320 9.2 1.1 2.6 8.6 3.28
2009 32 ATL 15 10 2.87 32 219.1 238 143 1.026 7.4 0.8 1.8 9.8 5.41
2010 33 NYY 10 10 5.32 26 157.1 121 81 1.398 8.9 1.8 3.7 6.9 1.86
2011 34 FLA 13 11 3.69 32 192.2 162 106 1.183 8.3 1.0 2.3 7.6 3.24
14 Seasons 165 160 4.22 443 2840.0 2536 105 1.249 8.8 1.2 2.4 8.0 3.32
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A Few Things On Katie’s Mind

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Al Davis Died – He owned the Raiders for a really long time. He was 82. He led the Raiders to 3 Super Bowls, and was with the Raiders organization as a coach, general manager, and owner. The best move he ever made, in my opinion, was trading Jon Gruden to the Buccaneers for their top picks. It was the first time I had ever heard of a coach being traded for players. That’s hilarious.

Both Teams in the NLCS are from the Central – and I don’t like either of them. Nyger Morgan is annoying. I’m from the Dairy State, and I CANNOT STAND the Brewers. The Cardinals have always been a hated dynasty in my house. Albert Pujols is an awesome athlete, but we’ve always considered everyone else on the team to be jerks. Even as much as I loved Theriot as a Cubbie, he lost quite a few points when he joined the dark side. However, if Albert decided to join the North Side, I wouldn’t object.

The Packers are 5-0 – Aaron Rodgers is an amazing quarterback. I don’t want anyone to talk about Brady, Manning (the Elder), or Drew Brees. Welcome to Mr. Rodgers’ neighborhood. His passer rating for the past 5 games has been over 100 for every game. Call me starstruck, but the man’s got it together.

The Lions are the only team left to play this week that is undefeated. I have a feeling they might keep that streak going tonight…

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Sunday, October 9th, 2011

Another week is upon us, and it appears the lowly Central division will be representing the National League in the Championship Series. I think it’s safe to say at this point we will be rooting for the American League. ANY one but the Cardinals or Brewers, please. Regardless, it should be an interesting series considering how familiar these teams are with one another. At least we don’t have to worry about the Yankees winning…

On that note, let’s get into the hearts and minds of Cubs Nation this week.

The Wizzies

  • Note to self: don’t cross BLPCB – bunts to break up LL perfect games, breaks pitcher’s arm in a locker, resorts to blackmail when being tampered with, assorted mayhem and mischief, stole tennis balls from the bottom of a little old ladies’ walker…
  • Regarding cleaning up Wrigley, as long as they keep the trough, I’m good. I don’t like waiting 20 minutes in line to use the bathroom like the females do. I don’t need or want a stall for everything. Man up. Use the trough.
  • Cue baby crying. Waaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh! Wa! Wa! Waaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh! The Yankees are about to be eliminated! Waaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh! Alert the National Guard! Wa! Wa! Waaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!
  • The Yanks are a draw across most of the country when they are LOSING. I turn it off if it appears they are going to win. Toss da bums and make for a happy USA.
  • Noooooooo don’t do it. The Lifetime Network is full of whiny women and no sports! It’s dreadful.
  • I believe the term is labrum. If Garza has a labia we’ve got bigger issues than whether or not to sign him to a long term deal.
  • That kid from Napoleon Dynomite sure didn’t age well.
  • Under no circumstances should Koyie Hill return to Chicago. I’d rather see the Cubs place a wooden backstop behind home plate than catch Koyie Hil even one inning of one game.
  • Note to Seymour: The world doesn’t hate the US anymore since Obama’s apology tour don’t you know(insert laugh track).
  • No caffiene. I’m like the energizer bunny. Madmen don’t stop. They just die. We keep going until we are on the brink of death, rest, and then charge full steam ahead again
  • Whether he’s calling a baseball or football game, Buck brings all the energy and excitement of a chemically castrated dog.
  • White Sox -Cardinals World Series you root for a midwest snow storm in October.
  • I can’t root for the Cards in any circumstance. Even if they played the Red Sox or Yankees. If it was a Cards vs Red Sox/Yankees WS, I would root for Al Qaeda.

Top Wizzie Contributors


Doc Raker-32



Seymour Butts-21

Doug S.-20




Eddie Von White-8

Larry Sproul-8

Rich Beckman-7

Jeremiah Johnson-7

Question of the Week

If MLB were to even out the leagues, having 15 teams in each, which NL team would you like to see get the boot?

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State of the Team – October

Friday, October 7th, 2011

When I was growing up, my brother and I used to love the one week out of the month when NBC would replace Saturday Night Live with Saturday Night’s Main Event. I remember it would always start with something like “SNL will not be seen tonight. Instead we bring you Saturday Night’s Main Event.” We’d be jacked up and I always wondered why they couldn’t just get rid of that SNL show and just put wrestling on every Saturday. I had no idea what SNL even was, but I knew it couldn’t be as good as what we were about to watch.

I share that for one silly reason. The morning roundup will not be seen today. Instead we bring you the first of a monthly series called State of the Team. It’s a collaborative effort amongst some of the writers here to bring you an update on where we stand at that present time. What better time than now to start.

Catcher – Buddy

Infield – Dustin

Outfield – Joe

Starting Pitching – Chet

Bullpen – Jedi

Coaching / Front Office – Jeremiah

CATCHER – 2011 was a forgettable year from a catching standpoint. After a solid but abbreviated 2010 (.280/.393/.497 in 105 games), 28-year-old Geo Soto took a major step backwards this season. Soto finished at .228/.310/.411 in 125 games. There’s still plenty of reason to be optimistic, but 2012 is a big year for the Cubs catcher. His effort looks even worse considering who the backup was in 2011. Automatic out Koyie Hill gave the Cubs absolutely nothing in a reserve role: .194/.268/.276. Soto is arbitration eligible this off season and a free agent after 2013. Hill seems like a lock to move on, or at least I hope that’s the case.

How are things down on the farm? Wellington Castillo is a fan favorite, but he looks like a liability in the batter’s box. He’s only 24, so there’s obviously time for him to develop. Steve Clevenger is an intriguing catcher. The 25-year-old backstop hits left-handed, and he’s compiled a career .369 on-base percentage in 1,800 minor league at bats. Could he catch on as the Cubs backup next year? Mario Martinez and Chris Robinson saw time behind the plate in AAA Iowa this year, but both appear to be offensively challenged.

Blake Lalli has decent numbers in three AA seasons, but he’s already 28 years old. Nothing to write home about there. Mike Brenly and Chad Noble called games for the High A Daytona Cubs, but neither player has much upside at this point. Sergio Burruel and Micah Gibbs were dreadful for Low A Peoria. The Cubs drafted Neftali Rosario in this year’s draft, so he’s somebody to watch going forward.

Soto appears to be entrenched as the starter in 2012. The key will be finding a backup who can actually contribute with the bat. Free agent options include Rod Barajas, Dioner Navarro, and Kelly Shoppach. All three players have their flaws, but they’ve shown enough offense in the past for the new Cubs GM to at least kick the tires. Would one of those former starters agree to a reserve role and a one-year deal? Inquiring minds want to know. In any case, the Cubs have to find a competent backup to keep Soto’s bat and legs fresh. 

INFIELD – For better or for worse, the infield unit was one of the few sources of consistency for the Cubs in 2011…and for the most part, it was for the better. While the lineup and batting order was juggled throughout the year, most days you could be certain that Carlos Peña was going to be at first, Darwin Barney at second, Aramis Ramirez at third and Starlin Castro at shortstop. The four starting infielders each saw action in at least 143 games; each started at least 128; and aside from a two week DL stint for Barney in June, remained relatively healthy. Additionally, for the advanced stat heads among us, they led the team in offensive production finishing as the team’s top four position players in Wins Above Replacement.

Peña turned out to be pretty much exactly the player we all thought the Cubs were getting when he signed a one year, $10 million dollar deal last winter. Despite a slow start in terms of power, the first basemen led the team in home runs (28) and walks (108), but also struck out a ton (161) and hit just .225. Defensively he was solid, which is good enough to stand out on this team.

At second base, Barney started off his first full season in the majors looking like a perennial all-star and finished it looking more like a utility player. After hitting .326 in April there was early talk about a possible Rookie of the Year campaign, but that was quickly quieted as his average dropped each month (with the exception of a rebound to .276 in July). The job is his for the foreseeable future, but it’s fair to say his name is written in pencil rather than pen in the starting line-up for the next few years.

Ramirez has been a fixture at third for the Cubs for the better part of the last decade, and he continued to stake his claim to the title of “best everyday player” for the team in 2011. As we have come to expect, he had a solid overall season, hitting .306 with 26 homers and 93 RBIs with his best numbers coming in August when he hit .377 with an OPS of 1.007. A-Ram’s days in Cubs pinstripes appears to have come to a close, however, as he will pursue free agency this off-season and is unlikely to return.

Shortstop featured the Cubs’ one and only All-Star in Starlin Castro, who very likely will be a mainstay not only in the Cubs lineup but also in the All-Star game for the next decade. The 21 year-old lead the National League in hits with 207 and finished second amongst all shortstops with a .307 average.  With a lot of years left to develop, he certainly has time to improve on his power numbers (10 home runs this season) and his focus in the field, which has been the one area of concern regarding Castro. His 58 errors were by far the most on the team.

From a bench standpoint, Blake DeWitt and Jeff Baker were the utility guys in the lineup, picking up the starts made available when the “big four” were out of the line-up for one reason or another.  Neither showed any reason to be considered for anything more than utility roles moving forward. Prospect D.J. LeMahieu some time at second and third during two call-ups, though I would have liked to see him get even more at bats to gauge his potential as a future fit at third.

Contract Situations:

Peña: Free agent, could re-sign

Barney: First year of service – not arbitration eligible

Ramirez: Free agent, not expected to re-sign

Castro: Second year of service – not arbitration eligible

DeWitt: Arbitration eligible

Baker: Arbitration eligible

How deep is the farm system? The Cubs certainly have some infield talent in the system, unfortunately it doesn’t appear to be developed enough to fill the big holes the Cubs will be facing at the corners next year. The departure of Aramis Ramirez will be the biggest immediate hole, and LeMahieu has been mentioned as a possible replacement. He may turn out to be a better option at second should Barney turn out to be the player we saw at the end of the season rather than at the beginning.

Bryan LaHair, who was another September call-up for the Cubs played more time in the outfield, but may have a future at first base. However, at 30 years old, there is a reason he hasn’t gotten a prolonged look before now, but could be a possible short term solution should the Cubs not fill 1B through free agency.

Further down in the system, Josh Vitters has long been considered to be the 3B of the future for the organization, but has yet to progress past AA though was somewhat improved this year, spending then entire season in Tennessee and finishing with a line of .283/.322/.448.

Ryan Flaherty, on the other hand, most of it spent at AA-Tennesse as well, where he should good pop (with 14 homer is 83 games) and an ability to hit for average. While not ready for the big leagues yet, he may be someone to keep an eye on at 2B in 2013 and beyond.

For those looking towards 2015 (and who among us isn’t), the Cubs lower levels look to be stocked with solid infield potential and feature two infielders listed the top 20 Arizona Rookie League prospects according to Baseball America (Marco Hernandez and Giosakar Amaya).

OUTFIELD – Hey, come close for a second. Closer. Just a little closer. I’ve got a secret to tell you. You can’t tell anyone. It’s been a pretty well kept secret. The Cubs outfield sucked. It’s littered with aging, overrated players and prospects who have either failed to reach expectations or are pesky singles hitters trying to start their own legend of Sam Fuld. It’s no wonder people are clamoring and champing at the bit for Brett Jackson. It’s not a pretty picture right now in the outfield. I certainly would not envy the job facing the new GM in that area.

Alfonso Soriano is the bain of many Cub fans existence, but of all the outfielders still on the team, he was the most productive, producing an OPS+ at 104. That means he was 4% better than league average. Encouraging that he was the best, right? On the flip side, Tyler Colvin battled hard to try to make Adam Dunn feel better about the year he had by putting up an OPS+ of 38. That horrific number got me thinking about what the worst season was by someone with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title was. That led me to Bill Bergen. Check out his 1909 season with an OPS+ of 1. Yes, you read that right, 1. What’s even more amazing is that he played 11 seasons and finished with a career .170 batting average. Let’s all hope to God that those numbers aren’t what Colvin turns into. He is being counted on as a part of the outfield of the future. He was supposed to be coupling with Jackson to make up 2/3 of the outfield. Now we’re not so sure.

In the meantime, right now we’re stuck with Alfonso Soriano in LF, but you have to think that the new GM will try hard to make a big statement right away and rid himself of that albatross, especially considering the fact that Tom Ricketts has stated that the Cubs would be willing to eat a significant chunk of salary to make it happen. Marlon Byrd is in the final year of his deal and will be making a very reasonable $6.5 million. He could find himself on the trade market this off season or at the very latest by the July deadline to make room for Jackson.

As bad as the OF was, there were a few bright surprises. Reed Johnson caught lightning in a bottle again in a Cubs uniform despite sucking everywhere else he plays, and Tony Campana showed us speed is sexy. Admit it, you got a little exciting when he hit the inside the park home run. You desperately wanted to see him steal home. I know I did. Beyond those two guys, there really wasn’t a whole lot to be excited about when it came to the outfield. It’s going to be the future that we’ll need to get excited about.

Brett Jackson should be an exciting part of that future and could begin that as early as April. Matt Szczur is another name to keep an eye on. He’s a former two sport athlete chosen in the 5th round of the 2010 June draft and played really well in his first full season of professional baseball, sporting a .303 / .350 / .404 split line and 10 home runs. He’s got some speed to his game which is always something we desperately crave.

Overall, the system looks to have a few up and coming potential stars, but the current makeup does little inspire much excitement.

STARTING PITCHERSA great majority of baseball minds feel that starting pitching is the ticket to the post-season .  Similar to a football team attempting to win without a quality quarterback, a baseball team cannot have success without a quality starting rotation.

On the surface the Cubs Starting staff looks like a patchwork blend of youth, veteran savvy, and power.  A few up and comers along with some sage vets to keep the ship on course. …or at least that is how it was sold to us in the spring.

Starting rotation on April 1st , 2011 (opening day):

Ryan Dempster

Carlos Zambrano

Matt Garza

Randy Wells

Andrew Cashner

Starting Rotation on  September 28th, 2011 (Last game):

Ryan Dempster

Matt Garza

Randy Wells

Rodrigo Lopez

Casey Coleman

Needless to say, other than Garza, nobody impressed this season.  Matt led the staff in ERA (3.32), Wins (10 *tied with Dempster), Strikeouts (197), and WAR (2.9 ….this one is for you SABR guys).  None of these stats is eye popping, which describes the crux of the 2011 starting rotation.

Dempster had a down year and what I believe is the beginning of the end.   I can do without Casey Coleman and Rodrigo Lopez in future rotations.  Andrew Cashner never got his chance to make his big splash due to injury and Randy Wells is looking more and more like a flash in the pan than the  up and coming starter he seemed to be after 2009.  Jury is still out on Randy but deliberation is about to come to an end….it’s 2012 or bust!

This leaves us with the ever combustible Carlos Zambrano.  I can’t see a scenario in a sane Cubs world where Big Z will pitch again on the north side.  It’s not that Carlos lacks talent,  it’s really never been about that.  The man has more ability in his pinky than most of the starting staff from 2011.  It’s the quagmire between the ears that gets in the way of his fierce power on the mound.   I liken Carlos to a rock star that writes beautiful music while wired up on heroin.  Then you clean him up and he can’t put two chords together.   The difference is heroin is replaced with raw unbridled emotion.  He needs his Latin fire to compete.  We are talking the difference between Ozzy Osbourne biting the heads off bats on stage and present day Ozzy.  Which music is better?  Exactly!

At any rate, we took the fire out of Carlos with all the therapy and trust trees.  The man is a broken horse, only able to cantor at a slow pace.  It shows on the mound, he giggles and laughs at errors and golfer balls.  He holds it all in and bottles it up….then boom!

Carlos needs a new stage, and I hear the Marlins just hired one of his good friends.  Maybe it’s time they get the band back together?  I won’t accuse them of tampering.

What is in store for 2012? I don’t want to poop in the gravy but we have nothing to look forward to for next year where pitching is concerned.   Unfortunately this is a shallow position within the organization.  The other bizarre situation, which can be viewed as a positive, is that many of these guys are not signed for much longer.

Ryan Dempster is signed through 2012.  This would be a contract year coming up.

Carlos Zambrano is signed through 2012.  Your guess is as good as mine as to what happens with this vortex  from hell.  My guess, the Cubs eat some contract and send him to the Marlins to hang with his buddy Ozzie Guillen…..the Cubs get a brand new bag of balls back in return.

Randy Wells is in his first year of arbitration.  He is also free agent eligible in 2012. The word is that he should get resigned, but it won’t cost us the farm.  If he becomes a back of the rotation guy I am in.

Matt Garza won’t become a free agent until 2014 but he is arbitration eligible for 2012 and 2013.  Many would like to see the Cubs lock Garza up for a while.  He is a fine pitcher and I like him middle of the rotation.  A big market club needs more at the top however.

Andrew Cashner will be back with the Cubs as he is still under his original rookie contract.  The real question  is whether or not he will start?  Is Cashner a true reliever or can they get starts from him?  The way Carlos Marmol has closed out games lately, I would not mind seeing Cashner get his college roll as closer back.

Joe wanted us to report on the “farm situation” in relation to each position we reviewed.  Let me give a you a quick glance…..did you see that?

In my opinion we have nothing close to a major league starter in our farm.  Somebody is going to contest this; a person who believes in prospects and potential.  I need to see this on the mound in the majors, until then they are unproven.

What you need to know about this position lays in the names Rodrigo Lopez and Dave Bush.  We don’t have anybody that can pitch better in the minors.  If we did, this would have been the perfect season to showcase them.  It would have been the perfect time to get them some MLB experience.

We saw nothing and barring a nice spring from Trey McNutt, I don’t see starting potential that will affect the 2012 season.

As you can see, one of the most important positions in any organization is quite thin for the Cubs.  Even at the Major league level we lack a true ace.  Our current best would be back of the rotation for just about any team in the current post-season.

Is the correct action to upgrade or overhaul?

BULLPEN –  Inconsistency.  The closer Marmol was wildly inconsistent.  Marshall had a rough June & July.  Wood was hurt for a month, the rest of the time he was unspectacular.  Russell’s numbers are terrible because of his time as a starter.  He and Samardzija both seemed to find their role in the bullpen as the season progressed.  Samardzija had a really solid final two months; unfortunately his first four months were terrible (not coincidentally, he had a much shorter leash in those final two months.  A lot of evidence points towards getting Samardzija out before he throws much more than 20 pitches).  The rest of the bullpen was a grab bag of minor leaguers and two garbage vets.  Grabow, Ortiz, Berg, Carpenter, Mateo, Maine, Stevens, Gaub, Dolis – that’s a forgettable list.

Marmol, Marshall, Russell, and that long list of minor leaguers are all under team control.  The Cubs hold an option for Samardzija (I anticipate they’ll exercise it).  Grabow is gone and won’t be back.  Wood and Ortiz are free agents.  The fans almost certainly want Wood back.  Ortiz has some added value as a spot starter when insert starting pitcher here goes down with an injury in April.

Most of the Iowa (AAA) relievers made at least an appearance for the MLB team at some point and are on that list above.  Perhaps the most notable name left off was Esmailin Caridad who has previous MLB experience with the Cubs, but didn’t pitch for them in 2011.  There’s nothing at Iowa that really excites me, including those guys who made an appearance at the MLB level.  Most of those guys have been highly touted at one point or another only to eventually be revealed as one-trick ponies.  Lefty specialists, guys with overpowering fastballs and erratic secondary pitches, groundball pitchers who walk too many guys, etc.

There is one guy at Tennessee (AA) that intrigues me.  Jeff Beliveau.  We picked him in the 18th round of the 2008 draft – so already he’s a success!  He’s had success at every stop, good ERAs, a nice strikeout ratio, and mostly very low WHIPs.  I’d like to see what he can do at the MLB level.

I’m not going to address the teams below AA at this juncture.  The bullpen is a bit different than the rest of the team in that it’s really a team within the team.  Your bullpen parts need to be complimentary while still possessing the ability to get guys out.  If you assume that we will bring back Kerry Wood and that Samardzija stays in the bullpen, I think it should look something like this:

Marmol, Marshall, Wood, Samardzija, Russell, and then one or two guys from the minors.  I’d like to see Gaub given a legit chance, perhaps Carpenter or even Beliveau (who I think should be at Spring Training for the Cubs).  Mateo, Maine, and Stevens have all had chances in the past and the results were bad to mediocre – although Maine might be the most deserving of another look.  Dolis might be a future closer, but he needs to find the strike zone and a consistent pitching motion.  Berg was such a success that the bearded one recently cleared waivers after being DFA and has been once again outrighted to the minors (along with the aptly named Brian Schlitter).

Obviously, the Cubs could potentially deal Marmol, Marshall, or Samardzija – there would likely be significant interest in all three.  The bullpen is a tricky place to predict success; sometimes the puzzle fits together well, other times it looks a Picasso.  If there’s a Matt Karchner-like deal for one of our current arms, it would be nice to be on the right side of a deal like that for once.  The Cubs might find a top tier team with money to spend intent on getting a solid back-end of the bullpen arm.  Any of those three would fit in with most bullpens.  If we can get something back, great; if not, re-sign Wood, rinse and repeat next year.  The bullpen won’t be the key to success or failure in 2012, so there’s no reason to monkey with too much.  It was serviceable, inconsistent, and not spectacular.

FRONT OFFICE – The 2011 season saw a lot of upheaval in the Cubs’ front office.  The long tenure of General Manager Jim Hendry came to an end in mid-August, but Hendry had known about his dismissal for nearly a month prior.  He stuck around to maintain continuity while the Cubs finished signing an expensive slate of draft picks like Dan Vogelbach, Dillon Maples, and Javier Baez.

Hendry left the Cubs with an uneven legacy.  His nine years as GM were marked by overspending and under-performing, but he also was at the helm for the Cubs’ playoff appearances in 2003, 2007, and 2008.  He entered the 2011 season with his usual optimism, but few fans believed this was a team that could compete for the postseason.  Getting off to a slow, injury-riddled start proved to be one of the final nails in his coffin.  Randy Bush replaced Hendry as the interim GM, and still currently holds that title while Tom Ricketts searches for a permanent replacement.

Hendry’s chief assistants are also sticking around, at least for now.  The Cubs were quick to extend the contract of their Director of Player Personnel Oneri Fleita, but are letting Scouting Director Tim Wilken ride out the rest of his current contract through the 2012 season.  While Tom Ricketts wasn’t willing to let Fleita leave (the Tigers were reportedly interested in hiring him away), he seems content to wait to make any further commitments to his front office staff until he’s named a new GM.  We’ll see what that means for Wilken.

Hendry also had a small team of special advisers.  His longtime friend Gary Hughes has already notified the Cubs that he’s retiring after more than four decades in MLB front offices.  Future Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux was another of Hendry’s special advisors—it remains to be seen what role, if any, he’ll play in the Cubs front office going forward.

Obviously, the front office is currently hanging in a holding pattern until Ricketts installs a new General Manager.  Unlike Hendry, the new GM will answer directly to Ricketts, meaning that Crane Kenney’s role of club President now only pertains to off-the-field matters.  The shuffle at the top of the food chain has caused some sportswriters to theorize that Ricketts might make multiple additions to the front office—a senior baseball mind as President of Baseball Operations (perhaps a Pat Gillick type) and a younger GM (Epstein, Friedman, Hahn, etc.).  Next Friday, I’ll take a closer look at some of the key candidates and break down where they might fit best within the club.

That same organizational holding pattern extends to the coaching staff.  First year manager Mike Quade has been publicly optimistic about keeping his job, but not many people in the press or in the stands think he’ll be writing out the opening day lineup card next season.  In a year and change since replacing Lou Piniella, Quade has not impressed with his managerial style or abilities.  In particular, he’s shown a knack for overestimating the hitting talent and fielding versatility of his position players, and leaving his pitchers in games for one or two hitters too many.  Quade was a fine third base coach for the Cubs.  It’s possible he could be again in the near future.

As for the rest of the Cubs coaching staff, there’s not much to say.  Highly-touted hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo is probably guaranteed to stay no matter who the manager is.  But the futures of pitching coach Mark Riggins, first base coach Bob Dernier, third base coach Ivan De Jesus, bullpen coach Lester Strode, and bench coach Pat Listach might all be tied to Quade’s, for better or worse.  Quade’s contract does run through the 2012 season.  Depending on how long it takes Ricketts to hire a new GM, the coaching staff’s jobs might be safe for another year.

All told, there’s not a lot that can be said with any certainty about the Cubs’ front office right now.  But as the season draws to a close, there are a number of pressing issues for the next GM to deal with—among them are the contract decisions on corner infielders Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena, the potential long-term extensions for Matt Garza and Starlin Castro, the future of Carlos Zambrano, and the desperate need for capable pitchers.  Whoever the new Cubs’ GM is, he’ll have a full plate waiting for him on his first day of work.

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The Mystery of Joe Buck

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

When I say someone is the “face” or “voice” of something, what I mean is that person is synonymous with that something.  That he or she is an inextricable part of that something, and that, for better or worse, he or she helps define whatever that something is.

So it’s more than a little troubling for me to say that it seems Joe Buck has become one of the voices of professional sports in America.

Why is it troubling? The job of a sportscaster boils down to two big categories–perspective and style.  Joe Buck severely lacks in both.

It’s generally agreed-upon in most sports circles that there is an ingrained media bias toward certain baseball teams–the Yankees and Red Sox, in particular.  Perhaps no major, national sportscaster embodies that East Coast bias more than Buck.

Look no further than the opening of this season’s MLB All Star Game broadcast to see what I’m talking about.  Before, during, and after the introductions of the teams, Buck and McCarver continued to tout the important impact the Yankees’ players would have in the outcome of the game, going so far as to mention by name some Yankees who declined to attend the game altogether (I’ll need to devote an entirely separate post to cover Buck’s periodic cluelessness and consistently poor game preparation–for now, let’s just look at this as an example of his baseball myopia).  Put simply, Derek Jeter “merited” a ton of broadcast discussion and time for a game he didn’t even attend.

But even beyond his East Coast bias, Buck has been known to play favorites.  Here’s one article from 2009 about some of the ways he’s failed to disguise his distaste for teams from Philadelphia.  I suppose part of the “magic” of Joe Buck is that you could find an article like that for most major sports cities.  In fact, Buck’s enough of an equal-opportunity offender that he’s able to alienate most fanbases throughout the course of the season.  And while his allegiances might shift occasionally depending on who he’s covering, his love for the Yankees, Cowboys, Packers, and Cardinals is steadfast.

Now some diligent readers might remember my affection for past Cubs broadcasters Ron Santo and Harry Caray–certainly two of the biggest “homers” to ever sit behind a microphone.  The key difference there is that they were not the national broadcast anchors for the MLB, but voices of a specific team and fanbase.  They were essentially an extension of the team.  The same can’t be said for Buck, who usually presides over two new teams every week.  If ever there was a need for professional distance in an announcing job, it’s as the lead national voice of the sport.

Since he grew up in a broadcasting family, it’s seems pretty likely a young Joe Buck would have become familiar with the phrase “there’s no cheering in the pressbox” at an early age.  Apparently he doesn’t think it applies to him.

Having said that, if the only problem with Buck was his bias toward specific teams, his prominence wouldn’t be such an issue.  Sadly, there’s more.

Buck’s broadcast style might be best described (without stepping on the toes of one of Bill Simmons’ favorite recurring jokes) as officiously comatose.  Whether he’s calling a baseball or football game, Buck brings all the energy and excitement of a chemically castrated dog.

During baseball games, you sometimes get the sense that he’d often rather be anywhere else, doing anything else (and to be fair, if my broadcast partner was Tim McCarver, I might sometimes feel that way, too).  He’s only slightly more engaged during football games, mostly when he and Troy Aikman discuss how much better a quarterback Aikman was than whomever they happen to be watching that Sunday.

I understand not all sportscasters can be Gus Johnson, and I don’t want them to try.  But Joe Buck has a legendary ability to underplay even the most exciting moments of a ballgame.  Here’s one notorious example.  That one play changed the course of the biggest football game of the 2007 season, and was the beginning of the end of the Patriots undefeated season.  Listen to it again–he sounds like he’s reading a bedtime story, and a boring one at that.

I understand there’s more than one acceptable way to call a game, and I generally prefer announcers who take the less-is-more approach.  But Joe Buck’s style (or lack thereof) is much more less than stoic minimalism.  It’s as though he had to stop doing something much more interesting and more worthy of his time to talk about sports for a few hours to a nation of mouth-breathers.  Like calling these games is an inconvenience for him.

And in those rare moments when Buck does manage to shake off the mental cobwebs and sound engaged in what he’s watching, it only get’s worse.  His demeanor transforms into a blend of arrogance, aggravation, and thinly-veiled contempt.

So Buck’s broadcasting comes up short in both areas of perspective and style.  Why then is he one of the national voices of sports in America?

Some might say it comes down to nepotism; that he’s riding to Hall of Fame coattails of his beloved father, Jack Buck.  That’s a reasonable possibility–he certainly wouldn’t be the first person to take advantage of his broadcasting lineage (see Chip Caray).

But a simple look at their work shows how much Joe’s talent falls short of his father’s.  Jack’s most famous call might be the iconic “Go crazy, folks! Go crazy!” that followed Ozzie Smith’s game-winning home run in the 1985 NLCS (cringe-inducing for Cubs fans to be sure, but no less iconic).  By comparison, Joe’s most famous call to-date might be his indignant response to Randy Moss’ infamous touchdown celebration wherein he pantomimed mooning the Green Bay fans (OK, maybe that’s not his most famous call, but it cracks me up every time).

To put it simply, Joe Buck lacks either the ability or the desire (or both) to heighten the events in front of him for the sake of the fans–a defining characteristic common to all great sportscasters.  How then has he managed to rise to the highest level of broadcasting prominence in not one but two major professional sports?  That is the mystery of Joe Buck.


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Bob Brenly Doesn’t Like A-Ram

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

Roster Update – I mentioned on Twitter the other day that the Cubs designated Justin Berg and Brian Schlitter for assignment in an effort to move them from the 40 man roster. Both have cleared waivers and have been outrighted to Triple-A Iowa.

NFL Age Restriction – If you didn’t see this on Deadspin the other day, Austin Pacheco, a high school senior out of Carson City, kicked a 64 yard field goal. You can see the video here, but that lends itself to a question. Should the NFL lift the age limit on kickers and punters to let high school kids in early. The age limit is there for a reason with position players because they are so far behind the physical maturity of the men that play in the NFL, but kickers and punters aren’t really susceptible to that.

Brett Farve is a Tool – When asked about Aaron Rodgers winning the Super Bowl, he said “I’m really kind of surprised it took him so long.” I used to like Brett Farve but the more I see things involving him the more my like for him has turned into dislike.

Bob Brenly doesn’t send Aramis a Christmas Card – When asked on Waddle and Silvy what he thought about the third baseman he said:

“He’s a numbers gatherer,” Brenly, the Cubs television analyst, said Wednesday on “The Waddle & Silvy Show” on ESPN 1000. “He gets his stats at the end of the year every year but defensively he’s just fallen off the face of the earth. As a baserunner he kills you, he’s a log jammer on the bases, and I’m not buying any of this leadership for Starlin Castro stuff at all.

“That combined with the fact that he did statistically have a good year, he needs to maximize this. If this is going to be his last big contract, I think it behooves him and his agent to go out there and see what they can get in the free market. It should be a pretty sizable contract.” (Source)

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Offseason Decision: Aramis Ramirez

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Ron Santo played his last game as a Cub in 1973. That same year, Ferguson Jenkins had a down season and despite winning the Cy Young in 1971 and finishing third in 1970 and 1972, the Cubs decided to trade the ace to the Texas Rangers for utility player Vic Harris and a 22 year old third baseman named Bill Madlock.

Madlock would finish third in the Rookie of the Year voting in 1974 and then lead the league in batting average the next two seasons while garnering some MVP votes. But “Mad Dog” had a reputation of being a moody player who would decide to sit out against tough pitching, so the Cubs traded him to the Giants for outfielder Bobby Murcer and third baseman Steve Ontiveros.

1977 turned out to be Ontiveros’ best season as a Major Leaguer but it also turned out to be the beginning of the third base carousel for the Northsiders. For the next 26 seasons, the Cubs only had a regular 3B (I’m arbitrarily defining that as 400 at bats in a season) 11 times, led by Ron Cey with three seasons and Vance Law with two.

Finally in 2003, the Cubs found their man in Aramis Ramirez. He came over from Pittsburgh via a July trade and paid immediate dividends by hitting 15 home runs in just 63 games (38 HR pace) in the regular season, and continuing his production in the post-season against the Braves and Marlins.

Over the next three season, Ramirez would hit 304/361/569 (133 OPS+) with 105 home runs and would sign a contract extension that would keep him in Chicago for as many as six more seasons. Since signing the contract before the 2007 season, he has hit 292/357/510 (123 OPS+) with 119 home runs. That OPS+ would rank Ramirez fifth out of all the third basemen with 1000 plate appearances over that time.

He’s been well worth that contract and now the time comes to make the decision on keeping him around for one more year. So…should they or shouldn’t they exercise their side of the mutual option and attempt to keep Ramirez around for one more season?

If the Cubs were a good team, it wouldn’t even be a question. His production is still solid, there is no replacement in house, and it’s only one more year. As I’ve written before on this site, number of years is more important to me than number of dollars. It would be a rare event that I would find a one year contract to be a problem.

But the Cubs aren’t good and the future isn’t exactly very bright. So why would the Cubs think about exercising the option on an expensive player when they most likely won’t compete?

There are a few reasons. For one, the Cubs cannot admit to the fan base that they likely won’t compete. With no other option that can come anywhere close to Ramirez’s production, the Cubs would essentially be telling the fan base that they are more concerned about trimming payroll than putting a winning product on the field. This point, however, may be moot if the new GM decides to make a splash with a nine figure contract to Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder.

A second reason is simply that he’s still a good hitter. Is it ever a bad idea to have a good hitter on a one year contract? Maybe he’s motivated by the possibility of becoming a free agent and has an even better walk year. Maybe they can trade him to a contender. Maybe he goes from being a Type B free agent to a Type A free agent adding the possibility of getting an extra draft pick. Or maybe he gets hurt in the first game and doesn’t play the rest of the season. If that were to happen? Oh well, thankfully it’s only a one year deal!

Declining the option means the Cubs have to pay him a $2 million buyout. By exercising, the Cubs don’t pay the buyout, but risk paying him his $16 million salary for 2012. That brings me to my third reason; I don’t think Ramirez would exercise his side of the option based on his desire to get a multi-year deal. Going on age 34, does he risk another year of good health in the hopes that he can get a multi-year deal after the 2012 season? Again, I don’t think so.

So I think Ramirez declines his side of the option which saves the Cubs $2 million. Now the Cubs have the decision to offer him arbitration.  For the same reasons, I say ‘yes’. If it gets to arbitration, that means he’s already declined his side of the mutual option, why would he now accept arbitration? And by declining arbitration the Cubs now have them a supplemental draft pick when Ramirez signs with another team.

To sum things up:
If the Cubs decline the option, they pay Ramirez $2 million to leave.
If the Cubs exercise the option, in my scenario, they get a draft pick.
If the Cubs exercise the option and Ramirez also exercises his, the Cubs give their best third baseman of the last 35 years one more season in Chicago.

In my opinion, the only way the Cubs lose is by declining the option.

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