Archive for December, 2011

Gifts I Want From Theo

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Sometimes kids wish for unreasonable and far-fetched things, and sometimes adults do the same. Keeping that in mind, let’s take a look at Katie’sWishlist for the Cubs’ Front Office:

  • David Wright – We are in need of a guy to man the hot corner. It would be nice to have Wright at third for obvious reasons, not to mention that he’s a pretty good ballplayer as well. While last season wasn’t his best, his career BA and OBP are decent, and his numbers from ’07-’09 are fantastic. He could bounce back.
  • Curtis Granderson – When I see this name, three words pop up in my mind: speed, surprising power, and humility. Granderson had a phenomenal 2011 with 41 home runs and 119 RBIs. His BA was a mere .262, but if he could continue to put up numbers anywhere near his HR and RBI stats, I’d be glad to have him. What’s better than an Anderson? A Granderson.
  • Matt Kemp – A .324 batting average, 39 home runs, 126 RBIs, a .399 on base percentage, and no PEDs? Sign him up! Having Matt on the team would appeal to a few audiences: the men who are all about statistics and the ladies who are dragged to games by their significant others. It would be a win-win for everyone. Not to mention, he’s also a pretty good ball player.
  • Justin Upton – Prince Fielder passed up adding this guy to his team for the Home Run Derby this summer, and the fans in Arizona were not very happy about it. It’s easy to see why they would be upset: this past season the younger Upton hit .289 with 31 HRs, 88 ribbies, and had a .369 OBP. Despite the fact that B.J. personally tossed me a game ball in Tampa, having Justin on the team would be more beneficial because of his age.
  • Justin Verlander – AL Cy Young. AL MVP. Need I say more? This man should be at the top of the list of every team (except Philadelphia). He has 1,215 career strikeouts, and he’s been in the league for 6 years. If he can avoid injuries, he will be good for a long time. He may even be able to put up Randy Johnson-esque numbers. If he and Garza were the only good pitchers on our team, I would be a happy Cubs fan. Theo… errrr, Santa, take note.
  • Matt Garza – Rumors have been circulating that Garza may be on the auction block; that would be a dagger to the heart. Garza was our only consistent pitcher; the only thing he lacked was run support. The Lord knows our biggest weakness is our pitching department, and saying adios to Garza would be completely self-defeating. Unless, of course, we could manage to get another a decent pitcher in place of him, but that is unlikely. So, it would seem logical to keep him, no?
  • A winning season – Most of the requests on this list may seem a bit far-reaching, so here is one semi-feasible request: a record above .500. Even if it is only one game above .500, it would be OK. Just as long as our players play to their best potential and our coaches make wise coaching decisions, it should be doable.

Disclaimer: this is a wishlist. There is little hope that the wishes will come true. But it was worth a shot.

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Morning News; Marshall is traded, Johnson is re-signed, Bulls & Lakers, plus a terrible gift idea

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

 

Sean Marshall to the Reds – in return the Cubs get Travis Wood a young No. 4/5 starter. Wood is an upgrade from Casey Coleman or Rodrigo Lopez; and a decent year might even put him ahead of Randy Wells. While I like Sean Marshall, the Cubs weren’t going to make him a starter again (rightly so, he’d had several chances and was never terribly impressive as a starter) and he will be a free agent at the end of 2012. Marshall would’ve been trade bait at the deadline in July anyway, instead the Cubs dealt him now for a starter who is under their control until 2016; basically the Cubs traded a reliever who was about to hit the open market for a guy who instantly fights with Randy Wells for the title of best young Cubs starter. I like the deal, and I think it’s better than anything the new regime has done yet – by a long shot. The Reds have shown a willingness to overpay to acquire their missing pieces via trade, I’m glad we took advantage of that. Perhaps they’re missing a left-fielder who hops when he catches a ball, has significantly lied about his age, and swings wildly at anything that might be mistaken by a blind person as a strike – because we’ve got one of those too!

Cubs sign right-handed David DeJesusReed Johnson returns to the Cubs in 2012. Reed bounced back from a sub-par 2010 (with the Dodgers) to be quite a productive fourth outfielder next year. Anything more I could say would just instigate a fight with all the DeJesus lovers; moving on…

Bulls v. Lakers – the highly anticipated Christmas Day game between these NBA juggernauts just got a lot less interesting. Kobe who is battling torn ligaments and a dissolving marriage will probably see a lot less action in the near future (on the court; not off). Meanwhile the Bulls have locked up superstar Derrick Rose virtually guaranteeing their relevance for the foreseeable future. No word if Rose had someone sign his contract for him.

Last minute shopping guide – in case you still haven’t figured out what to get that hard-to-buy-for relative, consider this suggestion from across the pond. Because honesty is the gift that can’t be returned for store credit.

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Crystal Ball II – The Wrath Of Buddy

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

The New Year is right around the corner, which means Spring Training can’t be far behind. With that in mind, it’s time to do a bit of forecasting for 2012. I promise to get it right this year!

  • Ian Stewart will be a useful hitter vs. RHP, but will struggle against southpaws. Fortunately, new Cubs manager Dale Sveum will limit his at bats against LHP, which is something Mike Quade wouldn’t have figured out.
  • David DeJesus will become a fan favorite and lead the team in on-base percentage.
  • Matt Garza will continue to pitch well, but this year he’ll actually receive some run support. As a result, his win total will increase, but uninformed fans will think he’s a much better pitcher, even when his other numbers stay basically the same as 2011.
  • Starlin Castro will hit the 20-homer mark for the first time in his career.
  • Geo Soto will bounce back from a disappointing 2011.
  • Darwin Barney and Marlon Byrd will continue to make outs at an alarming rate.
  • Alfonso Soriano…Nevermind. I just can’t talk about this guy anymore.
  • Carlos Zambrano will be traded to Miami for 10,000 copies of Don Johnson’s 1986 album “Heartbeat.”
  • Carlos Marmol will torment me for yet another season.
  • The Cubs will draw 3 million+ again, but for some reason many fans will still talk about “attendance problems” at Wrigley.
  • Bob Brenly will say lots of annoying things.
  • Len Kasper will say lots of annoying things.
  • Buddy’s head will start hurting during Len & Bob’s first 2012 broadcast, and it will continue to hurt through their last 2012 broadcast.
  • Prince Fielder will sign with the Rangers.
  • Prince the artist will continue to make crappy music.
  • The Milwaukee Brewers will survive the loss of Fielder and win the N.L. Central.
  • The Cubs will finish with 80 wins and trim some serious dead weight from the roster along the way.
  • Justin Upton will win the N.L. MVP award. Miguel Cabrera will bring home A.L. honors.
  • The Angels will win the A.L. Wild Card and go on to become World Series champs. The sports media universe will give the credit to Tim Tebow.
  • VFTB users will finally stop posting political comments. Forget that one. It doesn’t have a shot in hell of coming true!
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Going Selling – Part One

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

For Sale

To this point, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have largely played the middle ground this offseason by signing David DeJesus to a two year, $10 million contract and trading Tyler Colvin and D.J. LeMahieu to the Rockies for Ian Stewart and Casey Weathers.  On the one hand, they have not brought in a big money free agent like Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder, nor did they place the winning bid on Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish (for those of you who did not here, the Rangers won with a posting fee of $51.7 million.)  On the other hand, they have not traded any of their significant contributors from 2011.

Many of those players could be traded for prospects.  The key to trading away established players for prospects, though, is determining which of your assets are currently overvalued and which are currently undervalued.  As with nearly all things economic, timing is everything.

Looking at the Cubs’ roster and the way free agency has gone so far this year, there are some Cub veterans who may be overvalued by the market.  But there are also players who not only may be undervalued by the market, but might become significantly more valuable as the season goes along.  In this post, I will examine a few players I think the Cubs should be trying to sell now.  Next week, my attention will turn to players I think the Cubs might receive better value for as the season progresses.

Sean Marshall-  The Cubs’ left handed setup man has been one of the best relievers in baseball over the past two seasons.  In 2010, Marshall posted a 2.65 ERA while striking out 10.65 batters per nine innings and walking only 3 batters per nine innings, good for a 2.2 fWAR.  Marshall was even better in 2011, with a 2.26 ERA.  While Marshall’s K/9 dropped slightly to 9.40, his BB/9 also dropped to an excellent 2.02, and Marshall’s fWAR increased to 2.8.  Sean Marshall is also the only relief pitcher in baseball to be in the top 6 in relief pitcher fWAR in both 2010 and 2011.

Marshall is signed for $3.1 million in 2012 and will hit free agency after the season at age 30.  If Marshall puts up another season like his last two, he will be one of the best paid relievers in baseball starting in 2013.

While some teams are getting wise to the fact that relievers are volatile and often have very short peaks, some teams clearly continue to overvalue relief pitchers with track records of success, evidenced by the large contracts the Phillies and Marlins gave to Jonathan Papelbon and Heath Bell.  There are almost certainly teams that would be willing to overpay in prospects for a reliever with Marshall’s pedigree and reasonable salary.  And while Marshall has been great this season, a great bullpen is not likely to turn the Cubs into contenders in 2012, and the Cubs have some minor league depth in the left handed reliever category.

My one caveat to trading Sean Marshall now would be if the Cubs were thinking of moving him to the starting rotation.  Without argument, if Marshall succeeded as a starting pitcher his trade value would skyrocket.  However, I have not heard any concrete information that the Cubs are intending to use Marshall anywhere aside from out of the bullpen.

Carlos Marmol- The Cubs’ closer over the past two and a half seasons has been an image of inconsistency.  Marmol strikes out nearly a batter and a half per inning with a career 11.74 K/9, but also issues a ton of walks (5.88 career BB/9).

I do not think Marmol will have quite the range of teams interested in him that would be interested in Marshall, largely because Marmol is signed for $16.8 million over the next two seasons.  However, there are probably at least a few teams who have a hole in the ninth inning who would prefer an “established closer” like Marmol over a guy like Marshall who has never closed regularly.  I would disagree with those teams, but would be very happy to see the Cubs take advantage of any team’s irrational love for the save statistic to pick up some good prospects for Marmol.

Marmol had a down year last season (4.01 ERA, 0.8 fWAR) after having an excellent 2010 (2.55 ERA, 3.0 fWAR).  Usually, you do not want to trade a player coming off a down year because his value is depressed.  I think the situation is different in Marmol’s situation because his career has been one of streaky inconsistency.  As such, I doubt Marmol will add significant value with a hot first half, because a front office worth anything near its weight would have to know a week where Marmol cannot find the strike zone could arrive at any time.  If the Cubs can get a fair return for their inconsistent closer, they should take it now.  I would not expect the Cubs to get as good a return for Marmol as they would for Marshall.

Darwin Barney- I know what you are thinking.  Darwin Barney?  I will wholeheartedly admit that he is an individual with fairly limited trade value at best.  But look at the light hitting, strong fielding middle infielder free agents who have signed contracts this offseason.  Clint Barmes, Jamey Carroll, Mark Ellis, Nick Punto and John McDonald all received multiyear contracts averaging more than $1 million a year before Prince Fielder has been able to find a home.

I also think odds are pretty good that Barney’s value is only going to go decrease as 2012 progresses.  If not for a hot April, Darwin Barney would have been an unmitigated offensive black hole last season.  As a player with extremely limited power and who does not walk, Barney does not have significant offensive upside.  If I had to bet, I would put money on Darwin Barney being relegated to a back up middle infielder role with the Cubs by the end of May.  If there is a team that is more highly enamored with Barney right now, the Cubs should find that team and get something more useful in return.

As a final note, I will also just mention Matt Garza.  I did not originally intend to include him on either list, because I think his value is more tenuous.   However, rumors of Garza potentially being traded in a deal that would net the Cubs a prospect package headlined by Padres first baseman Anthony Rizzo have sprung up over the past few days, so I thought he was worth a mention.  Garza is only getting more expensive and coming closer to free agency with each passing season.  But Garza’s last season was by far his best, and the first where he came close to the ace potential he has been rumored to have.  If Garza has a first half of 2012 similar to his performance last season, his value could definitely increase heading into the mid-season trade market.  But if he reverts back to his Tampa Bay type of numbers, his value on the trade market will take a big hit.

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Morning News: Braun, Darvish, Trades, and a little man

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

 

Ryan Braun has (perhaps) a dilemma. Does he want to be known for PEDs or VD? Granted, they’re just rumors; but it might begin to explain Braun’s odd response to the whole mess so far. “Tell Victor that Ramon – the fella he met about a week ago? – tell him that Ramon went to the clinic today, and I found out that I have, um, herpes simplex 10, and I think Victor should go check himself out with his physician to make sure everything is fine before things start falling off on the man.”

Howdy, Yu Darvish. The Rangers won the bidding for Japanese superstar Yu Darvish. They made what is reportedly a record posting fee (slightly higher than what Boston paid for Daisuke Matsuzaka). The Rangers just saw their No. 1 starter, CJ Wilson, sign with the rival Los Pujols Angels for $75 million over 5 years. But the Rangers will almost surely have to shell out at least that much in salary and posting fee combined to acquire Darvish. They’ve also made several recent indications that they lack the financial ability to compete with baseball’s biggest spenders; yet they now seem poised to commit to perhaps the biggest risk in baseball this off-season.  Odd.  Signing Darvish would give the Rangers a plethora of starting pitchers, perhaps they’d like to deal one away?

Trade dominoes? Over the weekend (as you probably know by now), the Reds sent a king’s ransom to San Diego in order to acquire Mat Latos. Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal – both former first round picks – were sent along with former All-Star/chronically-injured Edinson Volquez and Brad Boxberger. I like Cincinnati’s aggressive use of their prospects. Alonso and Grandal weren’t likely to get everyday jobs with the Reds at their current position (barring injury). I like the Padres return for a very young starter who they feel (reportedly) has maturity issues. What I don’t like – the idea that Latos is a front-of-the-rotation starter. I think the Reds probably gave up too much to get a guy who is likely a No. 3 at best. He has good numbers over 2+ seasons, but he should – he pitched his home games at Petco. So far he has 15 IPs or more in just 5 parks (predictably, the NL West teams). The fact that he has good numbers while pitching the majority of his innings in those parks is unsurprising, but it tells the Reds nothing of how he’ll pitch in Miller, Busch, Wrigley, or even Minute Maid – and most importantly at Great American. If you have him on your fantasy team – SELL.

Trade dominoes, again? The Cincy-San Diego trade means that now the Padres have a 1B logjam (allegedly). Young Anthony Rizzo is now blocked by Yonder Alonso, the assumed Opening Day starter at 1B for the Padres. Popular opinion has the Padres willing to deal Rizzo and apparently the Cubs are pushing to the front of the trade partner line. Initial reports had the Cubs exploring a deal centered around Garza and Rizzo; pardon me while I vomit. We’re expected to trade Garza for what is now the Padres second-best 1B “prospect” (Alonso is still a prospect to me)? Uh, no. As we all know, the Cubs are beyond thin at 1B – but trading Garza to acquire a prospect isn’t an option that should be seriously considered.

Quick hits: The new look Clippers destroyed the new look Lakers, albeit in the preseason. Tim Tebow lost to future HOFer Tom Brady (Merrill Hoge breathed a sigh of relief along with Tebow detractors worldwide). NFL teams with playoff or even championship aspirations showed up flat everywhere this weekend: Steelers, Bears, Ravens, Giants, Texans, and Jets all laid eggs this week. Not to be outdone, the Titans gave the Colts their first win of the season; but all were overshadowed by the choke in Kansas City. Aaron Rodgers wasn’t doing his championship belt dance when the Chiefs were battering his previously unbeaten Packers. And college bowl season has started – not any of the bowls you want to watch though, those will come next week.

World’s shortest firefighter. Link

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