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Thursday

5

January 2012

47

COMMENTS

Morning News: Z Gone, LaHair to start, Torre back in LA

Written by , Posted in General

And away he goes…

According to sources, it looks like the Cubs have finally struck a deal to rid themselves of Carlos Zambrano. To the surprise of almost no one, Big Z will be joining Ozzie Guillen and his band of merry malcontents in Miami. As the deal is currently being reported, the Cubs will pay upwards of $15 million of the $18 million Zambrano is owed in 2012 and will receive righty Chris Volstad in return. $15 million and a 6’8″ pitcher with a penchant for losing games (5-13 with a 4.89 ERA in ’11)…seems like a fair price to me!

LaFirstbaseman

In a wide ranging interview on WGN on Wednesday afternoon, The Theo dropped in a nugget about the future of Bryan LaHair…namely that he will be the Cubs starting first baseman in 2012.

“I think hitters hit no matter where they are and this kid has hit,” espoused Epstein, before going on to say that “it’s the right time for an organization like us to give him the opportunity.”

While I still haven’t given up hope of seeing Prince Fielder at the Friendly Confines, I’m o.k. with this decision and I could get excited to see what LaHair can do for a full season. I’ve gone on the record saying that there is probably a reason no one had given him a chance at the major league level before now, but I’m rooting for him to prove me wrong and mash in the majors like he did in Des Moines last season.

Of course, in the same interview, The Theo also indicated that Zambrano would be getting one more chance to get with the program this season…and then he was traded fewer than 12 hours later, so maybe this isn’t great news for LaHair.

I can’t quit you

In non-Cubs related news from Major League Baseball, 72-year old Joe Torre decided to give up his cushy front office job at MLB headquarters and return to Los Angeles to join a packed, but star-studded crowd of potential suitors bidding to own the beleagured Dodgers franchise.  According to ESPN.com, the list of prominent would-be owners also includes: Magic Johnson, Steve Garvey, Larry King and Mark Cuban. They should turn this into a reality show.

From Dustin’s iPod

I listen to very little country, and even less that was recorded after 1980…but man, there is something about the story telling in those old, twangy honky-tonk songs that just kills me:

  • Buddy

    Hadn’t heard the LaHair announcement. Very interesting.

  • BLPCB

    I don’t understand why he was never given a fair shake. Just like Murton. I think if Theo was our GM 5 years ago, Murton would still be a Cub. Off to your Busch. I wonder if I should make any Josh Hancock jokes. I was at a game at Wrigley in 2007, a beer vendor had a lot of fun with it: GET YOUR BEER HERE!! GET THE JOSH HANCOCK DINNER SPECIAAAAL!!!!! ONLY 6 DOOOLLLLLLAAAARES!

  • MJ

    Um, because Murton sucked. Look at the stats…..

  • chet

    In regards to the LaHair situation, some times a player doesn’t get a fair shot because of either being blocked by a star at their position, they don’t hit at major league level in previous stints, or the team just doesn’t have that much invested in the player. That last one can be the deciding factor many times in regards to why a player doesn’t get a shot.

  • chet

    MJ-
    Did you look at the stats? In 2.5 seasons with us he was better then Marlon byrd and Fukudome in almost every offensive category

  • chuck

    Re Murton: Yes his stat line with the Cubs (.296/.363/.455 AVG/OBP/SLG) was terrible. It would be so much worse that what we have been trotting out there the past few years considering he left after three years at the ripe old age of 25.

  • Norm

    I wouldn’t get too excited about LaHair being 1B next season…Theo said “At this time…” it’s LaHair…LaHair is the ONLY 1B on the team “at this time”.

  • MJ

    Yep, and he played defense like Soriano, and had no power.

  • It is nearly criminal what we have done to our young talent by keeping them stalemated in AAA Iowa. Murton was a prime example. With Z gone, I’m hoping Rich Hill can finally get his chance to earn a rotation spot…I’m expecting big things from Patterson this year, but I can’t remember if Eric or Corey.

  • Noah

    Both B-R and FanGraphs have Murton as at least average in LF, and in his one full season he rated as a very good defensive left fielder according to both sites. My recollection is that he was unlikely to have the arm to play right regularly, but he was also never really given that opportunity. He also hit 13 home runs in just 508 PAs in 2006. Had he done that in 2011, it would have been the same number of home runs as Martin Prado and Ryan Ludwick, and more than Jason Bay and Delmon Young. Murton’s OBP in 2006 was higher than all but 4 of left fielders in 2011 with enough PAs to qualify, and his 2006 slugging percentage would be right in the middle of the pack.

    I don’t think anyone is saying that Murton was a star or that he was someone anyone would offer a big money contract to. But he was an above average player in 2006 who seemingly inexplicably was thrown under the bus despite the Cubs having 5 more years of team control over him. The Cubs had much bigger needs than getting an upgrade over Murton in LF. Had Murton stuck, he would have just reached free agency now.

  • Norm

    People always focused on what Murton couldn’t do rather than what he could. He was an average hitter. How does an average hitter ‘suck’?

  • chet

    I would say what made Murton special was his eye at the plate. He never swang at bad pitches and usually worked the count.

  • Doc Raker

    Theo didn’t say ‘at this time’ he is ‘it’s the right time for an organization like us to give him (LaHair) the opportunity.’ Meaning, we are rebuilding, he has shown potential so let’s give him a shot. Something the Cubs should have done last year instead of signing a .196 hitter to a $10M deal to play 1b. No one can predict what anyone will do at the big league level but you have to give youth a chance.
    * Chet brings up a very good point, sometimes when a organization does not have a lot invested in a player that player gets bypassed by players who have more invested in them- it is a common theme. When the front office promotes a low draft low investment guy over a high draft high investment guy they are admitting a mistake, admitting that they misspent development money. Lot’s of front office guys will not admit that kind of mistake.

  • MJ

    If Murton has/had all this upside, why is he in Japan, and not on a MLB roster????

  • Jedi

    It’s not as if the Cubs are the only team that Murton couldn’t stick with – and right now there’s not a GM who thinks he’s worthy of a spot on an MLB roster.

    Also, Dustin how are we only paying $12mil for Zambrano? The money in this trade is negligible. We’re dumping $15mil+ of Zambrano’s deal in a suitcase with him and we still have to pay Volstad’s arbitration value – probably around $2.6mil. The cash position for the two teams is basically unchanged.

  • Lizzie

    I have a nice autographed picture of ol’ Matt. Probably not worth more than the paper it’s printed on but he was my pre-Geo sweetie. I’ve got a bit if a thing for redheads.

  • Dusty Baylor

    Ok. Let’s disscuss it this way:
    Murton in LF the last few years, putting up .290/.360/.450 with 15 HR and 80 RBI’s…versus paying Fonzie $140 mill over 8 seasons, or whatever it is.

  • MJ

    I’m more amused that we’re discussing Matt Murton, on the day Zambrano was basically traded for a bag of balls.

  • Noah

    From what I’ve read, at this point it’s not exactly true that there aren’t GMs who wouldn’t like to have Murton on their roster. It’s more that an MLB team wouldn’t guarantee him a starting spot, whereas he’s a star in Japan, and being a star in Japan he could probably make more money there than as a 4th OF/fringe starter in the MLB.

    And Murton wasn’t an issue of upside. It wasn’t like he was this guy who stunk, and he could have very well ended up in Japan after hitting free agency or being non-tendered before his final year of arbitration, because average to slightly above average left fielders who don’t hit 20+ homers and don’t steal 20+ bases aren’t exactly coveted in the MLB.

    Like I’ve said, Murton wasn’t and isn’t a star, but he was a guy who had value when he was cost controlled.

  • I don’t think there is much to discuss. Murton was shown the door when the Cubs decided to mimic the Yankee’s approach to filling a roster (albeit with far less talent.) Well, guess what…it worked in 2007. Lily, Marquis, DeRo…Sori. We also had two dudes raking at the corner IF spots, and it worked. Flash forward to bad contracts and the complete opposite of the Yankees ‘core four.’ Big mess. Hoff and Murton may have been great, but that was not the hand the Cubs brass played.

  • Katie

    Lizzie, I’m with you on the Murton thing!

    Was so glad to hear last night that Z was leaving. Now, to rid ourselves of Soriano…

    The only concern I have with LaHair is how he’ll handle Castro’s erratic throws. Pena did a fantastic job of fielding Castro’s wild bullets, and I’d like to see him at 1B again this season for that reason alone. Or, you know, sign them both and have them compete for the spot.

  • Seymour Butts

    I don’t really like Paying so much of Z’s contract just to be rid of him. The Marlins have cash to spend and tried to spend much more for Phat Albert , so I would have hoped for more in return than just a medium innings eater. Though I do like Volstads height..If only we still had a pitching coach to teach him a towel drill or two.

    Murton was a serviceable outfielder that put up numbers that compared decently with the much higher priced imports we signed. Just no room for him when you have big contract guys on the roster. He is at this point probably OK with his lot. He’s a great big fish in the land of swinging carp and Ham. And the Japanese locker room….filled with tiny women who will walk on your back. That’s living large.

  • Dustin Godsey

    Jedi…that was an error, should (should) and now does say $15 million the second time as well.

  • Kris

    The part of me that is a little baffled by the trade terms for Zambrano is entirely over-ruled by the part of me that is cheering loudly that we’re done with Z’s antics! He can have fun selling crazy in Miami with Guillen.

    I am pretty impressed that Epstein held his cards so close with this one. I was pretty sure after hearing him on WGN on Tuesday (Monday maybe?) that we’d be stuck with Zambrano another year.

  • chuck

    I am generally against paying other teams (in the NL no less) to play a player. I would rather the Cubs told him to stay home and paid him than to pay him to potentially win games for another team. It’s not like Z was blocking some young stud pitcher or anything.

  • chuck

    If you don’t like my stance on Murton, don’t get me on my Roosevelt Brown soapbox…
    Murton was a league average OF with a reasonable contract. Is that not valuable? Don’t forget that this was in the Dusty days. Dusty is a manager that has no concept of the value of walks and/or plate discipline. Right player, wrong club. What a shame…

  • Doc Raker

    Katie- LaHair will do just fine digging balls out of the dirt, any first baseman past Little League can dig poorly thrown balls.
    Murton represented youth with potential, Soriano represents over paid under performing free agent. I think we all agree it is time for the former, that’s about all the Matt Murton talk we really need, unless you have the hots for him.

  • Seconded. On to Micah Hoffpauir…

  • Norm

    2012 comes out to be a wash for the Zambrano/Volstad swap.
    If Volstad outperforms his salary in 2013 and 2014 it will be a win.
    He won’t be in line for that much money so it shouldn’t be too difficult for him to outperform (If he is in line for a lot, it means he was pretty good, and we’re all happy)

  • Doc Raker

    Onto Marla the ball girl………..I miss Harry

  • Doc Raker

    Harry had a crush on Marla

  • Lizzie

    @Kris I had a feeling the Zambrano news would cause you to drop by! I knew it would sit well. Good to see you!!

  • Kris

    Yes, Doc, anyone can dig wildly varying throws out of the dirt while keeping their foot on the bag and not getting killed by the runner at the same time. Especially throws that end up in the dugout. Yep…that’s why those great first basemen are a dime a dozen and the Cubs have oodles of choices there. Please tell me that was sarcasm.

  • MJ

    “any first baseman past Little League can dig poorly thrown balls.”
    .
    Please show me some of them. I’ve yet to play with one.

  • Kris

    MJ, Yes you did–Cahill! 🙂

  • Jedi

    Noah, you must have some incredible sources. The last time Murton was part of an MLB franchise in 2009, he had 424 plate appearances in the MINORS and 56 in the majors. Two full years removed from that season and you think that some GMs would happily plug him in as the 4th OF? In 2008 he had only 73 MLB plate appearances. So since the end of 2007 he’s come to a major league plate 129 times, but supposedly it’s HIS choice to be playing in Japan?

  • Kris

    Hiya, Lizzie! I think I just took a mental break from all things Cubs at the end of the year. Life’s been quite busy (in a good way). Not sure I’m ready to get amped about the season yet (I never do this early), but I have not abandoned VFTB. 🙂

  • chuck

    Kris: I don’t think getting amped up for this team will be an issue this year. As currently composed, they stink on ice.

  • chris in illinois

    As bad as the Cubs could be, there are still the Astros, Pirates and Mets.

  • MJ

    I’d put good money on the Pirates being better than the Cubs this year.

  • Doc Raker

    Kris MJ- I know lot’s of quality first baseman of all ages. Come on out to Glendale AZ in a couple of weeks and watch a bunch of old men dig balls out of the dirt. The Capn will be one of them. Maybe I take the position for granted because I grew up playing first base but I really don’t think digging balls out of the dirt is that hard if you are a baseball player. I have been teaching little leaguers how to dig since age 7. Most baseball players can learn to play 1b, there is a reason aging hitters get moved to 1b from higher skill positions. LaHair’s defense will be fine.

  • Lizzie

    @MJ sadly so would I. And how timely, my spam word is suckage.

  • BLPCB

    I could never pick them. So they never let me play 1st. I played 2B and OF

  • MJ

    Doc – I had one on the first team I played on…actually we had three. Then moved to another team, and it got ugly. Converted 3B that couldn’t pick a lick. I’m with you, I never could understand how someone couldn’t.
    .
    And Kris is right, we had a 1B on our softball team that could pick like no one’s business. Too bad they were typically half in the bag.
    .
    Told my wife, that I will make it out for Fantasy Camp before my knees give out…or my back…or my shoulder…..

  • Kris

    Not saying you have to be the most athletic player on the field to manage first, but I just don’t think it’s as easy as you make it sound. You’d better have some seriously good vision, reaction time, and flexibility.

    I still have a soft-spot for playing first base, but I actually prefer third or second after realizing in high school that I’m a good utility player.

  • Jedi

    Whoever else Theo guaranteed a job on the Cubs the other day should be frightened…we’re rid of Zambrano and now LaHair has legit competition at 1B presumably. Hopefully he promised Soriano 162 games in LF as well.

  • Doc Raker

    Keep you glove low with the tip of your glove on the dirt as the ball approaches. Watch the ball the entire way. When the ball get’s close and or hits the ground move your glove toward the ball and then up. You can’t start high and bring the glove down and you can’t bring the glove backwards toward you, you have to move the glove toward the ball and up. Same thing on the back hand. All baseball players need to pick, middle infielders on covering a steal but more important for a 1b man. LaHair’s defense isn’t in question as far as I know. His D will be fine.
    MJ- You will love Fantasy Camp, everyone should go at least once in their life and I would recommend going before the 69 guys all move on to the next world. I am glad I got to meet Santo. Hundley, Williams, Beckert, Jenkins and Banks won’t be around for ever. It won’t be the same when Todd Hundley starts running the camp instead of Randy.