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March 2012

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Joe Mather: Spring Training Surprise

Written by , Posted in General

Even in a game as unpredictable as baseball, there are constants.  The Yankees will always be able to afford the biggest free agent names.  White Sox fans’ pride in their team will always be disproportionate to the product on the field.  Tommy LaSorda will always make himself the hero of every story.  And every year, no-name players will surprise their teams in Spring Training and play their way into unexpected roster spots.

This year, the Cubs’ Spring Training surprise is Joe Mather.

Mather is a 29 year old journeyman who spent most of his career in the Cardinals’ organization.  He’s also logged some time with the Braves and Rockies.  Altogether he’s appeared in 126 games, and his stats are about what you’d expect from a guy who could never consistently crack a big league lineup.

That’s what makes the .412/.455/.745 (roughly) he’s posted this spring as a non-roster invitee such a surprise.  In limited playing time, he’s had good success at the plate against righties and lefties, he’s shown some power, and he runs pretty well, too, swiping three bases so far.

But what makes him really valuable to this Cubs team is his versatility in the field–he can play all three outfield spots along with first and third.  And manager Dale even hinted he’d consider playing him in the middle infield if need be. He’s got the ability to backup as many as five positions, and depending on how Ian Stewart, Bryan LaHair, and David DeJesus start off their seasons, he could see some significant playing time early in the year.

He’s essentially like a Blake DeWitt who isn’t an embarrassment in the outfield or at the plate.  He’s a Jeff Baker who can hit righties, and hit ’em well.  Dare I say it–he might even be a poor man’s Mark DeRosa.

And here’s where it gets interesting Cubs fans.  If he can bring the hot bat with him to Chicago next week–and that’s a big if–then the trade rumors swirling around Marlon Byrd, Jeff Baker, and Blake DeWitt take on an instant credibility.  I like Byrd, but none of those guys are vital to this Cubs team, especially if they can bring back anything of value in a trade.  And when you figure there’s got to be a market for Randy Wells–who appears to be to the odd man out of our rotation–you might be able to package him with Byrd or one of our utility guys for something more than spare parts.  It’s clear Theo and Jed have the long view in mind even as the season is about to start, and if Mather can keep it going he gives them plenty of flexibility.

We’ll see next week–next week!–whether he can be more than just a Spring Training surprise.  In the meantime, expect an announcement from the Cubs–possibly as soon as today–that he’ll be on the 25-man roster.  He’s earned it.

 

  • Buddy

    I’m never surprised by a spring training performance–good or bad. The games are meaningless and the sample size is tiny. Having said that, I find myself rooting for Mather to make the team. 

    • Norm Bothwell

      Agree…although I’m not rooting for or against him. It could be him, Campana, or whoever they decide that 25th man will be, it won’t have that much of an impact.

      • Noah_I

        Exactly.  I expect Joe Mather to be what he’s always been.  I hope he proves me wrong, but I don’t expect it.  Whether you’d prefer Mather, who can play nearly every spot on the diamond to some level, or Campana, who can cover a ton of ground in the outfield but doesn’t have much an arm, doesn’t concern me much.  Both are hugely flawed players whose future is almost certainly at the back of a bench or bouncing between the minors and majors before they hang up the cleats.

  • flyslinger2

    NEXT WEEK! If I could embed dancing pigs in this post I would! I like what I’ve been seeing for pitching as well. Samardzija has had a good spring minus the one outting where he got soft in the head.

  • Eddie Von White

    “He’s essentially like a Blake DeWitt … a Jeff Baker…”  Oh my, how desperate have we become?

    • Fight though it EVW…just when you are ready to puke JJ flips the script and gives us a DeRo comparison.  

      • Eddie Von White

        Thanks for the perspective – jswan – I can stomach a poor man’s DeRo – but I have never been able to stomach Jeff Baker. It takes every amount of self-control I can muster not to flip to another channel when he’s up.

      • Eddie Von White

        Thanks for the perspective – jswan – I can stomach a poor man’s DeRo – but I have never been able to stomach Jeff Baker. It takes every amount of self-control I can muster not to flip to another channel when he’s up.

    • BLPCB

      It would be awesome if he could be the next DeRosa

    • AC0000000

      It would be awesome if he could be the next DeRosa

  • Norm Bothwell

    Randy Wells to Iowa.
    Clevenger wins back up catcher.

    • Noah_I

      Hey!  That’s exactly what I thought should happen!  I think it gives a better indication that the Cubs are very likely looking to move Geo in the next calendar year (probably this season), and want Castillo to get every day at bats before that happens.

      • Jedi

        Let it be known I don’t ONLY disagree with you Noah – I hope Soto is traded in the next few months (Marmol too!).  It’ll mean they’ve both performed well enough that the Cubs got a nice trade return for them.  Another plus to ridding ourselves of Hendry, we aren’t prone to trading from a position of weakness all the time.

      • Noah_I

        I agree that I hope Marmol is traded as well, but I think the likelihood of Marmol adding value is smaller than the likelihood of Soto adding value.  Even if Marmol has a good year, can he change who he is?  Can he change the fact that he walks the world?  Especially now that more and more teams seem to be learning how fungible late inning relievers are and how common they are.  I hope Marmol can be moved for value, but if I had to bet I don’t think many other teams are likely to trade much anything of value for him or be willing to pick up his salary.  Maybe we’ll get lucky and have a rash of injuries among closers for contending teams.

        If Soto puts up an OPS above .800 while being a decent defensive catcher, that puts him in pretty exclusive territory.

      • Jedi

        Thankfully, though, there are plenty of dumb GMs who would overpay for Marmol in July if he starts strong.  If he can put together his cartoonish stuff in a good way for a couple of months, he and Soto could be headed to a playoff team in July…hopefully that’ll give them motivation.

      • Noah_I

        That’s a good point.  I was thinking how many of the GMs on decent teams might make that move… but then there are at least few, whether they’d make a move because they’re all in (Detroit if Valverde goes down), their GM doesn’t understand value (Ruben Amaro if something happens to Papelbon, Brian Sabean if Brian Wilson can’t stay healthy) or because the team is desperate to stay in the playoff hunt all season (Nationals, Marlins).

      • Jedi

        I could even see the Yankees paying for him if they can’t get anything reliable in front of Rivera – Marmol as an eighth inning guy wouldn’t be the end of the world for them.  Marmol will be a relatively cheap mistake for a GM to make anyway…Oakland probably wouldn’t come calling, but a team like the Dodgers or Yankees or any of those other teams you mentioned could easily make that “mistake” and the GM probably wouldn’t lose his job over it.  He’s only signed through 2013 right?  I could see us getting one decent prospect back for him at the deadline..Texas would’ve given us at least that this past July.

      • BLPCB

        Don’t they have Soriano in front of Rivera to shorten the games already?

      • Soriano wears the heaviest mitt in the bigs. When he goes on a tear, he can go 1-2-3 all week…the rest of the time he looks like an idiot when he commits to a fastball, takes the sign,  and throws a 45 foot breaking pitch.  

      • Gymjok

        How about Soto and Marmol to the Rays.
        Might have to throw in some cash-but that could get an even better return.
        Farnsworth and Molina off the books in 2013+cash from the Cubs-
        it might be doable.

      • Noah_I

        I don’t think the Rays would be interested unless the Cubs covered enough of Marmol’s salary so the Rays would only have to pay him the equivalent of the rate a closer would expect in his first year of arbitration, and the Cubs would have to cover a fair amount of Soto’s as well. 

        The Rays are arguably the most advanced front office in baseball.  They correctly believe they can find closers off the scrap heap.  Any interest they’d have in Marmol would be extremely limited, and, as I said above, I’d be surprised if they’d be willing to pay more $2 million of his salary.

        I don’t think they’d view Soto as affordable for them.  They’d probably honestly be more interested in Clevenger or Castillo, who they’d have cost controlled years on. 

        Probably not a good fit, but it’s good to consider anyone.  The Rays are just too savvy and too cost conscious. 

      • Buddy

        The Rays are about the last team in baseball to trade for an overpaid, wild reliever. 

      • Jedi

        Let it be known I don’t ONLY disagree with you Noah – I hope Soto is traded in the next few months (Marmol too!).  It’ll mean they’ve both performed well enough that the Cubs got a nice trade return for them.  Another plus to ridding ourselves of Hendry, we aren’t prone to trading from a position of weakness all the time.

      • Noah_I

        I agree that I hope Marmol is traded as well, but I think the likelihood of Marmol adding value is smaller than the likelihood of Soto adding value.  Even if Marmol has a good year, can he change who he is?  Can he change the fact that he walks the world?  Especially now that more and more teams seem to be learning how fungible late inning relievers are and how common they are.  I hope Marmol can be moved for value, but if I had to bet I don’t think many other teams are likely to trade much anything of value for him or be willing to pick up his salary.  Maybe we’ll get lucky and have a rash of injuries among closers for contending teams.

        If Soto puts up an OPS above .800 while being a decent defensive catcher, that puts him in pretty exclusive territory.

      • Jedi

        Thankfully, though, there are plenty of dumb GMs who would overpay for Marmol in July if he starts strong.  If he can put together his cartoonish stuff in a good way for a couple of months, he and Soto could be headed to a playoff team in July…hopefully that’ll give them motivation.

      • Noah_I

        That’s a good point.  I was thinking how many of the GMs on decent teams might make that move… but then there are at least few, whether they’d make a move because they’re all in (Detroit if Valverde goes down), their GM doesn’t understand value (Ruben Amaro if something happens to Papelbon, Brian Sabean if Brian Wilson can’t stay healthy) or because the team is desperate to stay in the playoff hunt all season (Nationals, Marlins).

      • Jedi

        I could even see the Yankees paying for him if they can’t get anything reliable in front of Rivera – Marmol as an eighth inning guy wouldn’t be the end of the world for them.  Marmol will be a relatively cheap mistake for a GM to make anyway…Oakland probably wouldn’t come calling, but a team like the Dodgers or Yankees or any of those other teams you mentioned could easily make that “mistake” and the GM probably wouldn’t lose his job over it.  He’s only signed through 2013 right?  I could see us getting one decent prospect back for him at the deadline..Texas would’ve given us at least that this past July.

      • AC0000000

        Don’t they have Soriano in front of Rivera to shorten the games already?

      • Soriano wears the heaviest mitt in the bigs. When he goes on a tear, he can go 1-2-3 all week…the rest of the time he looks like an idiot when he commits to a fastball, takes the sign,  and throws a 45 foot breaking pitch.  

      • Gymjok

        How about Soto and Marmol to the Rays.
        Might have to throw in some cash-but that could get an even better return.
        Farnsworth and Molina off the books in 2013+cash from the Cubs-
        it might be doable.

      • Noah_I

        I don’t think the Rays would be interested unless the Cubs covered enough of Marmol’s salary so the Rays would only have to pay him the equivalent of the rate a closer would expect in his first year of arbitration, and the Cubs would have to cover a fair amount of Soto’s as well. 

        The Rays are arguably the most advanced front office in baseball.  They correctly believe they can find closers off the scrap heap.  Any interest they’d have in Marmol would be extremely limited, and, as I said above, I’d be surprised if they’d be willing to pay more $2 million of his salary.

        I don’t think they’d view Soto as affordable for them.  They’d probably honestly be more interested in Clevenger or Castillo, who they’d have cost controlled years on. 

        Probably not a good fit, but it’s good to consider anyone.  The Rays are just too savvy and too cost conscious. 

      • Buddy

        The Rays are about the last team in baseball to trade for an overpaid, wild reliever. 

  • Doc Raker

    JJ makes the case for Mather to be on the roster, rather Mather made the case. I like the trade rumors, everyone over 30 is available if it makes the future brighter.

  • Seymour Butts

    A couple of years ago Colvin forced himself on the roster with a stellar spring. He had a good rookie year. Hopefully Mather can get more playing time out of the new regime than Colvin could.
    Who ever is wearing Cubbie Blue , I’m rooting for.

    • BLPCB

      Cheering for laundry

    • AC0000000

      Cheering for laundry

  • Chuck

    I have Zero confidence that Ian Stewart holds on to the 3B job all year.  I hope I am wrong, but if you can’t hit in Colorado you can’t hit anywhere.

  • Chuck

    I have Zero confidence that Ian Stewart holds on to the 3B job all year.  I hope I am wrong, but if you can’t hit in Colorado you can’t hit anywhere.

  • Seymour Butts
  • Seymour Butts
  • Seymour Butts

    Mather and DeWitt on roster.

  • Seymour Butts

    Mather and DeWitt on roster.

  • Mark Strickler

    Mathers can play anywhere, Barney can play SS and 2B, Stewart can play multiple positions, Jeff Baker will play a little 3B, 1B and corner outfield, but can any of these guys play one position really well?  I remember the Attack of the Neifis under Dusty Baker only too well…

  • Mark Strickler

    Mathers can play anywhere, Barney can play SS and 2B, Stewart can play multiple positions, Jeff Baker will play a little 3B, 1B and corner outfield, but can any of these guys play one position really well?  I remember the Attack of the Neifis under Dusty Baker only too well…