Archive for July, 2013

3 Reasons Why Matt Garza Should Hope For a Trade

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

Today is the next slated start for Matt Garza. It’s a start we were told he would not make. Then again, let’s face it. For the last week or two, each time his turn comes up in the rotation, we’re told it’s a start he will not make. At this point, it’s better to just react when and if something happens. Garza has stated that he would like to remain a Cub and doesn’t want to be traded. However, it is in his best interest to be traded, and here is three reasons why.

1. Potential to Win a Ring – Say what you will about players just being concerned about the money. For a lot of them, that is the case, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, there is something special, and former players will vouch for this, about not just being in the postseason, but being the last team standing. There’s a reason why people tune into a sport they otherwise hadn’t followed all year when playoff time comes around. If you’ve ever been to a postseason game, you know what I’m talking about. I was at game one of the 2003 NCDS against the Braves in Atlanta and it was one of the best games I’ve ever been to. Fans are into every pitch. It’s magical. Garza should hope for the opportunity to experience that as much as he can before his time in this league is over. It can happen at the drop of a hat, so don’t take it for granted. He’s been to two postseasons with the Rays but has no ring to show for it. A trade t0 a contender will allow him another opportunity.

2. No Restrictions on His Free Agency – Garza will be a free agent at the end of this season. It’s doubtful that any team who trades for him will immediately work on a long term deal, so it’s very likely that he will experience free agency as one of the top arms on the market. Because of the changes in the CBA, we saw what being a top tier free agent can do to your offers, or lack thereof. Need proof? Go ask Kyle Lohse, who signed just before spring training and got narry a nibble all off-season. That puts mental strain on a player, not knowing where he will make his home. However, a player that is acquired via trade is not subject to the free agent compensation rules. It’s somewhat clear that the Cubs will take Garza back via free agency if and only if the terms are right. In other words, if you stay, there is no guarantee you don’t just play out the year and then go to free agency with that Type A free agent tag strapped to your behind. It’s better for his value to come without that string attached.

3. Can Help the Cubs Get Better – This one is obvious from a fan standpoint and team standpoint, but if Garza is serious about wanting to be in Chicago, then coming back in the off-season would still be an option. In return, the Cubs get pieces to continue to rebuild process and make Garza’s decision to come back a smarter one. We’ve saw this last year with Ryan Dempster, so the truth to the rumors that he wants to be in Chicago need to be taken with a grain of salt, but if that truley is the case, then help the team before you leave.


  • Edwin Jackson pitched decent enough to get a win, but didn’t get enough support from the offense.
  • It’s funny to watch everyone go nuts over Junior Lake on Twitter. Instead of reporting a 1-for-5 game with three strikeouts and an error, we got reports saying he’s reached base in all of his games so far this year.
  • Starlin Castro had a really nice day at the plate, going 4-for-5 with a double. Don’t look now, but his average has creeped higher than love child, Anthony Rizzo.


  • Our old pal, Glenallen Hill, is reportedly doing well as a minor league manager.
  • David DeJesus continued his rehab, going 1-for-4 with a double
  • Top draft pick, Kris Bryant, made his pro debut for the Arizona Summer League Cubs and went 0-for-3 with three errors at third base. Let the bashing commence. You know you wanna.


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Game Notes: Cubs 3, Rockies 9

Sunday, July 21st, 2013


  • I’m not sure if Carlos Villanueva would be better equipped to be a productive member of the starting rotation by growing the handle bar mustache back, but it does seem like he’s lost his super powers since he shaved. I don’t, honestly, believe in messing with juju like most players in baseball do, but it’s funny to think of him like that. His outing last night was subpar at best. Just a 50% first strike rate and lots of hittable pitches led to 7 ER over just 4 IP. His last outing, which was his first full start since returning to the rotation, was much better so we’ll see which pitcher emerges in the next few weeks. I don’t see him being part of the future rotation, but I do see him being a valuable piece to the puzzle if he can continue to be that long reliever / starter swing man.
  • The legend of Junior Lake continued as the youngster had some good and had some bad. He reached base in his first two at bats of the game, once via a single and once on a walk. Both were good at bats. On the bad side, he misplayed a ball in centerfield on a bad read, but did also contribute a nice catch it the 4th. They key with any young player is to not get too hyped or too down on them either way. Things will level out. He’s not the savior. He shouldn’t be treated as if he is.
  • Last year I rode Luis Valbuena pretty hard. I apologize now for those comments. He’s turned into a nice piece for this team. He hit leadoff yesterday, which frustrated me when I saw the lineup, but he saw 31 pitches in his five plate appearances, had quality at bats each time up and contributed with another home run and a run scoring single as well. Definitely a good night for him. As long as he hits like this, expect to see Lake in CF.
  • According to this report, the Braves are in the market for left-handed relief help, and James Russell is on the wish list. The Cubs dealt with the Braves last year so we know Theo has Frank Wren’s phone numbers. If you can’t get a nice haul for a middle reliever, you do it in a heartbeat. I like Russell a lot, but relievers should be cultivated and grown from the farm. They should not be acquired via trade or free agency unless absolutely necessary and even then on the cheap.
  • Cuban defector pitcher, Alfredo Gonzalez, is expected to sign with a Major League team sometime next week. He’s 26 years old and the Cubs are listed as one of many teams interested. I take that as genuine interest because of how hard the Cubs have been working the international market. His signing is not part of the international budget set forth in the new CBA.
  • Forgot to mention this yesterday, but Henry Rodriguez, who was DFA’d the other day has cleared waivers and been outrighted to AAA.
  • Kris Bryant was awarded the Golden Spikes award as the best player in amateur baseball.


  • Newly acquired, Jake Arrieta pitched for the Iowa Cubs and posted 5 IP, 4 ER, 6 H, 2 BB, 3 K
  • Josh Vitters went 2-for-3 with a double and a run scored
  • Marcos Mateo tossed two scoreless relief innings for the Smokies
  • Javier Baez went 2-for-5 with a double
  • Ivan Pineyro tossed six scoreless innings for the Daytona Cubs and has not allowed a run in his first 11 innings since coming over from Washington in the Scott Hairston trade.
  • Dan Vogelbach was 2 for 2 with a double and a walk.
  • David DeJesus was 0 for 1 with a walk before the rain washed the game away for the Arizona Summer League Cubs


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Game Notes: Cubs 3, Rockies 1

Saturday, July 20th, 2013

I mentioned yesterday on Twitter that I was looking forward to watching the game and following Matt Garza rumors on Twitter. The Cubs continued their run of playing semi-decent baseball and made my night an enjoyable one.


  • Before the game, the Cubs called up Junior Lake to take the place of injured outfielder, Brian Bogusevic, who was placed on the DL. I was a believer in Lake going into the season and was really hoping he’d make the opening day roster. Unfortunately an injury knocked him out of contention and forced him to start the season on the DL. Since then, he’s put up respectable numbers in Iowa and earned the call up. To say he made the most of his first opportunity is an understatement. The first pitch he saw, he drilled down the left field line for a double and then stole third on the very next pitch. He would finish the day with a 3-for-4 performance and high praise from his manager “Since I’ve been here, that’s the first kid that’s come up and looked like a major leaguer, aggressive, aggressive on the bases…He did a great job and swung the bat really nice.” While he got the start in CF, I’d expect him to also get some time at 3B and push Luis Valbuena.
  • Jeff Samardzija, who was coming off a less than ideal start in his last outing against the Angels, turned in a really nice performance. Nevermind that he left the game in a little bit of a jam in the 8th inning, the game overall was a nice one. To be honest, I’m not quite sure what to do with Samardzija. I think he needs to be part of the future of this team, but I honestly have no clue what his value is and where he slots in this rotation. There are days when he can be absolutely unhittable and has the potential to throw deep into a game. Then there are days when he looks average at best. I hold to the fact that he is continuing to learn and develop, but I worry about the price he is going to command when he gets to the open market.
  • Trade rumors continue to be all the buzz around this team. Yesterday it seemed that Garza was as good as gone and that we could see it announced sometime before or during the game. That obviously did not happen and word out of Texas is that something caused a snag and that now the deal is on hold. It’s hard to know what to believe. If you believe Jim Bowden, who apparently doesn’t check on the accuracy of his sources and then deletes the tweet to avoid embarrassment, then the deal will get done. I don’t really know what to believe. Ultimately, I think a move will be made today. You don’t get that close to a deal and then just shut down talks. If the deal is with Texas or not, we’ll just have to wait and see. It should be an interesting weekend of Twitter rumors. With that being said, I asked followers on Twitter last night how many players on the current 40 man roster they felt will be moved before September 1. I got a lot of replies to that. My prediction is 3. I think it will be Garza, Dioner Navarro, and Alfonso Soriano. While I think there is definite interest in guys like Kevin Gregg and James Russell, I think they will remain. It’s easy to predict things like 10 or 12 and rustle up every name you can think of, but when it comes down to it, teams just don’t make that many deals.


Josh Vitters returned to the lineup for Iowa and hit home run # 4 on the season as part of a 2-for-4 night in a losing effort against Round Rock

Dae-Eun Rhee got his first start for AA since coming off the DL and went 3.2 innings, allowing a pair of home runs. Javier Baez contributed to the offense with his fourth home run since being promoted and 21st overall this season, but it would be Arismendy Alcantara who would double home the winning run in the 10th.

Scott Baker made his second rehab start in his quest to return to the Cubs rotation sometime in August and it was less than desirable. Baker allowed six runs on six hits over 2.2 innings while walking three and striking out one for the Kane County Cougars. Dan Vogelbach was 2-for-4 in the game with a run scored.


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Scouting Javier Baez

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

I saw Javier Baez in person twice earlier this season when he was still with Daytona, and I came away both times thinking the same thing… if he ever minimized his strike zone he’d be something special but he has extremely high bust potential given the nature of his tools.  I feel like there’s no middle ground with Baez, he’s either going to be a superstar or bust. With his recent promotion to AA, I’ve been able to watch every game with so here’s a comprehensive scouting report with video analysis.

Grading the Tools

Hit: 40/60
Power: 55/70
Plate Discipline: 30/50
Running: 50/50
Range: 40/45
Glove: 35/50
Arm: 55/60

The Swing

Baez’s swing is very level and smooth and he has the quickest bat I’ve ever seen. When he makes contact, the ball really takes off as seen in this first video below of Baez’s debut at-bat in AA where he launches a ball over 400 feet to deep CF:

Baez has a Gary Sheffield-esque bat waggle pre-pitch to keep his hands back and burst through the zone at the appropriate time. However, Sheffield would stop his waggle during the pitcher’s windup, putting his hands and bat into a solid hitting position; Baez on the other hand, does his waggle as the pitcher is delivering the ball, putting himself out of sync with the pitch.  In the video below you can see how his bat is pointing towards the infield as the pitcher is releasing the ball which results in a weak tapper back to the mound:

He had the bat speed to make up for this in the lower minors, but now that he is in AA, the waggle is throwing off his timing and causing a lot of late swings that produce foul balls, weak contact, or complete whiffs. This is something that can be remedied with a slight swing modification but will take some time for Baez to get accustomed to and will need to be done during an offseason.

Approach at the Plate

Baez has a very hard and violent swing that he never shortens or adjusts for any situation.  His approach leaves a lot to be desired as goes up to the plate to take his cuts and live with the results.  On this swing he’s leaning out over the plate reaching for a pitch off the plate and gets under it. You can see in this video how the ball seems to leap off Baez’s bat, even when he doesn’t square it up. The ball still carries to the warning track in the opposite field despite the poor contact:

Baez tends to get himself out more than the pitcher actually works to get Baez out. His ultra-aggressive approach works against him and he usually falls behind in the count. He goes up to the plate wanting to hit every pitch as hard as he can and that approach will start to prohibit his abilities now that he’s reached advanced levels of the minor league system.

This Season

Baez, like most Cubs prospects, has little-to-no grasp of plate discipline. He is a free swinger and offers at nearly everything around the plate and that really showed at the beginning of this season.  At High-A Daytona, through May 15th he had a 30.3% K% and 3.2% BB%. A very hot stretch starting May 17th until his promotion saw Baez lower his K% to 23.1% and raise his BB% up to 6.2% (a career best).  The improvement in discipline along with his massive power surge was enough evidence for the Cubs front office to promote Baez to AA.

Baez has raw plus-plus power and has showcased it many times this season.  At Daytona he had a SLG% of .535, which was 4th best at the time of his promotion in very pitcher friendly league. He accumulated 17 HRs, 19 doubles, and 4 triples in only 337 plate appearances.  From May 17 through July 5th he held a triple slash line of .308/.352/.602; during that time he crushed 4 homeruns in a single game, becoming only the second player to do so in the Florida State League.

Since his promotion Baez has struggled. After that debut HR, he reeled off an 0-19 slump, including 6 strikeouts; reverting to the tendencies he exhibited at the beginning of the season. Over this past weekend, Baez started to heat up. On Friday he opened up a doubleheader with a 2-4 performance plus a walk, and in the night cap he also went 2-4 adding a solo HR:

On Saturday, Baez went 1-3 with a walk and went deep again:

In 36 plate appearances at AA thus far, he’s accumulated 7 hits, with 3 of them being homeruns.  He’s also struck out 10 times (27.8 K%), and walked twice (5.6 BB%).  His triple slash line is .206/.250/.471 thus far at AA.  While I’ll be the first to scream small sample size, the worry I’ve always had with Baez was advanced pitching would exploit his lack of a defined strike zone and thus far that is what’s happening at AA.  There’s no doubt he’s going to feature his plus-plus power, but that alone is not going to make him a successful big leaguer if he doesn’t work on his approach. The same trends that worried me in April and the first half of May, have come back in July. I would have liked the Cubs to take a more cautious approach and let Baez show the patience he exhibited for 7 weeks was more than just a hot stretch before giving him the promotion; especially given how difficult the move from High-A to AA is.


Baez has been an error machine, accumulating 33 errors in only 83 games outpacing even Starlin Castro’s worst season in the minors. Baez’s errors have come in all forms from trying to do too much to airmailing throws over the first baseman. The video below shows Baez botching a routine grounder straight at him over the weekend:

Right now, he has enough athleticism to play shortstop, but I don’t see him staying there as he fills out more.  In the 11 games I’ve watched Baez either in person or online, I’ve seen this one play where his range stood out:

Overall I consider Baez’s range to be below average without much room for improvement.  His glove should be average if he puts the work into it but his current mechanics are very inconsistent- he looks robotic at times where he’s thinking through each step instead of letting his natural instincts take over.  With more reps this should become fluid but right now it’s one of the major causes of his high error count. He does have a very strong and accurate arm which has allowed him to make up for some of the fielding mistakes and it will play well at third base, his eventual landing spot.

Final Thoughts

I’m cautiously optimistic about Baez’s future. He has all the tools to be a superstar but his lack of a developed strike zone is a huge concern and he’s a major boom or bust type prospect.  As we’ve seen with a long list of players that came up through the Cubs system, plate discipline is not something easily learned but I’m – for now – willing to gamble on Baez realizing his potential and building upon that 7 week stretch in Daytona where he cut down his strikeouts, worked hitter’s counts, took his share of walks and exhibited an overall improvement in his approach.

Don’t be surprised though if Baez is the centerpiece of a blockbuster trade this off-season due to our logjam of high end third base prospects with Bryant, Villanueva, and Candelario all in the upper echelon  of Cubs prospects.  With major concerns about his plate discipline, which don’t exactly fit in with the grind-out-every-at-bat type of values the front office is trying to instill, and the high chance he could turn into a bust, the Cubs front office may want to cash in his value to bring in an elite player to immediately bolster our major league team. The Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton and the Rays’ David Price are they type of impact players the Cubs have reportedly already been in contact with their respective teams gauging trade possibilities this past offseason and it would take a prospect like Baez to pry that kind of elite talent away.

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Chet’s Corner – The Stove Is Heating Up!

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

It’s Hot Stove season and everywhere you look baseball fans are over-analyzing their newly acquired piece and crying over their lost hero.  They check and re-check MLB Trade Rumors and the myriad of other rumor mills pumping falsehoods and selling fantasies.  They obsess over the amount of wins a player will be worth or when their newly acquired prospect will start paying dividends.  Yes, from the All-Star game going forward it is skin trade at it’s best.

I can’t remember ever thinking about the trade deadline until about 12 years ago.  The 80’s and the 90’s did not produce this drama, did it?  Then again, present media has a way of buffing a concept to a perfect shine and presenting it as a “thing” we must follow.  The only way to get up to the minute news back then was to listen to the radio.  Now my iPhone alerts me to rumors, not trades mind you, but rumors before they even become a rumor.  They are the fetus of a rumor.  They are a writer hypothesizing potential candidates and it turns into a rumor from there.

Oh, and by the way, don’t be fooled by misinformation, which is actually a tactical play by a GM or organization, coupled with downright lying of course.  We are kept at the edge of our seats as Negotiation Theater plays on in the back rooms.  Sometimes, I wonder if GM’s see the tweets and the articles and have a grand old laugh at the chaos they have caused.  I could just see a GM thumbing through his twitter feed now, “HaHaHa, Matt Garza for Mike Olt…wasn’t even a thought!”

Then I start to obsess….

I wonder if keeping Matt Garza in a Cubs uniform isn’t the right thing to do?  You know, sign him to a three or four year deal.  

Think about that rotation for a minute…Shark, Wood, Garza, Jackson and a PTBNL….hmmmm. It really isn’t that bad.  I still think it lacks a true stopper, a true ace if you will.

If there is one thing any team needs it’s starting pitching.  We don’t need to give it away.  Then again, he would have to agree to a four year deal.  Maybe he thinks he can get more? Maybe four years is even too many? 

Just thinking out loud here.  Now, I know, the prudent thing may be to trade him away for some young guns that could be core pieces for the future say 2-3 years from now.  But what if he was the leader 2-3 years from now?  I say this completely regretting the amount of time the Cubs hung on to Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano and just about every other viable trade piece they possessed over the last 10 years that netted very little in the end.  I want to smack myself for even thinking it, but I can’t help it….I can’t quit you Matt Garza!

You see what happened there, I just waffled back a forth and still don’t know how I feel about the whole issue.  Keep him or trade him?  Crazy or sane?  My brain actually produced the above line of thought a few days ago while reading the latest “hypothesis” on the web.

Should be a fun two weeks.  I wonder who will be left in a Cub uniform when the blood is wiped from the trading block?

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