Archive for December, 2013

How “In” Will the Cubs be on Masahiro Tanaka

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

Yesterday, Major League Baseball and the Nippon Professional Baseball League agreed to a new posting agreement. Previously, teams made blind bids to the Japanese team posting the player, and the highest bidder won exclusive rights to negotiate with the Japanese player. For example, when the Rangers signed Yu Darvish, they paid a $51.7 million posting fee to the Nippon Ham Fighters. At that point, Darvish had two options: (1) sign with the Rangers; or (2) return to Japan. He eventually signed with the Rangers for 6 years and $60 million.

Under the new system, the maximum posting fee is $20 million, but every team willing to pay the posting fee can then negotiate with the player as if he were a free agent. While the posting fee will be lower, presumably the salaries will get higher for the premier posted players. As a note, only the team that actually signs the player pays the posting fee.

This offseason, the premier Japanese player is right handed pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. Now, no talent evaluator thinks Masahiro Tanaka has the same ceiling as Yu Darvish, who is a true ace no matter your definition of “number 1 pitcher.” Tanaka is likely more a guy who tops out as a 2, which is still immensely valuable. Despite that, most thought Tanaka’s posting fee plus salary would total more than Darvish’s even if the old system was still in effect for three reasons. First, the total Darvish money was depressed because of the debacle that Daisuke Matsuzaka’s contract became after the injuries piled up. Second, Darvish’s success will have the reverse effect on Tanaka’s deal. Third, there is just more money in baseball now than two years ago due to new television deals.

Whether the new system will reduce the total money has yet to be seen, but it is unlikely. While the posting fees will be lower, having multiple teams compete against each other to sign the player after the posting phase will increase the player’s salary. Despite Tanaka not having the Darvish ceiling, as an at least solid mid-rotation pitcher who is available via quasi-free agency with a significant history of success against the best players in the world who are not in the Major Leagues, he is still a rarity in baseball as a 25 year old who can be obtained through free agency. Most believe that, on top of the posting fee, Tanaka will obtain a contract for 5 to 6 years for around $100 million, and potentially exceeding that amount.

Once the new posting agreement and Tanaka’s likelihood of being posted hit the news wires on Monday, Buster Olney quickly Tweeted that the Cubs are expected to be heavily in on Tanaka. But what exactly does “heavily” mean in this context? Will the Cubs honestly open up the checkbook to that extent?

They very well could. First, the new posting system helps the Cubs, at least to the extent it will limit the ability of the Yankees to get involved. Posting fees do not count towards the luxury tax, but salary does. Second, Tanaka is precisely the sort of player the Cubs have said they would spend money on: someone who will still be in his prime when the Cubs are ready to compete.

I’m not saying the Cubs will get Tanaka, but we all know a lot of Cubs fans will, rightly or wrongly, judge the success of this offseason on whether or not the Cubs sign Tanaka. To some extent, the Cubs may be looking at it the same way.

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Cubs Off-season still quiet

Monday, December 16th, 2013

After leaving the winter meetings without a splash the Cubs made some minor moves over the weekend. One of these moves was claiming an intriguing right hander Liam Hendricks from the Minnesota Twins. Hendricks is 24 years old and hails from Australia once regarded as a top 10 prospect with the Minnesota Twins as recent as 2012. The one problem for Hendricks has been the major leagues his numbers are quite pitiful at  2-13 with a 6.08 earned run average in 28 starts (30 games). The Australian righty has a 3.61 ERA with 6.2 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 in 254 career innings at Triple-A and a career 2.99 ERA in the minors as a whole. Hendricks features a fastball that sits between 87-90 miles per hour a good slider and above average changeup. Baseball America had listed him with the ceiling of a number three starter if all were to pan out. At the very least this was a waiver claim and does not cost the Cubs very much which bares no risk money wise.

Bruce Levine tweeted this weekend that the Yankees may look to trade for Darwin Barney to add a second baseman to their roster. Barney batted 208/.266/.303 in 141 games for the Cubs this season. Although, offense isn’t Barney’s strong point as his defense is gold glove worthy the past two seasons. Barney was the recipient in 2012 and turned in another solid campaign in 2013. According to UZR or the Ultimate Zone Rating Barney’s defense the past two seasons is collectively worth three wins for the Chicago Cubs. I’m not exactly what the Cubs would demand in return in a Barney trade I’m assuming young pitching or catching prospects but obviously they wouldn’t be premier prospects as Barney doesn’t warrant that return. Presumably if Barney is traded this off-season it opens the door for Luis Valbuena and Logan Watkins to fight for the job in spring training.

Sean mentioned last Friday that the Cubs were interested in John Axford but news broke last night the Axford has agreed with the Indians on a contract. Other veteran relievers the Cubs have been linked to are Joaquin Benoit, Joba Chamberlain and Drew Storen. I still believe the Cubs should get a veteran reliever even though I’m weary that it might turn into another Shawn Camp situation where the said reliever is over-worked like Russell or out of gas. In other news it seems more and more likely that Ervin Santana won’t be signed until after the Tanaka situation is figured out. I spoke with his agent over the weekend and his words were that “he would guess Santana would sign after Tanaka”.

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Winter Meetings Recap: What’s Next for Shark? Plus Tanaka, Wada, Ruggiano, Cutler

Friday, December 13th, 2013

As expected, there wasn’t much action from the Cubs during the Winter Meetings (and they certainly didn’t make any significant moves). Most of the action around the league came last week, so the meetings themselves were sort of a letdown. Here’s a quick recap of the moves the Cubs did (and didn’t) make this week.

  • First, the Rule 5 draft: The Cubs lost reliever Marcos Mateo to those pesky Diamondbacks. Mateo injured his arm a couple of seasons ago, but he’s been killing it in the DR lately. In the minor league round, the Cubs lost 1B/DH Justin Bour to the Marlins, pitcher A.J. Morris to the Pirates, and OF Julio Borbon (remember him?) to the Orioles. It wasn’t all losses, as the Cubs did select catcher Charles Cutler (no relation to Jay, I assume) from the Pirates. He’ll add organizational depth at a position that desperately needs it. The Cubs players I most feared would be selected (Jae-Hoon Ha, Eric Jokisch, Matt Loosen, Marcus Hatley) were not selected…so that’s good.
  • The Cubs traded OF Brian Bogusevic to the Marlins for OF Justin Ruggiano. Why trade an outfielder for an outfielder? It’s all about the platoon. The Cubs were (oddly) stacked with left-handed outfielders on the major league roster (Bogusevic, Sweeney, Schierholtz), so the team needed a right-handed OF for a platoon (none of these guys are great full-time starting options, so I imagine that Ruggiano will platoon with Sweeney and/or Schierholtz, depending on who has the hot hand). Ruggiano has a career .256/.328/.506 line against lefties, and seems to be a nice defender (especially in the corners, although he can play center as well). This trade isn’t going to make the front page, but it’s definitely one of those “value at the margins” type deals.
  • The Cubs signed 32-year-old left-handed reliever Tommy Hottovy (great name, huh?) to a minor league deal. Eh, maybe he turns into something decent for the middle innings…relief pitching is such a crapshoot, it’s really a numbers game.
  • The Cubs have shown interest in John Axford, but so have many other teams.
  • Joba Chamberlain agreed to a deal with the Tigers.
  • Roberto “Fausto Carmona” Hernandez signed with the Phillies.
  • As we go to press, the Cubs have signed free agent pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada. Wada, formerly of the Japanese league, was signed by the Orioles before the 2012 season – and immediately underwent Tommy John surgery. He was recuperating last year, so he may be ready to go full-steam ahead now. This is the classic Theo/Jed buy-low reclamation project. There’s virtually no risk, since it’s a minor league deal. Don’t look for him to begin the year in the rotation – although he did get an invite to Spring Training.
  • The two big names that are on everyone’s mind are, obviously, Jeff Samardzija and Masahiro Tanaka. In fact, I think the lack of movement on these two, plus David Price, was responsible for the “frozen” state of the winter meetings. Once Tanaka is posted (and signs with someone), the market for Price and Shark should crystalize relatively quickly. I’m too scared to even make a prediction on Tanaka. For Shark, I was thinking that he was definitely going to be traded this offseason. Now? I think it’s 50/50 that we go into the season with Shark and see if we can’t catch a team desperate (either through injury or an unexpected good season) at the trade deadline. Since there’s absolutely no panic to trade him right now, I think Theo will wait it out to get the best possible return. If 2 months of Garza can net Edwards and Olt, we really should wait for a much bigger return for Shark, considering he’s under control for 2 more years.
  • MLB, in an attempt to curb collisions at home plate, is outlawing plate-blocking by catchers and “targeting” by baserunners.
  • Ron Coomer is your new Cubs radio analyst.
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GirlieView (12/12/2013)

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

GirlieView Definitions

  • Lizzie = A funny, timely quote made on the VFTB site by our writers or commenters.
  • Lizard = The best Lizzie.
  • MVL = Most Valuable Lizzie’er: The person with the most Lizzies in the period under review (usually the past two weeks.)
  • Top 10 of the 2013/2014 Offseason = The folks with the most aggregate Lizzie points YTD (1 point for every Lizzie, 3 points for every Lizard.)

As you already know, this is all completely subjective and according to my whims.


  • Here’s to Kottaras adding a bunt, bloop, flare, duck snort, cattle fart or texas leaguer to every 10 at bats to make the saber world quiver. OPA!
  • They are pretty reserved when it comes to duck snorts, due to the vagaries of ducks snorts snorted into the field of play.
  • Why does it worry me when I read “I think Cubs fans will realize quickly how good we had it last year”….???
  • Joe, just how large is your closet that you have all of these old scouting reports in them? Is there room for clothing?
  • I only wear a fig leaf.
  • Did I not tell you? I only wear a fig leaf. They take up little to no room in the closet. I went that route as the scouting reports began to pile up.
  • Happy 50th Birthday to Dr. Raker! On the downward slope to 100 now.
  • There is, of course, no fool like an old fool. Don’t forget to pack your Metamucil.
  • It’s riddled with discontentment and complaints over what we have, coupled with excessive whining over what we don’t have.
  • Fans of a team that simply are exhausted.
  • Did Shark steal your girlfriend at some point?
  • Maybe the Cubs should field a Japanese team. Then we would either win their championship or be a failure on two continents.
  • Stop. You had me at “Stick your hands in my sack and pull out a marble.”
  • Preceded by “Close your eyes.”
  • As so long as DB has developed an out-pitch this off-season, I’m fine with this move.
  • Dude is an OF.
  • Anything can happen when the hot stove is cooking with gas, Chuck.


  • Close your eyes. Stick your hands in my sack and pull out a marble.

Shout Outs

  • Congratulations to Chuck, Doug S, Jerry in Wisconsin, and Sherm for winning their first off-season Lizzies this time around.


  • Congratulations to Joe Aiello our Most Valuable Lizzie’er this time!

Top 10 of the 2013/2014 Offseason (one point for each Lizzie, three points for the Lizard)

1. Sean Powell
2. jswanson
3. Doc Raker
3. Joe Aiello
5. cap’n Obvious
5. Seymour Butts
7. Noah
8. Eddie von White
8. Jedi Johnson
8. Doug S.

Chit Chat

  • I got nothin’. Who wants to suggest a topic?
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The Winter Meetings are Happening. Aren’t They?

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

The Winter Meetings are happening as we speak.


You know, where baseball guys get together and do baseball stuff. Only this time, Theo and Jed seem to have missed the memo. The Cubs have done nothing. Nada. Zilch. Other teams have been doing plenty.


For example: Did you know that Curtis Granderson signed with the Mets last week? I didn’t. Turns out the same day that Robbie Cano signed his ridiculous deal, Granderson slipped from The Bronx to Queens right under our noses! What a sneaky guy! He’s only locked up for four years, so maybe he’ll have a good year or two left and he’ll bring his talents to the North Side. He is a Chicago native, after all. He belongs here.


The other Chicago team has made a deal as well. The White Sox acquired Adam Eaton in a trade that sent Hector Santiago to the Angels, Tyler Skaggs (from AZ) to LAA, and Mark Trumbo and two prospects to Arizona. I never would have imagined Trumbo moving. But you can describe baseball in just three words: “You just never know.”


I will admit I was sad when Trumbo went to AZ. Now, you SABR-heads probably are not that sad, because something about his OBP  wasn’t that great. But he hits for power, and Lord knows we need power. And starting pitching, infield defense, outfield defense, plate patience, guys with high OBP, and bullpen help.


Am I the only one whose head is reeling, trying to figure out what Theo and Jed are doing? Why they are doing nothing? WHAT ARE THEY DOING? I’m assuming it’s huge. It probably won’t be, but I like to entertain that thought in my head, just to keep things interesting.


If it wasn’t evident by the writing leading up to this point, I am anxious to see what Theo and Jed do. I would have liked to snag someone like Curtis Granderson and/or Mark Trumbo, but there is still time to find players with similar abilities for a much more affordable price. I don’t know where they are, but I’m trusting that Theo and Jed do.

I’m going to be very transparent and honest here. Bear with me:

I’m glad we have a (seemingly) spectacular farm system. But it seems like if we want well-developed players (which we do!) we are going to have to wait a few years. I’m tired of waiting. I can’t even imagine how my 104-year-old Aunt Rubie feels about it, let alone my father who is a mere three months away from senior citizen status.

Be honest, no need to sugarcoat anything (or be ruthlessly brash, either), but tell me how you really feel about what’s going on. I love being optimistic, but I’m getting worn out! I have faith that Theo and Jed will make good decisions. I just want to see them happening very, very soon.


Maybe by this time next week I’ll have learned how to be a little more patient. I’ll see you on the flip side!

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