Archive for December, 2013

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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Offseason Series: The Rule 5 Draft a/k/a the Irrelevant Draft

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

The Rule 5 Draft gets a fair amount of attention during the Winter Meetings, particularly as a last day event with the word “draft” in it that the casual fan can pay a bit of attention to. In effect, though, the Rule 5 Draft lacks, and for at least a decade has lacked, any real importance, outside of one player, for nearly a decade.

 How Does the Rule 5 Draft Work?

When a team acquires an amateur player, either through the draft or as an international amateur signee, the team owns the exclusive rights to the player for four years if the player is 19 or over on the date he is acquired, and for five years if the player is 18 or under, without having to place the player on the 40 man roster. We previously discussed the 40 man roster, but as a short recap, the 40 man roster is designed to allow a team to retain the rights of players who are not on its active, 25 man roster.

After those four or five years, the team must place the player on its 40 man roster, or he is available to other teams in the Rule 5 Draft. The Rule 5 Draft’s order is determined in the same way as the Rule 4 Draft, which is the amateur draft that occurs each June: worst record the prior season goes first, World Series champ goes last. To pick a player, a team must have an open spot on its 40 man roster prior to the Rule 5 Draft. Once a team does not pick a player in a round of the Rule 5 Draft, it is not allowed to pick again. The draft ends when a round occurs in which no team makes a pick. The Rule 5 Draft, as a matter of course, never goes beyond three rounds or so.

There is a significant catch to a player picked up in the Rule 5 Draft: he must remain on the active roster of the team that picks him for the entire next season, or be offered back to his prior team. This often means carrying dead weight on an active roster because a player is only exposed to the Rule 5 Draft if his prior team not only does not think the player is not yet ready to contribute to an active roster, but also is not worth protecting on the 40 man roster.

There is a significant caveat to this, as a player picked in the Rule 5 Draft can spend significant portions of time on the disabled list without being offered back to his prior team. According to the rule, a player must be active on the 25 man roster (in other words, not on the disabled list) for at least 90 days to not be offered back to his prior team. As a result, after a couple of months you will often see a player picked up in the Rule 5 Draft develop a mysterious injury and be quick placed on the 60 day disabled list, which opens up not only a spot on the active roster, but also a spot on the 40 man roster.

What Is the Purpose of the Rule 5 Draft?

The idea behind the Rule 5 Draft is that it prevents teams from stashing prospects in its minor league system when they could be on a Major League roster for another organization. A player who may not be worth placing on a minor league roster on one team due to a positional glut may be be worthy of an active roster spot on another team that is thin at the same position.

Why the Rule 5 Draft Does Not Do What It Is Intended To

Until the 2006 collective bargaining agreement, the cut offs for when a player had to be put on a 40 man roster or be exposed to the Rule 5 Draft were a year earlier. So teams had to make some really tough choices with talented players, with the most famous recent(ish) example being Johan Santana in 1999. Now, it’s much rarer. Indeed, only one player since the Rule 5 Draft changes has made a big impact with the team that selected him in the Rule 5 Draft, and that was Josh Hamilton. Hamilton was a special exception for a whole host of reasons, as a former number 1 pick whose team felt they could no longer keep him around due to bad history.

The 2013 Rule 5 Draft and the Cubs

The Cubs will not be active in the Rule 5 Draft because they do not have a pick in the draft. Two years ago, the Cubs selected Phillies’ pitching prospect Lendy Castillo in the Rule 5 Draft, and proceeded to do the DL dance with him. This is technically disallowed, although as Sean Powell noted on Friday, every team does it. But as Ruben Amaro does not really understand how to properly value player personnel, he wanted an extra Rule 5 pick and filed a grievance against the Cubs, which was granted.

The Cubs are unlikely to have anyone of significance drafted. The only available players would largely be fringy relievers who you would never miss. The only really talented player who is unprotected is second baseman Gioskar Amaya, but Amaya has not played above Low A and it is highly, highly unlikely that a team could stash a position player with that level of experience on its active roster as required by the CBA.

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As Winter Meetings Begin, Where Exactly Does This Roster Stand?

Monday, December 9th, 2013

If you’re like me, you’ve been anxiously watching Twitter for any nugget with which to grasp at as far as Cubs news. Today we take a look at the current roster to see where we stand as we head into the winter meetings.

Theo was interviewed and said the Cubs goal going into the meetings was to come away with an outfielder, starting pitcher, and bullpen help. An unspoken goal is to also come away with depth in the farm as a result of trading Jeff Samardzija. Let’s go position by position to see if perhaps there are other needs as well.

Catcher

At the beginning of the off-season, a lot of talk from the rumor mill was that the Cubs were possibly interested in pursuing a free agent catcher, despite the fact that Wellington Castillo had himself a pretty nice year in the full time role. As of right now, he figures to be the starting catcher going into opening day with newly acquired George Kottaras playing the role of backup. We got a little spoiled last year with having Dioner Navarro in that role, but I think Kottaras will do a serviceable job. I posted an old scouting report on him a few days ago that gives me hope that he can fill the role when needed. There really is no heir apparent waiting in the wings down on the farm so the job appears to be Castillo’s for the foreseeable future. I feel OK at the position, though I could see why some projected the team to be in the market for a catcher. Long term, I don’t think Castillo is the answer, but for now, he’ll do.

First Base

For some reason, I seem to be the only one on Twitter that is worried about this position. I’m not really worried about Anthony Rizzo, but rather the lack of depth at the position should Rizzo need a day off or get injured for any period of time. Currently on the 40 man roster, there really isn’t a good name out there to serve as the backup. In my opinion, that’s a huge mistake. I’d really like to see the Cubs go out and sign a name to a one year deal to help backup, but also help mold Rizzo and team him the way of the position. He’s got the skill set to be a star in the league so he could use a mentor to help him achieve and deal with that. New coach, Eric Hinske should help a little, as he played the position as recently as last season, but the relationship with a coach is different compared to one with a fellow player.

James Loney is one of the names that stands out on the market at the position, but you’re not going to get someone like that to take a backup role. He’s looking for a starting job. Looking further, I find two names that would fit the bill and give the Cubs a nice veteran to help RizzoCarlos Pena and Lyle Overbay. Both would give the Cubs power off the bench and would be a veteran presence on a team fairly full of younger names. The downside is that neither are versatile when it comes to being able to play other positions on the field, so it probably means both are ruled out. Never fear, I have another name later in the piece.

Second Base

You know my feelings on this position. I’m not a Darwin Barney guy. I have nothing against him. In fact, I’m rooting for myself to be wrong, but to simply go into the season blind with him as your starter is irresponsible. As of this time last week, there was talk that he would be non-tendered. The Cubs decided to keep in the fold, but his days are probably numbered. Even now, there are rumors that the Oakland A’s have interest in the services of both him and Nate Schierholtz.

There are a few options should Barney get off to a poor start, but really, all eyes are on Javier Baez. Should he show enough early in the season to force the Cubs hand for a promotion, we would see either him or Starlin Castro shifted to second base. For now, I can see Logan Watkins and Luis Valbuena coming off the bench to back up the position.

Shortstop

Maybe I’m crazy, but I really think 2014 is going to be a coming out party for Starlin Castro. I think he’s going to feel the heat from Baez down on the farm and the new regime will be able to reach him. One of the main reasons the Cubs wanted a manger with the ability to speak Spanish was to reach Castro. I went on record last year and said that Castro would lead the NL in hits. I was a little off on that, but this year I think he’ll get close. 200 hits should be his goal with continued improvement in the field. If he can do that, there is no reason to move him from the position should Baez get promoted. Other than Barney, there really isn’t a great option to back him up, but I think we found last year that days off will be important for him. He wore down last year and I think the days that Dale benched him did him well. We saw him close the year out with a .259 / .302 / .361 slash line in the month of September, and while that’s not overly impressive, it was improvement over the month before. I may be grasping at straws here, but I still believe.

Third Base

Close your eyes. Stick your hands in my sack and pull out a marble. On it is written the name of a potential third base occupant. Mike Olt? Donnie Murphy? Valbuena? Watkins? Heck, I know he’s playing in the outfield now, but even Josh Vitters could see some time at the position. Who will establish themselves as the starter is anyone’s guess. I can make a case for all of them. Ultimately, I think the Cubs will give every opportunity to Olt to show his skills and reach the potential that many have projected for him. As of now, he doesn’t even make the depth chart on Cubs.com at the position, but I can’t see how he isn’t the organization’s choice if all things are equal. The question then becomes when does Kris Bryant hit enough to earn the trip to Chicago and claim the position. If Olt shines, then we may see Bryant shifted to the OF. If not, I’d think that Bryant will remain at the position and be the heir to Aramis Ramirez.

Outfield

I tweeted over the weekend:

Unfortunately that’s where we stand. Obviously that could change in a heartbeat should the Cubs go big in their quest for an outfielder at the winter meetings, but assuming they don’t, the outfield is a tad bit underwhelming, but also brimming with talent on the farm. As of right this second, I think we see an outfield of Junior Lake, Ryan Sweeney, and Schierholtz from left to right with Brian Bogusevic as the 4th outfielder. Beyond that we’ve got a bit of a hole. In fact, we really don’t have anyone on the 40 man roster to fill the 5th outfield spot. Vitters has been working on the position and should have the opportunity to compete for the spot, but that’s not guaranteed. You’ve got to hit to be able to stay, especially when outfield is a new position for him. Here is where my ideas come into play.

Let’s assume that the rumors are true that the Cubs are interested in Shin Soo Choo. Word out of the winter meetings have his camp asking for a seven year deal worth somewhere in the range of $125 – $150 million. That’s a lot of money to invest in a guy when you have names on the cusp of coming to the Majors real soon. It just doesn’t make sense to me. Instead, I’d look for temporary fixes that can be versatile and add power to the lineup. Corey Hart seems like a slam dunk fit. He can play first as well as outfield and can hit for power. Coming off injuries, it’s the exact type of player the Cubs try to bring in. A guy slightly down on his luck and looking to rebound. A one or even two year deal for a small amount of money should get it down. It would also gives the team flexibility when it comes to dealing Schierholtz while not taking up a space should Albert Almora, Jorge Soler, Brett Jackson, or Matt Szcur develop and be ready for a spot.

Starting Pitcher

There is a very good chance that Samardzija is no longer on this roster when the calendar turns over to 2014. Should that be the case, it leaves just a few names on the roster who can fill the role of a starting pitcher. Travis Wood is an obvious choice as is Edwin Jackson. From there, you figure to pencil in Chris Rusin and Jake Arrieta based on their performance in 2013. With the Cubs desire to come away from the winter meetings with a starting pitcher, I took to the list to see what was available and came up with a few names to consider.

Scott Baker – He was the reclamation project that didn’t quite get off the ground last year. Could he be in line for another shot?

Tommy Hanson – Still so very young and based on what we’ve heard about Chris Bosio, why can’t he turn things around?

James McDonald – Like Hanson, he’s still relatively young and showed flashes of really good when he was with Pittsburgh.

All three are low risk guys that could turn into mid-season swaps should we hit.

Down on the farm, a sleeper name to keep an eye on would be Kyle Hendricks. In 27 starts last year, he finished the season with an ERA of 2.00 and only allowed five home runs all year. He’s not a guy that will blow you away with his stuff, but he doesn’t walk guys and stays out of trouble as a result. He is someone who could easily continue to develop and fill a spot in that rotation this season.

Bullpen

My least favorite thing about the team to write about is the bullpen. It’s so hit or miss so I’ll keep it short. Pedro Strop is my closer. From there I fill my pen like this:

- James Russell
- Kyuji Fujikawa
- Blake Parker
- Carlos Villanueva
- Arodys Vizcaino

From there I look to make a play for a name that has been rumored all weekend, John Axford. He would be a nice veteran addition coming off a very nice close to his 2013 season. If not, Hector Rondon probably gets the call.

That’s it. How do you feel?

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Could Samardzija Be On His Way To Atlanta?

Friday, December 6th, 2013

Happy Friday! The hot stove is cooking with gas these days. The Cubs haven’t been very active (as expected), but there’s still plenty of speculation to enjoy.

  • Nick Piecoro reports that Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers is more likely to seek a starting pitcher through trade than free agency, but they’ve indicated that they won’t consider trading stud prospect Archie Bradley. Hmm…I still think the Cubs should hold out for the best possible package, but would a deal centering around Tyler Skaggs be enough?
  • In a column on mlb.com, Anthony Castrovince says that “Samardzija would be bargain compared to Price” adding that he has comparable upside, but wouldn’t cost a team as much in trade. Obviously, Price has historically been a much better pitcher than Shark, but the future is what matters. Remember, Price had some arm trouble last year, and his velocity has declined over the last few years. As we’ve seen, though, many teams tend to (over) pay for past performance rather than future potential (see the Ellsbury deal for the most recent, ridiculous example).
  • David O’Brien, Atlanta beat writer, tweeted about some potential interest by the Braves in Shark. Eh, I like their major league pitchers better than their prospects, but I’m not sure we could net any of those.
  • The Phillies filed a grievance with against the Cubs over the “mystery” injury that landed Lendy Castillo (whom the Cubs had to stash on their 40-man) on the DL for what the Phillies considered an inordinate amount of time. Teams do this all the time in order to keep a Rule 5 player and free up a roster spot, but it seems as though the Cubs have been called out on this one. The result is that the Cubs will lose their Rule 5 draft pick this year (they likely wouldn’t have selected anyone anyway, but you can be that at least one of the Cubs unprotected players will be selected).
  • Reportedly, Arodys Vizcaino has been throwing 98 mph with “electric” (according to Theo) stuff. That’s nice to hear! I’m predicting Vizcaino will be the Cubs closer at some point if he can stay healthy.
  • Bringing up Theo Epstein around here can be a dicey proposition, but I think it’s worth reading this quote (from his Sportstalk Live interview). Agree with it or not, I think it’s a nice capsulation of his philosophy. Think about this in contrast with some of the moves the Cubs made before his arrival: “When I see a deal like that [the Jacoby Ellsbury to the Yankees deal], I say: ‘Look, (who) wouldn’t rather have the first seven years of a star player’s career for $30 million versus the second seven years for $130 million or $150 million?’  You want the first seven years for $30 million and hopefully you work out a deal and you can keep him.”

I’m excited to see all the rumors that will start flying once the Winter Meetings start on Monday. Have a great weekend, and enjoy the hot stove!

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Keep Your Heads Up Cubs Fans

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

This is a post for Cubs fans.

Fans of a team that, at the moment, are seemingly spinning their wheels in the proverbial mud.  Fans of a team that with each new signing, trade, and scrap of news loose a little bit of hope.  Fans of a team that simply are exhausted.

Where do you fall in? Optimistic? Pessimistic? Confused by the big words (This isn’t a White Sox blog!)?

Everyday I turn on my computer and iphone hoping for a glimmer of life.  A team that is in desperate need of outfielders, pitching, bullpen help, and quality bench players.  That is a lot of needs right?  Not really.  A lot of teams need a lot of things.  They also make desperation plays like trading Doug Fister for a mediocre prospect and some bullpen help.  Do you want to be that team?  Or do you want to be the team that is okay with sending a stud prospect like Taijuan Walker to the Rays for David Price, arm issues and all?  (Hasn’t happened but is rumored)

My biggest issue when waking up and looking at the Cubs news it the pessimism.  Everyone realizes that you aren’t bound by any contractual relationship to be a Cubs fan?  Now this isn’t a holier than though piece.  This is simply a slow your ‘tude message.  A lot of back and forth on message boards and disgust being thrown around.

Take a chill pill fans.  Take a moment to realize that we have one of the best, if not the best, farm systems in the entire league.  Hit or miss that is an accomplishment.  You can’t hit on prospects if you don’t have them to begin with.  Not only that, it will be better before the end of this off season mark my words.  More talent will be infused in this system that will provide ample opportunity to lead to success in the near future.

I don’t want to be a fan of a middle of the road team.  I like seeing a team contend.  If they can’t contend this year, so be it.  At the very least I don’t have unreasonable expectations.  We have a very honest and open front office.  They are spreading unreasonable expectations.

Here are some things you can look forward to in the next 90 days:

1. Trades for B to B+ pitching prospects that are a year or two from ready

2. Signing of more flippable assets

3. A significant trade that changes next season (this is a toss up, most likely for the worse)

4. A major play for Tanaka

Keep your heads up Cubs fans.  All isn’t lost.

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What In The Sam Heck Just Happened?

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

In case you missed it:

Jacoby Ellsbury signed with the Yankees for a 7-year/$153 million deal.

The Rockies traded Dexter Fowler to the Astros for OF Brandon Barnes and OF Jordan Lyles.

Ricky Nolasco signed a 4-year deal with the Twins.

Brian McCann and the Yankees agreed to a 5-year deal.

The Rangers are trying to kill their (female) fans and traded Craig Gentry yesterday.

Tampa Bay acquired Ryan Hanigan (C, Reds) and Heath Bell.

Miami acquired Saltalamacchia.

John Axford remains unsigned.

Oh, and the Cubs named Eric Hinske as the new first base coach.

 

The baseball hot stove has been on fire! Like it or not, the Cubs haven’t done anything drastic thus far. Personally, I like it. I am mostly glad that Schierholtz hasn’t been in any major trade rumors. Samardzija has, but nothing intriguing or good has been offered for him. If the price is right I’d be glad to see him go… But that price would include a Jose Fernandez-type arm that nobody realizes is that great until he starts pitching. Is that too much to ask?

 

All of this craziness has kept the baseball side of Twitter very interesting. News drops as soon as it happens and the rumor mills are constantly spinning. There is a lot of good information, reasonable and logical ideas for trades, and intelligent conversation.

On the other hand you have the people who say that AAA pitchers are old and washed up, and AA pitchers far superior. That being said, certain third basemen prospects who excelled in AA will do fine in the Majors because AAA performances mean nothing.

Ah, baseball. It brings out the best in us. It brings out the worst in us.

I miss it. I miss shaking my head and my fist at my TV when they do something dumb. I miss cheering over home runs that mean nothing.

But until then we can feast on ridiculous trades and speculations. And Christmas is coming soon! If you could give a (realistic) Christmas list to Theo and Jed, who would be on it? Do you have your Christmas shopping done? I do. I am so excited!

 

Until next Wednesday, I leave you with glad tidings of baseball news.

 

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MLB Transactions Galore and All We Got Was This Lousy First Base Coach

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

On Tuesday, Cubs manager Rick Renteria completed his coaching staff by naming Hinske as the first-base coach. Hinske just recently retired from the MLB playing with seven teams over his 1,387 games in the big leagues. As you may expect he won’t have any previous coach experience which makes this an interesting signing for the Cubs. Hinske joins pitching Chris Bosio, bench coach Brandon Hyde, third-base coach Gary Jones, hitting coach Bill Mueller, bullpen coach Lester Strode, catching coach Mike Borzello, assistant hitting coach Mike Brumley on Reneria’s staff. Hinske should provide valuable information and will be able to relate to the players right away as he just retired. He will however have to get adjusted to Wrigley Field as Muskat points out he has only played 12 career games at Wrigley Field.

Carrie Muskat the MLB.com reporter for the Cubs previews next week’s winter meetings suggesting that the Cubs are still after pitching but not flippable arms like they have signed in the past two seasons. They also will be looking for a closer as Carlos Marmol departed through trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Kevin Gregg is a free agent. The key thing stressed throughout the article is the Cubs are on a tight budget and can’t do much with signing the top guys to long term contracts. Muskat also evaluates the third base options for next year including Luis Valbuena and Mike Olt.

Major Deals around the MLB: 

Yankees Sign Jacoby Ellsbury: Jacoby Ellsbury to the Yankees for 7 years and 153 million pending a Wednesday Physical: Ellsbury to the Yankees was a bit of a shocker as they still have Robinson Cano as a a free agent. Ellsbury resembled after mentioned Johnny Damon who also played with the Boston Red Sox then signed with the Yankees. The deal is 11 million more than Carl Crawford signed with the Boston Red Sox as a free agent in 2010. To put into perspective the Red Sox will be paying AJ Pierzynski and David Ortiz 22 million for 2014 while the Yankees will be paying 22 million for Ellsbury.

Athletics Trade Seth Smith for Luke Gregerson: Billy Beane has been very active this off-season already trading Jemile Weeks for closer Jim Johnson and signing free agent Scott Kazmir. The Athletics bolstered their bullpen by trading fourth outfielder Seth Smith for eighth inning man Luke Gregerson. Gregerson has been quite the reliever for the Padres as the past two season he has pitched 150 games out of the bullpen and registered a 2.55 earned run average. Gregerson is 29 years old and signed a 3.2 million dollar arbitration contract with the Padres which will be his salary with the Athletics for the 2014 season.

Athletics Acquired OF Craig Gentry and RHP Josh Lindblom from Texas Rangers for OF Michael Choice and INF Chris Bostick. This trade was made prior to the Seth Smith trade which made Gentry viable to replace Coco Crisp if he leaves via free agency after the 2014 season. Lindbloom has moved around a lot as he was drafted by the Astros in 2005. He was apart of the Shane Victorino trade which sent him to Philadelphia and the Michael Young trade which sent him to Texas. He struggled with Texas last year pitching to a 5.46 earned run average in eight games. Michael Choice is the real prize of the deal as he projects to be a great prospect and future MLB player. Choice last year in Triple A hit for a .302 average across 510 at-bats while registering 89 runs batted in and 44 extra base hits. Gentry is regarded as a defensive player with a strong arm and range in the outfield.

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Offseason Series Part Two: Arbitration

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

After about a month away from the offseason series, we are moving into the hot and heavy part of the offseason, and will be doing a few of these offseason series pieces in a row. Today, we look at arbitration, which is particularly relevant right now since the deadline to tender arbitration to eligible players passed yesterday.

From a 40,000 foot view, arbitration is the ultimate compromise between the players and ownership. Players want to hit free agency, where they can offer their skills to the highest bidder, as quickly as possible. The owners want to keep the remnants of the reserve clause as much as humanly possible, controlling their players for as long as possible at as low of a cost as possible.

Ignoring Super 2 status, which I will discuss below, players with three to six years of service time in Major League Baseball are arbitration eligible. Prior to arbitration eligibility, teams have complete control of their players subject to minimum contract requirements set by the collective bargaining agreement. All the team must do is pay the mandated league minimum, which was $490,000 in 2013.

When a player enters arbitration, the control starts to swing his way. The team maintains control of the player, but the player has a say in what his salary will be. Most players are in arbitration for three seasons. The amount a player would make in each year of arbitration, if he made it to the arbitrator, is based upon confidential salary charts, but it is well known that the idea is to slowly increase the player’s salary in each year of arbitration. By the final year of arbitration, a player will often have a salary very similar to what his average annual value would be on the free agent market. The amount a player will make in arbitration is heavily affected by how good of a player he is, with star players making well over $10 million in their final years of arbitration.

The system is put in motion by the team tendering arbitration to an arbitration eligible player. If the team does not tender arbitration, the player becomes a free agent. This is how Nate Schierholtz came to the Cubs last season. A team that has tendered arbitration, however, offers a contract that is what it argues the player should be paid. The player responds with the number he believes he should be paid. Unsurprisingly, the player’s number is higher than the team’s.

Should the team and player not come to an agreement, they go to arbitration, where an independent arbitrator decides what the team pays the player in the upcoming year. Teams and players heavily disfavor actually going to arbitration, in large part because it forces a team to go in front of its player (or his representatives) as well as the arbitrator and point out the player’s flaws to show why the player should not get the amount he requested. This can poison the well and harm later attempts to re-sign or extend the player. Last season, not a single player in baseball actually went to the arbitrator, instead coming to agreements with their teams prior to reaching that point.

The other complicating issue is the Super 2 player. The actual cut off for arbitration eligibility is not three years of Major League service time, but instead players with at least two years of service time who are also among the top 22 percent of players in cumulative playing time for players with at least two but less than three years of MLB service time, if the player spent at least 86 days of the prior season on a MLB active roster. These players are known as Super 2 players, and they have four years of arbitration instead of three. Each of the last two years are paid at the third year arbitration rate, which attaches to the highest salary. Under the current CBA, a team must typically wait until late June or early July to call up a prospect if they wish to avoid Super 2 status. Had Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo not signed long term extensions and instead gone into the arbitration system, they both would be on the Super 2 track.

As a final note, we return to the Nate Schierholtz situation. When a team signs an otherwise arbitration eligible player who was not tendered arbitration by his prior team as a free agent, the signing team also accrues any additional arbitration seasons the player has left. As such, the Cubs had the ability to, and in fact did, tender arbitration to Schierholtz for his third and final year of arbitration.

Last night, the Cubs tendered arbitration to the following players:

Darwin Barney – 2B (first year)
James Russell – LHP (second year)
Jeff Samardzija – RHP(second year)
Nate Schierholtz – OF (third year)
Pedro Strop – RHP (first year)
Luis Valbuena – IF (second year)
Travis Wood – LHP (first year)

Prior to the tender deadline, the Cubs agreed to contracts with backup catcher George Kottaras and infielder Donnie Murphy. Kottaras’s contract is a one year, $1.075 million deal. 2014 will be Kottaras’s final year of arbitration eligibility before hitting free agency. Murphy’s contract is a one year, $825,000 deal. There are rumors that the Cubs are talking with some NPB teams about sending Murphy’s rights to Japan in exchange for cash, similar to the deal the Cubs made regarding Bryan LaHair a year ago. Murphy has arbitration years remaining after 2014.

The Cubs did not tender arbitration to right handed relief pitcher Daniel Bard or infielder Mat Gamel. They may be looking to bring both players, who are looking to come back off injuries, back on minor league contracts.

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Winds of Change Blowing as Non-Tender Day Arrives?

Sunday, December 1st, 2013

This weekend, which was supposed to be a weekend of being thankful for what you have, I noticed something. I noticed that the society we live in these days is a fickle one. It’s riddled with discontentment and complaints over what we have, coupled with excessive whining over what we don’t have. We live in a world that is quick to dismiss what they have as soon as something goes awry. Take Saturday and Sunday for example. If you missed it, Nick Saban made a call to go for a really long field goal to win the game against Auburn, only to see that decision blow up in his face as the attempt fell short and was returned for a game winning return for the ages. Sunday, the Bears had a chance to win the game in overtime and elected to kick a field goal on 2nd down instead of continuing to push closer to the prize. The field goal missed and the Bears lost. Immediately following both losses, I took to Twitter to see what the masses had to say. In both cases, people we calling for both coaches job, which is absurd.

Monday is an important day for the roster as the Cubs need to determine the fate of a lot of players by tendering them a contract or parting ways with them. The Cub Reporter had a nice piece talking more about the process and I would encourage you to read it. That post got me thinking about a player in particular and whether or not the Cubs should call for his job.

Darwin Barney is coming off his worst season, which was coming off his best season. If we subscribe to the what have you done for me lately school of thought, the logical conclusion would be to non-tender him or try to move him. While the Cubs still may try to move him, I don’t think he’ll be a non-tender casualty tomorrow. But should he? We’ve talked about it before, but to remind you, in 2013, Barney posted a -0.5 WAR. Some will argue that his defense makes up for his offensive shortcomings, but this number indicates that it doesn’t. His defense doesn’t even get him to replacement level, let alone serviceable starter. I want to be patient and trust that he’ll rebound, but I fear the rumors that the Tigers were interested in his services for the stretch run in 2012 may never come back and he’ll end up being the player we saw last year.

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