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10 Bold Predictions for 2014 – How Did I Do?

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

At the beginning of the season, I made some predictions for what I thought would potentially happen. Obviously when you’re making bold predictions, you don’t expect all of them to come true. I find it funny that most people just crank these things out and no one usually goes back to see how they did. Today we’re going to do just that. Off we go.

1. Mike Olt will lead the team in home runs - OK, we’re off to a no so good start here. I didn’t think Olt was going to be a monster at the plate, though I hoped he would, but I didn’t expect him to struggle as much as he did. He said his eyesight was better and that it was the cause the year before for his struggles. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case and Olt finished 5th on the team in home runs with 12, behind Anthony Rizzo (32), Luis Valbuena (16), Starlin Castro (14), and Welington Castillo (13).

At this point, I’m not really sure what the future holds for Olt. He’s generally dropped out of the discussion as a future building block, so now the question is what his role might actually be. I fear he may go the route of someone like Josh Vitters and just sort of fade off into the Cubs sunset. The one thing he has going for him this year and probably this year only, is that Kris Bryant won’t be called up immediately. He has a very small window of shared time at third base with Valbuena where he could impress. It may be his last shot.

2. Javier Baez will have started at least 15 games at shortstop for the Cubs by September 1. – While he only make five starts at shortstop before Sept 1, he did play basically the entire month of August, which was the point of the exercise here. My point was that Baez was going to be up and starting sooner than September 1 and I just figured it would be at shortstop.

3. Anthony Rizzo will finish in the top 10 for the NL MVP race - Had Rizzo not gone down for a period with an injury, he would have finished higher in the ballot. Nonetheless, it was announced the other day that he just squeeked out a win for me on this one with a 10th place finish in the NL MVP vote. That makes 2-for-3 so far.

4. Kyle Hendricks will make at least 10 starts for the Cubs - I knocked this one out of the park. 10 starts was a really bold prediction given that a starter, if healthy, only makes about 33-35 starts, and the fact that the Cubs had five guys pretty much locked into the rotation to start the year. Hendricks looked far better than I would have predicted, but I think we’ll see a strong regression to the mean in 2015 for him and he’ll settle in as a back end of the rotation guy. It’s tough to be more than that as a finesse pitcher, but maybe he’ll prove us wrong.

5. Pedro Strop will finish the season with more saves than Jose Veras - I feel bad taking a win on this one, but it is what it is. Strop finished the season with two saves and Veras had just one. Veras looked better pitching for Houston, but I’m fine with us releasing him when we did.

6. The bullpen will finish in the top 5 in the NL for ERA - It’s not a win for me on this one, but my point in the prediction was that this bullpen was going to be much improved. For a bullpen that finished 13th in 2013, an improvement to 8th is what I was going for. I can’t find a site that will allow for a double split to sort as a bullpen and month by month, but I would venture to guess that the pen was top five or just outside of it each month after Veras was released and Carlos Villanueva stopped getting in games as consistently late.

7. More than one player will represent the Cubs in the All Star game. - Nope. [UPDATE] I was told to give myself credit for this one. Rizzo was added by vote later. I don’t tend to count that spot, but I’ll take it.

8. Castro will be traded by the July 31 deadline and Darwin Barney will not.Got this one completely backward. I thought someone would want to trade for Castro and that the front office would make that deal. I also thought Barney had no value whatsoever. Instead, it’s Barney leaving and the Cubs receiving Jonathan Martinez in return.

9. People will quickly see why Arodys Vizcaino was considered a top prospect when he announces his presence with authority after being recalled from Iowa and becomes one of the top arms in the pen. – Boy, I really thought he was going to be huge for this pen. In fact, all spring training I predicted he would make the opening day roster. Instead, he was traded back to the Braves last week.

10. The Cubs will win 81 games in 2014 - I must have meant 2015.

Final Total – 5 out of 10

 

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Jon Lester Close to Signing with the Cubs?

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

With the Russell Martin signing in Toronto, Cubs fans are up in arms about losing a guy that I feel is now an overpriced, aging pitch framer. Sure, he had a good offensive season last season, but overall, he’s not the best offensive catcher these days.

Year Age Tm PA 2B 3B HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2006 23 LAD 468 26 4 10 45 57 .282 .355 .436 .792
2007 ★ 24 LAD 620 32 3 19 67 89 .293 .374 .469 .843
2008 ★ 25 LAD 650 25 0 13 90 83 .280 .385 .396 .781
2009 26 LAD 588 19 0 7 69 80 .250 .352 .329 .680
2010 27 LAD 387 13 0 5 48 61 .248 .347 .332 .679
2011 ★ 28 NYY 476 17 0 18 50 81 .237 .324 .408 .732
2012 29 NYY 485 18 0 21 53 95 .211 .311 .403 .713
2013 30 PIT 506 21 0 15 58 108 .226 .327 .377 .703
2014 31 PIT 460 20 0 11 59 78 .290 .402 .430 .832
9 Yrs 4640 191 7 119 539 732 .259 .354 .399 .754
162 Game Avg. 646 27 1 17 75 102 .259 .354 .399 .754

Don’t discouraged that the Cubs didn’t overpay. Even Paul Sullivan knows better. Instead the Cubs have made the news with the fact that Jon Lester met with Theo and Jed in Chicago today and is scheduled to meet with the Braves and the Cardinals. I’m not sure why he would sign with the Braves given the fact that they may be signalling a rebuild with the trade of Jason Heyward and my guess is that while St Louis has interest, it may be a ploy to visit the rival to try to garner a little more money. In the end, I think it comes down to the Cubs and the Red Sox. I believe Lester is the Cubs primary off-season target and to lose out on him would be a slight kick in the rebuild seeds, but not something that would knock everything off course. In the unfortunate event that Lester does not choose Chicago, there are a lot of names on the free agent market this off-season and next to keep the rebuild right on track.

  • MLB Trade Rumors posted about the idea that Travis Wood may be a non-tender possibility this off-season. While Wood didn’t have the best of years, I believe in his talent and I’d like to see him be a part of the rotation in 2015.
  • Jim Bowden of ESPN Insider (Subscription Required) had a post about four potential trades for Cole Hammels. As you might guess, the Cubs made the list with a package of CJ Edwards, Billy McKinney and Albert Almora, to which I say ‘No Way’. I believe Almora is going to be a key outfield piece at the top of the order in the next couple years. Edwards I think may end up being a late inning guy due to his frame and McKinney I could take or leave. Almora is the key and that deal and I’m not moving him.
  • Justin Masterston is a named that popped up on Twitter as a potential option for the Cubs. Theo and Jed have already said they won’t sign two big name guys, so Masterson seems to fit that mold of a guy on a low risk deal that could turn into another gem. I’d endorse this one.
  • Patrick Mooney reported that Jason Hammel and the Cubs have mutual interest in a reunion. I’d also be for this.
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Cubs Send Arodys Vizcaino back to Atlanta

Sunday, November 16th, 2014

 

The Cubs announced a swap with the Atlanta Braves today:

The Chicago Cubs today acquired infielder Tommy La Stella from the Atlanta Braves, as well as Atlanta’s number four international signing bonus slot, for right-handed pitcher Arodys Vizcaino and three international signing bonus slots (slot numbers two, three and four).

La Stella, 25, made his major league debut with the Braves last season and led National League rookies with 36 walks and a .328 on-base percentage (min. 300 plate appearances). In 93 games, he hit .251 (80-for-319) with 16 doubles, one home run and 31 RBI, and compiled a .984 fielding percentage (6 E/368 TC) in 88 games at second base. He began the year at Triple-A, his first time at that level, and hit .293 (49-for-167) with a .384 on-base percentage in 47 games for Gwinnett prior to his promotion to the majors.

The five-foot, 11-inch, 185-pound La Stella was named the Braves ninth-best prospect by Baseball America heading into last season. He owns a .322 (326-for-1,013) batting average and a .407 on-base percentage in 288 career minor league games since he was selected by the Braves in the eighth round of the 2011 Draft. La Stella has 136 walks compared to 102 strikeouts in 1,197 minor league plate appearances.

In 2013, La Stella was named Double-A Mississippi’s Most Valuable Player after he led the team with a .343 batting average (97-for-283) and a .422 on-base percentage in 81 games. He recorded a franchise-record 23-game hitting streak, July 5-August 5, in which he batted .386 (34-for-88). Additionally, La Stella was named to the 2013 Arizona Fall League’s Top Prospects team after batting .290 (18-for-62) in 18 games with the Scottsdale Scorpions.

La Stella, a left-handed batter and right-handed fielder, was named a Carolina League mid-season All-Star in 2012 with Single-A Lynchburg, a season in which he hit .397 in 23 games following the All-Star break. In 2011, his first pro season, he led Single-A Rome with a .328 batting average (76-for-232) in 63 games.

Vizcaino, 24, pitched in five September games for the Cubs last season and posted a 5.40 ERA (3 ER/5.0 IP) in his first major league action since undergoing Tommy John surgery in March of 2012. He was acquired from the Braves with right-handed pitcher Jaye Chapman, July 30, 2012, for left-handed pitcher Paul Maholm and outfielder Reed Johnson.

I admit, I’m saddened by this trade. I really felt like Vizcaino would be making a meaningful impact last season for the Cubs. He didn’t, but he was poised to make the opening day roster this season and be a power arm in the back of the pen. That said, I’d take a hitter over a bullpen arm any day of the week.

Given the fact that this international signing period, the Cubs figure to be penalized and not able to spend much anyway, don’t look much into the draft slot part of the deal from our side. The goal for the deal is trading a commodity that we didn’t have a use for (draft slots) and get a guy we valued higher than Vizcaino. I’m not sure I make this deal given the lack of playing time for La Stella in the infield, but that could be my Vizcaino bias kicking in.

Thoughts on the trade?

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Funtastic Friday – Two Truths and a Lie

Friday, November 7th, 2014

Before we get to the nonsense with this post, I figured we should get some housekeeping chores out of the way. So, let’s talk about some recent Cubs “news”

  • The Cubs signed Tsuyoshi Wada to a big league contract worth $4 million with incentives to earn more. The 33 year old lefty posted an ERA of 3.25 in 2014 over 13 starts. He figures to be in the mix for a rotation spot.
  • Justin Ruggiano and Ryan Sweeney were both added back to the 40 man roster after being activated from the 60 day DL. The 40 man roster stands at 37. Remember that players will big league deals need to be added as well as names we need to protect in the rule 5 draft. If there is going to be a “spending spree” this off-season,we’re going to see some guys moving off that 40 man roster.
  • Rumors recently have linked the Cubs to having interest in Russell Martin via free agency and Cole Hammels via trade.
  • 15 Cubs minor leaguers have been declared free agents according to MLB Rule 55. Those names include Josh Vitters and Marcos Mateo. View the full list.

We’re bringing this one back by popular demand. In case you were not around for the other two editions of the segment, the concept is simple. There are three statements below. Two are true and one is a lie. It’s up to you to determine which is which. All statements relate to me directly.

  1. I was a gymnast as a child
  2. I have met four US presidents personally in my lifetime
  3. I have never had a nosebleed in my lifetime

In the expansion era (1961 – 2014), only four Cubs hitters have posted a season which included at least 150 strikeouts. Can you name them?

NOTE: Next year this number will increase to five with the addition of Javier Baez.


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What Are Your Expectations for this Off-Season?

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

Free agency is open. Can you tell by the flurry of moves? It’s not like free agency in the NBA or the NFL. Things take some time to age and develop. As a result, we have some time to discuss.

As we head into the 2015 season, a lot of hype is beginning to surround this organization and particularly this off-season. Many predict the Cubs to be quite active on the market in prep for a contending team in the next two years. That leads to my question for discussion today.

What is your expectation for off-season moves this season? In other words, if the Cubs don’t do this, you’d be disappointed. Let’s get some good specific discussion going. Feel free to make predictions, post your off-season plan if you were the front office, etc. Or, just discuss the best toppings on a Subway meatball footlong. Your choice.


I thought this one would be fitting given the nature of the post.

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Free Agency Eve News Roundup

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014

If you read our piece on the key dates to know this off-season, you know that tomorrow begins the first day that free agents may sign with a new team. If you believe everything you read, then the Cubs should have a busy off-season signing everyone with a pulse. While I do think this will be an active off-season on the market for the Jed Hoyer, I don’t think the Cubs will completely break the bank and break from the idea that the core of the team is going to be the farm. It should be a fun time nonetheless, so let’s catch up on some news as we head into Monday.

Cubs Pick Up Option on Jacob Turner (Source) – Turner was acquired via trade with the Marlins in August and made eight appearances in a Cub uniform yielding not so great results. While the entire 2014 season was a bust for Turner (6-11, 6.13 ERA, 1.602 WHIP), the Cubs look more at the fact that Turner is just 23 years old and is a former top 10 overall pick in 2009. There is a lot of talent there and if someone like Chris Bosio can tap into it like he has with former castoffs like Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop, then the rotation gets a huge boost in depth all for the cost of just $1 mil. It’s a low risk, high reward move that the front office has hit on quiet often the last few years so I’ll trust their judgement on this one.

Arizona Fall League Update – Carrie Muskat posted some updated stats from the prospects in the system who are participating in the AFL

Dan Vogelbach: 15 games, .217, 2 doubles, 4 RBI
* Addison Russell: 11 games, .196, 2 home runs, 1 double, 10 RBIs
Jacob Hannemann: 11 games, .293, 3 doubles, 2 triples, 7 RBIs
Bijan Rademacher: 7 games, .333, 2 doubles, 1 triple, 3 RBIs

Gerardo Concepcion: 6 games, 10 1/3 innings, 7 earned runs, 10 hits, 7 walks, 6 strikeouts
C.J. Edwards: 4 games (4 starts), 10 innings, 2 earned runs, 5 hits, 5 walks, 7 strikeouts
Ivan Pineyro: 4 games (3 starts), 7 2/3 innings, 8 earned runs, 8 hits, 4 walks, 8 strikeouts
Zach Cates: 6 games, 7 2/3 innings, 10 earned runs, 14 hits, 4 walks, 5 strikeouts

* Note: Addison Russell no longer playing in AFL

The Rooftop fight is slowly coming to an end - Bruce Levine is reporting that the Ricketts family is close to purchasing two of the rooftops.

Numerous sources have confirmed that the Ricketts Family LLC, a different entity from the Cubs, is close to finalizing a deal to purchase two roof top buildings owned by George Loukas and his family. The buildings overlook Wrigley field.

This significant sale would be a huge win for the Ricketts family in their ongoing battle with the 17 roof top owners. The rooftop owners have sued the Cubs for going ahead with plans to put up seven signs and two electronic video boards in the outfield that may block some roof top views.

The sale by Loukas points to many others falling in line and selling the other rooftop buildings to the Cubs. An unconfirmed source said the sale price was $6 million per building; that was not confirmed by a second source.

Five years from now, this is all going to be a distant memory and Wrigley Field is going to be an unbelievable experience, but until then we’re stuck listening to more of this bickering.

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A Look at the Off-Season MLB Key Dates to Know

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

Last night’s 10-0 beat down put on by the Royals did two things for us. First, it set the stage for an epic 7th game in the World Series and it gave us the start date for the 0ff-season calendar of events. Given that this off-season figures to be a very key one in the Cubs rebuild process, it seems like it would be good to know some key dates and what they mean.

November 2nd – Last Day for teams to submit qualifying offers to eligible free agents

While this doesn’t directly affect the Cubs in the sense that they need to make any qualifying offers, I do think it may have an effect on the free agent landscape this season. In order to get free agent compensation for a free agent that leaves your team, you must make a qualifying offer to him, which he could then decline and enter the free agent market with a compensation anvil around his neck. We saw this past off-season that it greatly affected Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales. Both turned down offers from their team and as a result were looked at as if they had leprosy. For Drew, he was forced to wait until after the draft to sign because teams just were not willing to make him an offer because they would be losing a top draft pick. I think we’ll see a lot more guys consider accepting the offer made by their team if they are not top tier guys.

November 3rd - First day free agents may sign with a new team

This is where it all gets started for Theo and Jed. My guess is that we will already have an announcement that Joe Maddon has been hired and so now it’s time to get to work. I think the Cubs will be active this off-season, particularly in the starting pitcher market. Whether that comes via trade or free agency is still to be determined, but we’re close to contending and have tons of payroll flexibility. Put on your seat belts guys. It’s gonna be a fun ride.

November 10th – Last day for free agents to accept the qualifying offer from their prior team

Assuming the player does not accept the team’s offer, they hit the open market with that draft pick compensation anvil around their neck. Here is a breakdown on how the system works:

The system now in place doesn’t entail any arbitrary classifying of free agents. Instead, a team that wishes to receive compensation must submit a “qualifying offer” to the outgoing free agent. A qualifying offer constitutes a one-year proposal worth at least the annual average salary of the top 125 free agents from the previous winter. For this offseason, that comes to a one-year offer of $13.3 million.

If a team makes such a qualifying offer to an outgoing free agent and the free agent signs elsewhere, then his former team will receive a sandwich draft pick between the first and second rounds. The signing team, meanwhile, will forfeit its first-round choice — unless it’s a top-10 pick, in which case the team would give up a second-round pick. The lost picks don’t go to any other team; rather, the teams behind the vanished pick all slide up a slot.

One other important change is now in place: To be entitled to compensation, a team must now have a departing free agent on its roster for the entirety of the season. Under the old framework, a team that acquired a walk-year player at, say, the non-waiver trade deadline could offer that player salary arbitration at season’s end and thus be entitled to compensatory draft picks. That’s no longer permitted. (Source)

The Cubs figure to be active in the market, and do have a top 10 pick in the draft, so that spot will be protected should they go after someone like Jon Lester.

December 2nd – Last day for teams to offer a 2015 contract to unsigned players

This could be an interesting date to watch. This would apply to guys who are not signed to long term deals (guys signed year to year), which happens in your first six years of the league. A player not tendered a contract for 2015 is immediately removed from the 40 man roster, receives no termination pay, and is a free agent. James McDonald would be a guy who figures to be a candidate for this. The key thing to remember with this date is that if you want to make room for other guys to be on the 40 man roster, which you do since there will be free agents and guys eligible for the rule 5 draft that will need to be added, you should really try to make the room by this date to cut some cost.

December 8th – 11th – Winter Meetings & Rule 5 Draft

The Cubs have a few names that are eligible for the draft that would need to be added to the roster. The names of note are:

Gerardo Concepcion – I’d leave him unprotected

C.J. Edwards – Top 5 prospect in the system. He’ll get added to the 40 man roster

AZ Phil does a great job with the full list.

There are other dates that relate to arbitration and things like that, but these are the key dates you need to know and they are coming fast. Get excited.

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Why Addison Russell Left the Arizona Fall League

Friday, October 24th, 2014

Yesterday it was announced that Addison Russell was being sent home from the Arizona Fall League (AFL), after just 10 games. Immediately, fans everywhere worry about an injury that derails everything and causes the whole rebuild process to fly wildly off the track. You can relax. Everything is just fine. After playing 11 games in the AFL, the Cubs simply want Russell to shut it down and begin his off-season plan. Rest easy Cub fans, everything will be just fine.

For the record, in his time in the AFL this year, Russell posted a line of .196 / .260 / .348 with 2 HR in 11 games. It’s not the best, but it’s such a small sample. Russell finished his time in AA very strong in 2014, and I think he’s primed to potentially see Wrigley Field late in 2015 if all goes well. Most likely it will be very similar in situation to the 2014 Javier Baez call up, though I’d be fine with him spending the entire year in the minors due to his age.

The Cubs also announced that they were planning on keeping the most recent first round pick, Kyle Schwarber behind the plate for the immediate future. Whether or not that is where he ultimately ends up is still in question, as I would guess that his hitting far out paces his development behind the plate, which would force a move to another spot, but for now it’s encouraging as the catcher position is a weak one in the organization right now.

There is going to be a lot of power in the lineup in the very new future, which has some worried that the Cubs will have tons of bats, but no pitching to back it up. Fan Graphs posted a nice piece about how, perhaps, it’s hitting that is more likely to win championships and not pitching. It’s a debate about as old as the chicken or the egg debate, but if they are right, then the Cubs should be in an unpresidented position given the bats they have and the recent success Theo and Jed have had with piecing together a rotation on the cheap. Add to that the fact that payroll flexibility is going to be there with contracts now off the books and the majority of the core being paid near league minimum and things are getting very exciting. Take a look at the piece and be excited.

Finally, there is a note coming out of Bleacher Nation that the Cubs have recently scouted Korean shortstop, Jung-Ho Kang, who is 27 years old and could potentially be posted by his current team in Korea. The story seems more like fishing for readers, but it bears watching. My guess is that the Cubs are simply doing their due dilligence in the international market, which is a market they have invested heavily in the recent years. You can never have too many shortstops in the organization, but at this point I would guess the odds of an offer on him would be slim.

Friday Five

I wanted to do something a little different today and run a top five list. Most likely when I do these, it will be random things (no, there will not be a return of condiment fingers), but there may be times where we do more sports themed ones. With that said, here are my top five, in no particular order, movies of all time. They may not be the best movies of all time, but they are ones I consider my favorite.

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Off-Season Posting – You Make the Call

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

As we’re nearing free agency and the close of the World Series, I’m calling on you to know about what content you want to see this off-season on the site. Obviously we’d be talking about off-season rumors and moves made, but what other content do you have interest in. Here were just a few of the things I had thought about.

  • Free Agency prediction contest – You choose the destination of the top 25 free agents and put confidence points on each.
  • Season in review for key members of the 2014 team
  • My (or other writer’s) off-season plan were we to be the GM

Let’s hear your suggestions and get some brainstorming going.

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