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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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Jake Peavy Headed to Chicago?

Monday, October 20th, 2014

I bet you all thought I died. Admit it, you know you did. I just get frustrated with losing and took a break, but I’m back now and ready for the off-season. Let’s get it going with some news and notes.

Jake Peavy in the rotation next year? – Paul Sullivan reported that Peavy still has interest in pitching in Wrigley Field. I think the Cubs will be major players this off-season in the starting pitching market and I believe they will land at least one arm. My guess is that it will be Jon Lester, though I wouldn’t be the least surprised to see them go Lester AND Max Scherzer. Assuming you only get one, it gives you a nice rotation of guys. I don’t think Peavy is needed at this point. I’d rather not take a shot on him and trust Theo and Jed to sign scrap heap starters for depth.

Fan Graphs Top 31 Prospect List – They had a really nice piece that includes videos. It really gets you excited about the future. It’s funny, coming into the season, the player I was least worried about was Javier Baez and the player I thought had the most bust potential was Jorge Soler. After seeing August and September baseball, I’ve done a complete 180 on those feelings for both players. That said, here is the top 31 list.

Albert Almora Can’t Walk? – Also on Fan Graphs was an article focusing on Almora’s plate discipline that is worth your time. I think Almora will be good, but it will take a little time. He’s young, but everything I read is that he has the polish and poise to be a face of a franchise.

What Say You?

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Cubs Claim LHP, Joseph Ortiz, Off Waivers From Texas

Monday, October 6th, 2014

From the Cubs Media Relations Dept:

CHICAGO – The Chicago Cubs today claimed left-handed pitcher Joseph Ortiz off waivers from the Texas Rangers.  The club’s 40-man roster now stands at 40 players.

Ortiz, 24, went 2-2 with a 4.23 ERA (21 ER/44.2 IP) in 32 relief appearances for the Rangers in 2013 before being limited to only 15 minor league appearances last season due to a fractured left foot.  The southpaw began the 2014 season on the 60-day disabled list and made two rehab appearances with the organization’s rookie-league club in Arizona in July before completing his campaign with 13 relief outings with Double-A Frisco (0-2, one save, 4.50 ERA).

A native of Venezuela, Ortiz originally signed with Texas as a non-drafted free agent on August 28, 2006.  He is 18-15 with 31 saves and a 2.44 ERA (87 ER/320.2 IP) in 217 relief appearances covering eight minor league seasons.

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Cubs Done on WGN? Can Games Get Shorter? Who Cares!!!

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

1. Could the Cubs Be Done on WGN? - There still hasn’t been an announcement as to what will happen to the half of games that aren’t on CSN next year and to be honest, should we really care. MLB is available via so many mediums that I really don’t see how local tv deals continue to net such a high price tag. I used to be bummed that I wasn’t in Chicago anymore because it meant I could only see Cubs games on WGN. Now with MLB Extra Innings and, I could care less if any games are on WGN anymore. Put them on Oxygen for all I care. I’ll still watching on my app on my iPad. It doesn’t matter to me.

2. MLB has formed a pace of game committee – This is another one I file under the “I don’t care file”. There is nothing that can be done to reduce the time of game so drastically that a casual fan would be more invested without dramatically changing the game. You would have to shorten the game to six or seven innings to package it in a 2 – 2.5 hour slot to net the fan base you’re targeting. You’re not going to get a casual fan because you shave off 10 minutes. Frankly, I’d be OK if the season shortened and the games were shortened. I could care less about the record book. I value my time and I love baseball. I want those to merge.

3. “Jake Arrieta better bet for long-term success than Kyle Hendricks – Hey, no kidding. Thanks for that outstanding journalism. And we wonder why newspapers are dying.

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Joe Answers the Questions You Asked

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

So sorry it’s taken me a few days to get answers to your burning questions. The fact is, if your questions are burning, you may want to seek a doctor. I think there is a cream they can give you to help with that. Now, on to the answers. (Note: I didn’t choose ALL of the questions as due to my laziness there were too many. Also, I just thought some were boring.)

Jedi asks:

What’s the difference between a random thought and a question?

I tend to equate random thoughts to things that just pop into my mind. They don’t really require an answer and often times have little purpose to them at all. However a question is much more important. Then again, when you’re dealing with kids, and God knows we are, they seem one and the same and they seem to come in abundance.

Dork (Is it OK if I call you that?) asks:

What will the cubs record be in 2015?

I went on record when we were recording our podcast (before MLB advanced media decided to do what MLB advanced media does), that I felt the Cubs would finish .500 this season. Obviously that didn’t happen, partly due to a dreadful start to the season, but I still feel like it was a realistic goal for this team. For next season, I see know reason why .500 shouldn’t be the expectation with a goal being the playoffs. Call me crazy, but with a good amount of our prized prospects expected to be making an impact next year at the Major League level, why shouldn’t we expect .500. Everywhere you read, people say 2016 is the year the Cubs will contend for the playoffs and be a really good team. Why can’t it be 2015? I expect good things next year. So, to answer your question, I will say 82-80.

Dan Gilman asks:

What are the chances the Cubs trade Castro this off-season?

I don’t think they are high. If the Cubs deal a shortstop, I believe it makes sense to engage in talks with the Mets given the surplus of young, Major League ready arms they have in their system and the fact that they crave a building block shortstop. However, I’ve heard a lot of people say they don’t really like Starlin Castro. I can understand. It’s hard to like a guy who has almost 1,000 hits and been a three time all star before the age of 25. I don’t see why people are so quick to dismiss him. Does he have his flaws? Of course, but what player doesn’t. Show me a player under 25 that doesn’t have one. They just don’t exist. He’s learning and this year he’s taken a major step forward. If I’m Theo and Jed, I value him the highest among the three top guys in this system right now.

Ben asks:

Who do you think will be called up next year to the majors besides Kris Bryant and the others who have already been called up  like Soler and Alcantara?

The biggest name to watch for next year is obviously Addison Russell, but I also have my eye on someone like C.J. Edwards or Dallas Beeler. I don’t think we saw enough of Beeler this year and I’d like to see more.

Doug S. asks:

Ginger, Maryann or Mrs. Howell?

Mary Anne.

Jswanson asks:

Rank the following Doritos, from tastiest to least tasty:
* Cool Ranch
* Nacho Cheese
* Tapatio
* Taco
* Spicier Nacho
* Salsa Verde
* Spicy Sweet Chili

Unfortunately, we do not keep snacks like that in the house (and yet I’m still fat). That said, I’ve only had two of those so I am going to rank based on what I would assume they would taste time.

1. Nacho Cheese

Tie for last – All the others. To be honest, I hate cool ranch flavor and the others sound like death. I’m not a Doritos guy.

Brian asks:

If the Cubs were to trade one of their significant offensive pieces (Rizzo, Castro, or any of the other guys whom I won’t mention because you already know who they are) for pitching, who do you want it to be and, if different, who do you think it will be?

I’ve gone on record that I believe it will be Baez. I used to think that Jorge Soler had the biggest bust potential. Now I believe it may be Baez. I shop him and see what his value can net. Thankfully, power hitting is a valuable and sparse currency these days.

CAPS asks:

What’s your favorite thing to batch cook and do you like to cook shirtless?

You really are a unique dude, you know that? Don’t cook, and especially not shirtless. They don’t make hair nets for my chest.

That will do it for this edition. Sorry again for the time it took. Thanks for being patient. Enjoy the last two series of the season. How about we finish it out with a six game win streak?


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Pitchers with the Best and Worst Run Support

Friday, September 19th, 2014

Thankfully, the baseball community has moved beyond judging pitchers solely by their won-lost record. Last season, Clayton Kershaw took home the NL Cy Young despite having three fewer wins than Adam Wainwright. More famously, Felix Hernandez won the AL Cy Young in 2010 with just a 13-12 record. However, those were extreme cases where pitchers had major advantages in other measures of pitching performance, notably ERA. Since Hernandez’s Cy Young, the AL wins leader has won the Cy Young three consecutive seasons. Wins clearly remain a factor in many people’s evaluations.

Of course, pitchers who perform well tend to earn more wins than those who do not, but there are still inputs to those wins that are out of the pitchers’ control. The primary factor is run support, which Baseball Info Solutions calculates as the number of runs an offense scores while a pitcher is in the game prorated over nine innings. In 2010, the Mariners scored just 3.10 runs per nine in Hernandez’s starts, which was the second lowest total among qualified starters. That’s 3.03 runs fewer than the Yankees scored for C.C. Sabathia (a 21-game winner) per nine that season!

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the pitchers in 2014 who have seen the best and worst run support. First, here are the starters with the best run support this season:

Best Run Support, 2014
Player Average Run Support
C.J. Wilson, Angels 6.55
Jorge de la Rosa, Rockies 6.31
Colby Lewis, Rangers 5.97
Wei-Yin Chen, Orioles 5.96
Madison Bumgarner, Giants 5.87

C.J. Wilson leads the way with an average of 6.55 runs of support per start. The Angels actually lead baseball with 744 runs this season, so they were the best bet to have a pitcher at the top of the list. Teammate Jered Weaver just missed the top five with 5.80 runs of support per nine.

Like Wilson, Jorge de la Rosa benefits from an offense that scores a lot of runs. In his case, it’s the Rockies, who have the third most runs in baseball with 700. In contrast, Colby Lewis is a surprise. The Rangers are 20th in runs scored, so Lewis actually received much more run support than the average Rangers’ starter. But Lewis has been unable to take advantage of his good fortune. With a 5.12 ERA, which is not far below his 5.97 runs of support per nine, Lewis has compiled a 10-13 record.

Wei-Yin Chen and Madison Bumgarner don’t often need their exceptional run support. Chen has the 10th lowest walk rate among qualified starters this season (1.66 walks per nine), and Bumgarner has the 12th highest strikeout rate (9.17 strikeouts per nine). That has led them to a 3.58 and 2.91 ERA, respectively. Unsurprisingly, they are tied for sixth and tied for third in baseball in wins.

Here are the starters with the worst run support:

Worst Run Support, 2014
Player Average Run Support
Nathan Eovaldi, Marlins 2.89
Eric Stults, Padres 3.04
Francisco Liriano, Pirates 3.09
Alex Wood, Braves 3.16
Yovani Gallardo, Brewers 3.29

Nathan Eovaldi of the Marlins sets the low bar with 2.89 runs of support per nine. That seems to be a bit of an outlier since the Marlins are middle of the pack with 613 runs scored. They do not hold a candle to the Padres in that respect, however. The Padres have scored just 489 runs this season. That is 255 runs fewer than the league-leading Angels and 61 runs fewer than the Braves, who are second to last. With such an anemic offense, Padres’ starters are prominent at or near the bottom of the list. Eric Stults has had the second lowest run support, and Ian Kennedy just missed the list with 3.36 runs per nine.

The Braves may be substantially better on offense than the Padres, but Alex Wood and Julio Teheran have not benefited from that. Wood has the fourth lowest run support with 3.16 runs per start, and Teheran is in the bottom 12, as well.

Francisco Liriano and Yovani Gallardo are the opposite of Colby Lewis. The Pirates have the 8th most runs and the Brewers have the 13th most runs in baseball this season, but both pitchers are in the bottom five in run support per nine. Charlie Morton (3.72 run support per nine) of the Pirates is the only other qualified Pirates or Brewers starter with less than 4.00 runs per nine of support.

“Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®,”

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Ask Joe Anything

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

That’s right, it’s time for everyone’s favorite game, Ask Joe Anything. I’m also looking for a nomination from you on which writer we should use for the next edition. Remember the rules.

1. The CAPS rule – Do not blow up the comments with a zillion questions by one person.

2. The Seymour rule – Try to keep it semi-clean knowing that if it’s too far past the line it won’t get answered.

3. The Sherm Rule – Don’t post something and then disappear. Come back and see the answer.

Follow those rules and we’ll have a lot of fun. Just to give you an idea on quirky questions, see one of the editions of the Deadspin Funbag and you’ll know what I mean.

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