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Trade Reaction: Luis Valbuena and Dan Straily for Dexter Fowler

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

If you missed the news yesterday, the Cubs made a trade to acquire the services of Dexter Fowler, sending Luis Valbuena and Dan Straily to the Astros in return. According to Jesse Rogers, the move “elevates their offense more than any other move this offseason”. Thank you captain obvious, as they have only made a move to essentially add a defensive starting catcher. While I do think the move is a nice one, I don’t know that it’s that huge. Let’s break it down.

WHAT IT MEANS FOR THE OUTFIELD

The addition of Fowler gives the Cubs an every day centerfielder and begins to clear up some of the mystery around the short term future of the outfield. Fowler has just over five years of ML service time, so he will be a free agent at the end of the season. The Cubs will need to decide on what their need is and determine if Fowler is one to fill it. With Albert Almora still probably two full seasons away from being the starter, assuming normal development, it will be an interesting decision.

As of right now, Jorge Soler will start in RF and Fowler will start in CF and probably hit leadoff. That leaves LF, where you can see a host of potentials all fighting to earn the spot. Chris Coghlan will probably get the first shot, given his play last year, but Arismendy Alcantara, Junior Lake, and Ryan Sweeney  could all figure into the mix as well. My guess is that it’s Coghlan’s job to lose with Sweeney backing up most of the OF spots.

WHAT IT MEANS FOR THE INFIELD

Here it gets a little more interesting. Valbuena figured to be the starter at third out of spring training, so moving him means there are a couple of scenarios. First, we could see Mike Olt get his last stand before being banished to the land of the forgotten third base prospects. It’s a land inhabited by names like Kevin Orie and Josh Vitters, Olt has to produce at this point. Another scenario puts Javier Baez at third with Tommy La Stella at second. I haven’t quite figured out what I think about La Stella yet, so I’m not sure where I stand on this one. In a perfect world, I’d dislike it because it means Olt failed and I really want him to be a guy. The final option, which I am diametrically opposed to is for Kris Bryant to get the opening day start at third. To do this, would be reckless and silly.

WHAT IT MEANS FOR THE ROTATION

Absolutely nothing. Dan Straily did not have a spot on this team and was probably not ever going to find a role. He’s ML ready so the Astros can give him a shot to show what he can do.

OVERALL CONCLUSION

I think it was a slightly too much to pay for Fowler, but it helps the Cubs look even more like a .500 or better team in 2015 and that’s the goal. It gets us better now without sacrificing the future.

FAN REACTION

 

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My 2015 Sports Resolutions

Friday, January 2nd, 2015

I had planned on having my 2004 vs 2015 Cubs post go live today but as I was working on it last night, I wasn’t happy with it just yet so I want to work on it a little more. Instead, I want to talk about resolutions a little as we end our week and begin 2015.

I’m not a resolution type of guy. I’m a goal guy. Whether or not you think there is much of a difference is up to you. For the sake of the post, though, I decided to make some resolutions for this year in regards to sports. I’d encourage you to do the same and share them in the comments section.

My 2015 Sports Resolution List

  1. Watch every Cubs game in 2015 – Usually I check out sometime in August after the trade deadline, but this year I want to watch every game. Granted some of them may be the condensed game that is offered on MLB.tv, but I’m going to watch every game.
  2. Attend at least one game this season – For years, when I was living in Chicago I would go to multiple games a year. Since moving to NC, I’ve tried to make it a priority to go to at least one, whether it be in Atlanta or DC. Over the last three years, I’ve failed in that quest. This year, I’m going to head back to Washington in June.
  3. Have a blog post go live about every Cubs game this season. – It has been easy in the past to be slack on this, but I’m making a commitment this year to do it.
  4. Be more active in the comment section of the posts – I tend to stay out of there, but I want to be more engaged this season with the readers.
  5. Watch all the 30 for 30 documentaries - I have seen so few of these and it’s been on my list for awhile. I started last night by watching “A King’s Ransom”, the story about the Wayne Gretzky trade.
  6. Read the entire Bill James New Historical Abstract – It’s an 800+ baseball reference / history book. It’s interesting, but easy to get bogged down with. It should be an endeavor.

I’m sure there are more I will think of as the year goes on, but we’ll start with this list. I’d love your feedback as well as your lists as well.

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Catching Up on Cubs News & Notes

Thursday, January 1st, 2015

On Monday, I had surgery on my eye lids to raise them up to give me better field of vision. I had horrible peripheral vision when it came to the upper part of my eye. As a result, I’ve been struggling with some discomfort and bruising and the idea of sitting at a computer any longer than I had to was not appealing. I’m doing better now, aside from looking a little like Boy George due to the eyes being bruised, so it’s time to catch up a little on the news.

Starlin Castro‘s Recent Conversation With the Authorities - I just happened to be on my phone when all of this broke on Twitter as a result of a tweet from an ESPN Deportes reporter. The biggest takeaway now that Castro has been cleared once again, is that he needs to surround himself with better people and commiserate in better places. I understand that the Dominican Republic is his home and that the people he was with are his friends, but you have to make smart decisions with the people you associate yourself with or you put yourself in a position to lose the things you’ve worked hard for. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time can cost you. Castro’s agent has come out and said that he and Theo and Jed have discussed the sitiaution and that Castro is in the process of looking at a move to the US. You can listen to the interview with Castro’s agent here.

A lot of people want to just give up on Castro, but I’m not one of them. I see him, at his peak, as a hitter with 200 hit capability (we’ve seen that before), 20+ home run power, and average to above average defense in the field. I don’t give up on a player this young with that kind of talent.

Stephen Drew Rumors – Jon Heyman mentioned that the Cubs were one of a few teams interested in the services of Drew to play second base. I don’t see the point as you have a potential star in Javier Baez ready to blossom and take over the position. To block him with an over 30 veteran that, really, isn’t all that good is absurd. I don’t give much credit to this rumor.

Chris Denorfia reportedly signs with the Cubs – His former teammate, John Baker, tweeted the news out, so take that with a grain of salt. As of right this minute, the signing has not been announced by the team. The deal is reported to be one year for $2.5 million. Denorfia figures to be a platoon outfielder with Chris Coghlin in LF, which signals to me that as of right now, a big bat in the OF is not coming. In the meantime, if we find something available, eating small contracts like that of Coghlin or Denorfia is not a big deal.

That will do it for today. I plan to have a post going up tomorrow comparing the 2004 Cubs, the first team I blogged about, to the 2015 projected Cubs. It’s been interesting to work on, so keep an eye out for that.

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Cubs / Padres Trade Just Makes Sense

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

In case you missed it, the Padres have made a flurry of recent moves to improve their outfield, bringing in Justin Upton, Will Meyers, and Matt Kemp. As a result, they have a bit of a surplus at a position that just so happens to be a need for the Cubs. It just so happens that the Cubs have a surplus at a couple positions that the Padres could use. The deal just seems to make sense for both parties.

Noah mentioned it briefly in the comment section the other day, but it bears repeating here. A deal to send Welington Castillo and /or Luis Valbuena to the Padres to net either Cameron Maybin or Will Venable would work quite nicely for this team. Both guys are coming off less than stellar years, but could provide equal or better production than the hodge podge we’re currently scheduled to run out there in LF. Venable fits the mold a little more than Maybin when it comes to what we’re looking for, which is power potential (in 2013, Venable had 22 HR’s), however he’s also four years older than Maybin.

For the Padres, the move makes a lot of sense given the fact that they are currently slated to trot out Will Middlebrooks at third base and Derek Norris behind the plate. Middlebrooks can’t hit and Norris can’t field.

It’s worth watching over the next few weeks to see if rumors of a deal begin to surface.


In other news, the Cubs saw themselves in a flurry of minor moves today. Here is the rundown.

  • 28 year old outfielder, Adron Chambers was signed to a minor league contract. Chambers comes from the Cardinals organization, where he spent the year in AAA last season, posting a .283 / .351 / .411 slash line in 206 plate appearances.
  • LHP Mike Kickham was claimed off waivers from the Giants. Kickham gives the Cubs another potential lefty bullpen candidate to compete for the open spot in the pen. He’s been a starter in his time in the minors, but so have guys like Tsuyoshi Wada and Felix Doubront, who are also potential candidates. A look at Kickham’s minor league numbers reveal that he gives up a lot of hits. That should come down a little out of the pen given that teams would get fewer looks at him compared to pitching out of the rotation, but that H/9 ratio is still too high.
  • The Orioles have claimed newly acquired catcher, Ryan Lavarnway off of waivers from the Cubs. This one frustrates me a little as I saw Lavarnway as nice catcher depth in a system that is all but void of depth behind the plate. He flashed great power early in his minor league career, but has since seen that trail off. Still, it would have been nice to keep him.
  • The Brewers have claimed Shane Peterson off of waivers from the #Cubs. Peterson, like Lavarnway, were both recently acquired via waivers by the Cubs. After trying to pass them through waivers in an attempt to outright them to the minors, both players were claimed. It sucks, but it’s how the game is played.

Tweet of the Day

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Cubs Acquire Matt Brazis from Seattle for Justin Ruggiano

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

From the Cubs Media Dept:

CHICAGO The Chicago Cubs today acquired right-handed pitching prospect Matt Brazis from the Seattle Mariners for outfielder Justin Ruggiano.

Brazis, 25, is 8-6 with 14 saves and a 2.89 ERA (51 ER/158.2 IP) in 100 minor league relief appearances covering three seasons in the Mariners minor league system.  He split the 2014 campaign between Single-A High Desert and Double-A Jackson, going 4-1 with six saves and a 2.36 ERA (19 ER/72.1 IP) in 40 appearances.  Brazis struck out 84 batters and walked only 18 in 72.1 innings pitched.

The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Brazis was originally selected by the Mariners in the 28th round of the 2012 Draft out of Boston College. 

Ruggiano, 32, batted .281 (63-for-224) with six home runs and 28 RBI in 81 games for the Cubs last year.  He was acquired by the Cubs from the Miami Marlins for outfielder Brian Bogusevic on December 12, 2013.

This move, to me, tells me that there is an outfielder close to being signed or traded for. We’ve heard lots of names and Noah broke down some yesterday in his post.

Keep an eye out as I think we’ll see a move before Christmas.

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What Jason Motte Means For The Cubs Bullpen

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

I was all set yesterday to put up my opening day roster projection when I read about the Cubs signing Jason Motte. So, I scrapped it. If you missed the news yesterday, the Cubs were announced on Twitter to have signed the bearded right hander to a $4.5 million deal over one year. I have not read if the deal includes a player or team option, but assuming it doesn’t, it’s a low risk, high reward signing. Motte’s career numbers look like this:

Year Age Tm ERA G GF SV IP HR BB SO FIP WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9
2008 26 STL 0.82 12 4 1 11.0 0 3 16 1.04 0.727 4.1 0.0 2.5 13.1
2009 27 STL 4.76 69 14 0 56.2 10 23 54 4.81 1.412 9.1 1.6 3.7 8.6
2010 28 STL 2.24 56 13 2 52.1 5 18 54 3.29 1.127 7.1 0.9 3.1 9.3
2011 29 STL 2.25 78 27 9 68.0 2 16 63 2.48 0.956 6.5 0.3 2.1 8.3
2012 30 STL 2.75 67 58 42 72.0 9 17 86 3.12 0.917 6.1 1.1 2.1 10.8
2014 32 STL 4.68 29 10 0 25.0 7 9 17 6.49 1.520 10.4 2.5 3.2 6.1
6 Yrs 3.03 311 126 54 285.0 33 86 290 3.55 1.109 7.3 1.0 2.7 9.2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/16/2014.

As you can see, he missed all of 2013, which was due to Tommy John. He returned last year to the Cardinals pen and was more hittable and far less effective than before the surgery. That’s usually the case the first year returning. The reports I’ve read see the return to normal, if that is going to be the case, in the second year. If that holds true, then Motte could be a huge piece to an already improving bullpen.

As of right now, I don’t think he’s even in the closer conversation or even the setup conversation. I think the Cubs would admit that they are happy with what Hector Rondon did last season in the 9th to give him that role this season. You can probably slot Pedrop Strop and Justin Grimm into the mix in the late innings as well, which fills four of the expected seven (sigh) slots. Neal Ramirez should grab another spot, giving us five. That should just leave a need for a guy that can be a longer man if needed and a lefty.

I don’t think we’ll sign a lefty this off-season, but rather would give guys like Zac Rosscup, Tsuyoshi Wada, or Joe Ortiz a shot to earn the spot.

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What Does Your Opening Day Roster Look Like?

Friday, December 12th, 2014

On this lazy Friday morning, with the winter meetings now complete, I want to pose a question to you. I’d like you to post your opening day roster as the team stands right now. On Monday, I’ll break down who I think will be there and why.

Have fun.

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Reactions to Tuesday’s Mass Cubs Hysteria at the Winter Meetings

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

As I was driving in to the office yesterday, I was thinking about the baseball off-season. I was a bit frustrated at how long the process is from start to finish when it comes to the big names being traded or signing new contracts. When it comes to the NFL or the NBA, there is a ton of buildup to the day the period opens and then a slew of moves within the first week or so. Then it’s about done. It’s not that way with the MLB off-season and that frustrates me. Instead, we’re stuck listening to rumor after rumor (which I hate) and watch people create spoof Twitter accounts to try to get their one minute of fame by tricking a certain four letter network. It’s all so petty. Yesterday, however, when it comes to the Cubs in particular was exciting. If you were like me, you went to bed refreshing Twitter for that last nugget of info that might suggest when and where Jon Lester might end up. This morning we got our answer so let’s talk about the things that went down yesterday.

Late last night it was reported that Lester had made his decision and had chosen the Cubs. The deal is reported to be six years and $155 million. Before you react, let me remind you of three things. 1) The Cubs current payroll is ridonkulously low. 2) To acquire an impact talent on the free agent market, you have to “overpay”, and 3) When all is said and done with this Wrigleyville expansion, the Cubs are going to be swimming in an even deeper pool of money than they already are.

I don’t even look at the cost of the deal. I look at the player and see how he fits into the plan and when I do that, I smile. Lester instantly slots in at the top of the rotation with Jake Arrieta right behind him. We talked a little about the rest of the rotation a week or so ago. At that time it was Arrieta and a bunch of depth, but no real locks. With the addition of Lester and Jason Hammel, we know three locks for sure. Most likely Travis Wood slots in there as well since the Cubs wouldn’t have picked up his contract for this year to convert him to the bullpen. Unless he is traded, Wood should be in the rotation. Beyond that, you have a ton of guys making their case for the last spot. It figures to be a fun spring training watching guys battle for the last spot. Yes, you read that correctly. I said I might even be looking forward to spring training.

Overall, this was a move that had to be made either this off-season or next. The impact bats are basically ready to go. If you’re going to be true to the rebuild then you have to be ready to bring in the arms when it’s time. If it wasn’t Lester, it would have been David Price or someone of that ilk. I’m good with it being Lester.

What excites me the most about the signing is that there was talk that the Cubs, if they landed Lester, would also look to bring in an impact bat to go with him. It’s hard to say exactly who that will be, but you’d have to figure it to be an outfielder given that you don’t want to block anyone at the other positions. I don’t see that guy left on the free agent market, so if it was going down this year, it would have to be via trade. Nick Markakis would have fit perfectly, but he signed with Atlanta.

With the acquisition of Miguel Montero behind the plate, I would also look for the Cubs to try to deal Welington Castillo this off-season and sign David Ross to back up Montero given Lester’s familiarity with him and the fact that he’s played in and won a World Series. That’s the kind of presence you bring in to show the young guys what it’s like when Kevin Costner isn’t available to bring in.

It was a wild ride yesterday. We’ll see what today holds.

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Happy Jon Lester Day?

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

There are a lot of rumors right now for the Cubs. Since nothing is official, we’ll just wait till they are.

  • Jon Lester decision down to the Cubs and the Giants with a resolution expected today or Wednesday at the latest. I still say he chooses Chicago.
  • Cubs are rumored to be involved in a deal to bring in Miguel Montero from the Diamondbacks
  • Supposedly Jason Hammel is coming back, though terms have yet to be officially announced.

Discuss

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