Archive for the ‘General’ Category

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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Can the Cubs Compete in 2015 if Starlin Castro Is Traded?

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

Since the end of the regular season, the Cubs front office has made it clear that they intend to compete in 2015. Signing Joe Maddon to one of the richest managerial contracts in baseball only confirmed that. It’s fairly clear what the Cubs actually need to do to compete next season in addition to Anthony Rizzo and Jake Arrieta proving their 2014s were not flukes. (1) The prospects (Baez, Soler, and Alcantara should be up on Opening Day, Kris Bryant will be up a couple of weeks later at most, and Addison Russell could be ready mid-season) need to contribute. This doesn’t mean that they all need to be stars, or even that none of them can be busts. As an overall group, however, they need to succeed. (2) The Cubs need to add top to middle of the rotation starting pitching. (3) The Cubs need a much better overall performance from their outfield.

In regards to number 2, most believe that the Cubs are going to sign two free agent pitchers this season, one from the top tier (Lester and Scherzer, with Shields as the fall back) and one from the middle tier (too many  to list, but includes Brendan McCarthy, Ervin Santana, and Jason Hammel). A minority, however, believe the Cubs will sign one big name pitcher and trade for another pitcher. TheCubs would have two options for what to give up in such a trade: (1) a prospect like Javier Baez or Addison Russell; or (2) Starlin Castro.

This piece is not to debate the merits of specific Starlin Castro trades, although I could see some potential matches depending on what the front office is looking to do. The Cubs could try do something like trade Castro to the Mets for a package headlined by someone like Noah Syndergaard, taking the potential risk and reward of using their 3 time All Star shortstop to obtain a near MLB ready prospect with ace potential. Or the Cubs could try to match up with the Nationals for Jordan Zimmerman if the Cubs were able to come to an extension with the Nationals’ right hander, which would also solve a short term (2B is their weakness if Rendon plays 3B) and long term (Desmond is likely gone after 2015, so they’ll need a shortstop) problem for Washington.

The question I’m examining, however, is if the Cubs could actually claim to be “competing” in 2015 if Castro isn’t slotted in as the opening day shortstop. Castro was worth 2.9 fWAR last season. For the sake of argument, let’s say that Castro would have stayed on that pace had he stayed healthy and been worth 3.5 wins above replacement while taking something around 99% of the plate appearances at shortstop. If the Cubs trade Castro, they need to replace those 3.5 wins.

On top of that, the Cubs were poor last season at second base, so the Cubs need to find a way to improve that middle infield position. I’d argue the Cubs should be looking for about 2.5 WAR from second base next season, which is pretty much exactly league average performance. This is in part to set reasonable expectations for Javier Baez, to be a league average player this coming season, not a superstar. If these numbers panned out, that provides a total of 6 wins above replacement from the middle infield.

If Castro is in the fold, the answer to “where do those wins come from?” is pretty simple. You count on Castro for the 3 to 3.5 WAR he’s been good for in 3 of the last 4 seasons, hope Baez becomes a league average, and have Valbuena as an early season fallback option if Baez continues to struggle so greatly making contact. But what if Castro was gone?

Second base actually wouldn’t be that great a concern. A Luis Valbuena led platoon should put up 2.5 to 3 WAR (Valbuena alone was worth 2.7 fWAR last season and 2.1 fWAR in 2013). The problem would be that you’d have no real backup option to Baez at shortstop until Addison Russell is ready, which could be in June, September, or in 2016. Baez definitely has the talent to become a great player as early as next season, but can the Cubs really bet on a player who struck out 41.5% of the time in his first short MLB stint to be anything more than league average in his age 22 season?

Not if they truly intend on competing in 2015. If the Cubs want to fight with the Cardinals and Pirates for playoff spots, Starlin Castro should be a Cub in 2015. Despite the prospect talent the Cubs have at the position and their need for high end pitching, now is not the time for the Cubs to trade their All Star shortstop. If Baez makes the necessary adjustments next season and Russell looks like the real deal, the Cubs can examine moving Castro a year from now with no diminution in value because of the long term team friendly nature of his contract.

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Giants Win World Series, Maddon Kicks Off Offseason & More

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

We’ve reached the end of the line. It was yet another incredible season from start to finish with highlights scattered all throughout. The season ended this past week, but it didn’t take long for things to get going in the offseason. Let’s get to it.

Giants Win World Series…Again

For everyone who complains that baseball features the same World Series teams over and over again (normally mentioning the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox when they say it), they may have some added ammunition with the result of this year’s championship.

The San Francisco Giants completed their quest for their third World Series win in the last five years, with a 7-game victory over the underdog Kansas City Royals. Viewers didn’t exactly take to the series but for those who watched, they definitely got a boatload of entertainment.

After a decisive 10-0 victory at home in Game 6, the Royals were riding high coming into Game 7. It was unclear going into the game as to who would pitch for San Francisco, but Bruce Bochy eventually decided on veteran Tim Hudson, who didn’t even last two innings. Jeremy Affeldt quieted a rally then postseason hero Madison Bumgarner put their bats to sleep to clinch it.

Bumgarner’s performance has to be considered one for the record books and he showed the country that he deserves to be talked about amongst the top arms in the game. If the Giants history provides any pattern, you’d have to bet that they’ll somehow manage to miss the playoffs next season but as for now, they’re World Series champions once again. What were your thoughts on this series? Did you find it entertaining?

Maddon Hired By Cubs

Though the Chicago Cubs weren’t exactly looking for a manager heading into the offseason, with Rick Renteria doing an adequate job for the 2014 season, they were presented with an opportunity to make a move that they just couldn’t pass up. In this case, the Tampa Bay Rays loss was the Cubs’ gain.

With the hiring of former Rays manager Joe Maddon, the Cubs have to be seen as seriously taking a step forward in their rebuilding process. They’ve spent the last few years ridding the team of it’s bad contracts and strengthening the farm system and the hiring of Maddon should drastically help those young players once they get to the big leagues.

Maddon, long known as one of the best managers in the league, will finally be paired with a front office that doesn’t mind throwing around money when the circumstances call for it. With the Cubs rumored to make a run out of some of the big name free agents this year, this could be a quick turnaround.

While it was unfortunate that the Cubs had to let go of Renteria after only one year, it just wouldn’t have made sense for them to pass on a manager of Maddon’s caliber. With top-flight managers adding at least a handful of wins each year, the addition of Maddon should be a big one. How much closer do you think the Maddon hire pushes the Cubs towards contention?

Twins Choose Gardenhire’s Replacement

Along with the Maddon and the Rays separating, the Minnesota Twins decided to fire long-time manager Ron Gardenhire a couple of weeks ago. Much like the Cubs, the Twins didn’t waste much time in finding a new skipper.

In a move that may draw some ire from fans of Twin Cities baseball, the team is reportedly set to hire Hall of Famer Paul Molitor to be their new manager. Molitor has been a part of the coaching staff for the last year, which is something that upset many Minnesota fans.

While he has an extensive track record as a player, the fact that he has been within the organization that has struggled through four 90-plus-loss seasons in a row is a mark against him. Some new blood probably would have been preferred, but Molitor has the baseball acumen to be able to help facilitate this rebuild.

I personally think that someone like Dave Martinez, who extensively uses analytics and connects well with younger players, would have been a better choice, but Molitor should be a pretty safe option. With the talent that the twins have coming through system, Molitor should have them competing within the next couple of years. Was the hire of Paul Molitor a smart one for the Twins?

This Week’s MVP: Hunter Pence (.444/.500/.667, 1 HR, 5 RBI)

This Week’s Cy Young: Madison Bumgarner (2-0, 1 SV, 0.43 ERA, 17 K)

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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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Boo! The Scariest Scenarios for the Cubs

Friday, October 31st, 2014

[So Joe will let me keep this image, I'm going to say that it came from cubs.com. You should immediately go to the site and purchase one of these stencils. You'll have it for next Halloween!]

Happy Halloween, fellow Viewers! It’s great to be back. Since we’re celebrating a holiday, I thought I’d have some fun and talk about some of the Cubs’ scariest scenarios. I’m going to rate each one on a 10-point scary factor scale.

1. The Cubs don’t get Joe Maddon.

BREAKING NEWS: The Cubs have dismissed Rick Renteria, clearing the way for the hiring of Joe Maddon (read the press release from Theo here). Multiple sources are reporting that the press conference announcing Maddon as the next manager will take place on Monday. Best of luck to Rick Renteria, who worked hard for a long time to get this opportunity.

2. The Cubs strikeout in their pursuit of free-agent starting pitchers.

It’s well known that the Cubs intend to sign one or two starting pitchers this offseason, with the consensus top choice being Jon Lester. Theo has stated as much, and he’s hinted that they’d like to get a top tier starter (e.g., Lester, Shields, Scherzer) and a second-tier guy (e.g., Masterson, Hammel, McCarthy, Peavy). The bidding could get out-of-hand, though, and there’s no guarantee that the Cubs get someone like Lester or Shields. The young talent on the offensive side is either here or coming very soon, and we have the dream manager on board. Adding a TOR-type pitcher plus another dependable arm is just what this team needs to start competing now.

Scary Factor:  :twisted: (8/10) – The only thing that keeps this from being a 10 is that there is a very strong FA starting pitching class coming up next offseason.

3. Javier Baez turns out to be a bust.

The bat speed is all-time great. The athleticism is outstanding. The positional value should be phenomenal. He has a track record of being able to adapt to new levels of competition…but what if it never comes together for Javy? What if that epic power potential is squandered because of his pitch recognition problems?

Scary Factor:  :evil: (5/10) – A few years ago, this would be a disaster. Now, though, the Cubs have stockpiled so much elite, young offensive talent, a bust of one or two of them won’t destroy the team. We still have Rizzo, Soler, Bryant, Russell, Schwarber, etc… It would hurt, for sure, but it wouldn’t kill.

There’s no bust factor with Javy’s halloween costume, though Javy being Manny! (from Javy’s Instagram account: javy23baez):

Yes it is Javy Being Manny.

4. The planned revenue-enhancing additions to Wrigley Field (signage, Jumbotron) are further delayed/halted by more lawsuits.

There were reports last week that the Ricketts may be in talks to purchase some of the rooftop buildings. This would seem like a logical move: threaten to destroy the value of the buildings by erecting signs, then buy them at a discount as the owners bail. So, I’m not too worried that the signage plan will be derailed, but it could be delayed by some lingering lawsuits against the Landmarks Commission. Although the Cubs have tons of payroll flexibility right now, that comes from starting from a low-point (old, big contracts have come off the books, most of the team’s talent is on young “first” contracts or team-friendly extensions). The total dollar amount will probably not be increasing, though. For the future, the Cubs will need expanded payroll flexibility, so having these additional revenue streams is important.

Scary Factor:  :oops: (4/10) – It’s an important piece of the plan, but I think the signs will happen, but even if they are delayed a bit, the imminent TV deal will make everything OK.

 

What are your scariest scenarios for the Cubs?

Have a great Halloween – it’s an exciting one for Cubs fans!

 

 

 

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GirlieView (10/30/2014)

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

GirlieView Definitions

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

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

Lizzies

  • The greed for more rounds has lessened the accomplishment of being the best team in your league that year.
  • That said, the great “intangible” in my mind is “approach.” The winning teams have a great approach to the game. They are usually patient at the plate. They usually have pitchers who get ahead in the count.
  • I agree with Sherm 110%. Smart baseball is good baseball.
  • I just want to thank Lizzie for recognizing my genius yet again. But enough about my genius, today is a possible Cardinal Elimination Day. I have bubbly on ice. How will you celebrate CED?
  • On CED I will relax, breathe a heavy sigh of relief and then enjoy the WS not really caring who wins or loses.
  • Drinks on me – as my hero JSwan likes to say. On this CED, I will be consuming any adult beverage not brewed in St. Louis.
  • a) Football, pro and college
    b) Basketball, college
    c) Talk to girlfriend
    w) Hockey
    x) Avoid soccer
  • Football, basketball and a little hockey. Those should keep me busy until spring training starts, thus avoiding the girlfriend chit-chat.
  • Excuse me Brian, don’t you think you missed a little news from last week? The new 2014 off season Lizzie standings was big news and ruffled some feathers of the VFTB entitlement class… I am still celebrating Lizzies astute acumen and Cardinal Elimination Day. Drinks on me!
  • It must be some party to still be going stong since Thursday.
  • Doc really knows how to throw a party. Who else would think of events like Pin the Tail on Len?
  • It will be interesting to see the debate between Doc and Len on what music get played during the musical chairs game.
  • The party will last as long as his case of Mogen-David does.
  • I just Fed-Exed him another case. We could be here a while.
  • I hope you ordered blackberry this time. Concord was too dry for my palate.
  • I ordered the 20/20 Dragon fruit in honor of Lizzie’s perceived vision.
  • Should we invite Seymour? He did come in 5th? I think we should, in fact everyone on the Lizzie board should come and party. Bushmills on me! Doug S, bring your Len Kasper voodoo doll.
  • For sure. He can give us rides home, one at a time, in his Chevy Volt. I’ll go last and we can finish off the box of M&D.
  • I inadvertently sent Len an invitation. Sounds like he’s coming too. Doug S. can leave his doll at home.
  • Your comment on the Dodgers payroll got me looking. The article I saw, dated earlier this year, had them at the highest total salary team in the world at 241 mill and change. It surprised me. For contrast the Shanghai Dongya placed last (294th) at 1.4 mill.
  • Rumor has it they are keeping the books clear in order to sign Brett Jackson, Josh Vitters, and Mike Olt.
  • Shanghai Dongya Channel 9 , 8:00 PM must see TV Thursday starring Matt Morton and Bryan LaHair.
  • Exactly. The TV deals are considered under the table $$$ and not reported.
  • Good to know you are OK Joe. Did you see I am at the top of the Lizzie board? Seymour is five behind EVW, Jerry from Wisconsin and Jswan. We are celebrating CED and Lizzies insightful wisdom, come join us.
  • Having tied their next few years to Jay Cutler, a quarterback unlikely to ever win a meaningful game, Chicago is ripe for a new team to get behind.
  • Off-season plans and FA predictions are always entertaining. The also give your enemies ammunition for the next several months as you are proven completely wrong.
  • I would like to discuss venues for the VFTB Spring Training dinner.
  • I would like to discuss how Joe’s avatar can look so not like the real Joe.
  • The neck is a little different.
  • Real Joe doesn’t have to comb his eyebrows, cartoon Joe probably has to.
  • Same with his hair.
  • I would like to discuss/debate past Cubs at a particular position. Who was better at 1b Mark Grace, Derrick Lee, Bill Buckner, Pete LaCock or Hee Sop Choi?
  • It’s either Buckner or Lee!
  • Grace was pretty damn good also, but Pete LaCock was Seymours favorite.
  • Great stories, great guy, Classic name.
  • What does LaCock like to order at Subway? Special sauce I would presume.
  • A more conspiratorial thinker would say that Russell was pulled in preparation for a trade for Cole Hamels.
  • On Golden Blonde
    Shaving Ryan’s Privates
    Jurassic Pork
    Good Will Humping
    Assablanca
    Every one a classic
  • I’m shocked Romancing The Bone didn’t crack your top 5.
  • Or the classic film, “Yank My Doodle It’s A Dandy.”
  • I PRAY that the Cubs hire Joe Maddon. If they don’t, well, they’d be the Cubs.

Lizard

  • Before I delve into the topic of this post, I wanted to touch briefly on the tragic death of St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras. There are times when we are reminded of the unimportance of the actual results of baseball games, even World Series games, and Sunday night was one of those times.

Shout Outs

  • Big shout outs to Buddy, Kizzfastfists, Mark From Toronto, Sean Powell, and Sherm for their first 2014 off-season Lizzies!!!! Thanks for being here!

MVL

  • Congratulations to Doc Raker, our Most Valuable Lizzie-er this time! Way to go Doc!

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

1. Doc Raker
2. Eddie Von White
3. jswanson
4. Doug S.
4. Jerry in Wisconsin
4. Seymour Butts
7. Noah Eisner
8. Dork
8. Sherm
10. Buddy
10. Jedi
10. Kizzfastfists
10. Mark From Toronto
10. SBardo
10. Sean Powell
10. SouthKakalakiCubsFan

Chit Chat

By the time you read this, you will know who won the World Series. As I’m writing it though (early Wednesday evening) I don’t yet know. I am hoping the Royals pull it off but I’m not really invested either way. How about you? Did your choice win?

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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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I Really Want Joe Maddon as the Cubs’ Next Manager

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

Before I delve into the topic of this post, I wanted to touch briefly on the tragic death of St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras. There are times when we are reminded of the unimportance of the actual results of baseball games, even World Series games, and Sunday night was one of those times. My thoughts and heartfelt condolences are with the families and friends of Oscar Taveras and Edilia Arvelo.

About a week ago, the big non-World Series news was that longtime Tampa Bay Rays Manager Joe Maddon made use of a clause in his contract that allowed him to opt out after Andrew Friedman left the Rays to become the Dodgers’ President of Baseball Operations. Maddon has long been viewed as one of the best managers in baseball, particularly for his willingness to use modern analytics, which many managers appear to avoid using. This, and his likely desire to be among the top paid managers in baseball, makes him a good fit for the Cubs. In fact, he’s such a good fit for the Cubs that many think the Rays may ask Major League Baseball to conduct an investigation to determine if any collusion occurred if Maddon and the Cubs consummate the deal. Personally, I hope that deal gets consummated. I really, really want Maddon as the Cubs’ next new manager.

Now, let’s start by being honest about what managers do not do. Managers do not turn bad teams into good teams. But they can improve teams by a game or two through setting the lineup in an optimal manner and using the bullpen well. Or they can lose their teams a game or two by failing in those areas. While I’ve never heard any complaints about Maddon’s usage of his bullpen, he especially is the current king of setting the best lineups possible.

My favorite feature of Maddon’s managerial style is his understanding of reverse splits. Too many managers load up a batting order with opposite handed hitters against any starter. But Maddon has understood longer than any other current manager that not all pitchers are more effective against same handed hitters. Indeed, pitchers who primarily feature a fastball/change up repertoire often feature reverse platoon splits; they are more effective against opposite handed hitters than same handed hitters. Maddon will load up lineups with same handed hitters against these starters because he really delves into the numbers.

Now, this also means that Maddon changes his lineups, at least slightly, on a near nightly basis. This doesn’t mean that you’ll see Anthony Rizzo batting 2nd one night, 6th the next, then 4th, etc. You’ll likely see Rizzo batting somewhere between second and fourth every night even if Maddon is the manager (another strong argument for Maddon is that he might be able to convince Rizzo to embrace batting second) If you’re an old school type who believes that a manager should set a line up and stick with it unless someone gets injured, Maddon will drive you batty. However, if you believe that the manager should set the best possible lineup each given night, you’ll love him.

This is not a dig at Rick Renteria, who I think did quite good work this season and improved as the season went along. I’d feel quite badly for him that just this level of timing did not work out. But Maddon’s too good to pass up on. And, if the Cubs do make the playoffs in 2015 or 2016, I know I’ll be a lot more comfortable with Joe Maddon calling the shots than any manager making their first run at the postseason.

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