Archive for the ‘General’ Category

3 Players Set For Big Regression In 2015

Monday, December 29th, 2014

With the offseason coming to a bit of a lull (although top names like Max Scherzer and James Shields are still available) it’s safe to say that we can start looking towards next season already. Last year, we saw some surprising names jump onto the scene, but we may see some of those fade away as quickly as they came.

Alfredo Simon – SP – Detroit Tigers

After looking at last season’s basic statistics for Simon, 15-10 with a 3.44 ERA, many lauded the Tigers for their acquisition. He’s coming off of his first All-Star season at the age of 33, but it appears that last year might have been a case of fool’s gold.

Throughout the first half of last year, Simon pitched to a 12-3 record with an impressive 2.70 ERA, so you can easily say that his All-Star appearance was well earned. With that being said, his numbers fell off of a cliff during the second half, as he went 3-7 with a pedestrian 4.52 ERA.

If you look into the advanced statistics, the picture becomes even clearer. He was the beneficiary of the league’s 10th lowest Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) at .265, a number that is typically around the .285-.295 mark for most pitchers. Along with that, he managed to strike out just 5.82 batters per nine innings, which was the lowest for a full season in his career.

His 3.44 ERA looks impressive on the surface, but his 4.33 FIP tells a much different story. That number placed him 10th worst among qualified starting pitchers and is definitely not indicative of someone who will maintain success in the future. Making the move to Comerica Park will help, but I don’t see any situation in which Simon replicates his 2014 success.

Casey McGehee – 3B – San Francisco Giants

Last season, McGehee came out of nowhere to steadily produce for a Miami Marlins team that was barren on offense. This was his first truly productive season since the 2010 campaign with the Milwaukee Brewers. Since then, he had spent time with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the New York Yankees and Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan.

While his surprising comeback was certainly a feel-good story for fans around the league, his resume from last year has some holes in it that are just too glaring to overlook going into 2015.

After being slugging his way to a .319/.386/.391 slash line during the first half of the season (assisted by an astronomical .369 BABIP), McGehee started to fall off the table in the second half, with his numbers dropping all the way down to a paltry .243/.310/.310. Along with the drop to a regular BABIP in the second half (.284) McGehee saw his strikeout numbers jump from 55 in 93 games to 47 in just 67.

The second half that McGehee produced is more than likely what we are going to see out of him for the entirety of the 2015 season. He’ll be a passable option for the Giants at third until they can find a long-term solution, but we likely won’t see a repeat of his .287/.355/.357 line that he posted in 2014.

Josh Harrison – 3B – Pittsburgh Pirates

In talking about breakout players from the 2014 season, there aren’t many guys that burst onto the scene quite like Harrison. After spending his first three years with the Pittsburgh Pirates going up and down between the majors and the minors and largely being considered a role player, Harrison exploded and wound up finishing 9th in MVP voting.

His versatility in the field was incredible, as was his bat. He anchored the leadoff spot for the Pirates and slashed .315/.347/.490 line for the season with 13 home runs and 18 stolen bases and wound up posting 4.9 WAR, which was good for 25th in all of baseball.

At just 27 years old, many consider Harrison to be an important piece of the team moving forward, but that may not be the case upon closer consideration. His numbers at the plate were impressive, but they were aided by a .353 BABIP (9th in baseball) and while that alone doesn’t equal regression, it can be a telling sign especially considering his career number of .313.

Harrison’s success last season was almost completely predicated off of murdering fastballs, but beyond four-seamers he was a very average hitter. With pitchers likely to notice these trends, you can guarantee that he’ll be seeing a lot more off-speed stuff in the 2015 season. While he won’t completely fall off the table, a WAR of in the 2.0-2.5 range (still solid) should be expected.

What other players do you expect to come down to earth next season?

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GirlieView (12/25/2014)

Thursday, December 25th, 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 Offseason = 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

  • I am pretty happy with all moves so far, but they could hire me to keep the spreadsheet. I would have no useful purpose, but it would be a nice Christmas present. and everyone needs a dork around the office
  • Trade Carrie Muscat for Lizzie
  • I doubt she would put up with our shit.
  • I actually had not anticipated us getting CM back in that trade. It was more of an upgrade for the Cubs, and CM gets DFA’d.
  • In a blow to the overall organizational “coolness”, the Cubs lost Rock Shoulders to the Rule 5 draft. He will join other career minor leaguers F. Flintstone and B. Rubble with the Rangers.
  • Is Mr. Slate their bench coach? I was really hoping Rock would make it to the Bigs as a Cub just because of his name. This will definitely be logged in the not cool column now that Dork is the dugout spreadsheet coach.
  • Three’s a charm. This feels pretty good leading up to Christmas. It must be the roids.
  • Since it’s a Christmas gift, let’s see them go get Cole Hamels from the Phillies for Edwin Jackson and that batboy.
  • But then we’d be mean to the Phillies and you can’t be mean at Christmastime. We have to find a way to make them think Edwin is a gift…or the batboy…but then again, every time he pitched it would be a gift to the other team.
  • I am more interested in their playoff roster since their opening day roster will not be their playoff roster.
  • If Junior Lake is a starter – there won’t be a playoff roster.
  • I love when a Scott Boras scheme goes a rye…
  • I like it when his schemes go a pumpernickel.
  • I like it when his schemes go a seven grain whole wheat.
  • which fills four of the expected seven (sigh) slots.
  • Glad to hear they’ve found another beard to replace the loss of James Russell’s beard from last season.
  • I think Noah_I is Theo.
  • Wow are there some conspiracy theorists here. “I” is my middle initial. Nothing so interesting. Also, being Jewish (well, or at least Jewishish) and of Ashkenazi descent, there won’t be a Noah II at least as long as I’m alive. Of course, Theo is also Jewish. So maybe I AM him, spending all my spare time writing blog posts. You’ll never know. Mwahahaha!
  • The consensus here is that you are Theo. Therefore, you are Theo.
  • We’ve had Muskat keeping us in check for years. FWIW.
  • My guess is that looking at these top guys is not where the cubs will be looking.

Lizard

  • All I can say is Noah_I/Theo has given me the best Christmas I could ask for – a realistic hope that the Cubs’ season will go beyond opening day.

Shout Outs

  • No one had their very first 2014 off-season Lizzie this time so let’s have a shout out for everyone! Thanks for being here!

MVL

  • Congratulations to Eddie von White, our Most Valuable Lizzie-er this time! Four times in a row way to go EVW!

Top 10 of the 2014 Offseason (one point for each Lizzie, three points for the Lizard) – I’ll post the full list this time!

1. Eddie Von White
2. Doc Raker
2. jswanson
4. Seymour Butts
5. Doug S.
6. Dork
7. Jedi
7. Jerry in Wisconsin
9. Noah Eisner
10. Buddy
10. Mark From Toronto
10. Sean Powell
13. SBardo
14. cap’n realist
14. Joe Aiello
14. Sherm
17. SouthKakalakiCubsFan
18. Andy
18. Bryan
18. Kizzfastfists
18. Ray Brettman

Chit Chat

Merry Christmas! Chat about anything that strikes your fancy!

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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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Top Trade Options On The Market

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

Free agency is already in full swing, which means many of the top names have already found new homes. Though there has been quite a bit of movement on the trade market already, with Matt Kemp, Justin Upton and Wil Myers heading to San Diego, Josh Donaldson going to Toronto and a few other notable moves, there are a few players that could wind up getting moved prior to the season kicking off.

Cole Hamels

Much like a majority of the Philadelphia Phillies roster, Hamels has to be seen as available to other teams just based on the fact that the team should (hypothetically) be in a rebuilding phase. General Manager Ruben Amaro has defied logic in the past, but he would be crazy to not at least listen to what teams would offer for his ace.

Hamels is the cream of the crop as far as the trade market goes, as he’s a proven ace who is under team control for at least the next four seasons with a contract that is right in line with his value (along with a $20 million team option for the fifth season).

While he has not experienced Kershaw-level dominance, he is still just about as reliable of a pitcher that you’re going to find, and potentially a better option than the top two free agent pitchers that are left unsigned, James Shields and Max Scherzer.

As we have seen in the past, Amaro has a tendency to expect a bit too much of a return in any transactions, so the price for Hamels might be higher than if he were on any other team. It’s going to take a top prospect or two to pry him away from Philly, but the return could end up being more than worth it if he goes to the right team.

Troy Tulowitzki

If this were a case of comparing talent with no external factors, Tulowitzki would have undoubtedly topped this list. When he’s healthy, he’s undoubtedly the best shortstop (and one of the best players overall) in all of baseball.

He has won two Gold Gloves in his career and just as many Silver Sluggers, sports a .371 OBP for his career and has a 20 stolen base season on his resume. He is the prototype of what you would want out of a shortstop, but there’s one major problem for any team acquiring him; he can’t stay healthy.

After playing 151 games in the 2009 season, Tulo has went on to miss 281 games over the past five years, including 71 just last season. It hasn’t been a series of nagging injuries, but rather some major ones that include hip surgery, groin surgery, a broken wrist and a strained quad that caused him to miss nearly 50 games.

He’s under team control for the next 6 years, which would be a dream with his production, but could end up being a nightmare with his injury history. The cost of acquiring him from the Colorado Rockies will be steep, which will only increase the risk of trading for him.

Jordan Zimmermann

Unlike the other options that have been listed, Zimmermann does not offer the security of sticking with a team beyond this coming season, as 2015 is the last year on his contract. He’ll be making $16.5 million this year, but that could skyrocket if/when he hits free agency.

Regardless of his contractual situation, however, Zimmermann has quickly asserted himself as one of the top right-handed arms in the game and he’s managed to stand out in a rotation that also features Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Doug Fister.

Over the past three seasons, Zimmermann is 45-22 with a 2.96 ERA (3.18 FIP) and a superb 4.43 K/BB ratio that was even higher this past season at an astounding 6.28, which was good for 6th in all of baseball. He’s only 28 years old and he seems to be improving with each season, so we may not have even seen his top form at this point.

Giving up a substantial package for what could be a one-year rental is always a nerve-wracking proposition, but the talent that Zimmermann brings to the table should outweigh any of those concerns. For a team that is in need of a pitcher to put them over the top, they should have no qualms about making a move with the Washington Nationals.

What other trade options are out there that you find appealing? What would you be willing to give up for any of the players listed?

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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 Other Moves Will the Cubs Make This Offseason?

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

For the first time in more than a half decade, the Cubs were among the most active teams at the Winter Meetings. They added one of the two best available free agent pitchers in left hander Jon Lester, brought back Jason Hammel to help solidify the middle to back of the rotation, and traded for catcher Miguel Montero. As the Cubs’ signing of reliever Jason Motte showed yesterday, though, the Cubs are not done this offseason. While the rumors of what they are looking for vary (a big bat in the outfield or a bench veteran with a great clubhouse reputation?), these are the moves that I think are most likely. As a quick note, though, I’m not including “just getting rid of a guy” moves, so Edwin Jackson is not included here despite a pretty high likelihood of not being on the roster by the end of spring training, despite being due $22 million over the next two seasons.

MOST LIKELY CUBS TO BE TRADED:

Welington Castillo (C): There are two primary reasons that the Cubs brought in Miguel Montero to replace Welington Castillo as the team’s primary catcher. First, Castillo does not hit right handed pitching well. Montero, who bats left handed, has done most of his offensive damage over his career against right handed pitching. Second, Castillo is among the worst pitch framers in baseball, while Montero is one of the best.

While a Montero/Castillo platoon clearly makes sense from an offensive perspective, from a receiving perspective the Cubs would face a big drop off during games against left handed pitchers. And there is a veteran free agent backup catcher our there who also hits left handed pitching very well, without the huge decrease in pitch framing ability: David Ross. Ross also was Jon Lester’s personal catcher for the last few years in Boston, and would probably be cheaper through free agency than Castillo would be in arbitration.

Short version: if the Cubs bring in Ross, Castillo will be traded. If they don’t, Castillo won’t.

The likely return for Castillo is hard to predict because, aside from being a poor pitch framer and receiver he’s a good defensive catcher. He throws runners out at a strong rate and generally controls the running game well. So a team that emphasizes pitch framing, which more and more are every year, would be willing to give less for Castillo than a team that isn’t yet convinced by the framing data. He’d be worth someone who is at least useful, but probably no one to get excited about. Castillo is predicted to receive $2 to $2.3 million in his first year of arbitration in 2015.

Luis Valbuena (3B/2B):  Heading into the offseason, I wasn’t sure what the Cubs were going to do with Luis Valbuena. He’s a starting caliber 3B or 2B on most teams, and at least worthy of being the strong half of a platoon on nearly any team. Moreover, as a guy who builds a lot of his value by drawing walks and playing solid defense, he won’t get as much through arbitration as the 25 home run types who don’t otherwise get on base. He’s predicted to make about $3.1 million in his second year of arbitration.

Here’s the rub: once Kris Bryant comes up, likely in mid-April after the extra year of team control is secured, Valbuena won’t have a starting spot on the Cubs if Bryant is initially plugged into third base as most expect. You typically don’t get the most value out of a starting caliber player by sticking him on your bench, since another team that needs that starting caliber player will probably have someone else that you need. Yet the Cubs still had a potential need for Luis Valbuena, at least at the start of the offseason: Javier Baez insurance. Baez clearly needs to make a lot of adjustments to succeed at the MLB level, and it’s not clear that a demotion to Triple A isn’t in his future next season.

Enter Tommy La Stella. La Stella is not an ideal starting second baseman, but he can hold the position down respectably long enough for the Cubs to not feel their only backup plan to Baez is promoting Addison Russell earlier than they want to.

Valbuena could bring a good amount in a trade due to his value over the past two seasons and relatively cheap last two years of team control.

Travis Wood (SP):  The Wood story is pretty well known: he was great in 2013, but likely in an unsustainable fashion due to more average peripherals. In 2014 he was just all around worse, with not only having his results fall to his peripherals, but having his peripherals get worse. It’s essentially presumed at this point that Travis Wood has the first shot at the fifth spot in the rotation, but I’m not positive the Cubs won’t add another starting pitcher before all is said and done.

Even if the Cubs don’t add another starting pitcher, Wood could be dangled towards the end of spring training if Jacob Turner impresses, or Tsuyoshi Wada just clearly looks like the better option. Unfortunately, at this juncture it is unlikely Wood would bring much in the way of return. Due to his strong 2013 performance, Wood entered arbitration at a pretty $3.9 million in 2014, and that’s going to guide his arbitration award upward over the next two years as well. Odds are, at the most, you’re getting some other play who is approaching being overpaid in arbitration that also struggled last season. If this were one of the last three years, the Cubs would hold on to Wood in the hopes he could regain value. With the Cubs looking to compete in 2015, they might not feel that is an option now.

THE TARGETS

The Pitchers

Kris Medlen (SP): The starting pitching market has really thinned out over the last week, with really just Max Scherzer and James Shield at the top before you get to the fliers. The Cubs won’t be in on either of those top two guys, so we can go straight to the fliers. I was going to list Brett Anderson as my favorite among them, but he signed a 1 year, $10 million deal with the Dodgers last night. So my new favorite on that list is Kris Medlen, who was non-tendered by the Braves. Medlen was a quite good pitcher for the Braves as recently as 2013, and no one was better in the second half of 2012. The problem with Medlen is that he’s going to be coming off his second Tommy John surgery, which does not have the successful return rate as guys who have had their first Tommy John surgery. If the Cubs sign Medlen, they’d probably want some rather team friendly option to keep him for 2016, since he probably won’t pitch in the Majors until close to mid-season.

Too numerous of arbitration eligible mid to back of the rotation options to list that potentially could be available via trade: These would be the guys that the Cubs would be most likely to receive in a Valbuena or Wood trade. For Valbuena you probably get a legitimate mid-rotation guy with a couple of years of arbitration left. For Wood you probably get a little less.

The Outfielders

Colby Rasmus (CF): The Cubs have reportedly met with the former Cardinals top prospect, who has solid power and plays good center field defense, but doesn’t get on base and strikes out way too much. He’d have to be a guy the market passes over for me to be interested, a guy on a one year prove you can put it together deal. My biggest problem with Rasmus is that there’s some team out there that shouldn’t view him like that: a team that doesn’t strike out a lot but also doesn’t hit for a lot of power. The Cubs of the near future will only be that team if something goes really, really wrong with the prospects.

Nori Aoki (RF/LF): While Aoki doesn’t come with the former prospect credentials that Rasmus does, he could be a great fit for the Cubs. He gets on base through a combination of an average walk rate and extremely low strikeout rate, posting at least a .349 OBP in each of his three seasons in the Majors. He’d be a great table setter for the Cubs in front of the multitude of power bats. Also, while Aoki’s rather… interesting… fly ball routes have become the stuff of legend, he’s a decent outfielder, and should be helped by moving from right field to left, which he would with the Cubs.  Personally, this is a situation where I’d prefer the former Brewer to the former Cardinal.

Jonny Gomes (LF): Gomes has long been said to be a guy the Cubs want to bring in to be a part of a left field platoon with Chris Coghlan if the Cubs don’t add a regular there. I don’t really get it, largely because I don’t see how he’s any better of a hitter than Justin Ruggiano and Ruggiano is a far superior fielder. I understand that Gomes is supposed to be an awesome clubhouse presence, but that should only be a consideration if the players are otherwise pretty equivalent, or one of the players is an outright clubhouse cancer. I just don’t think Gomes is Ruggiano’s equal at this point. And if I don’t think you’re Ruggiano’s equal, it means I don’t think you’re a very good baseball player.

Justin Upton (LF): The Braves already traded Jason Heyward to the National League’s version of the evil empire this offseason, and are rumored to be shopping Justin Upton, who is in the last year of his contract, as well. I know what you’re thinking: it’s going to cost way too much to get a guy we’d only have for one season! My retort: look at what the Cardinals gave up for Heyward: a starter who lacks the secondary pitches to be a top of the rotation piece and a prospect who most think is more likely to be a reliever. Plus, the Braves didn’t get that for just Heyward. They got it for Heyward and Jordan Walden, a quality relief pitcher in his own right.

If the Cubs are going to trade Luis Valbuena for a current MLB player, they should at least reach out to the Braves to see if they could exchange him for Justin Upton. Valbuena provides the Braves with a significant and cost effective solution at third base for two years, which should appeal to them. Upton would provide the Cubs with a veteran middle of the order bat who could take some pressure of some of the prospects next season. The real question is if the Cubs should be trying to trade Valbuena for a current player, or use him to continue to keep the farm system stocked.

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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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Under The Radar Free Agent Position Players

Monday, December 15th, 2014

We’re in the middle of December, which means we’ve already passed the Winter Meetings. There was quite a bit of movement going on (Jon Lester signing with the Cubs, Jeff Samardzija heading to the White Sox, Yoenis Cespedes being shipped to Detroit) which will only get the ball rolling for the rest of the offseason. While there are still some big names out there, like Max Scherzer and James Shields, there are a few names that aren’t quite getting the press that they deserve. These three players will be able to contribute to a team next year and they won’t cost you and arm and a leg.

Mike Morse (1B/OF)

Last year, Morse came into the offseason off of one of the worst years of his career, hitting just .215 over the course of the year and compiling 13 home runs in only 88 games played. It wasn’t the contract year that he was looking for, but things wound up paying off.

 

He signed with the San Francisco Giants and it ended up being a great deal for both sides. For Morse, he re-established his value by posting a .279/.336/.475 slash line with 16 homers in 131 games and for the Giants, they received a power threat who helped them take home their 5th World Series title in 5 years.

While Morse won’t be mistaken for one of the game’s top sluggers, he does really well for himself at the plate. He is not an all-or-nothing power hitter like many role players are, as he’s able to get on base pretty consistently. He’s played quite a few positions in his career, but he realistically should try to find a home in the American League where he can DH. He’s an impressive hitter, but he’s one of the worst defensive players in all of baseball.

Alex Rios (OF)

After signing a big contract with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2008, Rios saw his career take a huge step downward, much like his former Jays teammate Vernon Wells. This led to the team trading him to Chicago, where after a few up-and-down years (culminated by a 2012 season that saw him receive MVP votes) he found his way to Texas to play for the Rangers.

He once again proved that he had turned his career around and helped the Rangers in their playoff push (they ultimately missed the playoffs in Game 163). Unfortunately, things just weren’t the same last year as they were the year prior, both for the team and for Rios. The team fell into the cellar of the American League West and Rios seemed to lose all of the power that was once in his bat.

Even without any power, however, Rios could still play an important role on a contending team. He killed left-handed pitching last year (with a .325/.353/.545) and dealt with a few nagging injuries, so the lack of power could have been a fluke. Another added bonus is that he has never played in the playoffs, so he may be willing to take a pay cut for the right team.

Stephen Drew (SS/2B/3B)

Stop laughing; I’m serious.

After sitting out half of last season due to a first round pick being attached to him, it was clear that Drew was pretty rusty when he signed with the Boston Red Sox in late May. He never really got it going at the plate, to say the least, even after being traded to a more favorable hitters park in Yankee Stadium.

While he didn’t get his bat up to par, his glove kept him on the field. He’s known around the league as one of the better defensive shortstops in all of baseball, but his versatility is also a plus. He’s capable of playing second and third in addition to shortstop, which adds to his value.

Coming off of the season that he had last year he won’t be looking to cash in for a big payday. His value that he prevents on defense is enough reason to sign him, but he could be a bounce back candidate with the bat. Even if he hits just .230 or .240 he immediately becomes a consistent above-average middle infielder, so I’d take my chances on a one-year deal with him.

Are there any other players that aren’t receiving the attention that they should be? If so, why should they be getting more press?

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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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