Archive - 2006

December 9th

Paul Sulivan at the Chicago Tribune (as well as other media) are reporting that the Cubs have signed free-agent RHP Jason Marquis to a three year deal worth $28M. The 28-year old Marquis was ranked as an MLB Type "B" free-agent, so the Cubs weren't going to lose a draft pick by signing him anyway, but because the Cardinals did not offer arbitration to him by the December 1st deadline, they will not be receiving a Supplemental ("sandwich") draft pick between the 1st & 2nd round of next June's First-Year Player Draft (Rule 4 Draft) as compensation for losing him. (If the Cubs had signed Type "A" FA Jeff Suppan instead of Marquis, the Cubs would have lost a 3rd round draft pick to the Cardinals--Alfonso Soriano cost the Cubs their 2nd Round pick--and the Cards would have also received a Supplemental 1st rounder). Marquis was a 1st Round (supplemental) pick of the Atlanta Braves in the 1996 Rule 4 Draft (June Draft), and quickly became the Braves #1 pitching prospect. He was used as both a starter and reliever with the Braves 2001-2003, before getting traded along with RHP Adam Wainwright and LHP Ray King to St. Louis in December 2003, a deal where the Cardinals sent OF J. D. Drew and C-OF Eli Marrero to Atlanta. Marquis had his two best seasons while pitching for the Cardinals in 2004 and 2005, when he went 15-7 with a 3.72 ERA ('04) and 13-14 with a 4.13 ERA ('05) as a rotation starter. Marquis went 14-16 with a 6.02 ERA and 1.52 WHIP in 2006, and was considered so unreliable at the end of the regular season that he was left off the Cardinals post-season playoff roster. In his best years, Marquis was--like Brandon Webb, Jake Westbrook, and Derek Lowe--an extreme ground ball pitcher. However, last season he got his pitches up and got clobbered, actually getting increasingly worse as the season wore on (he was 11-6 5.55 at the All-Star break, and 3-10 6.91 after the break). If you throw out his six-plus ERA, Marquis' 2006 G/F ratio and WHIP closely match MLB starting pitchers like Josh Fogg or Rodrigo Lopez, so if he can't rediscover his ground ball magic, that's the type of pitcher you can expect Marquis to be for the Cubs in 2007. But if he can relocate his sinker, then he could be a lot better than that. I'd like to think the Cubs know something the Cardinals don't know, but if Redbirds pitching coach Dave Duncan couldn't fix whatever ailed Marquis last season, is it realistic to expect Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild will be able to turn the trick in 2007? CUBS PROJECTED 2007 STARTING ROTATION: 1. Carlos Zambrano 2. Ted Lilly 3. Rich Hill 4. Jason Marquis 5-A. Mark Prior 5-B. Wade Miller 5-C. Neal Cotts 5-D. Sean Marshall, Angel Guzman, Juan Mateo, or Jae-kuk Ryu. UPDATE from Rob G. The Trib has changed its tune again on the money and puts it at a far more reasonable 3/21 now. Bruce Miles of The Daily Herald also pegs the contract in that vicinity as well.

December 8th

Back by popular demand (okay it was like two people in the comments), it's TCR Friday Notes. I have to admit that I'm a bit burned out by the last few days, so excuse me for this being brief and/or repetitive from stuff in the comments. - It looks like the O's are interested in Jacque Jones and they'll kindly take them him off our hands for hidden gem David Newhan. Oh what's that you say, Newhan isn't very good? Well you'd be right. Hopefully that one is just a cruel joke. - Speaking of the O's, it's reported they offered 3/48 for Jason Schmidt, but it wasn't enough to get him to the East Coast. A St. Louis Dispatch blurb said the Cardinals offered 3/39 and were probably willing to go to 3/42. - Some speculation that the Braves will just non-tender Marcus Giles as they're in a bit of a budget crunch and trade interest has been lukewarm on him so far. Some team will end up being very happy that lands him. - St. Louis Dispatch joins the growing chorus that Jason Marquis will be a Cub soon. Larry Rothschild has even gone to see his workouts and there have been several talks with his agent. Anyone else completely underwhelmed, raise your hands? - We also have talk about the Cubs pursuing Jeff Suppan and if it's a decision between signing Suppan and Marquis, well, wait that's not a decision at all. Go get Suppan! - The same Sun-Times article says the Cubs have been talking to the Nationals about Ryan Church and Sean Marshall's name has come up. It's said that Carlos Marmol interests the Nationals more though. If true, and that's certainly a big if, why isn' this deal done? That seems like such a no-brainer to me and giving up Marmol instead of Marshall seems like a far better move for us. - The same article once again quotes Gary Hughes saying that "Cliff Floyd will probably never be off our radar." - Some humor to get you going for the weekend, an old top 10 list from Letterman on why the Cubs haven't won a World Series since 1908. Enjoy the weekend!!!

December 7th

The updates will be scarce today as most the GM"s have left Florida and our own GM is recovering from getting fifty years of donuts and trans fats blown out of his arteries. 2:03 PM Another Score update from George Offman and he cites "one report" that the Cubs are talking to Jeff Suppan and mentions that Rocco Baldelli is on the Cubs wish list along with the White Sox. Both sounded like much ado about nothing at this point, so don't go nuts over it. 1:36 PM I'm listening to the Score at the moment and they did mention the Cubs are talking to Jeff Suppan, but no real details. 1:33 PM - Word is that Levine on ESPN 1000 is reporting the Cubs are "close" to signing Jason Marquis, take it for what it's worth.

The 2006 Rule 5 Draft meeting was held this morning at the MLB Winter Meetings at Lake Buena Vista, FL, near Disney World. The Cubs lost three players in the Major League Phase of the Draft--LHP Edward Campusano to MIL (the Brewers then sold Campusano's draft rights to DET), RHP Lincoln Holdzkom to HOU, and INF Jason Smith to TOR, and two players in the AAA phase--2B Richard Lewis to KC and RHP Andy Shipman to OAK. The Cubs also selected one player in the Major League Phase (OF Josh Hamilton from TB) and one player in the AAA phase (RHP Jim Henderson from WAS), but Hamilton was subsequently sent to the Cincinnati Reds in a cash deal. After the conclusion of the Rule 5 Draft, the Cubs acquired RHP Kevin Hart from BAL as the PTBNL in yesterday's deal where Freddie Bynum was sent to the Orioles. Hart was selected by the O's in the 11th round of the 2004 Rule 4 Draft (June Draft) out of the University of Maryland, and was a rotation starter at Hi-A Frederick last season. Hart will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time after next season, so the Cubs have a year to decide whether to place him on their 40-man roster.

December 6th

Word from WGN radio is that Freddie Bynum has been dumped on the Orioles for some jerseys, a hat and a day with Cal Ripken Jr. (in actuality it's the elusive PTBNL). I assume it was to make room for the signing of Theodore Roosevelt Lilly (awfully patriotic parents he had). The deal is for 4/40. Cubs are still waiting on Gil Meche to decide between them and the Blue Jays.

I can't imagine that I'll keep up the pace from yesterday, but I'll do what I can. 7:05 PM Rosenthal says that Lilly has agreed on a 4/40 deal with the Cubs. Welcome to the Northside! 7:00 PM Some of our readers that have been listening to local ESPN radio 1000 and Bruce Levine are saying that Jim Hendry has been admitted to the hospital with flu-like symptoms. Bummer. 6:43 PM - Maybe the Cubs are hedging their bets here, but that same St. Louis Dispatch writer, Bernie Miklasz is saying things don't look good for the Cardinals on the Jeff Suppan front and that the Cubs and Astros have made 3/30 offers for him. Cards are only offering 3/20 at the moment for Suppan. If true, Astros have a distinct advantage as Texas has no state income tax making it a better overall deal for Suppan. It also seems the only thing holding up the Dodger deal with Schmidt is the physical (various sources). 6:33 PM - Newsday is saying the Cubs have upped their offer to 4/44 on Lilly and Cashman is deciding if he'll offer the 4/40 that Lilly said he'd be willing to take to pitch for the Yankees. 6:21 PM My apologies to reader "Andrew", for he did post new info in the comments on a link I had previously posted. It seems 30 minutes after thinking they were out of the Meche running, the Blue Jays now believe he may take their 4/40 offer. 5:13 PM - Is Gil Meche a Cub? A Blue Jays official has told a Seattle paper that it's his understanding that Meche will sign with the Cubs. I'm not a fan...... 4:56 PM - Rotoworld and Will Carroll have both picked up on the Schmidt deal not being done quite yet and Schmidt has apparently stopped talking about it. - SI.com is reporting that Lilly has told the Yankees that he'll sign with them if they offer 4/40. - ESPN is saying that Andy Petitte has decided to pitch next year and if my update at 4:05 pm from Stark is true about the Yanks waiting for Petitte, they'd back out on the Lilly sweepstakes. 4:47 PM - Here's a twist for you, although it looks like a message board, the post is from one of the writers from the St. Louis Dispatch and he says the Schmidt deal isn't done yet and they want to still talk to the Cardinals. Ned Colletti may very well take out all the agents in a mass murder-Godfather style hit if Schmidt backs out. In a later post, (around page 5), Bernie (the writer) says he still believes Schmidt is going to the Dodgers and doesn't trust what his agents are telling the Cardinals. 4:05 PM - Another ESPN update from Stark tells us that the Yanks aren't even sure they'll make an offer on Ted Lilly, preferring Andy Petitte. Unfortunately for them, Petitte probably won't be making any final decisons for a couple of weeks. - He also puts the Blue Jays as the front-runners for Gil Meche.

December 5th

UPDATED 12-6-06 The 2006 Rule 5 Draft meeting will be held tomorrow, and (as per usual) it will be the last order of business at the Winter Meetings.

I was going to start this yesterday but the servers decided to spontaneously combust. I figure besides the July tradeline, the Winter Meetings are the best time for unfounded rumor mongering and I'm more than happy to help. So I've got ESPN News on, about 25 tabs open in my browser, the Score streaming and an IV drip of coffee. I'll see if I can keep it up. I'm going to try and keep it mostly Cub related, even if it's players that have been connected with the Cubs talking to another team. New posts will go above the old posts. 5:25 PM - Bruce Miles gives us a quick update and has a Cubs source saying that Jacque Jones did not "formally" ask for a trade. Also some whispers of a Kevn Mench for Jon Lieber swap. 4:28 PM - Steve Phillips wasted ten minutes of my time just now on ESPN News. - Lilly's agent Larry O'Brien says the Blue Jays will need to get creative to land Lilly and that the Cubs have stepped up their offer on Lilly and are willing to pay him what he wants. Piniella called Lilly to entice him to the Northside as well. - Maddux deal seems to be done. 4:15 PM Probably the last update for a bit, but Rosenthal puts the Mariners in the Zito sweepstakes, and gives the Dodgers the lead for Schmidt citing his ties to Colletti and trainer Stan Conte (recently hired by the Dodgers). 3:39 PM - Ryan Church is on the block and the Cubs may be interested. Nats are probably looking for young pitching and Church isn't going to get a blue-chipper in return. I say cough up Carlos Marmol or someone similar and see if they bite. At worst, Church is a good 4th OF with good plate discpline and decent power from the left side. 2:56 PM - Rosenthal is back on the Maddux to Padres rumors stating that they're at the "dotting-the-i's-and-crossing-the-t's stage" on a one year deal with a 2nd year option. 2:44 PM - Jacque Jones just did an interview on ESPN News and did a fantastic job of dodging questions. Asked directly if he asked for a trade, he said "I don't know about that, you know what I mean?" accompanied with a sly smile that indicated he didn't want to dig too deep a hole. He did say he had a rough go in Chicago last year with the fans, that some folks even got a hold of his phone number, received some hate mail, etc. As far as he's concerned he signed for three years as a Cub, but you got a sense he'd be thrilled to get out of here. He also said he hasn't spoken to Lou yet this offseason. 2:27 PM - The Mariners met with Lilly's agent on Tuesday, no word on an offer but Lilly does have motivation to go to the West Coast as I believe his wife is going to veterinarian school in California.

A few days ago, right here at TCR, I dared Ryne Sandberg to take the open Peoria manager's job. Well, guess what happened?

December 2nd

Chicago media is reporting that Jim Hendry has made an offer to Toronto Blue Jays FA LHP Ted Lilly. The offer is believed to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $36-$40M over four years, comparable to the contract Jarrod Washburn got from the Seattle Mariners last off-season (4/37.5). However, Lillyís agent has said that the while an offer has been received from the Cubs, there are other MLB clubs interested in his client (believed to be NYY, TOR, and SF), and while he has been impressed by the moves the Cubs have made so far, Lilly has not made a decision yet. One thing pretty clear is that if Hendry has indeed offered Lilly $9M or $10M per year, then itís EXTREMELY unlikely that Hendry will have any further conversations about Jason Schmidt. If the $15M in 2007 payroll that would have been needed to sign Schmidt is instead split two-ways, and if Lilly gets about $9M of it, then figure Hendry will be able to spend about $6M of ìSchmidt Moneyî on another rotation starter, possibly by acquiring Jake Westbrook or Jason Jennings (both of whom make about $6M in 2007) via trade, or by signing a veteran ìswing-manî (starter/reliever) like Miguel Batista (also likely to get around $6M per year). So who exactly is Ted Lilly? Well, Ted Lilly is the poor man's Barry Zito. Like Zito (and Rich Hill), Lilly is an extreme fly ball pitcher who relies on pop-ups and strikeouts to get his outs, and when he is on his game and when the wind isn't blowing out at Wrigley or when he isn't pitching in a bandbox like the parks in Houston, Philadelphia, and Cincinnati, he can roll through a lineup, racking up Ks (Lilly was 7th in the A. L. in K/IP last season). However, while Zito (and Hill) frequently will give his club seven strong innings and sometimes pitch into the eight or ninth, Lilly doesn't do that. He is NOT a "horse" and he is NOT an "innings eater." In a typical start, Lilly throws about 17-18 pitches per inning (second-most P/IP in MLB last year, and second only to another presumed Hendry target, Gil Meche) and because he usually ìhits the wallî at about 90-100 pitches, he has trouble getting through the sixth inning. So the bullpen usually gets an early call when Lilly is on the mound. I consider Lilly to be a lower-half #2 or upper-half #3 starter, a decent middle of the rotation guy, but I would be more enthused about Lilly if the Cubs didnít already have some IP challenged starters (Mark Prior and Wade Miller) and a Zito-clone (Rich Hill) in the rotation. I believe Lilly is a better choice and a class above Meche, Marquis, Redman, et al, but he is not Jason Schmidt and neither is he Vicente Padilla. If the Cubs do manage to sign Lilly, the 2007 starting rotation would look like this (pending any additional acquisitions): 1. Zambrano 2. Lilly 3. Hill 4. Prior/Miller/Marshall 5. Miller/Marshall/Guzman/Mateo/Ryu

December 1st

Every year going into the off-season, I usually informally rate the MLB starting pitchers, as either a #1, #2, #3, #4, #5-A, #5-B, or "emerging prospect" starter. Naturally, the list changes from year-to-year. Since there are 30 MLB clubs, I list 30 #1 starters, 30 #2 starters, 30 #3 starters, etc. Some clubs have more than one "ace #1 starter," while others don't have any. It's just my subjective opinion--and I'm sure you have your's, and normally I just keep the list in my head, using it as a reference when posting something here about pitchers the Cubs might be pursuing as free-agents or in a trade. But with the Winter Meetings set to commence at Lake Buena Vista, FL (near Disney World) on Monday, with MLB GMs likely to begin congregating at the hotel bar Sunday evening, and with Jim Hendry hoping to acquire two (or possibly three) starting pitchers while he's there, I thought I would post my list, just to provide a starting point for discussions about pitchers Hendry might be considering.

The Cubs announced their 2007 minor league managing and coaching assignments a couple of days ago, and together with a previous announcement regarding minor league coordinators, the MLB field staff and Player Development field staff for the upcoming season is just about finalized.

November 30th

As Sir Soriano gets introduced to the masses today, and we finally have the contract details laid out, itís time to put this monstrosity into itís proper perspective. Letís just say, Iím a bit torn by the whole ordeal. LEFT BRAIN It doesnít take graphs and charts or any sort of fancy analysis to figure out that the Cubs just paid far too much money for far too many years to finally get Alfonso Soriano into a Cubs uniform. If you look back at his career there are plenty of reasons to not like the signing, whether it be the Sosa-like strikeouts, the low on-base percentage and walk totals, the age, the length of contract, the money, the career year in a walk season, or the foreboding PECOTA forecast. I mean there isnít one good reason to believe that this is a smart baseball move. A matter of fact, itís the type of deal that can cripple a non-New York franchise by itís vice-like grip on the payroll. And even if you like Soriano the player and what he brings to the game (great power, good speed), you got to be a little ticked the Cubs brass didnít have this epiphany for paying top prices for top talent two years ago, when the far superior Carlos Beltran was on the market.

November 28th

Ken Rosenthal gives us the scoop...
The breakdown of Alfonso Soriano's eight-year, $136 million contract with the Cubs: $8 million signing bonus, $9 million in 2007, $13 million in '08, $16 million in '09 and $18 million per season from ë10 to '14. The contract also guarantees Soriano six premium tickets to the All-Star Game ñ if he is a participant ñ as well as home games during spring training, the regular season and playoffs.
UPDATE: And now the fun incentives come out on Soriano's deal. He's got full no-trade protection and is guaranteed a suite on road trips. He gets the premium tickets as explained above and will donate $50,000 annually split between the United Way Foundation and the Cubs Care Foundation. There's also some performance incentives including $250,000 for collecting most All Star votes, $350,000 if he is selected the World Series MVP, $250,000 for the league championship series MVP, $300,000 for the MVP award and $75,000 for a Gold Glove.

November 27th

In my lifetime, the Chicago Cubs organization has designated 19 different men as "manager." Those 19 include the undefeated Rene Lachemann, with a career record as Cubs manager of 1-0, and the hapless Joe Altobelli, at 0-1. There are the thoroughly mediocre records of Jim Lefebvre (162-162) and John Vukovich (1-1), which in the context of Cubs history, are actually quite impressive. When I learned in October that there would be a 20th Cubs manager in my lifetime, I began wondering, "who in their right mind would accept this professional death-sentence?" There's the whole 98-year thing, of course, but more practically, the Big Office in the Cubs' clubhouse is where managerial careers go to die. Throwing out Vukovich, Altobelli, and Lachemann, who collectively managed four games, and we have 16 Cubs managers in the last 30 years of Cubs baseball. Of those 16, 12 had prior managerial experience. They are:
Herman Franks Preston Gomez Charlie Fox Jim Frey Gene Michael Frank Lucchesi Don Zimmer Jim Lefebvre Tom Treblehorn Jim Riggleman Don Baylor Dusty Baker
The four without any previous major league experience, by the way, are:
Joey Amalfitano Lee Elia Jim Essian Bruce Kimm
Here's where it gets interesting. (At least, for me.) The collective managerial record of those 16, in their jobs before coming to the Cubs, is 4229-4282, for a .497 winning percentage. Almost perfectly average. Then, they arrived in Chicago.

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