Archive - 2007

November 29th

Who says the Milwaukee Brewers aren't nice guys? On behalf of Cubs fans everywhere, allow me to extend deepest thanks to Brewers GM Doug Melvin, who just couldn't wait until after December 1st to sign Cubs FA catcher Jason Kendall.

November 28th

The editors at mlb.com obviously sent all of the team correspondents a mass email ordering them to write Winter Meeting shopping list stories...pronto! Well, their loss of editorial independence is your gain. Here, based on those stories and reports from a few of the hometown papers, is a summary of what the Cubs’ NL Central brothers might be looking for during next week’s meetings in Nashville: Brewers NL Central teams posted four of the five worst bullpen ERAs in the National League last season, with Milwaukee (4.15/12th in NL), Houston (4.62/14th), Pittsburgh (4.77/15th) and Cincy (5.10/16th) positively embarrassing the Cubs (3.76/3rd) and Cardinals (4.00/9th). No surprise then that so many of the division’s teams are hoping to address bullpen issues. The Brewers actually lost their best reliever, closer Francisco Cordero, who signed last week with the Reds, plus set-up man Scott Linebrink, who signed with the White Sox. (You think Kenny Williams will ask him to play centerfield?) GM Doug Melvin says he doesn’t anticipate trading for an established closer given the typical asking price, but he’s also understandably wary of the three remaining, free-agent closers—Gagne, Percival, and Dotel—given their colorful injury histories. Sounds to me like Doug Melvin has a problem.

November 27th

Jim Hendry acknowledges that Kerry Wood will have to show he can occasionally pitch on three consecutive days to become a full-fledged closer. But can he even pitch on two? Woody pitched in both ends of the 9/15 doubleheader in St. Louis, but other than that, he never pitched in consecutive days in ’07; in half of his 22 appearances, he was going on two, three or four days rest. The Cubs also saved Kerry for the low-leverage innings. In fact, according to Fangraphs, Wood pitched, on average, in lower leverage situations than any other Cub pitchers, except young Gallagher, Petrick, Pignatiello and Marshall (relief appearances only.) The stat I’m drawing on here is Average Leverage Index per plate appearance, which measures the possible change in win probability due to the result of any one at-bat. Wood’s pLI was 0.52; Marmol (1.19), Howry (1.44), and Dempster (1.57) were dealing with entirely different stress levels altogether. I thought the Cubs handled Wood well after his return from the DL in early August. He contributed, and he didn’t get hurt. But if he really does get the closer’s job, I don’t think either will be the case for very long in ’08.

November 26th

With the MLB Winter Meetings set for next week in Nashville, the Hot Stove League should start to heat-up. So here is a summary of what appears to be the "Hendry/Piniella Cubs Plan for 2008" (or whatever they call it internally) that was apparently devised at the Cubs Organizational Meeting in Mesa last month (and I am NOT necessarily advocating any of this stuff):

UPDATE #2: The deal is for $4.2 MM with the potential to earn another $3.45 MM in incentive clauses. Last year the incentive clauses in his contract were (according to Cot's Baseball Contracts):
$2M based on games: $0.3M for 40 g, $0.35M for 45 g, $0.4M for 50 g, $0.45M for 55 g, $0.5M for 60 g $2M based on games finished: $0.2M for 25 GF, $0.25M for 30 GF, $0.3M for 35 GF, $0.35M for 40 GF, $0.4M for 45 GF, $0.5M for 50 GF $0.75M based on days on active roster: $0.25M each for 90, 120 & 150 days on active roster
so expect something similar. UPDATE: The official press release... Our faithful readers are telling us that ESPN 1000 and Bruce Levine are reporting that Kerry Wood will resign with the Cubs on what sounds like an uber-cheap one year, four million dollar deal. I imagine there will be plenty of incentive clauses in there. I'm sure details will leak out soon enough but Hendry keeps his record in tact for keeping ballplayers that he wants to keep and the Cubs get another bullpen power arm with huge upside. Chances are that Wood, Marmol and Howry will compete for the closer duties this spring.

November 22nd

The Cubs have signed their first batch of minor league free-agents. Minor League FAs signed prior to 11/20 are normally the ones most in demand, and so they often get the best deals, including more money and usually an NRI to Spring Training. The six minor league free-agents signed recently by the Cubs are:

Not as old or celebrated as the Macy's parade, but more entertaining, it's.... it's.... Thanksgiving-Themed Baseball Names! Re-hashbrowning what we came up with, last year, here's your All-Turkey Team.

November 21st

You may have noticed the The Sun-Times report that Jim Hendry was in Los Angeles and had dinner with free agent Kaz Matsui and his people last night. L.A. happens to be my neck of the woods and in one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments, I happened to run into Hendry while getting my morning coffee at the Coffee Bean on Pico/Smithwood in Beverly Hills. I couldn't resist striking up a conversation... ------- (Busy coffee shop, about 6 people in line waiting to order. I stroll up and notice a older, Caucasian gentleman on his cell phone) Hendry: I know Miguel Cabrera is good, but he's a righty, we need lefties. I think Kaz and Jenkins are the much better options, Randy. (Hangs up phone) Rob: Pardon me, are you Jim Hendry? Hendry: (Surprised) Yeah, didn't think people would recognize me out here. Rob: Well I'm a huge Cubs fans, how'd your meeting with Kaz go last night. Hendry: How'd you know that? Rob: It was in the papers this morning and I came across it on this fan site I read, The Cub Reporter.

November 20th

In the wake of his big job change, John McDonough absolutely carpet-bombed the Chicago media today. I heard his interview with Mike Murphy on WSCR over the noon hour, just missed his late afternoon interview on WMVP (local ESPN Radio), then caught his appearance around 6pm with Roe Conn on WLS Radio. Naturally, his mug was all over local television as well, so much so that he effectively deprived poor Drew Peterson of the screen time he requires to continue creeping out the viewing public. McDonough's 24 years with the Cubs coincided with the 24 highest annual attendance totals in Cub history. The Cub fan convention, McDonough's idea, has become an annual rite of winter in Chicago and the blueprint for similar events now hosted by many teams in all major sports. (The 2008 Royals FanFest will be held January 19th at the Overland Park Convention Center. Get your tickets now!)

Today is the deadline for MLB clubs to submit their major league and minor league reserve lists to the MLB office, the beginning of the so-called "frozen period" that runs between November 20th and the conclusion of the MLB Rule 5 Draft (which will be conducted on Thursday, December 6th, as the last order of business at the 2007 MLB Winter Meetings in Nashville). During this period, a player on a minor league roster is essentially "frozen," meaning the player cannot be added to his club's 40-man roster or be traded. The only way a player can be moved off a minor league roster during the "frozen period" is by outright release. Back in 2003, the Cubs acquired 1B Derrek Lee from the Florida Marlins for 1B Hee Seop Choi and a PTBNL during the "frozen" period between November 20th and the Rule 5 Draft. The PTBNL was RHP Mike Nannini, who was "frozen" (by rule) on the Cubs AAA roster until the conclusion of the Rule 5 Draft. So as soon as the '03 Rule 5 Draft ended, the Cubs sent Nannini to FLA as the PTBNL. 45 Cubs minor leaguers are presently eligible for selection in the 2007 Rule 5 Draft if not added today to the Cubs MLB Reserve List (40-man roster): James Adduci, OF Alberto Alburquerque, RHP Cory Bailey, RHP Andres Blanco, INF Robinson Chirinos, INF Edward Campusano, LHP J. D. Closser, C Rafael Cova, RHP Matt Craig, 3B Brian Dopirak, 1B Darin Downs, LHP Danny Fatheree, C Alberto Garcia, 1B-OF Ryan Harvey, OF Jim Henderson, RHP Koyie Hill, C Micah Hoffpauir, 1B Grant Johnson, RHP Geoff Jones, LHP Scott Koerber, LHP Josh Kroeger, OF Tim Layden, LHP Marcos Mateo, RHP J. R. Mathes, LHP Casey McGehee, 3B-C Adalberto Mendez, RHP Mario Mercedes, C Jonathan Mota, INF Leonel Perez, RHP (was a coach for AZL Cubs in 2007) Jose Pina, RHP Tony Richie, C Alan Rick, C-1B Carlos Rojas, SS Issmael Salas, INF Joel Santo, RHP Paul Schappert, LHP Chris Shaver, LHP Mike Smith, RHP Jemel Spearman, IF-OF Nate Spears, 2B Andres Torres, OF Chris Walker, OF Les Walrond, LHP Matt Weber, RHP (RESTRICTED LIST - is playing college basketball) Randy Wells, RHP The Major League Reserve List limit is 40 players (which is why the Reserve List is also known as the "40-man roster"), with a 38-man reserve list limit for AAA clubs, a 37-man limit for AA clubs, and a 35-man limit for all Class "A" clubs. A player who is not on his club's MLB reserve list (40-man roster) can be assigned to any minor league roster in the organization. A player on an MLB 40-man roster is exempt from selection in the Rule 5 Draft. However, a player on a AAA roster who is eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft is available for $50,000 in the "Major League Phase" of the draft, and if a player is selected off a AAA roster in the Major League Phase, the player must be given a "reasonable opportunity" in Spring Training to earn a spot on the drafting club's 25-man Opening Day roster. The first date a Rule 5 pick can be placed on waivers is 25 days prior to Opening Day. If the drafting club chooses to keep the Rule 5 player, the player must be kept on the selecting club's MLB 25-man roster (or DL) for the entire season following selection before the player can be optioned to the minors. If because of time spent on the DL a player spends less than 90 days on the selecting club's active 25-man roster during the season immediately following selection in the Rule 5 Draft, the Rule 5 restrictions continue into the next season, and remain in effect until the player accrues 90 days on an active 25-man regular season roster (not including time spent of the 15-day or 60-day DL). Only then can the player be optioned to the minors (presuming the player has minor league options available). If the selecting club decides not to keep a Rule 5 drafted player, MLB Rule 6 kicks-in, and the player must be placed on Outright Waivers (with a $25,000 Rule 6 waiver price, $5K more than the usual $20,000 waiver price). If another MLB claims a Rule 5 player off waivers, the claiming club assumes the Rule 5 roster restrictions. If the player is not claimed, he must be offered back to the club from which he was drafted. The club from which he was drafted can then either reclaim the player for $25,000 (half the Rule 5 Draft price) or can decline. If the club from which the player was drafted reclaims the player, the player is automatically assigned outright to the previous club's AAA affiliate. If the club from which the player was drafted declines its Rule 6 option to reclaim the drafted player, the player remains with the drafting club. Sometimes clubs will work out a trade at this point in the process, as the selecting team will send a player or players to the Rule 5 player's old team in exchange for the player's old team declining its option to reclaim the Rule 5 player. In the "AAA Phase" of the Rule 5 Draft, players on AA rosters who are eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft can be selected for $12,000, with no roster restrictions for the following season. Although the drafted player is supposed to receive a "reasonable opportunity" to compete for a roster spot with the drafting club's AAA affiliate in Spring Training, the player can ultimately be assigned anywhere in the drafting club's minor league system. In the "AA Phase" of the Rule 5 Draft, players on a Class "A" roster who are eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft can be selected for $4,000, with no roster restrictions for the following season. As with the AAA Phase, players selected in the AA Phase must be given an opportunity to compete for a roster spot with the drafting club's AA affiliate, but can ultimately be assigned to any affiliate in the drafting club's minor league system. Last year, 48 Cubs minor leaguers were eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft. Of those 48 players, 32 were placed on the Cubs AAA Iowa roster (with six of the 38 slots left open), 11 were assigned to the Cubs AA Tennessee roster, and five were assigned to one of the Cubs Class "A" rosters. Of the 32 Rule 5 eligible players assigned to AAA Iowa last November 20th, three were selected in the 2006 Rule 5 Draft (LHP Edward Campusano by MIL then traded to DET, RHP Lincoln Holdzkom by HOU, and INF Jason Smith by TOR). Campusano suffered a torn elbow ligament while at Spring Training with the Tigers and underwent TJ surgery in April, before eventually being placed on Rule 6 waivers and eventually getting reclaimed by the Cubs last month. Holdzkom was reclaimed by the Cubs last March, but was released by the Cubs at the end of ST and was subsequently signed to a minor league contract by the Red Sox, where he split the '07 season between AA and AAA, before being assigned to the AFL last month. The Jason Smith 2007 Rule 5 selection was peculiar, because he had been signed by the Cubs as a minor league FA just prior to the November 20th deadline, and would have been available to the Blue Jays as a minor league FA in November if they were all that interested. The Blue Jays ended up placing Smith on Rule 6 waivers in May, but he was claimed by the Diamondbacks before the Cubs got a shot at reclaiming him (not that they would have been interested). Then after recovering from abdominal surgery, Smith was placed on waivers again in July, with the KC Royals making a claim. Smith remains on the Royals 40-man roster. Players available for selection in the Rule 5 Draft who are assigned by a parent club to it's AA roster on November 20th are almost always players the club doesn't consider to be MLB prospects. Although placing a player on a AA reserve list is sometimes a matter of a AAA 38-man roster being full, usually when a club places a player on a AA roster (with a $12,000 "price tag" and no roster restrictions), it's a bit like a seller placing a "Buy It Now" item on eBay. Last year, LHPs Nate Bland, Luke Hagerty, and Geoff Jones, RHPs Alfredo Francisco and Andy Shipman, 3B Matt Craig, 1B Alberto Garcia and Jesse Hoorelbeke, 2B Richard Lewis, INF Albenis Machado, and catcher Tony Richie were placed on the Cubs AA roster. Lewis (by KC) and Shipman (by OAK) were selected in the AAA Phase of the Rule 5 Draft, while Bland, Francisco, Hoorelbeke, and Machado were released at the end of Spring Training in March, and Hagerty was released during EXST in May. Only Craig, Garcia, Jones, and Richie survived the 2007 season. Players available for selection in the Rule 5 Draft who are placed on a Class "A" roster on November 20th (and are available for just $4,000 with no roster restrictions) are very often guys the club plans to release anyway, and getting even four grand for one of these fellows is considered a minor victory. In fact, four of the five players eligible for selection in the 2006 Rule 5 Draft who were placed on the Cubs Class "A" Daytona roster last November 20th (RHPs Ryan Bicondoa and Robert Ransom and LHPs Issac Pavlik and Jesus Yepez) were released almost immediately after the 2006 Rule 5 Draft ended.

Chicago Cubs team president John McDonough will be moving to the West Side and become the Blackhawks new man in charge. McDonough had been with the Cubs organization since 1983, although most Cubs fans hadn't heard of him until last year when he took over as team president from Andy MacPhail. According to our wonderful readers from various radio reports, Crane Kenney will step in to take over his Cubs duties. With ownership in limbo and McDonough supposedly not working with any contract, it's probably a smart move on his part as chances of him remaining with the club under new ownership were slim. Kenney was the guy that McDonough reported to as is, so it's doubtful this will change much of the Cubs offseason plans.

It appears at the moment that our NL Central rivals are getting into the Christmas spirit a little early this year... - The Rocky Mountain news tells us that "Kaz Matsui appears headed to the Astros ". Well thank you, Ed Wade, your fruitcake is in the mail. Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle is less than happy with the potential signing as the Astros continue to find ways to block Chris Burke from playing everyday, apparently the Texas version of Matt Murton. - The Brewers are making a big push to sign Jason Kendall, hopefully before everyone settles in for their Thanksgiving dinners. If he's signed before the deadline to offer arbitration of December 1st, then the Cubs can posthumously offer him arbitration and get a free sandwich pick between the first and second rounds. Merry Christmas to us!!!

November 19th

Baseball America released its annual Cubs Top Ten Prospects list today. BA doesn't consider MLB service time when rating prospects, but it does hold to the 130 AB and 50 IP rookie limit, making Felix Pie, Ronny Cedeno, and Carlos Marmol ineligible for the list this time around. BA did provide somewhat detailed scouting reports on each of the Cubs Top Ten prospects, but since it's available only by subscription, I will not provide that additional information here.

November 17th

Saturday’s Wall Street Journal reports that Alex Rodriguez turned to billionaire friend Warren Buffett and two execs from Goldman Sachs with ties to the Steinbrenner family to help assist his apparent return to Yankee pinstripes. It was Buffett, a rabid baseball fan whom Rodiguez first met socially a few years ago, who suggested that Rodriguez meet the Yankees without Boras. The Goldman Sachs executives then contacted Hank and Hal Steinbrenner and said Rodriguez was heartsick over the break-up with the Yanks and wanted to talk. The Steinbrenners agreed, on the condition that Boras stay away. The Goldman Sachs money men then withdrew from the process, owing to terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which specify that the only person besides a player himself who can negotiate on his behalf is the player's agent of record. Now Rodriguez looks to be headed toward a ten-year, $275 million deal, incentives included, and Warren Buffett would seem assured of getting really good seats for New York Yankees games. In retrospect, it was the waste of a perfectly good fantasy to even imagine that Alex Rodriguez would ever wear Cubbie blue, but I’m still surprised that A-Rod’s new team turned out to be his old one.

November 16th

The week started off with a flurry of moves to clear money and space off the roster and it looks like Hendry is wasting no time wasting that space and money.
The Chicago Cubs are pressing hard to sign the free-agent second baseman. One source close to the negotiations said he wouldn't be surprised if Matsui is offered a contract similar to the three-year, $14.4 million deal the Mets gave Torrealba.
Dave Kaplan on WGN radio pretty much said the same thing. I have nothing good to say about this. - The Wrigley resodding project should be done by this weekend, two weeks ahead of schedule. Some other noteworthy details that have been touched upon in the comments:
The warning track has been extended 3 ft to help the outfielders better gauge when they'll crash into the unforgiving brick.
The infield "crown" was removed, lowering that portion of the field 14 inches. Groundskeeping guru Roger Brossard, who was in charge of the project, says it should help runners with their footing as they were essentially running downhill when rounding third base.
Brossard and Wrigley head groundskeeper, Roger Baird placed a small canister with their names on it somewhere below the playing surface. Anyone care to guess the contents in the canister?
- Interesting story from Reuters:
Researchers who studied the impact of initials found that baseballs players whose first or last name starts with the letter K, which signifies a strikeout, tended to strike out more often than other players.
I love it, next time Hendry is unsure on bringing in new players might as well use this, probably work just as well as his current method: Kerry Wood - Good Kaz Matsui - Stay Away Kosuke Fukudome - Stay Away Jason Kendall - Stay Away Korey Patterson - Stay Away - The front of cubs.com has a short piece with interviews highlighting Ernie Banks's 500th homer with some nice historical footage of the Cub great. YouTube Find of the Week The Cubs have had 12 official no-hitters in their history and I found Don Cardwell's gem from 1960. The backend of a double-header versus the Cardinals, Cardwell walked the 2nd batter of the game and then retired 26 straight including two nice defensive plays by his outfielders to save the no-no.

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