Archive - Jan 2008

January 16th

What Ken Rosenthal reported earlier this morning, cubs.com is now confirming:

The Cubs have signed righthander Jon Lieber to a one-year, $3.5 million deal. Lieber pitched for the Cubs from 1999 through 2002. In 2001, his best Major League season, he went 20-6, 3.80 and finished fourth in Cy Young voting.

He suffered an elbow injury in '02, underwent ligament replacement surgery and was picked up by the Yanks, for whom he won 14 games in 2004.

He signed with the Phillies as a free agent in December '04 and went 29-30 in three seasons there. He suffered a pair of significant injuries in Philadelphia, including a ruptured tendon in his foot that ended his '07 season in mid-June.

What Rosenthal reported that cubs.com has not yet (and probably won't) is that Lieber has been promised a spot in the starting rotation; that he was offered more money by other teams, with whom he would have signed had it not been for his desire to return to Chicago and some assurance that he would have a spot in the Cubs rotation.

Rob G: Lieber, the last Cubs pitcher to win 20 games, will add some rotation depth and give Hendry a little more flexibility in trading from the teams' pool of starting pitchers. It could mean the end of Jason Marquis or Ryan Dempster as a Cub, or it could just mean some of the youngsters might be on their way out and the Cubs needed to restock the shelves. Or maybe the Cubs realize that going into the season with Dempster and Marquis in your rotation means being sure you have an appropriate back-up plan.

About to turn 38, Lieber is a fast-working pitcher known for his excellent control who once possessed a lethal slider that now has lost some of its bite. He'll rely on his defense quite a bit; good for him and the Cubs that the folks chasing balls behind him this year should be pretty good. His home run rates did skyrocket the last 2 full seasons in Philadelphia, although it's hard to to decipher how much of that is due to the hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park and how much is due to the natural regression of a player as he ages.

This does seem like its step one of a multi-step plan. Dempster or Marquis could certainly just be shifted to the pen if needed as swing men, but it seems more likely that one of them is on the way out. Between Lieber, Dempster and Marquis, you'd have a hard time differentiating their overall value to the club, so until one of them gets moved in a trade or to the bullpen, I'm just going to refer to them as LDM from here on out.

January 15th

The Cubs invited the following 19 players to spring training, which begins February 13th for pitchers & catchers:

Pitchers
Ed Campusano
Geoff Jones
Les Walrond
Esmailin Caridad
Jose Ceda
Chad Fox
Mike Smith

Catchers
Welington Castillo
JD Closser
Josh Donaldson
Koyie Hill

Infielders
Andres Blanco
Luis Figueroa
Micah Hoffpauir
Casey McGehee
Bobby Scales

Outfielders
Tyler Colvin
Josh Kroeger
Andres Torres

They will join the current, and any future members of the Cubs 40-man roster in Mesa. Our very own Arizona Phil took a guess on the NRI invites a few days ago and nailed 13 of them - nice work. He also included some brief write-ups on those guesses, so you can read up on them if you wish.

January 14th

Slow news day.

I was reading The Hardball Times today, which eventually led me to this Retrosheet page of all known instances of a major league player batting out of order.

Care to take one guess at the former Cubs jersey-wearer who has been involved in not one, not two, but three instances of batting out of order in his career? (Yes, I'm being a bit legalistic in how I've phrased this...)

May 4, 1980, Dusty Baker hit in Ron Cey's place in the order for the Dodgers, hitting into a force out that also left runners on the corner and the inning still going. Ron Cey was called out, and who came back up to bat? Baker, again. Second time being the charm, he hit a three-run homer.

August 8, 1998, and Giants' manager Dusty Baker makes five (count 'em, five) substitutions in the top of the sixth. Long story short, Rich Aurilia batted out of turn. The Giants weren't the only ones confused - the Braves didn't figure it out, but it didn't matter. They beat the Giants 14-6.

April 16, 2004, One of the more famous Dusty Moments on the Cubs, as Baker thinks he has made a double switch, but fails to inform Mr. Congeniality, C. B. Bucknor. When Ramon Martinez comes up in the pitcher's position and the Reds object, Kent Mercker is called out. Baker leaves the field, but not before throwing his lineup card (hey, it's a bad carpenter who blames his tools), his hat, and a fit.

Like I said, slow news day.

January 12th

The Cubs have signed 37-year old RHP Chad Fox to a minor league contract and have invited him to Spring Training.

Fox last pitched in the big leagues in 2005 with the Cubs, when he suffered what was thought to be a career-ending injury to his right elbow in a game at Houston in April of that season.

But back when he was healthy, Fox had some decent years as an MLB reliever, and had some excellent IP/K ratios and OppBA numbers. In 214 MLB games, Fox went 10-11 with 45 saves, a 3.57 ERA, and a 1.43 WHIP, but in 224.1 IP, Fox allowed only 193 hits, with 128/261 BB/K.

Somebody must have some reason to believe Fox is healthy enough to compete for a big league job. I mean, I enjoy blood and gore as much as the next guy, but I really don't necessarily want to see his arm fall off in front of the old folks and kiddies at HoHoKam.

Although their complete list of Non-Roster Invitees (NRI) to Spring Training has not yet been released, and while additional players may be subsequently signed to minor league deals and get an NRI to ST, I believe the Cubs NRI list will ultimately probably look something like this:

(And again, this is just speculation on my part)

January 11th

Former Cub Corey Patterson has come a long way, and not in the direction any player wants to see his career go.

Since the Cubs traded Patterson to Baltimore in January, 2006, he's had seasons of .276 and .269, with OPS+ numbers of 94 and 80, OBPs of .314 and .304, and a combined 159 strikeouts and 42 walks.

On Friday, Baseball Prospectus (subscription) pointed out that as recently as 2000, Baseball America had this to say about Eric Patterson's older brother:

(Corey) Patterson offers the best combination of athleticism and baseball skills of any prospect in the game. He's the best hitter, the faster runner and the top outfield defender in the organization. His other two tools, power and arm strength, are both above-average. His top-of-the-line speed is probably his most impressive physical asset… Patterson has more than held his own while being rushed through the minors… He has batted .195 against left-handers as a pro. He needs to tighten his plate discipline, and his ability to drive pitches that are out of the strike zone actually hampers his ability to draw walks… Scouts believe Patterson can correct all of those flaws with more experience. They're understandable, considering his age and how much he has been pushed.

Marc Nomandin goes on to trace Patterson's course through the intervening years, during which his flaws were not corrected. We still see the continued lack of plate discipline. The spotty power when Patterson pulls the ball. The complete lack of power when hitting to the opposite field. The "alarming" frequency with which he hits pop ups.

Normandin's conclusion:

Patterson doesn't have much appeal left when it comes to considering him for a starting job. He's a fine defender, one of the best at his position, but every season you run him out in the lineup you chance seeing something like this 2007 campaign. At best, you're going to see another 2006, which is fine for many teams as long as he can steal bases effectively and play well above-average defense in center, but at this stage he's no sure bet to do these things consistently. Teams who still need another outfielder would be served best by locking up Patterson to a one-year deal with incentives and maybe a club option and using him as a fourth outfielder, which is a far fall from the days when he was a top prospect.

-- Earlier this week, Dave O'Brien, writing in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, suggested that Georgia native Patterson might be a candidate for the Braves' centerfield job, a position left open by the departure of free agent Andruw Jones.

On Friday, however, O'Brien spoke to Oakland's Mark Kotsay and, per the player, a trade between the A's and Braves is imminent. In other words, Corey Patterson will still be looking for a team.

Another centerfielder, Mike Cameron, has found his team: the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers and Cameron, who will be suspended for the first 25 games of '08 after he tested positive for use of a banned stimulant, agreed Friday on a one-year deal with a club option for 2009.

This is bad news for the Cubs in a couple respects. First, Cameron is a talented player. Second, his signing will allow the Brewers to move the big hitting but defensively inferior Bill Hall back to the infield, where he will take over for Ryan Braun at third. Braun, a defensively inferior third baseman--25 errors and a fielding percentage of .895(!!!) in '07--will then be able to move to left.

That's a lot of positives to net with a single free-agent signing.

With all of the hand-wringing about the possible sale of naming rights to Wrigley Field, I have a suggestion:

How about "Jacobs Field"?

It’s not taken anymore.

January 10th

Just a couple of quick notes...

- It looks like our archives are back, all the way from July 2001 when Christian started this beauty. There are a few hiccups in the process of importing archives from Movable Type to Wordpress, most notably that the articles are not always attributed properly to the appropriate author and you get a lot of funky characters for certain punctuations. But they are there, so we can rehash Dubois vs Hollandsworth in all its glory, re-read my first TCR post, or bathe in the excitement of the Nomar trade.

- Also, you may have noticed the "Hype It" and "Bark It' links at the bottom of posts. Those are for Ballhype and Yardbarker, which I guess could best be described as sports social bookmarking and networking sites. I'll admit that I don't know much about them, but I do know the more people that "hype" or "bark" up our articles (yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds), drives up our traffic. So if you could help your TCR brothers out by signing up for their free accounts and clicking the do-hickeys on the bottom for an article that particularly interests you, we'd appreciate it.

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January 8th

The Hall of Fame vote was announced, and for the third time in four years a Cub makes it in. No, not Andre Dawson or Lee Smith, but Goose Gossage, who donned the blue pinstripes for one season in 1988.

No one will be joining Goose from the writer's ballot, Jim Rice was the closest with 72.2% of the vote, just 14 votes shy. Dawson saw a 10% surge in his numbers to 65.9% of the vote and Lee Smith got 43.3% of the vote. Others with Cubs ties were current coach Alan Trammell who got 18.2% of the vote and Rod Beck, who got just 2 votes, and Shawon Dunston, who someone gave a mercy vote too. Beck and Dunston didn't get the requisite 5% to stay on next year's ballot.

I also need to note the apalling 24.3% that Tim Raines received. Way to do your homework voters!

Congrats to Goose Gossage and hopefully the momentum will continue next year for Dawson.

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