Archive - Jan 2009

January 30th

- Colin Wyers, whom writes at GROTA and Statiscially Speaking, begins a series at the Hardball Times looking at the überstat systems like Win Shares, WARP and WAR.

-  The Hardball Times also looks at hitters with an affinity at swinging at first pitch fastballs - Gathright (in a bad way) and Soto (in a good way) are mentioned.

-  Fantastic piece by Stats Inc. on newly acquird Aaron Heilman and his repertoire. There's some words of warning in there, but it's pretty clear he has filthy stuff.

More after the jump...

UPDATE: ESPN AM 1000 reports the deal as a $750K non-guaranteed contract that becomes guaranteed if Bako survives (on the roster) to the end of March. Bako gets $150K if he is released before the contract becomes guaranteed, and he can earn an additional $300K in incentive bonuses, based on At Bats (or more likely Plate Appearances?)... -- AZ Phil

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As expected, the Cubs have signed veteran catcher Paul Bako to a 2009 contract. ESPN's Bruce Levine reported yesterday on XM radio that Bako will get $725,000, but that has not yet been confirmed. Bako replaces Henry Blanco as the Cubs back-up catcher. 

The 36-year old left-handed hitting Bako has spent all or parts of the past 11 seasons in the big leagues, playing for ten different MLB clubs in that period. If you're at a Super Bowl Party on Sunday and the game isn't too interesting, see if anybody can name the ten MLB teams Bako has played for.  

This will be Bako's second tour of duty with the Cubs. He was previously with the Cubs for two seasons (2003-04).

Bako hit 217/299/328 last year as the back-up catcher for the Cincinnati Reds, and has gone 196/239/346 versus LHP and 216/293/271 versus RHP over the past three seasons. He has hit 231/305/317 over the course of his career (745 games). Obviously, he isn't much of a hitter, but he makes up for it by having virtually zero power. But at least he hits left-handed. 

Defensively, Bako threw out 29% of opposing base-sealers in 2008 (Henry Blanco threw out 46%). 

Bako is so old, he attended Louisiana - Lafayette back when it was still called Southwestern Louisiana.

As an Article XX MLB free-agent, Bako will have "no trade" rights through June 15th.

Somewhere, Koyie Hill is warming up the circular saw.

 

January 29th

Reports are out that Andy McPhail is adding to his Cubs minor league collection, much like I use to collect G.I. Joes. The latest acquisition looks to be left-hander Rich Hill.

One industry source said it's a "strong possibility" that Hill will
wind up with the Orioles, perhaps as early as next week. The Orioles
will likely give up a player to be named who could be contingent on
Hill's success in Baltimore.

The O's just need to make some room on their 40-man roster for the deal to go down. This would also clear a spot on the Cubs 40-man roster for the new Jose Macias that the Cubs have been in search of lately.

Also, Bruce Levine did a guest spot on XM radio that I heard on my drive home. He said that the Paul Bako signing should go down tomorrow, mentioning $725K as the contract amount. The only other revelation from the interview was Levine saying that Felix Pie was the big hang-up in the Cubs not getting Brian Roberts last offseason.

Before I get to what's going on with Aaron Heilman's knee, I've got a few odds and ends to mention.

I've figured out what the heck Cubs GM, Jim Hendry, is up to this offseason. In a nutshell, in an attempt to beef up the middle of the lineup he wanted to add one of the all time great sluggers to the Cub lineup. Unfortunately Hank Aaron is just about to turn 75 years old. So this great idea came to him in a dream...swap out Hanks (Blanco, Williamson) and accumulate Aarons (Miles, Heilman). Voilà, plan #44!

The newest acquisition (Aaron Heilman) grew up as a Cub fan. It seems that this is the first directive from Tom Ricketts, all new organizational members must be diehard fans.

On to Aaron Heilman's medical issues. I've not been able to find a precise diagnosis to his 2008 left knee ailment other than it being labeled tendonitis. This LINK goes to an article from Sept 12th, 2008 discussing what problems Heilman was dealing with last year.

Last night on WGN radio, David Kaplan interviewed Aaron Heilman and specifically asked him about his knee problems. All we got was "athlete speak." It does seem that they have a therapy treatment plan that was worked out for him to address his issues this offseason.

Kaplan:  In terms of your knee. I'm reading an article on ESPN today, it said knee pain played a role in your 2008 struggles. Would you agree that your knee was a problem and how is it today?

AH: Right now it's great. I feel healthy, everything feels good. I struggled a bit early on in the season trying to figure out a routine that would work best for me. By the end of the year I had figured that out. It certainly took a lot longer than I thought it would and that I hoped it would. It certainly wasn't 'the' factor that caused me to have a year I wasn't particularly pleased with. When you are going through something like that, you're trying to figure it out, you're trying to do different things every day, you don't really quite have a routine because you're not sure how you're going to feel the next day, that can play a role into it.  We've got all those issues hammered out. I'm looking forward to staying with a good program, staying healthy all year and just going out there and competing. 

Tendonitis refers to inflammation of a tendon and there are several tendons around the knee. The largest two are the quadriceps tendon (which inserts into the patella/kneecap) and the patellar tendon (which goes from the patella to the tibia below the knee).  Tendonitis of either one is common. There are also hamstrings (medial or lateral) and even the gastrocnemius which is more of a calf muscle but the tendons go behind and above the knee attaching to the femur.

January 28th

From the good folks at Home Run Derby, come these pictures outside of Busch Stadium.

If the images won't load after the jump, just click the link.

Jon Heyman at SI claims to have seen Milton Bradley's contract, and says the clause that would automatically kick-in the third year is that he needs to spend fewer than 75 days on the disabled list in 2009 to guarantee the full amount.

When it was first reported, Wittenmyer said it was a multilayered set of clauses, so I'm guessing the wording and legalese is a little more complicated than just spending less than those 75 days, maybe there's something about it not being due to a specific injury.

This was probably posted in the comments, but Bruce Levine on his blog also said that once the Heilman deal is finished - which will clear a spot on the 40-man roster - the Cubs will sign Gabor Paul II Bako on a one year, $750K contract.

The Cubs are also said to be weighing offers on Danny Noonan...err, Rich Hill, and looking at adding another bench player such as Juan Uribe that could cover 2B, SS, 3B and possibly 1B. The Cub seem determined to make it virtually impossible for Micah Hoffpauir to make the team out of camp.

And if this Peavy deal doesn't happen, the Cubs may try and sign Braden Looper or Randy Wolf, to try and make it virtually impossibe for Sean Marshall to break with the team. A good way to keep his service time down I suppose. Of course, I think odds are high Rich Harden will be doing the Mark Prior-spring-training-DL-trip around March 20th routine because he wasn't quite ready when spring training began.

The Cubs moved yet another once-upon-a-time prospect in Ronny Cedeno today, along with left-handed pitcher Garrett Olson to the Seattle Mariners for Aaron Heilman. You'll remember Olson as the pitcher the Cubs received along with Hank Williamson for Felix Pie about a week and a half ago. That makes the net trade:

Cubs get: Hank Williamson, Aaron Heilman

Cubs lose: Ronny Cedeno, Felix Pie

Cedeno's fate was likely sealed when the Cubs acquired Aaron Miles and I'll shed no tears on this loss. Cedeno might be more talented than Ryan Theriot, but he's shown all the baseball intelligence of a junior high dropout. I also find it a bit amusing that the one rookie that Dusty Baker ever gave much of a legitimate shot of playing time to - besides maybe Matt Murton - was Cedeno in 2006. Dusty Baker's eye for talent strikes yet again.

January 27th

A whole lot of nothing going on and I haven't had much time to polish up a few articles I've been working on, so in the meantime, let's play "Guess the Cubs Opening Day Roster".

If you haven't checked out our depth chart or 40-man roster list recently, know that Arizona Phil has taken it upon himself to do the bulk of the updating, which instantly classes up the joint by about 300%. Also, you'll see that the Cubs bullpen is rather set unless the Cubs trade or cut some players before Opening Day, which is most definitely possible. Assuming the standard roster make-up of 13 position players and 12 pitchers (5 starters, 7 relievers), here's your 3:2 odds for the Cubs opening day roster.

January 26th

Some reading material to hold you over...

- John Dewan at ACTA Sports points out that if the Cubs do acquire Jake Peavy, they'll have 3 of the top 10 pitchers in opposing OPS over the last 5 years.

- Speaking of Peavy, the latest rumors were for Vitters, Jeff Stevens, Garrett Olson, Welington Castillo and Kevin Hart according to Bruce Levine or,  if you prefer Lee Hamilton on XM Radio,  Vitters, Olson, Hart and Sean Marshall.

- The Levine link above also says the Cubs seem more interested in a shortstop, third base and second base back-up, such as Juan Uribe, over a first and third back-up. It appears Micah Hoffpauir may not have the roster spot we all assumed.

- A look at Ronny Cedeno over at Fangraphs.

Tags: 

January 22nd

The Sun-Times yet again scoops the Tribune on their own business affairs. Although heavily rumored for some time, there's now the infamous "person familiar with the process" going forward with Thomas Ricketts - diehard Cub fan - as being the Tribune's bid of choice. The bid is rumored to be in the $900 million range and supposedly not the top overall offer, but would provide more money up front to the struggling Tribune corporation along with a more conservative financing approach.

But there's always a twist...

Tribune is not locked in to negotiate only with one bidder. Others remain free to enrich their offers.

It's probably doubtful that anyone else will come in with a late bid at this stage of the game, and with local ties to Chicago, Ricketts would certainly appease the major league owners. But this sale has dragged on for this long, there are no guarantees that it won't drag out longer.

January 21st

Addendum: If the Cubs do, in fact, replace Henry Blanco with Paul Bako (per all the rumors) and the explanation is tied to the team wanting to "become more left-handed," these numbers might be of interest:

Paul Bako's lifetime batting line against RHP: 2015 PA's, .240 / .317 / .321 / 638 OPS
Henry Blanco's lifetime batting line against RHP: 1708 PA's, .222 / .281 / .352 / 633 OPS

Not much of a gain, especially considering all of those intangibles that Blanco was said to have contributed to the team--the same intangibles that are cited by the Padres upon their signing him.


The Padres signed 37-year-old Henry Blanco to a one-year, $750K deal on Wednesday. Blanco will back-up and mentor young Nick Hundley (no relation to Randy or Todd).

January 20th

The Cubs signed Michael Wuertz for $1.1M today, thus avoiding any ghastly arbitration cases with any of their players. Not including auto-renewals - which Arizona Phil on the right sidebar estimates at around $3.5M total -  the Cubs payroll for 2009 is at $134.1M, so they still have a few million in wiggle room.

They also released their NRI list for spring training.

January 19th

MLB has released the 45-man provisional rosters of the national teams that will be playing in the 2009 World Baseball Classic (WBC).

Rosters will need to be cut-down to 28 (with at least 13 pitchers) by February 24th. 

There are presently a total of 17 Cubs major leaguers and minor leaguers on the provisional rosters of the WBC teams:  

January 18th

In what may be a precursor to an eventual trade for San Diego Padres ace RHP Jake Peavy, the Cubs have traded OF Felix Pie to the Baltimore Orioles for LHP Garrett Olson and minor league RHP Hank Williamson. Olson was thought to be one of the pitchers Padres GM Kevin Towers wanted back in a Peavy deal.

The 25-year old Olson was a Supplemental 1st round pick (48th overall) of the Orioles in the 2005 Rule 4 Draft out of Cal Poly (he was selected with the compensation pick Baltimore got for failing to sign their 2004 #1 draft pick, RHP Wade Townsend), and was rushed to the big leagues by the Orioles after being named their Minor League Player of the Year in 2006, logging MLB time in both 2007 and 2008. A scouting report from his senior year in college showed him having three quality pitches, including a fastball that sits at 88-90 MPH but has touched 93, a 12-6 "hammer" curve (his "out" pitch), and a decent change-up. He has performed very well at AAA over the past two seasons (he was a AAA IL All-Star at Norfolk in 2007), although he has been hit hard to the tune of a 6.87 ERA and 1.82 WHIP with 21 HR allowed in 165+ IP in 33 starts so far at the big league level. Olson was a college teammate of Cubs prospects RHRP Rocky Roquet and 3B-turned-RHP Josh Lansford, and he supposedly wants to be an FBI agent if his baseball career doesn't pan out.

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