Archive - Feb 2012

Date
Type

February 28th

Randy Wells, Travis Wood, Andy Sonnanstine, Trey McNutt, Lendy Castillo, Marcos Mateo, Trever Miller, and Rodrigo Lopez threw "live" BP at cool & blustery Fitch Park today, before a sparse crowd under partly cloudy skies.


Wells, T. Wood, Sonnanstine, McNutt, and Lopez threw 45 pitches each, while L. Castillo, Mateo, and Miller threw 30 pitches a piece.

- Let's see if I kept track here correctly in the bunting tourney. First round winners to date include:

February 26th

This was my original thinking, the only reason I'd read any book about the Red Sox would be to gain insight into Theo Epstein's approach to roster construction and player acquisition. Still, I'm a sucker for a good baseball story and I have to admit that learning about the Cubs sister AL team that suffered from the 'Curse of the Bambino' had it's appeal, if for no other reason than  this old Billy Goat's misery loves company.

Seth Mnookin's 2006 book, 'Feeding the Monster' is an in-depth look at the Red Sox, focusing on team management and the eventual 2002 ownership change as the reason their drought ended. The Red Sox truly overcame urban legends created by the Boston press with their constant harping on eight decades of Epic failures and generations of fan misery.

Something I understand (except for the "overcame" part).

Now with the Theo "Compensation-gate" mostly completed, this book is filled with insights into the personalities behind what should have been a simple and quick front office only transaction (with no compensation as you will soon read). Why it became a bollixed, vitriol filled, press inflated, word-slinging mess that only Boston is known for makes more sense to me after this read.

There is a lot of story to set up before Theo Epstein jumps in, so prepare for the first part of the world's longest book summary.  Most of Theo's story will be in part deux.  Part one, after the jump...

February 25th

Today is Santo Day. He would have been 72. Camp is open; so are the ticket windows, so I’m in the mood for some baseball flotsam. I thought I’d share a choice Santo anecdote that I discovered over the winter. Surely some of you know it.

For Christmas one of my sons gave me one of those “Baseball Voices” CD’s that Pat Hughes is always hawking. It’s the Santo edition. Have you heard the one about his pregame “interview” with Antonio Alfonseca?

Santo must have thought ol’ Tony Twelve was a descendant of Lew Fonseca, a good outfielder back in the depression era, because he addressed him as though his name was Al Fonseca, “the fine stopper for the Chicago Cubs.”

“Al,” he probes, “how do you feel about the trade that brought you over here to Chicago?”

Al responds with a stream of unintelligible pigeon English. Santo, as though maybe he’s just noticed that his guest has six fingers on each hand and is afraid he won’t be able to keep from asking if the extra one on his pitching hand makes Al twice as good as Mordecai (Three Finger) Brown, pulls the mic back and says, “Well, it’s good to have you with the club. Keep up the good work, Big Boy.”

And that’s it. As Hughes points out in the narration, a segment that typically ran five or so minutes was over and done in less than one.

A written account is a poor substitute for the real thing. I’m glad I have it at my disposal as a go-to laugher. I suspect I may have to cue it up more often than I’d like in the season to come as a fallback.

After listening to Ron and Al’s lively conversation one more time this morning while I had my bowl of shredded wheat I braced myself and intrepidly entered the virtual waiting room of the Minnesota Twins. Their single game tickets went on sale today. Normally there is a limit of 24 per game. For the Cub series in June the per game max was pegged at four. Within a reasonable amount of time I shouldered my way through the virtual throng to the window and was able to come away with three decent seats for the matinee on Sunday, June 10, close enough to Father’s Day that I expect I can guilt both sons into tagging along.

I wonder what the Cubs’ record will be by then. I don’t care.

Happy birthday, Big Boy. Good to have you with the club...

February 24th

You know it's been a long offseason when you're actually looking forward to the results of a bunting competition.

- So Ryan Braun won his appeal to overturn a 50-game suspension for testing positive for elevated testerone levels. Many are claiming he's only been exonerated because of a technicality as Braun won his appeal because the "chain-of-custody" was not followed, a fancy way of saying the tester did not make Fed Ex in time and stored the urine sample in his home. There are conflicting reports on where it was stored, some saying a fridge at the tester's house, another a tupperware container on his desk for two days*. Regardless, the real winner here is due process. Clearly the standards agreed upon were not followed and a neutral arbitrator ruled accordingly. Whether he actually took anything or not will have to be decided in the court of opinion, but I'll say his 2011 numbers aren't anything out of the ordinary for a 27 year old that was already third in the MVP vote in 2008.

- Dale Sveum says that David DeJesus will likely bat leadoff to start spring training with Bryan LaHair batting fourth, Alfonso Soriano has an outside shot at the cleanup spot. He's still filling out the rest, buy my guess would be a lineup of: DeJesus, Castro, Soriano, LaHair, Soto, Stewart, Byrd, Barney.

-  Sveum also goes into great detail on what he means by hustle. He's already giving Soriano a pass for gawking at home runs if you had any notions of him cracking down on that.

- Speaking of lack of hustle, Junior Lake, Starlin Castro and Alfonso Soriano were the last ones to report to camp.

- Sickels came out with his top 120 prospects, Jackson at #27, Rizzo #37, Baez at #109 (believe he's predetermined that Baez will not be a SS already and adjusted accordingly). Jonathon Mayo on his blog put together an average ranking of "the big 4" prospect lists (himself, Keith Law, Baseball America and Kevin Goldstein).  Rizzo comes in at 48.75 average, Jackson 49.50 and Baez at 71. Their actually ranking on that list though - since others move around as well - is Rizzo at #38, Jackson at #40 and Baez at #69.

- Former Cub Josh Donaldson is working out a little at third base while also vying for the backup catcher job with the A's.

Enjoy the weekend!!!

*misread that bit, ESPN article just says tupperware container, nothing about a desk. There was some discrepancy about whether it was in a fridge or a basement though or maybe a fridge in the basement...whateves...FREEDOM!!!

**I swear they keep changing the article because now it mentions the desk again.

Sources told Munson that the collector left Braun's sample on a desk in a Tupperware container and left it there for two days.

I give up.

February 22nd

The off-season is (thankfully!) over and it's time to play baseball again at Fitch Park.

The pitchers & catchers reported last weekend, and a lot of the position players have now arrived, too.

At this point, morning workouts are consisting of half of the pitchers throwing "bullpen" sessions in the ten-mound bullpen each day, Pitchers Fielding Practice (known as "PFP") on Fields #1, #2, and #3, Pitchers Bunting Practice on Field #5 (the half-field infield), catchers fielding practice on Field #5 and catchers early batting practice (before the pitchers throw in the ten-pen) on Field #4, "traditional" BP for the remaining position players (with coaches throwing soft-toss from in front of the mound) on Fields #1 & #2, and then infield & outfield fielding practice for the position players.

Despite the new regime's anticipated increased emphasis on order, discipline, and accountability, everybody seems pretty loose. The workouts are fairly spirited, and the players and coaches all seem to be very positive about their various activities.

FWIW, I think the most-impressive hitter so far in the BP sessions has been Dave Sappelt, the outfielder acquired from the Reds in the Sean Marshall deal. Sappelt is only 5'9, but he really packs a wallop with a short RH stroke with HR power and plus bat speed. I suspect Sappelt will probably start the season at AAA Iowa, but he looks to be (at the very least) the Cubs eventual "4th OF."

Here is the up-to-the-minute Cubs Spring Training Roster with uniform numbers. In addition to the previously-reported uniform number changes that were made during the off-season (Matt Garza switching from #17 to #22, Jeff Baker switching from #28 to #3, Tony Campana switching from #41 to #1, etc), there were also a couple of last-minute number switches/assignments (Alfredo Amezaga switched from #48 to #99, and recently-acquired INF Adrian Cardenas was assigned #45 - Sean Marshall's old number).

1 Tony Campana, OF
2 Ian Stewart, 3B
3 Jeff Baker, IF-OF
4 Pat Listach, 3rd Base Coach
5 Reed Johnson, OF
6 Bryan LaHair, 1B
7 Rudy Jaramillo, Hitting Coach
8 Jamie Quirk, Bench Coach
9 David DeJesus, RF
11 Blake DeWitt, INF
12 Alfonso Soriano, OF
13 Starlin Castro, SS
15 Darwin Barney, INF
16 Joe Mather, OF
17 Dave Sappelt, OF
18 Geovany Soto, C
19 Rodrigo Lopez, RHSP
20 Matt Tolbert, INF
21 Andy Sonnanstine, RHSP
22 Matt Garza, RHSP
24 Marlon Byrd, CF
25 Chris Bosio, Pitching Coach
26 Billy Williams, Spring Training Instructor
27 Casey Coleman, RHSP
28 Paul Maholm, LHSP
29 Jeff Samardzija, RHRP
30 Travis Wood, LHSP
32 Chris Volstad, RHSP
33 Dave Sveum, Manager
34 Kerry Wood, RHRP
35 Lester Strode, Bullpen Coach
36 Randy Wells, RHSP
38 Jason Jaramillo, C
39 Dave McKay, 1st Base Coach
40 James Russell, LHRP
41 Bobby Scales, INF
43 Trever Miller, LHRP
44 Anthony Rizzo, 1B
45 Adrian Cardenas, INF
46 Ryan Dempster, RHSP
47 Blake Lalli, C
49 Carlos Marmol, RHRP
50 Esmailin Caridad, RHRP
51 Steve Clevenger, C
52 Lendy Castillo, RHRP
53 Welington Castillo, C
54 John Gaub, LHRP
55 Edgar Gonzalez, INF
56 Casey Weathers, RHRP
57 Scott Maine, LHRP
58 Mike Borzello, Catching Coach/Bullpen Catcher
59 Brett Jackson, OF
60 Manny Corpas, RHRP
61 Josh Vitters, INF
62 Marcos Mateo, RHRP
63 Jim Adduci, OF
64 Franklin Font, Infield Coach
65 Jay Jackson, RHSP
66 Rafael Dolis, RHRP
67 Blake Parker, RHRP
68 Jeff Beliveau, LHRP
70 Dae-Eun Rhee, RHSP
71 Trey McNutt, RHSP
72 Matt Szczur, OF
73 Junior Lake, INF
74 Marco Carrillo, RHRP
75 Jonathon Mota, INF
76 Alberto Cabrera, RHSP
77 Dave Bialas, Spring Training Instructor (Iowa Manager)
78 Michael Brenly, C
79 Jae-Hoon Ha, OF
80 Carmelo Martinez, Spring Training Instructor (Dominican Academy Coordinator)
81 Brian Harper, Spring Training Instructor (Daytona Manager)
82 James Rowson, Spring Training Instructor (Minor League Hitting Coordinator)
83 Brandon Hyde, Spring Training Instructor (Minor League Field Coordinator)
84 Dave Keller, Spring Training Instructor (Iowa Hitting Coach)
85 Mariano Duncan, Spring Training Instructor (Tennessee Hitting Coach)
86 Mike Mason, Spring Training Instructor (Iowa Pitching Coach)
87 Lee Tinsley, Spring Traiuning Instructor (Minor League Outfield/Baserunning Coordinator)
88 Chris Rusin, LHSP
89 Dennis Lewallyn, Spring Training Instructor (Minor League Pitching Coordinator)
90 Jeff Fassero, Spring Training Instructor (Tennessee Pitching Coach)
91 Marty Pevey, Spring Training Instructor (Minor League Catching Coordinator)
92 Tom Beyers, Spring Training Instructor (Assistant Minor League Hitting Coordinator)
93 Bill Dancy, Spring Training Instructor (Minor League Infield/Bunting Coordinator)
94 Buddy Bailey, Spring Training Instructor (Tennessee Manager)
95 Andy Lane, Bullpen Catcher
99 Alfredo Amezaga, IF-OF
Rick Sutcliffe, Spring Training Instructor

February 21st

I try not to use that headline too often, but it seems fitting here. The verdict has been reached and the Boston Red Sox will get RHP Chris Carpenter from the Cubs. Cue the feigned outrage!!!!

The 26-year old righty can hit 100 mph and occassionally the broad side of a barn; 6.4 BB/9 in 45.1 IP in AAA. The overall minor league numbers are 1.384 WHIP, 4.2 BB/9, 7.6 K/9 , 3.62 ERA and a history of arm problems. He's probably a good bet to have a few good major league seasons, but I doubt the Cubs have lost a key cog in the machine they're attempting to build. Carpenter will go off the Cubs 40-man leaving room for the Cubs to add LHP Gerardo Concepcion.

February 16th

The blog "Dodger Sims" ran a bunch of simulations using a variety of player projection forecasts. And what's the prediction for 2012?

to the tune of low to mid 70's win totals.

February 15th

(This of course inspired by Rob's headline yesterday)
So, I don't know jack, do you?
The other day somebody said that Jorge Soler was gonna sign a contract with the Cubs, he just couldn't find his pen.
Now it's all kindsa teams trying to get close to Soler, apparently.
The Cubs, represented in the chart as the USS Enterprise, still seem to be the closest.
But the Yankee Evil Empire suddenly came on the screens, and not alot Captain James T. Epstein can do with his phasers against those guys.

February 13th

This all seems still seems a little less than 100%, but there was a report early in the evening from the Tribune and Dave van Dyck saying the Cubs are "expected" to sign Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler according to "multiple reports" from the Dominican (it's more fun if you read that with air quote hand gestures).  The folks at Cub Hub seemed to have heard from the Score confirming the deal. Kevin Goldstein has no reason not to believe the reports, saying Soler's agent made similar agreements with other players he's represented before they offiicially became available to sign. Soler of course has yet to complete the legal gymnastics that Cespedes had to go through, so any confirmation from the Cubs is probably not going to come anytime in the near future. One report is suggesting a 3-4 year deal in the $27.5M range. The difference in that deal to Cespedes is that Soler would not get the clause in his contract where the club would not offer arbitration or auto-renew him once the deal is completed, meaning he'd be under the Cubs control for 6 full years of major league service time which doesn't start until he makes his major league debut. Once the initial contract runs out, he'd either sign a new one or just default to either pre-arbitration or arbitration depending on where he's at with his service time, similar to what Jeff Samardzija is going through right now.

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I was trying to get my prospect list-mania article up and then Firefox ate half my work. I'll save it for a future date. In the meantime, now that the A's have signed outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to a 4/$36M deal, I'm comfortable calling him totally overrated. Jorge Soler is the real prize of the Cuban "draft class" and the guy the Cubs should be pursuing. I'm kidding around of course, Cespedes would have been a nice get for the Cubs, but it was not meant to be. The latest report was that the Cubs were now stepping up their pursuit of Soler with a number of $27.5M being thrown out there to try and land him. That report is from the same guy that said Marlins were the clear frontrunner for Cespedes as of yesterday, so salt meet grain. Of course, if I understand this correctly, Soler hasn't been declared eligible yet nor established residency, so certainly more teams will be rumored to be involved once that all falls in line. The last I heard on the timetable was to expect something around the start of the season.

Baseball Prospectus put up their top 101 major league prospects. On the topic of Soler, Goldstein says he'd rank him #38/#39 depending if you count Cespedes as a prospect. As for the Cubs, Brett Jackson at #44, Javier Baez at #66 and Anthony Rizzo at #75. Former Cub Hak-Ju Lee at #65 on his list.

Thanks for all the feedback on the survey over the weeked, a lot of good ideas in there and a lot of nice complements as well.

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February 11th

As I've mentioned in the comments, a new site design is on its way in the near(ish) future. Ideally before Opening Day arrives so I can work out the bugs before the games start. It will hopefully be easier to navigate and more importantly to me, easier to maintain as I'm finding the time that I can spend on the site dwindling year by year.

Since absolutely nothing remotely interesting is happening, I'm going to dip into the shark infested waters and dare to ask what more or less you'd like to see from the site.

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February 9th

These few weeks before spring training starts is about as dull as it gets around these parts. We're all still waiting on Cespedes, but with Jedstein and their cone of silence, it's not like we can expect many leaks. There's also the case of the musical 40-man roster chairs with the Cubs having to drop someone once they add Gerardo Concepcion. Vegas money should be on Andy Sonnastine with Marcus Mateo and his lack of options a strong second. And the issue of compensation for both Theo and Jed still looms with no foreseeable end in sight.

I've got my annual prospect list-mania post coming up for Monday which always includes my delusional top 16 which should be good for laugh. It doesn't appear our pal Arizona Phil put up a list this year unfortunately, so you'll have to get your prospect fix from the national guys.

February 6th

The Cubs claimed infielder Adrian Cardenas off waivers today from the Oakland A's, where he was outrighted to make room for Johnny Gomes. To make room on the 40-man, the Cubs DFA'd Blake DeWitt. Before we get to Cardenas, if I'm reading this correctly, the Cubs most likely cost themselves up to $1.1M? I believe they're on the hook for DeWitt's salary, when they could have just non-tendered him back in December, but of course they didn't know Cardenas was available back then. If DeWitt signs with another team, I believe the Cubs are just on the hook for the dfference in salary, which will likely be the mininum, so a little over $600K. Now a team may also put a claim in or work out a trade and the Cubs will be completely off the hook, but those scenarios seem less likely. Not a big deal overall, as the Cubs have plenty of wiggle room to their payroll, but an odd move nonetheless. Now was it worth it for Cardenas?

The infielder was a supplemental first round pick of the Philies in 2006 (37th overall) out of high school in Florida. He was on the Philles top 10 list in 2008, ranked 2nd behind Carlos Carrasco and ahead of guys like Kyle Drabek and Domonic Brown and #76 among the top 100 overall prospects. In July of that year he was traded along with now-a-Cub Matt Spencer and Josh Outman for Joe Blanton. He was ranked #5 in the A's top 10 list for 2009 and #74 overall. He dropped to #9 in 2010 and out of the top 10 by 2011. I don't have the BA 2012 handbook, but apparently he was ranked #12 although that was before the Gio Gonzalez trade.

February 2nd

The Cubs did sign an acclaimed player out of Cuba, but it's not Yoenis Cespedes or Jorge Soler. Rather 18-year old LHP Gerardo Concepcion. A player Kevin Goldstein called polished for his age, but with the ceiling of a #4/#5 starter and whom Goldstein would put at #6 on his Top 11 Cubs prospect list.  Standing at 6'2", he throws in the upper 80's to 90mph with a curve and a change-up (what's up Ted Lilly?). Considering his age and alleged polish, he should start in Peoria rather than hang back in Arizona and then join Boise or the Arizona Rookie League in June. Enrique Rojas says the deal is for a total of $7M and a major league deal, which means a 40-man roster move would be necessary. ESPN Chicago adds that incentives can take the deal up to around the $8M mark. All this makes the Jeff Samardzija draft deal look good.

The Cubs have also signed Ryan-Rowland Smith to a minor league deal. The 29-year old Aussie pitched in the Astros minor leagues after spending parts of 4 seasons in the majors with the Mariners, but I'll always remember him from this commercial. I presume he'll be added to the non-roster invite list for spring training.

Also, with Edwin Jackson signing with the Nationals, the Cubs at the moment own the #6, #43, #55 and #65 picks in the 2012 draft. Derek Lee and Raul Ibanez are the last two Type B free agents out there and there's no guarantee they'll sign, but if they do, they both rank higher than Carlos Pena in the Elias Rankings, so those last two picks I mentioned could drop to as low as #57 and #67 if I did my math correctly. BA put out an early top 100 prospect list for the 2012 draft for some early obsessing.

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