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In his last 22 appearances in 2007, the Brewers' Chris Capuano went 0-12 (a franchise record 12 losses in a row) with a 6.08 ERA, which explains why he only received a $500,000 raise for 2008.

Kip Wells, Troy Percival, David Eckstein, Scott Rolen, Gary Bennett, So Taguchi, Jim Edmonds, and Walt Jocketty may be gone from Saint Loo, but Yadier Molina isn’t going anywhere.

In this country the accused are innocent until proven guilty; in Houston, some are even invited to coach at a team’s mini-camp.

Sarasota, Florida and Goodyear, Arizona are vying to be the spring training home of the Cincinnati Reds, which is more interest than the Reds see from the people of Cincinnati all summer long.

In arguing that Freddy Sanchez should be compensated like the Major Leagues' other, top middle infielders, Sanchez’s agent forgets that his client doesn’t actually play for a Major League organization.

Finally, I’m not sure what it says about me that I agree with Jay Mariotti, but I do know that it doesn’t feel good.

On Saturday Texas Rangers observer Jamey Newberg of The Newberg Report reacted to this story at mlb.com regarding the Cubs' interest in 30-year-old outfielder Marlon Byrd and the possibility that Matt Murton could be headed for the Rangers.

Newberg theorizes that Murton could join David Murphy in a platoon tandem that would man left field for the Rangers. But Newberg believes the Rangers would have to package at least one solid prospect along with Byrd before the Cubs would bite.

"...Murton is probably out of position anywhere other than left.

"That defensive limitation is the only reason I can conceive of that the Cubs would entertain the idea of moving Murton for Byrd, who is adequate in center field. While both players can probably help a contending team in 2008, the four-year age difference would be significant for a team looking not so much at what sort of noise it can make this season but more at a longer-term fit, like Texas.

"Whether you believe Byrd's breakout in 2007 (.307/.355/.459, 70 RBI in two-thirds of a big league season, but .269/.310/.417 after the All-Star Break) was a mirage, it's hard to argue that at age 30 he's a player to build with (especially now that his ability to play center field is no longer pivotal here). On the other hand, with Chicago believing it can win now and wanting a right-handed hitter capable of sharing center field duties with 22-year-old lefthander Felix Pie, Byrd makes some sense. I just can't imagine the Cubs would trade Murton for him without demanding a legitimate prospect tossed in."

The 23rd annual Cubs Convention begins Friday night. As usual, it’s sold out. If you have passes, enjoy yourself and, if you’re so inclined, please add your observations to the Comments.

If you don’t have passes, you’ll want to steer clear of the Chicago Hilton and Towers. It would be a shame for an innocent bystander to get stampeded by several thousand people racing for an autograph from Jody Davis or Andy Pafko.

On an unrelated note, Paul Sullivan, writing on the Tribune Hard Ball blog (and quoting from Baseball Prospectus, believe it or not), alludes to the Cubs’ latest brainstorm—a ticket offer that will be extended exclusively to people already on the season ticket waiting list which could take up to 540,000 seats out of the pool that would otherwise become available to the general public when individual seats go on sale January 28th.

Cubbie baseball--there's nothing else like it.

Milwaukee's signing of outfielder Mike Cameron, made official on Monday, was just the latest maneuver in what has been a busy off-season for GM Doug Melvin.

The Brewers bid adieu (lot of French people up there in Milwaukee) to the following key players from the '07 club:

  • Relievers Francisco Cordero and Scott Linebrink, who left for big free-agent money in Cincinnati and on Chicago's South Side, respectively. (Melvin made Cordero a competitive offer but has acknowledged he may have bungled the negotiations.)
  • Longtime Brewer Geoff Jenkins, whose $9MM club option was declined. Jenkins signed with the Phillies.

Here's who the Brewers have added:

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.

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.

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.
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.
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!)

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