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The Chicago Tribune's Dave Van Dyck is reporting that the Cubs have recalled Ronny Cedeno from AAA Iowa. Although it is not clear yet whether Jake Fox or Scott Moore will be the one to be sent to the minors to make room for Cedeno, DVD speculates that with Cliff Floyd back in the lineup and Derrek Lee returning from his five-game suspension, it will be Fox. Cedeno was named Pacific Coast League Player of the Month in June, as he went 446/509/782 in 25 games, with 8 HR and 20 RBI, 8 doubles, a 12/10 BB/K ratio, and four SB (0 CS), before coming back to Earth in July, hitting a more-pedestrian 294/318/341 with just one HR and a 3/15 BB/K ratio in 20 games. Cedeno had a strong Spring Training in Mesa (hitting 328/427/516 while tying for the team lead in walks) and made the Cubs 2007 Opening Day 25-man roster, but he hit just .097 (3-31) with two HR and four RBI and a 1/8 BB/K ratio in 32 PA--along with a couple of baserunning gaffes--before being optioned to AAA on May 5th. Manager Lou Piniella has expessed a desire to rotate his lineup to keep his players fresh during the "Dog Days" of the season, and with the Cubs scheduled to play the next twenty days in a row, the "Dog Days" have indeed arrived. Adding a second SS (Cedeno) will give Uncle Lou a chance to rest Ryan Theriot whenever he feels it's needed, although The Riot will likely continue to get the lion's share of the playing time at shortstop. Cedeno will be out of minor league options next season, so the Cubs will need to determine if Cedeno has a role with the club in 2008 as a utllity middle-infielder, or if he would have more value as a trading chip.
The Chicago Tribune is reporting that the Cubs have traded INF Cesar Izturis to the Pirates for a PTBNL. Also, OF-1B-C Jake Fox has been acquired from AA Tennessee. Pirates 3B Jose Bautista is on the Pirates DL with a hand injury, so I would think Izturis will possibly play 2B for the Bucs, perhaps with Freddy Sanchez moving to 3B. Izturis is still owed about $2M for the balance of 2007, with a $5.85M salary (or $300K buy-out) for 2008. With Mike Fontenot being strictly a 2B and with Piniella apparently unwilling to play Mark DeRosa at SS, trading Izturis should result in the return of PCL June Player of the Month Ronny Cedeno to Chicago. Ryan Theriot is doing a fine job as the everyday SS, so how much PT Cedeno will get will be the big question. I figured Fox as one of the players the Cubs were going to add to the 40-man roster after the season, so this is just an early start toward that end. Of course it also means one of his options will get burned 20 days after he’s returned to the minors. Fox has as much power as any player in the Cubs organization. He is the proverbial “first-ball/fastball” hitter who never met a fastball he didn’t like. (Waveland Avenue or Bust!). He’s not quite as fond of breaking stuff and off-speed pitches, though, unless he knows what’s coming. He can play 1B-LF-RF (his best position is probably LF, although he is a defensive liability no matter where plays) and also can catch in a pinch, although his days as a front-line catcher are very likely over. Fox was Rich Hill’s catcher at the University of Michigan, so if R. Hill still misses Barrett and Murton, Fox’s arrival should help cheer him up.
For those of you not tired of reading about...
2008 will be the 100th Anniversary of the last time the Cubs won a World Series. This past off-season (post-2006 season), the Cubs went on a $300M+ spending spree, hoping to win a World Series (or at least maybe get into the playoffs) before the Centennial Celebration commences. But with the new owners of the Cubs yet to be decided (apparently until further notice), it appears that the club's executives may take a passive approach toward the future, as evidenced by failing to sign Carlos Zambrano to a contract extension, taking the risk that he will walk away after the 2007 season. So here is what the Cubs might look like in 2008 should the sale of the club remain in limbo, and if the Trib decides to continue taking a more passive approach to player retention and acquisition during the next off-season:
In the aftermath of Friday night's loss at Pittsburgh to Pirates LHP Paul Maholm, Cubs manager Lou Piniella called for another right-handed bat, mainly to hit off the bench. Stating the player will almost certainly have to come from within the organization, the candidates named in Paul Sullivan's article in the Chicago Tribune are (alphabetically): 1. Ronny Cedeno 2. Jake Fox 3. Matt Murton 4. Geovany Soto Bringing up Soto to platoon with either Rob Bowen or Koyie Hill (both Bowen and K. Hill are out of minor league options, so it doesn't really matter which one stays and which one goes) could provide one right-handed bat immediately, and Fox (who can play 1B-3B-LF-RF and catch in a pinch) could be the other (replacing Felix Pie on the 25, or Jacque Jones if he can be moved). After going 4-5 Friday night, Cedeno is hitting close to .400 and would probably be an upgrade over Cesar Izturis at SS (if and when the Cubs can find a taker for Izturis).
The All-Star break will give Jim Hendry and the Cubs a great chance to minimize the effect on the 25-man roster of Derrek Lee's impending suspension. Here's how:
The Cubs continue to go with an 11-man pitching staff (six-man bullpen), but with a stretch of ten consecutive games looming starting tomorrow, and with hot and humid weather now a factor affecting the stamina of Cubs starting pitchers (Zambrano said he was sapped by the second inning yesterday), it seems very unlikely that Lou Piniella will want to go with a "short" (six-man) bullpen through the weekend. Trading Jacque Jones was supposed to be the method used to open up a spot on the 25-man roster for the 12th pitcher, but now it appears JJ might not be going anywhere anytime soon. So if Uncle Lou does indeed believe he needs a seven-man bullpen (and 12-man pitching staff), what move will the Cubs make to clear a spot for the 12th pitcher?
The Cubs have recalled LHP Clay Rapada from Iowa, and have optioned OF Matt Murton to the same club. The side-slingin' Rapada has been the Iowa Cubs primary closer this season, but as shown by his '07 AAA splits, he is really more of a classic LOOGY. That is, he is death on left-handed hitters, but with his frisbee-style offerings that seem to come out of right field, you really don't want him to throw to MLB-quality right-handed swingers if it can be avoided. As for Murton, this move will give Orange Guy a chance to play everyday (probably playing RF and hitting 3rd in the I-Cubs lineup), and (hopefully) get his groove back, either forcing himself back into the Cubs starting lineup as the everyday RF at some point in the not-too-distant future--or at least making him more attractive as trade bait later this season or next off-season. Adding Rapada gives the Cubs a 13-man pitching staff, so expect a pitcher to get trimmed from the roster whenever the first position player (Blanco, Ward or Ramirez) returns from the DL (probably no later than a week from Friday when A-Ram is due back, if not sooner). However, the Cubs do have the luxury of having two pitchers (Carlos Zambrano and Jason Marquis) on their roster who can be used as a PH on days when they're not pitching. The Cubs bullpen has been used quite a bit over the past four games, so adding the 13th pitcher is probably just a short-term thing. This roster move (at least the Murton part) is probably part of Uncle Lou's long-stated desire for a "set" lineup and for a lefty run producer in the middle of the order... 1. Matt Murton gets optioned to Iowa where he will get regular playing time; 2. Jacque Jones goes into the Friendly Confines Witness Protection Program until Hendry can trade him; 3. Cliff Floyd (if he can stay healthy) plays RF and hits 4th or 5th most every day--LHP or RHP, doesn't matter--until further notice. 4. Angel Pagan serves as the defensive replacement in RF whenever the Cubs are trying to protect a lead late in a game.
For the first time since the last week of Spring Training, there is a roster crunch a-comin', as Henry Blanco (Saturday), Daryle Ward (Monday), and Aramis Ramirez (a week from Friday) are all eligible to be reactivated from the DL next week.
The MLB Rule 4 Draft (AKA "First-Year Player Draft") continues today at Disney World in Florida. Yesterday, the first five rounds of the draft were completed, and the Cubs selected five players: 1. Josh Vitters, 3B (Cypress HS - Cypress, CA) 2. Josh Donaldson, C (Auburn) 3. Tony Thomas, 2B (Florida State) 4. Darwin Barney, SS (Oregon State) 5. Brandon Guyer, OF (Virginia) Interestingly, four of the five picks were college players, and no pitchers were chosen. AZ PHIL UPDATE: 6. Casey Lambert, LHP (Virginia) COMMENT: UVA's closer and a teammate of Cubs 2007 5th round pick Brandon Guyer, Lambert is a 5'10 160 lefty who had 11 saves, 0.81 WHIP, and 12/54 BB/K, 34 H, and two HR in 43.2 IP in '07. If the Cubs sign him, Lambert will likely be assigned to Boise. 7. Ty Wright, OF (Oklahoma State) COMMENT: The Cubs draft another college outfielder. A 6'1 195 right-handed hitter, Wright led the Cowboys in hitting (411/465/599), with 6 HR and 40 RBI, 14 doubles, with a 18/23 BB/K. If the Cubs sign him, look for Wright to be assigned to Boise, although (like Brandon Guyer) he might have a shot at getting a slot at Peoria. 8. Marquez Smith, 3B (Clemson) COMMENT: A power-hitting third-baseman and middle-of-the-order run producer, the powerfully built Smith was a teammate of Cubs 2006 #1 pick (Tyler Colvin) at Clemson, and (like Colvin) was selected by the Cubs in last year's draft (35th round), but unlike Colvin, Smith did not sign and went back to school, probably hoping to improve his draft status (and he sure did!). He was selected first-team all-ACC this past season, hitting 329/410/560, with 13 HR and 56 RBI. If the Cubs sign him, Smith is another player who will likely be asigned to Boise, although he could end up at Peoria if Josh Lansford (as anticipated) receives a mid-season promotion to Daytona. 9. Clark Hardman, OF (Cal State - Fullerton) COMMENT: Still another college outfielder, Hardman is a 6'2 195 left-handed hitting CF who was selected as a Freshman All-American before being slowed by shoulder surgery a year ago. If he signs, Hardman will probably get assigned to Boise, although Peoria needs a CF. 10. Leon Johnson, OF (BYU) COMMENT: Another college outfielder, this one had his college years interrupted when he served a Mormon mission in Siberia for a couple of years, so going to Peoria in April would probably seem like a vacation in Acapulco. Like Hardman, Johnson is a left-handed hitting CF with plus-speed, but he lacks power and has struggled at the plate (248/335/339 in 2007). If Johnson signs, he will likely get assigned to Boise, keeping Cliff Andersen and Drew Rundle at AZL Mesa for another season. 11. Chris Siegfried, LHP (Portland) COMMENT: Like Lambert, Siegfried is a lefty reliever, but unlike Lambert, Siegfried is a lanky 6'5 195. Siegfried went 1-2 with a 5.20 ERA, with 19/22 BB/K in 36.1 IP throwing out of the Pilots bullpen in '07. Out of the 30+ pitchers who were at EXST at Fitch Park, only TWO (Mark Pawelek and Taylor Parker) were LHPs (and T. Parker has a sore elbow), so expect the Cubs to draft a few college lefty relievers with the intention of assigning the ones they can sign to Boise. 12. Ryan Acosta, RHP (Clearwater Central Catholic HS - Clearwater, FL) COMMENT: The son of former Cubs pitching coach Oscar Acosta (who was killed in a car crash in the Dominican Republic last year), Acosta ia a 6'2 170 RHP/SS. Acosta signed an LOI with the University of Georgia last November, so he could be a "tough sign" for the Cubs, although the fact that they took him in the 12th round might mean they have reason to believe he wants to turn pro immediately. 13. Jonathan Wyatt, OF (Georgia) COMMENT: So five of the Cubs first 13 picks in the '07 Rule 4 Draft are college outfielders? Interesting. Wyatt is a 5'10 185 left-handed hitting CF (he hit .323 with a .415 OBP for the Dawgs in '07), and his selection speaks to the Cubs not believing they have enough quality outfielders at their lower minor league levels (Daytona, Peoria, and Boise). If they sign all five of the outfielders they have selected so far (Guyer, Wright, Hardman, Johnson, and Wyatt), one might be assigned to Peoria immediately, with Guyer or Wright the most likely candidates. The others would go to Boise, and (as I said) that means both Andersen and Rundle will likely remain at Mesa for another season (or at least the first part of the '07 season). 14. James Russell, LHP (Texas) COMMENT: OK. Here's another college LHP, but this one is a rotation starter. The son of former MLB RHP Jeff Russell (14 year career 1983-96, mainly as the closer for the Texas Rangers), James is 6'4 and 205. He went 8-4 with a 3.86 ERA, allowing 108 hits (14 HR) in 109 IP, with a 28/91 BB/K for the Longhorns in '07. If he signs, he almost certainly goes to Boise, where (depending on the needs of the Hawks) he could be used either as a starter or reliever. 15. Marc Sawyer, 1B (Yale) COMMENT: A 6'3 210 L/L first-sacker, Sawyer was Ivy League player of the year in 2006 and All-Ivy in 2006 and 2007. Like SS and LHP, the Cubs also have a dearth of 1B prospects at the lower levels of the system (especially at Boise/Mesa), so if he signs, Sawyer would very likely immediately become the #1 1B at Boise. 16. Zach Ashwood, LHP (Kansas) COMMENT: Still another college LHP. A 6'5 205 intra-Big 12 transfer from TCU, Ashwood went 4-4 with a 5.77 ERA in 12 starts for the Jayhawks in 2007. He was previously drafted out of HS (26th round) by the Seattle Mariners in 2004. If he signs with the Cubs, Ashwood will likely be assigned to Boise. 17. Arik Hempy, LHP (South Carolina) COMMENT: And here's another one. At 6-'4 240, Hempy is a load. He had TJ elbow ligament transplant surgery last year, but bounced back and was a rotation starter for the Gamecocks in 2007, going 6-3 with a 3.38 ERA, allowing 30/57 BB/K in 58 IP, with a .242 OPP BA, as he helped pitch South Carolina into a NCAA Super Regional this weekend vs UNC. 18. Jeffrey Rea, 2B (Mississippi State) COMMENT: A 5'8 157 left-handed hitting lead-off man and 2B, Rea hit .340 for the Bulldogs and was first-team All-SEC. He also has played some outfield at MSU. 19. Kyle Day, C (Michigan State) COMMENT: A left-handed hitting catcher, Day hit 295/438/434 with 3 HR and 26 RBI, 12 doubles, and 33/38 BB/K for the Spartans in 2007. Those are NOT good college offensive numbers. He displays no significant power, and he apparently is not a good hitter. 20. Jose Made, SS (Dominican College) COMMENT: A 5'8 switch-hitting SS, Made hit 338/439/531, with 4 HR and 38 RBI, 11 SB (0 CS), and a 19/21 BB/K for the Chargers in 2007. If he signs with the Cubs, I would expect Made to begin his pro career at Boise. 21. Dustin Sasser, LHP (East Carolina) COMMENT: Whew! Another college lefty. I told you they need lefties at Boise! A 6'0 195 rotation starter, Sasser was the ace of the Pirates staff in '07, going 5-4 with a 3.52 ERA, allowing 106 hits and five HR in 94.2 IP, with a 48/68 BB/K. 22. Craig Muschko, RHP (LaSalle) COMMENT: After missing 2006 with an injury, Muschko (6'2 200) was in the Explorers starting rotation in '07, going 1-1 with a 2.95 ERA in 10 starts, allowing 54 hits in 58 IP, with a 18/40 BB/K and 1 HR. I would think if he signs, Muschko goes to Boise. 23. Stephen Vento, RHP (Palm Beach CC) COMMENT: Selected in last year's Rule 4 Draft (19th round) by the Minnesota Twins, Vento decided to return to PBCC and hope for a DNF signing with MIN or a better draft slot this time around. It didn't work out that way. 24. Scott Meyer, RHP (Lamar) The Cubs have drafted several guys out of Lamar in the past few years, including Iowa 1B Micah Hoffpauir, Daytona RHP Chuckie Platt, and ex-West Tenn RHP Thomas Atlee (who was released in ST). Meyer was used as both a starter and as a reliever this year at Lamar. 25. Victor Sanchez, 3B (Gahr HS - Norwalk, CA) COMMENT: Rated by BA as one of the top 50 HS players in the nation and a member of the Team USA Junior National Team, Sanchez has signed a LOI to attend the University of San Diego. In order for the Cubs to sign him, they will probably have to offer "1st round money," and with ownerhip of the club in flux, I doubt that they are in a position to do that this time around. Through the first 25 picks, the Cubs have selected six LHP, five OF, four RHP, three 3B, two C, two 2B, two SS, and one 1B. Of the first 25 picks, 22 were college players (including 21 from four-year colleges), and only three were HS players. Starting with this draft, the old "Draft + Follow" (DNF) will no longer be allowed (all drafted players must be signed by August 15th or they go back into next year's draft), so there is less motivation to select JC players (they were the ones usually signed as DNFs). The draft continues, with 25 more rounds to go... 26. Michael Bunton, LHP (College of Charleston) 27. Clayton Suss, RHP (Cooper City HS - Cooper City, FL) 28. Bill Moss, 2B (Memphis) 29. Andrew Cashner, RHP (Angelina JC) 30. Luke Sommer, OF (San Francisco) 31. Brian Leclerc, OF (Florida) 32. Luis Bautista, C (Florida International) 33. Preston Clark, C (Texas) 34. Enrique Garcia, RHP (Miami) 35. J. C. Casey, RHP (Kickapoo HS - Kickapoo, MO) 36. Billy Mottram, 3B (Dowling College) 37. Mike McGee, 3B (Port St. Lucie HS - Port St. Lucie, FL) 38. Yuri Higgins, RHP (South Florida) 39. Roberto Sabates, C (Cuban defector - Miami, FL) 40. Corey Bachman, RHP (Virginia Military Institute) 41. Jordan Herr, OF (Pitt) 42. Colt Sedbrook, INF (Arizona) 43. Garrett Clyde, RHP (San Jacinto JC - North) 44. Bryan Jost, 1B (Minnesota) 45. Ryan Lewis, OF (Yakima Valley CC) 46. Tyler Clark, RHP (Springfield Catholic HS - Springfield, MO) 47. Josh Walter, RHP (Texas State) 48. Carlos Rivera, OF (East Aurora HS - East Aurora, IL) 49. Jordan Rogers, RHP (San Jacinto JC - North) 50. Blake Murphy, C (Western Carolina) Remember, the Cubs historically have signed about 70% of their Rule 4 Draft picks, but that included players signed as a "Draft + Follow" (DNF) the following season (and DNF has been eliminated starting with this draft--any player selected in the 2007 Rule 4 Draft not signed by August 15th goes back into the draft again next year). So even with a best-case scenario, don't expect the Cubs to sign more than about 35 of the 50 players they drafted. Also, for those who want a sneak preview, the following Cubs draft picks are on teams that will be playing in NCAA Super Regionals this weekend: Darwin Barney, SS (Oregon State) Clark Hardman, OF (Cal State - Fullerton) Arik Hempy, LHP (South Carolina) Jeffrey Rea, 2B (Mississippi State) Marquez Smith, 3B (Clemson) Ty Wright, OF (Oklahoma State)

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