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So the Bears won yesterday and finished 10-6 on the year, a 2-game improvement upon 2011. Normally this doesn't get your coach fired, but when the coach has been there for 9 seasons and has only put together back-to-back winning seasons once, normal doesn't apply. So the Bears owners (maybe management) did what I'd say 99% of Bears fans wanted and fired Lovie today.

These few paragraphs from the Trib story sum up his Bears' career best.


Since Smith took over in 2004, the Bears have ranked higher than 23rd in offense only once. They have ranked 28th or lower four times.

Since 2004, the Bears defense ranks first in the league in takeaways, three-and-out drives forced and third-down percentage and is fourth in scoring defense.

Smith's defenders scored 34 touchdowns, which became a signature of the Bears' style of play.

There was some good, some bad and I'm sure after 9 years of a defense first team, many fans will be screaming for an offensive first coach. Sure. But if that happens, you know by mid-season the same fans will be complaining why the defense doesn't get takeaways anymore. Regardless of what the future holds, the Bears finally got rid of the past they held on well past the expiration date. So as the hope of the New Year approaches, the hope for a new Bears dynasty comes with it.

UPDATE: Carrie Muskat tweet says Cubs talking to Edwin Jackson and Villanueva, but no deal done with either. And so we wait...


Jon Heyman (and others) are reporting that the Cubs have signed SP Carlos Villanueva, formerly of the Toronto Blue Jays. The 29-year old swingman ran up career highs in innings (125.1) and games started(16) last year for the Blue Jays. Depsite a fastball that won't get over 90 too often, he manages nearly 8 K/9(7.8 to be exact) for his career and a 3.1 BB/9. He's a bit prone to the long ball with a 1.3 HR/9 rate for his career (although his HR/FB% rates are a little higher than the norm) and has a 4.26 career ERA between the Brewers and Blue Jays over 7 seasons (306 games, 56 of those started).

Much like the addition of Scott Feldman, he's being applauded by many of the saber-folks as a good low money risk play this offseason.

We'll see what the money is in this case, but seems like another shrewd, yet unspectacualr move for the Cubs. I don't know if he's been promised a rotation spot, but more likely he'll just be one of the competitors for a spot in spring training and obviously someone comfortable with moving to the pen if and when necessary. Now let's see if Twitter didn't jump the gun again.

Some quick hits...

- Frankly, i have no idea what effect this has on anything, but the Cubs are one of three teams to have opted out of the MLB/StubHub agreement that was recently renewed. I imagine tickets for Wrigley will still be available on StubHub, but not in some official capacity. I also imagine the Ricketts didn't like seeing tickets going for $2 on game day on StubHub that still cost $20 or more if you purchased from MLB.com.

- Jason Grilli ended up officially resigning with the Pittsburg Pirates today, although it was rumored last week that would be the case.  It was claimed he had a better offer that he turned down to return to Pittsburgh, which may or may not have been the Cubs offer.

The Cubs added another short term contract tonight, signing outfield Nate Schierholtz on a one year deal for $2.25M that includes $500K in incentives. As Arizona Phil pointed out, they actually retain the rights to Schierholtz for two seasons as he's only at a little over 4 years of service time. Along with the signings of Scott Feldman and Scott Baker, the Cubs have added over $14M in payroll for next season, almost what they were paying Carlos Zambrano to not play for them.

The Cubs say Schierholtz will start in right field, but could very well platoon with Dave Sappelt. He'll be playing his age 29 season next year and accumulated a 257/321/406 slash line between the Giants and Phillies last year in 269 PA's, good for a 104 OPS+. The good news if they do platoon him is that he put up a more robust 287/360/466 line against righties last year for a 120 OPS+ in 201 PA's last year. But then of course anything can happen in 200 plate appearances. But in 2011, he put up a 288/340/461 line that was good for a 115 OPS+ in 294 PA's. But then anything can happen in nearly 300 PA's. As the years get smaller in numbers, so does his stat line and for his career in 1098 PA's, his slash line is 266/319/413 and a 101 OPS+ against righties. Now 1100 plate appearances carries a little more weight, but the trend is certainly favoring Schierholtz and the Cubs' decision.

As for defense, he's played most of his games in right field, although he did step his toes into center field last year for the Phillies a lucky seven times. If you belive in such things as UZR, they seem to be favorable towards Schierholtz.

Overall, considering the price...it's a pretty decent deal. A well-managed platoon can be very advantageous and maybe Schierholtz can keep up his slash line over 400 or more PA's. If not, he's cheap enough to be a bench player or trade bait and certainly won't be blocking anyone that may force themselves into the lineup (here's looking at you Brett Jackson).

 

 

Here's the deal, I'll post updates at the top as I have time, since most are Twitter stories, just look at the Twitter box for the link if you must.

3:08 PM CST: Nick Cafardo says Red Sox offered 3/38 for Victorino, don't see the Cubs getting near that.

Dale Sveum had a press conference, said Matt Garza ready to start pitching by end of month and was impressed by Javier Baez's bat speed using the Gary Sheffield comp that's been thrown out a lot.

1:18 PM CST: Muskat scares the Cubs' world by tweeting that Cubs are looking at Yunielsky Betancourt for third base.

12:00 PM CST: Jerry Crasnick says Cubs checking in on Shane Victorino, Red Sox and Yankees as well. Indians seem to have the most interest though at the moment.  Says Reds and Braves not so much with the interest and calls Phillies interest "tepid". Shane looking for a 3 to 4 year deal after seeing Upton and Pagan sign.


...and away we go.

- The big rumor this morning came from Jayson Stark where he mentioned the Cubs among one of four suitors for the recently traded Yunel Escobar (Rays, A's and Yankees were the other teams mentioned). I imagine the Cubs see him as a possible option at third base. Regardless of his past and potential future performance, he's the jack-ass that advertised homophobic slurs on his eye black, so hoping the Cubs just pass on this one.

'Twas the night before the Winter Meetings, when all through the hotel

Not a creature was stirring, not even Rosenthal.

The writers hung out by the bar with care

In hopes that a GM would soon be there.

Anyway, the Rumor Mill goes full tilt tomorrow as the Winter Meetings begin in Nashville. According to Kapman, the Cubs are searching for a starting pitcher and a right fielder. They also want a third baseman, but pickings are slim.

According to Wittenmyer, the Cubs will non-tender 2 of their 5 arbitration eligible players.

The tweet seems to indicate Ian Stewart is one of those two, which leaves M. Garza, J. Samardzija, J. Russell or L. Valbuena as the other. It would seem obvious that Valbuena would be that other, as he's hardly a great loss if they can't resign him for less. I imagine the Cubs would be happy to sign Stewart back for less, but he may very well want to test the market.

 

Hardball Talk is running a list of non-tenders so far, a list of players the Cubs may look into signing, so keep checking back there.

The only other news of note is that Jessie Rogers will take over the ESPN Chicago Cubs beat from Doug Padilla next season, who is moving over to the White Sox. Rogers was covering the Blackhawks beat, which means he had a lot of free time lately.

The Cubs add to their stable of pitchers today, by signing RHP Scott Feldman to a one year deal for $6M, plus $1M in incentives according to various sources. Feldman seemed to be a popular target among Cubs armchair GM's this offseason for reasons unbenknownst to me, but TheJedi seemed to concur. He's certainly cheap enough and getting away from that Texas park and the AL should theoretically help, although his career road vs. home ERA defies conventional wisdom (4.40 at home vs. 5.24 on the road).

Career-wise he's 39-44 with a 4.81 ERA (95 ERA+) and 5.4 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 1.0 HR/9 peripherals. Last year, apparently after recovering from micro-fracture surgery on his knee, his ERA was a robust 5.09 in 132.2 IP. His career high in innings was in 2009 with 189.2 IP. That happened in 2008 when he went 17-8 with a 4.08 ERA (114 ERA+). In the 4 seasons that he's been able to muster at least 20 starts, his ERA+ are 84, 114, 82 and 89 (2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012).

Regardless of those less than spectacular numbers, it's a cheap enough deal that it's hard to get too worked up about it. It's certainly not going to get anyone excited about the season, but should provide some decent depth and the possibility of some upside much like Paul Maholm last year.

BRIEF UPDATE: A most excellent article from Fangraphs comparing Feldman vs. B. McCarthy with bonus tweets from McCarthy about how he changed his style to emulate Feldman and calling him the best bargain this offseason.

Today was the deadline to add players to the 40-man so they wouldn't be eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 draft. The winners were: RHP Trey McNutt, RHP Robert Whitenack, 3B Christian Villanueva and INF Logan Watkins. Nick Struck seems to be the only surprise name left off the 40-man additions...enjoy the Astros! To make room for the additions, Bryan LaHair was desginated for assignment and RHP Carlos Gutierrez was waived and assigned to Iowa after clearing waivers (I swear I don't even know who that is). LaHair is apparently going to sign to play in Japan.

The Cubs also traded RHP Jake Brigham (acquired in the trade for Geovany Soto) right back to the Texas Rangers for RHP Barret Loux and a player to be named later. Brigham allegedly has an elbow injury according to Bruce Miles, so that would explain why the Cubs are getting such high upside with Loux as it must be a reworking of the Soto deal (mighty nice of the Rangers). Loux was a former first round pick of the Diamondbacks (6th overall in 2010) out of Texas A&M. After agreeing on a $2M deal with the D'Backs, the club backed out citing an issue with his elbow and shoulder and the Rangers signed him for $312K later that year as a free agent. 2 years later, he put up a 14-1 mark in AA for the Rangers on a 3.47 ERA (7.1 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 0.7 HR/9) and Texas League pitcher of the year honors.

Some quick takes on recent baseball news...

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