The Riot Hits Pay Dirt, While Robnett Gets Released

Cubs SS Ryan Theriot officially qualified for post-2009 salary arbitration yesterday, and Aaron Heilman hit five years of MLB service time a week ago, meaning that although he has two minor league options left, he can't be sent to the minors without his permission.

Also, the Cubs have released OF Richie Robnett from AAA Iowa and RHP Jesse Estrada from AA Tennessee, and have signed minor league FA OF John-Ford Griffin, with Griffin replacing Robnett on the I-Cubs roster. 

Robnett was one of two players the Cubs got from Oakland for Michael Wuertz in February. The other one (INF Justin Sellers) was traded to LAD at the end of Minor League Camp for a PTBNL (or ca$h) and is presently at AA Chattanooga. I wonder how Wuertz is doing at Oakland?

Now 28, Griffin was the Yankees 1st round draft pick out of Florida State in 2001, and was rated by Baseball America as a Top 100 prospect and one of the Yankees Top 10 prospects in 2002, and one of the A's Top 10 Prospects in 2003 after he was traded to Oakland along with Ted Lilly in the deal that sent 1B Carlos Pena and RHP Franklyn German from OAK to DET and RHP Jeff Weaver from DET to NYY.

Griffin hit 310/386/527 at Las Vegas (Dodgers AAA) in 2008, but was released by the Dodgers recently after hitting only .122 with 13 K in only 41 PA in his first 16 games in AAA in 2009. He has logged 13 games in the big leagues (with Toronto 2005-07), and he will be a Rule 55 minor league FA post-2009 if he is not added to the Cubs 40-man roster by the end of the World Series.

In addition, LHP James Russell has been promoted from Tennessee to Iowa and LHP Jayson Ruhlman has been demoted from Iowa back to Tennessee, and RHP Marco Carrillo has been promoted from Daytona to Tennessee (replacing Estrada). The son of ex-MLB closer Jeff Russell, James Russell was the Cubs 14th round draft pick of out the U. of Texas in 2007, although he got "3rd round money" to give up his college career (he dropped to the 14th round only because he was considered to be a "tough sign," because he was telling everybody that he wanted to return to Texas for his senior season). Along with 2008 draft picks RHP Jay Jackson and RHP Casey Coleman (who is also the son of an ex-MLB pitcher), Russell is one of the more-polished pitchers in the Cubs system.  

Drafted by the Cubs out of a Texas JC in 2004 but signed as a "Draft & Follow" in May 2005, the now 25-year old 6'8 300+ Estrada progressed steadily through the Cubs system over the past few seasons, and was considered enough of a prospect that the Cubs sent him to the AFL last fall, and he looked OK there. But he was not added to the Cubs 40-man roster in November, and then he pitched poorly at Minor League Camp in march with Iowa, where he was given every opportunity to nab a spot in the I-Cubs starting rotation. So instead he began the 2009 season in the Iowa bullpen, but he was demoted to Tennessee earlier this month, and he continued to perform poorly when given a chance to start at AA. 

Besides the PTBNL the Cubs are yet to get back from the Dodgers for Sellers, the Cubs are stilled owed a PTBNL from BAL (for LHP Rich Hill), one from OAK (for RHP Rocky Roquet), and another from TOR (for RHP Dumas Garcia), although I wouldn't be surprised if the Cubs will get ca$h instead in all four cases (probably around $20,000, which they could use to claim a player off waivers at a time & place of their own choosing).

And Rule 5 LHP Donald Veal is still on the Pirates 25-man roster. although he has appeared in only one game in the last three weeks (and he has pitched in just five games & logged only 6.1 IP so far in 2009), although he did throw two innings in relief versus the Astros last night. 


Donald Veal = David Patton.

Makes more sense for the non-contending Pirates than the alleged title contender Cubs.

Although, Veal could have been the possible answer to our lefty problems in the pen, whereas Patton most certainly is not.

Veal wouldn't have solved anything, he would have never seen the team. He's got 10 BB's in 6.1 IP and saw his first game with the Pirates in almost a month last night.

Of course, he wouldn't have had to been with the team, just on the 40-man roster.

Did Michael Wuertz feature a changeup when he was with the Cubs? I see him using one this year. And getting his 91-93 4 seamer over for strikes as well.

Why Lou and Slimjim saw no value in him but loved Neil Cotts is beyond me.

MW: 288 major league appearances with a 3.43 ERA

The problem with WUERTZ, who I liked is that his slider command would vanish for a week or two at a time, and since he was a one-trick-pony he was pretty worthless when that happened. If he's added 2 MPH to his fastball and developed a change he should be a starter.

Sellers traded probably for cash...


Yeah, this is uncharacteristic of Hendry. Usually he gets decent minor league talent (Ceda, Ascanio, Hart, Fontenot, Novoa, Aardsma, Berg, C. Robinson) or the trade is of some worthless veteran (e.g. Jeff Fassero) for which you expect to get minor league roster fodder back. But Wuertz should have netted something in the former category, not the latter. It was an odd deal.

Phil, maybe you can give us some insight into the Wuertz trade. Why did they want guys like Robnett and Sellars, since they are both career .250 minor league hitters? Were they toolsy guys the Cubs thought had a chance to break out? And if so, why wouldn't they give them a chance to do so? I don't remember your analysis at the time of the trade.

I understood the Wuertz trade, didn't like it, but I understood it. The return wasn't the worst thing for a middle reliever coming off back to back years of 4+ BB rates and had a huge dip in his K rate in 2008. Sellers was an upper level shortstop who some thought had some more offensive potential left him in. Even if he didn't develop, he was a solid glove shortstop that could slap the ball around. I disliked the Robnett part, but Sellers was a solid pickup (I know most of the MSM focus was on Robnett ... didn't like Robnett to begin with, but Robnett/Snyder were both toolsy assets that hadn't produced, so didn't really care for adding both).

I don't know, but I imagine that Sellers was dealt because they couldn't have been certain on whether or not Sellers could produce in AAA, they had Andres Blanco/Nate Spears/Matt Camp and others slated at the upper levels, and Darwin Barney was slated for AA and Sellers is fairly similar to him. I was somewhat disappointed we dealt out Sellers.

There are a lot of decent relievers with BB/9 over 4 (Marmol last year for example) and while Wuertz's numbers dropped in 2008, part of that surely has to be due to being sent to Iowa for part of the season and not being able to settle in. As his career 3.43 ERA and performance this season demonstrate, he is a solid major league middle reliever. I have to think for that you get more than two minor leaguers of this caliber.

I don't know that much about Sellers, but his minor league number suggest that he did not have a solid glove (.957 career FP at short?), and while it looks like he can take a walk, he certainly hasn't hit well (career .258) and has absolutely no power.

But more to my point, why take Sellers if you have Blanco, Spears, Camp, et al. and aren't going to give him a chance? They might as well have just sold Wuertz or taken a player to be named later.

Heading out, but real quick - I don't necessarily disagree (understood the trade, doesn't mean I liked it - I thought Wuertz never got the credit that he deserved here, same with a guy like Will Ohman; both guys were misused towards the end of their Cubs tenure), outside of that, I'm not sure you get as much as you think for a middle reliever traded in the offseason.

"I'm not sure you get as much as you think for a middle reliever traded in the offseason."

Most GM's think if you throw enough AAA veterans at the wall in spring training you'll find some to fill out your bullpen. They're mostly proven correct due to the vagaries of sample size anyway.

"real quick"

Thanks TOONS, for going easy on us.

I agree in part, I am not sure you get a whole lot for a middle reliever in the off-season, especially when other teams know you have a roster crunch. But still, I don't get taking on two guys just to get rid of them soon after. Just make it a PTBNL and then take a minor leaguer in mid-season to fill out a roster spot somewhere in the system when someone goes down with an injury or something at least moderately useful to the organization. Or take a low-level guy who has struggled but has upside and at least let him play the season out and see what happens. But it won't be the end of the world, just seemed silly.

It was time for Jesse Estrada. Time to stop hoping on his height.

Don't see the point of John Ford-Griffin as anything more than depth. While I disliked Robnett, swapping one for the other is eh for me.

I doubt Donald Veal gets returned.

I wonder if the motivation behind a James Russell bump is to see if he might slot in as a LOOGY option for us later this year. Does anyone know how his curve has looked? I prefer Lambert's curve to Russell's change right now, so I would like to see Lambert get considered for a call-up. Shame Russell hasn't taken to starting.

Guess not so "quick" after all. lol

Recent comments

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