When the Baseball World Slows to a Halt
Who do you turn to?
It's been really slow in the Cub universe of news. The baseball winter meetings were a horror show as far as this Cub fan could tell.
I'm incredibly news starved when you consider that I took running notes on BL's "Talking Baseball" show on ESPN-1000 radio. This week, his 2 hour baseball gab session with sidekick Jonathan Hood covered three main Cub topics: CF, 2B and the bullpen.
So here's an IV dose of baseball, Bruce Levine "Talking Baseball" style. What follows are my notes and occasional commentary from the Saturday post-Christmas program. After the jump...
BL's Opening statement: Cub fans may still be disappointed with Jim Hendry not adding to the team yet (no kidding!).
Matt Capps - Bruce Levine said he's not sure Hendry got beyond the basic parameters of a contract. BL couldn't confirm that any formal contract offer was made. He thought Hendry needed to do a back loaded 2 year deal to get Capps. Ultimately, Capps took a one year deal as a closer thinking that he'll do even better in one year, either in his last year of arbitration eligibility or as again a non-tendered free agent. BL says Hendry would backload a one year deal if that were possible but BL says they don't allow that. We can expect Jim Hendry will recommend a backloaded a one year deal with Dunkin' Donuts though (insert your own gratuitous donut joke...ta da boom).
If the Cubs have about $8M to spend for 3 players (OF, 2B, BP), Hendry will need to do his backloading thing on whoever they sign (for any contract beyond one year).
Cubs needs: CF
Marlon Byrd is probably the fit, given the Jaramillo factor which will provide a comfort level for Byrd. Byrd is coming off of a career year at age 33. Where does hit in the order? Batting #5 thru #7. How much of a contractural commitment beyond one year is an issue.
The Cubs had no interest in Coco Crisp (now signed with A's) because of concerns about his health and that he's too far away from his peak year.
Why consider Scott Podsednik? Because he's a leadoff man. Adequate LF, not a good CF. Not good on the base paths with lots of gaffs and he gets picked off a lot. Theriot is better as a #2 hitter or 7,8 (but not a leadoff hitter).
Trade possibilities for CF - David DeJesus (KC).
Reed Johnson - Levine says that his agent is talking to Yankees.
Cubs needs: 2B
Caller mentions consideration of a one year deal with Orlando Cabrera or Miguel Tejada at SS, moving Theriot to 2B while waiting for Starlin Castro to develop. Levine is a big Cabrera fan because he manages to go to the playoffs every year. Levine mentions he's got a rep of not being a team guy but can lead off because he takes pitches. Cabrera is coming off of a $7M deal so a lowball deal might make him disgruntled. BL recalled Cabrera's involvement in the three team 2004 trade that netted the Cubs Nomar Garciaparra (Cabrera went to Boston, who did eventually did win the World Series that season).
Bruce Levine discussed Ryan Theriot in detail, in the context of the Cubs evaluation of their own minor league system's talent. Theriot could have easily fallen through the system (I remember the failed experiment to turn him into a switch hitter). BL says nobody in the Cubs system projected him as a starting SS, but when Piniella saw Ceasar Izturis was not bringing anything, he gave him a shot. Theriot is a gutsy little guy. Coaches (Trammel and DeJesus) worked on his footwork to help some. Theriot has been a very good offensive player and an adequate SS but he'll never remind one of Omar Vizquel. I (don't we all) expect his ultimate destination is 2B, but who knows if that shift can happen as soon as this season.
Zambrano in a trade?
Put those rumors to rest. Cubs weren't interesting in trading Z but like any team they should be listening to offers (to understand his market value). Z will not waive his NTC per his agent Barry Praver. Z has been living in Chicago this winter for the first time and working very hard with a personal trainer. Levine said that it was a mistake to use Z as a pinch hitter letting him run the bases and risking him to injury if you are wanting Z to pitch more than 30 games a season.
Cubs needs: Bullpen
Caller asks about who is next on their reliever acquisition radar. Cubs have extreme interest in Kiko Calero. Makes me wonder what he was thinking when he unloaded Michael Wuertz for Billy Goat Beanes (see the above comments on evaluating your own talent). At least we've gotten rid of Aaron Heilman and all the other mistakes named Aaron from the 2008 offseason.
The Cubs have talked to Jose Contreras agent considering him as a starter/swingman.
Caller asks about the using the upcoming minor talent for the bullpen. BL says Esmalin Caridad will get a shot in the pen and Cubs are expecting Samardzija to be a starter (at some point).
Bruce Levine's Cubs top 10 of the Decade: 1. ARam, 2. Zambrano, 3. DLee, 4. Kerry Wood, 5. Dempster, 6. Sosa, 7. Moises Alou, 8. Theriot, 9. Prior, 10. DeRosa
I'm going back to my cave to hibernate.
AZ Phil, has Nathan showed up in Mesa yet? Thanks.
Eickhoff looks like a good young pitcher. Lets steal him!
Manny Rondon faced 13 batters ... and got 10 to K. Not a bad day's work.
With several other Cubs hitters bailing out on curves today I think overall it wasn't being seen well. It for sure looked silly but a good breaking pitch coming at you and then breaking down isn't the easiest thing to see and has made many hitters look silly. Also Soler should have more walks this year but for quite a few called strikes that were actual balls and even the called strike he bailed on was borderline.
it's not like we're talking about a guy who's never had issues with pitch selection and seeing the ball over here. we're talking about a guy who has some rather legendary swing-and-misses at breaking stuff who's been exploited low. going forward it's worth paying attention to seeing if he can be exploited inside, too. he seriously bailed out of the box on a called strike. sure it was a good curve, but he obviously didn't see that well at all.
It would seem like he is figuring it out now and it's really coming together. Really happy for him. Joe was really protecting him from the 3rd time through the order, but as you allude to, he is earning trust to go deeper.
Wondering if has potential to become a #3 pitcher? His current stats certainly support it.
That doesn't count b/c CRUNCH didn't see it on his 60" HDTV 5 times in replay.
I have seen many players "bail out" when the ball looked like it was gonna hit them.
Especially with the advent of the splitter and pitchers that can really get the ball to dance. Marmol, Sutter, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Derek Lowe, Smoltz, Arrietta...
These guys have made the best bail out only for the ball to come over the plate and be called a strike.
No shame in that. The same way players whiff hard enough to cause them to drill a hole in the ground from spinning.
a 60" TV with slow-motion replay and multiple looks on that replay helps...a lot...
it's one thing to shy away like he did the 2nd time, it's another to bail out of the box on a called strike. that happened in the 1st one he pulled away from. he misjudged that one by a foot or so...
Good Hendricks sure is fun to watch. He was hitting all his corners today and the Phillies couldn't do anything with his changeup.
Bryant and I believe Zobrist both did that too.
Soler BB acumen and plate awareness is excellent. Not unusual for even the best players to react as if they were about to hit them, "even though they weren't that close" from your vantage point sitting on your deck, or wherever.
soler vs inside breaking balls is scary.
he's had 2 inside curve balls today where he reacted as if they were about to hit him even though they weren't that close...one he bailed out of the box on, it was a called strike.
j.urias optioned back to AAA...guess we wont be seeing him in the LAD series.
so is him actually getting 2 hits in a game (2 doubles!)...first time he's even been on base 2 times in a game since 9 games ago on his 3/4, 1bb day.
im ready for him to at least look like a 2-slot hitter since he's gonna be slotted there no matter what he does.
That Heyward move to avoid Bryant's ball hit at him was a thing of beauty too.
9 pitches in and this game already rules.
HR, double...bryant's turn (who came out to a Kris Kross song for some horrible, horrible reason).
...2 run inning...zoobrest hitting streak at 14.