Ken Rosenthal at FoxSports is reporting that FA outfielders Darin Erstad and Steve Finley are "on the Cubs radar" as potential stop-gap CF candidates for 2007, and that they are still interested in signing Cliff Floyd as a part-time LF. Rosenthal also mentions Bernie Williams as a possible bridge (and mentor) to Felix Pie, although it is not clear whether Williams will retire if he can't get a new deal done with the Yankees. Rosenthals's comments presume that Jacque Jones leaving the Cubs is a given, and maybe it is. But it is at least theoretically possible for the Cubs to just keep Jones and play him in CF until whenever Pie is ready, and then move Jones at that time. But maybe Jim Hendry has promised Jones that he positively will trade him prior to Opening Day. I don't know.
The Cubs have announced the names of 11 more players who have received Non-Roster Invitations to Spring Training. Together with the five players who received NRIs to ST in November, the new list of NRIs is: * bats or throws left # bats both PITCHERS (9): Jason Anderson Sean Gallagher Adam Harben Ben Howard * Ryan O'Malley * Carmen Pignatiello * Les Walrond John Webb Randy Wells CATCHERS (2): Jake Fox # Koyie Hill INFIELDERS (3): Mike Kinkade Casey McGehee * Eric Patterson OUTFIELDERS (2): * Tyler Colvin Chris Walker Four notable names NOT on the Cubs NRI list are: RHP Federico Baez 2B Mike Fontenot 1B Micah Hoffpauir RHP Jeff Samardzija Baez--a rubber-armed swingman and one-time infielder in the Orioles organization--pitched for Team Puerto Rico in the WBC last Spring and split time between AA and AAA in '06; Fontenot--the one-time DP partner of Ryan Theriot at LSU, who was acquired by the Cubs from BAL in the Sammy Sosa deal a couple of years ago and who has been the starting 2B at Iowa the last two years--almost certainly has no future in the Cubs organization, but he probably at least deserved a courtesy NRI to the big club's camp; Hoffpauir tied Scott Moore for most HRs among Cubs minor leaguers in '06 and would appear to possibly have a future as an MLB 1B-LF-LHPH; and Samardzija was supposedly promised an '07 NRI to ST when he signed with the Cubs last Summer.
Congratulations to Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn on their elections to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Goose Gossage reached the 70% plateau and was just 21 votes shy of induction, so it appears it's just a matter of time before he gets in. Andre Dawson was at 56.7% and Lee Smith was at 39.8%. You can view the final vote tally here. Anyway they're moving some stuff around in hopes of getting rid of the glitchiness over the last few weeks. Bear with us.
I wanted to introduce myself to you since it seems that you’ve never heard of me, which is a bit surprising since I’ve played against the Cubs a total of seventy games over the last six years. Of course you probably haven’t watched much baseball over the last few years if the Cubs record is any indication….(Hmmm, I think that came out wrong, let me start over). My name is Craig Wilson and I wanted to offer my services to the 2007 Chicago Cubs (and hopefully beyond). I assume you’re unfamiliar with my credentials, you’ve probably been too busy driving a $100 million dollar team into the ground while keeping the fanbase excited about the season trying to build the World Championship team that the good fans of Chicago deserve. Sorry to hear about the bad ticker by the way, Ryan Dempster will do that to a fella..haha!
There's probably some law against driving and digital cameraing, right? I think that the real authors around here have a bunch of good things in the pipeline. Until then, here's a new thread.
The first Friday of the New Year, the first edition of TCR Friday Notes for 2007. - The annual Cubs convention is fast approaching, January 19th to the 21st. I've never been but I hear good things if you like insanely large crowds. I'm supposing though that many of you are going and I'd like to throw two things out there. First, if anyone cares to volunteer as our TCR correspondent, we'd love to have daily reports. You can do it anyway you wish and I suppose it depends on your schedule and Internet access. Either update as the day goes on or just provide a daily recap at the end of the day. The most important element that needs to be covered is the Q&A with Jim Hendry which I believe is on Saturday morning. Never being there I don't recall if it's at the same time as the session with Hendry, but also anything with Lou Piniella or any of the other higher-ups like Oneri Fleita. And it doesn't have to just be one person, if different people want to take different days, that would work as well. Secondly, if the readers who are going care to meet up, I'm more than happy to help facilitate it any way possible. Someone would have to volunteer to sort of spearhead the whole thing like when and where to meet, but if you need me to post something so everyone is on the same page, just let me know.
I figured I'd borrow one of their concepts since I'm about to plug their book. For those unfamiliar with The Hardball Times, well where have you been? Great baseball writing, informative well-researched topics and it's free. This though was my first foray into picking up their annual and it was well worth the twenty-ish bucks I put down. Our pitching really sucked That's not earth-shattering in of itself, but usually when you give up a lot of runs like we did last year, some of that can be attributed to a shoddy defense. That just wasn't the case for the Cubs last year and THT aren't the first to pick up on it. John Dewan has an essay on Team Defense using the metrics he helped created in The Fielding Bible. A real basic summary is that his researchers watch every single inning of every single game and record detailed information and then compare each player to his peers at the position basically rating everyone on a plus/minus system. A "+43" for a player means they made 43 more plays than the average player at that position. Pretty cool stuff and I keep meaning to pick up the actual book. You can find the 2006 season numbers for individual players in the Bill James Handbook 2007. As for our overall defense, it's broken down quite wonderfully into middle infield, corner infield and outfield along with information on turning double plays, handling bunts and outfield throwing. I know, you're dying for the results. Well, our outfield was exceptional, +44 for the unit, good for fifth best among outfielders with the Braves leading the pack at +63. The overall rank for the defense was a +49, also good for fifth best in the league, the middle infielders received a +8 and the corner infielders (surely missing Derrek Lee although he didn't rate so great individually if I recall in previous years) received a -3. We sucked at turning groundball double plays (28th), middle of the road at fielding the bunt (16th) and very surprisingly turned up above average at outfield throwing (11th), which takes into account opportunities, how many extra bases are taken and kills (runners thrown out). I'll venture a solid guess that unless Soriano is a trainwreck in the outfield, we'll even be better as a unit next year. My only criticism/question is where do catchers and pitchers fall? If I read the explanation right, they don't seem to be accounted anywhere. I'm sure it's explained in The Fielding Bible but if anyone knows, let me know in the comments.
This is about the time of year everyone starts putting up their looks back at the year that was 2006. But hey, what's the fun in rehashing the misery that was last year when we can take a peek into next year? So here are tomorrow's headlines today: January 3rd: Cubs sign Cliff Floyd....and every other remaining free agent. Rival GM's complain that "Spendry" hasn't left anyone for them. Hendry responds with "when you haven't won a World Series in 98 years, you have to do things a little different". Also petitions MLB to expand to a 60-man roster. 9th: Mark Prior begins throwing program, Cub layout relevant dates for public. He'll play long toss for a week, then pitch off flat ground for another week and then slowly increase his pitch count off a mound. By February he'll be complaining of arm soreness, in March he'll come down with a "mysterious illness" that takes him out for a few weeks, April he'll start his rehab program from scratch, May will consist of minor league starts, June he'll make a few starts in the majors, get shelled and go back on the disabled list. 20th: At the Cubs convention when asked by a fan that despite all the money spent, the team did nothing to address its problems with walks on the hitting or pitching side Hendry responds with, "Obviously we have no idea how to build a winning team, but we're obviously confident that even the most ill-conceived teams get lucky once in awhile. Obviously I'm also confident that with the hiring of another big name manager, that all the criticism will be deflected away from me." February 15th: Pitchers and catchers report for spring training. Zambrano comes into camp with twenty new bats and new gloves for first base and the outfield, says he's ready to play everyday and help the team anyway possible. When asked about cutting down his walks while pitching, he takes one of his twenty new bats and bludgeons writer to death who asked the question. Writers all agree to say nothing since it was Phil Rogers who asked. 16th: Mark Prior complains about arm soreness. 20th: The rest of the team reports, Piniella encourages Ramirez to hustle around the bases by releasing a bobcat whenever he puts a ball in play. 21st: New hitting coach Gerald Perry begins working with hitters and explaining the concepts of patience and waiting for your pitch. Team looks on with bewilderment. Perry scratches head and proclaims, "Looks like I picked the wrong day to stop sniffing glue." 23rd: Piniella and coaches show up to morning practice and field is empty, ballplayers nowhere to be found. Finally tracking some down on the golf course, Kerry Wood explains that under the old regime they'd play catch for a few days and then could do whatever they want as long as they showed up for the Cactus League games.
Looks like it's been awhile since we had a new thread. What do you hope the different members of the Cubs got for Christmas? Jim Hendry: A treadmill, another executive assistant, and a Sam's card for discounts on off-the-shelf utility infielders Lou Piniella: An industrial-sized bottle of antacid and brochures for retirement condo. complexes in south Florida Matt Murton: A neon sign reading "Play Me" to hang by his locker Carlos Zambrano: Cleaning equipment, to help with all the broken bats and broken hitters he'll see in 2007. A good realator to help him pick out a permanent home on the North Side. Felix Pie: a Des Moines Chamber of Commerce Guide to Des Moines. Kerry Wood: Bubble wrap. Lots and lots of bubble wrap. Mark Prior: See Kerry Wood. Derrek Lee: Good news from the family doctor. Glendon Rusch: See Derrek Lee. Len and Bob: Shiney new contract extensions. Alfonso Soriano: A transport helicopter stocked full of Prozac, to drop on the Bleacher Bums after his first 0-for-8 streak Jacques Jones: Two transport helicopters. Rich Hill: A nice night out on the town with Zito and Glavine, to talk pitching over a few bottles of wine. Muskat, Marrioti, and Rogers: A coupon to Toys 'R Us, so that they can each buy a game of Clue. Jason Marquis: Either a gift certificate to the best neck massage therapist in Chicago, or special high-density baseballs. Ted Lilly: A holiday card from all the middle relievers, betting him a case of beer that they'll rack up at least 30 holds in his starts. TCR: Another year of great conversation, and a gritty 94-win Cubs team worth talking about.
The calendar says Friday, so it must be notes day. - My apologies to everyone on the suddeness of the move to a new look and server. I knew it was in the pipeline but I really had no idea on the timeline otherwise I would have warned you all. I appreciate everyone who has come over with the move and your suggestions on the site design. I love the new look on the comments, the individual links for each comment and some of the new features like how it creates auto-links on URL's posted. I know, nothing special, but it's an improvement. So thanks to Brandon Rosage, the webmaster and all you for your ideas. Some people were asking for a rundown of site enhancements and I wish I could give you a complete list. Here's what I do know. There's an RSS feed for comments now, so you can just add that to your RSS feeder and find out when new comments are up. The aforementioned auto-URL's where if you post a link with http in the front of it, it's automatically clickable and opens in new window. There's also emoticons, whether that's good or bad is yet to be determined. If you post more than one link in a comment it automatically goes to moderation where a writer must approve it. This is done to avoid spam so it's best you break up your links over individual comments because who knows when we'll get to them. There's also a bunch of stuff behind the scenes that I won't bore you with, but they make my job easier and the other writers. We'll still be tinkering with the look over the next few weeks and absolutely have to get the rest of our archives in here as soon as possible. - Baseball Prospectus has a new article on baserunning which I found interesting (apologies if it requires a subscription). Dan Fox, who's sort of their baserunning guy, tackles the Bill James Handbook 2007 which has it's own essay on baserunning as compared to the work Fox has previously done. He basically goes through the differences between the two methodologies and compares their top 10 and bottom 10. I can't really print the full lists, but Chone Figgins seems to have been clearly the best last year and Josh Willignham, Victor Martinez, Pat Burrell and Jason Giambi being some of the worst. The only real surprises were that Bill Hall and Magglio Ordonez showed up on Fox's Top 10 worst baserunners of last year. On Bill James's lists, Mark Teahan shows up as one of the ten best, but Juan Rivera as one of the ten worst. Interesting stuff, at least to me. - I still have to calculate that playoff contest I ran, so more prizes coming. As for the free agent frenzy, I guess Ruz had some Wrigleyville Sports gift cards they were kind enough to give us for contests, so I'll probably offer that instead. - The well of Cubs news has dried up. I guess Hendry has packed up shop until after the holidays. Assuming the Floyd rumors turn out true, I imagine the rest of the off-season will consist of the Cubs Convention and then spring training. The team will test out Pie in center and then maybe look to move Jones by then assuming teams find some holes when they start playing exhibition games. And if Pie doesn't work out and Jones gets traded, they'll probably go seek a veteran center fielder from somewhere. And let's not forget Priorwatch 2007. Ho-hum. - Someone posted this link in the comments, a rather famous Internet video of a German kid yelling at his computer. Someone put a Cubs twist on it though and it's worth the four minutes of your life. Merry Christmas to all that celebrate!
Right before the free agency period began, I let you guys chime in on your free agent picks. Unfortunately I can't link up to it at the moment as they haven't imported all of our archives quite yet, so you're going to have to trust me on this for now. Each free agent has signed that was on the list sans Zito, so I added up the totals so far and here are the current results: Chifan3887 64 Junior 59 WPZ 59 Jackie T 58 Z 56 TWCoffee 56 Carmenfanzone 54 Sweet Lou 54 Vorare 54 Jessica 54 IM Slacker 53 Green Lantern 52 Dallas Green 52 Aaron B 51 Bogey 51 Karl H. 49 Rob G. 46 433 43 BobbyMac 41 The E-Man 41 Real Neal 41 Bleeding Blue 39 Cubster 31 Champsummers 31 Jacos 31 Tom C 26 Nohit 23 MannyTrillo 22 There's also a fella named Ernie who entered but he had three guys at a 12 confidence level and another two at a 10 confidence level, so I didn't feel his picks should count nor was he that close anyway. Manny picked the Cubs for every free agent as a joke, so don't rag on him too much. Chifan3887 successfully chose Bonds to the Giants at 11, Lee to the Astros at 13, Lugo to the Red Sox at 12, Matsuzaka to the Red Sox at 15 and made his big push with Matthews Jr. to the Angels at 3 and being the only one to correctly guess Maddux to the Padres at 10. With only Zito left, I believe here are the possibilities. - If he signs with the Yanks, Vorare will tie with Chifan3887. - If the Padres surprise everyone, then Junior will win. - If he signs with the Rangers, WPZ wins. - If he signs with the Mets or any other team, Chifan3887 is the winner. And the winner will get a $15 gift certificate at (although you could probably talk me into a gift certificate somewhere else baseball related) OR a $15 donation to a Cubs charity. I'll also give you a free post, preferably Cub related but at the very least baseball related.
Paul Sullivan in the Chicago Tribune is reporting the Cubs are close to signing 1B-OF Cliff Floyd to an incentive-laden deal. Sully speculates that Floyd will be used in a "platoon" in LF with Matt Murton, which considering the number of RHP vs LHP starters in the N. L., would mean Floyd would start about 2/3 of the time. Floyd was hampered by a sore left Achilles tendon in 2006, and there has been some concern that the Achilles will continue to be a problem for him in 2007. Also, Floyd had a rather extreme case of the splits in 2006 when it came to hitting versus RHP (OK) and versus LHP (terrible).
Unfortunately there's not that much to talk about as the deals are drying up. At some point Barry Zito and the rest of the free agent pitchers will sign and the Pirates will scrape off a player or two that's left since they're required to actually field a team, but the Cubs look pretty much done for the offseason. The only real Cubs news is that Jason Marquis is taking his physical today and the deal is about to be finalized for the 3/21 that was talked about. It certainly sounds better than the 3/24 that Miguel Batista just got from the Seattle Mariners, so let's hope Marquis and Larry work well together.  Jerry Crasnick took a look at next year's free agent crop and puts the odds of Z staying put at 50/50. Here's a quote from Jimbo:
"We certainly have interest in keeping Carlos in Chicago," Cubs GM Jim Hendry said. "That's always been something he's expressed to me that he wants to do. We'll sit down and have conversations with his representatives before and during spring training, and pursue it with our normal diligence."
I think the odds are 50/50 that Crasnick is on crack because for all the Hendry hatred out there, he's still batting 1.000 at keeping the players he wants. Hope everyone is enjoying the holiday and just bear with us during the changeover. We'll fix this up in no time. And yes, parachat will be back by spring training, rest assured.
As you can see, we've got a whole new design to the website and we're adding a writer from "Behind the Ivy", Graham Funk. There are obviously some kinks to still work out and I imagine the redesign will go through a few more versions before we settle on anything. And no, I had nothing to do with any of this. So be patient, we'll hopefully get this all fixed up in no time. And yeah, I want the comments in their own pop-up box too.
A very brief edition for various reasons that no one cares about... - The deals for Ted Lilly and Daryle Ward were officially announced today. Lilly gets a $4 million signing bonus, $5 million in 2007, $7 million in 2008 and $12 million in 2009 and 2010, which should make him virtually untradeable by that point. Daryle Ward's deal is for one year and it was rumored to be for $1.05 million. It does include a mutual option for 2008. - Ken Rosenthal speculates that the Brewers might make a run at Jeff Suppan. - The Cubs are looking for an assistant GM to help Hendry. As the article notes, Hendry has 5 "special assistants to the GM", but all are scouts. The assistant GM, much like Hendry under Macphail when he had the role, would likely help negotiate deals amongst other activities. This probably has more to due with Hendry's health problems, but if said new assistant GM knows how to manage a 40-man roster, that would be a nice bonus. - Speaking of Hendry, a Q&A with can be found here. Happy Holidays, if you're out Christmas shopping for me, a PS3 would be nice!!!


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