I was going to start this yesterday but the servers decided to spontaneously combust. I figure besides the July tradeline, the Winter Meetings are the best time for unfounded rumor mongering and I'm more than happy to help. So I've got ESPN News on, about 25 tabs open in my browser, the Score streaming and an IV drip of coffee. I'll see if I can keep it up. I'm going to try and keep it mostly Cub related, even if it's players that have been connected with the Cubs talking to another team. New posts will go above the old posts. 5:25 PM - Bruce Miles gives us a quick update and has a Cubs source saying that Jacque Jones did not "formally" ask for a trade. Also some whispers of a Kevn Mench for Jon Lieber swap. 4:28 PM - Steve Phillips wasted ten minutes of my time just now on ESPN News. - Lilly's agent Larry O'Brien says the Blue Jays will need to get creative to land Lilly and that the Cubs have stepped up their offer on Lilly and are willing to pay him what he wants. Piniella called Lilly to entice him to the Northside as well. - Maddux deal seems to be done. 4:15 PM Probably the last update for a bit, but Rosenthal puts the Mariners in the Zito sweepstakes, and gives the Dodgers the lead for Schmidt citing his ties to Colletti and trainer Stan Conte (recently hired by the Dodgers). 3:39 PM - Ryan Church is on the block and the Cubs may be interested. Nats are probably looking for young pitching and Church isn't going to get a blue-chipper in return. I say cough up Carlos Marmol or someone similar and see if they bite. At worst, Church is a good 4th OF with good plate discpline and decent power from the left side. 2:56 PM - Rosenthal is back on the Maddux to Padres rumors stating that they're at the "dotting-the-i's-and-crossing-the-t's stage" on a one year deal with a 2nd year option. 2:44 PM - Jacque Jones just did an interview on ESPN News and did a fantastic job of dodging questions. Asked directly if he asked for a trade, he said "I don't know about that, you know what I mean?" accompanied with a sly smile that indicated he didn't want to dig too deep a hole. He did say he had a rough go in Chicago last year with the fans, that some folks even got a hold of his phone number, received some hate mail, etc. As far as he's concerned he signed for three years as a Cub, but you got a sense he'd be thrilled to get out of here. He also said he hasn't spoken to Lou yet this offseason. 2:27 PM - The Mariners met with Lilly's agent on Tuesday, no word on an offer but Lilly does have motivation to go to the West Coast as I believe his wife is going to veterinarian school in California.
A few days ago, right here at TCR, I dared Ryne Sandberg to take the open Peoria manager's job. Well, guess what happened?
Chicago media is reporting that Jim Hendry has made an offer to Toronto Blue Jays FA LHP Ted Lilly. The offer is believed to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $36-$40M over four years, comparable to the contract Jarrod Washburn got from the Seattle Mariners last off-season (4/37.5). However, Lillyís agent has said that the while an offer has been received from the Cubs, there are other MLB clubs interested in his client (believed to be NYY, TOR, and SF), and while he has been impressed by the moves the Cubs have made so far, Lilly has not made a decision yet. One thing pretty clear is that if Hendry has indeed offered Lilly $9M or $10M per year, then itís EXTREMELY unlikely that Hendry will have any further conversations about Jason Schmidt. If the $15M in 2007 payroll that would have been needed to sign Schmidt is instead split two-ways, and if Lilly gets about $9M of it, then figure Hendry will be able to spend about $6M of ìSchmidt Moneyî on another rotation starter, possibly by acquiring Jake Westbrook or Jason Jennings (both of whom make about $6M in 2007) via trade, or by signing a veteran ìswing-manî (starter/reliever) like Miguel Batista (also likely to get around $6M per year). So who exactly is Ted Lilly? Well, Ted Lilly is the poor man's Barry Zito. Like Zito (and Rich Hill), Lilly is an extreme fly ball pitcher who relies on pop-ups and strikeouts to get his outs, and when he is on his game and when the wind isn't blowing out at Wrigley or when he isn't pitching in a bandbox like the parks in Houston, Philadelphia, and Cincinnati, he can roll through a lineup, racking up Ks (Lilly was 7th in the A. L. in K/IP last season). However, while Zito (and Hill) frequently will give his club seven strong innings and sometimes pitch into the eight or ninth, Lilly doesn't do that. He is NOT a "horse" and he is NOT an "innings eater." In a typical start, Lilly throws about 17-18 pitches per inning (second-most P/IP in MLB last year, and second only to another presumed Hendry target, Gil Meche) and because he usually ìhits the wallî at about 90-100 pitches, he has trouble getting through the sixth inning. So the bullpen usually gets an early call when Lilly is on the mound. I consider Lilly to be a lower-half #2 or upper-half #3 starter, a decent middle of the rotation guy, but I would be more enthused about Lilly if the Cubs didnít already have some IP challenged starters (Mark Prior and Wade Miller) and a Zito-clone (Rich Hill) in the rotation. I believe Lilly is a better choice and a class above Meche, Marquis, Redman, et al, but he is not Jason Schmidt and neither is he Vicente Padilla. If the Cubs do manage to sign Lilly, the 2007 starting rotation would look like this (pending any additional acquisitions): 1. Zambrano 2. Lilly 3. Hill 4. Prior/Miller/Marshall 5. Miller/Marshall/Guzman/Mateo/Ryu
Every year going into the off-season, I usually informally rate the MLB starting pitchers, as either a #1, #2, #3, #4, #5-A, #5-B, or "emerging prospect" starter. Naturally, the list changes from year-to-year. Since there are 30 MLB clubs, I list 30 #1 starters, 30 #2 starters, 30 #3 starters, etc. Some clubs have more than one "ace #1 starter," while others don't have any. It's just my subjective opinion--and I'm sure you have your's, and normally I just keep the list in my head, using it as a reference when posting something here about pitchers the Cubs might be pursuing as free-agents or in a trade. But with the Winter Meetings set to commence at Lake Buena Vista, FL (near Disney World) on Monday, with MLB GMs likely to begin congregating at the hotel bar Sunday evening, and with Jim Hendry hoping to acquire two (or possibly three) starting pitchers while he's there, I thought I would post my list, just to provide a starting point for discussions about pitchers Hendry might be considering.
The Cubs announced their 2007 minor league managing and coaching assignments a couple of days ago, and together with a previous announcement regarding minor league coordinators, the MLB field staff and Player Development field staff for the upcoming season is just about finalized.
As Sir Soriano gets introduced to the masses today, and we finally have the contract details laid out, itís time to put this monstrosity into itís proper perspective. Letís just say, Iím a bit torn by the whole ordeal. LEFT BRAIN It doesnít take graphs and charts or any sort of fancy analysis to figure out that the Cubs just paid far too much money for far too many years to finally get Alfonso Soriano into a Cubs uniform. If you look back at his career there are plenty of reasons to not like the signing, whether it be the Sosa-like strikeouts, the low on-base percentage and walk totals, the age, the length of contract, the money, the career year in a walk season, or the foreboding PECOTA forecast. I mean there isnít one good reason to believe that this is a smart baseball move. A matter of fact, itís the type of deal that can cripple a non-New York franchise by itís vice-like grip on the payroll. And even if you like Soriano the player and what he brings to the game (great power, good speed), you got to be a little ticked the Cubs brass didnít have this epiphany for paying top prices for top talent two years ago, when the far superior Carlos Beltran was on the market.
Ken Rosenthal gives us the scoop...
The breakdown of Alfonso Soriano's eight-year, $136 million contract with the Cubs: $8 million signing bonus, $9 million in 2007, $13 million in '08, $16 million in '09 and $18 million per season from ë10 to '14. The contract also guarantees Soriano six premium tickets to the All-Star Game ñ if he is a participant ñ as well as home games during spring training, the regular season and playoffs.
UPDATE: And now the fun incentives come out on Soriano's deal. He's got full no-trade protection and is guaranteed a suite on road trips. He gets the premium tickets as explained above and will donate $50,000 annually split between the United Way Foundation and the Cubs Care Foundation. There's also some performance incentives including $250,000 for collecting most All Star votes, $350,000 if he is selected the World Series MVP, $250,000 for the league championship series MVP, $300,000 for the MVP award and $75,000 for a Gold Glove.
In my lifetime, the Chicago Cubs organization has designated 19 different men as "manager." Those 19 include the undefeated Rene Lachemann, with a career record as Cubs manager of 1-0, and the hapless Joe Altobelli, at 0-1. There are the thoroughly mediocre records of Jim Lefebvre (162-162) and John Vukovich (1-1), which in the context of Cubs history, are actually quite impressive. When I learned in October that there would be a 20th Cubs manager in my lifetime, I began wondering, "who in their right mind would accept this professional death-sentence?" There's the whole 98-year thing, of course, but more practically, the Big Office in the Cubs' clubhouse is where managerial careers go to die. Throwing out Vukovich, Altobelli, and Lachemann, who collectively managed four games, and we have 16 Cubs managers in the last 30 years of Cubs baseball. Of those 16, 12 had prior managerial experience. They are:
Herman Franks Preston Gomez Charlie Fox Jim Frey Gene Michael Frank Lucchesi Don Zimmer Jim Lefebvre Tom Treblehorn Jim Riggleman Don Baylor Dusty Baker
The four without any previous major league experience, by the way, are:
Joey Amalfitano Lee Elia Jim Essian Bruce Kimm
Here's where it gets interesting. (At least, for me.) The collective managerial record of those 16, in their jobs before coming to the Cubs, is 4229-4282, for a .497 winning percentage. Almost perfectly average. Then, they arrived in Chicago.
"We certainly can't outspend them. But even though they're stocking up, I'm not afraid of them."--Brewers manager Ned Yost on the Cubs.
Ouch.
Player A: Contract: 3 years (2006-2008), $16,000,000 Ages: 31-33 Career: .280/.328/.461/.789 amd 11 SB/162 Games A noodle-armed left-handed hitting right-fielder who struggles (to be generous) against left-handed pitching, he's also a great "hustle" and "character" guy. Player B: Contract: 5 years, $55,000,000 Ages: 32-36 Career: .263/.336/.419/.755 and 12 SB/162 Games A switch-hitter who can play all OF positions adequately and will appear on Sports Center with a couple of ridiculous Web Gems. Also a great "hustle" and "character" guy. Player C: Contract: 5 years, $44,000,000 Ages: 29-32 Career: .303/.350/.377/.727 and 52 SB/162 Games A noodle-armed left-handed hitting CFer. Yet another great "hustle" and "character" guy. Also a "True Leadoff Man" And just for kicks, Player D: Contract: Near league-minimum for 2007-2008, Arbitration Elgible 2009-2011, FA 2012 Ages: 25-29 Career: .303/.370/.462/.832 and 6 SB/162 Games A noodle-armed left-fielder who sometimes looks ugly out there, but by at least one measure has good range. Also considered a great "hustle" guy. I take it that you can figure out who these four gentlemen are. Player A is suddenly looking a lot more appealing than he did when he signed that contract last year. Player D looks golden. Or maybe that's just the sheen from his hair. Update Player E (as in Lee): Contract: 6 years, $100,000,000 Ages: 31-36 Career: .286/.340/.495/.835 and 13 SB/162 Games A right-handed hitting left-fielder with possible weight issues and a reputation for attitude problems/basic jerk-ness. The contract the Astros just handed Lee, in conjunction with the Pierre and Matthews contracts, is beginning to make that Soriano deal almost sort of look like something kind of reasonable. What's your early vote for the most ridiculous contract this off-season?
I am thankful that I now live in a part of the country that's very foreign to me, with no family, friends or loved ones within six-hundred miles, who would be doing annoying things right now like competing for my attention, thus preventing me from sitting alone in my computer-room and posting an entry at TCR on Thanksgiving day. Oh, wait a minute, no, that didn't come out quite right. Let me try again.
*I'm thankful that the Cubs are investing a ridiculous amount of time and money in Soriano and not in Matthews or Pierre. *I'm thankful that we are under new on-field and executive management. *I'm thankful for seeing my first Cubs game in person since 2000, this summer. It was a beautiful day, I went with the most important person in my life, Pierre stole a couple bases, Jones hit a home run, and Howry blew the game. As perfect a day as I could have asked for. *I'm thankful that there's both a "mute" and an "off" button for the Thanksgiving Day Schlockfest. er, Parade. *I'm thankful for Ivy. *And for Len and Bob. *And for another five years of Aramis Ramirez, loafing and all. *And for the likelihood of many, many more years of Zambrano. *I'm thankful that in this winter's market, the Cubs have lots of relief pitching to deal. *I'm thankful that my family is all basically in good health, and waited until reasonable hours of the morning to begin phoning. *I'm thankful that I finished all my schooling, and that it looks like I'll finish my first semester of teaching World History without having instigated any riots or religious wars. *I'm thankful that Ruz hasn't fired me for being AWOL too frequently, and then showing up to write brief, schmaltzy fluff-pieces when no one will be looking. *I'm thankful to be a part of the most lively, entertaining, combative, humane, thoughtful, ridiculous, diverse and passionate group of Cubs fans for, what has it been for me, now, almost five years?
What are you thankful for, Cubs-related or otherwise?
Althouugh no official announcement has been made by the Cubs, LHP Ryan O'Malley and OF Miguel Negron have quietly been removed from the Cubs 40-man roster. I suspect both have been Designated for Assignment, with their final disposition TBD within 10 days.
Huh, I had forgotten about This Entry from last Thanksgiving, the All-Food team. For your consuming pleasure, here it is, again, with a few updates. The only eligiblity requirements for the team are that the player: A. has a food-related name B. at some point played for the Cubs C. has a food-related name that is so delicious, and plays a position where the Cubs don't have a home-grown alternative, thus requiring an imaginary trade so that we can complete our roster. There isn't much pitching or infield depth to this team, but you've got to love the outfield...
With today being the deadline for moving players from the minor leagues to the 40-man roster, the Cubs announced today that they have added LHP Clay Rapada and RHP Rocky Cherry to their 40-man reserve list. All players still remaining on a Cubs minor league roster will remain "frozen" (cannot be added to the 40-man roster and cannot be traded) until after the conclusion of the Rule 5 Draft, which will be held on December 7th at the MLB Winter Meetings. If any player currently on a Cub minor league roster is to be part of a trade consummated sometime in the next couple of weeks, that player will have to be identified as a"Player to be Named Later" (PTBNL), and cannot be named until the Rule 5 Draft concludes. Although players on minor league rosters are now "frozen," players on major league 40-man rosters are not. Players on MLB 40-man rosters can be traded, and players on MLB 40-man rosters can even be assigned outright to the minors during the "frozen" period. Also, free-agents can be signed to minor league contracts and can be assigned to a minor league club during this period. By adding Rapada and Cherry, the Cubs would seem to now have 42 players on their 40-man roster, which (of course) is not allowed. So the only obvious explanation is that apparently Mark DeRosa and Alfonso Soriano have yet to be officially added to the Cubs roster, because no other roster moves were made today. Some of you may remember the same thing happened last year when Bob Howry was signed as a free-agent, but wasn't officially added to the Cubs 40-man roster for several days. But at least two more roster moves will need to be made in the near future, possibly by means of a a two-fer-one or three-fer-one trade for a starting pitcher. A lanky side-armin' slinger who is death on left-handed hitters, the 25-year old Rapada was THE best reliever I saw in the Arizona Fall League this year. I believe he can pitch in the big leagues right now. Signed out of Virginia State University by Cubs "bird dog" scout Billy Swoope in 2002, Rapada is notable for being a one-time "Non-drafted Free-Agent" (NDFA) who made good. Cherry, 27, was drafted by the Cubs out of the University of Oklahoma in the 14th round of the 2002 Rule 4 Draft (June Draft), but didn't sign until January 2003. He made his pro debut at Boise that season. The Rock underwent Tommy John transplannt surgery in 2005, after suffering a torn elbow ligament. A starter earlier in his career, Cherry returned to action this season, working out of the bullpen at AA West Tenn (Cherry and Rapada were an extremely effective 1-2 punch out of the DiamondJaxx pen). Like Rapada, Cherry pitched well-enough to earn a mid-season promotion to AAA Iowa. Showing a mid-90's heater and a devastating breaking ball, Rocky was supposedly about to be called up to the Cubs when he suffered a season-ending finger injury that required surgery.
From a Baseball Prospectus article talking about the Cubs and Tribco's imminent sale.
...because Ramirezís contract is back-loaded. The contract starts at $8 million with a $5 million signing bonus for next season; from there, the numbers jump, to $14 million in 2007, $15.65 million in 2009, $15.75 million in 2010, a $14.6 million player option in 2011, followed by a $2 million buyout clause of a mutual option for 2012.

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