As the Seibu Lions deliberate over the Matsuzaka bids, the Cubs (cough) shored up their pitching staff by resigning Wade Miller to a one year deal. Financial details have yet to be released. UPDATE Paul Sullivan writes that the deal is for one year and $1.5 million guaranteed. Incentives could make it worth up to $5.25 million.
Organizational meetings started yesterday in Arizona but still very little on the rumor front. The Cubs did hire former A's hitting coach Gerald Perry to fill out the coaching staff. He use to work under Piniella in Seattle from 2000-2002. If you go read the press release linked above, you'll notice an unusual amount of stress put on OBP and walks for the teams that Perry was a coach. We can only hope it carries over to the Cubs. - An expose on Lou Piniella in USA Today confirms a bit of the Cubs game plan.
"Just get me two starting pitchers, two position players, and, I'm telling you, we'll win."
Piniella seems to indicate that Soriano, Zito and Schmidt are on the top of the Cubs wish list. There's also a mention that Hendry is pretty confident he'll bring back Ramirez, but not so much on Pierre. If Pierre does leave, Matthews Jr. could move to the top of the list. Don't expect any bullpen signings but the bench will get an overhaul with a stress on power bats. And if you read between the lines, you get the sense that Murton is going to get moved to the bench for a power upgrade. There are also mentions of Ted Lilly, Miguel Batista, Vicente Padilla and Jeff Weaver along with a $115 million payroll but they don't seem to be direct quotes from Lou himself.
I believe itís mandatory that if you write for a baseball blog that you have to partake in some sort of postseason awards shenanigans. So hereís one manís take on the 2006 season. Managers of the Year (or manager of a team that most people thought would suck) I think we all know that this award means nothing. Whichever club had the most surprising season will have itís manager honored despite little knowledge of what happened behind the scenes. So I imagine Joe Girardi and Jim Leyland will win running away and I donít necessarily think those are bad choices. Personally, I take a look at whichever team had to endure the most disruptions during the course of the season. A manager who couldnít just put it in cruise control because everyone stayed healthy and productive, who actually had to make some tough decisions over the season. In the NL that still pretty much just leaves Joe Girardi with the Phillies Charlie Manuel sneaking in for a peek. Phils GM Pat Gillick went into sell mode around the deadline coughing up Bobby Abreu, David Bell and Rheal Cormier without getting any real major league talent in return. Then Aaron Rowand hit the DL in mid-August and the only pickup was a waiver wire deal to get the carcass of Jamie Moyer. The Phils though stayed in the playoff hunt pretty much until the end when they could have easily folded the tent. Joe Girardi though is the clear winner here. Brought in believing heíd have a little more experience than a full roster of rookies, he kept the team focused throughout the year as they flirted with the Wild Card for most of the season. There were obviously some rough patches and you can't attribute all the Marlins success to Girardi, but on the other hand you really canít underestimate the job Girardi did either. In the AL, itís a three man race between Jim Leyland, Ron Gardenhire and (Gasp) Ken Macha. Yeah, I said it. Sure, everyone will vote Leyland, but his pitching staff pretty much stayed healthy all year and he had the audacity to bat Neifi Perez 2nd a few times. The players may not have liked Macha, but they lost Harden and Crosby for good parts of the year and Eric Chavez was never right, throw in a lot of underperforming players the first half and keeping Milton Bradley from killing anyone and I donít think heís all that bad. Ron Gardenhire though prevailed through injuries to Radke, Stewart and Liriano, a horrid start to the season and a the likes of Rondell White and Tony Batista on the roster, not to mention a fairly young team. Plus they ended up winning the division which definitely gives him the nod over Leyland.
The free agent period gates open up next week, hundreds of ballplayers and their agents on one side, thirty GM's waving contracts on the other. Let's hope one of them isn't Aramis Ramirez. Here's a rundown of the names bandied about in some rumors and trades that I've read in the mass media. 2B - Mark Derosa CF - Alfonso Soriano, Gary Matthews Jr., Vernon Wells 3B - Nomar Garciaparra LF - Carlos Lee, Gary Sheffield P - Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jason Schmidt, Ted Lilly, Miguel Batista, Hiroki Kuroda, Kei Igawa, Aaron Heilman And of course all the incumbents like Ramirez, Wood and Pierre. Jimbo likes to hold his cards close though and organizational meetings begin Tuesday, so I imagine the beat writers will be kind enough to feed us rumor vultures with a few more bits over the next week. A few new ones from today... - More Marcus Giles trade talks although this one has him in a move to the Padres to play with his brother and move to 3b. - Some of the teams that dropped out of the Matsuzaka race may have done so because Boras told them Matsuzaka wasn't interested in playing for them, specifically the Dodgers (I like the guy already) and Mariners (didn't want to play under Ichiro's shadow). - Kind of a throw away at boston.com in there that the Cubs are on the block for $1 billion dollars. The Nomar to the Cubs mention is in there as well. The $1 billion does make sense, I believe the Cubs are valued around $600 million or so and I'm guessing Tribco would like even a little more to cover the problems with their other businesses. So start saving those pennies. And go Bears!!
Itís time to hand out the postseason awards and weíre going to do it hockey style because naming your awards after obscure things is clever or something. Splendid Splinter Award (Honoring the Rookie who was firmly planted on the bench for no real good reason) While Angel Guzman looked like an early frontrunner in June when he was called up for almost a month, but got into a grand total of three games for about seven innings, it's "scrappy" Ryan Theriot who takes home the hardware. Theriot began the year with a decent showing in spring training to a tune of 214/395/250 but couldn't impress the coaching staff enough to avoid the Cubs going hard after A's reject Freddie Bynum for the 25th man. Theriot's first callup of the season came May 8th and despite no one on the team hitting, Theriot got a grand total of 5 plate appearances. Apparently Neifi and Jerry Jr. were just due to break out of that career slump that month. Theriot was sent back down later in the month and got called up to warm up the bench once again on July 14th. Theriot was able to squeeze more AB's in that week than his previous stint but Prior's brief return put him back in Iowa. It took Derrek Lee's second DL trip to get Theriot up for good, but that didn't mean he'd play right away. Once everyone in front of him either got hurt, traded or released, Theriot finally got a regular shot at playing time near the end of August where he overachieved himself to a line of 328/412/522. To sum up, once Neifi, Walker, Jerry Jr. got traded and Izturis got injured and Womack got released, we finally were able to give Theriot a shot(reluctantly). That doesn't even include the abysmal season Ronny Cedeno made us witness. Good job keeping that pine warm sir Theriot. Tallest Midget of the Year (Perceived Greatness amongst Mediocre Peers) Despite walking every player in baseball this year, Carlos Zambrano looks like a demi-god to Cubs fans due to his fiery temper, overswinging and the next best pitcher on the club basically had one good month. Kudos to you Carlos and be sure to buy Hendry dinner once you're done raping him over that new contract this spring. It's the gentlemanly thing to do.
I really didn't intend to do one of these again today as there isn't much news and I was working on something else, but the comments have gotten out of control on the last post so I'm going to shut those down and hope cooler heads will prevail. Bruce Miles of The Daily Herald answered some message board fodder over at Northside Baseball. A lot of interesting stuff he touches on. A few of the hot topics: - He says the Score report yesterday doesn't jive with his sources and his people tell him it will likely go down to Nov 11th. Stresses the whole two sides to the negotiation and that Kinzer and Co. are going to milk this for everything it's worth. - Kinzer is part of Adam Katz's agency and last time they signed Aramis, Katz swooped in the last minute with a lot of changes and sweeteners. - Cubs are warming up to OBP as Miles stated that Pierre's low OBP got the Cubs' attention. - Out clause was a Macphail creation at the last minute - Hendry probably trusted Ramirez and agent's stated desire to stay a little too much. - Rumor has that Soriano wants a full no-trade clause and the Phils are quite reluctant to offer that, preferring a limited no-trade clause. - Lee Elia resigned from the O's citing a desire to spend time with his family. He may take a scouting gig or something but doesn't want a job requiring lots of travel. - Cleveland and San Francisco are being talked about as destinations for Gary Sheffield. - Angles are making a run at Gary Matthews Jr., the White Sox and Cubs are rumored as well. - And in a sad note, Joe Randa has retired. Let's remain calm everyone, it's just baseball.
If this USA today article is to be believed, and I don't know why it wouldn't, Elias has finished their rankings of players that determine their Free Agent classification. This in turn determines what other teams will have to cough up if they sign one of these players (assuming arbitration is offered) or receive if one of their players is signed. The relevant Cubs are Aramis Ramirez (Type A), Juan Pierre (Type B) and Henry Blanco (Type C). The new CBA has changed the rules on draft pick compensation but those don't go into effect until next offseason. Thus, if the Cubs lose Ramirez they'll either get a 1st round pick (if the signing team doesn't have a pick in the top 15 next year) or a 2nd round pick (if the signing team does have one of those protected top 15 picks) and a sandwich pick between the 1st and 2nd round. The same deal goes for Juan Pierre, although the Cubs would not receive the sandwich pick. The Cubs would get a sandwich pick between the 2nd and 3rd rounds for Henry Blanco if he signs somewhere else and is offered arbitration, the latter part being very likely since the Cubs seem to want him to stay. As for some of the free agents that the Cubs are rumored to be interested in: Jason Schmidt (Type A) Barry Zito (Type A) Alfonso Soriano (Type A) Julio Lugo (Type A) Ray Durham (Type A) Carlos Lee (Type A) Mark Loretta (Type A) Greg Maddux(Type A) Say what? Jeff Suppan (Type A) See Maddux Vicente Padilla (Type B) Ted Lilly (Type B) Adam Eaton (Type C) Randy Wolf (Type C) Elias system is based off the last two years and mostly relies on counting stats and does not account for defense in any way. I don't know what exact categories they use. The USA today article eludes to batting average, OBP, home runs, RBI's and plate appearances for hitters but I don't know if that's the complete list nor do I know the pitching categories used. The Cubs first round pick is protected though given their top 15 status.
Sorry about the writer's block lately, I'm sure I'll get over it soon enough. In the meantime, some rumors to keep you going. - Bruce Miles throws out some numbers on the Aramis deal. He's careful to use the term may to describe the figures, but here they are anyway. Ramirez may be asking for 6 years/$15 million per year while Hendry may be offering 5/$14 mil per year at the moment. If there's any truth to those figures, then get the freakin' deal done Hendry. - Miles also says the Cubs aren't so hot on Sheffield as other papers seem to believe. - The Trib has the Cubs potentially going after Aaron Heilman as a 5th starter/bullpen guy. - Daisuke Matsuzaka is about to be posted. I think teams have 4 days to get their bids in and then 30 days to negotiate a deal. I could be wrong about that. - Maddux and the Dodgers are talking new deal. Maddux wants 2 years, the Dodgers are offering one. - Alfonso Soriano is asking for 7/$119 mil for his new deal. The Phils may start talks at 5/$80 mil. - Supposedly the Mets and Glavine are close on a 2/$25 deal.
At the halfway point, here is a quick update on Cubs players active in the AFL:
LAST UPDATE: 11/2 The following MLB players were eligible to file for free-agency under Article XX of the CBA starting last Saturday at 12:01 AM (EDT):
With the Cardinals having won the 2006 World Series, MLB players with at least six years of MLB service time who are not signed to a contract for 2007 can begin to file for free-agency starting at 12:01 AM (EDT), Saturday, October 28th. Players may file by telephone, FAX, e-mail, snail mail, telegram, Candygram, however they choose to do it. Cubs players eligible to file are: Henry Blanco John Mabry Wade Miller Juan Pierre Aramis Ramirez (player option for 2007-08) Kerry Wood (club option with buy-out for 2007) NOTE: Aramis Ramirez has a player option for 2007. If he does NOT choose to be a free-agent after this season, and if his contract is NOT renegotiated, then the orginal contract remains in force as written, and there is either a mutual option for 2009, or a player option (only) for 2009 if he plays 270 games (combined) in 2007-08. During the 15-day Free-Agency Filing Period, the player's former club retains exclusive negotiating rights with the player. However, the other 29 MLB clubs are permitted to contact the player and express interest during the 15-day period, and although the other clubs cannot discuss money with the player or actually offer a contract, they can discuss length of contract, "no trade" provisions, how the player will be used, the benefits of playing for the club, the local housing market, schools, cultural and recreational activities, restaurants, etc. Beginning on Sunday November 12th at 12:01 AM (EST), all 30 MLB clubs will be permitted to offer a contract to any free-agent who has not re-signed with his former club. Any player who signs a contract with a club (either his former club or a new club) after the conclusion of the 15-day filing period receives an automatic "no trade" through June 15th of the following season. A player can waive this right, but even if he does, his club can only trade the player for cash or a player contract with a value not in excess of $50,000. A player who re-signs with his old club prior to end of the 15-day filing period does not receive the automatic "no trade."
Piniella added a few more bodies to his coaching staff today. Mike Quade was formally announced not only as third base coach, but also as an outfield instructor and baserunning coach. Matt Sinatro, who formerly worked under Lou Piniella as a bullpen coach, will take over first base duties along with catching instructor. Lester Strode was named bullpen coach. Strode had been the Cubs minor league pitching coordinator for the last eleven years. That should only leave the hitting coach with former Red Sox coach Ron Jackson and former Reds coach Chris Chambliss leading the list. Dave Keller has also been mentioned, a Cubs minor league roving instructor.
In the new CBA that will cover the years 2007-11, the right of a player to demand a trade if dealt while in the midst of a multi-year contract will be eliminated. In the previous CBA, players with at least five years of MLB service time who signed a multi-year contract with one team and who got traded to a second team before the contract expired had the option to make a trade demand during the Free-Agency Filing Period (first 15 days after close of World Series) after the conclusion of their first season (and ONLY after the conclusion of the first season) with the new team.
Mother Nature has been rather cruel this post-season, delaying the playoffs which in turn has delayed the Hot Stove and turned us into a music blog last night. Last night's rainout was even more cruel as ESPN radio replayed Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS to fill the time and it got Rabble-rouser and and Sabre-guy at large "Chad" to do a little soul-searching. Which is better than veering off into oncoming traffic, which is what I would have likely done if I had tuned in. --- So last night I'm driving home from work when my cell phone rings. Itís my buddy, Pat, who left work a few minutes before me. He tells me that whatever I do, don't tune into 710 AM on my radio (the station here in Los Angeles that carries the World Series). Now thanks to an earlier post, I knew they were replaying old games. So I said with him, They're replaying game 6. Yup. And not just Game 6 but the top of the 8th. I became instantly sick. Thankfully, I was carpooling last night and were listening to the driver's choice (as is our carpool rule) and she had her iPod plugged in, and not much of a baseball fan to boot. I thanked my friend for the heads up and closed my cell phone. I was quiet for a few moments and my carpool partner became worried. She asked me if I was OK. No. She knows enough about sports to know about Game 6 and some of the details of it. So I told her about the warning I had just received and she thought it was funny. I asked if there was something wrong with me that I just couldn't get over that Game. She of course said yes. That got me thinking; is there something wrong with me that I can't get over that Game? That the very thought of it can totally ruin my day. Even this morning while I was getting ready for work, I was replaying the events of that day. And I know where I went wrong. I started to believe. Right around the 6th or 7th inning, I started to allow myself to actually think about my team being in the World Series. To actually believe that it was going to happen and I was going to witness it. For the first time in the entire post season I thought we were actually going to win. I felt a tiny little smile for in the corner of my mouth and I did nothing to stop it. That was a mistake. I am sure that everyone reading this can do a play by miserable play of what happened in that 8th inning so there is no reason to belabor that anymore. So, back to last night, I told her (my carpool partner) that I don't think that I'll get over that Game until my team goes to the World Series. But then I paused. Then again, probably not. Prosecutor: Over Macho Grande? Witness: No. I don't think I'll ever get over Macho Grande - Airplane II ---- Thanks Chad for the write-up.
We finally get the details on the new CBA agreement which was announced today. The one provision that I was most concerned with was draft pick compensation and here are the details:
Type C Major League free agents will no longer carry draft pick compensation for the club that loses the player, beginning this year, while Type A and Type B free agents will continue to carry compensation. Next year the Type A and Type B pools shrink. Right now, Pool A is the top 30 percent at their position, but in succeeding with decrease to 20 percent. Pool B is the top 50 percent, but it will decrease from 21 percent to 40 percent.
Bummer, I was really counting on that pick we'd get for Henry Blanco. Oh well, that barely changes anything in my opinion. In case you need a refresher, here's how teams were compensated:
A type players fetch the 1st-round draft pick of teams in the top half of W-L record or a 2nd-round draft pick of teams in the bottom half of W-L record and an additional pick between the 1st and 2nd rounds. B types don't get the sandwich pick and C type players fetch a sandwich between the 2nd and 3rd rounds. The higher the player's ranking in the compensation formula, the higher priority the old team gets in acquiring draft picks.
Well that ended up to be a whole lot of nothing. The other interesting bit is this:
After Major League players file for free agency in the one-week period that begins at midnight the day after the World Series, all subsequent deadline dates are eliminated: Dec. 7 (for club to offer arbitration), Dec. 19 (for players to accept), Jan. 8 (last day the old club could re-sign its own free agent) and May 1 (first day a club's former player could re-sign with its former club if he went past Jan. 8 date). Also, the tender date for clubs to offer contracts to all players has been moved up from Dec. 20 to Dec. 12. And players traded in the middle of a multi-year contract can no longer demand a trade.
That one is kind of big and confusing. I don't get the deadline dates are eliminated part of the equation. I guess this means that teams have to offer arbitration to players by the same time that players have to file for free agency. And do players have to accept arbitration by that time to or can they accept it whenever they wish as long as it was offered? I am glad to see them remove the provision where players can demand a trade if they're moved in the middle of a multi-year contract. I'm guessing that's what the players had to give up to get more freedom on the arbitration side, which is what it sounds like all that is doing. Other provisions include: - Minimum salaries will rise starting next year to $380,000 and go up to $400,000 by 2009 where it will remain until the deal expires in 2011. - All Star Game winner will still determine homefield for the World Series. Blah! - Teams that can't sign their draft picks will get the same pick in the draft the following year. That means if you drafted someone third and couldn't sign them, you get a third pick in the next draft. Also teams only have until August 15th now to sign draft picks instead of up to the next draft. I think the owners wanted a slotted draft bonus system but agreed on this instead. - Teams have one more year now before they have to protect players from the Rule V draft. Wasn't that nice of them? - The luxury tax is going way up that only the Yanks will really have to worry about it, not that they actually end up worrying about it at all. It doesn't seem like anything that will make too big a deal from what I can see, but a few interesting new twists. UPDATES: Rotoworld is saying that Type B free agents that get signed will not cost the signing team anything. The team that loses the free agent though will get a sandwich pick. A commenter over at Baseball Musings who it seems runs the Cardinals site at scout.com is saying that the arbitration dates have just been moved up to December 1st (for offering arbitration) and December 7th(for accepting arbitration) respectively. UPDATE #2: The Aug. 15th deadline for signing draft picks does not apply to college seniors. It basically reduces the leverage of players who threaten to go back to school. There will be no worry of contraction of teams during the agreement. Teams who don't sign their first and/or second round picks get the extra draft pick in the same slot in the following draft. And as I mentioned, the arbitration dates have moved up, the big change is that if arbitration is rejected by a player, they still can negotiate with their last team. UPDATE #3: A little bit on the timing of all this thanks to Baseball America. The Rule 5 changes will take place this off-season meaning a few players that AZ Phil listed yesterday will not have to be protected, most notably Ryan Harvey and Chris Shaver. Players on the 40-man roster who are optioned to the minor leagues did get a boost in the minimum salary department to $60,000 though. The free agency and arbitration changes won't go into effect until next off-season though.

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