The rites of spring are upon us once again, marked by the blossoming of flowers, warmer temperatures, April showers and of course, the TCR roundtable preview. The powers that be here have gathered around one very round and large table extending from the West Coast of the Great States of America to the land of kings, queens and something known as ìspotted dickî; all in an effort to bring you into the new season. Our pal Transmission has gotten himself wrapped up in a defense of his disseration so unfortunately he will not be able to play along. We wish him luck as we do the 2006 Cubbies. --------------------- Rate the Cubs off-season acquisitions and maneuvers? Did Jim Hendry sufficiently address the teamís needs or was he left in the cold holding a bag of donuts? MmmmmÖdonuts!!! [John Hill] When Americans talk about donuts, or doughnuts as itís correctly spelt, are we talking ones with jam in the middle, or ones with holes in the middle? I mean theyíre both good, but I think weíre all better off if our favourite things come without a big bit missing. Take the Cubs, for instance. Just how much better off they would be without about half a lineup missing? Letís just say, with a little more strawberry jam, they might not be in the position theyíre in now where, if theyíre to have any real playoff aspirations at all, theyíre once again entirely dependent upon the ridiculously high upside pitching getting healthy and staying healthy. And once again the news on that front has not been good. Iíd love to act all surprised on that one, but Iíve won the grand total of zero Academy Awards in my lifetime. The bottom line is, when you consider just what can be done with a hundred million dollar payroll and the lure of the big city, Hendryís off-season for the second year running has to go down as a big disappointment. Again, some backwards and a lack of foresight and creativity have been the main culprits. [Ruz] He addressed their needs, I just don't think he did a very good job. I'm probably in the minority in liking the Jones signing more than the Pierre trade -- the Cubs gave up an awful lot to get a guy who does one thing well. Jones, meanwhile, will be an albatross by 2008, but this year I expect him to contribute. The bullpen additions certainly will improve the staff, but the cost of the Howry and Eyre deals is just ridiculous. [Rob G.] He certainly addressed what he felt the teamís needs were, Iím just not sure he addressed them properly nor sufficiently. Juan Pierre was absolutely an essential pickup after missing out on Rafael Furcal, but it was a steep price to pay. Heís certainly going to perform better then Corey Patterson did, but will he perform up to his 2003 and 2004 levels? I have serious doubts. He signed some decent relievers but itís a dangerous strategy signing middle relievers to big contracts, one that Hendry has already been burned on a few times. Hendry claimed to have an eye for defense this off-season, but once again Iím not sure if he did much to improve upon that aspect of our game. And he did nothing to improve on one of our biggest problem's; woeful team OBP. Heíll have to hope that Hairston/Walker, Murton, Pierre and Jones play at the apex of their potential while Lee and Ramirez continue to play at theirs. To give it a grade, C-. [AZ Phil] BULLPEN: Signing Dempster, Eyre, and Howry for three years is one year too long for each, but I will worry about that in 2008. I guess giving each of them three years is what Hendry felt he had to do to get then to sign (or re-sign) with the Cubs. Kerry Wood is the Cubs bullpen ace-in-the-hole, though. I would have no problem with Woody moving into the closer role mid-season if Dempster struggles. With a healthy(?) Kerry Wood as the closer, the Cubs bullpen would be the best in baseball, and it's already very good. BENCH: I like bench guys who are good pinch-hitters, so I would have preferred the Cubs sign Mark Sweeney, Wes Helms, and/or Robert Fick over John Mabry. RIGHT-FIELD: I am not a Jacque Jones fan. I would have preferred the Cubs go hard after Brian Giles instead. There weren't a lot of options here. LEAD-OFF HITTER: Rafael Furcal would have been one-stop shopping (SS and lead-off hitter in one player). I guess Pierre is an OK fall-back lead-off hitter, and I like Ronny Cedeno as a SS, but I would have MUCH prefered Furcal.
- Roberto Novoa was optioned to AAA Iowa. The roster is down to 27, one of which is Wade Miller, so it's really 26. It appears the final spot on the team is down to John Koronka versus Michael Wuertz, with Wuertz most likely flying east with the team. Ryan Theriot will likely make the team as well unless the team picks up a late spring training casualty. Dusty's thoughts on the makeup of a 25-man roster:
"We're looking for the best 25 we can break with, the most options, the most variables, the most interchangeable parts, and the best ability so we don't have many holes. We want to try to cover as many parts as we can with the personnel."
Versatility over quality, let's hope the strategy pays off. Which of course it hasn't over the last 2 years. - Sean Marshall has been told (subscription required) he will be the fourth starter and likely pitch the Saturday game versus the Cardinals. Way to ease the kid in.... UPDATE: Daily Herald writer Bruce Miles tips us over at Northside Baseball that Marshall will pitch the Sunday night ESPN game versus the Cardinals instead. Feet meet fire!!! Thanks to Gaius Marius for the heads up... - Starting tomorrow, we'll begin postiing our season previews. First up are the TCR writers, Saturday will be other fine Cubs bloggers and then Sunday the readers get their voice heard. All in time for Monday's season opener against Cincy.
The Cubs optioned RHP Roberto Novoa to AAA Iowa today, cutting their Spring Training roster to 27 (26 if you don't include non-roster invitee Wade Miller, who must be added to the 40-man roster by Opening Day, although he will then immediately be placed on the DL while he continues rehabbing from last season's shoulder surgery).
Well Cubs camp stands at 29 right now with the demotion of Mike Restovich and then we get the surprise of camp that Sean Marshall may possibly overtake Jerome Williams for the fourth spot in the rotation, while Williams slides into the long relief role out of the bullpen and POSSIBLY get the 5th starter spot for that April 15th game. A bit of a shocker I'd say. Fantastic spring and all by Marshall and he's always been one of my favorite Cubs prospects over the last 2 years, but the likelihood of Marshall tearing up the big leagues after only 10 AA starts in his career is somewhere between "not bloody likely" and "what the hell are you thinking?" Trust me, I'd like nothing more then for him to dominate major leaguers from the get-go, but the guy has yet to survive a minor league season without a trip to the disabled list and now we're going to throw him out to the dogs and see if he can survive the strain of the majors? It would be nice if this organization actually had a plan to develop young talent. Oh wait, they do, it's called, "Whoever's Hot, Call them Up!" Marshall's control, poise and knowledge of the game are all very good, but the leap from Hi-A to the majors is a doozy, let's hope he can handle the jump without falling flat on his face. - Thanks for saving us from ourselves, Mr. Grissom. Does Angel Pagan owe him some Chewbacca-like life debt now? Or is it more of a "Saving Private Ryan" moment as in "Earn this....earn it!" - The Cubs released Russ Rohlicek and he's not too thrilled. Apparently he goes in for a 35 minute jog at 7am where he passes Minor League Director Oneri Fleita and says hi, and by 8:25 am Oneri is telling him that he's gone. That's class.
The Cubs were busy Tuesday, as they traded RHP Todd Wellemeyer to Florida for two minor leaguers, placed RHPs Mark Prior and Kerry Wood on the 15-day DL retroactive to March 27th, optioned RHPs David Aardsma, Angel Guzman, and Jae-Kuk Ryu to AAA Iowa, and returned C Casey Kopitzke to the minor league camp at Fitch Park. Also, veteran OF Marquis Grissom retired. So the Cubs roster currently stands at 30, but it really is more like 29, because once RHP Wade Miller is added to the 40-man roster (and he must be added to the 40-man roster sometime before Opening Day), he will certainly be placed on the 15-day DL. Miller will no doubt take the 40-man roster slot formerly occupied by the departed Todd Wellemeyer. The Cubs will need to make five more cuts before Opening Day (four cuts if you don't include Wade Miller, since he will certainly be placed on the DL). If non-roster OF Michael Restovich is added to the 25-man Opening Day roster, another player will need to be dropped from the 40-man roster, either by moving Wood, Prior, or Miller to the 60-day DL, or by outrighting, releasing, or trading a player. UPDATE #1 3/29 AM: ATTENTION! ... ATTENTION, PLEASE!... The Cubs sent OF Michael Restovich to their minor league camp at Fitch Park Wednesday morning, so the Cubs Spring Training roster now stands at 29 (includes one non-roster player--Wade Miller--who will be added to the 40-man roster prior to Opening Day and then will be immediately placed on the DL). UPDATE #2: 3/29 PM : OK. Here's another one. The Cubs optioned LHP Rich Hill to Iowa today, so their Spring Training roster now stands at 28 (including Wade Miller). Besides adding Wade Miller to the 40-man roster sometime prior to Opening Day and then immediately placing him on the DL, the Cubs will need to cut just two more players, and at least one (possibly both) will be a pitcher.
Please feel free to digest the Todd Wellemeyer trade and Marquis Grissom retirement in the post below, but I had to mention that... - Roberto Novoa has recovered from his bout with "valley fever" and will likely see Cactus League action before the team breaks camp on Thursday. - Dusty Baker has decided on who will get the bulk of the playing time at 2b, but he's not telling. Nana, nana, boo-boo - 6:1 odds that Dusty Baker is the first NL manager fired this year. Any takers? Only Bob Melvin of Arizona is a safer bet among NL managers. - Glendon Rusch goes against the Mariners today in Cactus League action.
So itís October 1968, and the Cubsí season is over. The Cubs finish 3rd in the National League (for the second consecutive season, both times behind the Cardinals and the Giants), and have played over .500 ball for two years in a row, the first time theyíve done that since 1945-46. 1969 looks like it might be The Year of the Cub.
I was being raked over the coals at work earlier this week, so I was never able to give my 2 cents on the Corey Patterson trade and I know you've all been waiting breathlessly for my take. To echo Ruz's statements, ìVaya con Dios, Coreylitoî. You wrote your Cubs tombstone the day you decided that you didnít want to play winter ball. Just another data point to verify the history of your arrogance. I do wish him luck with the O's and if he becomes the 30/30 guy we were all hoping for one day, don't worry, it would have never happened while he was in a Cubs uniform. I did find this quote from Korey regarding all the advice given to him highly amusing.
"Everyone has good intentions, but you have to know yourself and what parts to take in and leave out. I was listening to so many people. I wasn't being myself."
Here's some handy clip and save advice for you Korey, cut it out, put it into your wallet and refer to it the next time your on an 0 for 30 streak with 25 Kís:
Don't Swing at fastballs over my head.
As for the prospects we got in return, Carlos Perez will be lucky to have a career as good as the other Carlos Perez, and that's not saying much. Spears has tons of potential, just like the guy we traded him for once did, just in lesser amounts. He does have the upside of only being 20 and not being an arrogant idiot. There's a lot of comparisons to David Eckstein because of his frame and scrappiness. We can only hope he turns out that well. He played last year for the O's Advanced-A team, so he'll either get the bump up to AA or hang back in Daytona.
The powers that be here at TCR are unable to attend the Cubs Convention unfortunately. But, I'm guessing a few of you will be fighting the crowds this weekend. So please, drop us your notes in the comment and let us know the buzz filling the event. Who showed up, what's being said, which players have the hottest wives, and if anyone can get a question into Baker or Hendry, please, please ask them why they've soured on Todd Walker and what would possibly possess them into thinking of starting one of the historically worst offensive players of all-time over one of the best offensive 2B in the game today? I demand answers...
Next up, the first of two big-money bullpen acquisitions, Scott Eyre.
Pitcher
6'1", 215 lb
Bats Left, Throws Left
Age 34 (DOB 5/30/72)
BRef card | ESPN card | BPro card
2005 stats (full-season career highs in bold, lows in italics)
86 G, 0 GS, 2 W, 2 L, 0 SV, 68 1/3 IP, 48 H, 21 ER, 3 HR, 26 BB, 65 K, 2.63 ERA
Please send your predicted stats for Eyre (as well as Michael Barrett, Hendry Blanco, and Ryan Dempster) to cubreporter @ gmail.com. Only predictions sent by email will be included in the final prediction.
The group-prediction project is going great! So far I have 45 entries for Barrett and 29 for Dempster. You can still get predictions in for those two, as well as today's candidate, Henry Blanco:
Catcher
5'11", 220 lb
Bats Right, Throws Right
Age 34 (DOB 8/29/71)
BRef card | ESPN card | BPro card
2005 stats (career highs in bold, lows in italics)
54 G, 161 AB, 39 H, 6 2B, 0 3B, 6 HR, 25 RBI, 16 R, 11 BB, 24 K, 0 SB, 242/287/391
Look at that photo! His "action shot" on Cubs.com is one of him running the bases. Pretty funny. Please send your predicted stats for Blanco to cubreporter @ gmail.com. The categories to be predicted can be found at the initial post. Only predictions sent by email will be included in the final prediction. One other thing -- you'll notice that I'm not asking for predictions on any sort of average (batting, slugging, OBP, ERA). I'm figuring all of those automatically from the counting stats that you're sending in.
Our next candidate, and first pitcher, for the group prediction is Ryan Dempster.
Pitcher
6'2", 215 lb
Bats Right, Throws Right
Age 29 (DOB 5/3/77)
BRef card | ESPN card | BPro card
2005 stats (career highs in bold, lows in italics)
63 G, 6 GS, 5 W, 3 L, 33 SV, 92 IP, 83 H, 32 ER, 4 HR, 49 BB, 89 K, 3.13 ERA
Please send your predicted stats for Dempster to cubreporter @ gmail.com. The categories to be predicted can be found at the initial post. Only predictions sent by email will be included in the final prediction. Along with your name, send in your handle from the comments if you post under a specific name. And don't forget, you can still send in your numbers for Michael Barrett as well.
Congratulations to ex-Cub reliever Bruce Sutter, just elected to the Hall of Fame. The rest of the ex-Cub candidates didn't fare as well -- Andre Dawson, Goose Gossage, and Lee Smith missed the cut, and Rick Aguilera, Gary Gaetti, and Doug Jones received less than 5% and fell off the ballot. I'm happy to see Sutter get in. He's deserving both as an innovator (he was the first great practicioner of the split-fingered fastball) and due to his performance on the field, and his election makes me hopeful that we're seeing the beginning of a re-eveluation of the pitchers of the first great relief era. I don't know if guys like Smith and Gossage deserve to be in the Hall or not, but I do know that they need to be examined through a lens that isn't distorted by the one-inning-only, 40+ save statistics being put up by today's closers. The complete results, with ex-Cubs in bold:
Bruce Sutter 400 76.9
----- 390 Votes Needed For Election -----
Jim Rice 337 64.8
Rich Gossage 336 64.6
Andre Dawson 317 61.0
Bert Blyleven 277 53.3
Lee Smith 234 45.0
Jack Morris 214 41.2
Tommy John 154 29.6
Steve Garvey 135 26.0
Alan Trammell 92 17.7
Dave Parker 76 14.4
Dave Concepcion 65 12.5
Don Mattingly 64 12.3
Orel Hershiser 58 11.2
Dale Murphy 56 10.8
Albert Belle 40 7.7
----- 26 Votes Needed to Stay on Ballot -----
Will Clark 23 4.4
Dwight Gooden 17 3.3
Willie McGee 12 2.3
Hal Morris 5 1.0
Ozzie Guillen 5 1.0
Gary Gaetti 4 0.8
John Wetteland 4 0.8
Rick Aguilera 3 0.6
Doug Jones 2 0.4
Greg Jefferies 2 0.4
Walt Weiss 1 0.2
Gary DiSarcina 0 0.0
Alex Fernandez 0 0.0
Our first candidate for the group prediction is Michael Barrett.
Catcher
6'2", 200 lb
Bats Right, Throws Right
Age 29 (DOB 10/22/76)
BRef card | ESPN card | BPro card
2005 stats (career highs in bold, lows in italics)
133 G, 424 AB, 117 H, 32 2B, 3 3B, 16 HR, 61 RBI, 48 R, 40 BB, 61 K, 0 SB, 276/345/479
Please send your predicted stats for Barrett to cubreporter @ gmail.com. The categories to be predicted can be found at the initial post. Only predictions sent by email will be included in the final prediction. Please include your name if you want to be eligible for the fantastic prizes I'm sure I'll be able to round up before the end of the season. All rights reserved. Do not taunt happy fun ball.
The Cubs have traded Corey Patterson to the Orioles for two minor leaguers. ESPN Radio reports that the players are shortstop Nate Spears and lefthanded pitcher Carlos Perez. We'll gather as much info on these guys as we can find and post it here. * Spears is 21 years old. He was a 5th round pick in the 2003 draft. At High A Frederick last year he hit 294/349/429. From the Orioles Hangout prospect list, where Spears is ranked #14:
20-year old who hits .294 with 42 extra base hits in the Carolina League is something, but what is the real question. Only average defensively and not a speedster on the bases. His 36-82 BB-K ratio is a bit of concern as well. A little guy who doesn't have a projectable frame. If he turns those doubles into homers at a higher level he may become a better prospect, but right now it's hard to project him as more than a lower Division second baseman. He's a baseball rat who continues to beat the odds, so don't bet against him.
* Perez is 24 years old. He was signed as a 17-year-old out of the Dominican in 1999 and has started throughout his time in the minors, which means he has logged nearly 400 professional innings. Lat year at Delmarva (A) he went 11-8, 4.28. In 151 1/3 innings he struck out 146 (8.7 K/9) and walked 61 (3.6 BB/9). He's #36 at Orioles Hangout:
Started off the year like gangbusters. Went 4-4 with a decent 3.08 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 26 walks in 70 innings pitched through his first 13 starts. Lost his command a bit after that stretch and even worse, started to get hit like Mike Timlin in a save situation. Ended up with career highs in just about every category but allowed Sally League batters to hit .280 off him. With less then overwhelming stuff, and at 23-years old, Perez will need to prove more next year at Frederick.
At this point I would have been happy with a bag of used baseballs and a cheeseburger (As long as it was from In N' Out) in exchange for Patterson. Yes, he had five tools, but he misplaced his toolbox in 2003 and even a trip to Iowa last year couldn't help him find it. David Appleman at Hardball Times put into graphic terms what we all knew, which was that Patterson had a really bad year last year. Can he bounce back? Maybe. But it's not like he's a green youngster who is still learning how to play baseball. He's 26 years old, an age at which most players have figured out what works for them and what doesn't. Even more damning is the fact that he has over 2,300 major league plate appearances. That's nearly four full seasons, and it's more than (for example) Mark Bellhorn, Luis Rivas or Robert Fick. Again, he's not someone who has spent only a little bit of time in the majors and it still feeling his way. He's a guy who came up, got established, had some success, and has now settled into a specific style of play that leads to occasional power, guesswork swings, and very low on-base percentage. I didn't want the Cubs to even tender Patterson, so the fact that they're going to not only avoid paying him the millions of dollars he'd get in arbitration (or a new contract), but also get someone (anyone) in exchange for him, makes me happy. Vaya con Dios, Coreylito. May you rediscover the joy of occasionally taking a pitch. If you end up turning things around in Baltimore, I'll be in the front row cheering for you, but I haven't bought any tickets to Camden Yards yet. PS - Bonus points to whoever remembers the last time I used this headline (no peeking in the archives).

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