Dillon Maples, Jen-Ho Tseng, Felix Pena, and Ivan Pineyro threw "live" BP this morning, as Cubs minor leaguers had their first full-squad work-out at the Under Armour Performance Center at Riverview Park in Mesa, AZ.

2014 CUBS MINOR LEAGUE CAMP ROSTERS (last updated 3-6-2014):

CSN's Patrick Mooney broke the news that Theodore Roosevelt Lilly III is back with the Cubs. No, the 38 year old crafty one, who retired last November isn't being brought back from the netherworld to be another soft tossing lefty to flip at the trade deadline. He's there in a new capacity, per Rotoworld:

Ted Lilly has been hired as a special assistant for the Cubs front office. He will work with young players in Cubs camp during spring training and then help the organization with scouting for the draft.

Then there is this quote from TL upon making the decision to take the Cubs gig:

Ted Lilly: "I want to be around the game and I feel like I have something to offer. This is the organization I would prefer to be with.”

A little more from Gulliver and the Voyage to Lilliput after the jump...

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Justin Ruggiano, Welington Castillo, and Christian Villanueva blasted solo home runs, and Kyle Hendricks threw 2.2 IP of no-run/no-hit ball, as the Cubs "White" team defeated the Cubs "Blue" team 5-3 in a six-inning Cactus League Intrasquad game played this afternoon in what was the first Cubs game played at Cubs Park in Mesa.

 

Next time you're driving in Chicago, take your eyes away from the road for just a moment and look in the mirror.
See that big eye in the middle of your forehead?
Pothole Eye.

The pre-season ritual of BP releasing their preliminary PECOTA numbers is upon us and as expected the Cubs are in the bottom 5 of the league. They've got them tabbed at 71 wins at the moment, 3rd worse in the league with only the Astros and Marlins being worse. Apparently that doesn't include the recent Jason Hammel signing, which should be good for maybe a win on the positive side (maybe not).  Of course, it's all just theory now, but until there's something practical to follow, forecasting and guessing are about as much fun as we're going to have around here.

I don't subscribe to BP anymore, but the link to the Cubs page can be found here and apparently it's particularly unkind to Jeff Samardzija (0.1 WARP forecast). Fangraphs posted the ZIPS projections last week as well, and they were much kinder to Samardzija (3.2 zWAR forecast). Both systems seem to think Castro and Rizzo should have solid bounceback seasons. The #1 Comp column on the ZIPS tables is always a fun read: Baez=Ripken, Soler=Candy Maldonado, Rizzo=Carlos Pena, Schierholtz=Randy Bush, Edwin Jackson=Jaime Navarro and so on down the line.

I'm taking the under by the way, I think TheJedi are gonna be a little reluctant/stubborn on bringing up Baez, Bryant and some others and then the mid-season trading will take it's toll like it did last season.

In the move that anyone could have predicted once the Cubs missed out on Tanaka, they have come to terms on a deal with RHP Jason Hammel.  The 31-year old hasn't had much of a career to-date between Tampa, Colorado and Baltimore (94 ERA+), but his stuff has always been heralded and he did have a very nice 2012 for the Orioles(123 ERA+).  It'll be another hopeful reclamation project for the Cubs and they did quite well with Paul Maholm and Scott Feldman, so here's hoping the streak stays alive.

It appears they'll head into 2014 with a rotation of Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson, Hammel and most likey Jake Arrieta with Carlos Villanueva, Kyle Hendricks, Justin Grimm, Brett Marshall, Chris Rusin and Brooks Raley all in the mix as well, along with I'm sure a few other surprise guests.

You've heard the news by now, that Theo's white whale got away, snatched up from the open sea by his old nemesis the S.S. Yankees. The contract numbers are absurd (7 years/$155M, opt out after 4 years), but we knew that eyeball popping was going to be required once the dust settled. There's been no confirmation that the Cubs were willing to be as absurd, although the whispers from Peter Gammons and Jeff Passan seem to indicate that no one was all that close to the Yankees offer. That being said, we're not sure how much back and forth there were in these negotiations either or what the final push was for Tanaka to pick New York over the other clubs. It may have been simply the money, maybe the glory of Yankee pinstripes, maybe the city of New York, maybe a combination of all three. What we do know is that the consolation prize (most likely) is either Paul Maholm or Jason Hammel and you kind of hope that the Cubs just don't even bother going back to pick either one up.

It's a little less than 4 days before Decision Tanaka is due and nobody knows nothing except that everybody seems to need speculate on something. Bruce Levine reported that the Cubs will not be outbid. Gordon Wittenmyer said that's rubbish and Cubs remain a longshot. Jayson Stark kept hearing from important baseball people that the Cubs were going to make a splash and so on and so on.

As of this morning, the latest rumors are that the deal will be in the 6/120M range (not including posting fees) and that the Yankees and Cubs are the last 2 teams standing. Of course, it's also been said that Tanaka's agent Casey Close follows his namesake and doesn't negotiate through the media and we know the Cubs and Yankees like to keep things close to the vest. Unfortunately the Diamondbacks aren't in on this, otherwise we'd know exactly where everything stands thanks to Kevin Towers.

So what do we know? We know Tanaka will be playing his age 25 season, and that young age plus his pitching skills are why the Cubs and TheJedi would be willing to hand out their first 9-figure deal. Is the price going to be ridiculous? You betcha!!! And as Jayson Stark noted, only 8 other pitchers in the league are getting paid over $20M annually and only 2 don't own Cy Youngs (Kershaw, Sabathia, Hamels, Lee, Cain, Verlander, Greinke, and King Felix).

But of course, this isn't a case where you're paying for past performance, the Cubs would be paying for potential future performance and that's obviously not the norm by baseball practices, but on the other hand, probably smarter. Granted, the chances of Tanaka even being one of the top 5 pitchers in the National League are slim as most scouts put him more as a solid #2 pitcher. But #2 pitchers pitch like #1 pitchers all the time and Jeff Samardzija's numbers look like a #3 or #4 pitcher at the end of most every season, but there's #1 or #2 stuff in that arm that occasionally shows itself and the Cubs are hoping they get paid in prospects like he's a #1.  So don't get too riled up about his alleged slot in the rotation. Travis Wood had the 12th best ERA in the National League last year, but when you look at things like FIP and BABIP, you realize, he's probably more a mid to low-end rotation starter. But you get enough good pitchers and you never know which ones will pitch great in any given year, you just hope for solid results and enough depth to make it through the season and then hope for a little magic and luck to ride through the postseason. A starting staff of Samardzija, Tanaka, T. Wood, E. Jackson (who will bounce back) and Jake Arrieta sure doesn't sound bad. I'm not sure it's great, but it's a good start for a few years while the minor league reinforcements continue their basic training.

So as the January 24th deadline looms, Tanaka and his family have some decisions to make. My guess is the Cubs know that joining a rebuilding team is a tough sell and they went all in on their bid, hoping to lure him with money and the promise that the winning is just around the corner. Now what that all-in means, we may or may not find out, but if he chooses to go with another team, my guess is the reasons will go beyond the financial ones.


You may have seen the announcement last week that MLB has approved the use of expanded instant replay. I won't go into the details, but fair to say I'm happy that there will be more correct calls and less incorrect calls. That is a good thing. It will not be perfect, although I'm sure some will demand perfection. Some folks are worried that it will extend the length of what is already a pretty lengthy baseball game. That may or may not be the case, since it would in theory cut down on some of the lengthy shouting matches over calls. What I would have really liked to accompany the announcement is that any player or manager protesting a call that goes beyond a moment of exasperation would be immediately ejected from a game. And if a manager left the dugout to argue, he'd immediately get slapped with a 5-game suspension with no appeal. Add that to the mix and you have a system that should work nicely and swiftly.

An unsigned player under club control who has accrued at least three but less than six years of MLB Service Time is automatically eligible for salary arbitration. Also, any unsigned player with at least two years but less than three years of MLB Service Time who accrued at least 86 days of MLB Service Time the previous season can qualify for salary arbitration as a so-called "Super Two" if the player is among the top 22% in MLB Service Time of players in that group.

If a club and a player eligible for salary arbitration cannot agree on a contract, the player can request the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) to file for salary arbitration.

...lunkhead to ruin it for everybody.

So as I and many others guessed a few weeks back, there was going to be somebody that was going to throw all semblance of logic and reason out the window and not vote for Greg Maddux. And while there may be others, Ken Gurnick was the first vote identified as leaving Maddux off their ballot. In and of itself, this is hardly a big deal, I mean there are plenty of worthy Hall of Famers on this year's ballot and while I may question your sanity and lucidness for putting others ahead of Greg Maddux, with a limit of just 10 choices, maybe, just maybe you just ran out of room and figured Maddux will have 14 more years to get in.

Nah, Ken Gurnick isn't voting for Greg Maddux because, "those who played during the period of PED use, I won't vote for any of them."

He only put one name on his ballot and that's Jack Morris.

/Facepalm.

There are plenty of more talented writers that have already dissected Gurnick's one paragraph explanation of his vote. And the one major flaw in Gurnick's "reasoning" is that he has apparently cracked the code of exactly when the PED era began and ended and whatever that code is, it means despite the careers of Maddux and Morris overlapping over 9 seasons, one is clean and one is tainted.

By what I've gathered on Twitter so far, Gurnick seems like a good enough guy from other reporters that know him and in the end, Maddux will still get in this year and possibly still have the highest vote total of all-time. Unfortunately Gurnick will still get to vote next year and while there's an argument to be made that it's just one man's opinion, an opinion on the Hall of Fame with the gift of an actual ballot should be based on some facts, and it's hard to see which ones he used in this case.

What a dumb play.
Aaron Rodgers drops back, Julius Peppers hits the ball just as Rodgers arm is moving forward to throw.
Ball falls to the ground.

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