November 2006

Split Decision

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.

Soriano Contract Details

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.

Take This Job. Please.

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.

Outfield Contracts

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

Thankful

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.

Tasty Names Redux

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...

I’ll have a Rapada with Cheese, and a Cherry Coke

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.

Aramis Contract Details

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.

Soriano in Right?

Bruce Miles points out this little tidbit which seems to mesh with what Lou apparently said on the radio last night that Soriano would be a corner outfielder.
Most reports had the Cubs looking at Soriano as a center fielder, but sources said Sunday that the Cubs will put Soriano in right. That means Jacque Jones (whose injured left shoulder prevented him from throwing well in 2006) will go from right to center with the Cubs, if they donít trade Jones, hoping for the best.

The Big Freeze

Monday is the last day players on minor league rosters can be traded or moved up to a major league roster. Starting next Tuesday, and until the completion of the Rule 5 Draft on December 7th, players on minor league rosters are "frozen." That is, any player on a minor league roster as of this coming Tuesday cannot be traded and cannot be added to an MLB 40-man roster until the conclusion of the Rule 5 Draft. Players on an MLB 40-man roster can be sent outright to the minors during this period, but it's strictly a one-way highway. (Three years ago, the Cubs acquired Derrek Lee from the Florida Marlins for Hee Seop Choi and a Player to Be Named Later (PTBNL), but because the deal was made during the period between November 20th and the Rule 5 Draft, the PTBNL--RHP Mike Nannini--was not identified and could not be sent to the Marlins until the Rule 5 Draft had been completed).

Some News…

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.

And the Award Goes to…

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.

One Week to Go

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

2006 TCR Postseason Award Show

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.

Another Rumor Roundup

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:

Rumor Roundup

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.