November 2007

The NL Central Goes Shopping

The editors at mlb.com obviously sent all of the team correspondents a mass email ordering them to write Winter Meeting shopping list stories...pronto! Well, their loss of editorial independence is your gain. Here, based on those stories and reports from a few of the hometown papers, is a summary of what the Cubs’ NL Central brothers might be looking for during next week’s meetings in Nashville: Brewers NL Central teams posted four of the five worst bullpen ERAs in the National League last season, with Milwaukee (4.15/12th in NL), Houston (4.62/14th), Pittsburgh (4.77/15th) and Cincy (5.10/16th) positively embarrassing the Cubs (3.76/3rd) and Cardinals (4.00/9th). No surprise then that so many of the division’s teams are hoping to address bullpen issues. The Brewers actually lost their best reliever, closer Francisco Cordero, who signed last week with the Reds, plus set-up man Scott Linebrink, who signed with the White Sox. (You think Kenny Williams will ask him to play centerfield?) GM Doug Melvin says he doesn’t anticipate trading for an established closer given the typical asking price, but he’s also understandably wary of the three remaining, free-agent closers—Gagne, Percival, and Dotel—given their colorful injury histories. Sounds to me like Doug Melvin has a problem.

Kerry As Kloser? Krazy

Jim Hendry acknowledges that Kerry Wood will have to show he can occasionally pitch on three consecutive days to become a full-fledged closer. But can he even pitch on two? Woody pitched in both ends of the 9/15 doubleheader in St. Louis, but other than that, he never pitched in consecutive days in ’07; in half of his 22 appearances, he was going on two, three or four days rest.

The Hendry/Piniella Plan (Apparently)

With the MLB Winter Meetings set for next week in Nashville, the Hot Stove League should start to heat-up. So here is a summary of what appears to be the "Hendry/Piniella Cubs Plan for 2008" (or whatever they call it internally) that was apparently devised at the Cubs Organizational Meeting in Mesa last month (and I am NOT necessarily advocating any of this stuff):

Cubs Sign Six Minor League FA

The Cubs have signed their first batch of minor league free-agents. Minor League FAs signed prior to 11/20 are normally the ones most in demand, and so they often get the best deals, including more money and usually an NRI to Spring Training. The six minor league free-agents signed recently by the Cubs are:

Coffee Shop Encounter with Jim Hendry

You may have noticed the The Sun-Times report that Jim Hendry was in Los Angeles and had dinner with free agent Kaz Matsui and his people last night. L.A. happens to be my neck of the woods and in one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments, I happened to run into Hendry while getting my morning coffee at the Coffee Bean on Pico/Smithwood in Beverly Hills. I couldn't resist striking up a conversation... ------- (Busy coffee shop, about 6 people in line waiting to order. I stroll up and notice a older, Caucasian gentleman on his cell phone) Hendry: I know Miguel Cabrera is good, but he's a righty, we need lefties. I think Kaz and Jenkins are the much better options, Randy. (Hangs up phone) Rob: Pardon me, are you Jim Hendry? Hendry: (Surprised) Yeah, didn't think people would recognize me out here. Rob: Well I'm a huge Cubs fans, how'd your meeting with Kaz go last night. Hendry: How'd you know that? Rob: It was in the papers this morning and I came across it on this fan site I read, The Cub Reporter.

Closing The John McDonough File

In the wake of his big job change, John McDonough absolutely carpet-bombed the Chicago media today. I heard his interview with Mike Murphy on WSCR over the noon hour, just missed his late afternoon interview on WMVP (local ESPN Radio), then caught his appearance around 6pm with Roe Conn on WLS Radio. Naturally, his mug was all over local television as well, so much so that he effectively deprived poor Drew Peterson of the screen time he requires to continue creeping out the viewing public. McDonough's 24 years with the Cubs coincided with the 24 highest annual attendance totals in Cub history. The Cub fan convention, McDonough's idea, has become an annual rite of winter in Chicago and the blueprint for similar events now hosted by many teams in all major sports. (The 2008 Royals FanFest will be held January 19th at the Overland Park Convention Center. Get your tickets now!)

The Big Freeze

Today is the deadline for MLB clubs to submit their major league and minor league reserve lists to the MLB office, the beginning of the so-called "frozen period" that runs between November 20th and the conclusion of the MLB Rule 5 Draft (which will be conducted on Thursday, December 6th, as the last order of business at the 2007 MLB Winter Meetings in Nashville).

A Season of Change: McDonough Steps Down

Chicago Cubs team president John McDonough will be moving to the West Side and become the Blackhawks new man in charge. McDonough had been with the Cubs organization since 1983, although most Cubs fans hadn't heard of him until last year when he took over as team president from Andy MacPhail. According to our wonderful readers from various radio reports, Crane Kenney will step in to take over his Cubs duties.

Baseball America Top Ten Cubs Prospects List

Baseball America released its annual Cubs Top Ten Prospects list today. BA doesn't consider MLB service time when rating prospects, but it does hold to the 130 AB and 50 IP rookie limit, making Felix Pie, Ronny Cedeno, and Carlos Marmol ineligible for the list this time around. BA did provide somewhat detailed scouting reports on each of the Cubs Top Ten prospects, but since it's available only by subscription, I will not provide that additional information here.

TCR Friday Notes

The week started off with a flurry of moves to clear money and space off the roster and it looks like Hendry is wasting no time wasting that space and money.
The Chicago Cubs are pressing hard to sign the free-agent second baseman. One source close to the negotiations said he wouldn't be surprised if Matsui is offered a contract similar to the three-year, $14.4 million deal the Mets gave Torrealba.
Dave Kaplan on WGN radio pretty much said the same thing. I have nothing good to say about this.

Rounding Up the Usual Suspects

In an interview with the Sun Times yesterday, Lou Piniella discussed some of his ideas about the upcoming season, including a desire for added bullpen depth. Sun Times Cubs beat writer Gordon Wittenmyer speculated that in their quest to add depth, the Cubs would probably be looking at minor league free-agents. Of course, teams do that every year.

Cubs Trade Craig Monroe to Twins

As most of you now know by now, the Cubs traded OF Craig Monroe to the Minnesota Twins today for a PTBNL. The Cubs also reactivated RHPs Angel Guzman (TJ elbow surgery) and Mark Prior (shoulder surgery) from the 60-day DL (MLB clubs have until November 20th to reactivate players from the 15-day and 60-day DL), bringing the Cubs MLB Reserve List (AKA "40-man roster") up to 38 players, and leaving two slots open.

And the Rest of the 2007 Awards Go To…

I put in my two cents on the Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year awards yesterday but got pre-empted by the JJ trade. I'm back to finish the job. Cy Young NL - Jake Peavy AL - C.C. Sabathia Considering Jake Peavy essentially lead in the pitching Triple Crown of wins, ERA and strikeouts, the NL award is a no-brainer. The AL though is far more interesting.
Name VORP Win Shares WPA ERA+ FIP
C.C. Sabathia 65.2 24 3.66 143 3.27
Fausto Carmona 64 22 4.38 151 4.05
Josh Beckett 58.6 19 3.02 145 3.22
John Lackey 60.7 19 3.12 151 3.66

Jacque Jones Almost Traded…Again

UPDATE #3: The Sun-Times is reporting that the Cubs sent $2 million over in the deal and repeat the previous mention that JJ is owed $5.5 MM in 2008. My guess at this point is that he was only owed a half million of his pro-rated signing bonus, not the $1.3 MM that I suggested earlier. If Infante sticks with the team and makes about $1.5 MM next year plus the $2MM the Cubs gave to Detroit, that's only about $2MM in savings for 2008 for the Cubs.

And the 2007 Awards Go To…

Every year I dip my toes into the post-season awards waters. Here's one man's opinion... Manager of the Year NL - Bob Melvin AL - Mike Scioscia This award seems to usually go to the manager of the team that no one had expectations to win before the season started but my vote usually goes to the manager who had to handle the most adversity throughout the year. I figure it's a lot easier to manage when everyone is healthy and the lineup and bullpen choices were decided in spring training. In the NL though, Bob Melvin seems like a slam-dunk. The Dbacks end up leading the NL in wins and take their division despite being outscored by their opponents over the year. The manager deserves some credit for that I say. Clint Hurdle of the Rockies seems to be the only other skipper worth even mentioning.

TCR Friday Notes

So little to talk about.... - The Denver Post gives more credence to the Kaz Matsui rumors, saying the Cubs might go three years on a contract and covet Kaz's speed and (pardon my insensitivity here) Japanese-ness. As reader "The Joe" pointed out, signing Kaz might help sway other Japanese players to sign with the Cubs, most notably Fukudome. The same blurb suggest the Rockies might look at Michael Barrett for catching duties if Torrealba walks.

Cubs Suffer Tough, Pretend Loss

On Monday, The Sporting News Web site began a day-by-day replay of the 1986 MLB season using the Strat-O-Matic baseball simulation software. The site will be tracking the season with a daily scoreboard, box scores, game recaps, and player stats. Each of the 26 teams in existence back in '86 is being managed by a different baseball insider, writer, super-fan, etc. The faux Cubs’ manager is espn.com writer Dan Shanoff.

Just One More Reason to Hate the Trib

It seems that as I get older, there's just very little in the world that surprises me anymore. You read the news and people seem to redefine the word despicable almost everyday. And it might just be the sensationalistic nature of journalism today that has numbed the pain, or just my generally placid everyday demeanor that makes everything just a little too bearable.

GMs In Favor Of Reruns

  • The GMs have voted 25-5 in support of limited use of video replay. A proposal will now be forwarded to the Commissioner, who will involve representatives of the Players and Umpires unions in evaluating the proposal. Jimmie Lee Solomon, MLB's VP of Baseball Operations, says he does not expect the proposal to become a rule in time for the 2008 season.

    Golden Gloves

    Awards season has started and a Cub walked away with some gold glove hardware. This is Derrek Lee's third glove of the golden variety and while he probably didn't deserve it (most metrics show Albert Pujols as the superior NL first basemen), he won nonetheless. The full list: American League P - Johan Santana C - Ivan Rodriguez 1B - Kevin Youklis 2B - Placido Polanco SS - Orlando Cabrera 3B - Adrian Beltre OF - Torii Hunter, Grady Sizemore, Ichiro Suzuki National League P - Greg Maddux (Gold Glove #17, you have a sense he'll still be collecting these after he retires) C - Russ Martin 1B - Derrek Lee 2B - Orlando Hudson SS - Jimmy Rollins 3B - David Wright OF - Carlos Beltran, Andruw Jones, Jeff Francouer/Aaron Rowand (the two tied in voting) I don't have access today to the usual defensive metrics I follow, but for the most part that seems about right other than Ryan Braun should have won for NL third basemen (I kid, I kid). Last time I did check, Troy Tulowitzki was way ahead among NL shortstops but they don't give Gold Gloves to rookies. Congrats to Derrek Lee! ----- Also a quick update that Bruce Levine on ESPN 1000 is reporting that Ryan Dempster will be moved into the starting rotation for next season. I'm going to just hope that he gets traded before it ever actually gets there. UPDATE: What some of the defensive metrics say about the NL gold glove winners after the jump....

    Cubs Trivia

    Who was the first member of the Cubs to hit a home run in the World Series?
    and
    What was the title of the famous poem by Franklin P. Adams that immortalized the double-play combination of Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance?
    Bonus points if you can name the third baseman during that period....