October 2009

Tom Ricketts and family will be introduced to Cubs fans everywhere in a press conference on Friday morning at 11am CST and probably a couple dozen TV and radio interviews. To help you get through the day, I suggest grabbing your favorite alcoholic beverage(bring a thermos if you're at work) and follow along with this drinking game I designed.

Drink when:

John Updike was as fine a writer as Ted Williams was a hitter. Updike won two Pulitzers, Williams a pair of MVP’s.

When the former died in January of this year I marked his passing by listening to a recording of Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu. It’s a classic essay he wrote for The New Yorker in the aftermath of Williams’ last game at Boston’s Fenway Park in 1960; a day when The Kid famously and fittingly homered in the final at-bat of a career that was both tempestuous and illustrious.

It’s beautiful; something that could turn non-believers into baseball fans the way Handel’s Messiah might call pagans to church.

It could not have been an accident that Updike was there to observe the event and later share his thoughts with whomever they concerned, although a preface to the recorded essay makes it sound as though it was just that. His first purpose for being in Boston that day was adulterous but, finding his paramour not at home, he went to the ballpark instead.

When Williams died in 2002 the poignancy of his death was overridden by the announcement that his head was to be frozen for future reference. His son, John Henry, who I recall accompanied his father on an autographing expedition to Des Moines in the mid-90's to raise funds for the Bob Feller museum not far from here, was having Ted posthumously decapitated and iced on the basis of a signed cocktail napkin that came with no certificate of authenticity. How at once cryonic and ironic.

Trying to figure out which relievers the Cubs may try to acquire - if any - to bolster a poor bullpen performance is like trying to find a decent Cubs position player developed by the Cubs farm system over the last 35 years. For all I know the Cubs won't do much but try and resign John Grabow and then see who might stick from the current crop of youngsters plus a few Chad Fox-type reclamation projects that they might hope to stick...and probably Chad Fox himself.

We do know Hendry likes his strikeout pitchers and Escobar has a 7.89 K/9 rate for his career which trends higher when he's worked out of the bullpen as you'd expect. There hasn't been much chatter on Escobar since he went down with a shoulder injury after pitching just 5 innings in 2009 (and he missed all of 2008 as well after labrum surgery), but I think it's a fair bet he'll come back in 2010 as a reliever...that is if he's coming back at all.

Andrew Cashner threw four innings of no run, no hit ball, and Starlin Castro had two hits, drove in a run and scored two more, and made the defensive play of the day, as the Mesa Solar Sox exterminated the Scottsdale Scorpions 12-5 in Arizona Fall League action this afternoon at HoHoKam Park in Mesa.  

box score

- Nick Steiner takes a look at Milton Bradley using Pitch F/X data and comes away impressed.

The fact that Bradley has such a bad year - and it wasn't even that bad
- can be placed solely on a huge drop in ISO from his previously
established norms. His plate discipline and contact skills were just as
good as they were in 08 and the year before that, and there is no
evidence that the drop in ISO is anything "real". Despite the
personality problems, teams are apparently lining up to try and steal
Bradley away from Jim Hendry because he is still a very good player.

You'll make no friends around here Mr. Steiner with that sort of reasoned analysis.

- Speaking of Bradley, he makes MLBTR's list of bad contracts along with Soriano and Aaron Miles. All the hype to date has been that the Cubs will have to take on one of those (or something similar) to move Bradley.

- Bruce Miles says the Cubs should pass on Gary Matthews Jr. and responds to my inquiry in the comments that there are indeed clubs interested in Bradley.

- Bruce Levine concurs with Chris DeLuca that a payroll around $140M for 2010 should be expected and save up for another ticket price increase. He also says the Cubs are in talks with "Tampa, Toronto and three or four other clubs with players with big contracts that they would like to move."

- Dave Cameron at Fangraphs is thinking about bad contracts as well and suggests a ratings bonanza would follow a GM summit where each team brought one bad contract and threw them into a pile. Then each team picks one from the pile and has to go home with it in what he has dubbed Bad Contract White Elephant.

Let's move back to the infield and check in on another possible second basemen...the Rays Akinori Iwamura.

 

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
2007 28 TBD 123 559 491 82 140 21 10 7 34 12 8 58 114 .285 .359 .411 .770 105
2008 29 TBR 152 707 627 91 172 30 9 6 48 8 6 70 131 .274 .349 .380 .729 92
2009 30 TBR 69 260 231 28 67 16 2 1 22 9 1 24 44 .290 .355 .390 .745 94
3 Seasons 344 1526 1349 201 379 67 21 14 104 29 15 152 289 .281 .354 .393 .747 97
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/27/2009.

- The Ricketts family are the new official owners of the Chicago Cubs and will have a press conference on Friday. Maybe they'll bring a new GM with them.

 "My family and I are thrilled that this day has finally come and
we thank Commissioner Bud Selig and Major League Baseball owners for
approving our ownership," said Tom Ricketts. "Now we will go to work
building the championship tradition that all Cubs fans so richly
deserve.  

- It's hard to tell how much is Chris DeLuca taking educated guesses or basing his column off some sources, but he seems to expect much of the same for the next two years with Ricketts in charge. Certainly don't expect a big jump in payroll (he throws out $143M) and Hendry isn't getting a blank check to rid himself of the Bradley mess.

On Friday, the Cubs' new owner will be confronted by more microphones, cameras, and sweaty members of the press than I imagine he has ever been confronted by before. I predict he will say something to the effect of, "I can't give you a definite answer at this point, but that is absolutely something we are going to be looking at," more times than we'll be easily able to count. Nevertheless, after the ridiculously protracted sale process and with so many critical issues facing the team—from the immediate future of the leadership team to the long-term viability of Wrigley Field—I will join many of you in hanging on every word Ricketts has to say. (I've also never heard his voice, so I'm curious.)

Apart from all of the obvious questions Ricketts will face, probably multiple times, here are some questions I would ask if I had press credentials or the ingenuity to sneak in.

To view past articles in this series, you can always click on the 2010 Offseason Targets tag in the byline above.

Let's give credit to Arizona Phil for this suggestion as he pointed out that Rajai Davis qualified for Super Two status and could be available if the A's want to save some money.

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB GDP HBP
2006 25 PIT 20 17 14 1 2 1 0 0 0 1 3 2 3 .143 .250 .214 .464 22 3 0 0
2007 26 TOT 75 219 190 32 53 11 2 1 9 22 6 21 28 .279 .361 .374 .735 92 71 1 4
2007 26 PIT 24 57 48 6 13 2 1 0 2 5 2 7 3 .271 .357 .354 .711 87 17 1 0
2007 26 SFG 51 162 142 26 40 9 1 1 7 17 4 14 25 .282 .363 .380 .743 93 54 0 4
2008 27 TOT 113 226 214 30 52 5 4 3 19 29 6 8 40 .243 .272 .346 .618 68 74 1 1
2008 27 SFG 12 19 18 2 1 0 0 0 0 4 0 1 6 .056 .105 .056 .161 -56 1 0 0
2008 27 OAK 101 207 196 28 51 5 4 3 19 25 6 7 34 .260 .288 .372 .660 80 73 1 1
2009 28 OAK 125 432 390 65 119 27 5 3 48 41 12 29 70 .305 .360 .423 .784 112 165 12 7
4 Seasons 333 894 808 128 226 44 11 7 76 93 27 60 141 .280 .336 .387 .724 94 313 14 12
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/26/2009.

Alright, here's my half-ass plan for the next few weeks...try to get one of those offseason target posts up sometime in the morning and then some type of quick notes/news of the moment update in the afternoon or early evening if there's enough news out there and if Phil doesn't have an update from Arizona. I will inevitably fail at keeping up that pace...

- Naples, Florida is making their run at the Cubs to be their new home for spring training.

The Cubs’ 25-year lease with the city of Mesa expires in 2016. However,
the team has an escape clause, allowing them to pay $4.2 million to the
city next spring in order to leave Mesa in 2012.

That's a pretty well-done and detailed article at the link, so I encourage everyone to check it out. I will say while it's probably better for many Chicago residents, who I know would prefer the shorter trip to Florida, it would likely mean the demise of Arizona Phil here at TCR, so suck it up and write a letter to Ricketts that you want the Cubs to stay in Arizona. 

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As I mentioned earlier, this is an exercise at some of the low profile names the Cubs could or should look at this offseason. And remeber, these articles are designed to just start the discussion, not settle the case one way or another.

I think it's a fair assumption that the Cubs will be likely focusing at second base and either center or right field along with some bullpen help. So today's guest is another possible non-tender candidate, Marlins outfielder Jeremy Hermida.

Hermida was the 11th pick in the 2002 draft and was the top Marlins prospect from 2004 to 2006 according to Baseball America.

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ GDP HBP
2005 21 FLA 23 47 41 9 12 2 0 4 11 2 0 6 12 .293 .383 .634 1.017 168 1 0
2006 22 FLA 99 348 307 37 77 19 1 5 28 4 1 33 70 .251 .332 .368 .700 84 6 5
2007 23 FLA 123 484 429 54 127 32 1 18 63 3 4 47 105 .296 .369 .501 .870 125 10 4
2008 24 FLA 142 559 502 74 125 22 3 17 61 6 1 48 138 .249 .323 .406 .729 91 12 7
2009 25 FLA 129 491 429 48 111 14 2 13 47 5 2 56 101 .259 .348 .392 .740 96 6 4
5 Seasons 516 1929 1708 222 452 89 7 57 210 20 8 190 426 .265 .344 .425 .769 102 35 20
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/24/2009.

The Cubs opened up a second slot on their 40-man roster today, as they sent IF-OF Bobby Scales outright to AAA Iowa.

The 32-year old switch-hitter made his big league debut in 2009, hitting 242/312/411 in 51 games (138 PA) for the Cubs, while playing 2B, 3B, LF, and RF. Scales was acquired by the Cubs from Iowa on May 4th, after spending ten-plus seasons and playing 1,000+ games in the minor leagues with San Diego, Philadelphia, Boston, and the Cubs.

Scales did his best work for the Cubs coming off the bench, leading all MLB pinch-hitters (minimum 15 PA) in BA, SLG, and OPS in 2009, hitting 500/533/1.204 with 2 HR & 5 RBI, two doubles, and a triple, as a PH.

The University of Michigan alum is eligible to be a Rule 55 Minor League FA, which means he will be free to sign with another organization when the MLB Free-Agent Filing Period ends 15 days after the conclusion of the World Series, unless he opts to sign a 2010 minor league contract with the Cubs.

- Alex Eisenberg runs Baseball Intellect and he's added a premium service where he breaks down video of prospects. Recently he did one that included  Logan Watkins and Hak-Juk Lee from a Boise Hawks game earlier this year. If you're a minor league junkie, I have to think that's a good way to spend $3 a month and I'll continue to give him a shout out when he features Cubs prospects.

- MLB Trade Rumors is reporting their own rumor that the Cubs have interest in the 21-year old 100 mph southpaw from Cuba - Aroldis Chapman. He's expected to be anywhere from $30 to $60M richer by the end of the offseason.

- Speaking of MLBTR, I read this bit over there:


ESPN's Keith Law, former special assistant to the GM in Toronto, mentioned a few interesting Blue Jays' non-trades in his chat today. He says that the Mets once offered 19-year-old David Wright for Jose Cruz Jr., but J.P. Ricciardi said "I'm not trading a major league player for some guy in the (Low Class-A) Sally League." Klaw also mentions that the Jays had a chance to trade Cruz Jr. for Rafael Soriano, but wouldn't do it unless the Mariners kicked in Clint Nageotte as well. What could have been, Jays fans.

Facepalm.

The Scottsdale Scorpions stung the Mesa Solar Sox 11-1 today at HoHoKam Park in Mesa.

Cubs RHP Andrew Cashner (2008 1st round pick out of TCU) started the game for the Solar Sox and took the loss, but he actually looked very good, allowing just one run on three hits (no walks) with one K, 5/4 GO/FO, and 54 pitches (36 strikes), over 3.2 IP. He also showed an outstanding pickoff move to 1st base, nailing Diamondbacks 2B Pedro Ciriaco (38 SB at AA Mobile in 2009) cold in the top of the 2nd.

box score

I'm in the midst of one of my hell projects at work, this one just happens to be a little more hellish and is gonna last until December. In order to keep the fun going around here, I thought I'd present some reasonable trade and free agent targets over the next weeks - some of the low-hanging fruit that will probably be more in line with Hendry's budget for 2010.  I'm not really going to make a case one way or another, rather just try and open up the discussion. Today's guest is Atlanta Braves second basemen Kelly Johnson....

Braves GM Frank Wren came out today and said Martin Prado will pretty much go into 2010 as the their starting second basemen which leaves Kelly Johnson as prime trade bait. It doesn't mean the Braves have to move him, but he's certainly going to be available for the right price, which can't be a whole lot for a guy with a .692 OPS last year. He's also arbitration eligible and coming off a 2.85M payday in 2009, so it's very possible - let's go ahead and call it likely - that he'll just end up being non-tendered if he's not traded before December 12th.

Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!

It looks like Jim Hendry accomplished the first splash of the offseason. Rudy Jaramillo is the new Cubs hitting coach. The highly respected Jaramillo has signed a 3 year, $2.42 million deal (according to a David Kaplan tweet and a Bruce Levine/ESPN post) to spin his 5 point hitting magic on Cub hitters both young and old ($800K a year, but we all know you-know-who likes to write back loaded contracts). Bruce Levine reports that Jaramillo will fly to Chicago Wednesday to meet with Cubs officials and after he officially signs his new contract, will attend a mid-afternoon press conference. Jaramillo has spent the last 15 seasons with the Texas Rangers and sports the resume of helping the likes of Mark DeRosa, Michael Young, Lee Stevens and early in their careers, Sammy Sosa and Jeff Bagwell. He won the Baseball America's Major League Coach of the Year in 2005.

The Cubs hope he can fix whatever was broken last year with Alfonso Soriano who still has 5 years left on his contract. Soriano in his 2 years with the Rangers loved working with Jaramillo.   Soriano said, ‘We had very good communication because he speaks Spanish. He’s very good and smart. He works very hard, too.’’

NFL rules include (at the referee's discretion) flagging a 15 yard penalty for Taunting. MLB umps just give 'em the "yer outta here" thumb. Even Carlos Zambrano occasionally gets into the fun.

I received this e-mail today from Stubhub:

Where do you want to sit?

Hey Joseph,

Be there alongside your Chicago Cubs as they chase baseball immortality. Go to StubHub, where you’ll find a fantastic selection of tickets to every playoff game – so you experience the championship chase live and in person. Check it out. Go to StubHub and get the seats you want today.

The Angels edged the Cubs 8-7 in AZ Instructional League action this morning at Fitch Park Field #3 in Mesa, in what was the final 2009 Instructs game for the Cubs.

Logan Watkins reached base four times (three singles and a HBP), scored twice, and drove-in a run, and D. J. LeMahieu blasted a two-run double and a solo HR, but a 9th inning Cub rally fell short as the potential tying run was thrown out at the plate, giving the A's a 10-9 decision over the Cubs in AZ Instructional League action at the Papago Baseball Complex in Phoenix this afternoon.

Justin Bour walked, doubled, and crushed a two-run HR, Matt Cerda tripled twice and scored three runs, and Chris Rusin threw three innings of perfect baseball, but it wasn't enough, as the Angels edged the Cubs 6-5 in AZ Instructional League action at Fitch Park Field #3 in Mesa this afternoon.

(Click on image for the full size drawing)

Well...again, kinda mean. But right or wrong these guys'll be linked by post season blunder and playoff disaster and high pressure fumbling.

Maybe if they had a pr department and some Hollywood agents, they could have fun with it. Create a tv show called "Droppin' The Ball" with writing about the scale of "Two And A Half Men". And throughout the show, they just...drop stuff.

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Rebel Ridling had three hits, drove-in three runs, and scored two, and Rafael Dolis and Brooks Raley combined to throw six innings of one-hit shutout ball, as the Chiefs Cubs drubbed the A's 12-4 in AZ Instructional League action at Fitch Park Field #3 in Mesa this afternoon.

Reader Lawhide created a quiz on the Cubs Opening Day lineups from 1990-2009. I scored a 151.

Here's the link. 

As not to ruin the quiz for you, I'll mention my screw-ups in the comments.

Brandon Guyer had two hits and two RBI, Justin Bour had two hits and three RBI, Kyler Burke reached base four times on two doubles, a single, and a walk, and five Cubs pitchers threw a combined four-hitter with 14 strikeouts, as the Cubs defeated the Giants 6-2 in AZ Instructional League action at Indian School Park Field #2 in Scottsdale this afternoon.

Brandon Guyer walked, singled, doubled, crushed a three-run homer, scored two runs, and stole a base, Ryan Flaherty doubled, tripled, and walked, drove-in three runs, and scored three more, Brett Jackson reached base three times, scored all three times he reached, and knocked-in two runs, and D. J. LeMahieu ripped a two-run triple, leading the Cubs to a 12-8 victory over the Giants in AZ Instructional League action at breezy Fitch Park Field #3 in Mesa this afternoon. 

Richard Jones slammed a pinch-hit tie-breaking home run over the RF fence with one out in the top of the 9th, and the Cubs held-on to defeat the Angels 2-1 in AZ Instructional League action at Diablo Park Field #3 in Tempe this morning.

Brandon Guyer ripped a two-run home run over the LF fence in the 5th, made a spectacular run-saving diving catch in right-center in the 7th, and sliced a game-tying single to right with two outs in the top of the 9th, but the A's took advantage of a Ryan Flaherty error in the bottom of the 9th to score an unearned run and edge the Cubs 5-4 in AZ Instructional League action at the Oakland A's Papago Park Sports Complex Field #2 in Phoenix this afternoon. 


Jae-Hoon Ha hit a sacrifice fly in the top of the 7th to break a 1-1 tie and the Cubs scored two more times in the 9th, en route to a 4-1 victory overv the Giants in AZ Instructional League action this afternoon at Indian School Park Field #2 in Scottsdale.


This is probably no more than a formality for 2009, but might as well go through the motions. Last year our wonderful readers voted Geovany Soto as the Cubs 2008 MVP, so let's see who we come up with this year (attempts to build suspense). You can vote in the post above, leave comments on this post though.

In the AZ Instructional League, Chicago's "Crosstown Classic" is West-Side versus East-Side rather than North-Side versus South-Side, but it's still Sox versus Cubs, and such was the case today, as about 20 White Sox youngsters boarded a couple of maxi-vans at Camelback Ranch in Glendale and traveled 30 miles east down the Papago and Red Mountain freeways to meet the Cubs at Fitch Park Field #3 in Mesa. 


UPDATE: MLB Trade Rumors and Eddie Bajek updated their reverse-engineered rankings from two days ago and don't ask me how they changed but they did. Gregg and Grabow as Type A, Harden and Johnson as Type B. For what it's worth, Chone Figgins has been dropped to Type B status by their rankings. Muskat says Gorzelanny and Fontenot will qualify as Super Two status and the Cubs have 10 arb-eligible players total (Arizona Phil also has So Taguchi in his list on the right sidebar). The official Elias Rankings will be out soon enough.


 

From Bruce Levine's latest:

 The Cubs will not offer arbitration to Harden, who was their top strikeout pitcher in 2009.

I had mentioned earlier in the week that it looks like Harden will be a Type B free agent meaning it wouldn't cost the signing team any of their own draft picks, but the Cubs would get a supplemental pick between the first and second rounds. If Levine's statement turns true, the Cubs are betting that no team would offer more in a multi-year deal to Harden than he could get in a one-year arbitration case coming off an ERA above 4.

It's the first time in 2 years that the Cubs won't be influencing my bracket. The last time that happened was in 2006 and I had the A's winning it all and the Tigers and Cardinals losing in the first round. It's always important to remember when reading my entries that I'm an idiot. If you want, MLB is running a bracket challenge that you can enter, or throw your guesses in the comments. I haven't seen a neat and tidy place with official playoff rosters, so the ex-Cub factor below is a guess at this point and it's possible I missed a Cub connection.

Dae-Eun Rhee tossed three shutout innings as the Cubs took a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the 4th at Diablo Park Field #3 in Tempe, but the Angels came back to win this afternoon's AZ Instructional League contest by a score of 5-1.


The major league baseball owners have unanimously approved the sale of the Cubs to the Ricketts family. According to the Sporting News article, there are still a few hoops to jump through before the Ricketts officially take over day-to-day control of the team, which should hopefully happen before the end of the month.

The franchise still has to go through a 24-hour "pre-packaged
bankruptcy," which the Tribune reports will take place next Monday or
Tuesday. When that step is finalized, the banks financing the deal will
have a "10 day cooling off period" before they have to fund the deal.

When they do take over, Ricketts and Hendry will get to have this conversation (the following brilliance is from Andy Dolan at Desipio):

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