Cubs News of the Moment

The most exciting thing around the Cubsverse right now is the minor leagues competing in the playoffs. Meaningless as a victory may be to the big league club down the line, it's fun to follow and have a rooting interest in something, other than the Cubs losing for a better draft pick slot.

- The Dodgers have won 40 of their last 48. This has nothing to do with the Cubs right now except it gives me an opportunity to post this gif of our old friend LaTroy Hawkins after serving up the game tying home run.

- Back to the Cubs, they've lost 13 of their last 17 and have moved into a tie for the 4th draft pick with the Brewers, in which they own the tiebreaker.

Pick Team .PCT GB
1 Houston .328 --
2 Miami .387 7.0
3 White Sox .387 7.0
4 Cubs .433 12.5
5 Milwaukee .433 12.5
6 San Francisco .437 13.0
7 Philadelphia .442 13.5
8 Angels .445 14.0
9 Minnesota .449 14.5
10 San Diego .450 14.5

You can always find that table on the left sidebar by the way. While I'm mostly wrong in my predictions, I didn't do too badly this year. I surmised that the Cubs could probably make a run at .500, but once they start trading off pieces, they'll be near the bottom again. Now they never quite got to .500, but their run differential was pretty close for awhile and then once the trading began, the freefall was inevitable. Of course at this point, they're a lot closer to the 13th spot (3.5 ahead), then the 2nd spot (5.5 behind), but I think we're all confident in their ability to tank the rest of the season. I think the 4th or 5th spot is the most likely, although I wouldn't put it past the Marlins to make a decent run...they have some decent youth that's been playing much better of late.

As you all know by know, Alfonso Soriano was dealt to the New York Yankees along with a ton of cash for RHP Corey Black. According to Buster Olney, the Cubs will pay $4.7M of the remaining $6.5M owed Soriano in 2013 and then $13M of the $18M owed Soriano in 2014, saving $6.8M total on the deal and getting a decent relief prospect that Theo compared to Jessie Crain. Soriano went 0/5 in his Yankee return with a run scored and an RBI. Black will stay in Florida and head over to Daytona.

After a nice little run where the Cubs took 6 of 9 versus the baseball bottom-feeders (Astros, Brewers & Mariners), the Cubs are back to playing the major league teams and have promptly dropped 3 of 4 including yet another loss to Fransisco Liriano this afternoon. 3 More months of this fun...

A few weeks back, Jorge Soler fouled a ball of his shin...a seemingly common occurrence in baseball that carries little consequence past the few moments of stinging pain for the offending party. This being the Cubs and all, the foul ball sent Soler to the 7-day disabled list of which he returned off of this week. The leg still hurt though and now it's being reported that he has a stress fracture and will be out 4-6 walks and possibly the rest of the season. Oh Cubbery...you strike in mysterious ways! Soler will of course miss the Futures Game as well over the All-Star Break, which him and Arismendy Alcantara were named to the World rosters.

The Cubs just took 2 of 3 from the Nationals including winning games started by Strasburg and Gio.  Their starting pitching has put up the third best ERA in the senior circuit without their best pitcher. 'Mo Gregg is locking down games in the 9th, and Anthony Rizzo is the left-handed power hitting droid you've been looking for...what's not to love?

(clicks on Yahoo MLB Standings...quickly clicks off Yahoo MLB standings)

Back to the positive....let's talk the Anthony Rizzo deal...7/$41M with option years.

Once a novelty in the league, these pre-arbitration deals are fast becoming the norm. I'm sure someone's studied it more thoroughly than me, but it seems rare that they don't work out for the organization. Safe to say, he'll be a Cub for a long time though...unless he's not and they trade him away with Castro for all the good players in the league.

The other interesting tidbit I read over the weekend, was this report/presumption that Scott "2.53 ERA" Feldman could be the odd man out of the rotation once Matt Garza returns to showcase himself to a contender every 5 days. According to the Patrick Mooney tweet, Dale Sveum says Samardzija, Jackson and Travis Wood will stay in the rotation and they're not willing to try EXTREME 6-man style. That leaves Carlos Villanueva and Scott Feldman as the logical goats, although both have pitched better (by ERA at least) than Samardzija and Jackson. First, I don't get why they wouldn't try a 6-man until a deal can be made, the Cubs aren't contending for anything and showcasing these pitchers in the starter role isn't the worst thing they can do. But if I had to choose between demotion options, I think Edwin and Villanueva would be the more logical choices. Villanueva seems to be pitching over his head a little more than Feldman right now and I think we all expected he was set for the swing-man role when he was signed and that's probably the role that would interest other teams. Now Edwin signed the big deal, and that usually takes precedence over the quality of the pitching, but since the Cubs are all about flipping short-term assets for long-term assets, then it would make sense to showcase Feldman until a trade could be made, while Edwin dives into his pool of gold for a few weeks (or months) waiting to be put back into the rotation.

It certainly has been a rather drama free first week of camp, which doesn't give me much to react to...but I'll do my best.

- A Dave Kaplan tweet says Dale Sveum would bat Starlin Casto third if the season started today. I have no problem with that. I do have a problem with that leading to Darwin Barney probably batting second. Hopefully the front office can talk some sense into him or he'll set a record for losing the benefit of the doubt by fans like me rather quickly. If that is the case, I presume the lineup could look like this against righties: DeJesus, Barney (gag), Castro, LaHair, Soriano, Stewart, Byrd, Soto.

I'd prefer Castro batting second, but if Sveum insists on him batting third, I'd rather see: DeJesus, Byrd, Castro, LaHair, Soriano, Stewart, Soto, Barney.

- Let's see if I kept track here correctly in the bunting tourney. First round winners to date include:

These few weeks before spring training starts is about as dull as it gets around these parts. We're all still waiting on Cespedes, but with Jedstein and their cone of silence, it's not like we can expect many leaks. There's also the case of the musical 40-man roster chairs with the Cubs having to drop someone once they add Gerardo Concepcion. Vegas money should be on Andy Sonnastine with Marcus Mateo and his lack of options a strong second. And the issue of compensation for both Theo and Jed still looms with no foreseeable end in sight.

I've got my annual prospect list-mania post coming up for Monday which always includes my delusional top 16 which should be good for laugh. It doesn't appear our pal Arizona Phil put up a list this year unfortunately, so you'll have to get your prospect fix from the national guys.

After Kaplan claimed Kerry Wood was close to moving on, he then took credit that his story spurred the Cubs to up their offer for Kerry and that he should be signing with the Cubs soon. Jon Morosi of Fox Sports broke the news saying it's likely to be a one-year deal with some sort of 2013 option.

- Theo downplayed talks regarding Matt Garza, claiming more has been reported in the media than has actually happened.  The Tigers (as they should) seem more than content with keeping Jacob Turner as their 5th starter this year (he won't last long there).

- Kevin Goldstein tweets that the Cubs are "definitely interested" in Yoenis Cespedes who signed up with a Dominican team today, which should give scouts even a better look at him. Rumor is that Jorge Soler probably won't sign until the season starts.

- The cops will have a little chat with Starlin Castro next week over the sexual assault allegations.

- The Cubs baseball ops department is now working with Bloomberg Sports on a "state-of-the-art player evaluation system". Hopefully they've moved Ari Kaplan's office out of the maintenance closet by now.

- Darwin Barney is not taking for granted that he'll be the starting second baseman. I promise to not take it for granted either and will openly root for an upgrade.

- At some point it seems the Cubs signed C Juan Apodaca out of the Indians organization on a minor league deal. If you haven't heard, "popular" Cubs backstop  Koyie Hill(as coined by Jon Morosi) signed with the Cardinals on a minor league deal.

- A fun graph on which hitters are left on the free agent market, with Fielder and Pena leading the group.

- In Bears news, Mike Tice isn't buying the current pass-happy trend in the NFL. In personel news, I just slammed my head into the wall.

- The Bears have also received permission to interview four candidates: Marc Ross - director of college scouting, New York Giants, Jimmy Raye III, director of player personnel, San Diego Chargers, Jason Licht, director of pro personnel, New England Patriots and Phil Emery, director of college scouting, Kansas City Chiefs. Knowing nothing about them, I vote for the Patriot guy.

- Xavier Nady won't be ready to play regularly until...June!

The exclamation point is for a little joke going around the TCR comments, but Piniella said they'll be cautious with Nady through the cold weather.  Considering he was suppose to be a 4th outfielder/pinch-hitter/short side platoon for Fukudome, it probably won't matter as much as I'm sure the Internet is about to make it out to be, but it could affect the roster construction. Sam Fuld who can play all three outfield positions moreso than Tyler Colvin could get a little edge if spring training numbers are close. Or the Cubs could finally go through with an 11-man pitching staff, considering two of them will be the losers of the 4th/5th starting rotation race.

The headline pretty much says it all as Lou made it official today on the Cubs' Opening Day starter. If Lou skips the 5th starter as he mentioned, the rotation for the month of April could look like this.

Just a few quick hits worth mentioning...

- First round pick Andrew Cashner, who was cut yesterday, has a strained oblique.

- Bud says talks are still ongoing on the sale betweeen Ricketts and the Tribune. It doesn't sound too optimistic that it will get done by Opening Day with Selig saying that there are still issues that need to be resolved.

A tour of the latest from the web...

-  A rather random rumor that the Cubs may have some interest in A's shortstop Bobby Crosby.He's set to make $5.25M this year, so you know he wouldn't cost much in prospects and the A's would probably have to eat at least half his salary. If he's willing to be a utility guy, he'd be a step up from Aaron Miles. Baseball Prospectus projects Crosby at a .243 EqA versus Miles .232. Defensively, Crosby's been a bit above average (according to UZR) to below average (according to BP) at shortstop but probably has a strong enough arm to handle third base. Of course, he'd be replacing Joey Gathright or Micah Hoffpauir on the roster - unless Lou comes through with a six-man bench - and in that case he'd be replacing Bobby Scales, Jake Fox, Luis Rivas or Corey Koskie, in which we'd finally have an acceptable scenario for acquiring Crosby. That is unless the Cubs wise up quickly on this Aaron Miles fiasco that is about to be unleased upon unsuspecting fans.

- Caption fun with Ted Lilly at Big League Stew. Comment #3 has to be the winner.

- Dave Pinto runs through the Cubs expected offensive output. Marcel Projections and the Lineup Tool come up with 5.15 runs per game with the projected lineup, 5.42 with the optimum lineup. The Cubs scored 5.31 runs per game last year.

UPDATE: One wonderful reader pointed out that the probable lineup has Fukudome batting second which(to steal kmokeefe's line) is improbable (at least to begin the season). Let's try it on our own using the lineup of Soriano, Fontenot, Lee, Bradley, Ramirez, Fukudome, Soto, Theriot and the pitcher as suggested by Lou (actually Lou suggested Aaron Miles batting second, but we'll do that next).

That comes up with 5.29 runs per game. The optimal lineup of Bradley, Soto, Fukudome, Ramirez, Lee, Soriano, Fontenot, Pitcher and Theriot comes up with 5.469 runs per game. Flipping Miles for Fontenot results in: 5.025 runs per game and 5.317 with the computer-generated optimal lineup. 

- Lou took on Steve Phillips...Lou will win.

- Baseball Analysts takes a look at the All-Time One Teamers - the best player at each position to play for only one club. I checked on Ryne Sandberg(80.8) and Ernie Banks (80), but both are out-WARP'd by the author's choices of  Charlie Gehringer (85.3) and Cal Ripken Jr. (120.7). I was quite surprised to see Lou Whitaker(85.7) with a better career WARP-3 than Sandberg; I think I'll need to add him to my subjective Hall of Fame class.

UPDATE #2: Clearly I need an editor, as it was pointed out that Sandberg played 13 games for the Phillies in 1981.

- The miracles of science. We'll be taking donations for TCR's own $10,000 electrolysis machine in April.

- Split-squad action today, Cubs travel to Goodyear to take on the Indians; Carl Pavano vs. Chad Gaudin to start. Milton Bradley will DH in that game as well. Here's the lineup from Muskat:

CF Joey Gathright, SS Aaron Miles, 1B Derrek Lee, DH Bradley, LF Jason Dubois, RF Brad Snyder, 3B Bobby Scales, 2B Nate Spears.

Jeff Samardzija will lead the team in Las Vegas tonight versus the White Sox. MLB.com shows radio for the Indians game and TV for the White Sox game.

The Cubs invited the following 19 players to spring training, which begins February 13th for pitchers & catchers:

Pitchers
Ed Campusano
Geoff Jones
Les Walrond
Esmailin Caridad
Jose Ceda
Chad Fox
Mike Smith

Catchers
Welington Castillo
JD Closser
Josh Donaldson
Koyie Hill

Infielders
Andres Blanco
Luis Figueroa
Micah Hoffpauir
Casey McGehee
Bobby Scales

Outfielders
Tyler Colvin
Josh Kroeger
Andres Torres

They will join the current, and any future members of the Cubs 40-man roster in Mesa. Our very own Arizona Phil took a guess on the NRI invites a few days ago and nailed 13 of them - nice work. He also included some brief write-ups on those guesses, so you can read up on them if you wish.

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