Cubs Roster Moves

UPDATE: ESPN AM 1000 reports the deal as a $750K non-guaranteed contract that becomes guaranteed if Bako survives (on the roster) to the end of March. Bako gets $150K if he is released before the contract becomes guaranteed, and he can earn an additional $300K in incentive bonuses, based on At Bats (or more likely Plate Appearances?)... -- AZ Phil

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As expected, the Cubs have signed veteran catcher Paul Bako to a 2009 contract. ESPN's Bruce Levine reported yesterday on XM radio that Bako will get $725,000, but that has not yet been confirmed. Bako replaces Henry Blanco as the Cubs back-up catcher. 

The 36-year old left-handed hitting Bako has spent all or parts of the past 11 seasons in the big leagues, playing for ten different MLB clubs in that period. If you're at a Super Bowl Party on Sunday and the game isn't too interesting, see if anybody can name the ten MLB teams Bako has played for.  

This will be Bako's second tour of duty with the Cubs. He was previously with the Cubs for two seasons (2003-04).

Bako hit 217/299/328 last year as the back-up catcher for the Cincinnati Reds, and has gone 196/239/346 versus LHP and 216/293/271 versus RHP over the past three seasons. He has hit 231/305/317 over the course of his career (745 games). Obviously, he isn't much of a hitter, but he makes up for it by having virtually zero power. But at least he hits left-handed. 

Defensively, Bako threw out 29% of opposing base-sealers in 2008 (Henry Blanco threw out 46%). 

Bako is so old, he attended Louisiana - Lafayette back when it was still called Southwestern Louisiana.

As an Article XX MLB free-agent, Bako will have "no trade" rights through June 15th.

Somewhere, Koyie Hill is warming up the circular saw.

 

Reports are out that Andy McPhail is adding to his Cubs minor league collection, much like I use to collect G.I. Joes. The latest acquisition looks to be left-hander Rich Hill.

One industry source said it's a "strong possibility" that Hill will
wind up with the Orioles, perhaps as early as next week. The Orioles
will likely give up a player to be named who could be contingent on
Hill's success in Baltimore.

The O's just need to make some room on their 40-man roster for the deal to go down. This would also clear a spot on the Cubs 40-man roster for the new Jose Macias that the Cubs have been in search of lately.

Also, Bruce Levine did a guest spot on XM radio that I heard on my drive home. He said that the Paul Bako signing should go down tomorrow, mentioning $725K as the contract amount. The only other revelation from the interview was Levine saying that Felix Pie was the big hang-up in the Cubs not getting Brian Roberts last offseason.

The Cubs moved yet another once-upon-a-time prospect in Ronny Cedeno today, along with left-handed pitcher Garrett Olson to the Seattle Mariners for Aaron Heilman. You'll remember Olson as the pitcher the Cubs received along with Hank Williamson for Felix Pie about a week and a half ago. That makes the net trade:

Cubs get: Hank Williamson, Aaron Heilman

Cubs lose: Ronny Cedeno, Felix Pie

Cedeno's fate was likely sealed when the Cubs acquired Aaron Miles and I'll shed no tears on this loss. Cedeno might be more talented than Ryan Theriot, but he's shown all the baseball intelligence of a junior high dropout. I also find it a bit amusing that the one rookie that Dusty Baker ever gave much of a legitimate shot of playing time to - besides maybe Matt Murton - was Cedeno in 2006. Dusty Baker's eye for talent strikes yet again.

The Cubs signed Michael Wuertz for $1.1M today, thus avoiding any ghastly arbitration cases with any of their players. Not including auto-renewals - which Arizona Phil on the right sidebar estimates at around $3.5M total -  the Cubs payroll for 2009 is at $134.1M, so they still have a few million in wiggle room.

They also released their NRI list for spring training.

Our wonderful radio listening audience heard Bruce Levine of ESPN1000 reporting that the Milton Bradley signing is about to become official. Three years and $30M sounds like the damage, which seems a bit expensive with the Rays about to sign Pat Burrell for two years and $16M total. I'll chime in later with a thorough analysis, but adding the AL OPS leader, even if a bit of a fluke, is never going to hurt your team. That is unless Bradley kills a racist Bleacher Bum, then things might go bad.


UPDATE: The deal is pending a physical and it appears that 3/30 isn't completely accurate. Wittenmyer says there will be wording in the contract to protect the Cubs on back end of the deal if Bradley misses significant playing time on the front end. Wittenmyer also says that the Marquis deal should be completed today with $875K going the Rockies way.

The rest of the world might have been on holidays the last few weeks, but general managar Jim Hendry was busy shuffling the deck chairs on the Cubbie Titanic. Things happened at a rather fast and furious pace last week, so let's revisit with a more in-depth look. What you may have missed while in your drunken egg nog stupor...

Cubs Sign Gathright

Granted, this was before the holiday break, but it's not like I can let a Cubs move go without commenting. Gathright, as we all know by now, can jump over a car and he can also jump over a pitcher if needed. He'll also take a swing at Julian Taveraz which certainly warrants a +1 if this was Deadspin. We also know that Gathright grades at 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale for speed, one of those five tools that Corey Patterson supposedly possessed. A shame that scouting scale hasn't been revamped to include a sixth tool for "baseball IQ" or "can't layoff a breaking pitch".

Back to Gathright, we know he's fast, we know he can jump a car or player, but what he can't do is play baseball very well.  He's a track star wearing a baseball uniform. The speed is fun and all when you're getting a .365 BABIP like he did in 2007, but when lady luck isn't on his side, he's a .265 hitter with a slugging percentage below his on-base percentage. When Ryan Theriot says you hit like a girl, you've got problems.

And as for his 80-grade speed, you'd think a guy so damn fast could steal at better than a 75% clip. While passable by the laws of baseball sabermetrics, when your only real benefit on the field is your wheels, he should be much closer to the 80% or higher range like Dave or Brian Roberts. Of course, speed also is beneficial in the field, but Gathright rates as below average by BP's fielding metric over his career

I still contend that on a one year, $800K deal, he was brought in as no more than a backup plan and motivation for Felix Pie this spring training. I don't think that contract will keep the Cubs from cutting him if Pie can put together a nice spring training. If he does stick, we just hope Piniella uses him appropriately, which would be not much at all.

No suprise here, but the Cubs end up offering contracts to all of their arbitration eligible players that Arizona Phil went through this morning.

They even got Chad Gaudin to sign a one-year deal already, terms have yet be to be disclosed.

This seemed like a no-brainer to me once they dropped the Jake Peavy pursuit. None of these guys will be making much and all could provide some sort of usefulness next season.


6:10 PM CST: It looks like Neal Cotts signed as well. Sullivan says Gaudin will get $2 million, and Cotts will get $1.1 million.

1:20 AM CST: Add Reed Johnson as well for $3 milllion.

Link.

So trading Jose Ceda because the Cubs were going to get two draft picks for Wood doesn't seem like such a good idea anymore.

The Cubs have added three players to their MLB Reserve List (40-man roster), one day in advance of the November 20th deadline that requires MLB clubs to submit major league and minor league reserve lists to the MLB office. .

RHPs Mitch Atkins and Justin Berg were selected from Iowa, and RHP Marcos Mateo was selected from Daytona, and with the addition of the three, the Cubs now have 36 players on their MLB Reserve List.  

Notably absent from the list are LHP Donald Veal (the Cubs 2005 2nd round pick) and 2B Nate Spears (acquired along with two other prospects from the Baltimore Orioles in January 2006 for OF Corey Patterson), meaning both will be eligible for selection in next month's Rule 5 Draft. And I would say that it's very likely that Veal will get selected, and somewhat likely that Spears will be, too.    

UPDATE: Here are the contract terms according to SI.com: $8 Million in 2008 with a $4M bonus ($12M total). $12.5M in 2010, $13.5 M in 2011 and a 2012 $14M player option which is almost a guarantee to be picked up. And as I mentioned earlier, I'm about 90% certain he's earned 10/5 no-trade rights.


It's being picked up by multiple news sources that the Ryan Dempster Experience will call Chicago home for the next four years. It sounds like it might be for a total of $52M a year or $13M on average. That's a pretty good deal if he pitches like he did last year, not so much if he pitches like 2001-2003. For what was out there though and for how much the Cubs and Dempster seem to like each other, it sounds like the right deal. He really did have a fantastic 2008 season. His 152 ERA+ was good for third best in the NL.

UPDATE: The Miami Herald says it's for 4-star prospect Jose Ceda. Shiite. Too much, way, way too much. And since Ceda was one of the possible names going to San Diego for Jake Peavy, you have to think that ship is about to sail.

Double check my work if you wish, but I believe Gregg is set to be a free agent after 2009 and is arbitration eligible for this year. He made $2.5M last year.


 

Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Cubs have acquired Marlins relief pitcher Kevin Gregg. The 30-year old pitcher was the Marlins closer for the better part of two seasons racking up 61 saves and ERA's of 3.54 and 3.41 respectively. He strikes out nearly a batter per inning but walks a few too many guys for my tastes. I'm sure the first reaction will be that Kerry Wood is definitely a goner, but my guess is that it's just a possible back-up plan as Gregg could certainly slide into a set-up role. Even if Wood goes, I'd rather see Carlos Marmol in the closer role.

Of course, whenever a Cubs trade goes down, the first question is who do the Cubs get and the second question is what did they give up? Rosenthal don't have the answer on the second part yet, but I'll update as soon as someone finds out.

Trader Jim put a buzz through the GM meetings by pulling off the first trade of the week....RHP minor league pitcher Matt Avery has been sent to the Washington Nationals for LHP minor leauge pitcher Ryan Buchter. Avery was drafted in the 9th round of the 2005 draft out of the University of Virginia and played three years with their 3rd basemen, Ryan Zimmerman. Avery started off well in the organization with solid partial seasons in the Rookie League, Peoria and Daytona but has flatlined in AA in both 2007 and 2008 with ERA's above 4 and peripheral numbers that suggest he won't ever amount to a major leaguer.

Buchter was drafted in the 33rd round out of high school in 2005 by the Nationals and is just 21 years old. He's only pitched 70 innings of pro ball since then and the ERA isn't much, but he has maintained a K/9 rate above 9 which is always a good sign. The wonderful wide world of the web hasn't turned up a scouting report for me though.

The official Elias Rankings are out and MLB.com does their usual job of half-assery by not giving out the full list, but at least we know Joe Mauer is the top AL catcher. Gee thanks!

The ESPN free agent tracker gives the listings for those that have filed so far and it looks like SI.com has finally come through with the full list of potential free agents. For those unaware of the system or need a refresher, Elias has come up with some rather archaic ranking system that takes the last two years worth of stats and ranks every player in baseball...mostly relying on counting stats (decent explanation of the point system can be found near the end of this mlb.com article or read through this Tigers fans blog who is trying to reverse engineer their rankings). The importance of it is that MLB uses it to figure out free agent compensation. A type "A" player that is offered arbitration by his former team and is signed by a new team will net his old club a first round draft pick and a supplemental draft pick between the first and second round. A type "B" free agent nets his old team just a supplemental pick. Also, the first 15 picks in the draft are protected, so a team drafting in one of those slots that signs a type "A" free agent would give up their second round pick and so on.

...and other notes

As our own Arizona Phil predicted, Henry Blanco's $3M option was declined, but the whispers are that he'll be back with the Cubs at a lower rate. The buyout did cost the Cubs $300,000.

-  Oneri Fleita expects Tyler Colvin to be ready by Opening Day from his Tommy John Surgery that I mentioned earlier this week.

- Looks like Trader Jim is ready for the offseason...

I'm looking forward to it, maybe more so than
the last couple. It'll be nice to talk to a lot of the GMs to see what
their appetites are going to be with free agency and possibly trades.
We feel like we've got some excess in areas that might help us in areas
we need to get stronger."

Happy Halloween!

Game Chat | Press Pass | BR Preview

SP Ryan Dempster SP Kyle Lohse

15-6, 2.99, 167 K, 72 BB, 183.2 IP
13-6, 3.76, 106 K, 44 BB, 182 IP
       
LF Alfonso Soriano CF *Skip Schumaker
2B *Mike Fontenot 3B Troy Glaus
1B Derrek Lee 1B Albert Pujols
3B Aramis Ramirez RF Ryan Ludwick
RF Mark DeRosa LF *Rick Ankiel
CF *Jim Edmonds C Yadier Molina
C Geovany Soto 2B #Felipe Lopez
SS Ronny Cedeno P Kyle Lohse
P Ryan Dempster SS Cesar Izturis

 

The Cubs and the Cardinals meet in the first of three at Busch and the first of six matchups between now and the end of the season. The Cubs lead the season series, 5-4, and have won 10 of their last 15 in St. Louis.

Dempster won his only start this year against the Cardinals, allowing 2 ER over 6 2/3 in a 6-2 Cub victory in early August. Lohse is 0-1, 6.92 in a pair of starts this season vs. the Cubs, but is otherwise having a fine year, producing more ground balls, yielding fewer long balls, and allowing fewer walks than at virtually any other point in his MLB career.

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