They Should Have Passed
The recent announcement that Edwin Jackson was DFAed finally ends the long saga of undoubtedly Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer’s worst acquisition for the Cubs. Jackson, signed to a 4-year/$52 million contract prior to the 2013 season, struggled mightily in 2013 and 2014 before being demoted to the bullpen. Overall, he finished with a 5.37 ERA in 347 innings with the Cubs. Yet Jackson isn’t the only player the front office should have passed on. Below I review the top “misses” since Epstein/Hoyer took over in late October 2011. I've listed them in chronological order rather than ranking them: feel free to weigh in on which you think is the worst or if there are any clunkers that I missed (I've tried to purge some recent players from memory, so omissions are possible).
The Cubs selected Castillo from the Phillies in the 2011 Rule 5 Draft. Converted from a shortstop to a pitcher in just 2010 by the Phillies and at only 23-years-old, the Cubs were intrigued by his potential. Forced to keep him on the major league roster or return him to the Phillies, the Cubs used one of their bullpen spots for him to begin the season. He pitched in only 7 innings over the first 6 weeks of the season, before being placed on the disabled list. He returned from the DL and rehab in mid-August and pitched another 8 innings over the last two months of the season. After keeping him on the major league roster for all of the season, the Cubs were then able to demote him to the minors in 2013—a price the regime seemed willing to pay to obtain another young arm for the system. Castillo struggled in 2013-2014, however, with an ERA just under 6.00 in 2014 and nearly 4.00 in 2014. Granted free agency, Castillo signed with the Rangers and is pitching in AA in his age 26 season. Moreover, the Phillies filed a grievance against the Cubs for abusing the DL with Castillo in 2012 and were awarded the Cubs 2013 first round Rule 5 Draft pick. Castillo ended up being more of a headache than he was worth.
Obtained in December 2011 from the Rockies for Tyler Colvin and DJ LeMahieu, Stewart was supposed to be the Cubs answer at third base. In his prime at age 27, Stewart had ripped off three straight double digit home runs seasons prior to his 2011 campaign where he struggled and was demoted to AAA. All Stewart did with the Cubs was hit .201 before landing on the 60-day DL with a wrist injury. Signed to $2 million contract for 2013, Stewart hit just .168 in AAA before making critical comments about the organization on twitter, prompting his release.
The Cubs weren’t going to get much for Carlos Zambrano, but they couldn’t have done much worse than Volstad. Acquired in a trade with the Marlins in January 2012, Volstad was still just 25 and the hope was he would bounce back from a 5-13, 4.89 ERA season. Somehow, Volstad managed to do worse, going 3-12 with a 6.31 ERA in 21 starts with the Cubs in 2012. After bouncing around with several organizations, he is now having some success as a starter in AAA for the Pirates.
Why did the Cubs spend $5.5 million dollars on Scott Baker for the 2013 season? He was recovering from an April 2012 Tommy John surgery and the Cubs knew he would not be ready until late in the 2013 season. Perhaps gambling that he would come back soon and be able to be flipped at the trade deadline, or that he would have success in the later part of the season and then re-sign on friendly terms, the Cubs were disappointed. Baker was only able to make three starts in September and then promptly left as a free agent. He struggled for the Rangers in 2014 and is now in AAA for the Dodgers.
The 32-year old Japanese closer Fujikawa was signed to a 2-year/$9.5 million contract prior to the 2013 season. Fujikawa was not one of the more coveted Japanese players on the market and given his age many felt at the time that the Cubs over paid. In the end, he made just 12 appearances for the Cubs in 2013 before having Tommy John surgery. He made it back for 15 games at the end of the 2014 season, but struggled, and left as a free agent in the off-season. He is now playing Kochi Fighting Dogs of the Shikoku Island League in Japan.
Veras had 21 saves and a 3.01 ERA in 67 games between the Tigers and Astros in 2013 and was signed to a 1-year/$3.25 million contract to be the Cubs closer in 2014. He proceeded to post a 15.88 ERA over his first 6 games, spent time on the DL, then continued to struggle in May before being released in June. Overall, he had an 8.10 ERA with the Cubs. He had some success for the Astros after his release and is now on their AAA team.
Phil Coke: $2.25 million garnered 10 IP and a 6.30 ERA in 2015.
Ryan Sweeney: The Cubs are paying Sweeney $2 million dollars for 2015-16 not to play for them simply because it seems they couldn’t accurately count the number of back-up outfielders they had this past off-season.
Arizona Phil 9 hours 11 min ago (view)
Beginning in 2019, a club must wait a minimum of seven days before it can place a player who was claimed off Outtright Assignment Waivers during the off-season back onto waivers, so because he was claimed off waivers on Wednesday 11/27, yesterday (Wednesday 12/4) was the first day the Cubs could place LHRP C. D. Pelham back onto Outright Assignment Waivers, and so tomorrow (Friday 12/6) is the first day the Cubs can send Pelham outright to the minors (if he was placed back onto waivers yesterday).
Arizona Phil 1 day 5 hours ago (view)
A Competitive Balance draft slot can be traded only during a period of time starting on December 2nd and extending up until two hours prior to the MLB First-Year Player Draft (MLB Rule 4 Draft), so don't be surpised if these draft picks are traded during the off-season.
Keep in mind that the slot cannot be traded for cash unless it is a financial adjustment made to offset the salary of one or more of the players involved in the trade.
Arizona Phil 1 day 6 hours ago (view)
The active list roster limit changes scheduled to go in effect in 2020 have not yet been officially approved. Same goes for the three-batter minimum (or else record the third out in the inning) for relief pitchers.
Arizona Phil 1 day 6 hours ago (view)
And then the active list roster limit will expand from 26 to 28 on September 1st (max 14 pitchers in September).
Arizona Phil 1 day 6 hours ago (view)
The "26th man" who was added for doubleheaders will now be the "27th man" and he can be a pitcher.
crunch 1 day 11 hours ago (view)
ATL signs cole hamels 1/18m...a'ite then.
also, z.wheeler 5/100+ to the phillies.
Charlie 2 days 3 hours ago (view)
I think without the off-field issues, a front-office might at least be tempted to gamble on Russell's youth and dreams of his upside. But with what we all know about him now, the challenges of improving both on and off the field are too great to gamble on.
George Altman 2 days 18 hours ago (view)
This was the easiest non-tender decision, maybe ever. As if there weren't enough off-field reasons alone, there were even more baseball reasons. He became a sub .700 OPS hitter with bottom of the order OBA results. His defense, formerly his strength, became inconsistent due to attention deficit issues. He turned himself into bench infielder with suspect skills which is someone you don't pay more than $1--1.5M/yr.
crunch 3 days 6 hours ago (view)
he was due for a 3.5-4m payday (3.4m last year) at a minimum, anyway.
it's as good of a time as any to cut him loose. nico hoener's spring just became a lot more important.
Craig A. 3 days 7 hours ago (view)
Addison Russell, to no one's surprise, was non-tendered. I still think he has the talent to excel in the major leagues, but it'll take a new attitude for him to realize his potential. It can't be easy to deal with his baggage in front of millions of fans. I won't forget his contributions in 2016, or that beautiful play that used to be the banner of TCR.
crunch 5 days 2 hours ago (view)
keuchel doesn't have draft pick compensation attached to him and he's a decent enough ground ball pitcher...that will be attractive to a lot of clubs. that would put 3 lefties in the cubs rotation (pending a trade) again, though. not sure they want to go for that look again.
that said, i still imagine the cubs are probably looking to make this thing happen via trade. it's hard to tell what their $$ situation is, but they've done a great job signaling they're not looking to spend $$ this offseason.
Dolorous Jon Lester 5 days 8 hours ago (view)
Looking for impact starting pitchers, but won't be shopping at the top of the market? So I guess they won't be in the market for impact starting pitching.
Still hoping they find a taker for Q.
crunch 5 days 10 hours ago (view)
"Patrick Mooney of The Athletic writes the Cubs are in the market for impact starting pitchers but won't be shopping at the top of the market."
darvish, lester, hendricks, Q, (???, a.mills, t.chatwood)...pending trades
d.keuchel? r.porcello? trade target pitcher?
Arizona Phil 5 days 10 hours ago (view)
HAGSAG: I suspect going into his age 30 season and coming off a great year as a pinch-hitter, LaStella wanted a chance to be an everyday player, and since that obviously wasn't going to happen if he stayed with the Cubs, TLS (or his agent) may have asked the Cubs to trade him somewhere he could get that opportunity.
crunch 5 days 11 hours ago (view)
dunno any official reasoning, but his D is miserable and they decided to "upgrade" there with descalso for similar loot as well as getting a trade piece back. the whole a.russell thing was lingering over the team.
it's not like descalso is great with the glove, but la stella plays a miserable 2nd and meh 3rd.
i do wonder if things would have turned out differently if russell wasn't due to miss significant time.
Sonicwind75 5 days 14 hours ago (view)
Was just thinking about this, maybe that isn't a good thing for TLS? I wonder if Maddon will use TLS differently after seeing his success last year. That's my gripe with people complaining about Theo trading away a player that turns into an All Star. If TLS had stayed with the Cubs, Maddon would most likely kept using him in the same manner and with the same results.