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.
crunch 4 hours 47 min ago (view)
without fail, at the end of every minor league spring training period (which is extremely poorly paid, not at all for the most part) there comes some retirements that seem to be a bit "early" in their development when players slog through weeks of low/no pay only to find out they're being assigned to a low level that barely pays them. it's a real morale crasher after going through weeks of poverty that breaks some guys. that's no way to run things...
JustSayin' 6 hours 6 min ago (view)
So true. The minors these days is an odd mix of the few who get big bonuses with Hispanic guys for whom $1,200/month might be good money and college guys being partly subsidized by middle or upper-middle class families. You don't hear much about minor league economics when the discussion turns to lower participation by black players but I believe it's a big factor. If you need to use sports to get ahead, would you rather have your "internship" involve a free college education, or $6,000 a year?
crunch 6 hours 36 min ago (view)
there are more than a few minor league players that have to "retire" from minor league ball in order to start making real money in the real world for their real lives while those from more wealthy families get to follow their dreams a bit longer.
that's a real shame.
JustSayin' 11 hours 42 min ago (view)
Theo got a good question at the conference on minor league salaries and went on record that they are unfair. That was followed by "keep your ear to the ground" or some similar cliche. I find this interesting. Fan dissatisfaction this offseason is maily focused on ownership being cheap but you have to admit there is a (slim?) chance that the baseball moves we want to see are not currently possible. It's hard to say the same about MiLB salaries. Those don't even factor in the luxury tax. You could raise every player in the system to middle class for the cos
Dolorous Jon Lester 12 hours 8 min ago (view)
As part of the 2019-2020 Cubs offseason dumpster diving extravaganza, I wonder if they will kick the tires on Zack Cozart. Can handle 2B SS 3B and isn't far removed from being a great defender and at least decent hitter. 2 years of injury is a concern, but he'd receive only ML minimum.
crunch 1 day 1 hour ago (view)
WAS is now floating c.kieboom as a 3rd base option...along with asdrubal cabrera backing him up there.
the bryant service issue delay may end up lessening his trade value as teams (especially his #1 rumored suitor, WAS) prepare their teams in the offseason.
it's unfortunate that the cubs major offseason team building is based on waiting to find out how much getting rid of bryant is worth because of service time concerns.
Arizona Phil 1 day 6 hours ago (view)
Another possible unintended consequence of the new restriction on September call-ups is that contending clubs will send MLB-ready pitchers and position-players who in previous seasons would have been called-up to MLB in September to the Arizona Fall League, just to keep them in game shape in case the pitcher or position player is needed as an injury replacement in September or in the post-season.
Arizona Phil 1 day 9 hours ago (view)
One thing about Josh Phegley is that not only is he out of minor league options but he also has Article XIX-A rights (he has accrued at least five years of MLB Service Time), so he can't even be outrighted to the minors without his consent if he were to be added to the 40.
Arizona Phil 1 day 10 hours ago (view)
The Cubs have reportedly signed veteran MLB catcher Josh Phegley (ex-OAK and ex-CHW) to a minor league contract and an NRI to Spring Training (contract is pending because it has not yet been filed with MLB).
CubbyBlue 1 day 13 hours ago (view)
Yeah but that person figured out a way to make a profit off of it, so... hey WAIT!
crunch 1 day 23 hours ago (view)
"Cubs' pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said Friday that Brandon Morrow (elbow) will be on the same schedule as the rest of the Cubs' pitchers during spring training."
that's cool. no restrictions unless the team chooses to be cautious, evidently.
Arizona Phil 2 days 5 hours ago (view)
The Danny Hultzen and Carlos Asuaje minor league contracts have been filed with MLB, but no Jason Adam or Tyler Olson contract filings (yet).
cubbies.4ever 2 days 6 hours ago (view)
My son's name is Tyler Olsen (obviously spelled different, and only 6 but a future Cub), so I am rooting for Tyler to make the team.
Arizona Phil 2 days 6 hours ago (view)
And Tyler Olson has a similar profile as Casey Sadler (out of minor league options and has Article XX-D rights if he is added to the 40), the only difference being (unlike Sadler) Olson will come to Spring Training not on the 40 so he can be sent to Iowa without restrictions, but if & when he's added to the 40 he isn't a Des Moines - Chicago shuttle-rider candidate.
Arizona Phil 2 days 6 hours ago (view)
Unfortunately (for the Cubs) Casey Sadler doesn't fit as a Des Moines - Chicago shuttle-rider because he is out of minor league options and he can elect free-agency if he is outrighted (he has Article XX-D rights because he been outrighted previously in his career).
cubbies.4ever 2 days 6 hours ago (view)
I agree, this offseason has been a disgrace. If I'm Theo I'm thinking I am in OAK or CHI? This ownership has given him nothing this year. Even the cheap Twins are willing to sign Josh Donaldson and the Cubs biggest transaction this offseason may be adding Miguel Amaya to the 40 man.