Before he makes a hire he had better look himself in the mirror and realize that the last two full time managers of this team were unwilling to hold players accountable despite coming in with reputations as locker room leaders. From the ridiculousness that derailed the 2004 Cubs to the antics of Carlos Zambrano this season no one has ever had the courage to lay down the law and be the tough guy that the Cubs have needed for far too long. That is squarely on the field manager and upper management who did absolutely nothing to control the players who let the broadcasters and the extraneous noise distract them in 2004 to Lou Piniella completely losing his team in 2010 as the season spiraled out of control. Set down a way to play and let no one operate outside the rules. Period, end of story. If a player misses a team flight because of his birthday then he doesn't pitch no matter who he is (think Big Z in 2009). If a player doesn't run hard out of the box then he is removed from the game and he sits. Whether he signed a 136 million dollar contract or is a minimum salaried rookie. Operate that way and you have a chance. Anything less and you will lose the respect of your team very quickly.
What Went Right
The signing of Marlon Byrd was a solid decision as he was excellent defensively, was well liked in the clubhouse, and contributed a solid season offensively. Ryan Dempster was solid winning 15 games and throwing over 200 innings as well as providing tremendous leadership in the clubhouse. Carlos Marmol was excellent all season long saving 38 games and dominating like no other reliever in the game. He does have his occasional control problems but he should be an elite closer for many years to come. Sean Marshall settled into the setup role very well and has emerged as one of the better relievers in the National League. His emergence calmed a very shaky bullpen that struggled in April and May. Finally, shortstop Starlin Castro exploded on the scene when he was called up to the big leagues in early May. He was solid at the plate and showed flashes of brilliance defensively despite commiting 27 errors. He should be a fixture in the Cubs infield for many years to come.
**Breaking News** The Cubs are close to trading first
baseman Derrek Lee to the Atlanta Braves, I have learned exclusively. The trade
was first discussed on Sunday evening when the Braves called Cubs GM Jim Hendry and expressed interest after
learning that one of their best offensive players, Chipper Jones was lost for
the season with a knee injury.
As a 10-5 man (10 years in the major leagues and the last five with the same team) Lee has the right to reject a trade as he did when the Los Angeles Angeles of Anaheim tried to acquire him in late July. However, sources close to Lee tell us that he will approve a deal to Atlanta because the Braves are leading their division thus giving him a shot at winning another World Series ring. Lee was a member of the 2003 World Champion Florida Marlins who beat the New York Yankees in the Fall Classic.
The deal that would send Lee to the Braves has not yet been finalized but MLB sources characterize the trade as nearly done. One holdup has been Lee's balky back which has kept him sidelined the past couple of days. The trade is not expected to land the Cubs much in the way of talent because of Lee's subpar 2010 season but it will provide some salary relief as Lee makes 13 million dollars and the Braves are expected to assume most if not all of his remaining money.
Stay tuned and I will update as soon as I confirm that the trade has been completed. For all of the breaking news that I cover please follow me on Twitter @thekapman. Kap
The two minor leaguers the Cubs received were both drafted reasonably high but only one is projected by minor league talent evaluators as a probable big league arm. Brett Wallach, the son of former major league infielder Tim Wallach is a recent convert from position player and pitcher to full time pitcher and has, according to the scouts I spoke with a solid chance of pitching in the big leagues as a back of the rotation type or as a set up man. Kyle Smit was a touted prospect in 2006 when he was drafted in the 5th round but has not progressed as the Dodgers had hoped. Here are a couple of scouting reports on the two pitchers from the MLB Daily Dish:
Please post your thoughts on the Cubs managerial position in the comments section. Thanks!
Lee informed Jim Hendry that he will not accept any trade and would like to wait until the season is over to decide on his future. His current Cubs contract expires at the end of this season.
Several reports have criticized Lee for his position but who are we to determine what is best for his future? He has the ability to block a trade and he exercised that right, plain and simple.
I have looked at this decision for a while now knowing that Lou would not be returning to the Cubs and there is really only one name that should be on the Chicago Cubs shopping list. New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi.
Girardi is so obvious that I am stunned to hear some people tout others over him. Girardi is a winner who has multiple World Series rings as a player and has won one as manager of the Yankees. He was also named Manager of the Year when he was with the Florida Marlins and took a team with a 14 million dollar payroll and nearly made the playoffs. He has had small payrolls, large payrolls and has handled both situations very well.
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"Yes, it is true that I am retiring. I am 67 years old and it is time for me to move on to the next phase of my life and to spend more time with my family. However, I am very upset that the news leaked out before I had a chance to inform my team," Piniella told me.
Bill Madden of the NY Daily News learned of the impending announcement from Piniella's agent Alan Nero who told him the news in confidence. However, Madden did not keep the news quiet and thus the story broke, angering Piniella and his family.
Piniella will address the media at 4:15 from the interview room at Wrigley Field. I will have full coverage of the announcement both on Chicago Tribune Live on Comcast SportsNet at 5:30 and on the Tenth Inning Show immediately after tonight's Astros/Cubs game on WGN Radio.
DK: There is a lot of talk about leadership in a locker room. What is your take on the importance of leadership?
That word is thrown around a lot. It was thrown around a lot when I was in Philadelphia. Leadership means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. The leadership aspect is a bunch of guys going out together and playing good baseball. When you're playing good baseball your winning baseball games then you have good leadership and you have good personnel. When you're going out and playing sloppy baseball and not winning ball games then we have bad leadership. I don't take it, I appreciate it. I take it as...a high regard and very complimentary. But we're trying to be professionals on and off the field trying to go out and play good baseball and stay on top of things and not let things get out of hand and have little brush fires along the way, just keep a nice clean clubhouse.
DK: We hear all the time about bringing in winning type players because they have won championships and they have "been there before". Do you agree?
DK: You have played a lot of games here at Wrigley Field during your career. Why do you think the Cubs haven't been able to win here?
1) Management must let the fan base know how frustrated they are with the on field performance and also let them know that it will not be tolerated and that change is coming to the Cubs in a big way.
2) Identify those pieces that have trade value and can be moved. That means there are no untouchables on the roster. However, it would take a huge deal to pry some of the best youngsters away from the Cubs.
3) Be willing to eat significant dollars to clear out the dead wood on the roster so that a complete overhaul of the team can begin as soon as possible.
4) Show the paying customer how much this season has upset you. They are paying a tremendous amount of money to support your team and they also invest their heart in a team that has broken it more times than they care to remember. They have to know that you are as upset as they are or you could see further declines in attendance and support.
5) Lay out a plan for the future. The Cubs fans will buy a plan if it is spelled out to them in a clear and concise manner. There has never been a definitive plan to rebuild the team. It has always been about trying to upgrade and compete all at the same time. Unless you spend Yankee level money that plan has very little chance of succeeding.
6) Talk about playing with pride and fire. That is much more of an indictment on the players than it is on the manager. However, when you see players like Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez struggle day after day and they continue to remain in the 3-4 hole on the days that they are playing it is no wonder that it appears as if poor play is accepted. Lee and Ramirez have been awful all season long but never have we seen them dropped down to the 6-7-8 spots in the order.
When the White Sox were struggling in early June we heard Kenny Williams say that it would not be tolerated and that changes were coming if things didn't improve. He also said that "I'm tired of looking at this and so are our fans." By doing that he let everyone who buys a White Sox ticket know that he was as frustrated as they are and that it was unacceptable. We have not heard much of that from the North Side and that too is unacceptable.
My sources tell me that Cubs GM Jim Hendry has offered to pick up the bulk of the remaining dollars on the 2010 commitment and half of the money in 2011 but so far has found no takers for the under performing right fielder.
I have also been told that upper management is being extremely patient despite the poor performance of the Cubs so far in 2010. They will wait a few more weeks and evaluate the club's position at that time before they determine a course of action in advance of the July 31 trade deadline.
Put some thought into this and post your ideas in the comments section. I will take the best laid out plans to Tom Ricketts and hand your ideas to him. Be creative, think outside the box, and remember there are a ton of aspects that are included in owning a major league team that you probably haven't even considered. Where would you build the new spring training facility? Who would be your manager next season if Lou doesn't return? How much would your payroll be?
These are all interesting questions and questions that I want you to answer. Be thorough and have fun building a franchise but remember it is not as easy as it looks!
Go get em!
General Manager Jim Hendry did not have much payroll flexibility this past winter and he had a number of things he wanted to address as he tried to retool his baseball team after a disappointing 2009 season. Hendry needed to land a center fielder, he needed to move Milton Bradley, he needed to upgrade his bullpen, and he needed to help some of his best players return to their previous form after having sub par 09' campaigns.
Let's look at the Cubs moves and decisions since the end of the 2009 season and grade them accordingly:
Howry spent the 2009 season with San Francisco where he appeared in 63 games with a 2-6 record and a 3.39 ERA. The Cubs are denying the signing but friends of Howry have confirmed that he and his wife have told them that they are indeed returning to Chicago.
Before I go position by position I feel it necessary to address Phil Rogers "Morning Phil" column on the Chicago Tribune website today. Phil addresses the hot streak that Alfonso Soriano is currently in and says:
1. Forgive us, Alfonso. We should know better, but how quickly we all forget. When Bob Brenly, David Kaplan and seemingly everyone following the Cubs was treating Alfonso Soriano with something between contempt and ridicule for failing to run hard out of the batter's box on a blast to the wall April 20 at Citi Field in New York, they missed the bigger picture: Soriano was showing signs of become a dangerous hitter again.
Well, Phil you are showing an incredible lack of understanding of how the game is supposed to be played. Sure, Soriano is red hot and he is carrying the team but you have once again missed the much bigger picture. There is a right way to play the game and a wrong way to play the game and when Soriano doesn't hustle that is the wrong way to play the game and that my friend is an undeniable fact. You can defend his lack of hustle all you want but if it is no big deal then why was he pulled into Lou Piniella's office after that game in New York and talked to about the play? Are you telling me Phil that when he hustled a double into a triple the next night that it had nothing to do with the tongue lashing he received from his manager less than 24 hours earlier?
C'mon Phil, I know that you are smarter than that. Reading this it sure doesn't show it though.
Now, onto an assessment of the Cubs through the first month or so.
With Carlos Zambrano now in the bullpen as a set up man the rotation has stayed surprisingly solid through the first month. Carlos Silva has been solid and Tom Gorzelanny has been very capable in the #5 spot. Ryan Dempster and Randy Wells have been excellent and if not for the failings of the bullpen prior to Zambrano's arrival the Cubs record would be far better than 13-13. Ted Lilly has had one good start and one poor one so it is far too early to pass judgment on his long term prognosis this season. While the back end of the rotation has been a pleasant surprise you still cannot convince me that the rotation is better without Zambrano and I fully expect him to return to his role as a starter at some point this season. Unless of course the Cubs make a major trade that includes Big Z.
With 3 rookies on the opening day roster it is not hard to understand why the Cubs pen struggled so mightily in April. Combine that fact with the struggles of John Grabow and you can see why the record is what it is. Will Zambrano be the steadying influence that bullpen needs to vault the Cubs into contention? He can be if he is willing to commit himself to the role and if the Cubs rotation stays solid. If one of the 5 starters struggles then Zambrano will go back to the rotation and the hole in the set up role will again become a glaring weakness. Look for Jim Hendry to make a trade to shore this area up but with very little trade activity in the industry over the season's first 45-60 days it may be a while before deal gets done unless the Cubs GM is willing to significantly overpay.
The corner spots have been an issue offensively but Derrek Lee is showing signs of breaking out of his April slump and should be a solid force going forward. Ryan Theriot has been outstanding offensively hitting .348 and while he is not a Gold Glove shortstop he is more than solid at the position. Aramis Ramirez has been awful through the first month but based on his career numbers you have to believe that he will return to form as a very potent offensive threat. If he doesn't then the Cubs have major issues because his production is irreplaceable from the backups currently on the roster. Second base has been a pleasant surprise offensively as Mike Fontenot is hitting over .300 but can that continue for an entire season remains to be seen. The Cubs top prospect Starlin Castro is currently hitting .354 in Class AA but he is 5 for his last 35 at the plate so it appears he is in line for at least another few weeks of seasoning before he could make his major league debut. When he does look for Ryan Theriot to move over to 2nd base on an everyday basis.
With all five outfielders on the roster deserving of playing time this is perhaps the toughest part of Lou Piniella's job. Alfonso Soriano. Marlon Byrd, and Kosuke Fukudome have all hit well but Tyler Colvin also is producing and has more than justified Piniella's faith in him when he put him on the opening day roster. Xavier Nady is a professional hitter and is not happy with his lack of playing time but with his surgically repaired elbow still an issue and the outfielders hitting well it has made opportunities for him to play scarce.
A position of strength as Geovany Soto has rebounded from an awful 2009 and is a threat again at the plate. He is also throwing well and is a huge upgrade over the production the cubs received behind the plate in 2009. Koyie Hill is a very capable backup and has more than held his own when he gets an opportunity to play.
So, can the cubs make a run in the NL Central Division? Yes, if their rotation stays solid and the bullpen anchored by Zambrano and Carlos Marmol does its job consistently. Aramis Ramirez has to return to the form that he is capable of because without his bat in the lineup the Cubs have no chance to be solid enough offensively to compete for a playoff spot.
However, this is a station to station baseball team that does not have much team speed so when the wind blows in the Cubs are not very adept at manufacturing runs. They need to string together bunches of hits to score and that is not an easy proposition in the big leagues. I still have major questions about this team and while the past weekend was a solid step in the right direction let's not forget that they were playing the Arizona Diamondback and not the Philadelphia Phillies. Show us some excellent play against some of the better teams in the league and then maybe I'll start to believe.
Let's go through his thoughts here and dissect how deranged this person really is. Here is Bradley on if Chicago is a tough place to play if you are African-American: "Well, I mean unless you go out there and you're Superman -- you're Andre Dawson, you're Ernie Banks, you're in the Hall of Fame -- then it's going to be tough," Bradley said. "People are just the way they are".
Are you kidding me? Have you ever heard of Derrek Lee? Lee is well liked and respected and loves playing in Chicago. So much so that he stated a couple of weeks back when I interviewed him at spring training that he wants to retire as a Cub. Want a less successful player who is African-American and was well liked and loved playing here? What about Doug Glanville? He was a solid, but unspectacular player who had two tours of duty with the Cubs and now makes his home in the Chicago area.
Fans want players who play hard, are reasonably successful, and represent the team positively. Milton did none of that. He made no effort to fit in with his teammates, he was distant with the media from day one, and he was a lousy baseball player. He claims that he was told he had to hit 30 home runs, but I can tell you that was never expected from him. The Cubs wanted him to get on base, drive in runs because he he would have opportunities hitting in the middle of the lineup, and they wanted him to play a decent right field.
Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry met with the media on Wednesday in Mesa, AZ and here is what he had to say about Bradley's latest comments. Hendry has consistently taken the blame for the signing, repeatedly characterizing the acquisition as a complete and total mistake. However, after trading Bradley so he and the Cubs could get a fresh start, Bradley just can't keep his mouth shut. Hendry finally had enough of Bradley firing on the organization and met with the media in Mesa.
"We're all brought up in life to accept responsibility when we fail, and to judge people by how they act and how they carry themselves when things don't go well," Hendry said.
Bradley told ESPN some of the hate mail he received had no postage, suggesting it could've been sent in-house.
"Obviously, that couldn't be further from the truth," Hendry said. "I think maybe it's time Milton looks at himself in the mirror. It is what it is. He just didn't swing the bat. He didn't get the job done. His production, or lack of (production), was the only negative."
As for the hate mail that Bradley claims he received without a postmark, Hendry said people drop off mail at the front desk at Wrigley Field, which could explain why there was no postage on the alleged hate mail. He added that Bradley never mentioned the claim to anyone in the organization, and that the Cubs said the organization "couldn't have bent over backward any more than they did for the entire season, before (the suspension) in St. Louis."
Milton Bradley has no one to blame but himself for his poor performance in 2009. He was given the first multi-year contract of his career and he failed miserably. He was a sullen, moody person to deal with and never did anything, or made any attempt, to fit into the community or the locker room.
Could someone have said something racially motivated to him? Absolutely, however the rantings of a few lunatics were not the reason that Bradley had such a terrible experience in our city. He failed to produce on the field and continues to make excuses for his poor play. Milton Bradley, you need to look at yourself, not everyone else, when you try to figure out why the Cubs were so desperate to rid get rid of you.
So is it true? Were the Cubs shopping Zambrano? Sources very close to the Yankees who would not speak on the record told me that there was really nothing in the way of negotiations with the Cubs regarding Big Z. One phone call was placed to see if Zambrano was available, and Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman was told that short of an overwhelming deal in terms of talent, and the Yanks assuming all of the remaining 53 million dollars on Zambrano's contract, the Cubs had no interest in trading their #1 starter.
So while there was a call made to gauge the Cubs interest, there really was nothing to the frenzy that hit the internet early this week regarding Zambrano and the Yankees. With Ted Lilly coming off of shoulder surgery, and Rich Harden now pitching for the Texas Rangers, the Cubs are very thin in the rotation. Trading Zambrano would be a foolish thing to do, unless the deal was a huge win for the Cubs. And with the Yankees payroll already at $200 million, there was no chance that they were assuming all of Big Z's contract.
Tonight at 7:00 p.m. on Sports Central on WGN Radio we will have an in depth discussion about the Chicago Cubs with three well known bloggers including Andy Dolan of Desipio.com. We will take calls and look at the 2010 season and the remaining free agents that the Cubs might have interest in.
**Please note that new Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly will join me on Sports Central on Thursday evening.
Phil, Granderson had a lousy 2009 season. He hit .183 against left-handed pitching. He had an on base percentage of .327, and he struck out 141 times. Yes, he is an outstanding defensive player and a wonderful human being. But the Cubs have to get better players in their clubhouse, not just better people.
The Cubs don't have the financial flexibility that the Yankees do, because the Yankees have $60 million more to spend on their payroll. The Cubs were interested in Granderson, yes, but not at the expense of trading a handful of their best prospects to acquire a guy who is a better person than he is a player.
The Yankees are planning on starting Granderson in center everyday, but he will not be their lead off man. The Yankees hitting instructors evaluated his swing by looking at tapes of his at-bats against left handed pitching in 2009, and compared it to his swing in previous seasons when he was much better against left handers. They now believe that they can correct what's wrong with his swing, and the tremendous talent that surrounds him in New York will make his transition to the World Champions that much easier.
He was much better against right handed pitchers in Detroit and in Yankee Stadium as a pull hitter with a short porch to right field he could have a much better season. It wasn't a fit for the Cubs given the price tag the Tigers set. Phil, you don't trade a lot of your best young talent just to get a leader in your clubhouse. He has to fit as a player as well and the fit is much better in New York than it would have been in Chicago.
The Cubs are on the fringe of the discussions, hoping to hang around and see if the price falls a bit, so they can take a run at acquiring the outstanding defender and Chicago native. However, the Tigers reportedly are asking for Cubs top prospect SS Starlin Castro and two more good players in exchange for Granderson, and the Cubs are balking at including Castro in just about any deal.
The Cubs are also hot on the heels of CF Mike Cameron, who played for Cubs manager Lou Piniella in Seattle. He's not only a great defender, but he is considered one of the best clubhouse leaders in baseball. Jim Hendry told me last week that he can make moves even if a trade or signing puts him over the payroll limit set by ownership, as long as he meets his budget number by Opening Day. That was not the case in 2005, when Hendry was forced to let Moises Alou leave via free agency, and to pass on several other moves, because he had not yet moved the contract of Sammy Sosa.
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In addition, the lurid details about his sex life are now surfacing which has turned the intensely private Woods into a late night talk show punch line. And with the count of women coming forward now at six who knows when this story will leave the news and allow Tiger and his wife some time to work on repairing their relationship.
Then you had the Bears who were coming off of an embarrassing blowout loss to the Vikings. Well, on Sunday the beloved Bear finally put a game into the win column by beating the completely inept St. Louis Rams 17-9 at Soldier Field.
The Bulls finally won a game after they beat the Detroit Pistons at the United Center earlier in the week. However, they were drilled both Friday and Saturday by the Cavaliers and Raptors respectively with the latter winning by 30+ at the United Center.
The Blackhawks won 2 of 3 this week with an 11 round shootout deciding a tough win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday evening before the Hawks lost to Nashville on Friday night at the United Center. However, the Hawks bounced back quickly beating the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 in OT on Saturday evening.
Baseball now grabs center stage with the Winter Meetings officially underway in Indianapolis. Both the Cubs and the White Sox are expected to be very active participants with the Cubs hoping to move Milton Bradley while the Sox are considering dealing closer Bobby Jenks.
So who makes our week in pictures? Check em' out because we have the stars of the week and the women who are reportedly chasing a Tiger.
Enjoy and get ready for our updates of the Winter Meetings which are in high gear through Thursday and where we have a ton of great sources. Also, please make sure you tune into Chicago Tribune Live at 5:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet and Sports Central on WGN Radio at 7 p.m. Have a great week! Kap
Gallery sneak peek (27 images):View the gallery...
I have learned that the Cubs have informed Harden and Gregg as well as outfielder Reed Johnson that they will not be offered salary arbitration meaning that if those players sign with another club the Cubs will get no draft pick compensation.
The Cubs had an opportunity to trade both Harden and Gregg to the Minnesota Twins at the end of August but felt that being only 5 games back in the Wild Card race they did not want to wave the white flag of surrender. That was a tactical mistake because now the Cubs will lose both guys for nothing when they could have had a couple of prospects from the Twins.
Their competitiveness to stay in the race was admirable but misguided because the Chicago Cubs had no chance of contending in September of 2009.
The latest I am hearing has the Cubs and the Rangers seriously discussing a trade that would send the disgruntled outfielder back to the the team that he starred for before signing with the Cubs last winter. However, read this nugget in Rangers' beat writer Evan Grant's blog regarding a possible Bradley return to Texas, and you'll see just how tough it may be for the Cubs to move him.
As for the Tigers willingness to trade center fielder Curtis Granderson, things are starting to heat up, as they explore several different options in both the AL and NL. The Cubs are definitely on the Tigers radar, since they fit several of the requirements Detroit has in any Granderson deal. First, they have a handful of excellent prospects that are nearly major league ready and they would be the key to any deal. Also, the Cubs don't play in the AL and definitely don't play in the AL Central. That could make this deal more likely, since Detroit is very reluctant to trade him within their league and even more so in their division. If you were Jim Hendry, would you trade rising shortstop prospect Starlin Castro in a package to land Granderson?
So with Castro on the fast track to the Cubs everyday lineup, incumbent shortstop Ryan Theriot will be moved to 2nd base when Castro arrives. If Castro is being penciled into the starting lineup for Opening Day 2011, or perhaps sooner, why not move Theriot to 2nd base now? Rather than have two middle infielders in new surroundings when the 2011 season begins, why not let Theriot play there in 2010 and sign a veteran shortstop to a one year deal until Castro is ready?
What about a one year contract for Orlando Cabrera, who played very well for the Minnesota Twins down the stretch? The former White Sox has had a solid big league career for the past 12 seasons. He is excellent defensively, hits for average, runs fairly well and would not cost a ton of money to sign. Cabrera plays nearly every day, and brings a ton of postseason experience.
That would allow Theriot to play 2nd base, where he would be a better fit, and it would allow him time to get comfortable with the position before he has to help Castro with his transition to the big leagues in late 2010 or at the start of 2011.
TED LILLY UNDERGOES LEFT SHOULDER ARTHROSCOPY AND DEBRIDEMENT
CHICAGO - Ted Lilly yesterday afternoon underwent a left shoulder arthroscopy and debridement performed by noted orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Lewis Yocum in Los Angeles. During the surgery, Dr. Yocum found no major damage to Lilly's shoulder and the procedure consisted of a washout and clean up of the shoulder. The procedure took approximately one hour to complete.
Lilly will immediately begin an aggressive range of motion and strengthening program. After the first of the year, Lilly will be re-evaluated and the club will establish a timetable for him to begin his throwing program in preparation for the 2010 season. Typically, recovery time for a procedure such as this would place Lilly's return to the Cubs rotation within the month of April.
"We are pleased that Ted's surgery was a success and are eager to see him begin his rehabilitation program," said Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry. "After Ted's re-evaluation following the first of the year, a determination will be made as to when he will begin his throwing program. At this point in time, it is too early to precisely project Ted's return to the Cubs rotation; most estimates would place that return within the month of April.
"At the conclusion of the 2009 season, Cubs
team doctors prescribed a conservative approach to managing Ted's
shoulder in preparation for the 2010 season and, following a second opinion,
Dr. Yocum agreed," Hendry continued. "At the end of last week,
Ted decided that undergoing a surgical procedure was the course of action he
wanted to pursue, a decision the club supported. We're glad the
surgery did not reveal any major damage to Ted's shoulder and look
forward to his return to our rotation."
One thing is for sure. Milton Bradley will not return to the Cubs in 2010. Here are some other Cubs notes from the Breaking Sports News Center at the Chicago Tribune. More to come later in the day. Have a great day! Kap
Please post any questions that you have as a comment here on the blog. One request, please keep the questions to current issues with the team. Hendry is not allowed by baseball rules to discuss players on other teams. Also, please keep it clean. I know that Cubs fans are frustrated by the 2009 season but please ask solid questions. Inappropriate comments will be removed.
Also, please note that new Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo will join me at 7:10.
So if he is so good, you are probably wondering how Texas could let him get away. Here is the latest on the situation, and after you read it you will understand why he is looking to test free agency and to sign a contract with some solid job security. GM Jim Hendry has been super aggressive since Jaramillo made it known that he would be leaving the Rangers and most baseball executives expect Jaramillo to choose the Cubs. Look for the Cubs to land him and to sign him to a multi-year deal worth at least $750,000 per season, which would make him the highest paid hitting coach in the game.
More Cubs Notes....
The Arizona Fall League has begun, and in talking with several scouts and media types who are there watching the games, the two most impressive hitters so far have been Josh Vitters and Starlin Castro of the Cubs. Vitters timetable for reaching the big leagues could be as quick as next September and he will be the Cubs starting third baseman should Aramis Ramirez exercise the opt out clause in his contract after the 2010 season. Castro is just 19 years of age and while he is young for the level he is playing at he could be in the Cubs Opening Day lineup as soon as 2011.
Bradley was certainly a problem in the clubhouse and his productivity was not great but there were several other problems that helped derail the season. The fact that the entire starting outfield combined for 43 HR's and 99 RBI's was certainly one reason that the run production was down dramatically from 2008. Add in the fact that Geovany Soto had a brutal year and that Aramis Ramirez only played in 82 games and you have two more huge components of the 2008 offense that did not perform at the same level.
Why? Who cares what side of the plate a guy hits from?
It is the same ridiculous logic that we see in baseball today when managers feel that they have to go to the bullpen to have a left handed pitcher face a left handed hitter in a key situation. Never mind that, in many situations, the pitcher may be better against right handed hitters than he is against left handed hitters. Remember Mike Remlinger? He was brought in as a left handed specialist. But a look at his career numbers shows that he was far better facing right handed hitters than he was against left handed hitters.
Is there any doubt that Neal Cotts was on the Cubs roster as long as he was because he threw from the left side? If he was a right handed pitcher and put up the numbers that he did in a Cubs uniform he would have been released a long time ago. Yet, he was given chance after chance despite struggling mightily.
It is this mentality that is pervasive around baseball and it has to change. It is as foolish as pitch counts being used as a definite when it comes to deciding when to change pitchers. There is a great article in ESPN the Magazine about Nolan Ryan and how he has changed the mentality of the Texas Rangers and their use of pitch counts.
Hendry has been down this road before when he needed to do a far bigger overhaul both after the 2002 season when he was first hired as the GM, and again after the 2006 season when he changed managers, added several new players, and built the core of 2008's 97 win team. Add in three division titles in 7 years for a franchise that, until he arrived, hadn't had back to back winning seasons, and he has accomplished more than any other GM in the Cubs recent history.
Last winter Hendry set out to fix what he thought was the main problem with his team and that was a lack of left handed run production to add, as he said at the time, balance to the Cubs right handed dominant starting lineup. By acquiring Milton Bradley, Hendry felt he was adding a switch hitter who was an on-base machine in Texas last season and he envisioned Bradley driving in runs and being a constant presence on the base paths.
"It probably became one of those things where you start saying things that you're putting the blame on everybody else. Sometimes you've just got to look in the mirror and realize that maybe the biggest part of the problem is yourself."
Wow, those are some very pointed remarks from one of the best guys on the club and one of the easiest to get along with. Bradley has been a pain to deal with almost from the day he signed with the Cubs last January. He was a guest on the TV show that I host (Chicago Tribune Live) and on Sports Central (the radio show that I host) and he spent the time on the air asking the fans of Chicago to give him a chance to start over and to have a clean slate.
It is obvious that Bradley won't be returning to the Cubs next season but by suspending him the Cubs have essentially made it even more difficult to deal him this off season. This action should not come as a surprise to anyone because Bradley has been a major problem to deal with most of the season for not only the media but the manager, his coaching staff, the front office, and even his teammates.
More to come on this story. Kap
With the Cubs looking towards next year and trying to figure how to improve their team without having a big budget increase lets take a look at their salary commitments for 2010 and how their payroll may prevent them from making many major moves.
Here are the Cubs who are already under contract for next year:
Alfonso Soriano 19 million
Carlos Zambrano 18.875 million
Aramis Ramirez 16.75 million
Kosuke Fukudome 14 million
Ryan Dempster 13.5 million
Derrek Lee 13 million
Ted Lilly 13 million
Milton Bradley 10.33
Jeff Samardzija 1.0 million
Add in to this number arbitration eligible players like Ryan Theriot, Carlos Marmol, Aaron Heilman, Angel Guzman, Sean Marshall, Mike Fontenot, and Koyie Hill and you have to figure that the payroll will swell to approximately $130 million or more and that is just for 16 players.
Add in needing to either re-sign or replace Rich Harden, Kevin Gregg, and Reed Johnson and you have a payroll that is close to or more than 140 million BEFORE you attempt to improve the roster.
So those of us who like to play arm chair general manager and have the Cubs taking a run at Chone Figgins or another high priced free agent better understand that the Ricketts family is not going to be adding big money to the payroll in their first year of ownership.
Since his article hit the Internet last night after the Cubs 2-0 win over the Milwaukee Brewers, there has been much discussion about whether or not it makes sense to deal the volatile right hander. Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald thinks it would be foolish to deal Zambrano, because he believes Big Z has pitched much better than his record this season indicates.
Zambrano has been heralded as the ace of the Cubs staff for a long time. And while he is paid like an ace he hasn't pitched like one since inking his 91.5 million dollar extension in August 2007.
But let's not blame him for his salary. He accepted what the market said he was worth and when the Cubs signed him he did what any one of us would have done, he signed the deal. So don't blame him for that.
Now if you want to complain that he is paid like a #1 starter and he isn't a #1 starter, that is an entirely different argument. I have complained that Zambrano doesn't win enough to be an ace. I know that wins are not the best statistic to judge a pitcher on, but the fact that he ranks roughly 30th in baseball in wins since the day he signed his extension is very disconcerting.
After considering discussing a deal that would have sent pitcher Rich Harden to the Minnesota Twins earlier in the week Cubs GM Jim Hendry told the Twins that he was not ready to wave the white flag of surrender with his team 5 games out in the NL Wild Card race.
The Twins were very interested in acquiring Harden who they looked at as a potential #1 starter in the playoffs and were willing to pay a fair price to land him. However, after seeing Colorado struggle last weekend Hendry decided to go all in and try to make the playoffs rather than dealing one of his best arms. The talks really never got very serious.
The two deals save the White Sox roughly $3 million in payroll for the rest of the of the 2009 season, (depending on how much cash the Sox gave up) but also give both players a chance to be in a pennant race through the month of September.
I'm happy for Jim Thome, as he's one of the good guys in the game today, and handled himself with the utmost class throughout his tenure with the White Sox. With the move to the National League and no designated hitter, it's uncertain whether Thome will get time at first base. If nothing else, Thome can provide Dodgers skipper Joe Torre with a potent left handed stick off the bench.
As for Contreras, the White Sox can finally rid themselves of the Cuban right hander, who has had a miserable season, and is a shell of the former dominant pitcher that helped lead the White Sox to the 2005 World Series title. This season Jose was 5-13 with an ERA of 5.42.
And a funny Ozzie note: Reporters asked Ozzie Guillen before tonight's game whether Contreras might start Thursday, before rumor of the trade got out. Guillen scoffed at the question and said there'd be no way he'd start Contreras, adding he'd rather send pitching coach Don Cooper to the mound.
Aaron Heilman will also be staying with the Cubs because they own his rights as he is short of service time for free agency. So having him under their control makes more sense than just giving him away now.
With 30 minutes to go could Minnesota GM Bill Smith change his mind and make an offer that Jim Hendry just can't refuse? Sure, he could do that but it does not appear likely. Give Hendry credit because he took a stand and refused to settle for something less than he wanted to make the deal. Will he offer salary arbitration to Harden is the next question he has to answer once the season ends.
Does he trade Harden and/or Heilman for whatever he can get or does he hang onto both guys in the hopes of re-signing them or in the case of Harden offering him salary arbitration to get draft pick compensation if he signs somewhere else? Most of the baseball people that I have spoken with this morning believe that Harden will be traded but that belief is only if the Cubs have decided privately that they would not offer him arbitration for fear that he would accept it and that they could be stuck with a 10+ million dollar salary which they have no interest in paying to a pitcher with his injury history.
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports has an interesting post up on the Harden situation. In the story he relates a statistic from the folks at Baseball Prospectus who do a daily playoff odds report. They have computed the odds of the Cubs playing in the postseason at just 2.7% so a decision to keep Harden for the rest of this season really makes no sense if you do not plan on either re-signing him or offering him arbitration to get draft pick compensation.
I will post an update as soon as I hear anything on this situation. Kap
Heilman will not bring you much back in return but since he has had such a mediocre season I would try to move him so that you don't have to deal with him going through the arbitration process in the off season. He is not good enough to be a factor in the bullpen of a championship caliber team so why bring him back next season?
Harden has some value on the trade market though because he is currently healthy and he can help the Twins as they try to run down Detroit. The Cubs probably will not bring him back due to his injury history and the price he will probably command on the open market. In addition, media reports that continue to say that the Cubs will get two draft picks if Harden signs somewhere else as a free agent at the end of the season are not entirely accurate.
To receive draft picks for losing one of your own free agents you have to offer that player salary arbitration. If the Cubs were to offer Harden arbitration there is a strong possibility that he would accept it and that would put the Cubs on the hook for potentially a 10-12 million dollar salary award. To have kept him reasonably healthy enough to make somewhere between 25-30 starts this season is nothing short of a miracle. The front office of the Oakland A's can't believe that Harden is still pitching as they were sure he would have blown out shortly after they traded him to the Cubs in July of 2008.
This is one of the things that Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild deserves tremendous credit for because no one in baseball thought that the Cubs could keep Harden healthy. However, why push your luck? Trade him now when you have a team in Minnesota who is desperate to add a talented starter for their playoff push. Don't keep him when you probably won't re-sign him and then get nothing for him. If you want to re-sign him as a free agent you can do that in November. Just trade him now and get some young talent from the outstanding Minnesota system.
Whether you like Guillen or not, you have to respect his honesty and the passion he displays while doing his job. He calls it as he sees it and with his team quickly falling from the race in the AL Central and having no shot at the Wild Card, Guillen is making sure his players know just how disappointed in them he is.
Looking at the White Sox long term you see some good things to build on for next year, but you also see some major holes in their club. Their rotation is excellent with Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd, John Danks, and newcomer Jake Peavy all considered solid to above average starters. Who fills the #5 starter's role is still in question, but how many teams in baseball can say they have excellent arms in the 1-4 slots and have all of them either under contract or under team control for the next few years?
The White Sox have a future superstar in Gordon Beckham playing 3B, but should they choose to use Alexei Ramirez in a trade this winter Beckham could slide over to his natural position of SS. The outfield has Carlos Quentin in LF, (and when he is healthy he is among the best in the American League) along with the recently acquired Alex Rios, who is a solid if unspectacular player with excellent athleticism and defensive skills.
One more outfield spot remains to be decided upon with the return of RF Jermaine Dye up in the air, as is the return of the surprising Scott Podsednik, who has been outstanding since GM Kenny Williams plucked him off of the scrap heap early in the season. One of these two is expected back, but not both.
Paul Konerko has one more year left on his deal and he will be back for another season at first base, as will A.J. Pierzynski behind the plate. At second base the White Sox have Chris Getz penciled in to start next season but if they can find an upgrade they will most certainly consider it. Defensively, this is not a good team. The Sox have to make some tough decisions on how they can improve defensively without tinkering too much with the general makeup of their club.
The bullpen is where you will probably see more change than in any other area of the team before next season. I don't believe that closer Bobby Jenks will return because after making $5.6 million in 2009 his salary is expected to jump dramatically which will probably force Kenny Williams to shop him in the off season. Octavio Dotel's contract is up so he will not return, and with Scott Linebrink struggling the Sox will need to find a standout set up man to replace Dotel and to take most of the key appearances away from Linebrink. Matt Thornton is among the best left handed set up men in all of baseball, and will probably get the first shot at the closer's job if Jenks is traded.
All in all, the White Sox seem to be in better position going into this off season than their crosstown rival, the Cubs, who have major questions to answer and very little payroll flexibility with which to answer them. One thing the Sox do have going for them is manager Ozzie Guillen who is sure to keep things interesting and to keep the Sox in the headlines with his honesty and fire.
The Cubs looked awful Wednesday night and were pounded by the Phillies 12-5 so with 50 games to go lets examine the facts and the questions surrounding the franchise. First of all, the Cardinals now lead the division by four games and after adding Matt Holliday and Mark DeRosa they have become a much more formidable opponent than they were when the season began.
Let's look at the roster and discuss the situation the Cubs have put themselves in. First of all, manager Lou Piniella will be entering the final year of his contract in 2010. This season appears to be weighing on him heavily and rightly so. Sweet Lou came here to end a century of futility and as of now the picture for 2010 does not look pretty based on how his club is currently constructed and how they are playing. Will he want to return? Three million dollars is a lot to walk away from but Lou is 66 years old and he should be financially set for the rest of his life so is his happiness worth more than the money that he would earn in 2010? Does he have the energy to go into next season knowing how much work lays ahead of him to turn around his club?
He told me as recently as two weeks ago that he was definitely returning and that the fire burns inside of him to lead the Cubs to the title. However, with the team's ownership still up in the air and a number of big contracts to underperforming stars appearing to be diificult to move will Piniella reconsider his plan to manage the Cubs next season?
If he does walk away who would the Cubs hire as their field manager? Joe Girardi who desperately wanted the job and was the choice of many fans when Piniella was hired over him in 2006 is now the manager of the New York Yankees and has a club that may win the World Series this season. He is also under contract for another year so that would appear to rule him out.
Ryne Sandberg is currently managing in the Cubs minor league system but would the Cubs risk hiring a manager who has never done the job at the major league level before? He certainly knows the system and was a Hall of Fame level player but that does not guarantee success as a manager. All in all, if Piniella leaves the decision on who to replace him with will not be an easy one.
Zambrano is not a big game pitcher, he is not an ace, and if the Cubs can, I believe they will look to move him and his bloated contract out of Chicago as soon as possible. What qualities does a #1 starter have? How about piling up wins? Zambrano has averaged 14 wins a season since he became a full time starter in 2003. Does he play the role of leader on the club? Don't make me laugh. He is immature, doesn't work as hard as the Cubs would like, and he is not what one would consider a big game pitcher. Many times Zambrano has had a chance to stop a losing streak or to win a big game and he has failed a majority of those times.
The facts don't lie. The Cubs are paying for top flight performance from a pitcher who has the skills to be a big winner. However, Zambrano's performance does not warrant such a big contract and his 18 million dollar annual salary is one of the deals that is limiting financial flexibility for the front office. Talk to the scouts that attend every game the Cubs play and they all bemoan his incredible physical talents and lack of productivity for a guy whose reputation is that of a superstar.
Zambrano has won all of 7 games this season. That's it. He has had incidents with a Gatorade machine, been suspended for his outburst towards a home plate umpire, and has had two stints on the disabled list. Seven wins for 18 million dollars and enough headaches for management to drive them crazy.
Check out Zambrano's contract terms and you will see that the Cubs have done their part in paying him to be a star. He has not lived up to his end of the bargain though and he has no one to blame but himself. He cannot control his temper and those who observe his antics on a day to day basis know he is far from the superstar pitcher that some believe he is.
Perhaps his back is injured this time. Maybe he truly needs to be on the DL and will be gone for an extended period of time. That may be true but it still does not explain his lack of emotional control and his startlingly poor productivity in big games. In four post season series Zambrano is 0-2 with an ERA of 4.34. He has won 18 games once (18-13 in 2007) and 16 twice. That's it. No 20 win seasons, no Cy Young Awards, a grand total of 8 complete games in 9 total seasons in the big leagues. He may be a #2-3 starter on a good team but to pay him as a #1 is ridiculous.
It is time for the Cubs to find a taker for the antics and the talents of Carlos Zambrano. I know that he has a no trade clause but perhaps Zambrano would also like a fresh start in a new city. He may have a golden arm but we have seen far too many other "qualities" from the man they call "Big Z" to call him an ace or a reliable starter on a team with championship aspirations. Pack your bags Carlos, it's time to take your act to another team. We've tired of you and your immaturity.
However, look beyond the record and there are a ton of questions that need to be answered positively before we can get all giggly as Lou Piniella likes to say. First, can this team win against the better teams in the National League? The 14 wins have come against Washington (4-0), Cincinnati (5 of 6), and Houston (3 of 4). Those are not exactly great teams with Washington and Cincy among the worst in all of baseball.
The two series that the Cubs have played against good teams have been Philadelphia where they lost 2 of 3 and Florida where they also lost 2 of 3. In addition, the bullpen has been less than stellar with closer Kevin Gregg blowing two straight saves in Florida and ace set up man Carlos Marmol continuing to struggle with his command and letting teams back into games when he needs to slam the door.
Milton Bradley continues to struggle from the left side of the plate which is a problem when the majority of starters that the Cubs face are right handed. Geovany Soto has to prove he can return in a big way from a lengthy stint on the DL which is no small feat considering he was hitting .230 when he was injured. Reed Johnson is a big part of the Cubs but will he come back successfully from a broken foot? What about Ted Lilly who is currently on the DL with shoulder tendinitis and just had arthroscopic knee surgery?
Many times when a baseball team struggles you hear the expression, "relax it's early" or "it's a marathon not a sprint" but after the all star break it is no longer early and with just 59 games remaining it is indeed a sprint.
This weekend was a lost one for the Chicago Cubs as they dropped two of three games to the Florida Marlins and could have very easily been swept. They also could have won two of three just as easily if their bullpen didn't put up a couple of horrific performances.
Friday evening the Cubs received a solid start from Rich Harden only to see the bullpen implode in the 8th inning with Carlos Marmol starting the inning off by walking the first two hitters and then hitting a man. He nearly escaped any damage by getting the next two men before giving up a game winning single. Sean Marshall then entered and allowed a double to Wes Helms that plated two more and the Cubs lost 5-2.
Sam Fuld will be officially recalled from Class AAA in time for tonight's game and will take Reed Johnson's place in the outfield rotation. Tom Gorzelanny is meeting the team in Florida where he will throw for Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild. He is on the Class AAA Iowa roster but should the need arise he could start Tuesday against the Reds in Cincinnati.
Down on the Farm....A major league scout who I have known for several years regularly covers the minor leagues and told me today that he believes that the Cubs system is vastly underrated and he points to the hiring of Tim Wilken as scouting director as one of the most important additions that Jim Hendry has made during his tenure as GM. He specifically mentioned Josh Vitters as the 2nd best hitter he has ever seen come out of the Class A Midwest League (the best being Albert Pujols) and he was raving about SS Starlin Castro who was the MVP of the Florida State League All Star game after going 4-4. He projects Castro as a future major league 2B and puts Hak Ju Lee another shortstop prospect as a future star and a top of the order hitter. Lee is hitting .340 in Boise this summer and is just 18 years old. One other name that he mentioned was pitcher Andrew Cashner who is making the transition from reliever to starter. He says he believes the hard throwing Cashner will be in the big leagues at some point next season.
Williams has long coveted Peavy and by teaming him with Mark Buehrle the White Sox have a tremendous 1-2 punch going forward from Opening Day 2010 and beyond. Peavy has been sidelined with an ankle injury since June 9th and his availability for the remainder of this season is still up in the air. Had he remained in San Diego he was expected to be shut down for the rest of this season.
Peavy's agent, Barry Axelrod told me just a few minutes ago that Jake is still hoping to pitch this season and that he just received a great report on his injured ankle from his doctor. He will begin throwing off of a mound possibly tomorrow and could be a tremendous stretch run addition should the White Sox stay in the race until he is ready to return which could be by September 1st.
The deal makes sense for the Cubs because there are many around baseball who feel that Hart has maxed out his performance and that he will never be a big time starter. In addition, Ascanio is a hard throwing bullpen arm who should thrive in the Pirates pen because there isn't much competition down there for the setup role. Harrison is a decent player but is not considered an elite prospect.
The deal is not yet done but GM Jim Hendry has considerable interest in both players to strengthen a pitching staff that has had to deal with an injury to Ted Lilly who is one of the most consistent members of the Cubs rotation. Grabow fits as a situational lefty while Gorzelanny has a solid track record as a starter but is currently pitching in Class AAA for the Pirates.
Gorzelanny won 14 games for the 2007 Pirates and was considered at that time an up and coming star but he has not pitched to that level since then. A look at his numbers
from his best season in 2007 shows a guy who pitched 200+ innings and made 32 starts for a team that was never in the pennant race. He has struggled since then but there are scouts who feel that a change of scenery could be just what he needs to return to form.
Grabow has, according to scouts, a good makeup and would be used in combination with Sean Marshall to mix and match against good left handed hitters. A look at his numbers
provides a word of caution because this season right handed hitters are hitting just .234 while left handed hitters are at a .275 clip which evokes memories of Mike Remlinger who was much better against righties than he was against lefties during his entire tenure with the Cubs.
Should the deal go through it strengthens the pitching staff because it gives Lou Piniella depth from the left side and if Gorzelanny is included it provides another option as a starter if Lilly has any lingering issues from his DL stay. The deadline is 3 p.m. tomorrow so there is still plenty of time for Hendry to add another left handed bat which Piniella would like to have.
I believe that the Cubs will probably add another arm to take some of the heat off of their bullpen for a day or two and that arm will probably be Jeff Stevens who was just optioned to Class AAA Iowa on Wednesday. He was sent out because he had pitched enough over the past few days that he was unavailable if Lou Piniella had needed him on Wednesday. Thus, he went back and Mitch Atkins came up. Normally a player has to stay in the minors for 10 days when he is optioned out, but that rule does not apply if he is recalled because of an injury.
Look for Hendry and Piniella to add another arm for a day or two and then they will add another outfielder to the mix, most probably Sam Fuld who played very well in limited action in two earlier stints this season with the Cubs. The trade deadline is Friday and while Hendry would love to add a Reed Johnson type of player, guys like him don't just grow on trees. Whoever Hendry adds has to be able to play CF. Fuld can most certainly do that, but he doesn't hit from the right side. So if that is a concern for Lou Piniella, Hendry can consider some other options via trade.
The White Sox are better positioned to make a major move because of the stability of Jerry Reinsdorf as the owner and the financial flexibility that they have after this season. They have millions of dollars coming off of the books after 2009 and as evidenced by their aggressive pursuit of Jake Peavy, Kenny Williams is willing to move if the deal makes sense long term.
Yesterday's trade for Mark Kotsay of the Boston Red Sox was a minor deal but Williams may not be done. He is kicking the tires on adding a big name starting pitcher but only if Gordon Beckham's name is not part of the deal. He is considered an untouchable by the organization.
The Cubs are looking to add a bullpen arm, preferably from the left side but will not trade one of the top five prospects in their system to add a player who is not a prime time addition. That would seem to take them out of the running for Baltimore closer George Sherrill, who is very tough on left handed hitters and has closing experience. The veteran will be tough to land though because of the price that Orioles president Andy MacPhail has hung on him.
So let's review what I posted this afternoon. The headline of the post says "Can it be? Are the Tigers after Milton Bradley? The post talks about the rumor and ends this way: I will be working my baseball sources for more on this rumor but if it is indeed true the Cubs need to make that deal ASAP!
So from that post and Stone's Twitter everyone jumps to the conclusion that the deal is imminent. After talking with various people around the Cubs and Tigers we find out that the deal is simply just a rumor and is not going to happen. In fact, Stone even Tweeted from Detroit that Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski said he wouldn't want Bradley on his team.
So how did a rumor which happens all of the time take off so quickly? Perhaps because people are so desperate to see Bradley in another uniform they ran with a rumor that it turned out had no substance to it. Whatever the reason is it really doesn't matter. The Tigers aren't interested in trading for Milton Bradley and it appears he will be the Cubs RF for the forseeable future.
Both sources say that the Tigers have scouted Bradley and are interested depending on how much of his contract the Cubs are willing to eat. Here is the remaining money left on Bradley's deal which depending on certain clauses has two more years left on it.
I believe that Bradley is a much better player than he has shown so far during his brief time in a Cubs uniform but I also believe that the Cubs would be better off trading him and starting over in right field. If he is moved it opens up all sorts of possibilities because then Lou Piniella could put Kosuke Fukudome back in his natural position of RF and platoon Sam Fuld and Reed Johnson in center. The Cubs could also make a run at Nationals outfielder Adam Dunn who is putting up big numbers on a last place team and is on the trading block but one scout who is here at the game today just told me that he would never want Dunn on his team because he does not think he is a winning type of player. He also told me that the Red Sox passed on signing Dunn because they were concerned how he would fit in the high pressure environment of Boston. The scout also said that defensively Dunn would be a horrific fit in right field at Wrigley.
I will be working my baseball sources for more on this rumor but if it is indeed true the Cubs need to make that deal ASAP!
Lilly is being disabled because of tendinitis in his throwing shoulder but he will also have arthroscopic knee surgery on Monday to clean up a problem that has caused him discomfort for a while. He is expected to be sidelined for approximately three weeks.
Here is a list of relievers who will be free agents at the end of the 2009 season. Some of these names will be of no interest to the Cubs and some will be unavailable for various reasons. However, regardless of how difficult the task might be to accomplish Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry has to find a way to upgrade his bullpen so that he gives Lou Piniella the ability to mix and match down the stretch of tight ball games.
In addition, if Lilly is gone for an extended amount of time that could severely hamstring the starting rotation and force Hendry to have to add another starter. Forget about Roy Halladay because the Cubs don't have the package of players necessary to get him from Toronto plus with the ownership situation so unsettled they cannot take on the type of money that Halladay makes and will make in the future.
Two names on the Arizona roster that could have great appeal to Hendry are reliever Chad Qualls and former White Sox starter Jon Garland who is a former #1 draft pick of the Cubs. Qualls is in high demand from most of the teams in contention but Garland, while not a top of the rotation guy could be serviceable in Lilly's absence. He also has a very manageable contract that is up at the end of this season and contains a mutual option for 2010. Should Hendry choose just to upgrade his bullpen he needs to give Piniella at least one solid lefty that can be used against the elite left handed hitters the Cubs will face the rest of the season.
Three lefty's that can be had without giving up a ton in return are Joe Beimel of the Washington Nationals, John Grabow of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and former Cub Scott Downs who is pitching for the Toronto Blue Jays. Downs is a fairly attractive option but Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi has been telling other general managers that he wants to get the Roy Halladay deal done before he looks at other moves.
Pitching coach Larry Rothschild has rearranged the starting rotation to compensate for the loss of Lilly by moving Kevin Hart up to start today's game, Rich Harden goes tomorrow, Carlos Zambrano goes Monday night, and Ryan Dempster returns from the DL on Tuesday evening. Randy Wells will pitch Wednesday and Kevin Hart will conclude the homestand on Thursday afternoon against the Astros.
SIGHT SEEN....Carlos Zambrano and many of the Cubs pitchers took part in their pre game running from foul line to foul line accompanied by Zambrano's new dog, "Little Z" who is a Sharpei that is 10 weeks old. The dog was a big hit in the clubhouse before the game, especially when Zambrano dressed the dog in a t-shirt and hat.
Without being able to add a big money type of player what can Hendry do to improve his rotation which has dealt with disabling injuries to both Ryan Dempster and now Ted Lilly? Let's take a look at the starting pitchers who will be free agents to be following the 2009 season:
Brandon Backe HOU
Miguel Batista SEA
Josh Beckett * BOS
Erik Bedard SEA
Daniel Cabrera WAS
Bartolo Colon CWS
Jose Contreras CWS
Doug Davis ARZ
Justin Duchscherer OAK
Adam Eaton BAL
Kelvim Escobar LAA
Jon Garland * ARZ
Tom Glavine ATL
Mike Hampton HOU
Rich Harden CHC
Tim Hudson * ATL
Randy Johnson SF
John Lackey LAA
Cliff Lee * CLE
Braden Looper * MIL
Jason Marquis COL
Kevin Millwood * TEX
Brett Myers PHI
Vicente Padilla * TEX
Carl Pavano CLE
Brad Penny BOS
Odalis Perez WAS
Andy Pettitte NYY
Joel Pineiro STL
Sidney Ponson KC
Jason Schmidt LAD
John Smoltz BOS
Jarrod Washburn SEA
Brandon Webb * ARZ
Todd Wellemeyer STL
This list is courtesy of Cot's baseball contracts and the complete list of free agents can be found here.
So, what would you buy with limited dollars and needs in the bullpen, on offense, and possibly now in the rotation? I'd love your thoughts for my trade deadline show that will air next week on Sports Central on WGN Radio.
Tom Ricketts has been in New York meeting with MLB officials as well as with banks involved in financing the deal. However, the transaction is so complex that it is taking much longer to finish than was once expected. It is still believed to be on track to head to the bankruptcy court for approval but there are still several steps to complete before that hurdle is reached.
Don't look for Tom Ricketts to be in a position of saying yes or no to a major trade acquisition by the July 31 non waiver trade deadline. Until the deal is in the hands of baseball's other owners Ricketts does not have authority to get involved in management decisions. However, you can bet that the Cubs will not take on a large amount of payroll without someone who would be responsible for the money owed down the road saying yes or no.
The Utay group has not been formally told they are out which is smart business by the Tribune Co. because should anything fall through with the Ricketts family they have to have a backup plan. But a very good source in baseball told me this morning that he would be stunned if the Ricketts deal fell through.
Tom Ricketts is trying to bring the deal to completion and will not be too worried about things going on with the club until he is formally handed control. We will update this story tonight on Sports Central.
The Cubs are getting ready to play game two of their four game series against the St. Louis Cardinals at 3:05 and they have just completed batting practice at the Friendly Confines. After looking at the numbers, past history and trends I am ready to make a prediction on today's game.
Look for Alfonso Soriano to have a big day as he is starting to square the ball up better and I have a feeling that he will hit very well against Cardinals starter Brad Thompson. I have been very critical of Soriano who is mired in a horrific slump but if this Cubs team is going to turn things around and make a run at another playoff appearance he must hit well. I have Soriano getting three hits and taking one out of the ballpark as the Cubs will win 6-2.
Also, if you missed the news Sam Fuld has been recalled to take Geovany Soto's roster spot as he has been placed on the 15 day DL with an oblique strain. GM Jim Hendry is also actively looking to add a backup catcher who is solid defensively. His offensive skills are not as much of a priority but he has to be able to call a game and throw enough to discourage a team from running on him with reckless abandon.
Ryan Dempster's injury could cause real problems for the Cubs if he is out as much as 5 weeks which some folks around the Cubs are fearing. Kevin Hart pitched okay in yesterday's loss to the Braves but while Atlanta scored only 1 run in 5 innings off of him and only had 4 hits he did walk 5 which will be unacceptable against the better offensive teams the Cubs still have left on their schedule.
I know Dempster's injury was a freak thing but he has to be smarter than that knowing how important he is to the club. He was a 17 game winner a year ago and he is one of the leaders of this club off the field and to have him out really hamstrings the pitching staff.
If Hart is not able to adequately fill in then the next option is Sean Marshall which would leave the Cubs with exactly no left handed set up man to use in a key situation in the latter innings of a close ballgame.
Could the Mets seriously have interest in trading for Milton Bradley? If I was an owner and my GM came to me about approving a deal for Bradley I would tell him absolutely not. I would not want a guy like Milton Bradley on my roster at any cost.
However, according to the article, Omar Minaya, the GM of the Mets, wants to add another bat to his team and with the health of Carlos Beltran in question and not much available without parting with their best prospects, Bradley could be on their radar screen.
Cubs Notes....Reliever Jose Ascanio has been sent back to Class AAA Iowa and right hander Jeff Samardzija has been recalled.....Sports Illustrated has come out with a poll of 380 major leaguers who were asked: What manager would you least like to play for? Lou Piniella came in first with 26% , Ozzie Guillen was second with 21%, Tony La Russa was third.
With Aramis Ramirez headed out on a rehab assignment on Thursday and looking to return to the Cubs everyday lineup next Monday it should change GM Jim Hendry's needs as the front office determines what moves they need to make before the July 31st trading deadline.
Do you add a utility type player who can fill in both in the infield and the outfield? Do you look to add a player who could potentially play everyday somewhere? What about improving the pitching staff?
Here is what my panel of experts told me yesterday as we continue our look at the 2009 Cubs:
Yes, I am as frustrated as anyone by the performance of the Cubs this season but we do need to keep their performance so far in perspective.
After today's 6-5 loss to the Detroit Tigers their record is 34-35 but that lackluster performance has them just 1 game out in the loss column and just 3 1/2 games out in the NL Central.
The blame for the Cubs poor play has to fall squarely on the shoulders of Alfonso Soriano, Milton Bradley, Geovany Soto, and the rest of the offense that has woefully underperformed.
By giving some of his stars a night off Lou Piniella is looking at the big picture down the road rather than worrying about winning the smaller battles. With Alfonso Soriano dealing with a troublesome knee he was given Monday off entirely and Milton Bradley was limited to just a pinch hitting appearance. However, the Cubs couldn't get to Atlanta starter Javier Vasquez who scattered a ton of hits but surrendered nary a run in a 2-0 Braves victory.
In looking at this team and evaluating their off season moves it is becoming obvious that to this point in the season not much from the winter has gone right. The signing of Bradley has been a dismal failure so far as has the signing of Aaron Miles and the trading of Mark DeRosa. Letting Kerry Wood leave via free agency has not been the problem that many thought it might be but Kevin Gregg is far from a lock down closer himself.
One move that is flying under the radar is the decision to let Casey McGehee go. He is playing well in a backup role in Milwaukee and he could have been a solid insurance policy for Aramis Ramirez at third base. Jim Hendry thought McGehee had a slow bat and elected to get rid of him despite Lou Piniella wanting him to have a spot on the roster. McGehee is hitting .349 for the Brewers in limited duty but he would have been a far better option at the hot corner than Mike Fontenot has been, especially offensively.
The trade of Jason Marquis looks worse every day that he keeps winning for the Rockies as he currently leads the National League in wins with 9. Whether he can keep that pace up remains to be seen but when you pay roughly 5 million dollars to get rid of him, and you have nothing on your roster to show for that move, (after the release of Luis Vizcaino) that is a problem.
Hendry has won three division titles in his six full seasons on the job and he has obviously made some tremendous moves. But if this Cubs team doesn't kick it into gear soon the winter leading into 2009 will not be looked at as a successful one.
The Boston Globe reported late Thursday that the Cubs and Rays both scouted Pedro Martinez at a throwing session he had in the Dominican Republic. Why would the Cubs want to spend the few available dollars that they have to spend on an aging starting pitcher? Their rotation leads the major leagues in ERA and their offense is struggling mightily. Take the cash and try to find a player that can multiple positions, play third until Aramis Ramirez comes off of the DL, and can drive in some runs on an offensively starved team. Oh, wait we had that guy....his name is Mark DeRosa.
However, a very well placed source who I spoke with this afternoon told me that he believes that one of two things will probably happen over the next 30-60 days. Either the terms of the sale will be agreed to promptly and it will then head to the bankruptcy court for their clearance before Major League Baseball gives their approval or the creditors of the Tribune Company could assume control of the company.
If that happens then the creditors can either keep Sam Zell and his management team in place while they call the shots on the day to day operations of the company or they can remove Zell and his team and run the company with their own people.
Should that happen then you might see the sale price of the team go down as the creditors look to get what they can so that they are not forced to run a baseball team that they know nothing about.
Whatever happens, it appears according to the baseball sources I spoke with today that there is no chance the team will make a marquee acquisition before the July 31 trade deadline.
There could be a tweak here or there but forget about Jake Peavy or another big ticket item calling Wrigley Field their home. That means guys like Alfonso Soriano, Milton Bradley, and Geovany Soto had better pick it up and Aramis Ramirez' shoulder has to return to full strength so that the Cubs have his clutch bat in the middle of their lineup.
While the Cubs would love to be active participants at the July trade deadline it appears that they will be forced to play a much smaller role than they might want because of the ownership situation which has pretty much tied GM Jim Hendry's hands.
Look for the Cubs to try to acquire a bullpen arm or two with finding a situational lefty a priority. As for adding another bat that appears to be a tougher thing to fit into the budget although two Major League sources told me that there have been some discussions about Mark DeRosa but for that to happen the Cubs would have to move significant young talent to Cleveland and be willing to admit that they made a mistake when they traded him away.
Personally, I think the smartest thing Jim Hendry could do would be to trade for DeRosa and add a lefty out of the pen. DeRosa's addition would energize the club and give Lou Piniella some flexibility both in the infield and on the outfield corners. He would also be a great presence in the clubhouse and that can never be underestimated.
As for a left-handed reliever, Hendry wants a guy who has a proven track record against left handed hitters and would settle for a guy who Lou Piniella would probably only use for one or two hitters a night. He already has Sean Marshall who can face multiple hitters and pitch significant innings but he is craving a solid situational LH pitcher.
Forget the talk about Jake Peavy coming to the Cubs. Unless the ownership situation is cleared up fairly quickly the Cubs will be hard pressed to add significant salary to their payroll. Here are the terms of Peavy's contract (courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts):
The Cubs head into an off day after winning two out of three games in Cincinnati over the weekend. While winning a series is key the club has to be looking back at Saturday's loss knowing they let a chance for a sweep get away. How much longer can Jim Hendry go without adding a significant bat to the lineup and if you add one where do you play him?
A year ago the Cubs were considered one of the best teams in baseball and rolled to a 97 win regular season before their three game implosion to the Dodgers.
A year later the lineup looks radically different in terms of productivity and I wonder if you gave the other GM's of any team in contention a chance to add any position player the Cubs have to their everyday lineup just who they would want.
The Cleveland Indians have had ex-Cub Mark DeRosa on the trading block for the past couple of weeks as he will be a free agent at the end of the 2009 season and they have no intention of re-signing him to a new contract.
While he would look great in a Cubs uniform especially with Aramis Ramirez on the DL for at least another month don't expect that deal to happen because the Cubs have zero room to add salary until their ownership situation is resolved.
Check this story out from the Indians website which is sure to send shivers up the spine of Cubs fans everywhere. The thought of Mark DeRosa playing for the arch rival Cardinals and driving in runs against the Cubs could make a Cubs-Cardinals series an even more intense experience than it already is.
Here's hoping that Jim Hendry is given the greenlight to make a few moves to upgrade the club over the next 4-6 weeks which should coincide with Ramirez's return and give the Cubs a real shot in the arm as they head into the second half of the season.
Lost among all of the feel good stories being written about the Blackhawks great run in the Stanley Cup playoffs is the fact that the franchise has some serious salary cap problems that must be addressed immediately. After the 2010 season is concluded the Hawks will have to address new contracts for Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith. Figuring that each player will land a deal worth a minimum of 6 million dollars per season puts the Hawks in a tough spot concerning the hard salary cap that the NHL instituted a few years ago.
Figure a minimum of 18 million for those three, 7.2 million per year for Brian Campbell (he signed a huge deal in the summer of 2008), Patrick Sharp (3.9), Dustin Byfuglien (3.0), Brent Seabrook (3.5), and Cristobal Huet (5.625). Add that up and you have spent approximately 42 million dollars for just 8 players. The salary cap is projected to be around 56 million dollars or less in 2010-11 which means that the Hawks will have roughly 14 million dollars to spend on 15 players. Add in the fact that you will have to re-sign Dave Bolland, Kris Versteeg, Cam Barker, and a handful of others and you can see that a big name who is currently on the roster won't be here after next season.
The Hawks are in better position for next season salary wise and that is why they are trying to re-sign Martin Havlat and are considering a short term offer to Nikolai Habibulin when the team could add some salary to make a run at the Stanley Cup by adding some high priced veterans on 1 year deals.
The problems are not here yet but they are right around the corner so look for GM Dale Tallon to make a proactive move by shedding some salary this summer to put his franchise in a better position for the future.
Let's see....where should I start? The Zambrano meltdown? The Blackhawks elimination from the Stanley Cup playoffs? Derrick Rose's name being linked to an NCAA scandal at Memphis? The Jake Peavy rumors that continue to link both Chicago teams to the superstar pitcher?
Let's start with the Derrick Rose story that was broken by the Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper.
The Cubs made several roster moves today in an effort at jump starting the club after they snapped an 8 game losing streak in a rain shortened affair at Wrigley Field last night.
Sent down were pitcher Neal Cotts and infielder Bobby Scales and IF Aaron Miles was placed on the 15-day DL. Recalled were SS Andres Blanco, LH reliever Jason Waddell, and hitting star Jake Fox who was hitting .423 in Class AAA.
My sources tell me that Hendry continues to scour the major leagues for a trade that could solidify third base with Aramis Ramirez gone for probably another 4 weeks.
Aubrey Huff of the Baltimore Orioles is a player who is available and could fill in at other spots when Ramirez returns. He has more RBI's than anyone on the Cubs roster and his bat would be a welcome addition to a team that has struggled to score runs.
Look for Jake Fox to get a solid opportunity to earn a spot in the libeup and he immediately paid dividends with a ringing double in the 8th inning of today's win over the Pirates.
Ryan Freel pulled his hamstring today and he looks like a candidate for the DL. That probably means Bobby Scales is headed back to Chicago to take Freel's spot on the roster.
Also, talk around the major leagues is that Mark DeRosa is definitely being made available by the Indians and that the Brewers have some interest if they cannot fill Rickie Weeks position internally over the next couple of weeks.
With their 8th loss in a row now in the books panic is starting to creep into the Cubs clubhouse. While all involved agree that the Cubs have a lot of talent on the roster it is also evident that this is a team that has some glaring weaknesses.
First, defensively they are less than adequate. They have no legitimate, everday 2nd baseman on a championship level club. They are trying to fill in at 3rd with either a player who is too short to play the position (Fontenot and Miles), a player who the Baltimore Orioles so wanted to get rid of that Andy MacPhail is paying ALL of Ryan Freel's salary, or a player who as of a month ago had never played in the big leagues - Bobby Scales.
The bullpen is a huge problem as the Cubs really have only 1 lockdown reliever in Carlos Marmol, a youngster who is getting better in Angel Guzman, and very mediocre pitchers in setup man Aaron Heilman and closer Kevin Gregg. Neal Cotts does not belong on this team nor does David Patton who may be solid down the road but currently is far too inexperienced to be forced to help a subpar bullpen.
While much of the trade talk in the media has centered on Jake Peavy who wants to pitch for the Cubs the prudent thing to do would be to add a bat and at least one bullpen arm. I wonder what it would take to re-acquire Mark DeRosa and struggling closer Kerry Wood from Cleveland who is in last place in the AL Central.
DeRosa gives you another bat, a clubhouse presence and something that the Cubs sorely need, a 3rd baseman until Aramis Ramirez comes back. Wood, while he has had his struggles returns to a more comfortable setting and could give the club a shot in the arm and change the locker room dynamic.
Major League sources tell me that GM Jim Hendry is desperately looking to add a hitter and is calling around both leagues with a real sense of urgency. Oakland's Matt Holliday is available but he is a LF so if you add him that means that Alfonso Soriano must move to 2nd base and that would weaken an already suspect Cubs defense.
I would call Texas and see if I could add SS Omar Vizquel and I would move Ryan Theriot to 2b where he could be an all star. Vizquel improves the team's defense and that should help relax the pitching staff. Then I would call Cleveland and beg them to trade me DeRosa.
Two other names that are rumored to interest Hendry are the Florida Marlins Dan Uggla and Jorge Cantu. Both are excellent hitters but Cantu has had his struggles at both 2b and 3b before moving to 1b this season. Uggla is coming off of back to back excellent offensive season with 30+ HR's in 2008 but he is hitting just .205 so far in 09'.
Whatever Hendry does it is sure to be interesting over the next couple of weeks but whatever he does he better do it quickly before his team's season slips away.
While there is still no resolution on the proposed Jake Peavy deal to the White Sox there are several interesting factors at play here that must be considered as to why Peavy wouldn't approve the trade. First, Peavy knows that the National League is easier to pitch in than the American League. There's no DH in the NL, he has a comfort zone knowing the hitters and the teams, and he holds all the cards. He has a no trade clause for a reason. He gets to determine where he will play, period!
I spoke with his agent, Barry Axelrod regarding the deal and he told me that Jake wants to pitch in the NL and he is in no hurry to make a decision. He will wait out the next several weeks as he watches to see who expresses interest in him and then he and his agent will make a decision on what they want to do.
Look for the Cubs to re-evaluate their position if they suffer no more major injuries and don't have a significant need to upgrade their team in another area. They don't want to use up their remaining trading chips to strengthen an area that they are already set at. Should the sale of the club to Tom Ricketts get finalized fairly soon then the new owner could make his first signature acquisition by landing Peavy. Time will tell how this one will play out.
There have been several reports this morning that the White Sox are close to completing a deal for San Diego right-hander Jake Peavy.
The deal, these reports say, is only contingent on Peavy waiving his no-trade clause.
Well, I spoke to a source very close to Peavy shortly after 9 a.m. today who told me nobody from the Padres organization has asked Peavy or his representatives to waive his no-trade clause.
According to my source, Peavy wants to stay in the National League and he would factor in this desire if he is asked to approve a trade to an American League team.