Cubs Sveum has his hands tied for now

Cubs Sveum has his hands tied for now

This rebuilding plan can’t be easy yet for Cubs manager Dale Sveum.

Not because he doesn’t want to oversee a rebuilding project, he signed up for that.

It’s playing guys that he may not want to really play for the sake of propping up their non-existent trade value. There are times that you can see this eating at him, and he gives the media just enough of a glimpse to confirm it.

I felt for him when he had to publicly back Marlon Byrd. Now I feel for him when he has to bring in Carlos Marmol to close out a game while he would rather hand the ball to someone else.

Geovany Soto is another obvious case of a guy that he would rather not write into his line up. He can't do that yet, just in case Soto breaks out of it and the Cubs can dump him ASAP.

The pained look on Sveum’s face in Sunday’s ninth inning was on display for everyone while Marmol was doing his best Mitch Williams impersonation. Can’t the Cubs ever have a closer that throws strikes?

While Marmol was walking the lead off man with a five run lead, I was happy for Sveum that he has already lost all his hair. You could tell Sveum was going to yank him if he lost Shane Victorino. Sveum confirmed that to the press after the game.

 Had Victorino reached, Sveum said Marmol would've been gone. James Russell was warming up.

"He's going to be a high pitch count guy," Sveum said of Marmol. "Obviously you don't want to see that kind of stress. That's what he is, and that's what you have to understand and be patient with. There's only so much you can be patient with."

Sveum has also raved about catchers Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger, while just saying Soto is still the guy.

We get it Dale.

 Sveum said he plans to give Castillo more playing time than Clevenger ‘‘because he’s an every-day catcher that’s caught all the time every day, a guy that can swing the bat as well and a guy that’s been playing well and can stop a running game.’’

Sounds like the guy Sveum raved about in spring training as someone capable of starting in the big leagues.

‘‘But,’’ Sveum stressed, ‘‘Soto’s still the every-day guy.’’

‘‘It’s been inconsistent,’’ Sveum said of Soto’s track record. ‘‘But the home runs are still there, and the on-base percentage is still there. Sometimes when a guy has a rookie season like he did, we kind of put a scale on that too much and [need to] understand that the league knows how to pitch him better than they did then and all those kind of things.’’

Not exactly a ringing endorsement for Soto, but it’s still too early to make that change. Theo and Jed have to try and get something for Marmol and Soto just like they did with Byrd. You know like the one where the Cubs had to eat Byrd's entire salary to take a flyer on a guy who was DFA’d.

You probably aren’t going to do much better for Marmol or Soto.

So far what you did get was a team that looks and has performed better since dealing Byrd. That is not to mention a look at what has been a real bright spot in Tony Camapana.

Let’s hope we are talking about Castillo and Rafael Dolis in the same manner soon.

I gather Sveum does too.




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  • I'm guessing he knew this going in. Managers are day to day guys and they want to play the guys who give them the best chance to win everyday. As fans, we pretty much want the same thing.

    It's up to the front office guys to make sure the team's long term interests aren't being sacrificed in order to win now.

    Loved Castillo's laser throw to 2nd to gun down Pierre and I want to see him play everyday (he will by next year, if not the end of this year) and I can't wait to have Jackson and Rizzo up as well. Even just seeing Campana in there or Dolis getting the save the other day makes the team better and more fun to watch, but at the same time, I understand that they have to do what they have to do.

    I'm thinking, or at least hoping,we'll start to see more permanent changes after the all star break.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Totally agree. It is interesting that Sveum is starting to show how he feels a little bit at a time. I also just wonder how long this will last? Those guys don't have a ton of value and I don't expect it to change too much.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    I agree, though I will say that I have more faith that Soto's value can change for the better than Marmol's. True starting catchers are rare commodities and if he can be a 2-3 WAR catcher like originally projected, he'll be worth something at his relatively low salary.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Ignoring whether this is fair to the fans who pay to come to a game or invest their time to enjoy a 3 hour gem get ruined by a closer who can't throw a strike, does it even make sense as a medium/long term strategy? Which opposing GM is going to be fooled by the theatre of it? How much damage does it do to your effort to build a culture of winning? How well is any player going to perform when he knows he's just put out there to try to pump up his market value?

    Maybe it makes sense. I honestly don't know. But it's hard for me to see the benefits of risking a hard fought win in hand in the hope of maybe getting a slightly better trade in value some day.

  • In reply to walrus310:

    Those are all good points and I think if those guys continue playing like this, they'll cut bait. I don't think April is the time, though. I think they'll get another month or so to straighten things out before they just start dumping guys. I'm looking forward to the day that Soriano and Marmol...and even Soto is gone like everyone else, but the minute you bench them, what little value they have is gone. You may as well waive them.

  • Just so unlucky ALL these guys are off to such bad starts. Wasn't Byrd sub .100 when we dealt him? (Definitely not since.) Soto under the Mendoza line, Soriano without a homerun. Marmol's good when he gets the ball over the plate (.263 BABIP, .231 opp average), but the walks are killing him.

    If it's true Soriano rejected a trade to Baltimore because he only wanted to go to a contender, I wonder if he'd reconsider with their hot start. That's assuming Baltimore would even still want him.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    It's crazy that all the guys they'd like to have traded, the guys whom we thought would have some value --Byrd, Soto, Marmol...have all been terrible this year.

    The good thing is it's April and we really need Soto and Marmol to play better. Maybe they can pull a Ryne Sandberg, who never seemed to get going until the calendar flipped to May.

  • Now Cubs Den has moved into mind reading: I was just thinking the other day "I wonder what the John / Tom take on Sveum is?" after I was defending him to a knuckleheaded and impatient fellow Cubs fan. You guys are scary good at your jobs!

  • In reply to Ryno2Grace:

    Haha! Thanks! And if our mind reading technique fails us and there's ever something you want us to write about, let us know either through comment or email.

    It's going to be a tough year for Sveum, but this is what he signed up for. Once the front office clears the decks, Sveum will get more freedom and we'll see the younger players more often. Considering the different mindset of a manager and a front office at this stage, I think they've done a decent job of juggling these guys.

  • In reply to Ryno2Grace:

    Thanks Ryno, but you don't have to be a mind reader to read between the lines, listen to his comments. Is it speculation? Probably but it's my opinion.

  • In reply to Ryno2Grace:

    BTW, keep defending him. I think he is going to be a really good one.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Thanks Tom! I plan to keep defending him. You just get that sense that this guy thinks about and then actions all the necessary minutae that gets you to a W rather than an L much more than our previous 3 managers. While I think that is a quality that my "namesake" Ryne Sandberg also would have brought to the table as our skipper, I was concerned that he wouldn't have been able to grit his teeth during the early "deck clearing" phase that Team Theo was going to ask of any manager like Sveum has so far been able to.
    Also agree with Carne that we have just had horrible luck so far this year.......

  • "scary good" is right...they are 2 steps ahead of the tribune website, and we don't have to suffer through the ego's of Paul Sullivan to get what we want to know. Fantastic!

  • In reply to copinblue:

    Thanks copinblue!

  • In reply to copinblue:


  • You bring up a good point about trade value(s). The most disheartening thing about this season, to date, has to be the realization that we're unlikely to get much of anything for either Marmol and Soto, even if there is marked improvement in their performance , before the deadline. I would expect virtually n

  • I'd expect almost nothing for Marmol and MAYBE a B prospect for Soto, if his performance were to improve a bit. I think we were all hoping that they might be able to add significant parts to the rebuilding efforts.
    Here's another question on the same general topic: would we significantly improve a return on Garza if we dealt him at, say, the beginning of June , rather than at the deadline. I think NYY and TOR will be interested along with maybe LAD-if they stay competitive. Given the organization's current talent shortfall, I think it's increasingly likely that he's moved.

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    Let's see what happens in May. If Soto starts a streak and gets his average back into the .270s with a little pop, then people will forget about his bad April. We've already seen Byrd start to hit better. It's tempting to think these guys are done, but it's a bad month and they're still relatively young.

  • In Soto's case, it's tough to see which competitive teams will provide a viable marketplace for him.
    I'd agree that he has at least a chance at rehabbing his trade value before the deadline.
    John, do you have any updated info-from your sources- on management's current feelings on Garza?

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    I don't know anything new. The last time I spoke to anyone, the impression I got is that other teams want to value Garza as something like a 3rd starter -- and one with 2 yrs of cost control.

    If that doesn't change, he isn't going anywhere because you won't get proper value back. My feeling is if they can sign him to a reasonable deal, they'll do that but if someone steps up to the plate with a serious offer, they'll still listen.

  • I'd love for Marmol and Soto to regain some trade value. They should have been traded at their peaks as part of a rebuild two years ago, along with Marlon Byrd and DLee. If Hendry would have recognized the state of the team back then and begun a rebuild, then in a best case scenario he could have gone down as the puppet master of the team that eventually won a World Series. The rebuild would be two years ahead of schedule and he'd have traded Marmol, Byrd, DLee and Soto all at high value for young prospects/players.
    We don't know if Castillo/Clevenger are viable MLB starters, and they're 26/25 years old. They're old enough that they should have logged MLB innings before now. Knowledge is power and the Cubs aren't sure what they have in these two. The same goes for Bryan LaHair, who should also have been brought up much sooner. LaHair didn't just begin destroying AAA pitching in 2011. In 2008 with the Cubs' AAA team he hit 12 HRs in 86 games and drew an amazing 45 walks; in 2009 he belted 26 HRs and drew 45 walks in only 121 games; and in 2010 he belted 25 HRs and drew 51 walks in only 125 games. That he's a 29 year old rookie is not his fault, it's Hendry's.
    At least with Soto, I am optimistic that he will bounce back and start hitting again. His defense looks fine, he's still drawing walks, and I think once he gets past this cold streak he'll bank a little trade value. However with Marmol, I'm worried we're looking at yet another sunk cost. He's 30 years old and was grossly overused by Pinella/Quade. His slider just doesn't have the consistant bite it used to have, and I suspect that it's because he's running on fumes. Maybe he can tweak his wacky mechanics and regain a smidgen of control. Right now I think opposing batters are insane not to stand there with their bats on their shoulders and make Marmol prove he can throw three strikes in seven pitches. My prediction: Soto rebounds and is traded for a really good prospect; and Marmol becomes a sunk cost.

  • In reply to baseballet:

    I've been a little worried about Marmol's slider as well. The velocity is back, but that nasty, unhittable slider he used to have doesn't look quite the same.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    You nailed it John. Yesterday he had one swing and miss with 34 pitches. For the season he has 12 swing and misses in 178 pitches. Those are middle reliever 88 mph nibble on the corners numbers, not hard throwing relief pitchers. I have resigned myself that this is not going to end well. I think Sveum has also.

  • I think you can add Soriano to that list. I'd say yesterdays lineup would be Sveum's ideal one, excepting RF. I'd personally rather see Mather play more in LF. I know Soriano can get hot, but he is on the wrong side of the performance curve. His only positive development this year is his willingness to go the other way when he looks for a slider. But that will not yield anything more than a bunch of singles...if he keeps that discipline.

    Have to move Marmol to setup in meaningless games. This guy has to get his confidence back before he sees another 9th inning....if ever.

  • In reply to Cubswin4harry:

    I agree and doubt Soriano, Soto, Marmol, would get PT if it were strictly up to the skipper.

  • I'm fine with Soto getting the shot to battle through a slump. I'm not okay with Soriano and Marmol though. To build trade value, you have to convince other teams that something has clicked and these old dogs are not learning any new tricks. There is a small chance with Marmol since his velocity is somewhat back, but the walks have been there his whole career and he pretty much is who he is. The same goes for Soriano. Even if he were to tear it up over a long stretch, teams will chalk it up to being one of his patented hot streaks.
    I don't see there being much chance by the trade deadline to build either of their values. I agree that they are both sunk costs. Benching them might make them more likely to get traded. Soriano may accept a trade easier if that were the case. Or keep them in and get a better draft pick. As Harry mentioned, Mather in LF would be great, and Marmol should be watching a lot more games from the bullpen to see how a real closer works.

  • In reply to Break The Curse:

    I think you're right about Soriano. He's not going to fool anyone with a hot streak, he's done it before -- including last April.

    The Cubs will have to pay nearly all of that salary to get rid of him and even then it won't be easy.

    I remember when the Cubs were trying to dump an aging, rapidly declining Sosa. In fact, their numbers and age the year before getting traded are eerily similar. They wound up getting 2 utility players in return in Jerry Hairston and Mike Fontenot (which was actually a pretty good trade under the circumstances).

    I'd take that kind of deal in a heartbeat.

  • In reply to Break The Curse:

    Great comments Curse!

  • As a fan the Cubs are so much more fun to watch without Soriano, Soto, and Marmol in the game. I believe the Cubs will up eating most of those contracts.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Eventually it will happen, at least as far as Soriano and Marmol are concerned. Nobody will pay their contracts.

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    Good article Tom. I think you really nailed it.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Why thank you Michael! I really am just sensing he is frustrated and can't wait until this thing is fully under way. It should be fun.

  • How much power do you guys think Sveum has with his starting lienups? I mean it has got to be hard to throw out Soriano everyday... Is something like that the front offices saying you have to play this guy and hope he hits homers so we can something back for him

  • Well, Rod Beck made it a few years as a stopper, long after his stuff had abandoned him. Maybe Marmol will learn to be resourceful like Shooter was.

    But I think that it's more than building value for guys like him and Soriano. It's also that the front office wants to see who deserves a chance to take over at those positions full time. At the moment there is neither an obvious successor in left nor in the closer's role. So with Soriano and Marmol, you're just biding time till another player steps up. Worst-case scenario, no one steps up, and you dump those guys anyway. Nothing to lose.

    There may also be a slight political factor. What if the Cubs dump them both, and then the light suddenly goes on for one of those players, such that he becomes a major contributor for another team, while the Cubs continue to scuffle along? That'll look bad for the front office, which would be effectively paying those guys to excel for other teams. No, Theo and Jed want to make sure that if they dump Marmol and Soriano, it's because those two truly have nothing left in the tank. That's good management.

  • In reply to Taft:

    Well said, Taft. Agree 100% here.

  • You would think at this point Soriano may want a fresh start too. I am sure he has a lot of pride and it can't be easy on him with the obvious disdain Cubs fans have for him. Is it possible since he has 0 value the Cubs could work out a buyout for him. Like them paying something like $43-45 million of the $50 million owed to him. Then he can go and pick his team. And the Cubs save a few million over the next couple yrs. Is something like that even legal?

  • The Mets are paying Bobby Bonilla 25 equal payments of $1,193,248.20 every July 1 from 2011 until 2035. So... if Sori will take deferred money then yeah.

  • In reply to eaton53:

    Really? That is insane. I just think the Cubs and Sori have to know the time has came. Something needs to be done soon in my opinion.

  • In reply to JR Cubbies:

    And players hate deferred money for some reason... why, I don't know.
    I think it's pretty smart to get paid a mil a year till you're in your 70's.

  • In reply to eaton53:

    One reason players hate deferred money is that their agents hate deferred money, or at least tell them to hate deferred money. The 1 mil Bonilla is paid in 2020 will not be worth the 1 mil Bonilla is paid this year, because of inflation. Also, it is probably easier to invest money (in order to make even more money) if one can invest several mil instead of several hunderd thousand.

    Not that I am an economist, but a couple years econ at the UofC has infested my brain, and I don't have an antidote.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    Easier to invest or more likely... lose it all!! We see it happen all the time.
    Not so likely if you're still getting paid. I look at as insurance against someone swindling me out of my money or me just doing something stupid, like opening restaurants.

  • In reply to eaton53:

    Well the contract can't be broken, so if you were Soriano, would you rather have $54mm over the next three years, or have it spread out over a longer time?

    The Cubs are screwed on this one, it's either cut him and pay him, or keep him and pay him, or trade him and pay him to play somewhere else.

    My guess is that they'll end up cutting him next year because his WAR won't justify even having him on the 25 man. Let's face it, I think we'd all rather see a prospect playing instead of Soriano. Other GM's will feel the same way, so a trade becomes increasingly unlikely. He's not a draw at the ticket even a small market team has no incentive to take him.

  • In reply to Cubswin4harry:

    But maybe it helps to just think about it this way: they paid him $136mm for 4 years of service from 2007-2010. Then they got to spread the payments out over 8 years!

  • In reply to Cubswin4harry:

    That is exactly why they can't trade him even if they pay almost all the money. He is a negative WAR player. Every team has outfielders in the minors that can produce what Soriano can today. I have know doubt that Mather and Sappelt would be more productive if given the same chances.

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