Here's a few odds and ends as we wait for the Cubs to try and take game 2 in Mobile Telephone Company Ballpark...
- In his latest article, Ken Rosenthal writes, "Don’t rule out the possibility of the Cubs trading second baseman Darwin Barney rival clubs frequently ask about Barney, but none has offered value that the Cubs consider sufficient for a regular second baseman. Barney might end up more of a utility type. Both Tom and I have talked to non-Cubs baseball people and we've gotten the vibe that he's a well-respected ballplayer around the league. He's not going to dazzle you with tools or big numbers, but he'll give you good middle infield defense and he'll hit enough to not be a liability in your lineup. I think if you're a contending team with a hole at SS or 2B, you can do a heck of a lot worse than Darwin Barney. On a team with a strong lineup, you can definitely live with some sub-par offense considering everything else he brings to the table. On the other hand, Barney is an asset to the Cubs in that he's a young, inexpensive starting infielder. His smart play is a steadying influence for Starlin Castro as he continues to learn the nuances of the game.
- Manager Dale Sveum says that the Cubs are going to see more Bryan LaHair in the OF, at least against RHP. His debut was a smashing success. Not only did he hit the 2-run HR to put the Cubs ahead to stay, he also made a nice running catch over his head in the OF. What LaHair lacks in athleticism and speed, he makes up for with good instincts. The Cubs are preparing not just for Anthony Rizzo's arrival, but for the possibility that they will keep LaHair. Like Barney, he's productive and he's cost-controlled, though he's not quite as young. If nothing else, LaHair can be a nice bridge as the Cubs build a competitive team over the next couple of years. The questions with LaHair are his ability to hit LHPs and how long he can be a viable option in the OF as he ages and slows down. After watching his surprisingly solid play last night, that's obviously not going to be a problem in the short term. It also serves as a message to possible trade partners that may be trying to lowball the Cubs on LaHair. Showing that the Cubs are willing to keep -- and play -- LaHair even when Anthony Rizzo is promoted gives them a bit more leverage. The Cubs have no reason to trade LaHair unless they're going to get surplus long term value in return.
- Matt Garza is the latest to defend Alfonso Soriano. And to commenter "Jose", thanks for the kind words!
- The Cubs are said to be among the teams interested in another Cuban pitcher, this time, Armando Rivero, whom I wrote about in January as a possible Cubs target. Here is what I said then, "Rivero was a teammate of Concepcion's and is very much the opposite type of pitcher. He's older (23), he's a power guy (96 mph), and he projects as a reliever. Some think he has a chance to start because he does have 3 pitches, but his quickest road is through the bullpen. He could start at AA." Rivero is said to top out at 98 mph with his 4 seamer, but also has a 2 seamer that may end up being the better pitch because it has better movement. He also has a slider and a change. Built like Texas reliever Mike Adams. He's a closer prospect.
- Ben Badler from Baseball America, who does tremendous work on the international front, lists 9 players to watch for the international signing period. Unfortunately, the Cubs aren't listed as front runners on any of them, but Badler promises to have a more extensive list later. Badler also has video on a few of the players. Great stuff as always. I wrote about a few more here.
- Cuban OF'er Yasiel Puig just defected and intends to sign before the international signing period begins on July 2nd so that he isn't restricted by the new CBA. He's not as established a ballplayer as Yoenis Cespedes, but he does have more experience than Soler and he's just 21. Last year, the athletic 6'3", 210 lbs. Puig was something of a surprise, hitting .330 with 17 HRs in his second season for Serie Nacional but did receive a disciplinary suspension late in the year that threatened to keep him out for part of this season. The suspension may have been for previous attempts to defect from Cuba (h/t Joao). He is a talented ballplayer, however, and he should attract a lot of attention. Would the Cubs enter the bidding for Puig after dropping $30M on Jorge Soler and $6M on Gerardo Concepcion? It's definitely a situation worth monitoring as the Cubs are looking to add as much potential impact talent as possible and they've shown the willingness to spend for it. In the past 2-3 years, the team has signed more than it's share of Cuban baseball players and is becoming something of a preferred destination. Is Puig next? Here is some video if you're interested. Puig comes to bat at the 4:20 mark...