The Two Headed Monster Returns.

The Two Headed Monster Returns.

Welcome back to " John and Tom explain the Universe" or something like it. Another round of applause to everyone that sent in questions. There was a lot to choose from. If you don't see your question here, rest assured it is in consideration for the big one after the season. Except for Hoosier Daddy's. His was deleted out of spite. ( I keed, I keed.). I kept this round fairly major league specific. All minor league questions are tilted towards John, but are probably more suited to after the season. Anyway, Happy and Slappy gave good answers, and hopefully you'll all be entertained. So without further ado...

To what do you attribute Alfonso Soriano having a resurgence? Big fish in a small pond? Lack of pressure? Or was there some actual adjustments?

Loxas: First you have to give credit to the coaching staff. Dave McKay and Dale Sveum really worked with Sori on defensive fundamentals, something that should have happened back in 2007.

Arguello: I think it takes two to tango.  The work ethic always existed with Soriano but I also think changing positions is something he never fully embraced until Dave McKay came along.

Loxas: He also started to flourish offensively after Sveum convinced him to drop a few sizes in bats. You also can't ignore he feels respected by this front office and coaching staff and seems to relish the role of a team leader. Sure the pressure is off now, but what if he had played this way his entire Cubs career?

Arguello: McKay not only sold him the value of defense but he was a skilled enough teacher to help him improve.  Offensively, some credit should also go to Dale Sveum for convincing him to use a lighter bat.  Players don't like to change things that have helped them be successful in the past, so that's not an easy feat.

Name 3 to 5 guys on the current roster that won’t be back on next year’s roster…

Arguello: I'll say Joe Mather, Bryan LaHair, and Carlos Marmol. Mather is the very definition of replaceable. LaHair doesn't have a whole lot of value as a bench guy.  I'll get to Marmol.

Loxas: LaHair, Volstad, Corpas, Camp.

The biggest surprise you’ve seen from the Cubs since the trade deadline?

Arguello:  Biggest surprise since the deadline is probably Chris Volstad.  I had faith in him early on but even my patience was starting to wear thin.

Loxas:  Soriano is the surprise.

Arguello: Volstad hasn't been outstanding but 3-1 with a 3.81 ERA in his last 4 starts and he has shown a better ability to overcome adversity on the mound.

Loxas: Ok. John, whatever. Soriano is the surprise.

 Arguello: The stuff is there, but as someone mentioned the other day, he needs to develop a bit of a nasty streak.

 Loxas: In closing, I’d like to say Soriano is the surprise.

And biggest disappointment since the deadline?

Loxas: The disappointment has been how bad the starting pitching has been. Rusin has been OK but I'd like to see more consistency out of Travis Wood

 Arguello: Biggest disappointment has been Alberto Cabrera who trusted his stuff in AA and AAA but then came to the majors and decided he needed to nibble.  When you have a 96 mph fastball with that kind of movement and a hard, sharp slider, you do hitters a great favor when you don't go right after them.  He attacked the strike zone against Houston (maybe he thought he was in AAA again?) and he looked dominant, so I'm hoping he builds on that.

Two-part question concerning Carlos Marmol… How much credit do you give to Bosio/Sveum for Marmol’s turnaround and how much to Marmol himself? And is #49 traded during the off-season, or anchoring the 2013 Bullpen?

Loxas: You have to again give the Cubs staff credit. This was a guy they weren't getting through to right away and they kept pounding it in his head to trust his fastball.

 Arguello:   I think they should get a lot of the credit.  Marmol was in love with his slider.  It's been his bread and butter during his dominant days, so convincing him to go more to his fastball wasn't an easy thing to do.  They had to get him out of his comfort zone and then keep his trust when it didn't pay immediate dividends. As for the second part of the question, I think Marmol will be traded. He is a guy who has regained some value.  The Cubs can still trade him without needing his permission and his contract is workable, so he's more likely to go than someone like Soriano.  He's also relatively young and healthy, can still throw very hard, and has a past history of dominance.  That combination of traits will probably convince a team to take a chance.

 Loxas: I have a feeling Marmol is back at least until the deadline.

How high will the Cubs payroll be in 2013?

Arguello: $90M (everything included)

Loxas: I'm really guessing here with a lot to be decided but somewhere about $95 mil.

Part 2, the Cubs will commit ___ Million dollars to free agents. (and I want a number, not “Not much” or “very little”.)

 Loxas: I feel they will make a push for at least 2 starting pitchers and one position player. So I'm thinking about $45-50 mil in total salary.

Arguello: I'm going to say they'll add $20M in free agents.  They'll try and add 2 to 3 mid-level players to fill gaps short-term, with possibly two for the rotation.  They'll also add several lower-level guys to compete for jobs, particularly in the bullpen.

When camp opens in 2013, the biggest position battle will be _______?

Loxas: Third base. I think the Cubs just may bring Ian Stewart back and along with Valbuena and Vitters there could be some competition there.

Arguello:  I have to think it will be 3B.  The guess is that they bring back Ian Stewart on a friendly deal and I'll say he's the favorite if he's healthy.  Luis Valbuena will also be in the mix, as will Josh Vitters and possibly a low-level signing like mentioned above.  I think Valbuena sticks as a utility guy/backup plan and Vitters goes to AAA with a chance to take the job midseason.

Who are you rooting for to win the World Series?

Loxas: I may have said Washington earlier, but I am really not a fan of what they did with Strasberg. It would be very cool to see Baltimore or Oakland win it. I really like what Beane did this season and I think baseball is better with traditional teams like Baltimore as winners.

Arguello: I'm rooting for the Braves.  I like the way they did things when I was a kid and Schuerholz was running the team and I think Frank Wren has maintained that solid leadership.  To me they just consistently do things the right way and I hope they get rewarded for it -- not to mention I would like to see Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson get rings.

Final question: When you asked Felzz to write the wraps for Cubs Den, you were drunk right? Please answer honestly…

Arguello: Hammered.

 Loxas: Totally pickled. Still am actually.












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  • I think the toughest question for me was the big surprise. To me there really hasn't been one. I wanted to say Welington Castillo, but I'm not surprised he's playing well. He's a talented guy. Was also tempted to say Castro, but how can we be surprised that he's starting to hit again?

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    What about Jeff Samardzija? He was a big surprise to me.

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    In reply to João Lucas:

    Oh, you mean the biggest surprise since the trade deadline. Yeah, then there weren't many!

  • In reply to João Lucas:

    Not many since then. Samardzija would have been a good one since the start of the season. But I did write a piece which was optimistic about his chances back in November or December.

  • Happy & Slappy? My god, Felzzy, if only they could give you a zap with a stun gun and get you some sense of humor!!!

    " were drunk right?" ROFL ... hysterical!!

    On to the candidates for bye-bye: LaHair (pains me to say), Mather, Stewart, and Clevenger. I really like the very small sampling of Recker.

    Lendy Castillo: Boys, question, once the season ends, can they get him off the 40 man and send him to hi or low A?

    EH&Co will likely have more tricks up their sleeves but ... Bowden, Coleman and Marmol for me. Several "ifs" in there ...

    I think it's likely to be a very, very fluid roster! Again!

    This sort of column is not only fun to read but most excellent grist for the mill. Congrats to you all!!

  • In reply to MoneyBoy:

    They'll keep Castillo on the roster and probably send him to AA. Now that they've had him a full season, they can send him down again.

    Lots of questions in the bullpen. A few of those guys are interchangeable, replaceable...whatever you want to call it. A few of them will be gone to make room for acquisitions and minor league guys who will otherwise be exposed to the rule 5.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Lendy Castillo likely has as much of a future with the Cubs as David Patton. I'm not a fan of taking a Rule 5 guy, deciding he can't play at all the majors, and wasting a roster spot the entire season. It does two things - first, it wastes a year of development for the players, and two, when it's a pitcher, it puts a strain on the rest of the pitching staff to pick up those IP, which creates an additional risk of injury. It might be a minor risk, but it's an increased risk.

    There's no reason for that. I thought those days were long gone once Hendry was fired. I am happy with this front office, but that and Sveum's inability to learn anything about making out a lineup are two spots that need to improve.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    The Rule 5 pool was diluted when the criteria was strengthened and I agree it's not an investment that's likely to pay off most of the time. I think it's impact is overrated these days.

    That said, it doesn't bother me quite as much as it does you. Castillo has a live, fresh arm. He'll probably go to AA this year and give the Cubs another relief "prospect" at little to no cost to the team.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Or they might stretch him out and see if he has starting potential. You mentioned when he was taken that he was an unusual player, because he had a low mileage arm and some potential upside. I don't think we will see this happen every year - more likely a deal will be made to send down a player if the Cubs really like him. But for this year, I don't think the risk was very high, and if he turns into a serviceable reliever down the road, then the payoff could be decent. And if, by chance, he actually has some starter potential, then the payoff could be significant.

    So I guess I'm saying that Theo/Jed clearly think he has some good upside that made him worth the roster spot.

  • In reply to Kevin Heckman:

    Good point. Thanks for reminding me. I'd love to see if he can start. He has shown good feel for a change, so why not? Moving him back to the bullpen would be easy.

  • I think marmol will get traded at the winter meetings, but if he stays I would not have a problem. Theo and jed would have to get at least one top level prospect,and one mid level prospect to move marmol and thats at the minimum. If theo and jed don't get that then they must hold on to him until after the season starts. I think if marmol keep pitching like he has then the cubs will be holding all the cards when talking to other teams.

  • In reply to seankl:

    I do too. The Cubs are going into the offseason with Marmol throwing 96 and pitching well. I don't think his value is going to get much higher.

    At the same time, his peripherals aren't really any better than they were last year, but I think it's the arm strength that will get some teams interested.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, do you think that Marmol's late season improvement could mainly be because he hasn't been used as much this season and he's getting his arm strength back? If that is the case then maybe Marmol could have remained a dominant pitcher had he not been overused.

  • In reply to baseballet:

    That's an excellent point. We know how Lou pretty much ran him into the ground when he was here. One source told me at the time that the bigger concern was about his decreasing velo. And it looks like now that is no longer a concern.

  • In reply to seankl:

    i think a top prospect and a mid level prospect for marmol is a lot. u do realize that the teams acquiring him will most likely want him in an 8th inning role. he has been inconsistent the past 2 years and he still doesnt have great control. he also is considered overpaid and the cubs will have to eat some (maybe half) of whats left on his deal. i think two mid level prospects or a mid level prospect and a loA ball kid with some upside will probably be enough to get him. my hope is that we can package him with garza to a team like toronto who will be looking to fortify their bullpen/rotation next season.

  • I truly think one of the hard deals happens in Sori or Marmol but I could see where teams won't give in with prospects or absorbing money so...

  • Thanks Moneyboy (I think...)

    the turnover is an interesting one. But to me that answer lies with other teams. Lahair, for instance, is under control long enough that keeping him around is no problem. And he's not blocking anyone. But if someone wants him I'm sure Epstoyer would have no problem moving him...

  • Great stuff as usual guys! I still don't know how the Os are doing it. They score less runs than they give up and they're 18 games over .500. Eventually they have to fade.

  • I think they'll not only fade, but they'll have trouble repeating their success this season. As much as I'd like to compete, I don't want it to happen in that way. It doesn't seem sustainable.

  • I have read some of their blog posts and many say that the O's had a lot of blowout losses early on that padded the stats on the negative side; plus they've won a lot of close ones in their surge. That may account for the differential.
    I see they won another one-run game today in walkoff fashion. Buck has them believing.....

  • Great job Felzz

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Thanks Boss.

  • Several reasons why Soriano is doing good this pressure, lighter bat, and he did not have Lee or Ramirez in front of him driving in the runs.

    LaHair will be back.....relax people.....makes just as much as Mather....Marmol & Vitters could be in a trade together......

    Biggest surprise to me......Len & Bob did not hit the bottle due to this bad season......

    and that Mather is still leading off........

    and that celebs still show up to sign in the 7th inning.....

    I doubt the Cubs go heavy in free agency......some unknown players will get small contracts........if one good pitcher does sign, that would be great....but don't count on it....players want rings now if they are getting older.......

    I picked the Rays to win the World Series.....I will stick with that pick.

    Hey John, you forgot Jeff Baker is with the Braves also.......I say the Braves will choke again....and Fredi Gonzalez is gone.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    I'd hate to see them choke. They've got a pretty good lead over the Dodgers so I don't think it will happen. I did forget about Baker. I guess he took a more roundabout way of getting there.

  • that should be "sing"

  • i have a question who found out about felzz and who had the genius idea to bring him here?

  • In reply to kingpro98:

    Felzz had been following Cubs Den for a while and when we grew and it got really busy during the trade deadline, I found myself unable to keep up with the game recaps. Felzz would write hilarious recaps in the comments section, so we decided to bring him on for the real thing. Glad you like the addition!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Is that last word addition, or audition?

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    LOL...addition, of course!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I thought as much but had to poke at him. Good !

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    "He attacked the strike zone against Houston (maybe he thought he was in AAA again?) and he looked dominant, so I'm hoping he builds on that."

    Or he thought he was in AA again.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Or AA.

    Just noticed that Cabrera has a 2.87 FIP this season. Not bad at all. Bit of a high BABIP and low strand rate. That bodes well for a rebound.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    His stuff is so good, you have to think -- even if it is more than bad luck -- a decent coaching staff can make a solid short guy out of him.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Just a matter of him throwing strikes and developing a consistent approach. He's been all over the place with that. I like him going after hitters with that fastball, getting ahead, and then putting them away with the slider.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I know that no coach can make Volstad into a solid short guy.
    Why, he's 6'8".....

  • Awesome!
    I think Marmol is back. At least until the deadline. If theyre gonna have a payroll above $95mm, adding a few starting pitchers, theyre gonna want someone to close out games.

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    these need to be done more often......Hilarious....

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Thanks Marcel, glad you like it. Have you noticed the wraps now end with a boxscore link? That's your work at work...

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    In reply to felzz:

    Yes I did notice my good sir......check my Internet history. Have not been on the tribune site since lol very helpful having it here

  • I agree with Tom on Soriano being the surprise and Volstad being gone next year. John I think you are unduly optimistic on Volstad. To put it in frank terms, I think he just flat out sucks. He's only had one win against a good team albeit a slumping one in Pittsburgh and just happened to pitch against two crappy teams with minor league caliber offenses (Houston & Colorado) in a short span to compile a decent short term record. The only legit offense he faced in that 3-1 span, the Nationals shelled him as teams have done to him on a regular basis. The 20 some winless games prior to that was no fluke and he is not having a rebirth, he is the poster boy for mediocre. Dump him ASAP. There are better maholm type options out there to fill the rotation with next year.

  • In reply to Behn Wilson:

    It's surprise since the trade deadline. In my opinion, Soriano is pretty much the same player he was before the deadline this season, so I wasn't surprised at all. Were you? Or did you expect him to drop off badly after July 31st?

    When I look at Volstad, I don't look at traditional stats like wins and ERA, I prefer to look at his raw stuff and his peripheral numbers. If it were as easy as looking at box score results, Theo and Jed would not have kept him this long. There's a reason they kept him around and don't feel too surprised if he gets another shot.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Couldnt have said this better myself. Volstad has the stuff and peripherals to be a good starter. Early on in the season and last season bad luck also played a role. In other words he is not Justin Germano. He is better than how he's pitched and at 25 you have to believe he will get it together at some point. His last few starts not only were the numbers better but the important thing was his secondary pitches were sharper, little more zip on the fastball, and stayed away from the big inning. The first two have nothing to do with the teams he pitched against.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Thanks Marcel, I would also say the 3rd part was even more on Volstad. He had trouble with the big inning even when he was at Iowa, so I'm thinking it had to do more with him than the competition.

    The Germano comparison is a good way to illustrate it. Nothing against him, but he's as good as he's going to get. He's 30, he's not going to throw any harder,his control is already very good. Volstad has the raw stuff and if he fixes a few things, who knows? Like you said, he's 25 years old (and can throw 93-94). There's a lot to work with there.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yeah the Soriano thing still surprises me though I just have this feeling that they will pass on Volsad. However I see what John sees too, it just needs to be consistent.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    I guess we could have expected him to drop off. I actually can't say there were any surprises. I only picked Volstad because he at least is getting through 5 innings without blowing the game lately.

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    Think we have some fuzzy math. Both of you say they'll spend 90Mish next year but Tom says we'll spend 45M on FA's and John's at 20M. What would cause a 25M difference.

    Also, love ya John but Felzz rocks. Any chance of getting "The Godfather" into a recap?

  • In reply to Robby Rae:

    By my calculations, I estimated the Cubs payroll will be at around 70M going into the offseason,that includes the new Castro deal, expiring deals, and stuff like estimated raises for guys due for arbitration.

  • In reply to Robby Rae:

    Thanks Bobby Rae. I'm glad to add some color and smiles to what I think is the most informative and interesting Cubs Blog out there.

    The Godfather will be referenced. But There are so many good lines. Most likely will be an entire Godfather Wrap so I can use more lines. And of course, the Cubs have to give a performance worthy of using the Godfather.

  • In reply to felzz:

    Pulp Fiction has better lines. And RoboCop.
    Come quietly or there will be...... trouble.

  • In reply to Robby Rae:

    Maybe Robby but when I meant total money spent it was over more years than just next. It was total contact, though I don't trust my math anyway. My wife is the math expert around the house.

  • Bet the house Lahair's playing in Japan next year.

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    I was also curious about the mere 5 mil difference in salary when Tom was devoting 25 mil more to free agents. Also, do you guys think they will just release LaHair or that he will actually be traded. Becuase I thought we had agreed that LaHair doesn't have much trade value at the moment and I don't see how it harms us to bring him back. He may even readjust and regain some trade value, or do you think that is just not possible and that the Cubs will cut ties?

    Thanks for this feature Felzzy

  • In reply to Gary Kueper:

    I think it's just a matter of roster management as far as the downside to keeping him. He doesn't give you much except a bat against RH pitching, but the fact that he's limited as to where he can play (and he doesn't play anywhere at average or better) and doesn't run well, it really limits his value off the bench.

    I think the Cubs will make a very minor deal to trade LaHair. I don't expect much back.

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    Here's another question: do any of the ragamuffin starters the Cubs have been sending out there get another chance to be part of the rotation next year out of Germano, Raley, Rusin, etc.?

  • In reply to Gary Kueper:

    I think Wood, Volstad, Raley and Rusin will get a shot. Probably not for Germano. Can't say on Berken but I think he's another guy who is here for a temporary shot.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    If we are counting on these guys for anything more than our 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, etc starters.... we're in for trouble. Not that they can't be better, but they've proven that they can't be counted on it.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I don't think they're counting on anyone except for Samardzija and possibly Garza. These guys are just in the mix.

  • The question about free agent money was total money spent. So the payroll figure could still jive with what John and I are saying maybe there would be just more years on my suspected deals. Make sense?

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    I just did some quick calculations, I could be off. At any rate, I don't think it will much over 100M...if that much.

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