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Taking a closer look at some non-tender candidates

Taking a closer look at some non-tender candidates
Could the Cubs take a shot with Blanks?

The way I see it, the Cubs biggest holes next season will be starting pitching, the bullpen, 3B and in the outfield, especially if Brett Jackson doesn't make the progress he needs to make this offseason.  Even if he does improve, the Cubs will need someone to run out there for at least half a season.

The Cubs will eventually become a hot spot for free agents but that is not going to be the case right now.  The Cubs have a couple of advantages.  One is the ability to spend big on one or two year deals because of their small payroll and the other is to offer an opportunity for a player to get a full time starting job, then parlay that into big bucks later if they succeed.  Players looking for 4 year deals or for an instant shot at a ring will likely go elsewhere, so that likely rules out the big names. The Cubs will have to use multiple avenues to fill the holes on their roster.

One place the Cubs can look for players looking for opportunity is the non-tender market.  It's the one place you can find younger players who have talent, but for some reason or another haven't blossomed into good regular MLB players yet.  The Cubs have some openings for players who want the opportunity to prove themselves as they enter their prime and/or approach free agency.  The possibility also exists that the Cubs can even find a long term fit in this market if they strike gold.

So bring me your tired, your hungry, and your poor.  Wrigley Field is the MLBs land of opportunity.

Here are a few guys they may want to look at.  Keep in mind that this is neither a glamorous nor exhaustive list...

Starting Pitching

There were a few intriguing names out there but many of them are out there because they suffered an injury, such as Charlie Morton, who has the ability to control the strike zone, something the Cubs really lacked last season.   It's possible the Cubs can still sign an injured player, as they did with Ryan Dempster, though he was just 27 at the time.  Morton is 29.

John Lannan, 28, LHP

The Nats have been trying tor trade Lannan for way more than he's worth the past couple of years but nobody took the bait -- and rightfully so.  Perhaps with expectations on a return scaled down to an appropriate level, the Cubs can acquire him to help balance the Cubs rotation.  He's a 5th starter, though, and a fringe one at that.  He doesn't strikeout a lot of batters (4.71 Ks/9 IP career) and has just average control.  What he can do is get ground ball outs (53% GB rate for his career) and keep the ball in the park.

Josh Outman, 28, RHP

Outman has good stuff, starting with a fastball that averages around 94 mph and a good slider.  He has shown control similar to Lannan in his career (3.56 walk rate) but it went up to 4.43 last season on his way to an 8.19 ERA at Coors Field.  The xFIP, however, was a bit more encouraging at 4.05.  It'd be a flyer, but he has a good arm and has shown average control in the past, so it may be one worth taking.

Bullpen

I do like the notion of developing your own bullpen but nothing wrong with taking a guy or two off the scrap heap and seeing if he can turn out to be useful, much like Shawn Camp was last season.

Corey Wade, 29 RHP

Wade had a disastrous season (6.46 ERA)  but that could be a blessing in disguise because it could mean he comes cheaper.  His strikeout to walk rate per 9 innings was excellent (8.77/1.85) and his xFIP of 3.65 was very respectable.  There's plenty to suggest that Wade just had an unlucky year: low strand rate, high BABIP, and a career high percentage of flyballs that left the yard.  There could be some hidden value here.

Jerome Williams, 31, RHP

Remember Williams? He had one awful season with the Cubs in 2006.  He has improved since then, in part because he has develped a good cut fastball.  He's older but he would give the Cubs some flexibility as he showed the ability to both start and relieve last season, though he was better out of the pen. His 1.55 walks/9 IP rate out of the bullpen was outstanding, though he was plagued by the long ball.  If he can keep the ball in the park better, he could provide a solid veteran swingman.

Brad Bergesen, 27, RHP

Bergesen's youth is an asset and has more upside than anyone else on this bullpen list.  He has a solid sinker/slider combination that generates ground balls and keeps the ball in the park.  He also throws strikes, as his 2.12 walks/9 IP rate would attest.  He had a 3.64 ERA last season for the Diamondbacks.  He's not going to be your late inning guy, but he is potentially someone who can help out in the 7th inning or so.

OF

Not a lot of good outfielders on the non-tender candidates list, but one is intriguing...

Kyle Blanks, 26

As the youngest player mentioned, Blanks is all about projection and upside.  He's enormous (6'6", 270 lbs) but plays a surprisingly solid OF defensively.  But the Cubs would not be picking him up for his defense, it'd be about his potential to provide power -- something the Cubs lacked last season.  Blanks had an outstanding ISO of .264 with the Padres in 2009 and showed plenty of promise, but injuries have taken their toll since then.  Blanks has solid plate discipline, something else the Cubs are looking to improve.  He's walked at a rate of 10.2% in his career. I think that plate discipline is going to be a factor in any Cubs pick up this offseason.  It's a part of the culture they need to turn around quickly.  It probably also helps that the Cubs front offiice, including GM Jed Hoyer, Sr. VP of Scouting Jason McLeod, and new scouting director Jaron Madison all have more than the usual familiarity with Blanks.

3B

The Cubs have two non-tender candidates themselves at this position in Luis Valbuena and Ian Stewart.  The Cubs may try to replace them, or perhaps platoon them, with one of these players...

Mark Reynolds, 29

Reynolds is now 3 years removed from his 44 HR season but still packs enough power to give the Cubs a boost in the middle of the lineup.  He also will walk -- a lot, and that helps supplement his very low batting averages.  On the downside, he has big problems making contact and isn't a very good baserunner.   So what you're really getting is a player that's a bit above average offensively but well below average on defense.  Is it worth it?  Probably not.  But 3B is thin on the market this year and power at 3B is even thinner.

Ryan Roberts, 32

Roberts is too old to be a part of the team's long term plans but good defense, some pop at the plate, and versatility (can also play 2B and OF) could make him a better short term value pick up than Reynolds.  He has averaged a solid 10.2% walk rate for his career.  He's been a better hitter against lefties in his career and might be an asset off the bench whether the Cubs go with Luis Valbuena or Ian Stewart at 3B.

Sean Rodriguez, 27

I've always liked the athletic Rodriguez but his performance has not matched his ability.  Contact issues and a below average hit tool overall have hindered him, but he does a lot of things well: field, run the bases, and he has some pop to go with average plate discipline. He's another versatile player that can play good defense at multiple positions, including SS, where the Cubs were obviously not eager to rest starter Starlin Castro last year.  Two consecutive seasons with BABIPs in the .260s perhaps point to some bad luck and maybe that turns around for Rodriguez next year.

 

 

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  • I think its worth taking someone(s) off the 40-man roster and
    giving at least 1 of these players a chance. Depends on how
    many young prospects are put on the 40-man roster and how
    many spots are open.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    The Cubs have 7 roster spots open now and I think only 4 or so will go to minor league players to protect from the Rule 5, so they do have some wiggle room for now and then if they have to make room later, they can do that when they cross that bridge.

  • Who are some of the pitchers (both majors and minors) that are
    on the bubble? There should be enough young pitchers around
    to pick someone up who might be better.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    On the Cubs? Casey Coleman pops to mind.

  • Lannan's ground ball outs would play well a Wrigley, and if Outman can just live up to his name...

    I still would like to take a close look at Stewart at 3rd base. His defense would really help the entire pitching corps' ERA, regardless of who is run out there.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    He could be tough, especially in April and May. I think overall this is a weaker NT list than last year. I don't think there's anyone with the upside of Volstad or Stewart on this list. Maybe Blanks. Overall, these guys are more useful role players than potential hidden gems.

    I think the Cubs should keep either Stewart or Valbuena, maybe both, but they'll need a RH complement. Maybe Roberts or Rodriguez.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    I thought outman played 3rd base for the Cubs last year? I keed I keed...

  • In reply to HefCA:

    The Cubs had too many outmen last year :) Maybe they need to pick up Balfour. They could have used a few more of those on offense.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Or if we could only combine Manny Ramirez and Brandon Belt into one player...nyuck nyuck nyuck....you should not have encouraged me ;-)

  • I see that the A's just DFA'd Joey Devine and Dallas Braden, and Houston let IF Matt Downs go. Are they worth a look?

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Devine was tremendous in 2008 but just had his second TJ surgery and it took him 2 years to come back last time. Too bad, he looked promising.

    I don't think Braden is on their radar because he's also hurt and there's questions about his mental makeup. Downs isn't a very good player to me. Some pop but defense is below par, not a patient hiter.

  • Drew Stubbs was on the MLBtraderumors list, but not yours. Is this because you think the Reds keep him, or because you don't think he's very good?

  • In reply to CubsML:

    I really considered putting him on the list but I do think the Reds will keep him. On the downside, he really just seems to be regressing. If he does become available, his defense in CF, speed and power would be welcome but I'm not sure he's a starting caliber player on offense anymore. I'd rather take a flyer on Blanks at this point but I'd still be happy if they took a chance on Stubbs. It's not like there are is a whole lot to lose or a whole lot of options out there.

  • I like Wade. Maybe Lannan too. And I hate to say it, because his strikeouts will drive me bottling-my-poo crazy, but averaging 34 homers over the last 4 years, Reynolds might be just the kind of guy to get us a good return at the trade deadline. His shitey defense and poor contact rate is so out-of-sync with the organizational philosophy though, I'm not sure they pull the trigger.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    The defense really is a downside with Reynolds. He has no business playing 3B. That power is enticing, though, especially on a team that has very little to start with.

  • im very intrigued by blanks. i think the cubs are the perfect team to give him an opportunity. plus i think he puts us in a really good position with dave sappelt. we could play both blanks and sappelt 3 times a week, which would be good for blanks health and good for sappelts growth as a player. blanks has a ton of power which is probably the most valued thing in the game behind top of the rotation pitching. he could also be protection for rizzo if/when soriano is traded.

    and in a future sense if blanks works out then we could have an outfield of almora soler and blanks, making the our lineup look something like this:

    almora
    castro
    baez
    rizzo
    soler
    blanks
    castillo
    barney/watkins

    thats a frightening amount of power to face in the middle of a lineup. im not saying its likely that this turns out, but giving the kid a chance with the upside of it happening is definitely worth a shot.

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    I'd like to give him a shot as well. Especially since he's a good athlete overall. He's not going to hurt you on defense or on the bases. It has to be worth at least a look.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    how good of a bet is he to be nontendered, idk why san diego would want to let a potential asset walk?

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    I don't know either. You think he'd be worth keeping another year. Maybe because he's arb eligible and they don't want to pay him when he hasn't shown anything.

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    The more likely scenario is the Padres try to trade him. The same may be true of Drew Stubbs.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    what do u think it would take to acquire him

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    I don't think it would cost much. Maybe another young player that the Cubs don't plan on keeping. Maybe similar to the Colvin-Stewart trade, though you hope it works out better, of course.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    definitely something worth exploring then, via trade or otherwise.

  • I'd be surprised if Charlie Morton isn't picked up by Theo and company. He's under control for 2013 and 2014. So if he doesn't work out in 2013 they could just let him go.

    Just looking at his behind the baseball card stats, I'd pick up Alfredo Aceves. Theo is familiar with him so if he doesn't take him there's a good reason. He had five more saves then Marmol. Plus he's Mexican! (I'm Mexican. Just in case you're wondering.)

  • In reply to WillieG1:

    Haha! Well, the Cubs did well with there last acquisition of a Mexican ballplayer (Christian Villanueva).

    No doubt he's a good reliever but I think of Aceves as someone who might be overvalued because of those back of the baseball stats you mention.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Speaking of nationalities, did you see that a fifth (750ml) of the SF Giants roster was from Venezuela? I'm sure the Cubs have players from there, but I've got no idea who they are or how many are from there. Any guesses?

  • In reply to SFToby:

    I didn't notice. Off the top of my head, just Luis Valbuena.

    The Cubs do have some good prospects from Venezuela, including Gioskar Amaya, Carlos Penalver, Marck Malave, Ricardo Marcano. In other words, they've really just started looking at that more lately. All are 19 and younger.

  • The Greek god of walks had his option declined by the Sox. Think Theo will nibble?

  • In reply to SFToby:

    I hope he gives him a look. Cubs could use him.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    He's got nothing on Eddie Yost.

  • On one hand, you're absolutely correct - the other, he's been dead now for two weeks. RIP Eddie Yost.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Just sayin', as far as walks per PAs go, Youkilis is no Yost.

  • I hadn't seen a Moneyball reference in a while. I couldn't let that one pass.

  • Who from the disabled list will be put on the 40-man roster?
    Can we afford to let Stewart leave?

  • Dallas "Get Off of My Mound" Braden is definitely a "character," but if he's healthy he's got good stuff and might be worth a flyer. He's still young, and standing up to A-Rod a couple of years ago earned points with me.

  • speaking of non tender candidates, i had an idea about a trade for dan haren, if he isnt traded he will most likely be non tendered. the angels will be looking for bullpen help and have looked into carlos marmol before, so i think trading the two players would make a lot of sense. marmol will make 9.8 mil next year and harens option is for 15.5. that means if we swapped them straight up we'd be paying haren 5.7 mil, which is a bargain. now if the cubs kick in 5.3 mil then haren becomes a 11 mil pitcher for us and marmol becomes a 4.5 mil pitcher for the angels. everyone wins.

  • There's talk of the Sox possibly signing Youk as a 1st baseman.

  • Awesome article, John. I don't know how you keep track of all this stuff.

    IMHO, Blanks would be a very good pickup--exactly the kind of guy they should try to target (and I imagine he's on their radar). They could let him and LaHair compete and/or platoon at a corner OF spot, and it's likely they would get production from at least one of them.

    It would be great if they could get Youkilis or another decent 3B option on a one year contract, but I would be surprised if anyone decent would want to come on a one year contract to a team coming off 100 losses.

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