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BJ Upton a perfect fit for the Braves, but it's not as simple for the Cubs

BJ Upton a perfect fit for the Braves, but it's not as simple for the Cubs

I'm a B.J. Upton fan. He's a good power/speed guy who plays solid defense at a premium position, CF, that is a current need for them.  He's only 28 and should be worth the 5 year/$75.5M deal he signed. Or at least close to it. That the Braves signed him is a coup for them.  For Atlanta, it was a perfect fit and here's why...

  • They're ready to win now and should be for the length of his contract, thus its perfect timing for them to maximize that contract value.
  • They need a RH to break up their string of good LH hitters.
  • They have no top CF prospects in their system that are ready to take over any time soon.  In fact, CF is a big weakness in their system overall.
  • BJ Upton liked Atlanta and wanted to go there.

In many ways Upton is also a nice fit for the Cubs considering his relatively young age, his speed/power combo, and their need for a CF in 2013. The Cubs certainly have the payroll space to sign him.  I understand the appeal of Upton and the disappointment from some that the Cubs didn't go after him, so I wanted to take this opportunity to look at why signing -- or even pursuing -- Upton just wan't in the cards for a team like the Cubs right now.

if we look at the same list as above and apply it to the Cubs, it's just not as good a fit as it was for the Braves.

  • The Cubs are not ready to win now.  They might win, but a whole lot of things have to go their way.  Upton is a good player, but he's not the kind of guy that turns around a team from 100 losses to playoff contender.  Upton would likely be most useful to Cubs pennant race at the back end of his contract while spending the earlier years, likely his better ones, on a losing team.  In some ways it's similar to the Matt Garza situation.  He was arguably their best pitcher the last two years, but it was never going to be enough to put them over the top.  The Cubs may decide to keep Garza and he should continue to pitch well, but he'll no longer be in those prime years by the time the Cubs start winning consistently.  The timing wasn't quite there for Garza and it really wasn't there for Upton either.
  • The Cubs have been looking for a LH hitter to balance their lineup.  Jed Hoyer has specifically said that he prefers to get a CF who bats lefty.  And while that's not a deal-breaker, it makes him less than a perfect fit.  Certainly a lesser fit than Atlanta, who specifically targeted a RH bat.
  • Unlike the Braves, the Cubs do have a few CF prospects.  One, Brett Jackson, could be up sometime midseason.  Another, Matt Szczur, should be up by next season.  A third, Albert Almora, is a pretty polished hitter and defender and probably won't take that long to reach the majors either.  Certainly not 5 years.
  • One bit of news struck me today exemplifies what I'm going to say for this last point of comparisn.  Hiroki Kuroda was offered 1 yr/$18M to play for the San Diego Padres.  Why is that important?  Because he signed for $3M less to play for the Yankees...because he wanted to play there.  There's nothing wrong with San Diego.  Great pitcher's ballpark, beautiful city, great weather, intelligent organization on the rise...that's all good, but he wanted to be a Yankee.  The word is that Upton loved Atlanta and the way he was treated by the front office, not to mention that this is a team that expects to contend for a World Series.  I've said often said here that, while money is king, establishing relationships count when it comes to courting FAs.  The Braves and Upton agreed on a nice deal for both sides at 5 yrs/$75M, but it's unrealistic to think he would have preferred to sign with the Cubs had they offered the same money.  It's unlikely they could have signed him unless they significantly outbid the Braves, but as we saw with Kuroda, even that doesn't guarantee anything.  But let's say you do manage to throw enough money at him to change his mind.  Do we really want the Cubs to pay a premium for a good, but not great player?  I don't.  That was a big problem with the Hendry era.

The Cubs did not even get into the bidding and it probably had very little to do with what they felt about BJ Upton.  Perhaps, you might say, they could have at least tried.  Well, who is to say they didn't kick the tires here and learned early in the process that interest was minimal? Upton was in a good position to get what he wanted.  That the Cubs offered  "opportunity" wasn't a lure for Upton.  He was going to play everyday no matter where he signed. He didn't need to prove anything, nor was he in a position where he needed to raise his value. The situation didn't play up to the Cubs strengths as far as their best selling points in this year's market.  It would have required significant time, effort, and money to lure him to Chicago, possibly at the expense of other pursuits.  Even if they played it perfectly, it was still going to be a long shot.

Like most of us, I imagine the Cubs would have liked to have Upton out there everyday in CF. Why not?  He's a good ballplayer and there's a need.  But I understand why the Cubs didn't pursue him, and I understand why that was probably quite alright with Upton too.  The Braves were just too perfect a fit on both sides.  Congrats to them on a nice signing and, as for the Cubs, we can at least give them credit for being realistic and keeping their perspective on the situation.

Sometimes a team's got to know it's limitations.

But it won't be long before the Cubs are in a position to look for that final piece or two, and by that time, the bigger name free agents will start to look at the Cubs as the "perfect fit".

 

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  • john I agree, upton is a good player but the team around him would not be ready. Upton can't stop the other team from getting eight runs a game, what I'm saying is they need to build the org up more before free agents would want to come if not you would have to overpay a lot. Soon free agents will want to play with castro, rizzo,shark and who ever else makes up the core. I have one question john, What made you write this in the first place ? Are other cub fans mad that the front office did not go after upton ?

  • In reply to seankl:

    I've seen some fans disappointed. Some here,but also in other places like Twitter. But I really meant it as an example of why, in general, signing a big free agent is not always the best fit for both sides, and also why teams choose not to pursue a player even though it seems like the Cubs could use that knd of player and have the money to get him. Sometimes there is a team out there that has everything lined up to sign a guy. Not just in the Upton situation, but in any given situation. I like Upton and he fits in some ways, so I thought it would be more challenging to write about him than with older, more expensive free agents.

  • Thanks, John. You make excellent points as always. We could use this as a template to plug in the name of almost any free agent or trade prospect out there.
    The Cubs FO has pretty much laid down what they are looking for, and we can match those criteria with what a particular player might bring. Some examples are Baker and Felzzman; they fit what we were looking for. The same will be true for field players, such as Coco Crisp, when we go after them.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Thanks Hubbs and that's how I intended it. Sometimes I get question via email, twitter, etc on why the Cubs don't pursue that guy or this guy. Got a few Upton questions, so I decided to use him as the centerpiece.

    It has to be a fit for the Cubs,but sometimes it's a much better fit for another team. Sometimes your team may not be the fit for that player. To me, this was the case for me with Upton.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Speaking of "not a fit", some people talk about a player being / not being a good match for a particular team because of who his agent is, and that agent's history with the team (bad or good).
    I think Theo and Jed are wise enough to have good relationships with all agents. That said, is it true that some agents and teams are better fits than others? If so, where would the current Cubs FO stand?

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    Great article John!! The thing is there are a lot of us Cubs fans who are really impatient and aren't looking at the BIG overall picture...Hendry kept commiting his sin of patching up things with a big free agent signing or multiple ones that don't do anything for the long term..Theo has a plan, we gotta stick to it..This organization has not had a purge like this since 1966 before most of us were born and that resulted in 7 years of contention and competitive baseball...There not approaching this like Dallas Green did bringing in cool vets like Cey, Hebner, Johnstone etc to appease the major league fans while building the minor league system up..This is a different era, and the Cubs are going for the higher picks and more money to spend in the draft by sucking!! Not that they want to but, it helps their cause,,I saw a video of Pat Hughes and Kap on Comcast sports and Hughes talked about the importance of that #2 overall pick in this years draft that the Cubs own,,,He's hoping hte Cubs get the best pitche rin the nation with that pick, I think we would all agree..tht is mor eimportant than BJ Upton or others like him at THIS TIME!!! I would also expect to see some Rizzoesque deals as well, our kids (mostly from the Hendry era) dealt for guys who fit this scheme...I hope for a BUSY week next week!!!

  • In reply to Luigi Ziccarelli:

    I agree , this is the time to package any prospects who dont present themselves as future core players , Vitters, Jackson and or Marmol , Barney ect ect to get this years Rizzo . I have faith in Theo and ed to get something done as early as the meetings.

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    In reply to Bryan Craven:

    I agree Bryan, I think there gonna add young value and weed out what's not to their liking...This will be fun, I think they're positioning themselves for July 31st with these signngs looking for Maholm type deals and the botched Demp deal
    in return....Buy cheap sell high and restock!!!

  • In reply to Luigi Ziccarelli:

    Thanks Luigi.

    Got to stick to the plan. The way I envision this is the Cubs will build themselves like the Padres and D'backs did (with a bit of the A's thrown in), but unlike the Padres, they'll have the money to keep those guys and sustain that success.

    It's all about timing with these FAs sometimes and that time just isn't now. But man, when Theo, Jed and co.decide it's time, it's going to be fun. They'll have the means to get the biggest prizes on the market.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Another factor: Money. The Dodgers are finishing a TV deal with Fox that will pay them $250mil to $280 mil PER YEAR. That's staggering, and makes their drunken-sailor spending more understandable. They have money to burn.

    The WGN contract expires after 2014. We live in a great TV market. When we sign that new contract, we will a) have a low-ish payroll with no dead money committed to older players, and b) a truckload of fresh cash

    We will be able to spend like sailors on shore leave, and hopefully have a ridiculously strong farm system to boot

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Good point. The best of both worlds!

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    Fujikawa may be another sign and flip considering his age if we get him...

  • Good stuff John. I can't wait to see what other moves Theo and Jed make in the Winter Meetings. Should be interesting. I'm all for shipping out Vitters. He's taking up valuable roster space. Getting demoted from Winter League does not look good. I know he's made adjustments and some progress from A ball to A ball, but how long do we have to wait for the next Kevin Orie to make adjustments when he arrives to Wrigley?!

  • In reply to lokeey:

    Thank you, lokeey. Vitters future here is very much in question. I don't want to place too much emphasis in winter ball, but it's hard not to be a little concerned that he was unable to hold a job there.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I agree, but lean toward giving him a play on that whole winter ball experience. He had an eye opening go at matching up with major leaguers in September. His career is at a crossroads and he may need time to process all that transpired.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I can see Vitters getting squeezed; Junior Lake is having an excellent winter, and the Cubs really want to try him at 3B. He probably is already a better 3B than Vitters.

    Without a position, Vitters has little value. He has a decent hit tool, but that's about it, and he hasn't established that tool in the majors, just in the hitter-friendly PCL.

    I wouldn't give up on him though because a) he is still young, b) scouts still love his bat speed, and c) he isn't taking a valuable roster slot......yet.

    Also, unlike Vitters, Orie was a good fielder

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Lake just keeps hitting as he moves up and if anything, it seems like he's getting better. That's encouraging.

    You're right about Vitters. He has to hit.

  • I agree, now is the time to trade any player/prospect that does
    not fit our type of long term player. The key is to get the prospects
    that fix our long term goals. Theo and Co. will get the job done it
    just will take time. With the (1) winter meetings (2) rule v draft
    and (3) international signings it will get done. By this time next
    we should be able to sign big time FA's.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    I will be very dissappointed if the Cubs have a full 40 man roster heading into the winter meetings , They need the ability to have room for any trades , free agents as well as the Rule 5. Guys like Vitters, Stewart , Valbuena ect ect should be purged, Jackson I could wait and see or trade him , There is also an arm or two on the 40 man that are rather meh.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Agreed. I can see this plan starting to come together and wouldn't surprise me if they see a bigger name player sign with them next year.

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    John, you point out something important with Free Agents: Money is important, but it's not the only thing. It would be a bad assumption to think Upton would come here for $2 mil more, or $5 mil more. Winning teams often get discounts over teams like the Royals, who seemingly always overpay for free agents.

    While not contending hurts us right now in general, it does help for some signings, like Baker and Feldman. Their objective is to establish their value as a starting pitcher for the next contract, and the Cubs are a perfect fit for that, because we can offer rotation slots. If they went to the Braves, for example, it would be as long-relief and maybe starter if someone is hurt.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Exactly! I think there are guys the Cubs can get bargains on, but those are the guys who want opportunities to play, have something to prove and/or raise their value. Cubs have to play the FA market to their current strengths and I think they've done a good job of doing exactly that.

  • Thanks for the good insight. One reason that I was hesitant to sign Upton was that he did not fit well into the Cubs batting order. Upton is not a good fit for the top or middle of the lineup. He fits best at 6 or 7. We have too many of those type already.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    True. We have a guy a lot like him already in Brett Jackson (if he can cut down on his Ks just a little).

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Jackson is what almost 25 and yet to accomplish anything close to what bj Upton has or had at that age. I don't have much faith in Jackson ever being anything more than an average player. But john you know I'm an Upton fan, Kate included.

  • Upton might not have been a perfect fit for the Cubs, but if the fit would have been perfect (i.e. if Upton were younger with a higher OBP, and he wanted to play in Chicago), then he would have been more expensive. As a fringe All Star center fielder, $15M might be a bargain, especially in a couple years. With the changing financial landscape from the TV contracts (the elephant pacing in Theo's office), free agents are going to get big contracts.
    Upton's deal (or even a more expensive one) doesn't seem like it would hamper the Cubs going forward, if you take into account how much contenders will be spending on payroll in the next five years. Rather than an albatross, this contract might be a bargain.

  • In reply to baseballet:

    It wouldn't hamper them and I don't think the contract would be an albatross either, but you can't maximize what he gives you over the length of the contract. The Braves get much better value for this deal given the timing, the exact fit, and where they're organization is at -- even if the Cubs could sign him at the same rate (which they wouldn't). The Cubs would have to have outbid the Braves significantly and as I said, paying a premium for good, but not great players was symbolic of the Hendry era. The Cubs had all kinds of money to play with, but they were inefficient with it and, in the end, it cost them.

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    I'm fine with not signing Upton. He's basically a right handed version of what we hope Jackson could be, but with more steals and more HR power (though Jackson might hit more doubles and triples), and fewer walks. He'll put up a low average w/ lots of K's, just like Jackson.

    I know it's a small sample size, but there was a 2 week stretch in August (15th-30th) where Jackson but up some great numbers (.261/.404/.509 if my math is correct). If he could be anything close to that guy consistently, no one will miss Upton. Problem is, with the K's, that might not happen, but I'm all for waiting it out to see if he can. The guy is clearly talented and works hard.

    I don't want them to pull a Hendry and block a prospect (especially since they have a few in CF) with a guy who may not be all that much better in the long run.

  • In reply to brober34:

    Yes! I was thinking that too. Agreed on all counts. Similar profile with Upton and if BJax cuts down this strikeouts to Upton's level (not unrealistic), you'll have a bargain version.

  • Do we really need another $18 million dollar OF who hits .249? We have one of those and his name is Alfonso Soriano.. Save the money for some pitching.

  • In reply to irish0625:

    Agreed. Save those resources for a more appropriate time and more pressing long term need.

  • This is why Im thinking the Cubs should go get 2 outfielders. Nyjer Morgan being one and a possible other option with more pop. This would give the Cubs the ability to flip someone or have a platoon if they acquire a RH bat. Just a thought though I think they will just grab one guy who can play RF and move DeJesus to CF.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    I hope they get a CF to improve the defense. Would be happy with Morgan if they're okay with his antics. Crisp is my guy, of course, but don't know the price tag.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    I don't see Dejesus in center.

  • The Cubs should give Houston a call about Wilton Lopez. Apparently the trade with the Phillies is not a done deal yet.

  • I like Lopez. My concern is that Houston had a nice offer to pick up a young MLB ready starter who has had some early success in Tyler Cloyd. Not sure if I'm comfortable with Cubs beating that offer for a reliever. I think Lopez will go to a win now team that is willing to sacrifice better long term value. Cubs not in position to do that.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Makes me wonder if Jeff Russell could bring in a Tyler Cloyd return.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    James, not Jeff

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    A great analysis John. I couldn't agree more. Upton is a good player, but he isn't a great player. If the Cubs were close, this FO viewed Upton as a difference maker for them and the interest was mutual, it would be different, but none of those prerequisites have been met.

    The Cubs would've had to significantly overpay in order to convince Upton to play for a losing team, and this FO doesn't make moves just to make noise. They're goals go beyond just getting butts in the seats, and they're smart enough to realize that, by building the right way so as to become sustainable, the team will be more profitable over the long haul as well. I wish Upton and the Braves well, but Upton and the Cubs were not a good fit for each other at this time.

    Things aren't always about the money when it comes to players, but that is as much a reflection of the individual as anything else. Other players are only concerned about the money, and that is okay to as long as they are willing to accept the negative consequences that come with being that way. In other words, don't be A-Rod and then pout when it turns out to not be all peaches and cream.

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    This article summed up my entire thoughts on this situation perfectly. I have nothing to add. Great job.

  • Looking at the 40 man roster, if Opening Day was today, the 25 man squad would look like this......(*) means high chance of being traded / DFA @ Winter Meetings

    SP -

    Baker
    Feldman
    Garza
    Samaradzija
    Wood

    RP -

    Marmol *
    Camp
    Russell
    Beliveau
    Bowden
    Chapman
    Rusin

    C -

    Castillo
    Navarro

    IF -

    Rizzo
    Barney
    Castro
    Stewart *
    Valbuena
    Cardenas

    OF -

    Soriano
    DeJesus
    Campana *
    Sappelt
    Jackson

    Guys like Cabrera, McNutt, Vizcano would need time throw at the AAA level to build up arm strength as a starter, but chances are McNutt might be a "Farnsworth" type of pitcher.

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    Putting my GM hat on-2 potential trades that I can think of:

    1. Barney and Marmol to the Tigers for Jhonny Peralta and Rick Porcello. The Tigers want to improve their defense. If they move Peralta, they can sign Stephen Drew. We play Peralta at 3rd and he'd hit 5th or 6th. Porcello would immediately become a core piece in the rotation.

    2. Marmol to the Reds for Drew Stubbs. Stubbs is coming off a bad year. He could be be a short term solution in center and with a rebound could be moved for another piece at the deadline if Jackson is ready.

    As for Vitters, I can't imagine an 0 for 7 would be his undoing. I'm guessing he has a serious attitude problem right now. His confidence is shot. I agree with purging the fringe prospects but he had too good a year at Iowa to throw him away. I'd say keep him for now, put him in Iowa and build his confidence and value.

    Also, if we move Barney, we could give Watkins every opportunity to win the 2b job and move Lake to second in Iowa so Vitters can play there everyday.

  • In reply to Dale Miller:

    Apparently, the reason Vitters was released from his winter league team was so that he could join another and get more playing time.

  • Read that also, but he is back here working out according to Carrie M.

  • In reply to Dale Miller:

    If we move Barney now, what happens if Watkins stinks it up during Spring Training?

    Stubbs comes in, Bjax will be in Iowa.

    Vitters could have been brought back for a trade next week.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    I think if the Cubs move Barney than Valbuena is the Cubs 2B for 2013.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Watkins stinking offensively would equal Barney now, Defense is the side Barney is better right now but Watkins is no slouch defensively. I would trade Barney now and play Watkins with zero reservations. If the Cubs were a serious contender then no but this year i would let Watkins cut his teeth and see what is there. Might be a keeper,

  • Living in the bay area, I watch my share of A's games. I'm not a big fan of Crisp. He's a centerfielder with a horrible arm who might be ok in Wrigley, but in parks with a bigger center field (which basically means every other park) he's kind of a liability despite his speed. I'd rather bring back Reed Johnson. He fits the profile that's described here. He seems to like Wrigley and the Cubs, he's cheap, and he's not good enough or young enough to worry about a long contract. Bonus: since we're going to be terrible again this year (especially after trading off any assets in July) we'll have a higher draft pick once again.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Will have to fight those Marlins and Astros for that top pick !

    Astros will be crush by the AL West and those AL East teams.

  • Word is that the Twins want to move Denard Span. He intrigues me for the Cubs, at his age, it might work. Twins want starters though, perhaps a 3 way deal, with Marmol going to a team seeking bullpen help, and send the Twins a starter.
    As far as Vitters, what possibly could anyone have seen last September that would make you think he is a major league ballplayer? Lousy defense, and looked like a deer in the headlights at the plate. Move on Cubs.

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    You have to remember that Vitters has struggled at every level and started hitting as he got more comfortable. The question is when do you give him enough playing time to get him comfortable at the big league level? If he was better at defense then he would have already got plenty of time and the Cubs would know exactly what they have in him. I would hold on to him a little longer unless he's the deciding factor in a trade that's going to bring back some good pitching prospects.

  • In reply to Zachary Myers:

    The way he is now, he's barely worth being a throw in to get a prospect. I'd rather have protected Nick Struck than Vitters, especially now. I think Christian Villanueva will be MLB ready before Vitters. I think the Cubs should just do him a favor and release him. It'll help with the glut of 3B "prospects" on the 40 man and may someone else can do something with him. We don't want players on the 25 man roster blocking prospects. Vitters is an example of someone blocking prospects at AAA. Time to move on from this guy.

    Speaking of Vitters, I thought I read that he's come home, not gone to another club. I think that other club that was mentioned was before he joined Caracas.

    Hurts to think we passed on Wieters and Bumgarner for him.

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    I could picture a team like Houston having interest in Vitters since their farm system is barren at the upper levels and they need a 3b.

  • Span looks like He has been traded to the Phillies.

  • I think the Cubs look on Jackson as a potential core player. He has every one of the factors that the Cubs want in a position player - good defense, good speed, grinds out at bats, high OBA. The ONLY flaw he has is his extremely high strike out rate. Certainly, that is a fatal flaw, if it can not be corrected, but if it CAN be corrected, Jackson would be an elite player for this Front Office.

    I don't think that they have given up on him quite yet.

  • the argument has always been that he's young and that he takes a bit of time adjusting to new leagues. For me though, I like ballplayers like Lake who adjust quickly to a step up. I also see little reason to invest a lot of energy into infielders who are poor fielders unless their bat is extra special. I think that the FO would love to unload Vitters for something reasonable- he does have a couple positives. I just would prefer to move on too

  • In reply to Cuyler:

    That is a faulty argument. Even after he adjusts to the new league, his strike out level it too high. What he needs to do is to correct whatever is causing his strike out level to be so high in EVERY league. IF he can do that, he will be an elite player. If he CAN'T do that, he will fail no matter what adjustments he makes.

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    In reply to DaveP:

    I think Cuyler is talking about Vitters not Jackson Dave.

  • if were talking about guys with good fits then i think the cubs should look at luke hochevar from kc. the royals are trying to cut salary and hochevar might make as much as 5 mil in arb. they might also nontender him, but he is a former first round pick and bad defense has really hurt him. with the cubs expecting to have pretty good infield defense he could be a lightning in a bottle type of signing. also we could easily put him in the pen, but use him as one of our 6-9 starters.
    if kc nontenders him we can offer him a major or minor league deal, but if we decide to trade for him we could possibly pick up a decent prospect in the process, definitely something i think the cubs should look into.

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    5.39 career ERA. More hits allowed than innings pitched. No thank you. This guy is lucky to be in the Majors.

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    Hochevar reminds me of Volstad, and on BR's page the number 9 most similar player is...surprise! Volstad.

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    Marcel was saying the same thing. Could be. I'm a little more lukewarm but he does have a good arm. And maybe a change of scenery helps. Depends on cost in terms of prospects and whether they can make this work roster-wise.

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    In reply to jshmoran:

    I was looking at his numbers. His FIP is almost a point lower than his ERA, suggesting he's been unlucky. But that's still a FIP of over four. -- meaning even if he wasn't unlucky, he wasn't all that good. If he's willing to be the 7th starter and work on his delivery in Iowa, he could be a good signing. But others will probably be willing to offer more.

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    I have to respectifully disagree with you SFToby. The Cubs have too much invested in Vitters to just throw him away at this point. The scouting reports on him last summer were very favorable prior to his promotion.

    He projects as a guy who'll hit for average with good doubles power. In no way a star but could be a solid major leaguer if he plays close to his potential.

    Part of the job that the FO is focused on is fixing in the flaws in players to make them better. They're spending more than ever before on coaching, scouts, facilities and even medical staff. Getting nothing for Vitters doesn't make sense. He hit in AAA and hit for power. He's what 24 yrs old? He's hit at every level after an initial period of failure. I just don't see the business reason to dump him at this point. And I agree with you-he looked awful when they brought him up-but still not reason enough to dump him.

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    In reply to Dale Miller:

    Cutting him now would be foolish. He is still pretty young, just turned 23, so has some time to develop. And he did hit in the PCL last year.

    It's too early to give up on him.

    But it's not to early to think that his ceiling is probably not all-star, probably something more like extra bat

  • In reply to Dale Miller:

    I hope you're right and I'm wrong, but I've got a feeling that won't be the case. He had it so easy in HS that he's probably expected it to be that way in pro ball and it takes him a year to get straightened out. Every level that he advances to he has to learn that lesson all over again, which tells me he doesn't take coaching well. I'd like see if we could trade him straight up for Hochevar right now.

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    In reply to SFToby:

    Hochevar is likely going to be DFA'd tomorrow, meaning he can't even hold down a rotation spot with a bad team that needs SP. He's just not a very good player and we already have 5 SP's who are better than Hochevar. If the front office thinks Hochevar has some flaw that can be corrected, or perhaps a move to the bullpen would help him, it's smarter to wait until after Friday night's deadline to non-tender players and see if he can be signed on the cheap or with a minor league contract and a ST invite. $4.4 mil (his arbitration projection) is a lot for a 6th starter.

  • In reply to Dale Miller:

    I agree, but time is no longer on his side. Jed may have expected what happened in September. It is a process, but the FO most likely is disappointed with his winter. Also getting to the bigs is a numbers game and other 3bman are involved.

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    In reply to 44slug:

    There really is a fascinating economics paper to be written about baseball prospects, their implicit valuation, and how general managers value their own prospects vs. how other GMs value the same prospects.

    Great conversation above.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    That paper sounds right up your alley, Mike.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Thanks. It's kind of a one-off to my work (I'm interested in changes in education associated with industrialization), but we do have a budding sports economist here. (She's a Reds fan, but I tolerate her anyway.) I think I'll throw it her way next time I see her.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    You're stuff sounds pretty interesting too. Grew up in a family of teachers and even did it myself a long time ago for a couple of years (science teacher of all things).

    Let me know on the baseball paper . And if it can be condensed into a blog-sized article for non-economists, maybe it would even make a nice guest post.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I agree that you can't throw him away, but you also can't spend too much on guys with limited ceilings. Valbuena has a decent glove and can hit a little- he's a former #1 pick as well, with his share of warts. There are many of these guys floating around, but Vitters' lack of fielding ability will never be changed. This is the real problem with him. His bat can probably develop but he will never develop into the type of player our FO wants. As soon as they can realize something decent for him, unload him. Put energy into players that fit into the mold that the organization wants to follow.

  • Off topic. Just saw that Chris Volstad was DFA'd by KC, and he chose to be a FA.

    http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/8686389/kansas-city-royals-send-vin-mazzaro-clint-robinson-pittsburgh-pirates-pitchers

    I'm sure someone will take a flyer on him. If he ends up in St. Louis and pitches well, I think I'd get a big bellyache.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    Oh man, you know that's exactly what will happen. Or the White Sox. They do a good job with reclamation projects too.

  • Since we're not getting Upton...John do you think there's a chance that Sappelt can become an above average MLB starting outfielder? He's in a great situation with the Cubs where he can get some playing time. His OPS in 26 big league games was .800, which is a jump up from his .690 OPS in the PCL. Any chance that was more than just a mirage?

  • In reply to baseballet:

    I was pleasantly surprised by Sappelt. The little guy can hit. Squares up pretty consistently. And he was better on defense than I thought. I think Sappelt needs to do one of two things to be an above average starting OF'er. One is to learn to play CF at a high level. His bat profiles there right now but his CF defense has been questioned in the past. He has the speed and athleticism to play there, just has to learn to get better reads/jumps. Maybe a project for McKay. If he can't play CF, then I think he has to develop at least 20 HR power to play the corners. He's not big but he can put like I said earlier, he squares up and hits the ball hard, so who knows.

  • "Scott Harris named Cubs' director of baseball operations" - I'd rather they picked up another starter...

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    Man it really amazes me how many of us Cubs fans dislike Vitters and even Jackson(who is a near perfect fit to this FO). It seems like no matter what they do or how good they play people will want them(especially Vitters) gone. I'm sure a lot of you would trade Vitters for a bag of gourmet popcorn at this point lol

    Though my patience has also been tested with him, I have to keep reminding myself the guy is 23 and up until this year has had little to no instruction and been often injured. His first full healthy year, in a league where he was considered young for it, was very very good. That very short call-up diminished his full year for most people but not me, if another prospect put up those same numbers we'd be saying something different. I just won't determine a guy's worth as a major league ballplayer on 2 months while playing sparingly, especially when he played great for months and has shown the willing to work on things in order to make the full jump. I gave him and Bjax a mulligan this year but next year I expect them to improve and surprise some people.

    I know people have soured on Vitters because it seems like hes been here forever but again, I want to point out again

    1. Just had his first healthy season as a pro and put up good numbers
    2. Historically slow to adjust but when he does, he hits.
    3. Will finally get the kind of instruction he should have gotten years ago
    4. has been working on his D nonstop and I actually think he improved, if even just a little.
    4. Learned the hard way that he needs to change some things, ala Rizzo.

    Not trying to change anybodies mind but that's enough for me to hang onto him at least another year, then i'll begin to worry. I think he can still be a solid 3b. I don't trade/release him unless another young 3b that can step in right now is coming back. Sorry for long post

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    It is too quick to give up on Vitters. Like you said, he is slow to adjust so he deserves the benefit of the doubt. Just a hunch but something tells me he won't fully hit his stride until he's 25-27 years old. Seems like the type where the light bulb comes on a little later but once it comes on, no reason he can't have a solid career.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    If anyone was that slow to adjust to a new job, they'd be on the streets by now. I realize that he hit 304 in Iowa last year, but if he spends the year back there working on his approach and if Villanueva gets hot in AA, he could easily leapfrog him. His value might have peaked last year. I'd rather trade our project right now for another project like Hochevar. Supposedly he knew the story about how competitive Venezuelan baseball was from Marwin Gonzalez, so I'm surprised he didn't show up with his hitting shoes on because his glove isn't anything to brag about. I'd hoped he showed up ready to rake and prove that his experience at Wrigley was a fluke. If people can't wait to let Ian Stewart go because of his attitude, then I wonder about Vitters' attitude and heart after being told to hit the road after 2 games.

    "Hitters hit" is an expression I've always heard about the ability to hit a baseball, but I don't think of Vitters when I hear that. Like I told Dale Miller earlier, I hope I'm wrong.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Maybe. From personal experience I can say it can go either way. I spent some time as a Training Coordinator for a company downtown years and years ago, and I've had my share of employees who didn't pick up our computer systems as quickly as most others. Some of them, as you said, didn't last very long but others kept at it, kept asking for more help, training manuals, etc. and eventually they got it. Once they did, they usually remembered it well and wound up staying a lot longer than I ever would have guessed.

    Similarly, there have been some ballplayers who have floundered but did just enough to stick around. They bloomed a little later and carved themselves a nice little career.

    It depends on Vitters. He's the kind of guy who's going to have to keep working. I don't think he'll be a star, but I think he can be an average everyday 3B. Whether that's for the Cubs or another team, I don't know. I'm not as high on him as I once was, but I wouldn't say I've completely given up on him yet.

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    In reply to SFToby:

    I would point out that sometimes minor leaguers come up and stink it up at the major leagues, only to figure it out the next year. In fact, I think there's a guy on our roster who did that :) Vitters isn't going to be Rizzo, but I agree with Marcel on this one. He doesn't have much value, so trading him is unlikely to get us anything, and he *could* pull it together. I wouldn't be surprised if this is a last-chance year for him though with Lake coming on and Villanueva close behind. But if Vitters puts it together, then you've got a legit asset and you can stick him at 3rd for a few years or flip him when Lake or Villanueva look ready to be better.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Good post though.

  • The problem for me was the defense and the instincts. I can forgive a 23 year old who is learning to hit major league pitching. But at 23 and six years as a pro ballplayer, you are seeing what a guy is fielding, running, and how he approaches the game.

    The difference with Jackson and Vitters was striking to me. Jackson showed a real flair in the field, and a very strong competitive streak. Looked like he wanted to play some ball.
    Vitters seemed lifeless, with little passion for the game. Not unlike a lot of young athletes who excel at an early age, but wind up playing the game, just because they are good at it, not because they love it.
    From what I hear, the kid we got from Texas is considered by management to be better right now actually.

  • Vitters wake up call?

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    No the Problem is that People like you are thinking of the Money in your sense of the World.........But when it comes to a Major League Baseball team you need to think bigger John...The Cubs have Millions to spend and that number just keeps getting bigger.......The MLB Just gave every team 100-125 Million Dollars from the National TV Deal..That is on top of the 233,333,333 Million they get every year from MLB profits..........Plus when you calculate the money from the WGN and CSN Money(50 Million)..the cubs have tons of money to spend..........You need to listen to Elias because they are not biast....They are not attached to Ricketts at all,s you knwo they have no reason to lie...The Reason and it's the only reason the Cubs are not spending Money on the pieces they need is Ricketts is greedy and wants the Taxpayers of chicago to foot the 160 Million dollars to rebuild wrigley(oh ya a stadium he owns straight out)..If he spends the money and then goes to Emanuel and ask for the money,we both know they are gonna laugh and tell him use the profit ya just got from the MLB to fund the rebuild.........Not gonna happen,but if he keeps saying the same old song and dance that he needs a rebuilt wrigley to make money to get FA's and blah,blah,blah...........No one is saying spend just to spend..So please save the same ol song and dance argument their..Ricketts owes the Millions of fans that have waited the 100 plus years to get a championship and died with their hearts broke..It's bigger then him,it's way bigger then some outsider from boston he hired and some weird lookin dude from San Diego also and now a 25 yr old they got to be their flunky...Every fan was talking about how they wanted Ricketts to go get some Big league Future Hall of Famer when he took over the team and he said he was gonna do it,but he lied to all of us when he said he wants to win and then he hired Theo and some of the fans have bought into his dream plan(the younger ones have) not the older ones..he let some Dreamer Kid come in with a Plan that has produced No world series wins..ever...Beane has won nothing with Money ball and theo is out to show he can be the first and it's not going to work and when it doesn't trust me I will be here to tell ya I told ya so...Epstien will not bring the cubs a series appearence in his 5yr contract and will he be man enough to admit he made a huge mistake.........Nope his go won't let him admit it..Just watch and see...Fans aren't showing up to wrigley like they did and it's starting to wear thin them acting like they are a small market team..The cubs need a top notch SP and Grienke is it...The Cubs need a RF and CF and Hamilton and Bourn are it and you can lock up Garza and Smardza(I abbreviated his last name,can't spell it sorry).......You spend money for what you need and you and I both know that if he would have opened his pocket book last year like he should have..He could have gotten Pujols because he was so mad at St.Louis he would have jumped to the cubs just to slap them in the face.......Put Pujols,Castro,Bourn,Hamilton & Rizz in a line up that couldproduce a series...yes nothing is 100% but it's a damn good shot.......That Line up would have pushed the fans around here that actually live here to pack wrigley and they would be screaming at Emanuel to get the wrigley deal done......Plus having a Line up like this would make the People want to watch the cubs games on tv and that brings in more revenue and they could buy WGN out and get just as big a TV Deal as the dodgers are gonna get........You have to spend to make money in sports and thats what the cubs FO needs to do........
    Sorry for the long letter but after 100 plus years my patience is wearing thin on this FO and the ownership but mostly at Fans that are ok with bending over and takin losses so maybe some day a prospect mite make it to the majors......Sorry I can't respect those types...........So don't get mad at us when we get mad at losing.........

  • In reply to Henry Jannenga:

    Didn't the Cubs try this already? And didn't the Marlins just try it last year? I'm not okay with losing, but I want this done the right way so the Cubs can compete every year without dipping into the FA market every year to fix problems. That's th late Hendry/Trib model. No thanks.

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    In reply to Henry Jannenga:

    I get the impatience, but I find it amazing that people seem to want the Hendry approach plus better scouting/drafting. Except that then you've got a handful of bad contracts filling up your payroll and you can't sign your own guys. So you're a bit better for a few years, but then you've got a team of overpaid guys in their 30's that no one wants and young players that you have to trade away because there's nowhere to play them and no money to sign them long term. This is not a recipe for sustained success unless you're willing to go absolutely crazy in spending a la the Yankees. But even the Yankees don't want to be the Yankees anymore, so I don't think this is a sustainable way to succeed.

    Look at Theo 1.0 with Boston. The second World Series Team - the one he built, rather than inherited - was built through their development system with a few key free agent signings. They fell apart when they started overpaying for free agents and now the word on Boston blogs is to curse Theo for burdening them with so many bad contracts (rectified in part by the trade dump to the Dodgers). Theo's trying to do exactly what he did in Boston. Unfortunately MLB changed the rules to make this a slower process than it used to be. But if you think signing Grienke, Bourn and Hamilton (assuming that was even possible - how often to teams sign 3 major free agents in one off-season?) would suddenly make the Cubs contenders for years to come, then I have to disagree vehemently.

  • I like Upton but I don't think he makes sense for the Cubs. The fact is he's at an age where his speed is going to be deteriorating, and that's one of his most valuable assets. Three years from now Upton will be 31 and Brett Jackson--a player with a similar skill set--will be 26-27. It's quite possible that over the length of the contract as a whole Brett Jackson will be an equal or better player, although Upton will certainly be better in 2013.

    I think the Cubs are in a position where they need to give guys like Jackson with legit potential an extended chance to establish themselves, because that is one of the best ways to build value on the roster.

  • Upton was going to receive big dollars this year more as a result of a weak - under 30, positional - free-agent class than anything related to his ability.

    He was an early call-up at the age of 19 and saw 1500 plate appearances before the age of 24 (more than enough time to acclimate oneself to major league pitching). In his age 24-27 years, Upton put up a slash line of .242/.316/.420 for an OPS of .736 and an OPS+ of...102 (100 is league-average). Look at the OBP. His 2012 OBP was .298, four points lower than the Cubs as a team in 2012. If one were to believe that Upton will transition well from a speed-adequate pop guy to more of a patient power hitter into his 30s, the trend is not your friend.

    Defensively, Upton has been above league-average but not by much. Here again, the trend is not friendy as his CF defense has been on a steady decline according to UZR (not a stat to take on a year-by-year basis but a good one to eyeball in order to examine a multi-year trend). And his percentage of swings outside the strike zone has steadily increased from 19% in 2009 to 33% in 2012. These numbers in a vacuum aren't necessarily awful but the trend is something to worry about.

    Taken with the fact that he's averaged about 160 Ks over the last four seasons and had a walk rate that dropped to 7% last year, he simply doesn't control the strike zone at a level that says he's going to get suddenly better at such things. In fact, he's more of a 180 K, low-ish walk candidate with 25-30 HR pop than anything anything else right now if his trends continue. In many ways, and I hate to say it, he's the current Soriano at the plate, with seven less years of age on him to boot.

    The Phillies offered Upton 5yr/$55M. At that annual rate, he's reasonable. At the rate he signed for in Atlanta, that $17M in 2017 makes me scratch my head.

    He could buck his own trend. He's not a bad player by any means. Moving to the NL will help. Not facing AL East pitching will help. In Atlanta, though, he'll see young-ish and very good Philly and Washington rotations 38 times a year.

    Upton's trends tell me that Atlanta just paid for his mid-20s performance in Tampa and not what he'll put up in Turner as he meanders into his 30s. Red flags are everywhere. Not huge red flags but flags nonetheless and not worth $75M in my book.

    Oh, and ask Evan Longoria about Upton's effort. It would have been interesting to see how that would have played in Wrigley.

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