Cubs Notes: Theo and Jed speak; Plesac interviews; Struck improves; plus more thoughts on Demp

As we wait for the (official) fall/winter offseason to begin, here's a few items to keep us busy...

Season Ticket Conference Call

There was a season ticket holder conference yesterday and Brett from Bleacher Nation and The Chicago Cubs Online sum it up.  The CCO has a recap of both sessions, while BN goes into a bit more detail on the second conference call.  A lot of it is information that we already have talked about here, but it's nice to hear the front office feels the same way about things as we do here.  Here's a few things that stand out...

  • The Cubs expect to be busy in the offseason and the goal is to try and shore up the rotation, 3B, and possibly catcher.
  • Speaking of 3B, the Cubs are happy with Josh Vitters, Junior Lake, Christian Villanueva, Jeimer Candelario and the overall depth in the system at the position.  It was also mentioned that Javier Baez may move there, but they like his play at SS and will keep him there.  The Cubs have more confidence in Vitters and Lake than I have and I'm glad to hear that.  Hoping they are right on this and I am being a bit too pessimistic.  I will say that I'm really excited to see what Lake can do coming into a season healthy and playing in a more hitting friendly environment in the PCL.  I don't know if he is going to start the year there, but the Cubs are planning on transitioning him to 3B and we already know Vitters will start AAA in 2013.  I suppose if Lake shows enough progress this spring, they'll have to find a way to split time at Iowa with Lake playing some SS and Vitters some 1B.  Otherwise we may still see Lake in AA until Vitters gets his second shot with the Cubs.
  • Other 3B items were that Theo considers Villanueva a breakout candidate and that he thinks Candelario can be a good defensive 3B.  I certainly was relieved to see they feel that way about Candy.  He certainly has the arm and the soft hands to stick there but there has been some speculation in the past that he may not keep the range as he fills out.  For what it's worth, he looked to be in great shape in instructs.
  • The Cubs are also happy with their organizational depth at 2B and seemed to speak most glowingly about Gioskar Amaya.  McLeod mentioned his all around skills and how good he looked in instructs.  As you are well aware, Amaya has been a favorite of ours here in what is a strong, diverse group of prospects at 2B.
  • The team was disappointed in the bullpen but singled out Carlos Marmol, James Russell, and Alberto Cabrera as pleasant surprises.  I think it's telling that 1) the Cubs like Cabrera, 2) are disappointed with the bullpen in general, and 3) they want to stretch Cabrera out as a starter.  That tells me they like his chances of making that conversion considering he could give a much needed boost to the bullpen with a year of experience under his belt.
  • I was pleased to hear Theo Epstein speak positively about Tony Zych's secondaries, saying he had a good slider and splitter in addition to that excellent fastball.  Zych was one player I didn't get a chance to see at the Fall League and the latest information I'd had was that he struggled with his slider.  That does not seem to be the case now and if Epstein is right, we're talking about the complete package as a reliever.  I expect that if Zych continues to perform that he'll get a look this season.
  • They still won't commit one way or the the other to Matt Garza, just saying the focus is to get him healthy.  They are very optimistic on that front.
  • The team is very excited about catcher Welington Castillo.

Dan Plesac Interviews

Bruce Levine reports that Dan Plesac is indeed interested in the color position and will be interviewed.  This marks the second national analyst who has expressed interest, with other being Eric Karros.  Rick Sutcliffe has also given mixed signals, but my interpretation on that is he woul be very interested but is a bit weary of the process.  Doug Glanville has also expressed interest.  It doesn't seem like filling this job will be an issue here.  There are at least 4 national candidates who seem willing to leave their cozy desk jobs to take on the assignment.

Nick Struck shortens stride, and with it, his path to the majors

The Trib has a nice article on Nick Struck, who was the Cubs minor league pitcher of the year.  Struck got off to a slow start this year but worked hard with pitching coach Jeff Fassero to shorten his stride.  The results have been an improvement in his overall stuff, giving him more movement on his fastball, curve, and change-up.  The results were self-evident as Struck finished the year strong and the Cubs thought highly enough to send him to AZ to continue the work he started.

Qualifying Offers and the new CBA

Having trouble understanding the new process regarding free agency and comp picks?  Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLB Trade Rumors explains it all here. Thisis obviously not an issue for the Cubs right now as Shawn Camp is their only FA, but it will begin to loom larger during the season if Matt Garza is healthy but the Cubs are getting low-balled on offers. The Cubs back up option would be to keep Garza, make the qualifying offer and, presuming he wants a multi-year deal and will turn it down, they can then collect the draft pick.  This is probably the worst case scenario and you hope it doesn't come to that.  The preference to me is to either trade him or keep him on a team friendly deal.

Are the Cubs really going to bring Dempster back?

As many of our readers have pointed out, while it seems most Cubs fans who voted on this site would like to see Dempster back, the real question may be why would Dempster come back knowing he is likely to go through the same process which caused so many headaches the first time around?  Maybe he just loves Chicago and even coming back for 3 months is enough to get him interested.  Maybe.  But what if bringing him back isn't the main objective?  What if it's just simply a publicity move to show they've mended fences and that there are no hard feelings?  Other free agents may ask about that situation before agreeing to come here and perhaps the Cubs just want to show that everything is just peachy between them.  Nothing personal, just business, and that they and didn't burn any bridges with Dempster.

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  • I am pleased with the development of Zych , I have always had a good feeling about him. I am not surprised that there are bunch of people in the running for the color analyst, it's one the elite jobs out there. IMO, I see Plesac, Karros and maybe Glanville as the favorites

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    I'm wondering now if it's down to those 4 with Karros being the favorite. As for Zych, I'm pretty excited. He was made to be a late inning reliever (though I found it interesting that he has 3 solid pitches -- another conversion candidate?)

  • I would not trade any package of top prospects for Dan Harden

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Nor would I!

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    When Theo said he has a lot more grey hair now he wasn't kidding. Thanks for the update.

  • In reply to Zachary Myers:

    LOL! You're welcome.

  • I would trade a top 12-15 prospect for him. Here's why. Haren has acknowledged that he knows his stuff declined last season due to his back trouble which is why he learned to be more of a "pitcher". Now, he has time to get healthy, get his fastball back a little, and now have the added skill of learning to be more of a "pitcher." On a one-year deal where every year now has two wild-card teams and the Cubs could either be good enough to sneak in the playoffs or trade Haren for value at the trade deadline (see Greinke), it's a win-win. We have a low payroll this year and again, it'll be a one-year deal.

  • In reply to apalifer:

    12-15 prospect you're probably talking about someone like Amaya, Maples, or Alcantara. That's too high a price for me. The likelihood that the Cubs get back similar value at the deadline for a two month rental is very small. Greinke was younger and has much better stuff than Haren does now -- and he's pretty much in his prime. The team acquiring Greinke, the Angels, are also likely to keep him for those reasons.

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    In reply to apalifer:

    I'd trade a prospect if I could reasonably expect to get at least a similar return at the deadline. Our 12-15 are low A high upside players or higher level players who project as marginal starters or strong bench players. It seems reasonable that a healthy Dan Haren could bring back something better than that, so I think I'd go for it if I thought he could stay healthy.

  • I'd trade for Dan Haren. I'd do it in a heartbeat. Why does a "Paul maholm" type have to be a 4-5 guy? Haren can be a top of the rotation starter, and possibly fetch that much more at the deadline should that be an option. I mean you just stated that The Cubs are stocked with 3rd base options, they seem to have a surplus of middle infielders. And if Amora and Soler are locks in the future outfield, they can probably throw a Hoon-ha in there too. But good pitching is so rare, you take advantage of any situation where you can get it.

    As for Plesac interviewing, well I hang my head a little lower. That they haven't strayed from the most obvious, expected, bunch of retread bums.... Plesac, karros, Sutcliffe....So much for any possibility of someone refreshing or new. Sigh...

  • In reply to felzz:

    I don't think Haren is a top of the rotation guy anymore but I'd do the deal if it had to do more with taking on salary than giving up prospects. The Cubs have to make sure they can get back more than they give up -- and whomever acquires Haren will only get him for two months.

    And all that it assumes he'll bounce back. There's significant risk there that he doesn't, in which case you can't hope to recoup your investment. I'm not saying that it's too risky to deal, just that they need to be compensated for that risk with a big price reduction on Haren.

  • Glanville, Plesac, and Karros are all good candidates.

  • wgn tv has an interim manager, wgn radio has an interim manager, both may be for sale as the tribune corp exits bankrupcy. We've seen wgn radio hosts leave the station for another city, something that never used to happen. We've just had a wgn cubs tv color analyst leave for another city, something that rarely if ever used to happen voluntarily at least. So one has to wonder if the cubs tv job is really that good a position at present, especially for guys with nation network deals. If the cubs are going to be getting a new media deal in 2014 too, then wgn could be out of the picture entirely in 2 years. Why would you want to go to work for a temporary boss, on a network that is being sold by it's bankrupt parent corp. for what might be a 2 year stint before the team jettisons the tv deal? Plus one of your bosses would be Crane Kenny. The cubs and their owners are still tied in many ways to the fate and transactions of the tribune company. Sadly, this is going to affect cubs fans for many years. If they want to get anyone halfway good, this has to be an cubs ownership hire, with assurances that it will be a position that lasts after any separation from the tribune company and it's bankruptcy proceedings. Plesac and Karros are fill in calibre hires, maybe they can be given the interim color analyst title for wgn tv too. Or the cubs could just give the job to Crane Kenny, he could wear his uniform to the ballpark every day.

  • In reply to eddie35:

    The Cubs might be thinking about starting their own network. With the team as the main draw, other programming should be easy to find.

  • I would subscribe, maybe the Ricketts need to be talking to the Wiegals Co.

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