Cubs add depth, versatility, options to rotation and bullpen

Cubs add depth, versatility, options to rotation and bullpen
Jackson, Villanueva, Feldman, Baker

It's easy to forget that through early July last season, the Cubs actually had a pretty good  rotation.  Ryan Dempster had a great first half, Samardzija was a surprise to many, Matt Garza had some bad luck with flyballs but was pitching well otherwise, and Paul Maholm proved to be one of the best low cost signings on the FA market last year.

What they didn't have was depth -- or a reliable bullpen.  The Cubs plan to build an 8 or 9 man rotation went up in smoke when Chris Volstad and Travis Wood got off to bad starts.  Then Randy Wells and Rodrigo Lopez were terribly ineffective when called on.  When the rotation was further decimated with the trades of Dempster and Maholm, coupled with the untimely injury to Matt Garza, the Cubs wound up turning to rookies Chris Rusin and Brooks Raley along with waiver wire pick ups like Justin Germano and Jason Berken.

This year the Cubs are deep with established MLB starters.  Incumbents Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija lead the staff, joined by newcomer Edwin Jackson.  After that, the Cubs have Travis Wood, Scott Baker, Scott Feldman, and Carlos Villanueva.  That's 7 experienced arms that you can count on to give you some quality starts.  At least more so than the group they ran out there late last season.

Behind them you have  Chris Rusin and Brooks Raley, who can buy time until pitchers like Arodys Vizcaino and Alberto Cabrera are ready.  Nick Struck and Barrett Loux are also candidates to get a shot if needed.

So while the rotation may or may not actually be better than it was for the first 3 1/2 months last season, it has a chance to be similarly effective.  More to the point, it will be deeper, younger, and more flexible.

And that isn't even getting to the bullpen, which will benefit from a deeper rotation.  It will likely receive the odd man out between Wood, Villanueva, and Feldman early on, then possibly a second arm from that list once Baker comes back.

At this point they will start the year with Carlos Marmol as the closer with Kyuji Fujikawa as the set-up man.  Sean Camp and James Russell will provide an effective righty/lefty 7th inning tandem, while Michael Bowden and the odd man out of the rotation also figures to be in that mix.

Hard-throwing Rule 5 pick Hector Rondon is the favorite for the last spot, though he will get some competition from waiver wire pick-up Sandy Rosario, free agent Cory Wade, and last year's spring training phenom, Rafael Dolis.  In the minors, the Cubs will have depth with Lendy Castillo, Jeff Beliveau (if he clears waivers), Carlos Guttierez, Blake Parker, plus Jaye Chapman and Zach Putname if they decide to return.  It's also possible that if Arodys Vizcaino and Alberto Cabrera arrive in Chicago next year, they could do it as bullpen help.  Chang-Yong Lim may also be ready to contribute by the end of the year.

Here's the way the pitching staff shapes up so far...

Starting Rotation

  1. Matt Garza, RHP
  2. Jeff Samardzija, RHP
  3. Edwin Jackson, RHP
  4. Travis Wood, LHP...or
  5. Scott Feldman, RHP...or
  6. Carlos Villanueva R
  7. Scott Baker (DL)
  8. Brooks Raley, LHP
  9. Chris Rusin, LHP
  10. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP
  11. Alberto Cabrera, RHP
  12. Barrett Loux, RHP
  13. Nick Struck, RHP

Bullpen

  • CL: Carlos Marmol, RHP
  • Kyuji Fujikawa, RHP
  • Shawn Camp, RHP
  • James Russell, LHP
  • Scott Feldman/Carlos Villanueva, RHPs; Wood LHP
  • Michael Bowden, RHP
  • Hector Rondon, Cory Wade, Sandy Rosario, RHPs

There's some depth here and while it may get a little dicey after the 7th spot in the rotation, the thought is that if the Cubs lose 3 starters either through injury or trade (or ineffectiveness), it likely means they aren't contending anyway.

It's not just me who's feeling a bit optimistic...

Jonah Keri of Grantland tweets (though I have no idea why he has Villanueva 3rd or Samardzija)

Garza-Jackson-Villanueva-Samardzija-Feldman, with Wood and Baker lurking? That's...not bad at all, actually.

And also,

Villanueva's the wild card. I could see a random 4-win season.

And by 4 wins, he means WAR, of course.  Not that he'll win 4 games in his won-loss record.

If everyone does stay healthy and effective, than it could mean that the Cubs may be better than we thought.  And whether they contend or not, it will give the Cubs plenty of trade options down the stretch.

Dave Cameron of Fangraphs tweets,

It's almost like they're setting it up to trade Garza around the time that Baker returns...

He also wrote this article on the signing and the Cubs performance overall this offseason, in which he said,

But we should note that Edwin Jackson makes them better, and this price for Edwin Jackson is still completely reasonable based on his established performance level. That the Cubs aren’t yet obvious contenders shouldn’t cause us to tell them to stop trying to improve. By bringing in Jackson and Carlos Villanueva today, while already adding Scott Baker and Scott Feldman, the Cubs have now acquired four interesting starting pitchers this winter. They’ve rebuilt their entire rotation, essentially, and have set themselves up to be able to trade Matt Garza — after he proves he’s healthy, anyway — without it creating a huge problem for their Major League team. They did the same drastic overhaul of their rotation that the Twins and Royals went after this winter, just they did it without giving up useful Major League outfielders or top outfield prospects in the process.

Looks like the plan is starting to kick into gear.

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  • Thanks, John. The whole pitching scenario is suddenly cause for optimism -- and it's 51 days till pitchers and catchers report, I see (thanks for the countdown ticker). Who knows who else will be in the mix by then?
    It will be interesting to see who goes and who stays on the 40. For one of them, I suspect it's adios to Campana with his .231 BA in winter ball.
    And we can keep speculating on juicy trades, now that we have more to deal with.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Creating room on the roster is the part that's not really fun. Don't like to lose guys. Hopefully they can work something out where they don't have to DFA anyone.

    Cubs certainly have the depth to deal now. Jackson will likely be their biggest offseason should continue to be worth following.

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    I love optimistic articles!

  • In reply to Jason Pellettiere:

    I'm optimistic about their pitching. Maybe their defense too -- but as for the whole team, I'm not so sure they're going to hit enough yet.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    The only improvement that I can see is replacing Mather with Schierholtz,and that's marginal at best. A full season of Rizzo will help,but then again we can't ignore the numbers LaHair produced before Rizzo's arrival. All in all we can't expect much improvement coming from within.It sure would be nice though.

    What I'm trying to say is Theo had better get an extra bat or two and by doing that will keep the fans putting their fannies in the seats. I would much prefer checking out the kid prospects in Geneva. I would love to see them demonstrate the tools they were signed for.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I believe this team can improve their record in 1 run games, even if the offense is poor. The defense and bullpen should improve that record. We lost a lot of games in the first half because of the bullpen.

  • John, have you heard anything about Vizcaino's rehab? Is he throwing yet or are they being extra careful? March 20 will be 12 months since the surgery, and most experts say a full recovery takes 12-18 months, depending on the individual. I'd rather see the club play it safe with him than be sorry.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Nothing recent but I'd heard from some good sources that it was going extremely well. It's been awhile though.

  • I think McNutt has a chance in the pen. He ended as a relief pitcher with some nasty stuff.. Plus he's on the 40-man, unless they trade him. He will be one of guys batters don't want to see.

  • In reply to mac4cubs:

    He might. I'd like to see it. It'll be tough for him to make it out of spring training, but I can see it happening mid-season sometime.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I'd like McNutt to dominate from the BP in Iowa, maybe a late season call-up. But he could have a MLB impact in 2014 and is a 2015 SP conversion candidate.

  • Great job by the FO! I can see the logic of having Feldman as one of our starters right out the gate to have him build value in case we're not competing at the deadline. That said, so far I prefer both Wood and Villanueva over him and would especially love to give Villanueva a full year as a starter to see what he can do. Gonna be a fun spring watching them slug it out.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    It's really incredible when you step back and see all the additions they've made to the rotation and the bullpen.

    Really looking forward to spring. It's going to be nice to see them make some tough decisions.

  • The thing the Cubs have is options. John points out that beyond 7 things get a little sketchy in the starting rotation. Beyond seven! Beyond seven! This to me is unfathomable. We are embarking on unchartered waters. We have the pitching. We have the defense. The hitting is what is lacking now, which was not the case two weeks ago. The FO saw a need, and addressed it quicker than many of us thought. I predict they will go for hitting next off season. Then there is the wave of talent. We will be competitive this year, I think. Then the sky is the limit.

  • In reply to Break The Curse:

    Haha! It is weird to say that. Must be nice as a team to say, we know who are top 7 starters are going to be. I'm used to the Cubs knowing who 2 or 3 guys are going to be.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Agreed,... I don't think that they have had a rotation in place this early since the young Prior/Wood/Clement/Zambrano days c2003. That was a good core,... other than the chronic injury problems that followed the top 3 of them around and shortened each of their careers as starters.

    I don't think that the Garza/Jackson/Shark/ one of more of Villanueva/Feldman/Woods/ combo is quite as good as those 2003-ers could have been,... but they are not a bad starting point.

    This is actually shaping out to be a lot of fun for a change.

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    I hope Garza is healthy and they keep him since the free agent market is so slim next year, but if he is healthy, what do you think the Cubs would be asking for in return? Like, use our farm system as an example as to what you guess the front office wants.

  • In reply to Mike Mayberry:

    I think we can use the rumored Olt/Perez package as a starting point if Garza is healthy. Perhaps a little less because there is less cost control and the concern with his health. Considering what other pitchers have drawn in trades, I think the Cubs can expect a healthy package.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I agree. I am beginning to believe I have an unhealthy prospect crush on Olt.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    Admitting the problem is the first step. Next, find a good Double A sponsor.

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    It's nice to see how much Theo accomplished in such a short time. It rewards my faith in him. Like John, I didn't expect this, but I'm certainly not upset by it. I still think 2014 is going to be a very fun year for Cubs fans.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    It really is remarkable when you look at the overhauled pitching staff. It looks like they plan on building this at the MLB level rather than just going strictly for prospects and young guys like Rizzo. I like that, even if it's a long shot, they're going to at least give themselves a chance to compete.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I'm genuinely not sure what they're doing. The signing or non-signing of Bourn or Swisher if they fall into the Cubs lab will be interesting.

    I've always thought 2014 was the year to start a sustained push. There are a few reasons for this: (1) Castro is in his prime and Rizzo has fought through his sophomore slump season -- which I think is coming -- to establish himself as a consistent 3-4 WAR first baseman; (2) Jackson, Watkins, Lake, and Zych have reached the majors and are contributing in some capacity; (3) The minor league system has developed to the point where we have high-minors players who can be traded for key cogs, while still holding the ones you value most. (Even if we ignore Javy Baez, Alcantara, Torreyes, Villaneuva, and a dark horse to Vogelbach all could have established themselves as legit AA hitters by then.)

    Just thinking through possible implications of that theory: they're going to want to get pitching to complement their hitters. We know they tried to turn Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza into Randall Delgado and Martin Perez. Clearly, that failed. So, what are the options? Free agency is. But, next year's class stinks. So, go out and grab Anibal Sanchez or Edwin Jackson for multiple years this year. Jackson essentially replaces Randall Delgado. The hope would seem to be that Feldman or Villaneuva can step up and be Perez. Then, add a closer you like on a 2 year contract. Also add a reliever recovering from TJ -- who will be healthy in 2014.

    The moves, so far, are consistent with this theory. And, as I pointed out in the last article, none of what they've done precludes another sell-off in July, which suggests they're looking forward even as the moves may have a side effect of winning now.

    BTW, you and many board posters have been in top form from pretty much the moment the Sanchez story broke.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I wonder if they sense some market shift with regard to the money spent on free agency and in trades. A good SP has a lot of value, as we've seen in trades and huge contracts. So if you can get one now at good value, maybe that turns into an asset in that you don't have to give up big talent or dollars to acquire them in 2015. Perhaps they're wondering if 20 something healthy pitchers like Sanchez and Jackson won't be as readily available in future markets. And even if they are, they may be less cost efficient -- and you still don't have the guarantee you'll them. You try to get them when you can.

    On the other hand, I think it makes sense to trade guys like Dempster who are already 36 and probably won't be an asset in 2-3 years now. Garza is a wildcard. You can make an argument to keep him but maybe you trade him if you think you can' re-sign him. To me the only direction they clearly have is to acquire talent with some long term value. It could mean prospects, but it could also mean players who can still contribute in 2-3 years. You have to snatch talent when you can, no guarantees later.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I think you've put your finger on it. It isn't just a matter or rebuilding the farm system under the new CBA, it is also the projection of what the increased tv money across the board will do to player salaries across the board but especially to FA. It may not be possible to find a FA in the next few years that doesn't get a qualifying offer and would cost a draft pick. A team rebuiliding their farm teams can't afford to part with eve a second round pick for any FA much less one that is somewhat undervalued. If you give up a scarce high draft pick that you had to stiink all year to get, for a marginal free agent then what are you really building?

    These moves by the cubs look good now because they didn't cost thieir high second round pick. And in two years they may look better due to the decreased availability for under valued/paid players. If he stays healthy Jackson will be a bargain in 2 years, and he will protect the few prospects the cubs have in their farm system for awhile too.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Thanks too on the kind words at the end..all the activity has inspired us all!

  • Thanks for your thoughts John! In re Beliveau, hasn't sufficient time elapsed yet to know whether or not he was claimed or not? If not, how much longer until we might know?

  • In reply to Good Captain:

    The total DFA process can take up to 10 days. You have a 7 day window to make a deal and then the 3 day waiver process.

  • John, given the glut of possible starters, Brooks Raley's odds of breaking camp as the No. 5 starter seem awfully remote. Do you think we should let him audition for the No. 2 LH reliever job, behind Russell? I see how despite Raley's bloated ERA, he held left-handed batters to a .214 average last year.

  • In reply to Taft:

    It's possible. They may try that with Rusin as well. Eventually both may take the same path that Marshall and Russell did, hopefully with similar results.

    They may need them for depth early on, but that could be their eventual role.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    If Cubs keep Rusin, then Wood is major trade bait......which I do not mind as long they get something in value in return.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    It's possible they could trade Wood. I don't think he has too much value. The Reds traded him for a good RP, a nice commodity, but Cubs are better off keeping a young LH SP.

  • Strange.....this article looks similar that i was trying to say of who we had and on win projection........hmmmmmmmm..........so John, are you saying we might have a chance of 90 wins?...we have a deep staff......there are no Ryan, Maddux or Seavers..............a few of our pitchers won't make it due to possible trades or not being ready.......but I have to say that in the last week or two, our pitching staff has gained 20 plus wins ...and with some luck, can pick up a few more wins......we do have a few holes in the batting order, but if Jackson has a break out season and can get on base, and Stewart gives us a descent year, we can pick up a few more wins....we don't need people to swing for the fences...we need hitters who can connect at the right time.....we need people to get on base.....a walk is just as good as a hit.........I like to suggest we keep Dolis and Castillo in the minors so we don't lose 10 games with them on a mound............and lets hope the Astros does not take Appel in the draft...........talk was Rangers were not serious in signing Jackson....they were not serious signing Hamilton also as they saw him walk away from their club to play for their rivals, the Angels........the Rangers can come back calling on the Cubs when they need Garza....I hear they have a few good prospects we can use..........the more I look at the other Central division rosters, the more I believe that we might have leaped frogged to 2015..........if we are doing well in July...we will not be trading Garza if he is on his game.

    Anything can happen in 2013 with this pitching staff.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    I wrote this article this morning before they even signed Jackson or Villanueva. It's not based on a a comment you may have made, if that's what you're implying. I don't think this is a 90 win team unless they get a lot of breakthrough years from hitters. Pitching and defense could lead to something like a 15 game improvement, perhaps with some flashes of very good play in spurts.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Cubs won 61 games last year......Garza was hurt....Dempster & Mahom were gone after July......we had some real Dogs on the mound as starters in Aug & Sept.......no doubt we are at 500 with these four new starters..........with some work, we can hit better in 2013.......I believe Theo & Jed are trying to catch lightening in a bottle and be like the A's of 2012.......rotating in fresh arms on the mound could be the answer for this division race in 2013.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    I hope so. I would be thrilled if you are right. I'm more worried about their hitting, tough.

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    In reply to CubsTalk:

    You blame the losses after July on injuries and trades to the pitching staff, but I remember how wretched the hitting was in the final 2 months so I did some quick research.

    After July we lost 42 games.
    In those losses we scored:

    Zero runs in 8 games
    1 run in 8 games
    2 runs in 6 games
    3 runs in 6 games.

    Close to 30 games in two months lost where we scored 3 runs or less.

    And heavier toward the less scoring, to boot.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    I believe last year's team underachieved too. I think run diff indicated 65 wins. I'd be curious to see if the team's WAR expected more wins. I believe Demp was the only of the few players to exceed his expected ERA. A lot of players had low babip's.

    I look at the Orioles Team and think are they really much better than this roster. I feel like our pitching and defense is way better. So i guess their is always hope that we catch a break.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I think they have a decent chance at .500. Anything more than that would have to come from major injuries hurting our divisional rivals.

    As much as I'd like to think they could surprise us and at least be in the race this year, they have so many questions on offense.

    Can Soriano have another year like 2012 or does he start to decline? What, if anything, does DeJesus have left? Can Schuerholtz be productive playing everyday or almost everyday? What offense will we get out of 3B? Out of Catcher? We know we don't have a lot of offense out of 2B.

    Other than Schuerholtz and replacing Soto with Castillo, this is the same offense as last year, which was mostly pathetic all year.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    Here's hoping Holliday gets injured.

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    He usually saves that for the playoffs and misses must-win games with hangnails.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    Good points!

  • In reply to Just Win:

    Offense is the huge question. They need a lot of internal improvement because you're right, not much was added from the outside. I do think they'll add another player or two on offense before the season starts.

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    I'm sorry.
    I'm crazy optimistic about the future, but I do NOT understand optimism about the present.

    So we have seven potential starters. OK.

    You only have five guys in a rotation. But all seven of those guys expect to start.

    Garza will very likely be traded once his health can be established and proven.

    So that's six and more doable, especially considering Baker's recovery.

    But the excitement over depth will be short-lived.

    Baker, Feldman, and Villanueva were all given contracts that are geared towards flipping them in the very short term.

    Again, I love the moves on the part of the FO, but these are more moves like the signing of Maholm last year.

    A little coaching, a little lunch, and maybe we can get something from him at the deadline.

    And honestly (this is just my opinion). I think Jackson isn't meant as a long term piece either.

    The FO had a very high opinion of Sanchez's long term outlook, but I have doubts they feel the same about Jackson.

    His problem has always been consistency, and maybe they think that if Bosio can coach 1.5 - 2 years of consistent pitching into him, they will see a nice return on a moderately large investment.

    This will still be a bad team, though. And next year we'll be right back where we started.

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    In reply to Giffmo:

    Giffmo, thse 7 potential starters are miles ahead of the 7 potential ones we had a year ago and some will be dealt, i'd wager on it.turning short term assets intoong term ones

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    I'm not sure where you're reading into crazy optimism here. And part of the plus about the deep staff is the flexibilty to make moves. Did you read the article?

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I also don't think they're just getting guys with the sole intention of flipping them. They want MLB players too, they're not just looking to acquire prospects. I doubt they are just trying to build the farm. If they plan on winning in two years, they're going to want some guys with experience. Nothing wrong with having a few 30 year old guys if you want to contend.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yeah, it didn't read "optimistic" to me. The upshot is that we're in better position with pitching than we were last year... when we were the second worst team in the majors. But the subtext of the post is that just because we're better doesn't mean we're contenders. As a rule, no team with Ian Stewart penciled in as the starter at 3B should be taken seriously as a contender.

  • In reply to Taft:

    They need some big years from guys who haven't proven anything yet. Stewart is one, W.Castillo is another. Need improvement from Castro and Rizzo. A lot of IFs for them to succeed, though they're more on the offensive side.

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    In reply to Giffmo:

    "This is still a bad team & next year we'll be right back where we started."
    Really?
    That comment tells me you aren't paying attention!
    With all the new pitchers, the Cubs have evolved into a "competitive" team even though there are plenty of offensive questions, and with just a couple breakthrough years (Castillo? B.Jackson? Stewart?) they could very well contend!
    To think that next year we'll be 'right back where we started' is something I'd expect to read on the other sites.

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    In reply to AdolphoPhillips67:

    I'm sorry, but I think its naïve to say this team is competitive.

    -We only scored 30 more runs than the worst offense in the league last year.
    -Soriano had a RAR of 38, and we're aggressively trying to trade him.
    -You're RELYING on Jackson, Castillo, or Stewart to have breakout years. While that's certainly possible, its just as possible that they make no progress.
    -Adding no hitters, while (potentially) losing your #1 run producer on an already abysmal and anemic offense is not a recipe for competitive.

    -While our rotation appears deeper on paper, our new signings must play well to prove it is. If a couple of them struggle or get hurt the promise of depth wanes.
    -Although I agree that the pitching is deeper, the top of the rotation is weaker than last year, IMO.
    I believe Garza will be traded prior to opening day, and Dempster, Garza, Shark was much stronger than Shark, Jackson, Villanueva.
    -I like the pitching we've added. But we still do not have an Ace on the roster or in the system. Few competitive teams exist without an Ace pitcher.

    We are moving in the right direction and I like the moves, but those moves will not translate into a competitive 2013 team, IMO.
    And that is fine by me.

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    I liked the article and my comment wasn't meant as a critique in the article as much as joining the ongoing conversation that seems to include an number of people throwing around words like "playoffs" and "90".

    And I certainly don't think they're thinking that one dimensional.

    But if they thought Feldman, Baker, and V were long term answers I feel they'd have signed them to long term deals.

    As for Jackson, I could be way off. I just have a feeling that even at 52 million, there lies an opportunity to buy low and sell high during or after the 14 season. That's 100% speculation.

    But I like the pick. He's a high ceiling guy who hasn't gotten there yet. They could come away looking very smart.

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    Ahhh...I see. I don't mind if you critique the article, by the way. Just thought you were referring to the article as overly optimistic, which I don't think it is at all. I think we all like what they've done so far, whether it leads to great success is another matter.

    With regard to the pitchers, I think they're probably playing this by ear to some degree. If the Cubs make a lot of progress and Scott Baker, for example, is a big part of that, it's not a stretch for me if they try to extend him. The same goes for Jackson. He's getting a #3 salary -- not a great value, but it's about right for an innings eater mid rotation guy. I think those guys can be worth keeping. They just need to keep accumulating talent and use whatever avenue they can and when they can. If the Cubs think they can contend by 2014, 2015 they may not want to trade an innings eater. They could get a lot more expensive by then, so it makes some sense to keep the one you already have. I'm not saying they necessarily have to keep him (or trade him) -- just that it depends on a number of factors.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I think these moves help the team in at least two ways, maybe three.

    One, they will be more competitive this season, which will make it easier to sign free agents next offseason. We've already seen how hard it is to sign top free agents when you're coming off a 100 loss season. Being anywhere near .500 will be a much easier sell to free agents looking for a new home.

    Two, this gives them a bunch of options for trades later in the season. They could either deal a few of the guys they just signed, decide to extend whoever is on a one year deal, or trade other players because they now have more depth.

    That's a far better position than they were in just a month ago.

    If they happen to be anywhere near .500, with luck, they might have an outside shot at contending. You just never know. But there are too many positions we would have to have career years from to think that we will be right there in the race.

    But any way you look at it, they will be more fun to watch this season. And we'll be a year closer to some of the kids starting to make the jump. We should see BJax this year, hopefully improved, perhaps Vitters, and hopefully Junior Lake. Maybe Cabrera. I'm not sure who else is likely to get time before the season is over, but I'm much more interested in the team right now than I was this past season.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    Agree with this. Im surprised the Cubs have been able to get as many FAs as they have. It shows how difficult it is when teams like KC and Pitt are overpaying (in trade or free agency) for SPs to go there. And they were both better than the Cubs. If they are this good at it now, imagine once the Cubs look competitive. I think you're right there -- this is about looking down the road over the next two years and adding those last few pieces.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Theo's reputation carries some weight. When Theo says, "Look, this 100-loss season is an aberration, I plan to have a winner here by the end of your contract," people look to his past and believe he can actually build one. Whether you love Dayton Moore or hate him, he simply doesn't have the authority Theo does when he says he's building a winner.

    So Sanchez is choosing between a team that just went to the World Series and the Cubs, he chooses the former for slightly more money. I don't think he would have chosen many teams over the Tigers, so it wasn't all that unusual. But guys like Jackson who are choosing between less years with a Rangers team that seems to be on the decline, and a rebuilding Padres team? Much easier choice.

    And this: "this is about looking down the road over the next two years and adding those last few pieces," I agree with both of you completely on.

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    Upon re-reading all the posts, I see that the number of people throwing around "90" and "Playoffs" is only one or two--but those few have multiple repeat posts based on unlikely and rambling scenarios. The rest of us seem to be level-headed about '13.
    Optimism is justified when you look at 1) where we were last year this time with our pitching staff; 2) what we have given up--none of our core talent; and 3) the aggressive, savvy plan fulfillment that the FO is showing.
    I see no problem with being optimistic about the tangible changes that are happening. But it's your choice.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Well said....

    There's TOO MANY "IF's" to attempt predicting any number of wins with any certainty. Doesn't mean we can't be optimistic about them. Obviously not all of them will work out. But some will.

    I love the moves the FO has made. I'd like a couple offensive additions, but hey... we're better than we were at the end of the season.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Everyone on this site (I assume) would dearly love to see 90 win season; not all of us expect one but the consensus generally seem to agree that things seem to be turning for the good. Let's see what other good, if any, the FO can stuff our collective stockings with next year. I'm actually optimistic this year.

  • One thing I actually like about this rotation is there are 3 guys on one year deals. That means that if Baker, Feldman, and Garza have good years, they can be given qualifying offers at the end of the season. If they take the offer, you get another good year with no strings attached, and if they decline, the cubs have an advantage in resigning them and get back some picks if they sign elsewhere.

    I really am liking the look of the team so far but can't help but think they aren't done in the outfield. It just seems very incomplete right now unless they plan on starting BJax at the beginning of the year, which I highly doubt (though I bet he will be up rather soon). I think if they make one more move, I really hope they follow your advice/prediction and go after Coco Crisp assuming he's available at a decent price.

  • In reply to Andrew:

    I think Crisp is a nice fit, especially since he won't take up yet another roster space, presuming it'll take a 40 man roster player to acquire him. He's also on a one year deal and won't block any prospects long term. The hope is that he's cheap because of his salary and him looking like he's the odd man out in that OF.

    I do like the one year deals to these guys but I'm not convinced they are bent on trading them. I think it's going to depend on their performance and also how the team does overall. Its likely they trade a pitcher or two but it wouldn't surprise me if they kept a couple as well.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Ya in an ideal world they all have good years and we have the option of extending them on a team friendly contract, trading them for prospects or another area of need, or let em walk for compensation picks. In any event, cubs are better off in the long run and short run possibly.

  • I'm very impressed with the off season moves. I still think they need one more lefty in the bullpen/rotation because they are going to come up against some tough left handed hitters over the course of the season.

    I could see Travis Wood maybe becoming the 6th man long type if they don't end up adding someone between now and Spring Training. But, I still wonder if they might try to swing a Garza for Olt deal and try to shore up 3rd base? (Vitters would most likely go as well and maybe we could get a lefty arm in return. That way, Stewart gets one more chance to redeem himself as Olt starts in the minors.)

    In terms of remaining position players, the only 3 that interest me considering the current structure are Bourn, (depending on his contract demands and if he is worth a draft pick), followed by Casey McGehee and Mark DeRosa.

    While many might not be high on the latter two, I think they could be low cost signings that could provide high value over a long season.

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    I really like Olt, but I'm not sure he'll be a huge factor in 2013. Wouldn't surprise me if he stayed in AAA for most of the year. He has yet to play at that level.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Olt and a pitcher? What pitchers might be in such a deal? You've been on the money with most of the players you ided as good fits for the cubs so far.

  • In reply to eddie35:

    I think Olt and a pitcher is reasonable. Perez is a great fit in terms of him being a lefty. Buckel is nice too, upside lower but throws more strikes.

  • Is there a point where qualifying offers no longer matter and you don't lose your draft pick?

  • In reply to mosconml:

    I don't know actually. Maybe after June :)

  • One thing people our forgetting is EJax was a top prospect in the Dodger system trade to the Rays I think origanally . As much this man has been traded he is a proven asset. I think as EJax also think if given time in one place he can show what he is worth!!!! I think when he was drafted a #2 possible #1 starter.

  • In reply to vinniethefixer:

    People once thought Jackson had #1 starter ability. And in some ways his stuff is still close. Had the 7th highest average FB velo last year to go with a nasty slider and two other MLB average pitches. Command has improved but still not the kind of plus-plus command that a #1 has. In reality he's a solid mid-rotation workhorse who can be much more than that on the days he's on.

  • The more I look into it, the more I'm hoping Travis Wood's in the rotation to start the year. He was really putting things together at the end of last year, be nice to see if it continues. 37 IP in August, he had a 4.14 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and held batters to a .234/.295/.464 line. Sept/Oct he got even better: 41.1 IP, 3.05 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and .199/.289/.320.

    I think having a surplus of players with the legitimate ability to start creates a sort of intra-team competition that carries over well onto the field. One of those kind of unspoken things you see on teams with good pitching staffs. Has to do with depth, sure, but also with knowing you gotta be on your game because there's a couple of guys there ready to take your place.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    Yep...that depth is key and a great point how the competition should drive the guys to perform even better.

  • All and all I am cautiously optimistic that the Cubs will have a pretty decent rotation. I kind of agree what some of the other blogs are saying John, this does seem more likely than ever that the Cubs are setting up to trade Garza. I expect the cubs to be better but still below 500. this upcoming season. That being said , if Garza is healthy and having a good/decent year it's almost certain the Cubs will trade him next Summer.

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    Some, including Kaplan, think Garza is gone between now and the deadline. Have heard others who think he stays and they build a strong rotation. If they are thinking of trading Garza, then the deal for Jackson seems to me one they are considering for the long term -- and it could mean a guy like Baker is in play for an extension if he performs well. The Cubs have to replace those solid innings and they can't dip into free agency every year. Just a feeling that, if they trade Garza, 2 of the guys they signed are keepers, with one of them being EJax.

  • I think this does set up nicely for a Garza to TX for Olt +? trade when Baker is ready. A future IF containing Rizzo, Olt, Castro, and one of our middle IF prospects feels very strong.

    Consider Bourn on a one-year, high AAV deal. That, along with a mid-year addition of Olt could elevate the overall quality of this offense for the short term, with only one lost pick as the downside to the build towards the long-term.

  • If they get anywhere near .500 I'll be really happy. At least I want to see good progress toward getting there.

    Max upside is the All Pitch - No Hit Padres of a couple of years back.
    That team almost made the playoffs.
    Max downside is everyone gets hurt and they stink again.

    If everyone stays reasonably healthy they'll at least be watchable.

    The one thing I don't see is an ace. Maybe they'll get lucky and draft one. Barring that, if one comes available in a couple of years the Cubs need to throw bank at him.

  • Any chance the Angels would do Garza and Marmol for Trumbo and Richards?

  • In reply to apalifer:

    With all the pitching additions, I was wondering something similiar. Perhaps the Angels would have interest in Shark & Marmol for Trumbo??

    If the Cubs can add Trumbo & Bourn, they could make some noise this year.

  • In reply to CubsFaninLA:

    The Cubs are not going to trade Shark. He is a core piece right now. I also don't think LA wants to trade Trumbo.

    They also don't want Bourn. He would cost them their high 2nd round pick next year. Plus he is on the wrong side of 30. He is a good player just not the type the Cubs need for long term success.

    If there is a good value pick up for the offense, Theo will try for it.

  • In reply to CubsFaninLA:

    Trumbo a less valuable player than Shark on his own. Would be a horrible trade. Cubs wouldn't do that trade.

    I'm beginning to think Trumbo is the most overrated player out there. Good power,. but his production is right about where Soriano's is these days.

  • In reply to apalifer:

    Would rather have Olt than Trumbo if they can swing it. At any rate, Angels no longer looking for pitching and not trading Trumbo now that they've traded Morales for Vargas.

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    I think if Jedstein is high on Richards, the deal could be done as long as we send some cash there way too.

    We are prob going to have to wait as this wont get visited until the season starts.

    1.Problem is the Angels think there rotation is solid now w the Vargas signing, so we will have to wait for him, tommy hanson, or fat joe to get rocked as the latter two are new to the AL.

    2. A serious injury to Weaver or Wilson

    3. A slow start for them coupled w fast start by Rangers or A's

    4. Matt Garza showing that he is truly healthy and capable of lasting a whole season.

  • Angels didn't want to trade Trumbo before they traded Morales, I'm sure they still don't.

  • I would actually prefer to see Arodys Vizcaino and Alberto Cabrera in the bullpen at this time. No need to rush those guys in the rotation. Some of the better starting pitchers in the league actually stretched out in the bullpen before being rotation guys and they end up doing very well. This should play out to be a much better year than 2012.

  • Liriano signed with the Pirates for $14 million for 2 years.......the Cubs are still better than the Pirates.

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    In reply to CubsTalk:

    I wouldn't say the Cubs are better than the Pirates. The Pirates have a good young team. They've been rebuilding since the Eisenhower administration and have a load of talented kids. They've just folded the last two seasons because of no depth and very little veteran leadership. If they don't make the playoffs this year I would expect Clint Hurdle to be fired and another veteran manager to take over.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    Hurdle better then prepare himself a new resume......

    So you would take the Pirates system over the Cubs?

    Cubs have been rebuilding since the Wilson administration.

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    In reply to CubsTalk:

    The Cubs have technically been rebuilding since 2011. This is the first time in our lifetimes they're doing a proper rebuild from the ground up.

    The Pirates have had a losing record 20 straight seasons, although they are on the verge of being a pretty good team.

    In that same 20 year period the Cubs have had a winning record 8 times, been to the playoffs 4 times.

    The two franchises are going in the opposite directions right now. We're going to be better than 2012 but that's not hard to do. The Pirates, if they do things smartly (and maybe need a new manager to do that), should be in good shape to contend for the division for the next few seasons. We're not there yet.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Overpay. He's a one year guy at about 5/6 M.

  • IDK, I still think it's impossible (or at least highly unlikely) to trade Garza for any meaningful value until he shows he’s healthy. Which will be ST, at the earliest. But teams aren't really active and trading for marquee players during ST. If I was a GM faced with the prospect of losing a near MLB ready prospect or two for just one year of Garza..... I want proof he's healthy! I would need a helluva lot more evidence than the Garza's, the Cubs’, or even a Dr's opinion.... I want to see the guy throw 7+ innings in meaningful regular season games...

    The reality is Garza (if healthy) is likely the best FA SP on the market in 2013. He is a great team mate, loves the city, the Cubs, and he has the intangibles you want in a #2 guy (play off experience and leadership). Theo & Jed will likely explore keeping him. I bet they don't automatically flip him at the deadline unless we aren't playing well and they are overwhelmed with a package for him, or they don't think they can extend him at a reasonable price....

    Time will tell, but I think all this talk about "NOW they can flip him for Olt or whoever" is very premature.

    We've got some pitching depth for once.... enjoy that while we can. "IF" they all work out, then we can consider flipping some for prospects or other more pressing needs.... But the reality is all "7 SP's" won't work out the way we'd like....

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Agreed. I think there's a solid chance that we wouldn't see a Matt Garza at his likely pay rate come through free agency in the next few years once we're ready to compete, and even then, who's to say that other teams won't completely blow prices up? Do you think the Yankees will stand pat for two or three years straight?

    I understand that we can get some good prospects for Garza, but let's not forget that Theo pretty much said at one point that a Matt Garza is exactly the type of player they're looking to accumulate.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I think its probably true that teams will have to be convinced he's healthy and it will probably have to be in live game action.

    Only wildcard I see is that teams scout Garza this offseason throwing off the mound with mid 90s heat and that good slider -- and decide to take a chance in what's becoming a rapidly thinning market. Garza has so much more upside than anyone left in free agency.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    That's certainly possible. I just find it really difficult to believe that any GM is going to pay top $$$ for Garza w/o some level of certainty that he is healthy. No one, including Garza can say with absolute certainty that he is 100% healthy until he is pitching 7+ innings in meaningful games.

    That being said, with today's market; Theo/Jed should not and I doubt they would trade him for less than top $$$ (value). So I'm okay with keeping him and if they can sign him to a similar contract as E-Jax, I'd prefer that over prospects..... We could do a lot worse than having Garza/Shark/E-Jax as our SP core heading into 2014.

    Then we've got decisions to make regarding other 2014 SP candidates, Felzzman, Wood, Baker, Cabrerra, Vizcaino, Rusin, Raley, Rondon, etc... and another wave of SP candidates for 2015; McNutt, Johnson, Whitenack, Wells, Carreno, Loux, and Blackburn, etc.... All those guys in Kane County & Boise plus (Manaea/Apple). should have developed to make the 2016 wave.... Much brighter days ahead. IMO, Garza is our best trade chip - so we may move him; but he's not likely to fetch top value right now so he's just as likely to be part of our core.

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    Nice SI story on Edwin Jackson.

    http://mlb.si.com/2012/12/20/edwin-jackson-cubs-offseaso/?sct=uk_t2_a5

  • In reply to Just Win:

    Very nice piece JW, thanks for posting.

  • I think they have now created the first wave of pitching. I'll be excoted to see the additional waves come in. Hopefully we can get an ace in the draft. I think there are only about 10-12 true aces in baseball today, hopefully we can have one.

  • In reply to cubman:

    They really did have to create that first wave since it wasn't available in the system. They need to buy some time and take some chances on a few flyers.

  • This is what I have to deal with down here. St. Louis Post Dispatch columnist Jeff Gordon was critical of the Cubs signing of Jackson, pretty much laughing about it. He says that Jackson is nothing more than a #5 starter. In the same article he says Sanchez is a glorified #4 starter. This is a guy who gets paid to right about sports.

  • Sounds like he's just trolling to me. Much better articles on Jackson from writers who seem to understand baseball better who like this signing.

  • Looks like the Twins woke up this morning with a Harden.

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    lol.
    I think they'll find out, as the Cubs did, that it's not as much fun as they expected.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    May turn into a case of blueballs!

  • I recommend an outstanding analysis by Jack Moore of Fangraphs on CV and his potential. It is:
    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/can-carlos-villanueva-start-effectively/

  • In reply to Good Captain:

    Going to set up a quick news and notes article and that is one of the pieces I read as well. Thanks!

  • Rangers claim Jeff Beliveau off waivers.

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    In reply to TulaneCubs:

    I knew he was a goner, but still sucks to hear.

  • In reply to TulaneCubs:

    Are they still upset about the Soto trade?...and their pitcher who was sent back to them?

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    Wow. That was a whole lot of comments to go through. Overall I really like the article. Then I go through a few posts ranging from the Cubs will win 90 games and be in the playoffs to we are no better off this year because we still can't hit. Oh Brother!

    Just my thoughts:

    It's a nice problem we have right now as far as pitching is concerned. We finally have some real depth and can throw a pitcher out there everyday with a legitimate chance to win. And our bullpen was an area that really hurt us in the first part of last year. That issue seems to be better now as well just by having so much depth.

    Our young guys have another year under their belt. This experience should help them become more comfortable the the MLB lifestyle. This in turn may allow them to relax a bit more and just play. I'm looking for Rizzo and Castro to have really solid years.

    One guy we really need to see is Brett Jackson. Can this guy really be that .280 hitter with 20-25 HR and about 90 RBI type of player many folks think he will be? If so, how would that help out the offense? And his defense has never been questioned so it's another wildcard we should be watching.

    Now I really like this kid Olt, but Vitters did make a nice improvement at Iowa. He was over matched in the show but he seems one of those kids that takes a little time to develop. He still has a sweet swing and maybe one more year in Iowa will do him good. I'm not sure if if will be the answer as I think Baez will eventually be our guy. But Vitters could be a nice trade chip to sweeten a future deal to fill another spot.

    I guess what I am saying is what I said before. I look for the Cubs to have about 75 wins next season. On paper this might not look all that great. But how much better will we look next off season is probably a better question for me to ponder. We are taking one step closer to the prize but can't see the bigger picture by looking at just one individual player or one particular deal.....

    Just my 2 cents....

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    I think the Cubs have the potential to be a .500 or just below team. In June July last year they were two games under .500. Hopefully their offense will be a tick better and their rotation comparable to how it performed over that time (maybe a bit better). It would take a breakout season or two for the Cubs to get to above .500 and be in the conversation for a wildcard, but it's not impossible. Tough to identify who those candidates would be, though, so I'm sticking with .500 as a reasonable ceiling for this team as currently constituted.

  • Rangers took Beliveau...now lets run up Bourne's price ....call Boras and tell him we can get more money for his client when he signs with the Rangers.

  • Cubs won 61 game sin 2012......Right Now...I am predicting 26 more wins for the Cubs in 2013.........we might catch Lightening in a Bottle in 2013..................and I am not predicting a Holiday injury.....that is bad man.........I do predict that Baker will ruin those young Reds pitchers arms......and the Cardinals will not be the typical Cardinals in 2013......look at these Central Division teams.....it can be ours in 2013.

    2012 is over.....it is a new start......new players......and none of these guys want to lose 100 games again.......the other factor, there are a few F/A playing with us for a bigger payday to come.

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    In reply to CubsTalk:

    OMG

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    In reply to CubsTalk:

    I guess you've pulled back from your 92 win prediction? Down to 87 now.

    I guess it's possible, but I'd be shocked. Too many things have to go perfectly. If I was predicting, I'd probably go for about 75 right now. There's a chance for higher, but it's unlikely, imo.

  • Seems like some fans think you have to make the playoffs or win 90 to "compete". Arizona, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Philly, Mets, Padres, Dodgers, White Sox...all of those teams were in contention at some point in 2012. None of those teams won 90. On paper at least, the Cubs pitching staff looks better than most of those teams' did last year. You Don' t have to have the perfect team to contend. Having a good healthy pitching staff ALWAYS makes you competitive regardless of your starting line up. Just so happens there are a couple of pretty good players in said lineup. Just saying...

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