Remember the days where we'd have to read about all the Cubs questionable moves? Well, unless the writer is from the St. Louis or the south side of Chicago, the Cubs are getting great reviews around baseball. It's one thing when Cubs fans are optimistic about the offseason, but it's nice to hear it from more impartial voices...
On Edwin Jackson...
- Keith Law of ESPN (insider only) says that Edwin Jackson fits into the Cubs rebuilding plan and that it allows the Cubs to be flexible with trade possibilities. Matt Garza becomes an obvious candidate and the Cubs may have the depth to trade another arm if guys like Scott Baker and Scott Feldman make a good showing and provide the Cubs with the depth to deal. An interesting sidebar is that Jackson got an $8M signing bonus, which drops his annual salary down to $11M/year. If the Cubs do eventually decide to trade Jackson, that will make things a bit easier, though Law considers Jackson (along with Jeff Samardzija and Travis Wood) as a valuable piece for the 2014 team. He thinks it's a good signing to secure a good arm now with next year's SP market already looking pretty thin. Something we noted ourselves here at Cubs Den.
- Ben Rieter of SI writes a nice piece on Jackson being a well-traveled pitcher who has consistently been an above average performer. The chance for some stability helped the Cubs land a good pitcher who deserves some stability. Reiter points out that Jackson began to change his approach last season. He is evolving from thrower to pitcher and it resulted in a higher strikeout rate and less walks. There is still some room for growth here. In general, he lauds the Cubs for landing 4 pitchers with upside for $73M, or as he calls it "half a single Greinke" or as Brett from Bleacher Nation noted yesterday on Twitter, less than one whole Anibal Sanchez. He further notes that the Cubs now have a "real rotation" behind Samardzija and Garza and can begin their march back to relevance.
- I alluded to this piece yesterday, but Dave Cameron of Fangraphs likes the signing as well. He likes that the Cubs are trying to improve and not simply sitting back and waiting for the drafts and for prospects to develop --both of which are more unknowns than we care to admit sometimes. He considers Jackson a valuable pitcher at a reasonable cost. Cameron notes on the Cubs offseason in general,
"The Cubs are a big market team. They needed to add talent to make any kind of serious playoff run in the future. They might not be ready to make that run in 2013, but they’ve given themselves a better chance to be a surprise team next year, and now they’ve solidified their rotation beyond next year with a quality pitcher at a decent price.
For Jackson, after years of getting traded and changing teams every year, he now has some security. And he has that security with a team that has made some big strides this winter, improving both their present and their future at the same time."
On Carlos Villanueva,
- Jack Moore of Fangraphs writes that short sample size may have as much to do with Villanueva's short term success as "lack of stamina" but says that Villanueva is a good gamble with some upside. He does say that reaching that upside is unlikely, but even if he doesn't, the contract still has value even if Villanueva is forced to return to his swingman role at some point.
On the offseason in general,
- We've noted that both Keith Law and Dave Cameron like what the Cubs have done this offseason. Buster Olney of ESPN (insider only) notes how that the Cubs were able to add free agent help without sacrificing a draft pick and that it's no coincidence. It is another unintended side effect of the new CBA. One official said, "You've got to keep your picks, because there aren't as many ways to get better as there used to be."
Waiver News and Roster situation
- I've noted several times that sneaking young, talented lefties through waivers is very difficult and that proved to be the case once again as Jeff Beliveau was snapped up by the Texas Rangers. It leaves the Cubs without a lefty reliever after James Russell, though it's possible the Cubs new pitching depth could allow them to try Brooks Raley or Chris Rusin in that role.
- In other news, Sandy Rosario must be feeling like the ball in a roulette wheel. He was just claimed by the Giants as the Cubs continue to clear space. Sooner or later that roulette wheel will stop spinning for him and wherever he lands, he'll provide a team with an intriguing arm for the bullpen.
- The Cubs roster now stands at 39 but there are 3 names to add in OF Nate Shierholtz and recent RHP signees Carlos Villanueva and Edwin Jackson. My guess is Shierholtz number gets called next as Cubs figure out how to open up two more spots.
- UPDATE: Shierholtz signing is official.
- UPDATE #2: Gerardo Concepcion has cleared waivers and has been assigned to Kane County roster. Huge risk but that's a gamble that really helps the MLB roster. The roster now stands at 39. One more space to clear.
Miscellaneous link: This has nothing to do with the Cubs but it's fun to watch
- Here's what R.A. Dickeys knuckleball looks like once you're able to break it down into GIF format. Watch how the hitter freezes and catcher Josh Thole flinches at the last minute. The pitch, which Dickey throws with more velocity than most have historically, is nearly unhittable when it dances like that.
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