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UPDATE: Marmol accused of domestic violence, Grace sentenced and various news, notes, and links

"A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives." - Jackie Robinson.

We'll start today by noting that today is the 94th birthday of Jackie Robinson.  Few, if any, athletes in American history have embodied that quote better than Robinson himself.  For a very good Cubs-related piece on Robinson, check out Chicago Side's piece on Robinson's first trip to Wrigley Field.

A few more quick notes and then on to the mailbag...

UPDATE #2 (2:30 PM)

  • The Cubs may have had only 3 players in MLB Network's top 100 -- Javier Baez (16), Albert Almora (39), and Jorge Soler (42) -- but Mayo just released the next 10 who missed the list and we can add two more: Brett Jackson (105) and Arodys Vizcaino (110).

AFTERNOON UPDATEs (12:50):

From Earlier Today...

  • Cubs VP of Sales and Marketing Wally Hayward has resigned to start a firm with the Ricketts family.  He will be missed (okay maybe not by everyone).  Personally I've had the pleasure of meeting Wally a few times and he was always gracious and generous with his time.   For more on Hayward, ESPN Chicago's Jon Greenberg wrote this  article on Hayward back in 2011.
  • David Kaplan lists 10 players the Cubs should consider with the 2nd overall pick.  Good read to get yourself familiar with some of the big names we'll be hearing more and more about throughout the spring.  The consensus now is that the Cubs will lean toward taking a college pitcher, but keep your eye on all these names.  In a year where there is no Bryan Harper or Stephen Strasburg, an unexpected breakthrough year by one or more players could change the shape of the draft.
  • Jim Callis lists Matt Szczur as one of the more promising prospects who missed the NL top 10 lists.  In case you're wondering, he checked in at #14 on the Cubs top 30 list.  I'll have some highlights plus my own thoughts on the BA top 30 (actually 31)  in the very near future.
  • There is one Cubs fan among the final 50 in the MLB Fan Cave contest and it's Katie Cernek.  Congrats to Katie! Don't forget to vote for her here (you'll have to scroll down).
  • There are now just 10 days left until pitchers and catchers report to spring training.

The Mailbag...

Q: What are the chances that Matt Garza gets traded in the spring? The way I look at it is with 7 starters we can get rid of Garza after he demonstrates he is healthy. He has more trade value now than in July and the team that gets him would be able to offer him arbitration.

A: If he's throwing hard and not showing any ill effects from his injury, I think there's a better than a 50/50 chance he gets traded.  The Cubs have built up some depth in their rotation to give them the flexibility to trade Garza if the opportunity comes along.  Teams go into spring training with a lot of optimism but time has a way of exposing a lot of teams weaknesses.  Somewhere along the line a team is going to see a pitcher get hurt or a contender is going to start to have doubts about the strength and depth of their rotation.  The Cubs will be keep their lines open and be ready when that opportunity comes.

Q: If any of the non-roster (non 40-man roster) players make the team, what do they do with the 40-man roster?  Are any worth keeping in AAA for insurance?

A: I'll answer this in two parts.  For the first part of the question, if the Cubs decide to keep a non-roster player such as utility man Brent Lillibridge or RP Hisanori Takahashi, they will have to create room on the current 40 man roster by either waiving a player off the current 40 man roster or making a deal to clear room.

For the second part, I'm pretty certain they will keep some  non-roster veterans in AAA.  Pitchers like Takanashi and Corey Wade have had success at the MLB level and it might be nice to call on that if the young guys struggle.  JC Boscan could stick as an emergency catcher so the Cubs don't have to dig for Koyie Hill if they get another rash of catching injuries.  Lillibridge, Edwin Maysonet Bryan Bogusevic and Brad Nelson could be kept if the Cubs have injuries and want to give prospects more time in the minors, while a guy like OF Johermyn Chavez is an example of the team taking more of a long term flyer on a young talented player.

Q: Could Alex Rodriguez be an option for the Cubs?

A: I'll assume this means only if they wouldn't have to pay him but even then I'd say no.  The main reason is that many expect him to miss most of this season and his career may be in jeopardy.  At his age, there are serious concerns as to whether he can recover and regain enough skills.  I think by time he's ready to play again (if he can play again), the Cubs will have already found themselves a long term solution.

 Q: Is Travis Wood a "core" piece? What more does he have to prove? If I remember correctly, he put up solid numbers to end last season and he is only 25.

A:  He's not a core piece as of now but his age and talent give him a chance to be that by season's end.  I want to emphasize that by "core piece" we're not necessarily talking about stars, we're talking about guys the team can build around.  Wood isn't the second coming of David Price, but if he can be a 4th or 5th guy in the rotation and give the team consistent innings at relatively low cost from the left side, then there's no reason he can't be part of the long term solution.

Q: How much money will we have to go after international free agents this year? Since we were second-to-last in winning percentage, don't we have close to $4 million to spend? Do you know the names of any potential targets?

A: From what I understand it will indeed be around $4M but to be honest, I haven't looked too deeply into this yet. As for specific names, I'm afraid I don't have anything but wild speculation at this time.  I will say to keep your eye on a new trend that seemed to develop last year with the Cubs -- and that is that they may sign an older player or two, as they did with Juan Carlos Paniagua.  Teams are finding out that signing 16 year old kids isn't the most efficient way to find big league ballplayers.  There's just too much uncertainty as it is without having to account for changes in growth and physical maturity.  When I make my international FA list in the spring, you'll probably see two types of players on it, 1) younger players with advanced, baseball-specific skills (much like the signees of the past few years -- guys like  Frandy De La Rosa, Ricardo Marcano, Luis Acosta, Jeimer Candelario, and Gioskar Amaya.  All have an advanced feel for hitting. and 2) slightly older players (18,19 yrs old) who may have slipped through the first wave of signings but have since developed from both a physical and baseball standpoint.  I don't see the Cubs bidding big on 16 year old athletic specimens with raw baseball skills.

 

 

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  • I take one of the HS OFs if the draft was today , That 2nd round pick I would go pitching and look at a guy like Puk , Big Lefty from my hometown, I know the Puks and they have always been a really good athletic family, Puks Grandpa was a dentist who just happened to do my braces years ago , small world .

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    AJ Puk is indeed a very intriguing arm and one that Kevin and I plan to cover in our upcoming draft series. Thanks for the info Bryan.

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    I agree with you Bryan in that I'm leaning towards drafting one of the high school outfielders as well with the 2nd overall pick. I don't get the feeling that any of the top 3 college pitchers are sure thing aces. While the closest might by Appel, I'd really prefer to stay away from anyone represented by Boras. It is guaranteed you will pay top dollar now and if his players do become stars, be prepared to pay top dollar again or lose them to the highest bidder when they become a free agent. I'd much rather do something like the Astros did last year with Carlos Correa and save some money for later in the draft. It seems that position players have a much better chance of not being a bust and I really liked how the Cubs last year loaded up on pitching in the draft after selecting Almora. Would love to see them do that again and in addition have some extra money to throw at the kids late in the draft with strong college commitments.

  • I'm sorry... did you say Wally Hayward would be MISSED?! I'm not sure by whom... That guy was literally one of the least genuine people I have ever had the displeasure of meeting, numerous times. Pardon me while I shower after squeezing out his name.
    Quick bio... destroyed an agency... sued said agency... got paid... somehow landed Cubs gig (must be best interviewer ever), destroyed 50 relationships Cubs had, and yet somehow must have Ricketts convinced otherwise.
    Cubs will spend years repairing his damage... IF they can distance themselves, which appears to be not the case, fully.
    Advice to the world of brands. Steeeeeer cleeeeaaaar.
    Wow.

  • In reply to Bigfan74:

    I'm only speaking of my personal experience with him, which was always positive. But I admittedly have only dealt with him on a surface level, so I can't speak to much more than that.

  • Thanks John for the roundup. One nagging question: Why isn't Garza a longterm keep? Assuming he's healthy again, he's a bulldog on the mound, has a good clubhouse presence, can be a mentor and role model to younger pitchers, loves the Cubs, and will be in his prime when we really compete in a year or two.
    To me, IF he's healthy, Garza is the proverbial bird in the hand that's worth two in the bush.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    You're welcome -- things keep filing in so keep checking back. Crazy day but not all good.

    The main reason Garza may not be a long term keep could be his own willingness to re-sign. The Cubs want pitchers "like" Garza and Garza is certainly like Garza, but they're also trying to get value long term. That may be the sticking point. Cubs may be looking for good value but Garza may be looking to cash in. Can't blame either side. That's business.

  • Ha, didn't realize Meadows and Frazier's high school teams would be playing each other this year. That would be a fun game to watch. That article turned me right off Appel. Not sure who I'd go for now. Maybe Frazier, maybe Meadows. Manaea's probably my favorite pitcher now, but those great numbers have such a small sample size, it scares me off a bit.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    Got to see them play together last summer. Neither wowed me in that game but Frazier was exciting to watch in all the pre-game drills. Bat speed he showed during BP/HR contest was outstanding.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I know it's only high school, but his 24 HRs in 118 ABs is unreal. I'd take him over Meadows at this point.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    It's legit power too. He hit some out to LF on a cool day into the teeth of a strong wind blowing in. Didn't think any were going to leave the yard that day, at least not in that direction.

  • Did you see the Google Doodle today? It's for Jackie Robinson...

    Also, looks like Grace pled guilty to his DUIs and is going to jail for four months. Sad to see, but hopefully he's learned.

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    Just checked it out. Thanks. Very cool.

    Updated on Grace, Marmol earlier, we must have crossed paths.

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    My opinion on Garza is this.
    1. We presume that we get through ST with 7 healthy and ready to go SPs.
    2. The returning talent has to be significantly more valuable than a replacement draft pick, (assuming we offer him arbitration after not trading him).
    3. Garza seems to be a team leader right now and if this team trades Sori to Texas and/or Levine is accurate that Marmol is gone, having Garza around this year and 2014-16 isn't the worst idea.

  • In reply to Louie101:

    I agree with all of this but in the end it's going to come down to dollars and value. The Cubs will have to make a judgement call and if they don't think they can re-sign him, they may have little choice.

    I'm a fan of Garza and I wouldn't mind seeing him in Chicago helping to anchor this rotation for the next few years.

  • Good news, John: The heart attack I suffered at the mention of the name "Koyie Hill" wasn't fatal!

  • In reply to Eddie:

    Hahahaa! Sorry to give you a scare. Next time I'll give you advanced warning of any mention so you can have the difibrillator close by.

  • Travis Wood had a short block of time that he was effective, but the rest of the time he struggled. He will have to make the staff prior to becoming a core piece.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Making the staff and developing consistency are first and foremost, yes. This is a big year for him.

    I'm a fan of athletic pitchers though (which is why I also like Raley). Once it clicks for them things can get better in a hurry.

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    I think it's fair to say the Cubs want Billy Buck to stay in Boise.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Interesting take. Didn't think of that. Billy Bucks work with Boise was simply outstanding last year.

  • On Mr Marmol, if guilty as charged, when are these athletes going to learn? Ive been married since I was 20YO(Im 57 now) and have never ever hit the Mrs, for good reason(she has a blackbelt in Jujitsu, for starters) and I just was taught to treat women with respect. We hear enough negative stories about athletes as it is.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Black belt? Very cool.

    Agreed. I don't want to jump to conclusions but if it turns out he did do this, then it's absolutely inexcusable. For now, we'll just have to wait and see since it's impossible for us to know what really happened at this time.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Not that this is a be all end all, but I read that Marmol is countersuing (or whatever the appropriate equivalent is), which to me is a good sign. I feel like you'd only bother doing something like that if you didn't do any wrong in the first place. Then again, I'm no lawyer.

  • In reply to mosconml:

    Is there a lawyer in the house?

    There was immediate, vehement opposition to this charge. I don't know if that necessarily means anything either. I'll probably cover it about as loosely as I did the Castro case last year and only mention it as the facts start coming out.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    There is a lawyer in the house. On one hand, issuing a strong denial and filing a counterclaim creates some perception of innoncence, especially when the counterclaim is for extortion. Nevertheless, I wouldn't read too much into the existence of a counterclaim. Until they are proven both the original complaint and the counterclaim are just allegations. Anyone can allege anything.

  • John, do you know what players are already working in camp? I saw some pictures of Welington Castillo already there, I think Javier Baez tweeted some days ago that he was on his way to AZ... Thecubreporter usually has some of the best info from AZ, but have you heard anything about who's there already?

    Also, any scouting report about Bobby Buckner?

    And I really feel for Mark Grace, he was one of my favorites, he was the type of hitter I like.

  • In reply to Caps:

    I'm pretty sure some players are already there and it wouldn't surprise me in the least if Welington Castillo is there. The man has an off-the-charts work ethic. If he doesn't make it, it won't be for lack of trying.

    AZ Phil is fantastic when it comes to stuff like that. Another guy I like to follow in the spring is Tim Sheridan of boysofspring.com. Not just coverage but also excellent photography. Wish I could be in AZ myself for Feb and March (and every fall), but in absence of that, those two help make it easier.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Great, thanks for the insight, I'll start following Tim.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Went digging a bit for information on Bobby Buckner,... found an old 2007 High-school page (he was apparently a sweet hitting 3B then) and his team page at A&M from last year stating he was an IF.

    Good BA. Good RBI totals in college ball. Not much else yet. Looks like the hitting ability made it through to a new generation of Buckner. Hope his knees are better than Dads.

    Buckner was one of my favorite Cubs while growing up.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Thank you!! I think I was too young by the time Billy Buckner played for the Cubs, I'm not one of those fans who makes fun of him because of his error with the Red Sox.

    But I'll tell you what... He seems to be like a heck of a hitting coach and the way he's moving up with the kids from Boise, I wouldn't be surprised to see him make it all the way back to the bigs with these guys.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Ill put it this way, Caps. Vogelbach, Bruno, Almora and Contreras all had big 2nd halves at Boise last year. Can Billy Buck working with them have made a difference?

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    I assume that was intended as a rhetorical question mutant beast?

    :D

    Buckner was a smooth, polished, hitter himself,... sometimes those who can't do teach,... other times they make the best teachers.

  • Who would want ARod? Stick a fork in him.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Seems ARoid has been sticking himself with a little more than a fork.......,.

  • John, with a set amount of $'s for the draft do you think that we would pass on Appel even if we thought he was the best player in the draft to have more to sign everyone else? Does Boras understand that times have changed between rookies and the free agents tied to draft picks.

  • In reply to cbbiefun2014:

    This is the way I look at it... If the Cubs think Appel (or anyone else for that matter) has a significantly better chance than the next guy to make an impact, they should take him. If it's even or very close to it with another player or two, then maybe they'll consider other options at that point.

    You're never going to have more certain information than you will with the first few picks at the top of the draft. The guys later in the draft are there for a reason. They have more holes and enough questions to push them down somewhere beyond that elite status. If you take a guy you truly believe has a lesser chance of succeeding, especially in regards to making an impact, just so you can upgrade your 2nd round pick and beyond, then that is a huge mistake.

    The chance to pick 2nd overall in the draft is a rare opportunity to grab an impact talent. You don't get those often and you don't want to get too cute with it. The game is littered with signability reaches early in the draft (Hochevar, Moskos, Sanchez spring to mind right now) that look terrible in retrospect.

    Houston took a risk because they had a barren farm system. If Correa turns out to be a good player and they hit on a guy like McCullers and/or Ruiz, they'll look smart. If Appel turns into an ace and those higher risk guys don't have a significant impact, then they'll have outwitted themselves.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    thanks, just wondering.

  • Hmmm,... love the signing of Bobby Buckner,.... Looks like he had a pretty good A&M career too.

    If he can hit as good as his daddy did,... he could be a good one. Wonder how his knees are though?

    :D

  • Yo John,

    It's never too late to continue the conspiracy theory about the Cubs hiring the Vanderbilt pitching coach as part of the groundwork to woo David Price away from the Rays. If this is true then we should we expect the Cubs to sign Garza to a very friendly extension. Because Garza is Price's best friend. This way if we have price's college coach, and his best friend on the team plus tons of money to pay him and plenty of positional prospects to offer Tampa to play in front of they 700 fans......

    Then again maybe not.

    I heard the Marmol charges were going to be dropped because all his attempted punches landed three feet to the left of the person he was trying to hit....... Too soon?

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    In reply to felzz:

    Not too soon Felzz.

  • In reply to felzz:

    Haha! For you Felzz it's never too soon. Nicely played.

    I like that thought process on the Price/Garza/Johnson connection. A stretch maybe but it's not out of the question.

  • Followup from earlier post:
    I hope that Mark Grace finds and accepts the help he evidently needs. Sometimes a person has to bottom out in order to change.
    Good luck to Buckner Junior. If he has half the courage and grit (and talent) of his dad, he should succeed.
    The Marmol news and last year's Castro allegations reinforce my desire to have Alfonso Soriano remain with the Cubs. Even if he doesn't repeat last year's numbers, he can be a positive role model to the younger players.
    Barring a steal of a trade, I still want a healthy Garza to stay. What we would pay for a successful #2 starter is probably what he would want, in order to stay a Cub in the coming playoff era.
    Thanks for the news and updates, Denizens !

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Good stuff Hubbs!

  • Top Cubs Stories for 2013 season

    15 - Cubs win only three games in Spring Training. Dale Sveum announces that his team is ready for the season. Announces Dontrelle Willis as Opening Day starter.

    14 - Cubs win Opening Day game. Starting center fielder Tony Campana steals home for the win. Later to be traded in the season for Tigers pitcher Rick Porcello.

    13 - Ian Stewart is suspended for 60 days for using billy goat antler spray to enhance his power.

    12 - Mark Grace leaves prison, seen selling beer in the stands at Wrigley and hitting on David DeJesus wife.

    11 - Darwin Barny finds out that a email hoax was played on him for several months. Barney believed a young lady who is a Cubs fan was dying from Shingles. It turned out to be a fat naked Wrigleyville resident who is a Kenny Hubbs fan.

    10 - Cubs manage Sveum named to N.L. All Star coaching staff. Organizes a bunting contest instead a Home Run contest among the All Stars. ESPN has it's highest ratings ever.

    9 - Alfonso Soriano invokes his no trade clause of going to Seattle. Soriano claimed he did not own a rain coat to wear for games in Seattle.

    8 - Phil Rogers reporting that Cubs GM Jed Hoyer is a secret "love child" of ex-GM Jim Hendry and a motel clerk who Hendry met while scouting players years ago in South Carolina. All parties involved deny this report.

    7 - Cubs catcher Castillo season ends with a injury as he slipped on Stalin Castro's flower seeds in the dugout. Theo Epstein sign Koyie Hill as back up catcher.

    6 - Bud Selig orders the Cubs to remove all rolled up cigarettes that liter the field after a Pearl Jam concert.

    5 - Cubs recall Soler, Almora & Biaz from the minors to replace slumping Cubs players who are hooked on eating brownies in the clubhouse.

    4 - Dodgers GM Ned Colletti tries to obtain 15 game winner Matt Garza for Ted Lilly at the trading deadline.

    3 - ESPN Bruce Levine reports that the Cubs will buy the entire Wrigleyville neighborhood and tun into the World's Largest Outdoor Beer Garden which will include Polka music festivals.

    2 - Cubs clinch the pennant at Wrigley. In the excitement, actor Bill Murray falls out of the tv booth into the stands below. It is later revealed that Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies tossed Murray over the rail to celebrate the Cubs Pennant victory.

    1 - Cubs Sweep the White Sox in four games to claim World Series Title. Cubs catcher Koyie Hill is Series MVP. Sox fans burn down bars that line Sheffield & Waveland Ave and tar & feather FOX announcer Joe Buck out of anger.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Is this suppose to be funny?

  • Nos. 11 and 12 show a twisted sense of "humor".
    And #1a: CubStalk wins top prize at Shecky Green Laff-Alike Contest.

  • While Mark Grace was a Chicago Cub a long time ago, I don't see how his DUI, guilty plea and incarceration as any impact on the Cubs from a PR standpoint. If I were the Cubs I would not waste a minute of my time worrying about Grace.

    Their concern today has to be with the Marmol issue. If the allegations are true, then they have a major problem on their hands. They will almost have no ability to trade him or get any return.

  • John... Just took a look at the top 31 prospects from the Handbook... Was Lendy Castillo really there? lol... I never thought he would be ranked among a top 30 list, not common for a middle reliever... Now I see why the decision to DFA him was so tough... Still, if we lose him, we would lose a middle reliever.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Pretty sure they hope to stretch him out and try him as a starter. They just had him as a middle reliever last year because they had to stash him on the roster. In the minors last year, I believe he started games, although he usually only pitched a few innings.

  • I think it would take a giant of man to deal with what he was confronted with. And I think he will always be a special part of the American fabric. I hope Buck O'Neil will cross our minds next October 6th. I never saw Robinson play, but I heard Buck O'Neil speak. He was a grand man whom I wish had been in the Hall of Fame before he died.

  • TulaneCubs is exactly right! He had upside I think.

  • I believe Vogelbach will jump to the top 100 after having a killer 1st half.

  • I feel vulgar even voicing this question, but does anyone think this accusation of domestic violence will harm Marmol's trade value?

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    In reply to Eddie:

    Teams still ask about Castro.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    It certainly isn't going to help, even if the charges are dropped. He's already suspect as to his value on the mound with his contract, at least to many other teams. Now this? Doesn't look good.

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    In reply to cubs1969:

    He's innocent until proven guilty.

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