"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):
- This may warrant a bigger story later but Carlos Marmol has been accused of domestic violence in the Dominican Republic. Details are not known at the time though Marmol's lawyer is calling this a blatant attempt at extortion, according to David Kaplan.
- Not a good day for Cubs PR-wise as Mark Grace has been sentenced to 4 months in prison for his DUI.
- On the lighter side, the Cubs have signed a non drafted FA out of Texas A&M named Bobby Buckner. In case you're wondering....yes, he is Billy Buckner's son.
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.
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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