Cubs Notes: The return of Dontrelle Willis and other odds and ends

Cubs Notes: The return of Dontrelle Willis and other odds and ends









Time to tie up a few loose ends as we head into the weekend...

  • Dontrelle Willis is back with the Cubs.  He signed a minor league deal, no spring training invite, but the Cubs will give him a chance to make his way to MLB spring training if he pitches well at the minor league complex.  Willis last pitched in 2011 when he had a 5.00 ERA.  He was originally drafted by the Cubs in the 8th round of the 2000 draft.  He was later traded in the deal that brought Matt Clement and Antonio Alfonseca.  The deal ended up helping both teams as the Cubs made a run in 2003, coming within 5 outs of the World Series.  I'm still unsure to this day why Dusty Baker left Mark Prior out there when he was no longer throwing hard enough to break eggs while the red-hot Clement sat idly in the bullpen.  (Yes, I'm not quite over it yet).  As far as Willis is concerned, it's a no-risk gamble.  He no longer pitches in the 90s but he can miss bats and has had average control over his career.  It's hard not to root for Willis, who has an affable personality and has always been well-liked by teammates and fans.
  • According to Baseball America, the Cubs have re-signed previously DFA'd pitcher Zach Putnam. The Cubs also re-signed Jaye Chapman.  Both will provide experienced bullpen depth at Iowa with each having an outside shot at making the team.  It's likely we'll see one or both sometime during the season at the very least.
  • The Cubs released three minor league arms in Bryce Schafer, Peter Levitt, and lefty Willengton Cruz.  None were anywhere near the top 30, but Cruz was the best prospect of the three heading into the season, but didn't have good enough stuff to get away with poor command.  Schafer and Levitt were big bodied pitchers but didn't have the fastballs to match their build.
  • The Cubs lost out on another lefty arm, reliever JP Howell, who signed with the Dodgers for $2.85M with a chance to make $1.2M more in incentives.  Howell is a decent lefty reliever who can miss some bats, but possesses average control at best.  He did have a 3.04 ERA but it came with a 4.72 FIP, which is more in line with his career 4.42 ERA.  It was something of a fluky season and he found the right team to cash in with in the Dodgers.  That a middle reliever may make $4M is astonishing to me.  The signing of Hishanori Takahashi to a minor league deal by the Cubs is a much more sensible deal, in my opinion.  My guess is their production will be pretty similar and it wouldn't surprise me if Takahashi (3.79 xFIP) turned out to have the better year.  In fact, Bill James projects a 3.38 ERA for Takahashi and 4.00 for Howell.

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  • Dodgers just had to sign him on impulse lol. I think they sneeze at the idea of a minor league contract or the idea of having players that play for the mlb minimum wage. Reminds me of the rich girl from Willy wonka and the chocolate factory. It's like they see a highly paid player and say "I want one daddy" and boom it's their's.

  • In reply to Andrew:

    Haha! I like the analogy!

  • I hope they sign a few more non-tender invites to ST

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Nothing to lose with these guys. Upside low. BTW, Willis didn't get an invite to ST. Almost seems like a tryout.

  • Willis was fun to watch,... about 10 years ago. Then something went wonky with his mechanics and with his head,...

    Would love to see the guy get it together - and with the Minor League contract and no guarantee of a Spring Training invite - a no risk, moderate reward signing.

    Another long-shot but not bad move on the part of Theo et al.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Big long shot but agree. No risk, but not much reward here. If he can be a lefty specialist that would be a huge success for him.

  • I'm still hoping for a Mark DeRosa signing if he is healthy.

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    Wonder if he'd do a minor league deal. Can fill in at 3B vs. lefties, help out in OF, but I'd have to be convinced he can still play.

  • Looking at Willis's career, it's interesting to see he's never pitched out of the pen outside of a spot relief appearance here or there. I can't see why a manager wouldn't at least try his talent there so maybe he just really believed he could start and wouldn't accept a move to the pen. If the cubs changed his mind to become a reliever to keep his career going, maybe theres a tiny bit of upside here. That tiny bit of upside is that of a mediocre LOOGY, but hey why not. tiny upside for tiny downside, aka no biggie

    Saying he has had average control is pretty outdated though because since 2008 hes had a BB9 of 7.1 in 200 innings.

  • In reply to Andrew:

    Yeah, just meant in his career. He lost it later on. Hopefully he can regain some of that.

  • John, great stuff as always. You've heard that Clement refused to pitch in relief in games 6 & 7, right? I have a few sources close to the situation who confirmed it at the time, but if it's been widely known as being just a rumor, i'm way behind. Or was it not widely known? I couldn't forgive clement.

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    In reply to MikeyB:

    I highly doubt that...I think Dusty probaby floated that around to take blame off'll notice Big Z didn;t pitch in relief either when they both would have been a better bridge between the starting pitcher and Joe Borowski than Dave Veres, Alfonsuka and Farnsworthless...I don't believe for a second that Clement would have done that

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    In reply to MikeyB:

    In Game 6 the Cubs were leading 2-0 going into the 8th inning, I can't see any way that Dusty would have brought Clement in on 2 days rest over any of our RP when things started to fall apart. (Clement threw 7 2/3 IP 2 days previous).

    In game 7 it wouldn't have mattered. Wood allowed 7 ER in 5.2 IP. We only scored 6 runs.

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    In reply to Just Win:

    3-0, Alou had an rbi single in the 7th....The thing is in gan=me 7 especially, McKeonthrew everyone and the sink out there when he sensed his pitchers were one...Dusty didn't have the same pulse on his team..once the Cubs got the lead back with Woods homer, Clement or Z should have come in that game..Woody was spent that postseason

  • In reply to MikeyB:

    I thought it was about game 5. I thought I remembered him being an option to at least get out of that inning. Maybe, as Roger Clemens once said, I'm misremembering it. It was probably game 6.

    They still should have taken Prior out in game 5, though.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    John, Game 5 was the 3-0 loss in FLA...Z lost that game to Beckett and Ramirez came within a foot of htting a salami down the left field line hat just went foul...I rememer my firends sayig so wh lets win it at home....I didn't count my chickens then and I never will..

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    In reply to Luigi Ziccarelli:

    I'm surprised im not on any mood enhancing drugs after years f reliving this shit!!!!

  • In reply to Luigi Ziccarelli:

    You're right. I think I've successfully repressed any vivid memories of those last 3 games. Maybe its all for the better.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Those 3 games are every bit as brutal as the 3 in San Dego in 84'..they've turned me into a crummudggeon...I nee done of those Men In Black memory erasers

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    In reply to Luigi Ziccarelli:

    Clement started Game 4, Z started Game 5. Neither were really an option in Game 6, they would have been on 2 and 1 days' rest, and Prior pitched into the 8th.

    In Game 7, yes, there's nothing to lose and Wood was exhausted, Dusty should have had a quicker hook on Wood. (And I'll forever be pissed that Dusty didn't even make a trip to the mound to settle things down in Game 6 during the 8th after things went to hell)

    But I think looking back and laying blame on Clement or Z for not pitching in relief is kind of silly, and if Dusty had used either guy on 1 or 2 day's rest we would all have ripped him for that.

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    In reply to Just Win:

    it did work for McKeon though with Beckett and Penny if I recall and the lefty..Redman??

  • I had to share, I was reading Muskat's blog for shits & gigs and she told a reader to expect Soler in the bigs in 2014..... WTF?!$%^&*!
    I love Soler, but he played all of 20 games at Peoria last year. He will be doing good to see AAA by 2014.

    Somebody suggested Soriano at 3B, which made my morning coffee come out of my nose... too funny. She quickly shot that notion down so I can't fault her for that idiocy.. But why do so called team representatives and official MLB reporters set unrealistic expectations for unsophisticated fans? Whether we agree with it or not, some of these people look up to her and view her as an expert. I wonder who she has compromising pics of to keep that job?....

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Inbox, not her blog.... sorry

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    She has a tough job sometimes. Her readers ask her the most bizarre questions. I met her in AZ. She'll talk knowledgeably as long as the person he's talking with knows baseball too.

    As for Soler, I don't think late 2014 is impossible if he gets to AA ths year, but sometime in 2015 is much more likely.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    She's probably the worst sports writer I've ever read. It bothers me that she still has a job. I wouldn't be surprised to see a move there before spring. The cubs need to work on their fan relations, i avoid all together these days. I'd also like to see the message boards moderated. I think we've all been sucked into a trolling war, 'maybe there are some insightful opinions here in the comments..' 10 minutes later you start hating cubs fans yourself.

  • In reply to northside disciple:

    I don't go on that message board but I've heard that before from people. Quickly breaks down into childish bickering and name calling. I really have no desire to go in and find out for myself, even out of morbid curiosity :)

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    In reply to northside disciple:

    I think Sullivan is worse, but all of the columnists who started out as sportswriters in Chicago are pretty horrible too. Phil Rogers, c'mon, guy shouldn't have a job.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    Touche. Seems we have the three stooges between the trib, sun, & .com. I know I'm a little harsh on them but it seems like they're all stuck reporting in the 80s-90s. I don't understand how they have our dream job and no young journalists knocking on the door, considering their reputations and poor writing. On a positive note though, Doug Padilla on ESPN is a respectable writer and we all know Bruce Levine, he's a mixed bag but I wouldn't group him with Chicago's 'big three'.

  • John, What do you know about chris dickerson? Just dfa'd by NYY. Seems like the cubs could give him a shot. Seems to have a little power, lh, i think, traded for big names twice (Edmonds, Mitre) cheap, only 30, seems like low risk potential. What do u guys know & think?

  • In reply to plymkr:

    I remember him as a prospect with the Reds. He's a good athlete. Solid defender. Big guy but power never quite developed so he wound up being a bit of a tweener, better defensively in the corners but not enough bat for LF/RF. That translates to a 4th/5th OF'er. I think if he were RH and the Cubs felt he could handle CF on a part time basis, he'd be worth more of a look.

  • The KC Cougars are holding a "Meet the Cubs" event at 5/3 Ballpark on Feb. 1. Jason McLeod will be there.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    I received an invite a while back and forgot. Thanks for reminding me. Hope its not too late.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Same here. If I get a ticket I'll let you know. Never made it to any of the previous CubsDen get togethers.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    We'll have to have a get together at one of the games this year too.

  • Lets not think of the past.....think of our future Cubs......

    What is Jon Garland status these days?......

    Great game last night with the Bulls....nice to see Wade & James get their ass kicked by a Bulls team minus Rose.

    Hochevar could be had at the end of Spring Training.....sounds like the Royals gave up on him.

  • Reporters get paid to bring in readers, and readers are brought in by controversy. Muskat isn't very good, but there are several much worse on the SCR radio.

    And her comment is vague enough that it might come true. If he plays well in Daytona in 2013 and Tennessee in 2014, a September call up isn't out of the question. Having played for several years in Cuba, and a couple of years in the US minors, he might get a look-see in 2014.

    I hope not. I am tired of watching the Cubs rush prospects to the big leagues. I think that Jackson would have benefited greatly from spending the entire 2012 in Iowa, along with part of 2013.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    My point about Muskatt's comments on Soler are "under the best case scenario he may get a Sept 2014 call up". If I was gambling, I'd say 2015 much more likely. But when she says stuff like that, she's only fueling ignorance because they'll be expecting him to be all-star caliber for the MLB team out of ST in 2014.

    This FO seems to be more patient and deliberate about developing prospects. I like the idea of a full season at each level. Sticking with that mantra, Soler's ETA is mid season 2015 which is what Muskatt should have communicated vs fueling the ignorance.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    I'm not sure guys like Baez, Almora, and Soler are one level at a time players. If any of them play well at their respective level, they'll probably move up to the next one. Soler could be in AA by this season and AAA by 2014 if he plays well. That would make a call-up plausible to me, even if it's just when rosters expand.

    As for Jackson, I think they wanted to get a look at him with the MLB coaching staff. I'm pretty sure he'll be back in Iowa to start 2013.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Baez is interesting though. Clearly, he's the top prospect and nothing stands in his way, but...

    Arismendy Alcantara is the starting shortstop in Tennessee in April and I'd think building up trade value there, while he's still a young man, is important to Theo. It will be interesting to see how that plays out if Baez lights up Florida pitching.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Javier tweeted recently that he expects to see MLB game action in 2013.... I like this kid, but IDK if he is at Clark & Addison by Sept.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Years ago the Cubs had a left handed pitcher out of Chicago Heights or thereabout that was an extremely good prospect - plus fastball, killer slider, but erratic control. One winter he wrote a letter to Baseball America (which the printed, or part of it) saying that he expected to be on the Cubs roster the next year.

    He never played a game with the Cubs.

  • I can only imagine the reaction to the Willis signing if it had happened earlier in the before the Sanchez/E. Jackson pursuits. People would've been flipping out about how Ricketts was cheap and the FO wasn't trying to win.

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    Speaking of which, looks like the Mets aren't trying to win anything this year either. They've only signed minor league free agents. The Mets, Marlins, and Astros all seem like they're just trying to tank the season.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    It's really kind of remarkable.

    Last year, we were matching the Astros loss for loss. This year, even if we do flip players for talent at the deadline, our rotation still looks something like:

    1) Shark
    2) Jackson
    3) Wood
    4) Villaneuva
    5) Loux/Jokisch

    That isn't particularly good, but it's nowhere close to the Justin Germano nightmare that ended last season. A sign of just how quickly things can turn around.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Someone else has one of our crafty lefties on their radar(Jokisch).

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    In reply to 44slug:

    Big fan. I think a lot more people are going to know him a year from now -- he'll either be the second or third best lefty in our organization by then (Behind Wood and Manaea). With our infield defense, he has the potential to have results far beyond his skills, too.

  • Is Jeff Baker still available? I'm thinking he could be a nice (and cheap) fit for a RH utility guy that can play all 4 corner positions and even 2B if needed that would hit LH pitching well..... Aw never mind.... Sveum's man crush on him last year would probably result in 100+ games played and 350+ PA's....

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    He'd actually be a pretty decent fit right now.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    It's funny, but true.

    Maybe Cubs want to sign him to minor league deal with invite to ST, in order to save a 40-man spot for awhile

  • I am glad I held onto my Dontrelle Willis Topps Rookies.......ha ha ha.....

    If Garza starts the season, our Opening Day pitching may look like this....



    Middle Relief.....





    (DL Group)


    (After July trade deadline fill ins)

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    In reply to CubsTalk:

    That's a lot better than last year. I don't know what our record will be but it will be a more entertaining team to watch.

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