Three weeks of this unrelenting, malevolent flu bug has taken it's toll. It now has me getting fluids at the hospital because of some pretty bad dehydration. I'm feeling better, drip-by-drip. In fact, I think I'm ready to write an article. I got this suggestion from a reader and I apologize that I don't remember which one at the moment.
The idea was to take a look back at 2012 and look at my personal favorite Cubs moves. So here we go, we'll do it David Letterman-style, counting up to #1. Instead of 10, however, I'll make it my top 12 moves of 2012. We'll do the first half today
12. NOT signing Michael Bourn
Michael Bourn is sort of the Prince Fielder of this offseason. No matter how many vibes the front office puts out that he's not the right fit at this time, it hasn't stopped speculation. Today it's Patrick Mooney who tries to put the kibosh on those lingering rumors. Mooney cites sources that say there is "strong opposition" to signing Bourn in the Cubs front office. The reason I like this is twofold. One is that Bourn is a bit overrated and figures to be a below average hitter with good, but declining defense by the time the Cubs are ready to contend. The second part is keeping the draft pick,which figures to be as high as a first round supplemental compared to last season.
11. Signing Kyuji Fujikawa
Fujikawa is a big step for the Cubs re-establishing themselves in Japan after the Kosuke Fukudome signing didn't live up to what, in hindsight, were unrealistic expectations. It also signals that the Cubs are ready to resume their strong scouting out East in an attempt to acquire talent from every corner. On the field, Fujikawa can potentially give the Cubs consistent set-up man they've lacked since trading Sean Marshall. It also gives them an experienced closer should they find a taker for Carlos Marmol.
10. Moving Alberto Cabrera to the rotation.
Why not? The Cubs have a lot of power armed RPs in the system and Cabrera has had plenty of experience starting in the minors. He already has two plus pitches (FB, Slider) and a solid change. His command showed great improvement in AA before he slipped a bit in AAA and the majors. It's almost a no-lose situation. If you strike gold, he becomes a big bodied mid rotation starter for years to come. If not, you can just return him to the bullpen. It's just another creative way for the Cubs to "add" power SPs to their system.
9. The Scott Baker signing
This is one I liked even before it happened. I liken this signing to the Paul Maholm signing of last season in that he's young and talented enough to be a part of this rotation for the next few years, but could also bring something even more valuable in return, as Maholm did in a deadline deal last July. Baker embodies the faith the Cubs have in their medical staff. They are looking for value in pitchers who have been injured but figure to come back strong. In Baker's case, that would be a strike-thrower with mid-rotation stuff.
8. Signing Juan Paniagua to a $1.85M
Paniagua got into some fraud issues but the Cubs thoroughly checked him out and wound up landing a starter that has been coveted by all the big players, including the Yankees, who actually signed him. I was impressed by Paniagua's athleticism and the way his 98 mph fastball explodes out of his effortless delivery. It's yet another power arm to add to the system, something the Cubs desperately lacked when the new front office took over.
7. The run on pitchers after the first pick in the 2012 draft/Hiring of Derek Johnson.
These two moves go hand in hand for the 2012 draft as well as future drafts. You can't really have one without the other here. Cubs jumped all over Pierce Johnson when he was available with the first of their supplemental picks. The Cubs had him graded as a 1st rounder and feel he would have been mid-first round selection had he not missed a couple weeks late in the season. It was enough to scare teams off and the Cubs were happy to see the power pitcher still there for them. The Cubs chose a more polished pitcher in Paul Blackburn with their next pick but he should be more than just a finesse guy. He could be a #3 if he projects the way the Cubs think he will. His pitchabilty in general gives him a better shot than most high school pitchers to stick as a starter. The Cubs then went with the enigmatic but highly talented Duane Underwood next, hoping they can turn raw athleticism, arm strength, and coachability into a front line starter. Ryan McNeil is an intriguing, big-bodied starter who scouts think can project really well. Josh Conway was a top 50 talent until undergoing TJ surgery late in the season. The Cubs know this is a process and are more than willing to wait on Conway to get healthy and return to form. They got yet another power arm, Trey Lang, in the 6th round. Will they all work out? Of course not. But the large influx of power arms and pitching talent at least increases the odds that they'll hit on a couple. Then you add a pitching coach with a great track record of developing pitchers and keeping them healthy to the mix in Derek Johnson and you start to see the big picture here.
Tomorrow: Moves #6-#1 of 2012
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