Cubs top moves in 2012, part 1

Cubs top moves in 2012, part 1
The Cubs hope Derek Johnson can bring out the best in SP prospects like Johnson and Underwood.

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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  • I think you meant kyuji Fujikawa for #11 as the scouting in the east and potential replacement for marmol. They did sign hashigawa, but that's a minir deal. Must be the sickness.

  • In reply to sdcoddi:

    Takahashi, not hashigawa

  • In reply to sdcoddi:

    I did thanks ) I originally planned to mention a few guys and got mixed up. Will fix.

  • Great job John! I have to say number 7 is my favorite, and from what I read it sounds like they may be doing that agian in this draft! Add in the trades, intl signings, and other avenues, and in two years I think pitching, esp young, could start to be deep in our organization. Maybe 3/4 years

  • In reply to MyersTech:

    I thought about putting that higher up but I decided to put it around the middle because it's more of a broad idea than a single move. Could see that being higher, though.

  • Part I is pretty much dead on - Pitchers, Pitchers, Pitchers! Cubs are stockpiling young pitchers, reaching overseas and even taking chances on some injured ones too. This organization was absolutely dry of talent and the Cubs had to address the shortfall if they want to compete year after year.
    Like John said, not all will pan out however, this is the best way to build a solid foundation. Bourn would definitely be a waste of money now. The Cubs need to find out what they have in Jackson anyway. Why take on another large contract or even short term to have Bourn get you 5-7 more wins? I would rather have a higher draft slot instead.

  • In reply to jaxx51:

    Yep, just keep piling them on, get a guy to develop them and hope you hit on a few over the next few years. Really looking forward to seeing how the 2011, 2012, and next year's draft are going to pan out.

  • Geez, John, hope you start getting better. Writing an article while getting fluids - you're like Hendry signing Lilly from the hospital.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    Haha!

  • What a guy, blogging another fine piece from his hospital bed. Reminds me of when Hendry signed Ted Lilly. I hope you get well soon John and am looking forward to reading about your top six. As much as I like 7-12, I can't wait to reminisce about those you rank as the elite moves.

  • In reply to WSorBust:

    Thanks WSorBust. I have to say that was one of Hendry's greatest moments, so I take that as a compliment!

  • Outstanding job as always, John. I really enjoyed it. Seeing the arms that the Cubs have brought in provides for some optimism going forth. I really like how the FO are exploring all avenues in order to improve this team.
    Get feeling better, John.

  • In reply to supercapo:

    Thanks supercapo! I like the arms and the overall plan. Hopefully it works out better than the Cubs pitcher stockpiling of the early 2000s. Much more info these days so hopefully a better outcome.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Not only is there more information available, but having a legit plan in place, and seeing the benefits/improvements that have already been made, should help bring about more success than they had in the early 2000s.

  • In reply to supercapo:

    Agreed. It's so much more organized and the players know what is expected of them. Big change.

  • Get well bud, you are a champ pumping out quality work for us while being so under the weather. All my best.

  • In reply to Abe Froman:

    Thanks Abe. Fluids are really helping. And I have the writing bug. I think I feel worse if I don't write!

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    This writing bug sounds serious if it can lay you up for 3 weeks.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Flu bug has me laid up...Writing bug is what keeps me going.

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    #1 just has to be Colvin for Stewart, right?

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Would have been, but that transaction took place in 2011 :)

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Will people stop with the Colvin for Stewart thing. Colvin type players aren't in plan. They have a good plan let them run with it.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    I think he was just kidding. It was a flyer that didn't work out. At least not yet. Won't be the first time it happens with this regime.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    This.

    I'm actually mocking the trade for a reason: if I do that, then Stewart will -- without fail -- be 100% healthy this year and hit 30 home runs en route to the All Star game. I am always willing to sacrifice for my Cubs.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Funny how our actions control the Cubs universe :)

  • Wow. Good stuff as always, John and I know your sick 'n all, but that was a huge tease.

    Hope you feel better soon. 19 more days!

  • In reply to lokeey:

    Thanks Lokeey! 19 more days! Can't believe it's getting so close.

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    John,

    Again, great post, as usual! Couldn't agree with you more, and hope you feel better soon! This flu bug has REALLY been going around this winter! What are your thoughts on this year's draft for our Cubs? After reading many of your posts and other articles on the team as well as hearing Theo's words from the Cubs convention, it wouldn't surprise me at all if they took a hitter with their 2nd overall pick and then stockpiled pitching again, much like last year. Your thoughts??? Also, looking forward to reading your next piece on the remaining top 6 moves of 2012....Thanks!

  • In reply to Kevin Campbell:

    Thanks Kevin.

    I really think what Theo meant that (and I'm sure Jed and Jason would say the same thing), is that they won't pick for need. They'll pick the BPA, regardless of position. As it stands now, most think that will be a pitcher but things can change.

    Clint Frazier, Austin Meadows, and maybe even a talented underachiever like Austin Wilson could emerge and become the best player in the draft. If they do and they're available to the Cubs, they'll take him.

    Remember that the Cubs passed the chance to pick a college arm last year (and a good HS arm named Max Fried) because they liked Almora best, even though they had Jackson in AAA, Szczur in AA, and a bunch of raw, talented prospects at the lower levels.

  • Moving Cabrera to the rotation reminds me of when they tried to move Lee Smith from reliever to starter. A big mistake for Lee, but I will always remember a great game he pitched against the Phillies where he struck out Mike Schmidt with a change up.

    Hope you feel ok, mix some scotch in with the fluids:)

  • In reply to cbbiefun2014:

    Got to taste the scotch. Scotch with an IV chaser maybe :)

    Could wind up being a bust with Cabrera as a starter, but I like the thinking behind it, especially since there isn't much to lose by trying.

  • I''m not sure how good or bad the Cubs are going to be this year, but spring training promises to be real interesting this year. If things work out, the Cubs may be the most improved team in baseball when its all said & done.

    Pour me a couple fingers of that scotch please John. Make it neat.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Always neat.

    Really looking forward to this spring. I guess I always am, but I'm especially excited about the pitchers this year.

  • John, you are the Willis Reed of bloggers.
    I was hoping you would analyze the non-player moves in a separate article, including the hiring of Derek Johnson, new scouts, the unsung other organizational reworkings. Get well first though !

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Yeah, I'm very interested in learning more about the minors' staff, who is responsible for what, what their pedigrees are, etc. It appears the Cubs FO is serious about development from start to finish and that's one of the most exciting aspects to consider. If we become one of the best organizations in scouting and development, just think what that's going to mean.

  • In reply to cubs1969:

    69, the one thing I like about this front office is they have a solid track record. McLeod did fairly well in both Boston and San Diego, unlike Hendry, who was understaffed and did everything by feel, rather than doing actual scouting and development.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Haha, thanks :)

    That would be an interesting piece. Will take some research, so maybe a bit down the road.

  • Im very pleased with the pitching in all phases of the organization considering where it was just 12 months ago. between the upcoming rule 4 draft, this years international free agency pool money, this summers trade deadline, next offseasons free agency, next years rule 4 draft, next years international free agency pool money and next years trade deadline we should be well on our way to having waves of pitching at every level in the organization. that is extremely exciting.

    i think with all the pitching the cubs are going to be targeting in the draft/inernational free agency/trades/normal free agency they should also target a catcher or 2 for the future through one of these avenues. i like wellington castillo a lot and if the cubs execs at the convention were speaking truthfully about him then they are high on him as well, but injuries do occur and players do decline so we need to address this vacancy in our system as well as the pitching.

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    Just look at Soto flaming out after his ROY. The deeper we are the better. I want them to take Manaea in the draft but if they took anyone else I have to have faith that they know what they are doing.

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    I think they have to address catcher they're so thin right now at every level. They'll probably draft a catcher or two because there is some talent there. Interesting thing is that if Castillo doesn't make it, the Cubs have nobody behind him. They'll have to address the need trough free agency or trade in the short term.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I have a feeling Navarro will see quite a bit of PT, if anything just for health reasons. I can see Navarro catching 50-60 games this year.

  • What is the blogger's equivalent of a purple heart?

  • In reply to Hubbs16:

    I don't know, maybe the Inky Finger, but John proves that you can't spell "Purple Heart equIValent" without "IV".

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Ouch.....ow...ow.....I hope this doesn't set him back when he reads.

  • In reply to Hubbs16:

    Haha :) Thanks guys.

  • I know that you are anxious to just feel normal again and we Denisons are all pulling for you, but maybe your body is telling you to to take more breaks. Sometimes pushing to hard weakens ones immune system. Didn'd Hendry have to learn to balance things a little.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Thanks slug. You're probably right. I'm trying to balance it. I like to write so it helps for me to put up a few articles, but I should be careful not to overdo it.

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    Having a lot of good young arms in the system should also make for good competition between them. I think this will help speed up their development with good talent being at every level (eventually) and them having to compete at a high level to keep their spot.

    I also liked the quote from Brett Jackson the other day when he said "I don't have any intention of going to Iowa". I really like seeing his confidence in his retooled swing and just his overall confidence. I personally think he will go to Iowa but he'll be back in the bigs by June/July.

  • In reply to Zachary Myers:

    Good point. The competition is also a nice benefit.

    I liked hearing that from Jackson as well. You got to like his makeup.

  • Per MLBTR, the Phillies are considering signing Delmon Young.

  • Does Delmon know there are Jews in Philadelphia?....this guy should stick with the AL and be a DH.

  • Doesn't surprise me. He's RH. He's easily in their price range. Just not a likeable player on or off the field. Theo/Jed would never sign this guy.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I was thinking more along the lines that if the Phillies sign Young then there would be one less team that the Cubs could call offering Soriano.

  • True, though I think that deal's been dead for awhile.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Phillies signed Young to a 1 year, $750,000 deal.

  • Please, TheoJed, absolutely stick to your guns and not sign Michael Bourn. Ive referred to him as Juan Pierre 2.0 because like Pierre he doesn't walk, his defense is dropping off and he doesn't have much power. Id say if Bourn wanted a 1yr/8mil c ontract hed be worth a shot, but otherwise, pass. As for the signings, heres to hoping Fukijama isn't Fukudome, Baker is at least Maholm, and Edwin Jax doesn't fall off the cliff anytime soon.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    They won't sign Bourn.

  • This is an interesting list. The only one I disagree with is Bourn. The Cubs outfield is such a trouble spot for the foreseeable future and someone like Bourn would really help. Sori and DeJesus are old and if one or both gets injured then what? The Cubs need some talent for the outfield and we're not likely to get it from the farm for years.
    I wouldn't describe Bourn as this year's Prince Fielder because Bourn isn't nearly as expensive and he fills a need at a crucial defensive position. Bourn has also racked up 20.1 WAR over the last four seasons (Fangraphs). His WAR last season was higher than Soriano's or Castro's.
    I don't know how much stock to place in WAR (people seem to quote it when it supports their point and disregard it when it doesn't) but by all accounts he's been a really good outfielder for four seasons, and he's been terrifically durable, playing all but a handful of games each season.
    I do agree that he's not the ideal outfielder because he doesn't hit for power. But he would be an upgrade over our current options, he's not kookoo expensive, and he'd fill a crucial need over the next several seasons.

  • In reply to baseballet:

    Baseballet, you make some outstanding arguments assuming the Cubs were realistically able to contend this year and the contract was team friendly in that it was not more than 3 years. Bourn is a very good player right now, but he is a speed player on the wrong side of 30. The potential to see a downgrade in his skills are great in the next few years which would make him a very risky acquisition for the Cubs who are looking more to the future. In addition, they would lose a draft pick that they value greatly by signing him now. If Bourn was the missing piece to a team that could win a WS this year, I'd agree the Cubs should try to sign him, but even then they would need to be smart about it and try to sign something short term with the thought that his talent could diminish quickly. Since they are not a realistic contender this year, they really should just stay away and keep their draft pick.

  • In reply to baseballet:

    CF is a pretty deep position in the organization. Panicking to fill it now with a questionable player would be a huge mistake.

    I know WAR very well. I also have a pretty good handle on the game beyond the numbers. Well enough to know when WAR overstates a players value, in fact. And that is the case with Bourn, which is why I call him an overrated player. Apparently, the rest of the league agrees as they have all turned to other alternatives (Span, Revere, B Upton, Choo, etc. etc.) for this entire offseason.

    Think about what Bourn is going to be: an average to below average player on offense who is superior on defense, but history says that at age 30, defense starts to decline. By the time the Cubs contend, you're probably looking at a good (not gold glove caliber CF) with a below average bat. Utterly replaceable...and for what? A chance to win a few extra games in 2013 and 2014? At the cost of a potential impact draft pick.

    No thanks.

  • John, you could of just rehydrated at the Cubs convention with one or two of those $7.00 Old Styles at the bar. Just kidding, get well soon.

  • In reply to kevie:

    Haha! No thanks :) I'll save that for the summer.

  • John, any updates on Aledmis Diaz? And have you heard anything about Alexander Guerrero defecting from Cuba?

  • In reply to CubsML:

    No, been out of the loop a little but will see what I can dig up.

  • Bruce Levine cracks me up. Just finish looking at his Chat and someone asked about trading for Price. He stated the he would be a FA next year which would only happen if he is non tended. Which is not going to happen. In reality Price will not be a FA until after the 2015 season. Its not hard to look these things up it took me 2 seconds.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    True and if Price were a free agent next year, Tampa would be a LOT more serious about trading him this offseason.

  • Bourn is the kind of player that you sign for a short term fix, as long as the cost is reasonable and as long as your short term fix does not hurt your long term objectives.

    But signing Bourn for ANY price will hurt their long term objectives by losing the second pick in the second round. Unless you are absolutely certain that you can later trade Bourn for a value equal to a second round pick, STAY AWAY FROM HIM.

    This may well be the last year that we have draft picks this high (hopefully?) and this is no time to lose it.

  • With catching a need and the upcoming draft class being firmly deep at the position, I would think this year a good time to address it. Of course there is a lot of time for movement in the rankings, but I would think either of the first two picks could bring us an interesting C candidate. Reese McGuire or Martinez if he slips that far. Then there are still a few more potential 1st round/2nd round chioces. They would have to use the 1st round pick if they like McGuire. We will see how the prep seasons pan out.

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    I think Martinez has a chance of slipping for that 2nd pick, certainly not McGuire. And I think #2 overall is too high at this point for him. He'll need to break out this season.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Kind of my take too. I have a feeling the FO is leaning toward a position player with that first pick though and if they do they will be leaning pitchers with the second and probably miss their chance at the better catching prospects.

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    To be honesty if they don't take one of the college pitchers. I wouldn't be upset with Fraizer, McGuire or Meadows. In that order.

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    In reply to KGallo:

    Why are you down on Meadows? (Or, at least, compared to everyone else who sees him as the premiere position guy in the draft right now.)

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Its not that I am down on Meadows. I am just that high on McGuire. I am a big fan of Fraizer's tools and approach to the game. I would rather have Manaea.

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    I completely agree with acquiring arms. The way the draft unfolded and the influx of guys like Vizcaino and Loux through deals is smart. I just wish more Cub fans would get behind this rebuild strategy and embrace the intelligent methodology of this FO. Thanks John.

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