Cubs Game and Preview: Front office being held back financially? Updates on Soler. Barney to start rehab at Iowa

Cubs Game and Preview: Front office being held back financially? Updates on Soler. Barney to start rehab at Iowa

There has been a lot of tension surrounding the Cubs lately.

The two story lines on the usually happy, happy, fun Opening Day were Ricketts vs. the rooftop owners, and the local media repeatedly reminding the front office about impatience. Let’s not even get into the goat head or Jorge Soler and his bat wielding.

On Monday, it seemed every radio interview with Cubs brass I heard or every article I read seemed to focus on when this rebuilding thing gets kicked into the next gear. Could it get worse? How about the Cubs debt crisis?

Gordon Wittenmyer has been banging the drum quite loudly of late that Tom Ricketts hasn’t given his golden boy front office all the resources to fulfill their vision. Is there some unrest within the front office regarding the lack of resources? Could it be the plan we have been sold is by necessity due to a lack of funding?

It seems like everyone is pointing to 2015 for more than just baseball reasons. Many of us are on board with a rebuild and it truly is the right way to build a perennial winner. No argument there. However, if money is stopping the front office from making moves within that plan, then we have a problem.

Theo Epstein already let us know he was surprised at the inability to capitalize on big market resources thus far, and he has been talking about stadium and television deals more than baseball lately. That scares me. It almost sounds as if Epstein is doing some sort of public funding infomercial.

Jed Hoyer meanwhile, was sounding slightly embarrassed himself on air while he acknowledged another 90+losses was likely in store instead of what they were used to in the past (Boston).

Theo has also been trying to temper expectations surrounding the farm system darlings.

"You can't over-leverage your organization on the hopes of two or three prospects. That doesn't work out. You have to look at every day, every player, every draft, every waiver wire, every game-on-the-line situation in the ninth inning as a way to get better as an organization and win some games."

I'm hearing there indeed have been some rumblings regarding the front office being restless. However, when it comes to money I'm told Theo and Jed have been assured "They will have it when they need it".

Ok great, but are we sure they haven’t needed it yet? Wittenmyer's sources suggests the front office wanted to make stronger bids on Asian free agents Yu Darvish and Hyun-jin Ryu.

Lastly, I hear Theo wanted no part of a last place finish again this year but will “take it”. When it comes to next year, all bets are off. Like most of us, he wants to see some progress soon.

At the end of the day, if the Cubs get their renovation and television deals in order all of this unrest will dissipate.

I just felt easier about this when I thought we were emulating Tampa Bay by design and out of necessity.

In the news

UPDATE on Soler (1:26 PM):

From earlier..

  • Cubs major league players appear to be supporting Jorge Soler.  Bruce Miles tweets that Alfonso Soriano plans to talk to Soler. Jeff Samardzija also noted that Soler's big name and signing bonus will make him an occasional target and he's going to have to learn to manage that.  Megan Montemurro of the Northwest Herald tweets that Theo Epstein will address the incident later.
  • According to Carrie Muskat, Darwin Barney will get his stitches removed tomorrow and will then start a rehab assignment at AAA Iowa.  He is expected to stay there through Monday.

Lineup:

  1. DeJesus CF
  2. Castro SS
  3. Rizzo 1B
  4. Soriano LF
  5. Schierholtz RF
  6. Castillo C
  7. Valbuena 3B
  8. Lillibridge 2B
  9. Feldman SP

What to watch for:

John: I'm watching Brent Lillibridge.  He made the team early on and Alberto Gonzalez was the last minute addition, but Gonzalez has outplayed him, is the better defender, and may end up stealing his spot on the 25 man roster.  Who'd have thought that Lillibridge's biggest contribution so far was to make us all appreciate Darwin Barney a lot more?

Tom:  I want to see Scott Feldman get deeper in the game and show more command than in his Cubs debut.

Felzz: Carlos Marmol- He had a good 8th. They might turn around and see if he can get right. Granted, it might not even get to 8 innings today. But if it does. We might see Carlos in there. Here's hoping he settles everything down.

 

Comments

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  • If there is one club I'm not worried about financially, it's the Cubs. Any challenges they are having now should largely be negated with the new TV deal coming up.

    Not to mention, they will most likely work something out with the rooftop owners, and the city, and add even more pieces (player and structurally) to add more revenue.

    If the Rays said they were going out of business, the fans wouldn't give a rat's ass. If the Cubs said that..........I think fans would do everything in their power to prevent it.

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    I don't believe it. This front office and ownership are known for deception and subterfuge. I don't believe Wittenmeyer knows anything he wasn't meant to know.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I still think when they need the money, it'll be there. They were ready to vastly overpay Anibal Sanchez this past winter. I think right now it's more about going after the right guy in terms of age and projection.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I'm finding it hard too believe that some people are moaning already about the teams successes and failures,I believe what the Cubs front office has done up to now has been fully supported by ownership. Most here knew here going in that the first few seasons would be throw away seasons while the Rickett's family try to keep the fan base placated, and seats filled, and the revenue filling their coffers. I'll start yelling in 2015 if the same lackluster results show up. Patience until then is my advice,Cubs have a plan and I'm still buying into it. in.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Exactly!

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    I agree with this. Theo's statement to Kaplan that he didn't have the money to go after Fielder or Pujols really troubled me.

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    Maybe I'm an idiot but doesn't one think that Theo, who is a very sharp guy, would have asked all these questions regarding what financial resources and/or restrictions he would have before accepting the job?

    I think there is a whole lot of nothing going on here. Gordon is stirring the sh!t pot if you will.

  • Actually, is Theo's track record of big $$ FA signings all that impressive? There was no reason to pursue Fielder or Pujols. Our focus needed to be on the FO organization, scouting, and development. Now that that is in place, they can start adding the FA pieces as needed. You have to walk before you run....

  • The money has to be there for signing draft picks and interntional
    talent. Even if we don't go after big money FA's, money has to be
    there into sign fill-in players.

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    If money is an issue, why would rickets allow them to sign a reliver for 3m from cuba?

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    The issue is they can't buy their way through draft and international signings.

    I think we may see starlin, samardjiza, barney, etc.. flipped for more prospects.

  • John/Tom...wondering if you guys have any thoughts about the new regime and how the beat reporters might not like them because they don't know them. They don't have the longtime connection they had with Hendry and therefore don't have the "inside sources" they once did. It just seems like articles like this, and other recent ones from Wittenmeyer and other beat reporters, are poorly written and full of a lot of pot stirring speculation. Part of it could be that the beat reporters are just tired of this f'ing team, which I think we can all understand to a certain degree. The casual fan who doesn't cover the team in papers or in blogs doesn't have to watch every game.

  • In reply to Mikethoms:

    I think you're onto something here. Every time I hear Gordon in an interview he is despondent over how poor a team the Cubs are. These guys aren't fans and they want to cover an exciting team, not a team that may be exciting in a couple of years.

  • In reply to Mikethoms:

    It could be. That's an interesting thought. I'm sure frustration sets in with them as it would with any job, especially when that job is made harder than what we are used to.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yeah I definitely get how if things change that dramatically it would be tough to do your job. I don't really even see it from Bruce Levine, who is about as old school as they get in terms of connections. I mean he made the Ed Lynch tape! So the guy has been around forever. Maybe I'm just focusing more on Sullivan and Wittenmeyer? Mooney is great but I also feel like he's relatively new on the scene, as are you guys in terms of your beat reporting.

  • In reply to Mikethoms:

    I hope I answered below.

  • Extended this piece to game preview and thread.

  • If there is anything to this story, I wonder if the performance of Darvish and Cespedes would encourage ownership to part with a little extra cash next time Thed wants to make a move for a high profile international free agent (i realize there are now international spending limits, but not all players are subject to these restrictions). Lately i've been dreaming of a rotation of Darvish, Shark, Garza, Appel/Gray, Jackson, and maybe even Wood, Vizcaino, or Cabrera.

  • In reply to ChuckR:

    The Cubs missed a golden opportunity with the international free agents you mentioned along with 22 yr old Yasiel Puig to bridge the gap or expedite the rebuilding process. I tend to look at the Cubs as a business rather than an arm chair GM and right now the fans of the major league team will suffer through at least two more 90+ loss seasons because Ricketts wants to be the next Tampa Bay when it comes to spending money until the new TV deal or more Ad dollars. I like what Jason and Theo have done with the minors (Bring in the teachers) but Cubs fans have seen too many can't miss prospects turn into suspects.

  • John, should we have any interest in Borbon?

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    4th or 5th OF'er, in my opinion. I don't see him as an upgrade.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I see value in Borbon,at 27 yrs. of age,he could take DeJesus's spot . Spinning off DD for a prospect or two too a desperate team. Borbon IMO can give similar production and comes at a far lesser $ amount. Defensively he fits better than DD in CF.

  • Maybe it's just the way I read the statements, but to me, it seemed like the quotes about not being able to use their market size to their advantage was in reference to the draft and international spending.

    Had their been no CBA, I think the Cubs easily would have surpassed $15M total between the draft and international spending. Instead, they weren't able to use those $$$ the way they wanted to. I don't think it was referencing FAs because the team has been outspoken in their disdain for acquiring pieces that way.

    On another note, no one should listen to anything Gordon Wittenmeyer says about finances. Ever. I heard him talk on the Lawrence Holmes show about one of the articles he wrote and he basically admitted he has no idea what he's talking about with regards to financing. And it definitely showed in his comments.

    At one point he said he couldn't believe the Cubs were trying to generate more revenue when they were losing games. Uh... what?

  • In reply to TulaneCubs:

    That is part of it but I think the Darvish thing, etc was also a factor.

  • I think fans and media have to realize that ricketts has paid alot of money for front office, dominican facility, spring training facility,and eating alot of contracts. The organization as a whole is in better shape than when the tribune owned it. Everything the cubs had was out dated when ricketts got the team, and like john said they were willing to pay sanchez.

  • In reply to seankl:

    Well according to one Wittenemeyer article the $7 mill spent on the Dominican facility was paltry or not enough or something ridiculous like that. Another Cubs blog had a nice takedown of Wittenmeyer's ridiculous financial statements. Real estate in the DR is cheap and so is labor?! Who knew?!

  • Ok as far as Wittenmyer is concerned I think he is dramatizing it but he has heard this stuff as has others. He is also informed. His approach and financial knowledge is up to you to critique.

  • As far as the beat writers not liking this FO, I have speculated that Sully and Levine miss the good old days. However I hear from the others they are cool. The rumblings have been heard that this FO is a little miffed but to what degree we don't know.

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    In reply to Tom Loxas:

    This is the part that bothers me. If the front office is miffed, that would seem to imply they took the job under false pretenses. I've also noticed how much Theo is talking about money these days -- and that isn't a happy thing for me.

  • I wonder how the current level of fan interest affects the TV deal? I would think ratings have to be down resulting in a lower valuation. Interest in this year's team has to be the lowest in the last 15 years. It might make sense from an investment standpoint to spend some money on a big name to drive up interest. Gotta spend money to make money sometimes. You would think the Ricketts know this.

  • In reply to Ratmoss:

    I highly doubt it would affect it much but you never know? I'll have to ask around.

  • Some of the guys who cover this team are really smart IMO and some we haven't mentioned like Mooney. He quietly has become a great source of Cubs info without getting too emotional.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Mooney has done a great job. Always writes good stuff and seems like he really gets the rebuilding process.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Out of curiosity, who would you consider the smart ones?

  • In reply to TulaneCubs:

    I think all of them are. However I think some put their own feelings into it so you have to filter some of it out. Really miss reading Miles but not paying for Herald access. We are going to try and make it where you only need come here anyway. :)

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    I agree mooney has been a good source.

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    I have to think that the pressure is on both Lillibridge and Feldman today. Another 0-fer for Lillibridge could send him packing. As for Feldman, given his spring, he needs to least 5 solid innings with good command. I just have a feeling the FO won't allow us to get buried early in the season without making some changes...

    I agree with the rest of you-Wiitenmeyer seems to be drumming up news on a slow day. They didn't go cheap in the draft last year and vowed no big Free Agents-so what gives?

  • In reply to Dale Miller:

    I checked because of his story but others have heard similar things.

  • 5 game suspension for Soler. Soler very apologetic. Opposing player insulted his family, which was last straw.

    Theo condemns action but supports player. Notes that Soler never swung the bat.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I may be wrong, but I interpret that short a suspension as the equivalent of saying: "He was massively provoked."

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    He was, but he didn't handle it well. Words should always be retaliated with words or silence.... that whole "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" sorta thing. Anyways, I'd rather he punched the guy, then go to the dugout and come back out with a bat....

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I don't want him to break his hand on that guy's thick skull. Maybe save it for the next time against Clearwater when Soler can go into 2nd base Ty Cobb style. Or maybe keep Soler out of it and let his pitcher play a little chin music with that guy.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    That's part of the lesson that I think Soler really needs to take from this. If the 2B is a jerk, have faith in his teammates to have his back and drill the guy his next time up.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Agreed!

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Soler had a stick.
    They're lucky he didn't come out with a rock too!

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    That's the way I look at it too. Player appeared to be overly physical with Soler at 2B, when Soler pushed him off, that same player assumed he wanted to fight -- which is probably what cleared the benches, then insults his family -- which has to be huge for Soler right now.

    What Soler did was wrong,but that 2B sounds like a grade A jerk. Don't blame Soler for being upset but not happy with the way he handled it.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I'm just glad to see Solar showing discipline with the bat... albeit in the opposing team's dugout.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Selfishly, this is perfect. I was already planning a trip on Wednesday to go see the DCubs in...wait for it...Clearwater! By my count this puts him back in action Tuesday.

  • As far as the game goes, but this looks like a much better Feldman.

  • Good way to work the pitch count up by Cubs hitters today and good call about Lillibridge, John.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Ha! I even called it again before the pitch. I need to play the lottery while I'm still on a roll.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Predicting a Lillibridge hit is almost like winning the lottery, so yeah, go ahead lol.

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    In reply to Caps:

    And then the Lillibridge defensive brain fart....

  • In reply to Just Win:

    Whole inning was a brain fart. The Castro error, Lillibridge, and the HBP on an 0-2 count.

  • Defense breaking down all of a sudden. Castro error, misplay on grounder and now an HBP.

  • Amazing what one error leads to!!

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    In reply to Richard Beckman:

    It's one of the many mysteries about baseball. Seems to happen a lot in this game.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Especially to the Cubs...

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    Gotta give Sandoval credit. Ball was outside, almost in the dirt. Not Feldman's inning.

  • We need to learn to put teams away and not let them right back in it... #growingpains

  • I guess I have two comments for the day,....

    1) It was good to see Lillibridge FINALLY get a hit,... and with 2 out and runners on base.

    2) Soler's suspension and punishment were completely reasonable. It's also good to see his teammates, management, and some of the major leaguers simultaniously supporting the man, but not supporting his actions.

    And I guess a #3) Whomever it was that insulted Soler's family needs to find a few knee-high extremely inside pitches tossed his way.

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    In reply to drkazmd65:

    Re: 3) or call Vogelbach up to Daytona the next time they face that player and have him slide into 2nd to break up a DP.

  • Ugggg! Walking in the Pitcher with the bases loaded for the 5-5 tie.

    It's gonna be a long year.

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    In reply to drkazmd65:

    This game feels like a long year.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    True Cub fans do not complain.....you can always return in 2015 and watch Soler attack the other team with his Louisville slugger.

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    In reply to drkazmd65:

    I don't understand it either......with the pitcher up and the bases loaded, on a full count, is there any reason NOT to throw a meatball right down the middle? It's not like Vogelsong is going to homer.

    Now we know why Takahashi was available as a minor league FA. I wonder if the Cubs signed him mostly to help Fujikawa transition to states.

  • john the guys on tv came up with a good point, with the bad weather do you think players are not getting the pregame work outs they usually get ? Which is part of the sloppy play early on.

  • Wittenmyer isn't bringing up any new information in any of the recent articles he's written about the team finances. The Ricketts had to get Seligs permission to use the amount of debt they did to buy the team in 2009 because they were instantly in violation of the leagues debt limit rule after they signed on the dotted line. This issue was discussed in many articles and blogs at the time. And I completely agree that his interview on the Score with Lawrence Holmes was a joke. None of these guys understand the concept of EBITDA (operating profit), operating profit isn't a measure of profit back into the businesses pockets. It is a measure of financial operating efficiency before they pay their debt service and pay Uncle Sam. All this represents for the Cubs is that they are operating a very tight and trim operation. The better number to look at currently is overall revenues and how they compare to other teams.

    And the only reason Theo is talking about the teams finances is because Wittenmyer, Sullivan and Rodgers keep asking him about it even though he has no hand in operating the business side of the team or negotiating any of the issues regarding the stadium.

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    This is gonna be a long season.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Then go watch the Sox......come back when the playoffs begin.

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    In reply to CubsTalk:

    Seriously?

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I am serious....88 wins and a playoff spot.......

  • FIve game suspension for Soler.....any video on this bat attack?

  • Is it safe to say that Soler's nickname will be...........now don't cringe.............."Batman".

  • When Soler comes back, whenthe Cubs areonthe road, th PA announcer show play Neal Heft's "Batman" theme when Soler comes up to bat.

  • Feldman just sucks.....

  • Maybe we should look at trading Castro.....before it is too late!

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    I thought true Cubs fans don't complain.

  • Question of the Day.....

    Should Theo trade Starlin Castro if the right package of Ready MLB Prospects comes across his desk?

  • Most frustrating game this year.

  • what's frustrating is we take fastballs down the middle instead of hitting them.Lets make the pitcher afraid to throw first pitch strikes, I understand grinding out at bats but the cubs hitters are making it to easy. There are to many first pitch fastballs down the middle at 88-89 miles per hour that should be crushed.

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    worse than two homers in the ninth?

    just wondering about Soler - could this be a cultural thing? Are on-field disputes settled differently in the Cuban leagues?

  • In reply to SKMD:

    I missed the end of that game, so for me, yes! In all seriousness, it's one thing if you get beat by good players who come up with big hits. This was a game where the Cubs simply beat themselves. Errors, mental lapses...worst way to lose a game, in my opinion.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    Lucy Ricardo once said that "Cubans are always hot tempered"

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    In reply to CubsTalk:

    Lucy Ricardo never lied to me

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    Too many hitters on this team try to go to the plate and be "the hero". I think that's what made the 2008 offense so successful -- every game it was someone new to come through, and Cubs hitters trusted the guy behind them in the order. This year, no one seems to even shorten their swing with 2 strikes in clutch situations.

  • In reply to Jason Pellettiere:

    I totally agree, like castro has to shorten that swing with two strikes .But we have to remember that the 2008 team was full of veterans. Like today it seems like the young guys(castro,rizzo) are in between in late game situations.Rizzo takes a 88 mph fastball down the middle late but earlier he hit the first pitch for a homerun.

  • Well, even if the old longtime beat writers have some sources left, it doesn't mean they are still getting good information. Who knows what internal motivations are inside the cubs org with all the business irons in the fire, while the team is going through the first real rebuild in a generation. Perhaps they should write a story on the financial straits of their newspapers and the effect that has on getting a decent beat writer, not to mention a columnist worth reading. I think Sullivan is over due to be made a columnist, he already is half way there in his beat reports, may as well give him a column. He deserves it more than some of the radio retreads and cornfield commentators they have now. Sullivan at least has some edge left which is more than the other hallmark columnists can say. Give Sullivan a column! At least he tells you who he has talked to about his stories.

  • Also wouldn't worry too much about the FO not having resources needed to compete for talent. Once they have identified the current market ineffiencies they will work them as long as they can before revealing them to other teams and try to get all the advantage they can while misdirecting attention to some other area, like lack of resources or whatever these reliable sources are feeding the media as a red herring. Wittenmeyer is doing them a service by repeating their cover story unexamined and their misdirections in whole cloth. Just don't think those sources don't have motives of their own.

  • In reply to eddie35:

    Not really worried, there is a good chance it is all a leak to get public on Reno side.

  • John, pro and cons of trading either Baez or Castro. Is Castro's
    almost daily errors (both physical and mental) going to improve.
    I hear Stanton might be on the block. Is it a fair deal for both teams.

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