Has Dale Sveum righted the ship?

Has Dale Sveum righted the ship?

It was just days ago that we were discussing if Dale Sveum was losing it and about to ultimately become just the point A guy for this team.

Then the Cubs went and took 3 out of 4 against the worst team in the league and suddenly everything is looking up. Well let’s not get carried away, however, there have been some things turning the corner for Sveum and his bunch.

Sveum has been both very vocal and visible of late. Most notably, of course, he threatened trips to Iowa for just about anyone that wasn’t doing their job. Did it rattle some people? Maybe.

The Cubs manager also has been playing some more mind games with others through the media. He made some very pointed comments about not giving Carlos Marmol the closer job back because he seemingly pitches better without the pressure of the title.

He even put the rehabbing Ian Stewart on notice to not bother to hurry back unless he was going to be hitting his way here. Sveum almost seems to be relishing the competition between Marmol and the recently returned Kevin Gregg over the closer gig.

Either way, his bullpen has been outstanding of late and the team looks much better for it. Anthony Rizzo has apparently found his swing again after rumors last week that Sveum messed with it. Turns out the coaching staff discovered a flaw on video and Rizzo responded with a big game Friday that included two absolute bombs.

A pretty good week for Sveum, and let’s not forget he also got back his gold glove second baseman, and should soon be getting last year’s ace in Matt Garza back.

Garza should further strengthen what already is the team’s strength. The Cubs starters boast the third best ERA in the league. You have to give the front office credit here; they have really solidified the rotation and it has been without arguably their best starter.

By the way, Carlos Villanueva was a find people.

It really wouldn't even be a stretch to think this team isn't a couple of legit bats away from being competitive in this division. One of those bats will have to be a productive Alfonso Soriano.

That is we shouldn’t look for any outside reinforcements anytime soon. Jed Hoyer has told us the resource cupboard is bare.

Some of you may not think it helps the big picture for this team to be competitive this year. However, resources are not spent exclusively on aging free agents. I’m still hearing rumbles that Theo Epstein isn't too happy with his limitations thus far.

Someone I talked to today reminded me of some names that he wishes Theo would have had the dough to add, players that few could argue wouldn’t have helped on both the present and future fronts.

“Imagine if Theo had had the money to win bids for Yu Darvish and or Hyun-Jin Ryu”.

I wonder how much Theo is doing just that.

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    The Cubs started out with one of the toughest schedules in baseball, and given their overall talent level, their record is naturally skewed that way, but baseball is a game of averages. Now the Cubs are starting to play some of the worst teams, and things are starting to average out. To much should not be read into either. It simply is what it is.

    As for Carlos Villanueva, I'm reserving judgement until the body of work is greater. This time in 2001 Julian Tavarez had a 1.53 ERA after 5 starts, and people were confusing him with Cy Young. He didn't look so good the rest of the way. We shall see.

    This organization is spending it's money exactly where it needs to be spent right now, and that is on building a solid base for sustained success. Would Darvish have been a nice addition that fit both the short and long term? Yes, but it's not like they didn't try either. By all accounts, the Cubs put in a pretty good bid.

    Publicly, Esptein tells us it was a mistake for the Red Sox to try and keep up with the Yankees in terms of lavish free agent spending, and I believe it was, but if I'm reading you right, he doesn't really mean it, and that concerns me.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Every time we talk about money it seems we go to extremes here. Money can be used to help the process of rebuilding is the point some are trying to make. No one is saying be the Angels or Dodgers here. To be third in payroll behind St. Louis and Cincinnati is another.

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    In reply to Tom Loxas:

    If one measures success by payroll size, the Cubs have done rather poorly. It doesn't bother me in the least that the Reds and Cards have higher payrolls than the Cubs right now.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Still if Villanueva pitches anything like this he will be a very tradeable piece.

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    In reply to Tom Loxas:

    "If" is a small word with a large meaning, but yes, if he continuous pitch well, teams will call, and with such a team friendly contract, he may bring back a decent haul.

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    In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Statistically, Villanueva has been lucky this year, but he's also been pretty good aside from that. And he was effective as a starter last year in Toronto in the 2nd half. Villanueva looks like a solid 4th starter, evening out the luck and everything else.

    BTW, Travis Wood has also been lucky. Edwin Jackson has been unlucky.

    Feldman hasn't been very good no matter which was you slice it

  • Why be concerned about lavishly spending the Ricketts family money? They're worth billions. They have the dough and quite frankly they can eat contracts that go bad.

  • In reply to Nondorf:

    Not a good way to run a business.

  • In reply to Nondorf:

    The Ricketts didn't get to be billionaires pissing their money away. However, they did meet their match with Zelll and Tom wanted the team bad enough to overpay. He got a rundown piece of property and a bloated empty bus full of has beens and never will be players. I think Ricketts new that, but it may have been worse than even he imagined.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I haven't seen anyone indicate that the Ricketts family overpaid for the team. As a business entity, it is probably one of the most valuable sports franchaises in the country. But it has been badly run, and will take several years to put it on a firm financial footing.

    Revenue streams will be increasing over the next several years, with TV and radio money increasing, increased money from jumbotron, luxury boxes, etc. and the team seems to be in good shape for the long run.

    But this is not the time to spend foolishly on overpriced free agents.

    So far, things are going exactly the way the Ricketts family said they would. They have vastly increased the size and ability of the front office. They have greatly improved training facilities in the DR and Mesa. They have greatly increased spending on amateur acquisition, and have filled in holes in the ML team. And as stated in advance, they have consistently attempted to convert short term assets into long term assets.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    From my understanding (and I'm not a financial whiz) is that it wasn't so much the price of the team but how the deal was structured. Zell and the Trib forced the Ricketts to take on a lot of debt in order to reduce the tax hit on themselves.

  • In reply to Nondorf:

    The Ricketts family didn't get rich by being stupid with their money. Nor are they a charity with the purpose of entertaining Cubs fans.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    I think when you buy a sports team which is basically the entertainment business, that is part of your responsibility. That is essentially your product.

    If the Ricketts got into this to just make money -- which I don't believe they did -- then they deserve all the criticism that will come to it because of that.

  • In reply to Nondorf:

    Wasn't it within the last couple of years that fans everywhere complaining about the awful contracts that were given to Soriano/Zambrano/Bradley et al? When Theo took over, I would have been cool with a Marlins' style sell-off. Besides, teams are getting smarter and locking up their stars earlier, ensuring they don't enter free agency until they are past their prime. Realistically, the smartest way to build a team is through player development. Once the system is established and pumping out legitimate Major Leaguers, then you can use prospects to trade for established, preferably younger, stars.

    It is similar to what St. Louis has done under the current ownership. Think about their stars over their recent success. Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen, and Edgar Renteria were all acquired with prospects. What did they give up? The most notable players for these three were Placido Polanco (who was already a legitimate starter), Braden Looper, and Adam Kennedy, with the latter two eventually making thier way back to St. Louis anyway. Matt Holliday was had for Brett Wallace...How's he doing down in Houston? The only counter argument that I can think of where it was better to hold the prospect was when the Braves sent Jason Marquis and the minor leaguer who would become Adam Wainwright to the Cardinals for JD Drew.

  • Supposedly the interest being paid on this team is taking away from resources. Simple as that.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    I've read that as well.

  • I'm just not clear on how you either have to be the Angels or nothing.

  • Well. I think the resources and Dale Sveum are two different things.

    It's too early to say whether Dale's "turned things around" Give it another week. If the Cubs are closer to .500 than they are now than maybe you have your answer. But he definitely has made adjustments. Like you cited above, and they're having some quick dividends. So, I'd say he made some good adjustments but I'm holding out before saying he's righted the ship...

  • In reply to felzz:

    Yeah Felzzy agreed. That's the thing about making titles. I know it's early but it's fun to try and dissect things as we go along.

  • Whats wrong with where we're at? I mean sure, I'd like to win the world series in year two of a major organizational rebuild - from the ground up... but realistically, aren't we right where we should be?

    They've locked up Castro for a good bit. Aquired Rizzo, signed Soler, had a solid draft, and rebuilt the entire scouting & development teams.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Also we have better training facilities in the Dominican, brand new AZ training facility next year, and it looks like Wrigley field will be upgraded if the rooftop owners don't mess things up. With the Wrigleyville upgrades and a new TV deal or two coming, the Cubs will have more money to build a sustained winner. Yes things are definitely improving on schedule.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Actually, what the FO has been able to do in two years is nothing short of a miracle. There was little to no talent left in the system (either minors or MLB). As the MLB and Iowa rosters stand today, 12 pitchers and 8 position players on MLB team came to the organization in the last two years. In Iowa, 5 pitchers and 12 position players are new to the organization. They have come to the organization in various ways. At the MLB level (including DL) 9 arrived as free agents, 2 from trades and 8 from waivers. Also, this takes a ton of work from the coaching staff to integrate these guys from disparate systems into the “Cubs’ Way.” It will be interesting to see where they are in another 30 days.

    When you consider that the A and AA guys will take a minimum of 2-3 years to get here, you can understand why spending lavishly on expensive free agents is “A Fools Errand.” The right time will come, but not just yet. I like winning, but I'm okay where we are for the time being.

  • Was it not Theo himself who started this gig with strongly expressed views of how one does not build a contender in the free agent market? Or was that my imagination?

    I'm beginning to think the whole lack of resources shtick is Ricketts' idea of how to take the heat away from people who could be fired and placing it on himself, who cannot be fired.

  • In reply to Richard Beckman:

    Some if it may be spin but why when we bring up money do you only think about big FA spending?

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    I suppose technically Yu Darvish and or Hyun-Jin Ryu, the players actually mentioned in the your post, were not free agents. But the distinction strikes me as slight. In the end, they went to the highest bidders, didn't they?

  • In reply to Richard Beckman:

    No you are right they were FA but they would've been core pieces. That's what I want money spent on.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Cubs offered Darvish a fairly nice contract. Texas offered a better one and frankly, a potential title team also. Cubs also offered Ryu a similiar contract that they eventually paid to Fujikawa.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Here's how the bidding process works. The team that owns the player's rights only gets told the amount of the bid, not which team made the bid. Then that team can accept the bid, or not. If accepted, the player and his agent can then negotiate a contract with the team that made the highest bid.

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    In reply to mutant beast:

    As a correction, Fujikawa's contract wasn't close to Ryu's. Ryu cost a nearly $27 mil posting fee, plus $36 mil over 6 years, for a total investment of roughly $63mil over 6 years. It's paying off, but that is a risky investment for a guy who never pitched in the US. (remeber Hideki Irabu?)

    Fujikawa signed for 9.5 mil over 2 years, no posting fee

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Maybe some truth to that I'm just quoting a source.

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    In reply to Tom Loxas:

    The Cubs bid BIG on Darvish, the money the Rangers bid was unheard of, easy to say in hindsight the risk was worth it.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Agreed. Spending a boatload of money now on short-term ML-level assets would not fix the fundamental problems that were facing the long-term outlook for the Cubs as an organization.

    I still remain convinced that this rebuild is going according to a very sensible long-term plan.

  • I had my eye on Darvish since I first saw him in the WBC. It sure would been fun to have him around Chicago. I don't think having him on this team would have put us into contention now, though. Well, maybe toward the 2017 side of his deal.

    How can you outbid a team from Texas? Isn't everything bigger there?

  • In reply to CGunz:

    Yeah Texas was tough competition there.

  • In reply to CGunz:

    Haha! They did big really, really big -- much bigger than any other team, including the Cubs, whom some say were second. Looks right now like it was worth it.

  • I'm going to have to give Darwin Barney credit for righting the ship more so than Dale. He's a smart player that's not going to make those boneheaded plays that were so frustrating to watch in his absence.

    Getting Garza back will help even more. His contributions go deeper than his arm. He's always smiling, always on that top step cheering on his teammates. Losing teams need cheerleaders too. There's nobody on the roster right now that seems to be able to keep everybody loose.

  • In reply to Ratmoss:

    I hope Garza has a healthy arm. Marla Thomas could cheerlead and keep the team loose.

  • In reply to Ratmoss:

    i agree on Barney.

  • In reply to Ratmoss:

    I don't give Sveum too much credit or blame here. I think he does a solid overall job. He'll make mistakes, but every manager does. I can't think of a manager that hasn't gotten the brunt of the blame here in Chicago at some point.

    I do think having Barney around helps, he seems to be a stabilizing presence for Castro.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Agreed on all accounts.

  • In reply to Ratmoss:

    I think Barney is a glue player.

  • Please don't get me wrong guys, I love our plan. I just want all resources thrown at it just like FO apparently does. No reason we shouldn't be first in payroll in division. It will happen soon enough.

  • At this point, would you rather trade Garza or keep him the entire year and offer him a qualifying offer? His value will be so depressed since the acquiring team can't offer him the qualifying offer, I think his value is highest if the Cubs keep him all year. BUT, he just might accept a qualifying offer (~$13M) and hope to have a healthy / bounce-back year. Not the end of the world if he accepts, but that's not small change. Plenty of teams will be desperate for pitching, and if he has a good second half, we could get a first round pick (I'm looking at you Dodgers / Yankees / Boston / Phillies).

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    In reply to Roscoe Village:

    It's really hard to say until he returns, and has a few good starts. If he pitches well, the Cubs are at least going to want 1st-round pick value back, because a healthy Garza is going to net a draft pick for us.

  • Regarding bidding on international free agents like Yu Darvish and Jin Ryu, it's kind of like bidding on EBAY.

    You win some and you lose some.

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    In reply to DetroitCubFan:

    At least on Ebay you can increase your bid. With the type of auction we have in place for these Japanese players, it's a blind bid. You just don't know if you win till it's over.

    With that said, did Theo know the Cubs bid was too low? How?

  • One area I would spend unlimited amounts of money on right now would be hiring the very best minor league instructors and coaches who can "teach" the game the proper way to our younger players.

    I'm sure they think (and) they have hired a lot of good coaches/instructors already, but you can never spare any expense having the very best at the lower levels of the minors teaching the right way to do things.

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    John, if the Cubs keep Garza the entire year and they make him a qualifying off which he accepts, can they then trade him before opening day 2014?

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    In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Why offer a $13M "qualifying offer to flip him before opening day?

    I don't understand the reasoning.......

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    In reply to bocabobby:

    Let me expand. We just got news about how finances are a bit tight. If Garza comes back in mid-May or so, he would need to pitch like Cy Young to really get other teams interested not the usual 15 win type of guy he has been.

    If he does pitch like CY Young, you want him to stay a be part of the 2015 team that most folks think will be our turnaround year. If he doesn't, do you offer a guy 13 million in hopes you can flip him?

    Flip him for who? Prospects? We're talking about a $13 million gamble.

    With that all said. I don't think the union would have allowed this type of action to happen in the latest agreement. It's gotta be the same as trying to sign a free agent and then trade him... That's just not allowed....

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    In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    You can...remember the Halos were going to trade us Dan Haren?

    It may have been before the deadline for quaifying offer, in which case we were merely acquiring the right to offer Dan Haren a qualifying offer....not sure on techinicalities, but it can be done

    PS: 6.29 ERA for him.....taking a pass was right call, even if Marmol stinks as well

  • As Ratmoss said - I think that at least some of the defensive end of the improvement (and a bit of hard-nosed edge) came back when Barney got back in the lineup. If nothing else the trainwreck that was Lillibridge and others subbing in at 2B came to an end - and Castro & Rizzo got back the guy they were used to playing with, and the guy that makes them look better and play more comfortably.

    I also think that between adding Gregg (whom I liked in his previous stint with the Cubs), and adding Loe into the mix, and taking some of the pressure off Marmol as sole closer,... the bullpen has finally started to gel as well.

    This last few days was against one of the few teams more horrible than the Cubs - so the good play must be taken with a grain of salt - but they also didn't play horribly the last week either - even the the outcomes were not as favorable.

    Incremental improvement - that's what I want to continue to see.

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    In reply to drkazmd65:

    It should be noted that our early-season schedule was brutal: Braves, Giants, Reds, Rangers, plus hot Brewers...schedule makers did us zero favors

    That we are righting the ship vs. Marlins (and maybe Padres coming up) may have something to do with quality of competition

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Wow not sure how you liked Gregg last time but he is a welcomed site right now. That's a scary thought.

  • We just beat the Miami Marlins, a team with Gio Stanton and little else. When we can start beating the Reds, Cards and Brew crew ill be far more impressed. Miami right now is a AAA team, aside from Stanton, Polanco and Nolasco.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    I believe that Tom, Theo, Jed, and Dale will get us there, but you are correct about the fish and it will take a minute to reach the other teams.

  • I really don't care too much what our record is this year as long as progress is being made. My biggest hope is for the farm system and so far this year our top prospects are not doing too well. I know it's early, but I was hoping for a couple of our top prospects to really start strong. Most are mediocre. Baez is starting to heat up, but not too good so far for most of the others

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    In reply to cubman:

    The only player performances at the Major League level that matter are players that are either a) under control for 2+ years and may be around when we rebound (Rizzo, Castro, Wood, Shark, etc), or b) players that aren't under contract, but are interesting trade bait (DeJesus,Villanueva, Garza, etc) that can be exchanged for long-term pieces.

    Aside from that, the minors are what matters. We are still a couple seasons away from significant contributions from there, as our AAA and AA levels are fairly bare of good prospects.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I agree completly with Zonk. That is my concern, that our top prospects are not lighting up their leagues. Early yet, but a little concerned.

  • Its amazing how stats folks don't like to judge players on small sample sizes, but don't seem to give managers that same benefit of the doubt.

    We simply played a terrible team. Are we this good? No. Were we that bad playing elite teams? No to that as well.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Agreed!

  • I agree that it makes no sense to go out and spend money just because a team can. My problem is when I hear the guy running the team say that they are maxed out on payroll at 100 million dollars. This a team that Forbes said will have 250 million in revenue and approach 3 million in attendance this season. That tells us all that this is a business with some cash flow problems.
    I also have heard that Epstein is quite pissed off. If he would have been told he would be working with a 100 mil. payroll cap in 2013, no chance he would have come to the Cubs. Hoyer either.
    They wanted to sign Anibel Sanchez but reached their bidding limit, got stuck with Jackson instead. Wanted several middle relievers, including Burnett, not enough payroll to get it done. How is Cespedes not a Cub? This is what Theo means when he thought he would have more assets to use. This is the biggest long range problem the team faces, because you can not just hope a bunch of kids in AA and A ball make it big. Or prepare to become the Royals. You have to also target quality players and aquire them. Look at what the Red Sox did this offseason.

  • Some really good questions there.

  • The Cubs lost Cespedes not because of money, but because of the short term contract that Bean offered. They stopped bidding on Sanchez because they realized that not only were they probably overbidding on him, but he wanted to play in Detroit and his agent used the Cubs to get every buck he could.

    The best scenerio is the one we're being forced to follow - build a farm system that will continually feed the big club and when money becomes needed, it will be available due to a new tv contract and added revenue streams stemming from the renovations. The terms of the Cub sale to Ricketts is pretty much forcing this situation in the meantime

    Look at what the Red Sox did? They weren't just sold, they have a renovated stadium will all kinds of extra money coming in from advertising, and NESN affords them an incredible amount of income compared to the Cubs. Apples and oranges.

    I can understand impatience from fans local to Chicago, but from my perspective on the west coast, I don't see them on tv, I don't hear or read about them to much from the local media, so I think I'm stuck with being patient and keeping my eyes on the long range plan. Although that might change quickly as soon as I get a tablet and subscribe to mlb.tv.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Also good points Toby and I think the Cubs need all those things to be a powerhouse but I don't know if Theo realized how much they needed them.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    agreed

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