My schedule is somewhat reversed from many in that I have less time on the weekends, so let's catch up on some news and notes over the past couple of days.
Cubs activate Matt Garza, DFA Michael Bowden. Is a minor deal in the works?
I was at the game yesterday when the Cubs DFA'd right-handed relief pitcher Michael Bowden and so I know this isn't breaking news. But it was a curious move to say the least.
Bowden is a middle reliever and there is nothing in his profile that suggests he'll ever be more than that. Still, it was surprising.
Many assumed the RP on the chopping block was Shawn Camp, who is off to a slow start and at age 37, he doesn't factor much in the Cubs future.
It's hard to tell right off the bat why they preferred to risk losing the 26 year old Bowden. His peripherals either tell you his performance is legit this year (3.27 FIP) or is due for regression (xFIP of 5.00), depending on what metric you prefer to use. The xFIP mark, however, is closer to his career numbers.
He has showed a slight dip in velocity, but at this time of the year, that's not unusual. Pitchers typically throw about 1-2 mph slower in cold weather. It's certainly nothing to be alarmed about at this point. Bowden's velocity has only dipped by 0.5 mph.
I certainly don't see him getting through waivers either.
Perhaps the Cubs just see this as an opportunity to sell high on Bowden and pick up a prospect who has a similar ceiling but affords them more roster flexibility. While Bowden isn't much more than a replacement level player, there should be enough interest where the Cubs may be able to get something in return.
Matt Garza is scheduled to start tomorrow against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Cubs will have a decision to make in regards to Garza's future with the team. The Cubs would like to sign him at a deal that makes sense, but if that isn't possible he could become trade bait. If Garza pitches well, he'll almost certainly be worth the qualifying offer at the end of the year, so the Cubs have the right to ask for something more valuable than that in any return.
Orioles intrested in Scott Feldman?
Jim Bowden speculated on MLB Radio (h/t Michael Caldwell) that the Orioles may have interest in red-hot Cubs starter Scott Feldman. Feldman may be one of the better pitching values out there on the market today. He will certainly regress at some point but even advanced metrics suggests he'll be a solid starter overall this season. Feldman is only 30 years old and signed for one season, so he offers whatever team signs him the flexibility of extending him, knowing he should still have some productive years left.
Update on Cubs farmhands
Every once in awhile we have to say thanks to AZ Phil for providing us with unique information that we would not be able to get from the main media outlets. He makes a a thorough record of the Cubs player stats at extended spring training and the instructional league. Here's a link to see complete statistics (take stats with a grain of salt here, but they do tell us a little bit about how well they're playing). Here are some players of note.
- Everyone is curious about Albert Almora and he has played 5 games in extended spring training and appears right on schedule for a late May return to action. I expect to see him by the time I go to my next Kane County game, which will be June 2nd. If he gets the call early, I'll definitely have to make an earlier, unscheduled trip, however.
- Among the most interesting players is Reggie Golden, who is built like an NFL fullback. He is hitting with patience and power over the past 10 games (.355/.484/.581) and surprisingly has kept the strikeouts at a minimum (6), while drawing 11 walks in 61 PAs.
- Carlos Penalver is the next middle infielder to keep an eye on. He is an athletic player with a good feel for hitting and a solid approach at the plate. His defense is good enough to keep him at SS for now.
- Marck Malave was the Cubs biggest bonus baby in the international free agent class of 2011. He has advanced hitting skills and is still at extended spring training -- significant because Malave is Venezuelan and the VSL has already started. It appears the Cubs have bigger plans in store for the strong, stocky 18 year old 3B. Perhaps he starts with rookie level AZ or maybe even Boise. Malave has hit well and shown patience in the last 10 games, hitting .320 with a .469 OBP. He has 11 walks in 57 PAs. Curiously, this year's bonus baby Frandy De LaRosa is also still in extended spring training, though he is struggling. Perhaps the Cubs are keeping their top signees stateside to keep more of an eye on their progress and development.
- Shawon Dunston, Jr. is tearing things up, hitting .417/.455/.564 overall and .517 over his last 10 games. Dunston has yet to master Boise so he could get a return ticket there this season. He'll likely battle the injured Trey Martin for playing time in CF in the near future.
- Duane Underwood has a 1.80 ERA though as you might expect, his control isn't yet where it needs to be (8 walks in 15 innings), so I expect him to start the season in Boise until he improves that. He has struck out 13.
- Erick Leal, the more advanced of the two pitchers the Cubs acquired for Tony Campana, has also pitched well, posting a 3.07 ERA in 14.2 innings. He has walked 5 and struck out 14. Leal just turned 18 but I think there's a good chance he starts in Boise.
- A sleeper down there could be Michael Hamman, who has a 2.76 ERA in 16.1 innings with 5 walks and 14 Ks. Hamman showed flashes of good velocity as an amateur but was inconsistent. He was also wiry thin when drafted, so perhaps if he fills out he can reach those low to mid 90s with consistency.
Ariball analyzes four players
- Cubs stat guru Ari Kaplan has a website called Ariball. It's a good insight on advanced statistics and in this piece he projects whether 4 players (all non-Cubs) will continue to produce over the course of the season. The news is good on RHP Matt Harvey and 1B Paul Goldschmidt, but not as optimistic with OF Carlos Gomez and LHP Patrick Corbin.