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Building the Cubs for 2014 without big time free agents or trades

Building the Cubs for 2014 without big time free agents or trades
Mike Olt

Much of the talk about the Cubs centers around the future beyond next season.  We hear that the Cubs are going to lean with erring on the side of long term over short term.  That part of the plan shouldn't change if the Cubs intend to build an organization that can compete for the long term year after year.  It's still about getting to a point where they can depend on their own organization to produce talent rather than acquiring it from other organizations.

In the meantime there's a few things the Cubs can do to make the 2014 season much more palatable.  We've talked about big prizes like David Price and Carlos Gonzalez, but today I want to look at less costly, more realistic solutions.

They've built a solid rotation and their defense has improved in each of the last two years.  Last year they improved their ability to hit for extra bases.  Here's my grocery list for the Cubs this year...

  1. Increase their OBP: Easier said than done.  It's hard to tinker with players at the MLB level and OBP oriented players are no longer market inefficiencies.  The Cubs may need to increase this from within their own organization.  One idea is Logan Watkins, who has a good approach at the plate though it's a question of how much he'll hit.  The Cubs retained Ryan Sweeney who showed a propensity to work counts as well.  Welington Castillo showed excellent OBP ability in the 2nd half.  Other possibilities include a return to form from Brett Jackson and Brian Bogusevic, both LH hitters who can take pitches but are still question marks as full-time players.  The Cubs have kicked the tires on Grady Sizemore the past couple of years but this year might be the right time as far as him a) being willing to take on a smaller deal b) move to LF full time and c) enough time to have fully recovered from his injuries.  Sizemore has a career walk percentage of 10.6%.  I've always had a thing for Coco Crisp but he looks like a bargain right now at the 7.5M option the A's have on him.  Hard to believe they'll let him go when they have a chance to win next year. An option here might be David Murphy, who was brought up in the Red Sox organization and is coming off an offseason.  Perhaps the Cubs can get him as a cheap, top of the order type of hitter who will take some walks, hit for average power, and play very good defense in the OF.
  2. Obtain a front line starter: There is one player worth spending big money on who fits the Cubs timeline and philosophy and that is Masahiro Tanaka.  If the Cubs don't land him, I don't expect them to pursue anyone big but perhaps take a flyer on someone like Josh Johnson. A front line guy can slot down the rest of the rotation.  That may take some pressure off the Cubs current rotation arms who may not quite fit at the top right now.
  3. Get Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro back on track:  I think this has to do with getting stronger leadership at the top.  Dale Sveum was a good coach and had his good qualities, but he wasn't able to communicate a streamlined message to his young players.  I do think Sveum can be a good manager, but he'll need a veteran team with players who will better be able to listen to advice, keep what works and discard what doesn't.  I think young players like Castro and Rizzo need more focused instruction rather than getting too much advice from different people.  The same will be true of all the Cubs young players that are coming through their system.  It's imperative that the Cubs hire a manager who can not only coach, but communicate well with his players.  Of course, it's not just coaching.  The players have to put the work in themselves and there is nothing to suggest that either Rizzo or Castro won't work hard to rebound for next season.
  4. Improve the bullpen:  This is another area where the Cubs can improve internally.  After depending on not-ready prospects and waiver wire castoffs, the Cubs are slowly developing some strong young arms in their bullpen such as Justin Grimm, Blake Parker, Hector Rondon, Zach Rosscup, and Pedro Strop to go along with veteran James RussellDaniel Bard, Arodys Vizcaino, Chang-Yon Lim, Brooks Raley,  and Alberto Cabrera are wild cards while Chris Rusin and Jake Arrieta may be options if they don't make the starting rotation.  I suspect the Cubs will give Arrieta every chance to take that 5th spot, however.  If the Cubs do look on the outside, I don't expect them to spend big, but rather go with an undervalued pitcher with good walk rates and solid peripherals, perhaps someone like Matt Belisle, who had great walk numbers and good FIP numbers but struggled in Coors Field.  The Cubs are also said to be interested in Korean RHP Suk-Min Yoon.
  5. Get some short term RH hitting help:  I know the long term concern is LH hitters but for 2014 it's RH hitters.  The Cubs will start Anthony Rizzo, Nate Schierholtz, and Ryan Sweeney from the left side and it's possible that Luis Valbuena retains his platoon role and Logan Watkins steals playing time from Darwin Barney.  There's also Brian Bogusevic.  The trade of Alfonso Soriano leaves the Cubs without a serious power threat from the right side.  Castro and Castillo can provide average power but Darwin Barney is a liability on offense.  The Cubs could find themselves once again vulnerable to LHP>  Junior Lake is a possibility in-house as is Mike Olt, who could fill a lot of holes if he can recover from his eyesight issues and become the player many thought he was at this time last year.  An interesting flyer candidate from the outside is Corey Hart.  Hart is more of a power hitter these days as injuries have robbed him of some of his athleticism.  He may be willing to take a short term make good type contract if he can find an opportunity somewhere.  He could certainly find that with the Cubs.  Another player who will get a shot at being a RH bat is Josh Vitters, who will move to LF.  He hits LHP much better than RHP and could be a platoon player
  6. Get more athletic/more baserunners:  Olt and Lake are athletic players, as is Sweeney, Bogusevic, Watkins, and Jackson.  None are going to steal a lot of bases but they could help provide the Cubs with better base running -- guys who can go from first to third and put themselves in scoring position more often.  Someone like David Murphy, who we mentioned earlier, could fit that bill as well.

Of course, it's easiest if you can combine these traits into one player, such as Mike Olt, who could provide defense, RH power hitter, OBP skills, and an athletic player that won't hurt you on the basepaths.  Logan Watkins could potentially provide an OBP oriented player with athleticism at the top of the order. The Cubs may have to mix and match again in LF.  Hart is a possibility as a full-time player.  If not the Cubs could go with a platoon of Josh Vitters or Junior Lake and Brett Jackson, Brian Bogusevic or David Murphy in LF.

It may not be a glamorous solution and some will be disappointed in this kind of offseason, but with players like Kris Bryant, Arismendy Alcantara, and Javier Baez knocking on the door, the Cubs may not want to get locked into big contracts.  They may be in better position to do that next year when they have a stronger idea of what their core will look like.

And as I have mentioned on past occasions, I don't think the Cubs are as far away as people think.  We've talked about how thing could have been very different at the all-star break last year had things fallen into place as many of us expected.   A return to form by Rizzo and Castro will go a long way and a couple of well-placed acquisitions to go with a stronger bullpen may not make the Cubs World Series contenders, but I think they can be good enough to give us some real hope heading into what's expected to be a big infusion of full-time young talent in 2015.

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    YES. Stay the course. Deviation at this point would be disastrous. Great read. I think Olt will come back strong and will end up being the best return for Matt Garza.

  • In reply to Michael Canter:

    I think Olt is a big key because he fills so many of the boxes the Cubs need and/or want to keep going: Good plate approach, good power, good defense, and athletic enough where he doesn't hurt you on the bases. A big comeback season from Olt as well as bounce backs from Castro and Rizzo -- plus a better bullpen and I think this team can surprise. Especially if they manage to land Tanaka.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Wow, I finish writing my post and see that after I click "comment," you basically say the same thing.

    Spooky Halloween type stuff there!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Agreed... I think Mike Olt is a big key to next year and the offense... If he can bounce back and be healthy and play up to his talent, the offense will balance itself and it can help Rizzo like Soriano did... It'll also help the obp and run producing departments and even help the roster as they will not have to platoon at 3B anymore.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Man I hope they land Tanaka. I agree with pretty much everything you said. Olt is probably Thee key as far as how that infield is set up. Baez would than be locked in at 2nd. I think if they land Tanaka and he has a Darvish type impact and Rizzo as well as Castro wake back up they can compete for the penant. If They get the best case of Olt they could be downright dangerous.

  • In reply to jackhammerebm:

    That would be huge. I think Olt would be a nice surprise, but they can't count on it--- but you're right, it would be a big boost along with a Castro, Rizzo bounce back.

  • In reply to Michael Canter:

    I read comments like this and they are generally accepted as gospel, but why exactly would aggressive moves in free agency be "disastrous" for the Cubs this offseason? I hope everything is not compared to the Winter of 2006, when all indications are Tribsters told Front Office to get the most exciting free agent possible and not to care about the long-term dollars? There is certainly a middle road between between being reckless and ultra-cautious.

    After Soriano's $15M off the books this year, the Cubs will have no albatross contracts left (and I don't consider EJax contract a real bad one going forward). They actually have the flexibility to swing and miss now (if they feel strongly they won't miss on a player of course). And if they were to sign for example Tanaka AND Choo this offseason, how will that hurt the development of any of their prospects? Best I can tell is they will lose a 2nd round pick, and otherwise they are just spending money they have but otherwise can not spend on the draft or IFA market (which they are pretty much frozen out of next year anyway given they exceeded 2013 pool).

  • In reply to Charlieboy:

    Nice post, Charlie.

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    In reply to Charlieboy:

    You are kind of bending what I said a little. I did not say "spending big on free agents" would be disastrous. I said diverting from a plan that has not been completed after putting two years in would be. If they want to sign Tanaka (they won't outbid the Yankees) fine. I have no problem with that. Why do they need Choo? He is an awful fielder and I'd venture to bet of al free agents he is most likely to start trending south of his career performance norms. If you are going to spend that kind of money, and that would be a shame on a guy like Choo, at least get Ellsbury who is an above average defender. And before you say it, over the past three years both guys have been injured.

    And what if you sign Choo (or Ellsbury) anticipating getting Tanaka and Tanaka signs elsewhere? Choo to me would be a meaningless pick up. We are looking for stopgap outfielders (on 1-2 year contracts) and he wants a $100 million dollar contract. How does that remotely make sense?

    If the Cubs sign Cho or Ellsbury to a $100 million+ contract I would almost immediately lose all faith in this front office. The Cubs are not ready to win now or in 2015. Yes they are ahead of schedule. But you are talking breaking .500 POSSIBLY by 2015 (though stranger things have happened).

    John hit the nail on the head. IMPROVE OBP. But in the system and on the team you have. It makes no sense to buy it at that exaggerated price if there is a current lack of decent OBP at the big league level.

    Plus again - the Cubs have a staff full of #3 pitchers. They need an ace and they need Samardzijia to step up and be a consistent #2. If we are allocating our resources to Choo we are in big trouble.

  • In reply to Michael Canter:

    Hey Michael - Choo and Tanaka were just thrown out by me as examples. I have no idea who they will sign, or if they will sign anyone. I've just heard no good reason why they should not spend the money IF (and that's a big if of course) the baseball people feel they can help the team for several years (including 2014).

    So I'll leave my reply to your post as simply - if the Cubs make a big splash in free agency this offseason (let's say they commit $150M+ including posting fees if Tanaka part of deals) I will not automatically be disappointed nor will I term it as disastrous. I will actually be happy about it (at least for a few months).

  • In reply to Charlieboy:

    I actually think it's simpler than that. In a nutshell, I just don't think you're going to get more than one or two good years (read: at value) of baseball from a player signed to a huge deal if he's already older than 30.

    I don't think the reason the Cubs aren't "overspending" on money free agents is simply because they're almost always bad deals, regardless of your place in the standings. I bet if we saw some young(ish) guys with little injury history come to the market, the Cubs would be more willing to overpay. It's just that they're not there this year..

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    In reply to Charlieboy:

    Regardless of the examples. I only said "stay the course" and I never said "don't buy players."

    And, Jim Odirakallumkal, if the Cubs spend 6/$100 million on Choo (which are his reported demands) I am going to be horribly disappointed, so I did mean what I said.

    1. He is nowhere near worth that kind of money.
    2. He is a butcher in the field and the worst defensive OF among all free agents.
    3. He is on the wrong side of 30.
    4. By the time the Cubs are a winning team he will represent an asset that is diminishing at a rate much faster than his contract, which will prohibit the Cubs from acquiring players that can actually, you know, help them when they are ready to win consistently.
    5. By 2016 he will be an eight-figure role player.
    6. If they spend that money it should be on pitching, not offense.
    7. They have enough assets to trade for a younger guy with a similar or better skill set if they feel they need to go that route.
    8. Choo cannot play CF
    9. Over his last six years he is worth 22 WAR so you are in effect paying 4.5 million per win if he matches that total (he will not considering that 2 of that last 3 years he was a 2.0 WAR player) and were he to conceivably revert to his average you are talking about paying $19 million per win and even if it falls somewhere in the middle it is still a huge overpay.
    10. The Cubs have said they will not pay for past production so signing Choo would basically be a lie.
    11. They could probably trade for a guy like Peter Bourjos and if he is healthy he would be every bit as good as Choo will be next year. Now granted, Bourjos is an injury risk, strike that, he has a propensity to get injured, but his risk is no greater or worse than Choo's, he has just been more unlucky.

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    In reply to Michael Canter:

    So your saying, if the Cubs sign/trade for some all star caliber player that could not only help the team next yr but for the better part of the next decade, you will be upset? Also, you will lose faith in the front office?

    I am sure that's not what you meant, but that's how it sounds.

    Tommy Nickels would love to have millions of fans like that. He would have to purchase a Sams Club just to store all his profits. He would be like scrooge McDuck swimming in his vault of loot!

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    My thoughts would be sign a short term bat for the outfield, someone with something to prove who can provide some leadership in the club house, along the lines of Josh Willingham or Michael Morse. Both have shown they can hit 30+ homers when healthy.

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    In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    I don't see how Choo helps this team for the "better part of the next decade" but I suppose anything is possible. I wouldn't risk $100 million dollars to find out though.

  • In reply to Michael Canter:

    And if things work out he is batting 7th. A 100mil player batting 7th isn't a good investment.

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    In reply to KGallo:

    Ouch. Good point.

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    In reply to Michael Canter:

    Who wants to give Choo 100 million dollars? Not me, but I wouldnt be pissed if they did.

    If they feel that he will help the team, I am all for it. Its not my money nor any money tommy saves, hes not putting in my bank account or lowering ticket prices/concessions.

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    In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    But that is what Choo is asking for. And he wants it over six years. Look, I get really tired of people putting words in my mouth.

    1. I said "stay the course" I did not say "do not spend." Look up at the very top of the comments section. It is the very first comment of this article. Not difficult to find.
    2. I did not bring up Choo or Tanaka, somebody else did. I did bring up Ellsbury only as a comparison to Choo, and I think neither player is worth 6/100 but if I HAD to choose one player to give that contract to it would be Ellsbury because his defensive metrics are far superior, in fact worlds better, meaning he has a higher probability to retain the value of that contract over the life of it. Saving runs is just as good as creating runs, at least the way I understand the game, though it is true, you cannot win if you do not score. You also cannot win if you let the other team score more than you however and giving away runs is certainly not a precursor to winning a game.
    3. It is "your money" if you attend games or have a vested interest as a fan because a contract like that will increase ticket prices and prohibit the Cubs from spending money in other areas.

    Like I said, maybe he will help the Cubs for six years. But the odds are tremendous that he won't, and that for the last half of his contract he will be a role player or 4th OF earning eight figures.

  • In reply to Charlieboy:

    Choo is a PLATOON player. We already have enough of those, and Choo will cost you a minimum of Michael Bourne $. Cant hit lefties, and hes limited to being a corner OF with not a lot of power. Hes not signing a 2 yr deal, so hes out. Same with injury waiting to happen Ellsbury.

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    In reply to Charlieboy:

    With such a deep draft, losing a 2nd round pick doesn't seem like the right move the way that this organization is rebuilding.

  • In reply to Michael Canter:

    One overlooked piece in the Garza trade is Neil Ramirez,who had a shoulder issue,who knows maybe he has some lingering problems going into the 2014 season.If he checks out healthy he could wind up as the best piece in that trade.He projects as a power arm who to this point has not logged a lot of innings.I'm thinking this guy would make a late inning K guy if he can't crack our rotation by 2015. Could he make our roster this season,yep IMO if given a shot.

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    In reply to TheRiot2:

    I haven't seen Ramirez pitch but yes, the indicators are certainly there. I have seen Olt play at two different levels before the eye issues and he smoked everything that he got a bat on. I also like Edwards, but from the limited videos I have seen he reminds me a lot of Juan Cruz. Most say that he won't fill out enough to be a starter, but Pedro Martinez was 5'10" - 170 and he seemed to do okay, right?

    I liked Neil Ramirez a lot before the 2012 season so I hope you are right. Good call.

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    The other thing about next off-season is that we'll have a better idea of which prospects we can afford to trade. That is, if Bryant and Baez establish themselves as part of the core next year, and Almora looks like at minimum he's a .275/.330/.400 hitter with elite defense, it's difficult to see Soler how fits into the long term plan and he can be moved for left handed help. But if Bryant slots in at third, Baez struggles, and Almora continues to be slowed by injuries, Soler becomes a much more important guy -- and we may regret moving him for a CarGo. The same goes for Vogelbach after we see how Big Dan handles AA and how Rizzo does under a new manager.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Believe me, if Soler reaches his ceiling they will find a place for him. As far as pure ceiling it's probably still the highest outside of Baez. It's nice to have Bryant and Almora though because they have such high floors in addition to high ceilings.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Then, if you think that's a possibility, maybe you trade S****** C*****, but I thought Soler was an example less likely to start trouble. :)

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I don't think you really think about who to trade yet, especially when they're a few years removed from prime years. Castro may end up being the best SS they have too. We'll see how things shake out.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    What in your opinion is his ceiling? Sosa? Vlad?

  • In reply to Lee Smith HOF:

    I think he can be like Sosa without the steroid power. Not as fast as Sosa was as a young player though. Doesn't have the plate coverage that Vlad did. But it's somewhere in that area -- a .270 hitter type with 30 HRs and a strong arm from an OF corner.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I guess what I'm saying is, one year from now we should have a real good idea of who Kris Bryant is and the Javier Baez picture should be a lot clearer, as well, which solidifies your needs out of your own system as well as out of the FA class. When you know what positions you want to fill out of your system, it makes it clearer which players you can trade.

    It can go even further. In the wet dream scenario, if Almora-Soler-Bryant-Castro-Baez-Rizzo are all playing near their ceilings, then Alcantara and Castillo can be moved for a ton to get guys who fill the lefty slots in left and behind the plate.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I respectfully disagree Mike. Really until they've completed their 1st full season at the MLB level - we don't truly know what we've got. we may have an idea, but they are still not established core pieces until then.

    I also agree with the earlier sentiment that it is way too early to start thinking of which ones to trade. Too many unknowns between AA/AAA/MLB and then adjusting at the MLB level once they adjust to you....

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    "Really until they've completed their 1st full season at the MLB level - we don't truly know what we've got. we may have an idea, but they are still not established core pieces until then."

    Do we even know then? Sophomore slumps happen mainly because the league adjusts. It's late into the second year and early in the third when you find out whether or not a player can adjust back.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I get what your saying, but after a sophomore slump by Rizzo and a junior year slump by Castro.... I still say we know what we have got.

    Look at it this way; let's say all the stars align and Baez & Bryant both are up with the MLB team by Sept of 2014. They'll still be adjusting to the MLB and the MLB will be adjusting to them in 2015. But by the end of 2015, after a full season in the MLB; we'll know if they are core pieces or not even if they are subjected to a sophomore slump in 2016.... Their peak performance years are still 5-10 years away.

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Not nit-picking, but really, wasn't this Castro's fourth year? I know it was just his 3rd full season, but he came up in May of 2010. It may not have been a "full" year, but it was pretty close.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Okay, but the point is still the same.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Yup, next year should make this a lot easier for everyone to project who fits where. I agree, they shouldn't be in a hurry to trade anyone unless of course they are getting what they want.

    All I hope from this offseason is to add at least 2 more Core players ( pref 1 hitter and 1 starter) and a manager who will be w us for the next 5 years or so.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    If Bryant and Baez establish themselves as infielders, which is the most likely scenerio, there is plenty of room for Soler in the outfield, with only Almora as a long term solution.

    Even if Bryant or Baez end up in the outfield, that still leaves one position for Soler.

    I think the odds of all three of them performing as better than average players is rather low. Prospects, even the best of them just don't have that rate of success. I think the odds are overwhelming that if Soler fulfills his promise, he will either be an outfielder with the Cubs or will be traded for a left handed hitter, regardless of whether or where Bryant or Baez succeed.

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    In reply to DaveP:

    You're kinda making my point: in the unlikely event that all of them establish themselves, then one of these guys HAS to be traded for a lefty: Castro-Castillo-Bryant-Baez-Almora-Soler. Otherwise you have, at most, 2 lefties in the team which really isn't enough.

    Trading now is kinda reckless because they all have significant development left. Next season, the picture will be a lot clearer and we'll know who slots where. If Bryant is a third baseman, excellent. If he's moved to right, it creates problems. Which one will happen? Who knows right now. But we will in a year.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Not necessarily disagreeing with you, Mike but Bryant ending up in right isn't a problem in my eyes.

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    In reply to Ben20:

    It significantly reduces where you can get three left handers in the lineup since most NL teams get at least one from the outfield. An outfield of Soler-Almora-Bryant has none.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Ok. If you consider that a problem then fair enough. I just feel like they all have to prove they are going to stick before we have a problem. Rizzo's there, they could get a lefty bat in at 2nd (Alcantara), they have Sweeney lurking as a CF/4th guy. Better to be righty heavy than lefty heavy. I just see it as more of a concern than a problem.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    The lefty/righty splits should only come into affect when a close game goes deep and you need to worry about substitutions and match ups. I am certainly hopeful that the Cubs prospects project to better than platoon players, but if that is where they slot, then the talent to be a winning team will have to come from elsewhere. By all accounts, Bryant and Almora look like they could hit anybody so far. If Soler struggles against rightys, it's not the end of the world.

    I think one of the reasons the Cubs want to pursue Saltalamacchia is because he switch hits and can give the Cubs more flexibility in the lineup. You have a valid point but based on projectability of those players you may be over thinking it.

    In a perfect world, you'd want more balance and I agree with you. But if Almora and Bryant hit, I think it is far less of a problem.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Mike, Ive become an advocate for the DH in the NL. I saw Vogelbomb down in AZL last year, the kids offense is loaded. This kid is a 25-30 HR hitter waiting to happen. Im not a fan of trading impact power hitters, Id prefer the NL go the DH route and we keep young Vogelbomb.

  • Agree stay the course. Improvement has been made each year and the kids are getting closer. I could live with this type off season.
    How are you feeling and how is Eva?

  • In reply to Hubbs16:

    I'm doing great thanks and Eva is better. She's a Rottweiler but she's a big teddy bear, so it's hard to see her sick. She's old for her breed (10 years, 8 months) so we're being realistic -- but a new diet seems to be working and making her a lot more comfortable as she gets older.

    And agreed -- I could live with this offseason. A couple of key additions and a couple of big years from some of the core players --- and hopefully another player or two gets added to that core as well. I'd be happy with that 2014.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    John, I've got a big Rottie-teddy bear too. Eight years old Nov 6th and still going strong. Plays like a puppy, love kids and small animals. Great breed. Glad to hear yours is feeling better!

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Thanks. They are a great and very misunderstood breed. She's more like a giant puppy/lap dog than anything. She still plays with toys and she loves my nieces and nephews. Worst thing she did is lick my nephews face until he fell down :)

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    lol, John that sounds just like my Payton. My friend's 8 yr old daughter gives him biscuits from her mouth to his and he's so careful not to make contact. And he just loves our little 2 month old grandbaby. Once, we found a lame bird in the yard and he carefully approached it, gave it a nuzzle and a gentle lick and then tried to help it along by nudging it gently with his nose. And he just loves our walks around town so he can make new two and four legged friends. Awesome dogs indeed!

    Okay, back to baseball. lol

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Mike and John your wonderful dogs remind of my 9 year old Rottweiler 'Possum Breath'. He will only eat opossum guts, but living in Cardinal country he has become overwieght.

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    Olt is going to be the key for this thing. Does he bounce back and get the nod to be our everyday 3B? It would be a great addition for the 2014 season.

    If we can land Tanaka, it would be a successful winter, imo. Everything else besides these 2 items would just be gravy for 2014.

    I look for the Cubs to flirt with .500 most of the year only to fall a bit short by year's end. I'm thinking 75 wins along with sportswriters and casual fans calling for Theo's head. Sports Talk shows will add to the ugliness over the next season as well.

    Go Cubs!

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    I can see that -- and if they're doing it with young players, then I think they feel like they can make a bigger move next offseason. And as Mike Moody said, they'll have a better idea of their prospects as well.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    i would just say throw 80 mill posting bid at Tanaka, sure its way high but the 20-30 mill you would allocate towards reclamation projects i would rather throw at Tanaka if He is a true TOR arm . Heck with the Yankees, Darvich post bid was what 51 mill, If you go obsene high you land him, i doubt anyone goes higher than 60 million anyway .

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    Interesting thought. I know one person in the industry that thought the Cubs should have used the Fujikawa money and just upped their bid on Ryu, so that kind of jives with what you just said. Put all the money on an impact player. You have a great point.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I was one of those guys, problem is I am not in the industry. 2 years ago, they should have went all in on Yu. Okay, they dont know how hes going to translate to big leagues, then after Yu performed pretty well as a rookie. They should have gambled on Ryu. Instead they decided to go half in

    Now it's Tanaka time......hopefully they have learned there lesson and elite pitching is elite pitching.

    We need some young pitching real real real bad

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    I agree. I was thinking 70 M +, and I don't think 80 would be too high.

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    I was thinking that too but I was picking a number in the low 70 million range like 72M. I am not sure this jives with all the statistics Theo has but it sure would be fun to get him when the Yankees, Rangers, Red Sox and Dodgers all want him badly. That alone might get a little excitement going for the Cubs.

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    I agree. If Olt can have a .270 - .330 - 25 HR season, which is not out of the question if his eye problems are solved, that in itself is likely to bring them up to .500. If they can also get Tanaka and he is as good as advertised, a season with high 80 wins is quite reasonable.

    What are the odds of both happeninng? Probably one in ten. But we can hope.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    I think its pretty safe to say that Mike Olt hitting .330 is out of the question. I also don't think that alone would make the Cubs a .500 team.

  • In reply to Ben20:

    I was not clear. By .270 - .330, I meant .270 batting average and .330 on base average. I hardly think that is out of the question if his eye sight problem is resolved.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    I think he will have a 340 to 350 OBP if his eyes are better.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    KG. my view is for the Cubs to be .500 next year, they need Castro/ Rizzo to return to career norms, Olt to become what they traded for, Castillo to be healthy and catch about 125 games and show improved power numbers, and the bullpen to at least be reliable, which means better than a 55% save pct. One other guy on my radar is Zac Rosscup, who can be a 2nd lefty in the pen and keep Everyday James arm from falling off.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    I can see them making a major improvements next year and ending closer to .500.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    Oh cool. That's not out of the question at all!

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    I agree with you 100%. Olt is the a huge key. If he comes into spring training and looks healthy and wins the 3b job. That will really get the cub fans excited for the future. Since he is mostly likely to be ready to be at big league level. If he comes out and does what he is capable of, it will set a beautiful tone for the fans of Chicago. That are minor leagues are getting ready to spit out some fine talent for us to enjoy.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to bocabobby:

    If Olt wins the job and produces as he is capable of, or like he did before the eye issues, that trade becomes heavily one-sided in the Cubs' favor.

    Harry Caray would have loved Olt. "Ohhh for the long one."

    And very easy to pronounce backwards as T-Lo.

  • Excellent article as always. One question I have is why is Arodys Vizcaino listed as a veteran? He is 14 months older than Kris Bryant.

    I still want to be excited about him but I realize taking off 2 years for Tommy John is hard to come back from.

    If (and this IF is probably and if the same size as Ian Stewart's was) lives up to the prospect hype he was 2 years ago than 2014 could be a huge step forward for Epstoyer.

  • In reply to Sandberg2014:

    He's not listed as a veteran. I listed him as one of the wildcards.

    He's throwing 94 in instructs and he has naturally good command and a power curve. I think he has a better shot at being a reliever than Stewart did have as being a starter. As far as Arodys being a starter, I think that's a little harder to have confidence in right now, but still possible.

  • In reply to Sandberg2014:

    I suspect that, if Vizcaino is ready and able to pitch well next year, he will spend most of the year in the bullpen, where they can control his innings. I doubt that they will move him into the rotation next year regardless, and perhaps not even in 2015.

    Vizcaino is a young, potential top of the rotation starter with a substantial injury history. I think the Dempster career path is the most sensible one. Relief for two years, and then phase back into starting.

  • In reply to Sandberg2014:

    And thanks Sandberg!

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Sandberg2014:

    Sandberg2014,

    Vizcaino is not listed as a veteran. I misread that, as well, at first. There's a period in between "Russell" and "Daniel Bard". Russell is the singular veteran to whom John references, while Bard, Vizcaino, Lim, et al. are the wild cards.

  • I realize the organization likes to give their guys a good deal of seasoning in the minors, and I'm admittedly being optimistic, but if Soler comes out the gates raging, is there any chance he gets to the show by year's end? They're paying him to be there after all. Not saying they'd let that motivate them to a hasty call up, just that they don't have to worry about team control years.

  • In reply to Denim Dan:

    I think they'd do what's best for his development. The thing is that Soler does have an opt out where he could make himself arb eligible instead -- and chances are that if he's hitting well enough to be knocking on the door in 2014, he's going to take that option.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Wow. I was unaware of that option. That does complicate things a tad, though I'm sure they would happily pay for over performance.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I thought he had to get 3 years of service time prior to becoming ARB eligible..? So its similar to a 'typical' player - though he would be making $3M in his first three seasons instead of the league minimum.

    Perhaps I'm wrong...

  • In reply to Roscoe Village:

    Yes that is correct.

  • To me by far the most important aspect to the Cubs short term and long term is Castro and Rizzo getting back on the right path. I would trade progression for pretty much every Cubs prospect if it would mean Castro and Rizzo still had a chance to be the type of players we hoped before last yr, especially Castro. Obviously, them getting back and the prospects still growing would be ideal, but to me it's all about those two guys...

  • In reply to JR Cubbies:

    I think those two are a huge factor for next season.

  • Hey John... Your wishlist is very similar to mine... I have a list of players that could be an option...

    I like Kelly Johnson, who could be a cheap buy and play 2B and 3B, depending on the situation, he could even play the OF.. . Corey Hart for the reasons you mentioned... Nate McClouth, depending on the asking price...

    This one is more of an outside the box, but Tyler Colvin is an option, he's a FA, he showed improvement on his approach in the minors last year, he's entering his prime years and could settle for a minor league deal or discount with the Cubs.

    As for pitchers... I'm hearing Tim Lincecum would settle for a short deal to increase his value, I think that works for the Cubs. Of course, the #1 priority should be Masahiro Tanaka... There's also Scott Kazmir and I also think Phil Hughes could become an option for the BULLPEN.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Thanks. I've always liked Kelly Johnson and I did think about Lincecum. Completely agree those two might be interesting options at the right price. Kazmir could as well.

    Not so sure about Colvin except on a minor league deal.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yeah, that's why I mentioned the minor league deal part for Colvin, I wouldn't really go on a major league deal with him, his 2012 numbers were grossly inflated by Coors... Colvin, for me, would be a flyer on a minor league deal.

    Thanks for the input, John.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Great post. I'm liking Lincecum more ad more as a fallback option. I also like Ubaldo on the right deal as a fallback to Tanaka. Hughes in the pen/as a swingman is also an excellent call!

  • It seems that next season will again depend on Castro and Rizzo, maybe even more so now that Soriano is gone. Hopefully the Cubs are able to sign Tanaka or Ubaldo Jiminez as they are the only ideal long term signing for them this offseason. On a side note it is best to just completely forget about Brett Jackson. I highly doubt he ever has any kind of impact at the major league level, which is very unfortunate given his potential talent.

  • In reply to chitown cubs25:

    I think it does no good to give up on Jackson. I'd give him that mulligan along with Castro and Rizzo -- he may have been adversely affected in the same way as they were. He's making a minor league salary, he has talent, and he's still young...no reason to give up on him. That's not saying you can count on him, but you can't give up on him either.

  • fb_avatar

    Agree with everyone else. Stay the course.

    We have built up enough depth from top to bottom. We can fill most holes in-house at this point, assuming some pieces fall into place(like Olt taking over 3B, Lake/Vitters finding success as part of a RH-platoon, Arrieta developing into a frontline guy, etc)

    I've long been against spending big money in FA. Aside from the one or two impact guys (who are usually already past 30 and will be overpaid) the rest is just a bargain bin. Tanaka is an exception because he's still young and projects as a #1. He would create surplus value even at a high price tag because if you sign him for 6 years, chances are you will get 6 prime years. Not 2 good years and 4 bad ones like most big contracts.

    All and all the BP looks much improved. There will be a least 3 guys who at one point(and still do) show mid-rotation potential in the pen because our rotation is so deep. Lots of good power arms. The Cards have shown why that's a good idea.

    Then mid/late season we can say hello to Bryant, Alcantara, Vizcaino, and Baez.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Maybe Ha, Andreoli, or Szczur too.

  • this year seems like the type of season where the front office is telling the players on the roster, "prove it." olt, bjax, vitters, barney, bogusevic, and the entire mixed bag that is the pitching staff. the 40 man roster is going to start getting squeezed with prospects moving their way up, and it's time for guys already on it to show they belong.

  • In reply to cantstandja:

    I think that's one way to put it. It's a big year for a lot of young players.

  • I really like the idea of waiting to see what the Cubs have internally before bringing in FA's or making blockbuster trades. I also like the idea of giving Vitters, Jackson and Watkins another chance to see if they can stick and contribute, while giving Lake and Olt an extended run to find out if they can be everyday players. Despite all the angst and naysaying from some circles, the Cubs really have nothing to lose, so they can be patient in developing a winning formula.

  • In reply to Cleme:

    There's a lot to be said for some continuity as the team develops and I think the Cubs should really see what they have in some of their rostered players before they start to discard them and looking for replacements. They really don't have much to lose by keeping guys like Jackson, Vitters, Watkins, Raley, Rusin, etc. and giving them a shot.

  • Good analysis John. I actually wrote about this on another blog on Sunday. To me, Bard is a key to the BP, Olt is key to the lineup and Corey Hart is my pick for FA because of power and versatility. The success of these keys allows us to be aggressive on Tanaka, so a bit of a roll of the dice. Given Bryant and Baez continue the trajectory they are on, it is conceivable that they are second half additions to a team that could be close to .500. A better BP early in the year can help a team with superior SP win more in April/May and keep us close to contention. These are good moves without breaking the bank on FA’s or emptying the minor league system for trades.

  • In reply to Indy57:

    Thanks. There's also something to be said for saving that payroll for a year when you can really get the guy you want. It's kind of a weak class and I see no reason why the Cubs should force a free agent signing this year -- especially if it costs them a draft pick.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Totally agree. There's also no reason to bring in expensive FA until we know what holes we are not able to fill with the talent coming up from the minors. We all seem to agree that not all the guys in the top 10 will make it or will fulfill their potential. However, let's get a chance to see what we have or don't have before we go off spending on FA's. Then money can be spent efficiently and effectively when the need and time are right.

  • Jesse Rogers said (on Carmen and Jurko today) Soler might be done because of some legal issues and his overall attitude might be starting to come into question as he is falling behind the other 3 in terms of development. A small tidbit, but his podcast when available is worth listening too. Also, Hinch has a lot of negative feedback.

    AZPhil gave his final stats for the instructs and he was impressed with Jose Arias. He referenced many of the prospects and where they might start the 2014 season. Good stuff from the John A of the West.

  • In reply to Buzz:

    I don't worry too much about opinions I'm hearing on Hinch. I think you'll find good reviews if you talk to enough progressive baseball people.

    AZ Phil does a great job with instructs, ext. ST, as well as roster rules and other such things.

    Arias has a nice FB and he actually impressed me as well at instructs a couple of years ago. I think a good change-up is a key for him. It was a well below average pitch last year and he got lit up with it. I think he's a bullpen guy, but he does have the big body and strong arm to be a starter if he makes progress.

  • In reply to Buzz:

    Buzz
    Here is a fresh article on Soler from BA. Im sure John will have thoughts on it in another post.

    https://www.baseballamerica.com/minors/can-cubs-jorge-soler-be-the-next-impact-cuban-hitter/

    I gather he's a young guy adjusting to American life & not really playing a whole lotta baseball in the last few years. I think he'll have a lot of success with a full healthy year.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Cub Fan Dan:

    agreed. I saw him live in 2012 and the ball just explodes off of his bat. He had a lot of downtime the past couple of years for various reasons, but I expect to see him rise rather quickly with regular playing time.

  • In reply to Cub Fan Dan:

    Good stuff. I was thinking the same about Soler. Having him getting adjusted to life in the US must be tough and he has not had enough consistent baseball time this year. Hopefully, he can start fresh and healthy in Daytona.

  • In reply to Cub Fan Dan:

    I really like the quote about how baseball here is calmer more organized and more respect for the game. I think that the Dodgers cheated Puig by not keeping him in the minors awhile longer to learn the finer aspects. He definitely has the talent and its possible the Dodgers don't make the playoffs without him but they may have hurt is long term development.

  • fb_avatar

    Even before his big HR in the LDS I've thought that Juan Uribe would be a nice addition to the roster for this upcoming season and beyond. As we look at potential lineups for 2014 and 2015, veteran leadership, positional versatility and Latino mentorship would make him someone I would like to see Theo and Jed kick the tires on.

    Not to go all "team chemistry" here but he has been on two title teams (Sox, Giants) and if the price is right, he Watkins, Valbuena and Olt would give MGR TBA some flexibility in the infield around Castro and Rizzo. Uribe may be more expensive than Murphy, but I think you are paying for intangibles.

  • In reply to Louie101:

    I think those are solid points Louie. When Sori & Garza left, it left a big void for veteran leadership, mentors, and playoff experience.

  • In reply to Louie101:

    Great post, Louie. I totally agree with you about a veteran Latino presence. I also have always had a baseball crush on Juan Uribe. He's had a really nice career! I can see him being a coach in the Jose Oquendo mold after he's done. I also have a similar crush on Luis Valbuena.

  • John... Unless I missed it in the comments, I'm a bit surprised you didn't include Donnie Murphy in your calculations for next year. Do you know something that we don't? Or was it just an oversight?

    NOT saying he's a key piece moving forward... but he's 31, versatile, and provides some RH pop.

  • In reply to MoneyBoy:

    Not an oversight at all. I think he'll be there, but I think he needs to be a utility man for the Cubs to succeed, so I didn't factor him in as a potential starter or even platoon player -- though it's still possible he could platoon with Valbuena again at 3B -- or perhaps one of them plays 2B.

  • Success in 2014 looks like this (I submit humbly):
    1) Olt a good to very good year as starting 3rd baseman
    2) Bullpen a strength of the team
    3) Arrieta established as a quality starter
    4) Rizzo and Castro each have good years
    5) Production and OBP from the top of the lineup
    6) No bad contracts

    I'd be happy with that. Think John made most, if not all of these points as well. If most of those happen, baseball in Chicago will be fun through the entire summer.

  • In reply to JB55:

    I can agree with that list. I'd take that and look at it as a great year.

  • Not to belabor the point: Olt. I have been saying this for quite some time. Also, if he estabilishes the modest baseline we've seemed to collectively agree on(.250/.350/.450) with plus D, they keep him @ 3rd and work around that. He seems like the type of guy/player that they like.

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    It'd be a nice development if he could be a .250-.260 guy with a 9-10% walk rate, power, and good D.

  • Nice work John... Glad you're on the mend.

    i agree with everyone else. Stay the course... There's no point in big FA contracts right now because we can't expect to begin a run into the post season just yet and we still don't know what we have exactly within the organization.

    The one possible exception to that is Tanaka. We need a stud Ace or two. Even if Shark &/or Arietta live up to their potential, you can't have enough TOR pitching.

    I think the additions from last year have solidified the BP for the most part. I'd be okay with a value add or a guy like Korean RHP Suk-Min Yoon. Depth is always a good thing. I think most of this work is already done.

    Yes we need to improve OBP. I don't think pursuing guys like Ellsbury or Choo are realistic. Do you guys really think either will sign for less than 5 years and a small boatload of cash?.... Not to mention that we would have to give up our 2nd round pick which this year netted us a guy named Rob Zastryzny, the LH SP. You think Epstoyer won't be able to find another diamond like him at 2.4? Seems too much to give up for a table setter when we lack enough of the other pieces for now.

    Olt's turnaround will be HUGE! If not we are in trouble. It's not realistic to expect the platoon of Valbuena & Murphy to produce similarly. They can not realistically sustain that. That also means that we'll be stuck with Barney in the line-up everyday.

    We still need Power hitters! People are quick to look at 2013 stats and see the slugging % and think we are okay.... We're not! We lost Sori. The 3B trio of Ransom/Murphy/Valbuena will not contribute the power numbers they did in 2013. Can Nate repeat or better his career contribution? Too many questions... Yet another reason Olt locking down 3B will be huge!

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Thanks Hoosier. And I think Olt succeeding at 3B gives the Cubs a lot of options at 2B in the very near future. Could move Valbuena/Murphy platoon to 2B, where bats play better, could use Watkins, could be a breakthrough at 2B by Alcantara or Baez.

  • fb_avatar

    John,

    So do you think Justin Grimm is likely bullpen bound? Is that the FO's plan going forward with him? What's more likely - him starting the 2014 season in MLB bullpen or in AAA rotation (this is assuming there's little chance he'll be in MLB rotation to start the year)?

  • fb_avatar

    Bryant with another RBI in the 1st. That 13 for the 8 games so far. He's leading the league in AVG, HR, RBI, OPS, SLG.

    I'd say he's having a little fun..... lol

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to bocabobby:

    Just a single. Boring.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Just another RBI. Ya boring..... lol

  • FG had their top 47 FAs article up. Basically the only estimated contracts that I thought the Cubs could justify at this point were. Granderson 3/45, or 4/56, and Cruz at 1/9, 2/19. I'm certainly hopeful Lake gets a decent opportunity to spell Sweeney and Scheiroltz. It would be great to see Olt walk into spring training and stake some 3B time. One other potential short-term RH option is throwing Vitters into a backup OF spot.

  • In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    I really like Cruz at 2/19

  • In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    I could support any of these signings but not at the expense of a draft pick should they receive qualifying offers. We pick too high in the 2nd round with a VERY deep draft to justify giving up that pick for anything short of a young centerpiece. I don't think there is a young centerpiece on the free agent market this year.

  • Great article, John! Glad to hear you and Eva are feeling better, Man!

    I'm already ready for a pooch punt of an off season. I'm not crazy about it but it DOES make sense to me. I actually feel like they may even change course a little bit after Tanaka is in place. If he's a Cub (fingers crossed), maybe they make another medium sized move or two to bolster the 2014 and 15 club. If he's not a Cub (unfortunately I feel like this is more likely) they may ramp up their pursuit of young pitching via trade. Everything you had on the needs list is spot on.

    I have a couple of out of the box moves in mind that could be huge hits. One would be keeping a close eye on the closer reclamation market. Wilson, Hanrahan, and Madson are out there. Wilson's my favorite of the three since he looked so good down the stretch but will no doubt be the most expensive. You guys may be thinking its dumb to give 9MM per to a closer and I don't blame you. It is dumb. Usually. However it may not be perceived as dumb if we're in late January or February, Wilson can't find a deal he likes, we haven't spent any money because Tanaka signed in NY, and we swoop in with a 2 year 18MM or a 1yr 10MM w/ a 11.25 MM option or something. Its unlikely, I'm just saying that Wilson is a good late winter pillow contract candidate. At the very least he'd have a ton of trade value if he's good and we're not.

    More plausible scenario would be to trade for Drew Storen or Tyler Clippard who are both going to get shopped in some capacity. Those guys are good pitchers. Strop will pitch the 8th or 9th obviously and I'd like to see Grimm/Parker/Lim in the 7th. Dynamic 8th/9th combo's can turn a win count around in a hurry.

    For the most part I like the line up and the bench. You've nailed it with Rizzo and Starlin stepping it up. Those guys are legit. If Junior has a sophomore season like Starlin did in terms of hanging tough for a whole year that's going to go a long way. To me HE's the one that could do most to create the logjam and not Olt. To read some comments about Olt's potential impact you'd think he's a comeback player of the year candidate. He's not even an established big leaguer yet so I'm a little more reticent there. He and Valbuena platooning there isn't a loss in my eyes. Regardless, I don't see him breaking camp with the club. We definitely have the makings of a terrific bench if nothing else!

    A great bench, a great bullpen, an above average rotation, and an average to below average line up can still win 80 plus games. If you don't have a ton of bangers in your line up, you better win 1 run ball games. That can be the 2014 Cubs. Throw in the best or second best system and we're in business. Hopefully for us, the time to trade is next summer when we're "surprisingly" in contention!

    Bullpen, maturation, breakout, luck. You know what? How about somebody OVER-achieving one F'ing time?!

  • Right now, the kids are looking up to form so far. Bryant looks like an all-star in the making, Baez crushed the ball at AA, and Almora has lived up to advance notice so far. Alcantara shows solid ML potential , as do others like Villanueva. I wouldnt sign any non-pitcher beyond a 2 yr deal, which means likely that Choo/Ellsbury are non-starters. Hart doesnt sound like a bad make-good option, Valbuenna likely will need Murphy as a platoon partner at 3b unless Olt makes the team out of spring training. Id like to see progress in 2014, with 2015 being the big step forward year, as the first wave of impact players is likely to hit the bigs. One last thing-campaign for the DH in the NL. Ive seen Vogelboom in Az, he looks like a big time hitter.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Big Dan is the biggest X Factor in the whole system! He's going to be a top 100 guy at some point in the next 6 months to a year.

  • I'd be happy if they just rolled with their in-house talent, & used every dollar available to throw at Tanaka.

  • John...That was a interesting article on ways cubs can improve this off season. I think a wild card like Brett Jackson would be so key for us. If he can reinvent himself, wow that would be like signing a good FA. What do you think has lead to his not living up to the hype? Wasn't fully ready when they called him up? Wasn't as good as they thought? Injuries?

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    I don't want to give up on him yet. At least give him this offseason/season to try and get himself right and then go from there.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    As usual, this piece is well-informed and insightful. I think your point on Jackson is so critically important. This club ran out a 2B who put up a .569 OPS and a 3B who put up a .218 BA without batting an eye. In Jackson, you have someone with a decent pedigree who can provide a plus glove and is at an age when further growth and development are still a possibility. On a club with modest expectations, I believe he deserves at least a half season's chance to see if he can put up a 100+ OBP+. The same goes for Olt; I don't want to see any thrift store platoon clogging up third until we know for sure he can't hack it at the big league level, which means he needs to play consistently.

  • I have a little time to kill ... so I propose my own version of the Off-Season:

    - Sign Masahiro Tanaka to a five-year; $60 million dollar contract.
    - Sign Shin-Soo Choo to a five-year; $75 million dollar contract
    - Sign Corey Hart to a three-year; $25 million dollar contract
    - Sign Kelly Johnson to a two-year; $10 million dollar contract
    - Trade Jeff Samardzija and Nate Schierholtz to the Atlanta Braves for Mike Minor and Alex Wood
    - Trade Darwin Barney to the Oakland A's for Jemile Weeks

    Lineup:

    1. Shin-Soo Choo (CF)
    2. Starlin Castro (SS)
    3. Anthony Rizzo (1B)
    4. Corey Hart (RF)
    5. Welington Castillo (C)
    6. Kelly Johnson (2B)
    7. Junior Lake (LF)
    8. (the third base platoon)

    Rotation:

    1. Masahiro Tanaka (R)
    2. Mike Minor (L)
    3. Travis Wood (L)
    4. Jake Arrieta (R)
    5. Edwin Jackson (R)

  • In reply to Average Samaritan:

    I don't think Shin-Soo Choo will cost 75... Boras is already asking 100 mil or more.

    I also don't think the Braves will give up 2 starters younger and cheaper with more team control for 1 starter like Samardzija and I don't know why they would trade for an OF when they're already stacked with the Upton brothers and Heyward... Mike Minor along might have more trade value than Samardzija at this point, based on his age, salary and better track record.

  • In reply to Average Samaritan:

    Three years and 25 Mil for Corey Hart is out of the question. He will be lucky to get an option for a 2nd year. No team will give him three guaranteed years.

    No chance in hell the Braves trade two younger, more controllable pitchers for Jeff Samardzija. That's out of the question as well. They would never do that. One could argue that BOTH of those guys are better than Shark right now.

    If Choo signs a five year deal, he may as well sign a six or a seven year, 100MM plus deal like Crawford and Werth. I like the player but he's going to cost more than that. Significantly.

    Why trade Darwin Barney for Jemile Weeks?? If he's traded, it should not be for another light hitting, somewhat unproven second baseman.

    Kelly Johnson made 2.45MM this year and has never made more than 6.375. Number one, he will want two guaranteed years and number two he's not even a 2 win player. Ten million dollars is way, way too much money. He's a nice player but he's going to be hoping for a 2yr 8.5MM deal. That would be a win for he and his camp.

  • Just getting rid of Marmol is an improvement for 2014.

  • From the comments here, it sounds like the 3B job is Olt's to lose. Is that true? I was unaware of that.

  • When does the bidding begin for Tanaka?

  • I'm chomping at the bit to see Mike Olt, but you gotta start him at AAA next year. He's torn up AA ball (290/.396/.585 in 432 PA) but struggled mightily in AAA (.197/.302/.368 in 420 PA). Bringing him up with those numbers and coming back from eye problems would be rushing him.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    Good point. He may need to at least start the year in AAA while Valbuena/Murphy hold the fort.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Good Iowa first half would give him the full year's AB's at AAA that our FO likes. Bring him up after the All-Star break and start prepping Bryant for left.

    That's me whistling past the graveyard since I worry his vision problems are gonna linger.

  • Hey John, forget about my suggestion about Tim Lincecum, he just agreed to a 2-year deal lol.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Haha...well, there you go :)

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    2-year 35 mil, I think that's too much for a guy trying to "regain his value" lol... Especially a guy with an era almost at 5 in the past 2 years... That's a very expensive flyer.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Yeah, I didn't think he'd get that much.

  • What do you think about taking a chance on Dan Haren? It seems his major issue the last few years has been too many flyballs and line drives (and consequently, home runs), and Bosio has already had success in getting pitchers to raise their groundball rates.

    Jackson- 47.3% with nats, 51.3% cubs
    2011 Shark- 41.0%, 2012 44.6% 2013 48.2%
    Feldman - 42.2% with Rangers, 49.6% this year

    Idk if that's enough of a trend to mean anything, but it looks like this is something Bosio is good at. Last year Haren had 8.01 K/9 with 1.64 BB/9. If he could get his groundballs to like 40%, with a little bit of better luck in his HR/FB rate, I see a very good pitcher at a discount.

  • In reply to Andrew:

    I like that idea a lot. He's definitely a different kind of pitcher these days, probably more of a #3 or #4 type but he throws strikes and can still miss some bats. I'd take him on a two year deal.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I think Chris Young could be another good bounce back candidate. The A's probably wont use their option on him. At worst hes a right handed bat that has played very good defense. career OPS vs. Lefties- .837, vs. Righties, .710. He had a down year last year, but also got a rough BABIP of .237 compared to his career avg of .274. His ability to play a good CF makes him a better candidate than Murphy to me.

  • http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/fangraphs-crowd-the-top-47-free-agents/

    I like this project from fangraphs, gives you some perspective on where some people think players are gonna get.

    If Choo goes 5/80 I think the cubs should make a strong effort to sign it.

  • In reply to Andrew:

    I don't think Choo fits the description of a "core" piece; he's too old for the next window. I'm all for signing him near the amount of 5/80 but not at the expense of giving up our 2nd round pick. This draft is too deep. Odds are fantastic that our 4th overall pick in the 2nd round could be an impact player as good as anyone picked after 7th or 8th overall this year. 2013 was just that thin.

  • John, what do you know about Ordisamer Despaigne the Cuban defector? Twenty seven year old right hander who's going to have a showcase soon in Mexico. Does anyone have a scouting report?

  • In reply to Ben20:

    I don't know much about him. Usually have to scramble to get info on Cubans.

  • Looks like staying in house means a lot of if's to break the right way, just to be a .500 team. If things stay par for the course it's another 90 loss team.

    The OF for one is one of the worst in the majors as currently constructed.

  • Man some of these posts are longer than your blog John. LOL!

  • This is a great article John. I still think if they want to surprise and exceed .500 they need to make a larger effort for OBP and OF help. Rockies have said they won't deal CarGO/Tulo but didn't say anything about Dexter Fowler. He would be a good bridge to Almora.

  • Sleeper...John Andreoli.

  • I am happy with this front office, but they need to make some changes NOW. Understand, this does not mean they are losing patience, but realizing that they are still 3-5 years away with their pitching staff. They must sign Tanaka, who will cost them with the posting fee $130 million over 7 years. Trading for David Price is a must, which will cost them around $100 million over 5 years and a haul of players such as W. Castillo, Barney, Prieto, and Szchur. That gives them a rotation with E. Jackson and T. Wood that is solid. Arrieta/Grimm round out the rotation. Samarjda is going to Colorado with some other 15-20 ranked minor leaguers to get them CARGO and Pomerantz. Pomerantz does not translate well into that park and they need an arm to pair with J. Gray. Cubs do not want pay the Shark $17.5 a year and need a good OF. Everyone is assuming that all these guys will make the majors. Almora is 2016 at best player, and Bryant and Baez are 2015. But don't forget the CUBS are signing a $4 billion dollar 20 year contract after next year. This is the estimate, or around $200 million annually. So if everyone pans out, they trade some guys. They need to sign SHOO SHOO as well. Time to be aggressive. You need to be on the upswing in 2014, to win in 2015.

  • In reply to cement shoes:

    Shark is only signed for 2 more years. Rockies aren't going to give up one of their two top players for Shark. You say the Cubs don't want to pay him 17.5 million, well you think the Rockies will want to pay that?

    It's going to take far more than for Price.

    It's funny how a middle of the rotation player like Shark gets a bonafide all-star like Cargo and someone who was a top 30 prospect entering last year, but for Price you have the Cubs giving up an up and coming catcher and spare parts. It doesn't make sense.

  • In reply to Yemi:

    "Shark is only signed for 2 more years. Rockies aren't going to give up one of their two top players for Shark. You say the Cubs don't want to pay him 17.5 million, well you think the Rockies will want to pay that?"

    They will if they believe CarGo is injury prone and are looking for a ton of salary relief.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    The owner already said they aren't going to trade him, so there's that...

  • In reply to Yemi:

    My comment was also only referring to the trade he mentioned. Sure he can get traded but the Rockies said they aren't looking to trade him, plus the deal that was mentioned wouldn't be close to getting it done. That's what my focus was.

    Your comment refers to just trading him period.

    We're not even talking about the same thing...unless you think the trade he mentioned was plausible?

  • In reply to cement shoes:

    Nothing is a must. And if the Cubs truly want to land Price it's going to take a lot more than Castillo, Barney, Szczur and Anthony Prieto.

  • There are many great suggestions here. I was convinced that Choo was a must sign until I looked up De Aza's stats. They are not too different except for walks. The thing that is close is pitches per at bat. So looking at it, Choo does not fit.

    Trading Castillo and mid level prospects for David Price and signing him to 5 year $100 million is a good move. Sign Salty to a 3 year $33 million dollar deal is good and they need to acquire a catcher to develop. Also signing Ruiz at backup C is a great move.
    All of you are right, Tanaka is the key, because the position players development is far ahead of the pitchers development. You all are wrong on cost though, with posting fee, you are looking at $130 million over 7 years. $18.6 a year. Not bad when you consider what Lincecom just got.

    Last big piece is the trade of Samardjzia to Rockies for Cargo and Pomerantz. Cubs need 8 starters to have a successful season and if it looks like this:
    1) Price
    2) Tanaka
    3) T Wood
    4) E Jackson
    5) Arietta
    6) Pomerantz
    7) Grimm
    8) Josh Johnson

    I do think they need extra guys like a Josh Johnson, who they can sign like Feldman and trade at the deadline. This way you can plan ahead.

    Outfielders are needed and the guy who suggested Corey Hart is 100% correct. He could play 20 in LF and 60 in RF and around 35 at 1b against lefties who Rizzo hit .189 against. Great fit.

    Other role players as Chris Young, Rajai Davis, Grady Sizemore, an N. Aoki could be added as well. I do think that Lake will be gone in one of the trades if they need to land Price or Cargo.

    Then they need a closer and some relievers. Mujica, Joba, Madson, Guierrier, and keeping Bard are all good decisions and to build depth between what we have and some new additions. Then again, they will have depth to trade from at the deadline without another tailspin. 77 wins should be the minimum goal with serious contention in 2015. Problem for Theo is Pitt and Cincy are good now, along with St Louis. Our window may still be 4-6 years away, when these other teams players leave their prime.
    With new TV deal this year, every team has an extra $35 million, Cubs need to raise payroll to $150 million with the moves I suggested. Rumor is that Comcast deal that runs out in 2019 will be torn up and they will sign a $4 billion deal over 20 years. About 60% of Dodgers deal, but providing around $200 million annually to the club.

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