Real baseball is back. It doesn't count in the standings, but it'll be fun to follow Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora and few other Cubs prospects get some much needed work.
The other real baseball related news is that Ryan Sweeney re-signed.
We'll also look at the latest on the Joe Girardi saga and we have a Rob Zastryzny interview sent to us from the folks at Canadian Baseball Network.
UPDATE 8:00 PM: Nick Cafardo is reporting that sources are telling him that Manny Acta impressed in his interview yesterday.
ESPN's Manny Acta had a very good interview with the Cubs according to sources.
The interest seems to be mutual according to Patrick Mooney,
“I spent a few pleasant hours with the Cubs front office,” Acta wrote in an e-mail Tuesday morning. “We got to know each other and exchange philosophies. It is an attractive opportunity due to the track record of the front office, the talent coming thru their system and of course the great city of Chicago.”
Mooney also states, "While waiting for Joe Girardi to give the New York Yankees some answers about his future, people familiar with Acta and Cubs executives describe a potential fit, a Plan B option." He also describes Acta as fluent in sabermetrics and relentlessly upbeat.
Unfortunately can't watch these games and things haven't worked out where I can get to Arizona this year, but we'll follow along on GameDay and give you the recap on all Cubs. Opening day was today and Jorge Soler started in RF and batted 3rd while Kris Bryant got the start at 3B and batted 7th.
- Jorge Soler struggled to get his timing back and started off the day at 0 for 4 with 2 strikeouts....but he stuck with it and got perhaps the biggest hit of the game for Mesa, a go-ahead RBI double in that big 8th inning for Mesa in which they roared back with 5 runs to turn a 7-3 deficit into an 8-7 lead. Unfortunately, Glendale came back to tie the game in the bottom of the 9th. Soler was 1 for 6 as of the 10th inning.
- Kris Bryant drove in a run with a single in his first AB and was smack in the middle of that late rally, doubling in in another run. He also scored 2 runs and went 3 for 6 overall. Maybe I'm going out on a limb here, but I think this kid is going to hit. On a more serious note, former scout Bernie Pleskoff was there and was impressed with his defense, "I really liked watching both 3B play defense today.
#cubs Kris Bryant and #Marlins Colin Moran looked comfortable and agile. Made plays." A good offseason may get him to AA to start the season, and if so, we may even see him in the majors by late next season.
- RHP Matt Loosen didn't fare too badly but an error led too two unearned runs. After Micah Johnson got on via error, he stole 2nd and 3rd then scored on a single. Loosen then gave up another single then a sac fly. He wasn't hit hard but he did allow 2 unearned runs. His second inning was uneventful except for getting mega-prospect Byron Buxton to fly out. Overall he went 2 innings, allowed 2 unearned runs, allowed 2 hits, walked one and struck out one. Most encouraging aspect of Loosen is he threw strikes, 21 of his 34 pitchers were strikes.
- Lendy Castillo is apparently a last minute addition and like Loosen, he was the victim of a key error. Castillo, however, got hit pretty hard too and allowed 3 runs in his one inning of work, though all of them were unearned.
- Armando Rivero came in and after the team made an error behind him too, he struck out the next 3 batters, including Buxton swinging. Impressive debut to say the least. Speaking of players who can help the Cubs next year, Rivero has to be a candidate to make the bullpen at some point next year. Pleskoff said this about Rivero when I asked him via Twitter, "One inning, three strikeouts. Looked very solid. Big guy. Want to see him again. Showed some stuff."
Cubs re-sign Ryan Sweeney
According to Bob Nightengale, the Cubs signed Ryan Sweeney to a 2 year, $3.5M deal with an option. The 3rd year is at $2.5M but the Cubs can buy it out for $500,00o. I'm a big fan of this move at this rate. Sweeney showed he can play a solid CF defense (10.1 UZR/150 in a limited sample size) and provide some left-handed discipline and pop. He can add a lefty presence to Nate Schierholtz and Anthony Rizzo and is young enough where if he really is starting to reach his potential, he can stick around and be a long term solution. It's a very low risk deal to try and find out. Sweeney will be 29 next year and hit .266/.324./.448. It's a short sample but his slugging percentage was a career high, as was his .182 ISO. He had a solid .337 wOBA and was a slightly above average wRC+ of 110 with 1.1 WAR. His 6 HRs tied his career best even though he played in just 70 games last year. It's not unreasonable to think he can breakthrough and hit 15-20 HRs next year, much as we predicted for Nate Schierholtz last year.
The Girardi Saga
Yesterday we heard that the Girardi decision could extend all the way through the month or more, but that was really just the Yankees saying they were willing to let him take as much time as he needs. It appears he isn't going to need a lot of time according to Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner. Per a tweet from ESPN NY Andrew Marchand,
Hal on Girardi: This will go down sooner than later
- Sun Times writer Gordon Wittenmeyer writes that a source told him that he expects a decision today. He also says that Girardi wants to explore Cubs interest further but that may cause the Yankees to rescind their offer. It may depend on how confident Girardi is that the Cubs are willing to beat his offer. The indication here in Chicago is that the Cubs will indeed beat the Yankees offer. So if Girardi turns down the Yankees, all signs would seem to point to him deciding on the Cubs and trusting them to beat the offer and there is no reason to believe the Cubs won't do that. Their intense interest in Girardi is well-established.
- Some of the national writers are starting to chime in. Bob Nightengale thinks Girardi's preferences in order are 1. Yankees, 2. TV Job and 3. Cubs. If you're an optimist and know about our terribly cynical stance about Nightengale's accuracy, then you'll take that as 1. Cubs, 2. TV Job, 3. Yankees. So depending on what you think about Nightengale that is either very good or very bad news.
- Jim Bowden of ESPN also believes Girardi will stay in New York, in part because his ties to Chicago aren't as strong and in part because the Cubs are still 2-3 years away from winning. Then again, Bowden hasn't been a whole lot more accurate than Nightengale.
- For what it's worth, based on what I've been able to put together Manny Acta and A.J. Hinch seem to be the top candidates with Renteria being more of a fallback. A couple of industry sources told me they felt Acta would be the best fit but one of them also said he likes Hinch's potential to be able to communicate with the front office when it comes to development philosophy and analytics. Acta has some of those qualities as well and also has more recent managing experience. Those are the two candidates with whom the Cubs have spoken first, so there's that. Acta hasn't caught on with the some of the mainstream media, but that may be because he was a bit of a surprise candidate. Not here at Cubs Den. We had him at the top a week ago. The Cubs are likely to get a clearer picture after they talk to each candidate and then have their internal discussions.
- Here is a nice story from Floyd Sullivan, a fellow ChicagoNow blogger who writes "Waiting for Cubs". The piece is based on a personal experience with Girardi.
A site called Canadian Baseball Network did a podcast with Canada native and Cubs 2nd round pick Rob Zastryzny. You can listen to that here. Check out their site as they have more coverage on Zastryzny.
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