An early look at Rule 5 eligibles

Rule 5 time is here and as the Cubs roster gets deeper it'll be tougher to protect players.  This year they only needed to protect two: Arismendy Alcantara and Dallas Beeler, but the Cubs had to leave Marcus Hatley, Zach Cates, Gioskar Amaya, Marco Hernandez, and a few other young talents eligible.  I think Hatley and Cates.  Hatley's FB can reach the mid 90s and adds a solid breaking ball.  Last year he finally started throwing strikes and missing bats.  He's MLB ready.  Cates has a 96 mph fastball and solid change but would be more of a gamble.  He also stayed healthy and got starters innings last year at Daytona, so he was able to rack up some experience and showed some development toward the end of the year.

The Rule 5 isn't quite what it used to be.  The restrictions are tighter -- and some think they should be restricted even more for international players.  The rule states that any player under the age of 19 has 5 years to be added to the 40 man roster.  That works pretty well with U.S. high school prospects, who are often drafted at age 18, but what about those international players who sign at 16 years old?  It's asking a lot for any prospect to be roster-worth by the age of 21.

The Cubs have seen both ends of that equation, selecting Lendy Castillo 2 years ago and having Starlin Peralta selected last year.  Both pitchers were just coming into their own and were starting to develop, but had only reached the A ball level.  Still, the arms were too good to pass up.  Could things have worked out differently for Castillo if he had more time to develop?  Did Peralta's struggles in big league spring training get him slightly out of whack?  It's hard to say.

Now I'm worried that teams may pluck Gioskar Amaya even though he's not ready, stash him, and hurt his development.  One scout I talked to last year quickly picked out Amaya as one of his favorites on a loaded Kane County roster.  To a lesser extent, the same worries go with Marco Hernandez, who is even less ready but is a better athlete, runs well, is a switch-hitter and may provide better utility off the bench in the short term.

I wonder if a 3rd age delineation is needed for the sake of some of the younger talents in the game.

Anyway, I'll get off my soap box now and we'll take a look at some of the intriguing unprotected players --- whether they're ready or not.  You will find that the two areas which really stick out here are power bats and power arms.

The information is mine and I listed them in no particular order, but longtime readers can probably easily figure out the guys I'm most excited about.  I also added takes on a few players from a scout...

UPDATE: It appears that Domingo Santana and Ashter Wojciechowski were added to the Astros roster since the time I originally compiled my list.  Apologies.

Alex Sogard, LHP, Astros

Can bring it up to 92-94 with a decent breaking ball but struggles with control, as his frightening 7.43/9 IP walk rate would attest.  The Cubs are likely to avoid pitchers who walk hitters, even though LHP is a need and there is some upside here.

Scouts take: Possible change of pace lefty out of the bullpen.

Kolbrin Vitek, 3B/OF, Red Sox

A former first round pick under the watch of one Theo Epstein, Vitek has struggled.  He's made it to AA the past two years but injuries have derailed his career.  His bat hasn't developed as hoped and 2013 was a lost year for him.

Scouts take: Maybe, but tough to see him sticking.

Miles Head, 3B/1B, Athletics

Head was part of the last draft that Epstein, Hoyer, and McLeod conducted together as members of the Red Sox front office. Has since moved on to Oakland as part of the Andrew Bailey trade. The Cubs could throw him into the 3B mix and he'd offer a backup to Anthony Rizzo at 1B.    He has the kind of approach that the Cubs like -- good plate discipline, shortens swing with 2 strikes, but he's not a good athlete and not a good defender at 1B, much less 3B.  He's a bat only type player.  Maybe he's someone the Cubs front office feels they know well enough and someone they can fix.  There is no way you can carry both Head and Matt Gamel on the same roster, though, so Cubs may choose to keep the more advanced Gamel.

Scouts take:  Good raw power, but his swing is a mess right now.

Luis Parra, LHP, Rangers

Another Latin player who is still a bit raw but eligible, Parra put up some pretty good numbers -- at the A ball level.  He's a rare power lefty with decent size (6'2") and still some room to fill out.  He went 5-4 with a 2.34 ERA (3.18 FIP) for the Rangers Class A team with a strikeout rate of 7.25/9 IP and a BB rate of 3.57/9 IP.  He got a late season promotion to advanced A and held his own there as well, putting up a 3.71 ERA (3.95 FIP) in 26.2 innings

Scout's take: Could be had, good talent, just raw game and still a thrower, but has the upside.

Yangervis Solarte, 2B/SS, Rangers

Originally signed by the Minnesota Twins. Solarte is not a household name but he put up good numbers for the Rangers in AAA (.276/.323/.403 with 12 HRs).  He's a  middle infield prospect who gets lost in the shuffle because of the Rangers depth in that area (Andrus, Profar, Sardinas, Odor, and the recently dealt Leurys Garcia).  You can't keep everybody but Solarte may turn out to be a nice find and he's MLB ready.  He can play all infield positions, switch-hits, has some pop, and is a capable defender.  There is some obvious utility in all that to many teams.   You have to think with all the scouting the Cubs have done of the Rangers organization the past two years (Dempster, Garza, Soto trades), they have to be well-acquainted with Solarte by now.

Scouts Take: Probably won't stick,  more of a AAAA type.

Seth Blair, RHP, Cardinals

A former Cardinals first round pick and a power arm -- that alone should perk up the ears of some Cubs fans who have seen firsthand how the Cardinals quickly develop power arms.  Blair, however, has been one of the exceptions.    He slips through the cracks in part because of a tumor in his knuckle that caused a microfracture, costing him early development time.  He hasn't been terrible by any means but he was rather mediocre at AA, going 3-9 with a 5.07 ERA (4.52 FIP).  He did miss some bats, however (8.12 Ks/9 IP) and showed solid control walking 3.33/9 IP.  He could be a sleeper.  The Cardinals have so many power arms that they simply can't protect them all.  Blair throws in the 92-94 mph range with the makings of a plus curve.

Scouts Take: A nice bullpen transition arm, which is one I would consider.

Jordan Swagerty, RHP, Cardinals

Let's raid the Cardinals power arm supply! Taken after Blair in the 2010 draft, he actually got off to the better start.  He was once the Cardinals 9th rated prospect on the strength of a fastball that touched 96 mph and a plus curve, which was rated among the best in that draft.  Soon after he was sidelined with elbow issues that required Tommy John surgery.   There is talent and the usual concerns with TJS.  Development would also be a concern.  He's also a blogger, so he has that going for him.

Scouts Take: Talented, but might not stick.  Needs time in the minors to bounce back.

Junior Arias, OF, Reds

The Reds seem to sign/draft a lot of athletic outfielders and you can count Arias in that group.  Arias was signed as a SS, then moved to 3B, and now has moved to the OF which kind of reminds you of another Junior who currently plays for the Cubs.  There are a lot of other things they have in common.  Arias is an aggressive swinger who doesn't take a lot of walks (2.2% in 230 PAs at advanced A level last year)  Arias is also a good athlete but an injury has robbed him of some arm strength and he has outgrown what was once above average speed.  His calling card is his raw power, but it has yet to show up in games, though he did show some at the low A ball level last year (.284/.323/.469 with 10 HRs and .185 ISO).  Interesting toolsy player, but I don't see the Cubs taking a chance here.

Scouts Take: good athlete, but the bat just may never catch up.

Brody Colvin, RHP, Phillies

One of those recognizable names that makes you look twice and wonder what the Phillies were thinking --  but then you look up and see what he's up to lately and you say, "Ahh, I get it.".  Colvin put up some hideous numbers at the AA level last year, finishing with a 6.40 ERA (6.19 FIP), didn't miss bats (4.19 Ks per 9 IP) and actually walked more than he struck out (54 BBs vs. 36 Ks).   He has not been able to develop a change-up, so starting is pretty much out of the question.  Still Colvin is a power arm (90-94 mph, power curve) with athleticism and good size, the kind of starter kit scouts look for.  But he has some mechanical issues in his delivery and his makeup may be better suited in relief.  If you ask me, the Cubs have a better, non-rule 5 eligible version of the same kind of profile in Dillon Maples, but if the Cubs think they can fix Colvin's mechanical issues, there's nothing wrong with bringing in another power arm.  The problem may be that he will need innings to fix those issues and he's not ready to be used regularly at the MLB level.

Scouts take: Might be a guy to pick as bullpen power arm

A few others to keep an eye on...

The Cubs are very familiar the Padres system and two names to look at there are Matt Lollis (RHP) and Rico Noel (CF).  Lollis is 6'9" and can hit 97 mph with his fastball but his big frame makes it hard to get all his parts to work together well, so he struggles with timing in his delivery.  He's still just 23 years old, so there is time but he is more of a project and not anywhere near being able to contribute out of the bullpen.  Rico Noel is an athletic player who should provide speed and defense.  He's a 5th OF'er type but the Cubs have plenty of those at the upper levels of their system.   Neifi Ogando is a raw power arm in the Phillies system.  Yankees prospects Tommy Kahnle, RHP; Freddy Lewis, LHP, and Daniel Burawa, RHP all have some talent but one scout told me to stay away from all of them (and not in a good way).  So I will.

Ben Badler of Baseball America lists a few other names to consider -- including 4 Cubs who may get taken: Hatley, Hernandez, Matt Loosen, and Jae-Hoon Ha.  As I said earlier, I would also keep an eye on Cates and Amaya.

The Cubs may actually take a bit of a hit in this draft, but these kinds of things happen you build a strong, deep organization.



Filed under: Rule 5 Draft


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  • according to mlbtraderumors both Domingo and Wojciechowski have been added to the astros 40man roster

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    Thanks. They must have just updated. They weren't there when I made the list last night.

  • John, what does it mean to 'stash' a player? And after I understand that, why does a team do it? Why would a team want to hurt a guy's development? Thanks. Want to add: This is my favorite site and I always hope for a message or three in my inbox that a new article is out. No Winter Break for you. Please.

  • In reply to kissitgoodbye:

    Thank you for the kind words. I just mean taking a player similar to the way the Cubs did with Castillo and not letting him get into too many games. They don't get the innings (or ABs for a hitter) that they need, but a team takes them just because they want to hold them for a year and then return them to the minors. Sometimes they even come up with mysterious injuries the way Castillo did :)

  • Another guy with the Cardinals would be Swagerty. Coming off injuries, might be worth a flyer in spring training to see if he is healthy. He had major league stuff before the Tommy John.

  • Excellent call. I'll add him to the others list. If I find out more maybe I'll move him up.

  • With the price of pitching going up we sould gamble on a pitcher
    every if it means keeping him on the roster all year then sending
    him down for more experience

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    I think the Cubs will do that if they can get an upside arm who can contribute right away.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Luis Parra seems the most interesting of the options listed above. He is young for a rule 5 player (22), has had some success although he walks to many batters, and is a lefty.

    Perhaps he could provide another left hander in the bullpen (with James Russell) allowing Zach Rosscup to develop in AAA until he is ready for the majors or Russell is dealt at the deadline?

  • In reply to Greg Menke:

    Parra is definitely among my favorites on the list.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Sounds like a Donald Veal type...

  • Would love to pluck someone from the STL system that turns out to be a solid ML. Even if its a BP arm.

    Sidenote: Is anyone else becoming schizophrenic about the Cubs? One day I'm like, 'Man we are so far away from even sniffing .500. Terrible offense, terrible BP, culture of losing, no veteran leadership, question marks about Castro and some for Rizzo, every other team spending $ and the Cubs nickel and diming it, 5 years until new TV deal, long-long-long Wrigley negotiations, etc.'

    Than the next day I'm like, 'Wow, we have so much talent in the minors and a solid mix of ML talent. Bullpen could really surprise next year, solid starting pitching with upside, likely bounce back of Rizzo / Castro. Multiple elite prospects, #4 pick, massive payroll flexibility, big market resources, strong FO, new manager, nice lottery ticket prospects (olt, vizcaino, arrieta) etc.'

    Would just love to see some momentum with the ML club...

  • In reply to Roscoe Village:

    We should not bring up any of our top prospects before they are
    ready just to show that we have prospects to bring up

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    When did I say this?

    I'm not advocating this. I've said before that I don't want Baez up early only to say, 'gee, i'm really surprised I got an offspeed pitch on a 2-0 count...,etc.'

  • In reply to Roscoe Village:

    I think the mixed emotions are definitely part of being a Cubs fan! Cubs brain is made up of two distinct parts: The hope side and the looming disaster side. They are always at odds.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    True, but we know from past experience what bring up a top prospects to soon might happen. I don't think Theo will let this

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    An accurate assessment IMO John.

    You have to be a big schizo to be a long-term Cubs fan. Here's hoping that the current rebuld ends up being the appropriate therapy for that condition.

  • In reply to Roscoe Village:

    I'm with you on that, Roscoe.

    Love reading these articles on here. This is what I've been looking for as a Cub fan. A site like this with well thought out articles & reply posts. Thank you Cubs Den.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Thanks Milk! At first I though it said Mike Stout, which is someone I knew from high school. But milk stout, yes, a must have for the winter.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Lol, Love my stouts & porters. Big fan of em.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    True, but the last truly elite prospects the Cubs had were Prior/Zambrano in 2002 and Kerry Wood back in 1997. Before that, Maddux. Grace in the 80s wasnt even considered in the same mold as Palmiero was. This time the Cubbies have at least 4 bigtime position prospects and 2-3 relatively decent pitching prospects. Best farm Ive seen from the Cubs since Santo/Williams etc in the early 60s.

  • Really appreciate your initial thoughts on this John. It seems to me that we approach the 2014 season w/ an "abundance of riches" compared to where we were last year at this point. Not that we couldn't improve, but rather that one can imagine enjoying a real competitive battle for the 1 or two remaining "open" bullpen spots amongst the existing roster.

    If one accepts the above as reasonably accurate, I suspect the Cubs will go the Rule 5 pitching route only if the pitching candidate is either extremely intriguing or if the FO is highly confident that particular pitcher fills improvess an "open" bullpen slot (I'm thinking more of a second power LHRP perhaps like the Ranger's Parra).

    Otherwise, I tend to think the current team makeup favors the likelihood of a position player, assuming they possess the Cubs' preferred batting approach. Of the players you noted above, the Rangers' Solarte interests me the most of the position players.

  • In reply to Good Captain:

    I agree on both Parra and Solarte -- and we know the Cubs know the Rangers system and how much they value information. They certainly have a lot on both.

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    So who's your horse? Luis Parra?

  • In reply to Chris Trengove:

    Parra would be on my list. I also like Blair. Solarte could be a useful player.

  • I noticed Eric Jokisch was not mentioned in your article & Carrie Muskat's on the Cubs site. Perhaps it's to keep him under the radar from the other teams, lol, (I know that's not the case, scouts would know about him 1 way or another) or because he's not a threat to be taken? He seems to be progressing along nicely from what I've read on him.

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    In reply to Milk Stout:

    I certainly like Jokisch; personally rank him #21 in system, which is a likely higher rating than most. Extra points that he attended Northwestern.

    But the FO (McLeod, I believe) have actually said he resembles a younger version of Chris Rusin and Brooks Raley. And, well, Rusin and Raley are both already on the 40-man. I obviously would take Alcantara over Jokisch, and Beeler, as well, because of the exposure he received in the AFL (though I have Jokisch ranked higher than Beeler). If they wanted one spot to remain open (for Rule V selection), I can't figure out who I would've cut for Jokisch. Bard? Raley? Certainly hope Jokisch slips through the draft.

  • In reply to Chris Trengove:

    Oh, yeah, I get Alcantara being protected. No doubt that was a no brainer. He'd get snatched up real quick. But I see the problem of only having 40 spots & leaving 1 open for a potential pick. Though, I'm not real enamored with Bard. They must see something in him. And I personally think Luis Valbuena could be replaced if he was DFA'd & another team claimed him, Lol. I know they don't have much at 3B as far as options, but I don't think Luis Valbuena is much of an option either.

  • In reply to Chris Trengove:

    Jockisch is not valued by the FO because his peripherals do not point to success at the major league level. Some organization will grab him. One day it may be the Cub hitters turn to head back to the dugout muttering 'why am I not hitting this guy'.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Jokisch is a nice pitcher but he's a lot like Rusin and Raley -- and not quite as ready to help out a team and doesn't have the high upside to warrant stashing him. But all it takes is one team to fall in love with him.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    But he attended Northwestern!!! ;)

    I think there's a good chance we could lose 3 or even 4 players this year, with Hatley, Loosen, Ha, Jokisch, and Cates all theoretically being able to stick on an Active Roster for the entirety of 2014.

    Of course, not all MLB teams are rebuilding, and there are other non-Cubs players from which to choose, as well.

  • In reply to Chris Trengove:

    Haha! Well, that helps. I think Jokisch goes unpicked, but like I said, it takes just one team to like him -- maybe the parent club of the team he no-hit :)

    Hatley could go but I think it's a loss they're prepared for, same with Ha. Loosen and Cates are wildcards. Would hate to lose them, but I think they're probably bullpen arms, especially Cates.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yes, I get it. And Rusin has shown some nice flashes in the bigs already. But guys like Bard, Valbuena & Murphy being protected over a starting pitcher who looks ready to move up to AAA this year is a little confusing. I know it's a game & there are only so many spots. I'm hoping they find their own diamond in the rough this rule 5. I think there's a kid from the Padres that could be a steal. He's a lefty starter name Jose De Paula that I'm sure Hoyer is familiar with.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Don't take this the wrong way but Valbuena has basically been a 2 WAR player at 3B for the last 1 1/2 years. We want to keep a fringy AA pitcher over an average 3B who may not be blocking anyone next year?

    Bars isn't far removed from being one of the most electric bp arms in the majors - I think they want to wait as long as they can to see if he can re harness his stuff in winter ball.

    Murphy - well we need partner for Valbuena is probably the logic I guess.

    I'm probably indifferent in the last two but I wanted to speak up on Valbuena because he's getting much more criticism than he deserves. E isn't the reason the 2012-13 versions of the Cubs weren't good teams

  • In reply to JasonB:

    Sorry for the spelling errors - typing from phone!

  • A lot of Cubs on this list...

    Maybe we just draft Marcus Hatley?! :)

  • In reply to Cub Fan Dan:

    I just read that list you posted. Some interesting names on it & Jokisch left off of that one as well. I wouldn't shed tears if Hatley is picked off. But doubt he will. Bullpen guy who doesn't really jump out in my opinion.

  • Anyone have a list of guys that are eligible next year?

    Have to think Baez and Bryant will be added at some point in 2014. Who else is up next year?

  • John- would be interested in getting your thoughts on why Hatley was left off? He's the one ML ready piece that jumps out at me. Thought he could have been a piece in our pen next year.

  • In reply to JasonB:

    Was just talking about that. It's just a numbers game. Hatley profiles as a middle reliever and the Cubs feel they have other guys ready to contribute right now. I think if the Cubs had planned on keeping Hatley on the 40, it would have made sense to do so in September last year where he could have been useful as an MLB ready bullpen piece.

    Anyway, you look at someone like Beeler and his profile reads very much like Hatley's. The difference is that Beeler is younger, has better movement on his FB, and has a better shot at being a starter. I think his floor is Marcus Hatley if he has to switch to the bullpen, so that decision is a no-brainer for me.

    It's the cost of building a deep system. You have to make tough choices and the Cubs are going to gamble on a bit more upside at this stage of the process.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Appreciate the insight. I perused the 40 man myself and couldn't find anyone that I'd rather keep him over so it makes more sense now. Good problem to have - now we just need to find more upgrades!

  • I'm fine with taking another fireballer for the bullpen, but I'd be most happy if the Cubs considered taking an outfielder of some stripe. The current batch of outfielders is extremely uninspiring, and Soler and Almora are lightyears away from being real contributors. Looking at the BA Rule 5 preview, Brian Fletcher looks to be a passable 4th OF/ occasional 1B against tougher lefties. Doubt he'd become much of anything, but he could at least contribute more-or-less immediately. If the Cubs wanted to go with a guy like Fletcher, though, they'd probably just have added Ha to the 40-man...

  • In reply to Myles:

    LeVon Washington of CLE was left unprotected CF with speed . Could be last guy on bench pinch runner defensive replacement type .

  • Now that the 40-man rosters are set is it hard to still add a
    player and just drop another

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    No, but the 40-man rosters are "set" for the purpose of the Rule 5 draft. The Cubs can still non-tender Gamel or Bard to free up a spot on the 40-man if they want to take more than 1 Rule 5 pick; similarly, they could add Jae-Hoon Ha to the 40 tomorrow but it wouldn't stop him from being eligible for the draft.

  • Not draft related but Jason Vargas just got a 4 year deal from KC worth 32M

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    Yep. They called it a major announcement for some reason. Nice signing, maybe a bit too much, but he's a decent LH SP that will give you some innings.

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    In reply to Bryan Craven:

    Just wow. The price of mediocre pitching has just gone through the roof, don't even know if I'd call Vargas mediocre based on his career numbers. Of course, they could have just given us Zimmer or Ventura and got Edwin Jackson for free lol

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    I don't think it was that bad. A bit much, yes. But he's generally healthy and he'll probably give you 3 good years of solid innings and keep you in the game. Bottom of the rotation type for me. Stresses the importance of why even 4th/5th starter prospects like Kendrick and Beeler can be so valuable. Can save that money and spend elsewhere.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Definitely agree on that last part. Good point.

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    Nice haul. Still have a soft spot for KC as there was a period they were my (adopted) hometown team.

    I hope to see them in the playoffs next season.

  • or we can send them Shark for Zimmer/Ventura/Mondesi :)

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    Yes please!

  • I like Solarte most, as he would be a good cheap versatile option up the middle to spell Castro and Barney. The main reason I don't want to see another bullpen arm is that we are already thick with that same tier of player that is available, already experiencing a bit of a crunch in that area. The only pitcher I can see a case for is Parra because we don't have any "power" lefties. But everyone else on the list seems pretty comparable to guys we already have on the roster.

  • In reply to nmu’catsbball:

    I tend to agree on the bullpen arm. Always nice to pick up those kind of guys but the Cubs left similar arms unprotected. Unless they really, really like a guy or its a rarity like a power lefty, then I think it's almost zero sum. Now getting a versatile switch hitting infielder with some pop? It may not be exciting but it might be a useful pickup. We're pretty much on the same wavelength on this.

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    I think someone gets Cates. They may just keep him, too! I really like that fastball velocity.
    Honestly, there's really no one that really stands out as an impact Rule 5 guy for the bullpen or as a reserve. I'd much rather see what we have on our own roster. I'd actually rather see Gamel.

    As for selecting another bullpen arm, like last year: Every reliever in '14 is a potential asset in a trade. Or an asset moving forward to '15. We're still rebuilding, but I feel like next year will really start to identify the character of a team just starting to think about contending.
    2 middle of the order caliber ballplayers are probably going to arrive. There's a lot to be excited about. We should be turning a big corner. If I'm the front office, I'm very careful and deliberate with the 40 man. Just how I feel about it, though. I've been wrong before. A lot.

  • In reply to Eric Foster:

    I sort of feel the same way...if you're going to go after a guy like Head, why not just keep Gamel who has a better chance to contribute? And you're not stuck with Gamel because you don't have to offer him back to his team (though he does have to go through waivers) if you want to send him down.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I like the 6'9 lefty from SD....seems like someone to take a chance on. Maybe I am just remembering Andy Sisco fondly (certainly more fondly than others in the Cubs system, particularly those who he had fights with in the minors).

  • In reply to springs:

    Intriguing. A bit of a project, but if he can get it working, he could be a real nice find.

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    This whole thing strikes me as trading your dirty laundry for someone else's. None of the guys in the potential pick-up lift excite me any more than guys we already have and might lose. The grass is always greener over the septic tank.

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    In reply to SKMD:

    Pick up list, not lift.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    That is true to some degree. It just depends if you like the other dirty laundry better...maybe it's easier to clean and fits your wardrobe better. The thing is that as you start to build a better farm system, you start getting to the point where you lose more than you gain.

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    It's too bad they couldn't find room for Jae-Hoon Ha on the 40 man. I enjoyed watching him play CF when he was here in Des Moines. He took great routes to balls and had surprising range for a guy with average speed. His at bats, on the other hand, were not as entertaining.

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